HC Deb 04 June 1980 vol 985 cc1408-10
12. Mr. Murphy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to improve on existing legislation with a better grant scheme to assist first-time buyers of cheaper houses.

Mr. Stanley

As my right hon. Friend said on 30 January—[Vol. 977, c. 1337]—in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle), any such scheme must await improvements in the overall economic climate.

Mr. Murphy

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will not he agree that a £1 grant for every £2 saved up to a given maximum would do a tremendous amount to promote home ownership and would also cost the taxpayer considerably less in continuing subsidies for further council housing?

Mr. Stanley

It would also represent an increase in public expenditure. But I share my hon. Friend's concern that we must try to give all possible help to first-time buyers. I remind him that in the Housing Bill and other legislation we are introducing our new improvement for sale scheme, we are making very important extensions to the use of shared ownership, we are giving local authorities new powers to guarantee mortgages, and we have increased" the stamp duty threshold. I suggest that the right to buy is without doubt the most substantial and the most generous first-time buyer scheme ever introduced.

Mr. Jay

Would not it also be a good idea to build some houses to rent?

Mr. Stanley

Within the overall level of the finance that we can afford, we are giving local authorities the maximum freedom to use their capital investment in the best way that they can.

Mr. Alton

Has the Minister considered giving special help to first-time buyers through the construction, for instance, of starter homes and more assistance for self-build schemes?

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have been urging local authorities to do precisely that. I refer him to my recent speech to the Institute of Housing. As for self-build, the hon. Gentleman may be aware that I have widened the priority categories for local authority mortgages to include those who are members of self-build groups.

Mr. Durant

What has been the take-up on the Labour Government's scheme for first-time buyers? Has that scheme died the death?

Mr. Stanley

I have not the figures for take-up before me, but undoubtedly they are very much less than when the home loan scheme was first introduced. The first benefits which are due to be payable under the scheme will be made in December, and we shall be fixing the house price limits related to that scheme by order in the autumn.