HC Deb 12 December 1979 vol 975 cc1287-8
8. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will ensure that the present levels of public sector rented housing are retained in all rural areas.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. John Stanley)

It is for local housing authorities to determine the appropriate levels of council house building in their areas within their capital allocations.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Minister explain the apparent conflict between his right hon. Friend and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? Is he aware that farmers are being reassured that there will be no problems since relatively few rural homes will be sold? Does he agree that the purchase of many such houses will be sought, this creating severe problems in maintaining a social balance and an adequate rural economy?

Mr. Stanley

The answer lies in the statistics collected by the Labour Government as a result of the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976. The number of lettings made to those being rehoused under that Act amounted to half of 1 per cent. of the total number of relettings in rural areas.

Mr. Straw

Why, in rural areas as elsewhere, is the Secretary of State allowing council houses to be sold at values well below the cost of building them? Is the Minister aware that during the election campaign his right hon. Friend categorically stated that the Conservative Party could not agree to the purchase of homes based on values below the cost of building them? Why has he broken his word?

Mr. Stanley

If the hon. Gentleman reads the consultation paper, he will be aware that the cost floor applies to all dwellings that have been completed since 1 April 1974.

Mr. Cockeram

Does my hon. Friend accept that the desire for home ownership is as great in rural areas as it is elsewhere?

Mr. Stanley

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. John Home Robertson

Has the Minister noticed that whenever local authority houses are sold in rural areas they tend to fall into the hands of retired people from urban areas or of those who want second homes? Working-class families who live in rural areas are deprived of the opportunity of owning such houses. Why do the Government hold working-class people in rural areas in such total contempt?

Mr. Stanley

The overwhelming evidence is that those who buy their council houses do so with the intention of staying in them.