HC Deb 02 November 1983 vol 47 cc855-6
1. 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.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

Our policy has been popular and successful. Since 1979 about 80,000 public sector tenants in Scotland have expressed an interest in purchasing their home and nearly 40,000 sales have been completed, with many more in the pipeline.

I remain concerned, however, at the time that a small number of authorities are taking to process sales. My Department has written this week to 15 authorities which appear to be taking 12 months or longer to complete sales, drawing attention to the serious consequences of these delays and asking for an early indication of the steps they propose taking to ensure that sales are completed within a reasonable period.

Mr. Knox

Will my right hon. Friend list those authorities that have been dragging their feet on the sale of council houses?

Mr. Younger

I should be glad to list those authorities for my hon. Friend or for any other hon. Member who would like to know them. The time has come for local authorities to realise that a popular policy, and one laid down by the House, should be fulfilled quickly and efficiently by every local authority.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his answer represents an outstanding achievement by the Government in carrying out of a policy that is bitterly opposed by the Labour party? When he has been travelling up and down Scotland, has he seen the houses that have been enhanced by private ownership and occupation, and will he do everything possible to encourage sales?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend, and it is interesting to note that all over Scotland a vast number of people are extremely pleased at having the chance to buy their own homes. That satisfaction is matched only by their amazement that the Labour party insists on opposing something that is so clearly in the interests of the people of Scotland.

Mr. Malone

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in the city of Aberdeen, since the inception of the legislation about 3,000 applications for homes have been lodged, of which only 800 have been processed? Can he confirm that Aberdeen is one of the district councils to which he has written?

Mr. Younger

I can confirm that Aberdeen is one of the councils to which I have written, and, as there is clearly a strong demand in that city, I hope that the council will acknowledge that and allow its constituents to buy their own homes.

Mr. Hugh Brown

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to come with me to look at some of the deprived areas, which are the other side of the coin, where people cannot afford to buy and the chance to transfer to another area is becoming more difficult? If he does, he will see the hopelessness of that aspect of the policy.

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's genuine and well-informed concern over this issue, but has he reflected on whether the policy of council house sales really is unhelpful? It is positively helpful in two respects. First, it provides money which would not otherwise be available for the refurbishment of houses and means that those who wish to buy their own homes are able to do so. Secondly, those not wishing to buy will remain tenants, and it is they who will get the benefit of the advantages and improvements.