HC Deb 02 March 1981 vol 1000 cc10-2
10. Mr. Hooson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he proposes to take to ensure that council tenants are fully aware of the benefits of applying for the right to buy their homes before 3 April.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

In association with my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Environment, we have embarked on a press publicity campaign which reminds tenants of their right to buy and points out that from 3 April 1981 valuations of dwellings will cease to be fixed as at 8 August 1980. I hope that all eligible tenants will consider the advantage of applying for their right to buy before 3 April if local house prices have risen since August.

Mr. Hooson

Although my hon. Friend's efforts to provide information are most welcome, will he urge local authorities to press ahead with valuations and with the sale of council houses?

Mr. Roberts

I know that there have been some delays. However, that may be understandable, because in the last quarter of last year there were about 10,000 applications for the right to buy. In the event of delay, a complaint or report can be made to the Welsh Office. We should then chase up the authority concerned.

Mr. Roy Hughes

As regards the controversial issue of the sale of council houses, would it not be wiser if the Government were to restore the"local" to local government and give them discretion in this matter? Has the hon. Gentleman noticed that Newport is in an absurd position over the sale of Aur-yr-yn prefab sites? Is he aware that perfectly law-abiding councillors now find themselves in defiance of the law?

Mr. Roberts

I am well aware of the situation in Newport and of the position of the council in this matter. However, when the council has had time to consider it, I think that it will ensure that individual council tenants, including the tenants of these prefabricated dwellings and ground floor flats, have the right to buy as outlined in the 1980 Act. The general principle of leaving discretion to the local authorities was thrashed out in the course of passing the 1980 Act.

Mr. Wrigley

Is the Minister aware that for the first 35 council houses sold in my area—those sold without needing a local authority mortgage—the local authority got only £120,000, or an average of less than £3,500 per house? In view of this situation, will the Minister take steps to waive the Government's 50 per cent. clawback so that local authorities will have more funds available to build more houses, to minimise the damage that is being done to council house stock by this policy?

Mr. Roberts

I still think that the sum obtained by the local authority on those sales is significant and can be put to good use.

Mr. Anderson

How many houses can be built for that sum?

Mr. Roberts

It is a question not of how many houses can be built for that sum, but of how many houses can be repaired and improved for sale.

Mr. Best

Does my hon. Friend agree that future generations will acclaim the right to buy as a major social advance? Does he also agree that, because there is a higher rate of owner-occupation in Wales than in other parts of the United Kingdom, what the Government have done by giving the people of Wales the right to buy their council houses is completely in line with their wishes expressed through actual practice in Wales?

Mr. Roberts

The very fact that there were about 10,000 applications for the right to buy in the last quarter of last year surely indicates that home ownership in Wales is very popular. I am sure that there will be many more such applications. I hope that many will be made before 3 April so that the tenants can have a valuation as of 8 August last year.

Mr. Alan Williams

Is it not an abuse to the taxpayer and the ratepayer, taking the example given by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), that the Government are giving away public assets at a fraction of the price that it will cost those same ratepayers and taxpayers to build replacements?

Mr. Roberts

I have already told the right hon. Gentleman that houses sold are not lost or destroyed. They are being sold to secure tenants who are already in them. Of course, there is a net profit to be made by the local authority, and it can add that to its housing allocation and use it to improve the existing stock.