HC Deb 11 November 1992 vol 213 cc874-5
12. Mr. Moate

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about progress in transferring local authority housing stock into housing associations.

Sir George Young

Since 1988, 18 local authorities have transferred the ownership of their housing stock to housing associations with the agreement of their tenants. Those completed transfers have taken more than 94,000 tenanted houses and flats out of local authority ownership; they have generated capital receipts of more than £820 million and have brought more than £1.2 billion of private funds into social housing.

Mr. Moate

Is my hon. Friend aware that Swale borough council in my constituency was one of the pioneers in transferring its total housing stock of more than 7,000 houses to housing associations? Is he aware also that that policy has been a tremendous success, has all-party support, that the council is debt free and that there is an excellent record of tenant relations? What is my hon. Friend doing to trumpet the success of that policy, so that councils throughout the land break up, as rapidly as possible, the bureaucratic empires that so many have sought to defend?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend is right. It so happens that only this morning I was reading Swale housing association's business plan. I was interested to see that it was ahead of its targets, that it had honoured its commitments to its tenants and that its performance had improved. The Government remain committed to a continuing programme of large-scale voluntary transfers. I hope that the advertisement that my hon. Friend just made on behalf of that programme will be picked up by many councillors and tenants throughout the country so that they, too, can avail themselves of the advantages that he mentioned.

Mr. Jim Marshall

The Minister will be aware that, on a number of occasions, the tenants of the Boot houses on the Saffron Lane estate in my constituency have always expressed opposition to development by housing associations. What progress is being made in providing additional funds to ensure that those properties can be redeveloped?

Sir George Young

Speaking from memory, I think that the tenants were offered an option for taking forward development of that estate and they rejected it because they were not entirely happy with some aspects. I hope that the discussions continue between the tenants and the local authority. If they can come up with an agreed solution, I shall see whether my Department has a role to play in bringing forward a satisfactory long-term solution for that estate, the background of which I am familiar with.

Sir Anthony Durant

Is my hon. Friend aware that Newbury district council, which is part of my constituency, has gone into that matter on a big scale and has been highly successful? Regrettably, Reading borough council scared tenants in the area against voting for it by putting out an iniquitous leaflet at the last general election, saying that if tenants voted Conservative, their houses would be stolen.

Sir George Young

In a recent visit to my hon. Friend's constituency, that leaflet was drawn to my attention. The Labour councillors with whom I was speaking had the grace to admit that they had gone slightly over the top in their predictions of what might happen in the event of a Conservative victory. There was a Conservative victory and none of the awful things that they said would happen has happened. I hope that my hon. Friend will pursue in his local newspaper the points that he just made and explain that tenants should not always believe what they are told by Labour councillors in Reading.