HC Deb 12 December 1979 vol 975 cc1294-6
13. Mr. Stoddart

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has now completed his study of the possibility of providing a statutory right of purchase for private and housing association tenants; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Stanley

Regarding private tenants, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) on 11 June. As far as housing association tenants are concerned, we shall provide wide powers to enable housing associations to sell to sitting tenants, and are still considering to what extent such powers might be combined with a right to buy.

Mr. Stoddart

Is the Minister aware that that is an entirely unsatisfactory answer. Is he further aware that it is totally reprehensible for a Government who are supposedly committed to home ownership to apply double standards as regards a person's right to buy? The Government are acting like a tame pussy cat about private owners but like a dictator towards local authorities. Does he appreciate that the Government are making the housing tasks of those authorities very difficult?

Mr. Stanley

On our best estimate, over the past 40 years, 800,000 private tenants have purchased their homes from landlords. I only wish that Labour councils had furthered the cause of home ownership to the same extent among their tenants.

Mr. Scott

Will my hon. Friend consider allowing tenants of private blocks of flats a collective right to purchase, when that block comes on to the market?

Mr. Stanley

I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. He has made strong representations to us as have other of my hon. Friends, and we are certainly considering that point.

Mr. Spriggs

Will the hon. Gentleman consider whether tenants who have lived in privately owned houses for a long time, and who have spent thousands of pounds in making those properties habitable, should be given statutory authority to purchase those homes?

Mr. Stanley

The Government have the right to dispose only of assets that are in public ownership.

Mr. Alton

If the Minister is not prepared to give general consent so that all private tenants can become home owners, does he accept the principle that those who are living in homes where landlords will not provide inside sanitation should have the right to serve notice on those landlords of their intention to acquire the property and so become home owners and do the improvements themselves?

Mr. Stanley

There are certain circumstances under existing legislation where privately rented property can be compulsorily improved. If the hon. Gentleman refers to the consultation paper on improvements, he will see that arrangements are being made whereby property can be improved on a piecemeal basis. That will make the basic improvements, to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, easier to undertake.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

May I reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott), namely that where blocks of flats are sold, particularly in inner city areas, tenants should collectively be given the opportunity, under the new legislation, to match the price of a particular transaction? After all, it is their homes that are involved.

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend has already written to us on that point and we are considering the matter.

Mr. Kaufman

Now that the Minister has come out of hiding and admitted that the sale of council houses is part of a policy of disposing of public assets, rather than assisting home ownership, now that he has asserted that he does not wish those who live in privately tenanted houses to be able to buy them, and as lie has not given a commitment that tenants of housing associations will be given the right to buy—although they are public sector tenants—does he agree that the Government are simply pursuing a vendetta against local authorities?

Mr. Stanley

With regard to housing association tenants, I invite the right hon. Gentleman to await the details that will be found in the Bill when it is published. Only the right hon. Gentleman could conclude that the policy of selling council houses to sitting tenants does not encourage home ownership.