§ 5. Sir Anthony Meyer
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with local authorities in Wales who are experiencing difficulties or delays over the sale of council houses; and what steps he proposes to take in order to ensure that tenants are able to exercise their rights under the Housing Act 1980 to purchase their council houses.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)
Welsh Office officials have discussed with the local authorities concerned cases where delays have been reported. While I hope and expect that such action will prove unnecessary, my right hon. Friend will not hesitate to use his powers of intervention under section 23 of the Housing Act 1980 if tenants are being prevented from exercising their statutory rights effectively and expeditiously.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
Will my hon. Friend make it plain to the many people in the borough of Rhuddlan w ho have written to me complaining about interminable delays over the purchase of their council house that they will not have to wait much longer and that they will not have to pay any more merely because the council appears to be having difficulties in finding enough expert manpower to carry through the sales?
§ Mr. Roberts
The Welsh Office is studying information about the progress being made by Rhuddlan and will be in touch with the authority again as necessary. It is up to local authorities to arrange the staffing so that they can carry out sales under the Housing Act effectively and expeditiously.
§ Mr. Alec Jones
Will the Minister confirm that the numbers of local authority staff employed in housing services in Wales fell by 2.6 per cent. between December 1979 and December 1980? How, then, can the Minister expect local authorities to reduce their staffs even further and at the same time accept extra duties imposed on them by the Act? If the Minister is so keen on his policy of compulsory sales, will he agree that, if councils employ more staff to do the work, or even farm the work out, he will meet the full bill?
§ Mr. Roberts
The reduction in local authority staff that has taken place is very small compared with the reduction, for example, in Welsh Office staff. We are here dealing with a statutory right on the part of tenants. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not giving any encouragement to local authorities not to grant that statutory right. The deployment of their staff is entirely a matter for them.