HC Deb 15 July 1981 vol 8 cc1168-9
10. Mr. Allan Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his latest estimate of the number of tenants who have applied to buy their homes under the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980.

Mr. Rifkind

The latest available information about applications under the right to buy is that local authorities, the new towns and the SSHA have received more than 22,000 applications from tenants. This figure does not include the 10,000 or more applications made under voluntary arrangements.

Mr. Stewart

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. Will he comment on the recent opinion poll in Scotland that showed not only that 85 per cent. of tenants supported the right to buy but that 12 per cent. were extremely interested in buying? Does that not show how out of touch with the wishes and aspirations of ordinary working people the Labour Party is in its continuing doctrinaire opposition to the right to buy?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct. The opinion poll also showed that 75 per cent. of Labour voters believed in the right to buy.

Mr. Maxton

Is the Minister aware that in Glasgow only about 2,500 people have applied to buy their houses, which is less than 3 per cent. of the total number of council tenants in Glasgow? Is he also aware that the other 97 per cent. are suffering from higher rents, poorer repairs and problems with dampness, which are not being helped by the lack of money as a result of the Government's policies?

Mr. Rifkind

The whole purpose of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act is to allow those who wish to do so to buy their homes. We have no objection to tenants not wishing to purchase their homes. Indeed, through the tenants' charter, we have given tenants security of tenure and greater rights than they have had before.

Mr. Henderson

Is my hon. Friend aware that Kirkcaldy district council carried out a detailed analysis of the results of its policy of selling council houses, which it carried forward until the council elections, and found that no particular kind of house was being sought, all were in demand, tenants wanted to buy and the council, tenants and ratepayers benefited substantially from the sales?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct. That is the experience not only in Kirkcaldy but in many other parts of Scotland.

Mr. Dewar

Has the Minister read the unanimous report of the Select Committee on the Environment on the sale of council houses in England? If so, has he pondered its finding that the sale of council houses has increased the housing shortage in parts of England, put at risk future housing for the elderly and reduced choice in the public sector? Does he accept that the same is almost certainly happening but to an even greater extent in Scotland? Therefore, will he consider reversing the policy before too much damage is done?

Mr. Rifkind

As the hon. Gentleman said, the report of the Select Committee on the Environment was based on English evidence. He asked whether I had read the report. I do not believe that he has read it, because he said that the conclusions were unanimous. The Committee has 11 members, and six either voted against or did not take part in the vote.