HC Deb 13 May 1992 vol 207 cc606-7
5. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further plans he has to extend the rents-to-mortgages scheme.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Sir George Young)

We will legislate in the current Session to extend the scheme to council tenants in England and Wales.

Mr. French

I am grateful for confirmation of the fact that we shall develop and expand the rents-to-mortgages scheme. In doing so, will my hon. Friend pay particular attention to the needs of flat-dwellers, who, too often under the right-to-buy scheme, have faced obstacles that have prevented them from proceeding?

Sir George Young

Yes, we will do that. Of course, those who live in flats as opposed to houses will have an additional advantage because they benefit from a higher discount, which will in turn reduce their outgoings and enable them to acquire a greater initial part of the dwelling. As the legislation is developed, we shall see whether additional protection is required for those who live in flats.

Ms. Abbott

Will the rents-to-mortgages scheme apply to the private sector as well as to the public sector? If not, why not?

Sir George Young

I made it clear in my main reply that the legislation would cover council tenants in England and Wales. It has always been the case that we have a mandate for the buildings that have been provided at the taxpayer's expense. The right to buy extends to public tenants, not to private sector tenants. That is an extension of our scheme for local authority tenants. We very much hope that the Labour party will not make the mistake that it made over the right to buy and oppose this scheme; we hope that it will wholeheartedly endorse the scheme.

Mr. Harry Greenway

How soon does my hon. Friend expect the legislation to be in place to enable this admirable scheme to start?

Sir George Young

It was announced in the Gracious Speech for the current Session. The Government will introduce the measure as soon as we can and we hope that it will be implemented in 1993.

Mr. Soley

When will the Government produce a proper housing finance policy which really gives people a choice between renting and buying? All that the Government have done so far is to get rid of 2 million properties in the private and public rented sector and not replace them and, at the same time, impose mortgage misery on 1.5 million people who cannot move into the rented sector but need to do so. Can we please have less fiddling around with such systems and have more radical systems that give people who rent a chance to buy and people who buy and have bought but who need to return to the rented sector a chance to do so? That would mean a genuine choice in housing.

Sir George Young

The hon. Gentleman says that we have got rid of those properties, but they are still there and real families are living in them. They are still part of the country's housing stock.

On the hon. Gentleman's other point, in the past 18 months, interest rates have progressively decreased, thus reducing the pressure on home owners. Had his party been elected, that progress would not have been maintained. On his general point, we are confident that the housing policies that we have been developing and on which we shall work will provide a balanced housing strategy to meet the needs of all the people, whether they want to be tenants or home owners.

Mr. Bowis

Will my hon. Friend use this reform opportunity to build into the new system a tougher requirement for local authorities to collect? If they fail to collect from their tenants, that puts an added financial burden on rent-payment tenants and reduces the money available to improve the housing stock.

Sir George Young

The rent collection performance of some local authorities, especially in London, is deplorable. That means that they have fewer resources to plough back into housing management and maintenance. Under the new system, local authorities that can improve their performances will be rewarded. The Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), and I will meet some of the local authorities whose performance has been disappointing, to see how we can encourage them to do better.

Forward to