§ Mr. Wyn Roberts
Approximately 17,000 right-to-buy applications were made in the first quarter of 1981; most will have been made by secure tenants but it is not possible to distinguish these. By the end of the first quarter of this year a total of 28,000, representing almost one-tenth of public-sector tenants in Wales, had applied to buy their homes.
§ Mr. Best
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is most encouraging that so many people in Wales are aware of the great benefits of home ownership and of the great opportunity—which represents perhaps the biggest social advance in housing this century—that the Government have given them? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has reserve powers to enforce sales if local authorities are recalcitrant and do not carry out the letter of the law. Will my hon. Friend tell the House how his Department monitors whether there are difficulties at local authority level? Only the other day those of us who serve on the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs received evidence from his officials that the only way that his Department gained such information—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is arguing the case. He should be seeking knowledge, not imparting it.
§ Mr. Roberts
I welcome my hon. Friend's initial point and the fact that so many people in Wales have seen fit to apply for the right to buy and wish to own their own homes. However, we are not monitoring individual right-to-buy applications. We are dealing with complaints as they are made. So far we have received about 160 complaints, which we are following up with the authorities concerned. There is not an authority in Wales that is not actively carrying out the provisions of the Housing Act. At present, my right hon. Friend does not have to use his powers under section 23.
§ Mr. Alec Jones
Does the figure of 17,000 mean that there have been 17,000 firm applications to buy, or that mere initial inquiries have been made? What possible advantage can there be to local authorities, ratepayers, or even taxpayers, to sell a council house—according to the figures that the Minister gave me—for £6,208 when it costs a council £17,065 to replace it?
§ Mr. Roberts
I confirm that up to 31 March 1981 the number of right-to-buy applications was 28,206. There are benefits for tenants who become home owners and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, there are enormous potential benefits for local authorities—as they witnessed last year when they sold council houses—because they can use part of the net capital receipts to meet other housing needs.