HC Deb 07 July 1993 vol 228 cc321-2
7. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the latest figures on sales under the rents-to-mortgages scheme in Scotland.

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

As at the end of June, there had been 765 sales under the pilot rent-to-mortgage scheme operated by Scottish Homes.

Mrs. Gorman

I am delighted at the growing success of that scheme in Scotland. Does my hon. Friend agree that it just shows that the people in Scotland are great supporters of that fundamental Conservative policy, which is the antithesis of the policy of the Labour party, which has always opposed the sale of council houses? Is my hon. Friend aware that the scheme was pioneered in my constituency, where we are joining in with the sales? Is he further aware that, following its success in Scotland, pioneered by the Conservatives, of course, the scheme will now be introduced in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I whole-heartedly agree with my hon. Friend. The scheme has been a great success. It will be an even greater success. It will create a wholly new market. My hon. Friend will be particularly interested to know that to date in Scotland 26.4 per cent. of council houses have been sold and that the figure for England is virtually identical-26.5 per cent. The rent-to-mortgage scheme will open up a whole new market. It will give a statutory right to those involved. I believe that that will be widely welcomed throughout Scotland.

Mr. Maxton

Instead of continuing his obsession with selling as many houses as possible, will the Minister tell the House what progress he is making in establishing mortgage-to-rent schemes rather than rent-to-mortgage schemes to allow people who, as a result of the Government's economic policies have been made redundant and are unable to continue with their mortgage payments can continue to live in the house which has become their home?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I have no objection to mortgage-to-rent schemes where the local authority considers that they are practicable and that there is a priority for them. In both Clackmannan and Kyle and Carrick such schemes are in operation. I am in favour of them if the district council considers that local circumstances demand them. In Scotland, some 257,000 houses have been built since 1979. That is a considerable number. The funding for housing in Scotland is substantial.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

Does the Minister accept that at least in Gordon district in my constituency the council has been willing to adopt every conceivable means of providing homes to meet needs and has not argued with any of the various options on offer, yet it is still far from able to meet the demand for affordable houses in Gordon district? When will the Minister ensure that all the relevant agencies in Gordon can provide the houses that people need?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am aware that the hon. Gentleman's constituency suffers from the problems associated with success and a growing population. I know that he has been in touch with Scottish Homes. It is investing millions of pounds in his constituency. That should be an on-going process. I hope that the strategic agreement, which I understand has been formed with the local council, or is about to be, will prove to be extremely successful. All possibilities should be explored.

Mrs. Fyfe

Will the Minister confirm that, by the end of 1992, 24,000 council houses had been sold and were not replaced with housing for rent? Does he further agree that, as it is the better housing that goes, council tenants will soon be left with nothing but tenements and multi-stories in which to live? Did not the Scottish Office once again grossly overestimate the sales of council houses, knowing full well that the supplementary allocations would not be enough and thus would result in less money being spent on making council houses fit to live in? Does not all that give a good idea of what tenants can expect if the Government's gerrymandered boundaries become a reality?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Some 266,000 public sector houses have sold in Scotland. Each one of them has its own market value. They have sold throughout councils in Scotland. I can say also that the funds recovered have been spent on public sector housing in Scotland as a result and have greatly benefited the rest of the public sector housing. On supplementary allocations, we will not know the position until later this year. I will bear in mind the hon. Lady's constituency representations, and those from other constituencies in Scotland.