HC Deb 19 July 1995 vol 263 cc1652-3
8. Mr. Whittingdale

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about the advantages of large-scale voluntary transfer of housing stock. [33378]

Mr. Gummer

As my hon. Friend will know from the recent transfer of Maldon's housing stock to the Plume housing association, large-scale voluntary transfers mean more investment in housing stock and better services for tenants.

Mr. Whittingdale

My right hon. Friend mentions the transfer of Maldon district council's housing stock. Is he aware that, following that transfer to the Plume housing association, tenants will this year pay a rent increase of 3.9 per cent. rather than the 12 per cent. that was projected by the council and that the council has benefitted by £21.5 million? Is not that an excellent demonstration of the way in which large-scale voluntary transfer can benefit council tenants, the local authority and the council tax payer?

Mr. Gummer

I agree with my hon. Friend. Perhaps he shares my experience. Now that LSVTs have been made in Suffolk Coastal, I receive from council tenants in a year the number of complaints that I used to receive every month. The improvement in the management of housing and the money available for improvements in housing stock have had a remarkable effect. I hope that other local councils will take heart.

Rev. Martin Smyth

While we welcome the moves towards greater mobility in the housing market, is it true that housing association are permitted by law to sell tenants their own homes, or are they forbidden from doing so? I am not speaking about special purpose housing, but normal housing.

Mr. Gummer

The constitutions of some charitable housing associations have arrangements that make it impossible for them to sell, but, for the most part, associations can, if they wish, sell to their tenants. We are encouraging that. In future, housing associations that receive money from central funds will get it on condition that they provide a right to buy. The money that they make from those sales could, of course, be recycled immediately into new housing.

Mr. Stephen

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, if Labour and the Liberal Democrats had had their way, local councils would have had no capital receipts because no council houses would have been sold?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is perfectly right. He may also notice that the Labour party has been extremely careful not to say, were it in power and were it to allow local authorities to spend their capital receipts, that it would maintain the same amount of capital allocations as we now provide. What the Labour party is saying is entirely untruthful. It might well allow capital receipts to be spent, but it would ensure that the same amount of money was not handed out by the Government to the councils that really needed it.