HC Deb 23 March 1983 vol 39 cc856-8
14. Mr. Heddle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his latest estimate of the total number of tenants of local authorities, new towns and housing associations who have become owner-occupiers under the right-to-buy provisions since the Government came to office.

25. Mr. Durant

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many council house sales have been completed since May 1979.

Mr. Stanley

Since the Government were elected, the number of publicly rented dwellings that are now owner-occupied is approximately 500,000. About 300,000 of these sales have been through the right to buy rather than through voluntary arrangements.

Mr. Heddle

Does my hon. Friend accept that the encouraging figures that he has just announced demonstrate the real transfer of wealth from the state to working people? Does he agree that perhaps two out of every three tenants who have so far exercised their right to buy are paying £20 a month more on their mortgage than they might because of the dramatic reduction in inflation and the low interest rates charged by building societies? Should they not be encouraged to transfer their mortgages to the building societies?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend is right to point out that this is the most important redistribution of wealth in favour of ordinary working people that has been carried out by any Government. I agree that it is part of our policy to encourage local authorities to exercise their powers voluntarily to transfer mortgages to building societies and to give their tenants the benefit of any lower rates.

Mr. Jay

Is the Minister aware that throughout London the Government's wrecking policies have produced an ever more acute shortage of homes to rent?

Mr. Stanley

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. We have had one of the largest upsurges in private house building, and there is also a substantial rise in public sector house building in London. If the right hon. Gentleman considers the number of vacant dwellings, he will find that the biggest concentration regionally is in London, where many Labour-controlled authorities have empty dwellings that have been vacant for more than a year.

Mr. Budgen

Will my hon. Friend confirm that one of the great problems in giving this right to tenants has been the disgraceful delay by many Labour-controlled councils in selling those houses? Will he confirm that one of the worst offenders has been Wolverhampton district council and that he is continuing to put all proper pressure upon that council to speed up the process of selling to tenants?

Mr. Stanley

I confirm what my hon. Friend says. There has been considerable delay by Wolverhampton district council, Darlington district council and other Labour-controlled authorities, where progress should have been greater. The progress in Wolverhampton has not been satisfactory and is still being closely scrutinised by my right hon. Friend and myself.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Given the Government's sales policy and their abysmal record on new building, how many fewer council houses are there in Britain today than when the Government came to office?

Mr. Stanley

There are more council houses. All that has happened is that many council tenants who would have remained so have the benefit of home ownership, thanks to this Government's policies.