HC Deb 19 February 1990 vol 167 cc639-40
1. Mr. Gow

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many houses and flats owned by local authorities have been sold to their former tenants since May 1979; and what proposals he has to extend the opportunities for home ownership within the Principality.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Walker)

Over 79,000 dwellings have been sold to sitting tenants by local authorities and new towns in Wales. We are encouraging local authorities and housing associations to undertake a range of low-cost home ownership schemes. The most important initiative is the introduction by the Development Board for Rural Wales of the experimental flexi-ownership scheme, which allows tenants to buy their homes at a weekly outlay broadly the same as their rent payments.

Mr. Gow

Is not the opportunity for the extension of home ownership at the heart of the Government's policy? Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us hope that his new initiative in Wales will be followed elsewhere in the kingdom?

Mr. Walker

There is no doubt that the initial reaction to the flexi-ownership scheme launched only a couple of months ago has been one of enthusiasm by the tenants. The principle certainly needs to be examined and I hope that one day it will be applied to the whole country.

Mr. Alan Williams

What advice would the Secretary of State give to those who followed his earlier advice to buy their home and who now find themselves caught in a Government-created trap, at their wits' end trying to meet higher mortgage payments and dreading the arrival of the first poll tax demand, yet knowing that they will have lost their right to be rehoused if their house is repossessed?

Mr. Walker

I have no doubt that, if that is the case, the Labour party will revert to its policy of trying to stop the sale of council houses, as the right hon. Gentleman did when he was a Minister at the Welsh Office. However, I believe that all 79,000 are delighted with their purchase.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Secretary of State realise that many people who have bought their council house—we all want maximum home ownership—find it next to impossible to keep up their mortgage payments and that many are back on waiting lists for council houses? Those waiting lists have almost doubled in some parts of Wales. What will the Secretary of State do about it?

Mr. Walker

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not believe that many people who bought their council house at an enormous discount are back on the waiting lists. The majority of the 79,000 are delighted. I hope that the numbers will extend considerably in the coming years.

Mr. Murphy

Does the Secretary of State accept that the proposals of Housing in Wales, Tai Cymru and housing associations in Wales are wholly inadequate to deal with the problems of housing for at least 70,000 people who are on waiting lists in the Principality? What about the 6,000 or 7,000 homeless people? Cannot the Secretary of State see that the people of Wales are looking to him for some way out of this misery?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. I am proud that in the lifetime of this Government there has been an enormous improvement in the housing stock of Wales, which dwarfs anything achieved by our predecessors.

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