HC Deb 19 April 1995 vol 258 cc194-5
2. Mr. Congdon

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many homes have been sold under right to buy legislation. [17905]

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. John Gummer)

In England, more than 1.23 million homes have been sold under the right to buy. The figure for Great Britain as a whole is more than 1.6 million.

Mr. Congdon

I welcome those figures. Given the success of providing the right to buy to so many people—with the benefits evident throughout the country both in the physical improvements on council estates and in the wider mix of tenures—will my right hon. Friend consider extending the scheme to all housing association tenants, which is a particular issue in London?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is right to say how much the initiative has been welcomed. Under one or other of the schemes, 235 homes a day in Britain are being bought by tenants who are turning themselves into home owners. That is a remarkable achievement and wholly contrary to the rather pathetic comments of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford). However, we want to improve on that number and I am looking carefully at ways to extend the initiative to other people.

Mr. Soley

Is the Secretary of State aware that the total raised from council house sales is about £25 billion— close to the total amount raised from all other privatisations? Instead of frittering that money away, why do the Government not invest it in housing? It was the original plan of the housing spokesman of the Tory party to reinvest in housing, but the Government did not do so. As a result, we have homeless children begging in our streets. Is the Secretary of State not ashamed of that?

Mr. Gummer

Far from frittering it away, the first use of that money was to pay back the debts incurred to build the housing in the first place. The second use was to build other houses. The third use was for other local authority purposes. The concept that the money has been frittered away can be accurate only if the local authorities, many of which are controlled by the Labour party, frittered it away: it was their money and they have spent it.

As a result of the Government's policy on homelessness, fewer than a third of the number of people who were sleeping rough on the streets of London a few years ago do so now. That is the result of spending £129 million on the homeless. The hon. Gentleman ought to get his facts right.

Mr. Beggs

Does the Secretary of State agree that, under the right-to-buy legislation, many more families have a new pride in the ownership of their property, and that the improvements which they make give new confidence and interest in improvements to those living in neighbouring properties? Does he agree that, at this time, many more families should consider the advantage to them which would be gained by applying to buy the property which they rent at present?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in expressing that view of home ownership. It is precisely what the Government have sought to do. Of course, all the 235 families per day who buy their own homes would not have had the chance to do so if the Labour party had been in control. Labour opposed the right to buy at every point and many Labour candidates put the right to buy in their manifestos as something that they would like to stop.