HC Deb 27 June 1983 vol 44 cc329-30
1. Mr. Grist

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the number of council houses sold in Wales since May 1979.

9. Mr. Knox

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

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

Between May 1979 and the end of March 1983, 28,730 council dwellings were sold to sitting tenants in Wales. A further 1,200 dwellings were sold by Cwmbran development corporation, the Development Board for Rural Wales and housing associations.

My right hon. Friend and I are satisfied that steady overall progress is being made in Wales although there is room for improvement by a small number of authorities.

Mr. Grist

Does my hon. Friend agree that the number of Conservative Members in this Parliament is partly attributable to such sales and the attitude that has led to that policy? Does he further agree that Cardiff city council is one authority where we can look forward to improvements in council house sales, as it is now controlled by the Conservatives?

Mr. Roberts

I agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question. I am sure that the electors have shown my hon. Friends, as they showed me during the election campaign, their tangible and legible support of our policy for the sale of council houses. There have been numerous applications and exchanges with the Cardiff city council about the handling of its right-to-buy applications. I am glad to say that 56 per cent. of applications have been processed to completion stage. I remain anxious about the lack of progress in completing sales of flats, but I am glad to say that, at the end of May, of 104 applications that had been received, 88 had been sent offers and there had been 11 acceptances. Therefore, circumstances in Cardiff are improving.

Mr. Knox

What percentage of applicants have received offer notices?

Mr. Roberts

Eighty five per cent. of the 49,715 applications up to 31 March 1983.

Mr. Anderson

In the Minister's euphoria about the number of sales, will he bear in mind that it will cost almost three times as much to replace a unit that is sold and that that will prevent people in the public sector from having a chance of getting a better home unless expenditure on housing is increased? Will the Minister undertake that housing, which took such a beating from the Government between 1979 and 1983, will be given a greater share of resources so that we can provide homes in the public sector for people who need them?

Mr. Roberts

I have told the House on numerous occasions that the sale of a council dwelling to a secure tenant does not decrease the total housing stock. Many local authorities underspent last year and the year before. The hon. Gentleman will know that I have urged local authorities until I am blue in the face to use for housing all the moneys available to them from the sale of council houses and other assets.

Sir Raymond Gower

Apart from the Valuable extension of home ownership, is there not much evidence that the sale of council houses is a stimulus to home improvement for the people who have purchased their houses or flats?

Mr. Roberts

My hon. Friend is right. He, like myself and others during the election campaign, noticed that many people who had purchased their council homes were busy improving them.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Instead of preening themselves over the sale of council houses, why do not the Government do something about the level of interest rates? Does not inflation at under 4 per cent., most wage levels at about 4 per cent. and interest rates on house purchases — private and public — at 11½ per cent. represent a massive transfer of wealth from home owners to money lenders? Why do not the Government do something about it?

Mr. Roberts

I do not think that that arises from the question.

Mr. Allan Rogers

What effect has council house sales had upon waiting lists of young married couples who are waiting to move into rented homes? Have the lists lengthened in the last year as a result of sales?

Mr. Roberts

I have already said that the disposal of a local authority dwelling to a sitting tenant has no significant effect on waiting lists. Local authorities receive capital receipts from the sale of council houses. I have urged them to use such moneys to provide further accommodation if necessary. The situation in the rented sector might have been better if the Labour party had not declared itself so much against shorthold.

Mr. Ray Powell

What is the increase in the number of applications for council accommodation since May 1979? Can the Minister or the Government justify such a substantial increase?

Mr. Roberts

If the hon. Gentleman will table a question on that matter, I shall seek to answer it. I warn him in advance that there is no such thing as a standard waiting list which operates throughout Wales. The criteria for being on the waiting list vary between local authorities.

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