HC Deb 17 February 1982 vol 18 cc274-5
9. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the progress made so far with the sale of council houses to sitting tenants.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. John Stanley)

Between April 1979 and September 1981 almost 200, 000 council dwellings were sold in Britain, and we estimate that a substantial further number of dwellings will be sold this year and next. However, my right hon. Friend is continuing to take steps to accelerate progress in certain authorities where progress has been unsatisfactory.

Mr. Knox

Which local authorities are still dragging their feet?

Mr. Stanley

I shall be glad to write to my hon. Friend. The list is extensive, so I cannot give it here.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will the Minister now give tenants with three years' standing the right to buy their houses at a discount from private landlords?

Mr. Stanley

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear earlier this week, we believe that transactions in the private sector should be by voluntary negotiation.

Mr. Butcher

Does my hon. Friend agree that local authorities, such as Coventry, which claim that they do not have enough staff to process backlogs of valuations and conveyancing, could speed up the process by appointing outside solicitors and valuers, thereby getting rid of some unhealthy waiting lists?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the energetic way in which he has been seeking to support those of his constituents in Coventry who want to exercise their right to buy. In that city we are looking to a significantly greater rate of progress. It is open to local authorities to make use of private sector surveyors or solicitors, and also of district valuers, as has been confirmed by the Court of Appeal in the Norwich case.

Mr. Weetch

Is the Minister aware that, apart from the principle of council house sales, which is a matter of political controversy, a satisfactory feature of the transfer arrangements is that mortgage costs are limited by statute to £50? Will he have urgent discussions with the Lord Chancellor to extend that limitation to the private sector, where people paying conveyancing charges are being robbed because of restrictive practices? Will he extend the limit provided in the 1980 Act for the public sector to the private sector?

Mr. Stanley

As the hon. Gentleman knows, conveyancing issues are for my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. We considered that a necessary protection for tenants exercising the right to buy was some form of statutory limitation upon the maximum mortgage costs that could be passed on to tenants by local authorities. To judge from the way in which certain authorities in East Anglia and elsewhere have sought to exercise their responsibilities with regard to the right to buy, that precaution was well justified.