HC Deb 13 February 1985 vol 73 cc332-3
7. Mr. Knox

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

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Ancram)

Yes. Since 1979 over 62,000 tenants have bought their houses. Binding contracts of sale have been concluded in a further 4,000 cases, and there are approximately another 7,000 applications at an earlier point in the pipeline.

Mr. Knox

What percentage of council house stock in Scotland has been sold to sitting tenants? If that figure is still significantly below that in England, what steps is my hon. Friend taking to increase the sale of council houses in Scotland?

Mr. Ancram

The percentage figure now sold is about 4.6 per cent. of the council stock in Scotland, rather larger than the last time my hon. Friend asked me the same question last July, when I told him that it was about 3.6 per cent. There has obviously been an improvement, but I must concede that we are somewhat behind the comparable figures for England, and it is for that reason that I keep trying to persuade councils of the benefits of selling council houses—such as the way in which they can spend their receipts—to encourage them to release council houses as quickly as they can.

Mr. Tom Clarke

If the policy of selling houses with substantial discounts is such a success, will the Minister tell the House why this has not been extended to the private rented sector?

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Member has asked that question before, and he will get precisely the same answer. We are dealing in this case with housing that has been provided by public money. I fail to understand the pathological hatred shown by the Opposition towards giving people who are living in council houses the right to own their own homes. We believe that that right is a good one, and we hope that they will exercise it.

Mr. Forth

Does my hon. Friend share my disappointment at the low rate of sales that has so far been achieved? Does he agree that, if we can persuade more people in Scotland to own their own homes by buying council houses, we shall improve their quality of life and increase the mobility of labour, which will be a factor in the future prosperity of Scotland?

Mr. Ancram

I agree totally with what my hon. Friend has said. The applications are running at about 1,800 a month. I would like to see this figure increased, and I shall do everything that I can to persuade people of the benefits of buying their homes.

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