HC Deb 23 April 1986 vol 96 cc283-4
4. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received about the provision of an indemnity for council vendors by right to buy purchasers against potential defects in title; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir George Young)

My hon. Friend has drawn attention to the position of tenants in his constituency who are denied the right to buy their houses because their landlord does not have good title.

I deplore the failure of Bolton borough council to take steps to perfect its title. The provision of an indemnity would not, however, be a solution in those cases where the landlord cannot sell because he does not have the necessary interest in the property.

Mr. Thurnham

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that, in many cases, the accepted private sector practice of providing indemnities would be appropriate and helpful?

Sir George Young

Yes, and it would be helpful if Bolton council would offer indemnity when it considers that it has sufficient interest in a property to be able to sell. It would then be for the purchaser to decide whether he was happy to go ahead and buy on the strength of that indemnity.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Can the problems of defects in title relating to the council's responsibility for defects in the property be covered, as many of my constituents are unable to sell houses which they purchased in good faith because they have discovered defects in property which the council formerly owned?

Sir George Young

That is an ingenious diversion from defect in title to defect in property. The House passed the Housing Defects Act 1984, which was intended to tackle the serious problems experienced by many people who in good faith bought from a public body houses which turned out to have defects. The Government are making good progress with implementing that Act.

Mr. Sackville

Is my hon. Friend aware that many of my constituents in Bolton are unable to buy their homes, although it is clearly the Government's intention that they should be able to do so? How long will councils such as Bolton be allowed to take advantage of the loophole in the right-to-buy legislation? When will the Government introduce legislation necessary to put that right?

Sir George Young

Many of us heard yesterday the renewed apparent commitment of the Labour party to the right to buy. I wonder whether Opposition spokesmen could now have a word with their opposite numbers in Bolton to see whether that council, which is the only one that I know of which denies the right to buy on this rather flimsy pretext, might change its policy. Legislation is complex, but we have not ruled it out.

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