HC Deb 12 December 1990 vol 182 cc946-7
13. Mr. Robert B. Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to improve the opportunities for home ownership enjoyed by the tenants of charitable housing associations.

Sir George Young

The Housing Corporation introduced in the summer the tenants' incentive scheme, under which registered housing associations, including charities, may give grants to help their tenants move out and buy homes of their own.

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply and welcome him back to the Dispatch Box to answer what I believe is exactly the same question as I asked him that last time he was answering on this subject. Is he aware that the tenants' incentive scheme will not provide a single opportunity for tenants in my constituency to purchase their homes this year? Is that satisfactory? Would not it be much better to go back to basics and to give the right to buy to those tenants?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend will remember that in a previous incarnation I tried to do exactly that. We tabled amendments to the Housing and Building Control Bill in 1983 to extend the right to buy to tenants of charitable housing associations, but were unable to persuade the other place to include those provisions in the Bill and the proposals were abandoned. In their place, we came up with the scheme for tenants of charitable housing associations. The Housing Corporation plans to spend over £40 million on grants, which gives it the potential to assist 2,500 tenants. I very much hope that some of my hon. Friend's constituents will be among those who succeed.

Mr. Frank Field

Will the Minister change the scheme so that tenants can opt into it? Currently, the scheme runs only if a housing association becomes part of the scheme. Is the Minister aware that the disadvantages of council house sales, which my colleagues identified in the previous question, do not apply to this scheme under which people are paid a certain sum to leave a tenancy and the tenancy can then be re-let to other people? Will he now change the nature of the scheme and allow tenants to opt in, rather than allow the housing associations to be the gamekeepers, who are preventing the scheme from working?

Sir George Young

I have no evidence that charitable housing associations are not willing to operate the scheme. it is a substantial benefit to them in that they get a re-let which they can let to someone on their list—something which they would not have done without the scheme. The housing associations are fully compensated for their management costs and there is no disadvantage to them in operating the scheme. I have no evidence that they are unhelpful in administering it.

Mr. Butterfill

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, when considering extensions to the right-to-buy scheme, he will not permit any new commonhold scheme to be extended to include leaseholders, on the basis that it would be no part of any Government's remit to extend to one group of private citizens the right compulsorily to acquire the property of another?

Sir George Young

The Lord Chancellor recently issued a consultative document on commonhold and the Government are awaiting views on the proposals to introduce it. I shall make sure that my hon. Friend's suggestions are brought to my noble and learned Friend's attention.

Forward to