HC Deb 17 October 1990 vol 177 cc1199-200
3. Mr. Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many council houses have been sold to sitting tenants in Scotland since May 1979.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

Since April 1979 more than 210,000 public sector houses in Scotland have been sold to sitting tenants. Included in this figure are more than 147,000 sales by local authorities. Owner-occupation now amounts to 50 per cent. of the total number of houses in Scotland.

Mr. Knox

Does my hon. Friend expect that the extension of the rents-into-mortgages scheme to local authority tenants, which was announced last week, will result in a significant increase in home ownership in Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Yes, I certainly do. In the course of time eligibility will be open to 320,000 local authority tenants—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) is putting up five fingers. I must point out that ten times as many as that will have bought their homes under the trial scheme by the end of the month and that there will be 200 by the end of March. In the first year of the right to buy only 10 Scottish special housing association tenants bought; it takes time for the process to gather momentum.

The average weekly payment under the rents into mortgages scheme will be about £18 and the average weekly council rent is £20.89, so this is a very good opportunity for those in a position to afford it.

Mr. McAllion

Has the Minister read the copy of the Dundee house conditions survey that was recently given him? Did he fully comprehend the awful state of housing that it describes? Eighteen thousand council houses are riddled with damp and condensation; 15,000 require urgent repairs; 4,000 require whole window replacement. Will he get it into his skull and into the skulls of all his fellow Ministers that rents into mortgages do nothing to alleviate these Dickensian housing conditions? Will he therefore undertake to send a loud and clear message to the Treasury that what is required is massive new investment in the housing stock across Scotland? If Ministers are not prepared to fight Scotland's corner they must move aside for those of us in the Opposition who are.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

In the past Dundee district council was taking more than a year to process council house sales. If it had processed them more quickly it would have received considerably more funds for its public sector stock. I am also advised that this year we increased net public expenditure for housing by about £40 million as compared with last year as a result of the drop in right-to-buy receipts. We shall consider the representations made to us by the hon. Members for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) and for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) in the final allocations that will be made later this year.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that the failure of Dundee council to run its housing stock is an argument for encouraging more owner-occupation and a smaller public sector, not a larger one? Would he like to suggest that Dundee corporation sorts out its problems instead of running an independent foreign policy, linked as it is with Nablus on the west bank of Israel?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I strongly agree that home ownership is an aspiration of a large number of Scots who do not have the opportunities now, and I believe that they will have them in future. I also suggest that authorities such as Dundee, which I shall visit again shortly with the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), would be well advised to do what they are doing—to work closely with housing associations, and to explore all the possibilities, including the possibility of using its land bank—this applies to authorities that have land banks—[HON. MEMBERS: "They are doing it."] I am glad to hear that.