HC Deb 25 July 1979 vol 971 cc599-600
19. Mr. Straw

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many public sector dwellings were relet during each of the years 1976, 1977 and 1978.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

About 350,000 local authority dwellings were relet in 1976, and about 390,000 in 1977, including a substantial number of relets to existing council tenants. No figure is available for 1978.

Mr. Straw

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that on 27 June the Minister for Housing and Construction told the House that the Government could not extend a statutory right to buy to tenants in private rented accommodation because those dwellings were needed for relet? Is he aware that there are hundreds of thousands of people on council waiting lists who are in desperate need of accommodation and who cannot afford to buy, for whom the private sector provides no answer? Is it not, therefore, a fact that these 390,000 relets are even more important than those in the private sector? Will not the effect of his policy be to extend the waiting lists for those in greatest need?

Mr. Finsberg

I shall interpret what I think that the hon. Gentleman said. He falls into the usual fallacy of those in the Labour Party of assuming that every council tenancy automatically becomes vacant. If we waited, it would be decades before there were sufficient moves. The sooner that the hon. Gentleman understands that, the sooner he will realise why the people of this country voted for council house sales.

Mr. Dorell

What plans does my right hon. Friend have for introducing a tenants' charter for those people who wish to remain council tenants? That would remove the irksome, bureaucratic controls that many councils, particularly those con- trolled by the Labour Party, impose on their tenants.

Mr. Finsberg

My hon. Friend will have heard my right hon. Friend say that we are considering what should be put into the Housing Bill on that point when it comes before the House later in the Session. The one thing that we shall try to do is to make it easier for council tenants to behave in a responsible manner, rather than as serfs of Labour-controlled councils, as in the past.