HC Deb 21 December 1983 vol 51 cc426-8
16. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on progress made with the sale of council houses to sitting tenants.

Sir George Young

Approximately 630,000 houses and flats were sold between April 1979 and September 1983 by local authorities and new towns in Great Britain, some 400,000 of them under the right to buy. The vast majority were to sitting tenants. In addition, housing associations sold about 40,000 dwellings, of which 28,000 were to sitting tenants. Continuing progress is therefore being made. My Department keeps under review the performance of local authorities in implementing the right to buy, and we continue to take appropriate measures to ensure that the rights of tenants are secured.

Mr. David Knox

How many local authorities are still dragging their feet over the sale of council houses, and how many of those authorities are Labour-controlled?

Sir George Young

My Department is in contact with about 200 local authorities, most of which are Labour controlled, about aspects of their performance in implementing the right to buy. Problems are taken up by my hon. Friend and myself, and we shall do all that we can to ensure that tenants get the rights conferred on them by Parliament.

Mr. Pavitt

In deciding policy on these matters, and in acting on them, will the Minister give consideration to areas such as Brent. which adjoins his own constituency, where there is a housing emergency? There is a waiting list of 15,000 and we pay £35,000 a week for bed and breakfast for the homeless. Any reduction of housing stocks has disastrous effects upon the rehousing of those in urgent need.

Sir George Young

Selling one's council house does not reduce the nation's housing stock. In addition, the right-to-buy policy has generated some £2 billion, which has enabled the local authorities to make faster progress in tackling the problems to which the hon. Gentleman has rightly drawn our attention.

Mr. Hill

Will my hon. Friend re-examine the protection given to some large estate managers, such as Grosvenor and Cadogan, and consider whether the scheme for the sale of houses to tenants could be enlarged in a Housing Bill which he might introduce in the not too distant future?

Sir George Young

The Government have no plans to extend the right to buy to the private sector.

Mr. John Fraser

Will the Minister acknowledge that for the 1.5 million families who are homeless or in desperate need of housing but are still on waiting lists there is, in traditional terms, no room at the inn this Christmas? Will he also acknowledge that about one half of all housing capital expenditure is now being financed by the sa.e of council houses and that those sales are falling oft! Where will the money for any form of capital housing building programme come from when the boom of house sales, or rather the initial flush, has ended?

Sir George Young

There are 130,000 applications in the pipeline at the moment and the Bill that the House will discuss shortly gives the right to buy to a further range of tenants. I do not accept that there will be a diminution in the volume of receipts to the extent that the hon. Gentleman suggests. For the future, we shall continue to do all that we can to maintain the HIP allocations at an appropriate level.