HC Deb 04 May 1983 vol 42 cc222-3
10. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied with the progress being made with the sale of council houses to sitting tenants in Scotland.

12. Mr. McQuarrie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will indicate the average period being taken by Scottish local authorities to finalise the sale of houses to tenants who have applied to purchase their homes under the Tenants' Rights etc. (Scotland) Act and the total number of applications outstanding at 30 March.

Mr. Allan Stewart

The average time taken by local authorities to process sales from application to completion was just under 13 months in respect of sales completed in the last three quarters of 1982. I regard that figure as unacceptable and in January my Department wrote to 19 authorities whose performances were giving most grounds for concern.

Mr. Knox

Are the local authorities that are taking longest to complete council house sales predominantly Labour-controlled, and if so will my hon. Friend list them?

Mr. Stewart

I shall not take up the time of the House by listing all 19 authorities. The information is publicly available and I shall send it to my hon. Friend. Most of the authorities concerned are Labour, but I am glad to say that most have given reassurances that they will speed up the process of sales. We are determined that the aspirations of tenants will not be needlessly frustrated.

Mr. McQuarrie

As my hon. Friend said, the average time of 13 months is totally unacceptable. As well as getting in touch with the local authorities, mainly Labour, that are causing this delay, will my hon. Friend contact the Scottish Home and Health Department, because prison officers in Peterhead have been desperately trying to get their houses for 18 months? Will my hon. Friend take some action to ensure that those prison officers are able to purchase their houses, thereby saving money?

Mr. Stewart

I note my hon. Friend's concern about the prison officers. We are doing everything that we can to finalise those sales, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that some of the problems encountered, particularly with regard to unmade roads, do not apply to local authorities. As to the local authorities, my hon. Friend will be interested to know that Banff and Buchan has agreed to take on an additional solicitor, on a temporary basis, to speed up sales.

Mr. Eadie

Is the hon. Gentleman trying to alter his strategy because he is dissatisfied with the sale of council houses in the sense that his right hon. Friend is responsible for encroachment into the Edinburgh planning area à la Swanston? How can the Minister justify the taking of such a decision that will blight Edinburgh's green belt?

Mr. Stewart

My right hon. Friend made the position absolutely clear in his decision letter and said that further encroachment of the green belt surrounding Edinburgh should not be necessary. The position on council sales is quite different. The Government believe that the aspirations of tens of thousands of Scottish families to own their own homes should be met.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware of the immediate and successful response to the shared ownership scheme? Will he look at the possibility of extending that scheme to council house tenants?

Mr. Stewart

Yes. I am delighted at the success of shared ownership schemes and at the fact that certain legal difficulties appear to have been overcome. I have no doubt that there is considerable scope for a further extension of shared ownership in Scotland.

Mr. Dewar

If home ownership rights for sitting tenants in rented property are of such enormous, almost theological, importance to the Government, will there be legislation to give similar rights to private tenants?

Mr. Stewart

As the Labour party is apparently committed to nationalising more or less everything, it is not surprising that the hon. Gentleman cannot tell the difference between public and private property rights. The hon. Gentleman, as an owner-occupier, is apparently obsessed with the desire to prevent tens of thousands of Scottish families from achieving their ambition of owner-occupation.