HC Deb 13 July 1999 vol 335 cc160-1
14. Mr. Colin Breed (South-East Cornwall)

What is his policy on imposing conditions on the sale of council houses; and if he will make a statement. [89489]

The Minister for Local Government and Housing (Ms Hilary Armstrong)

Local authorities can sell houses voluntarily and, in some cases, their tenants have the right to buy. In each case, it is up to councils to include such conditions in the sale as are appropriate and reasonable.

Mr. Breed

I thank the Minister for her reply. Is the Minister aware that Caradon district council in my constituency has recently failed in court to enforce a planning condition in respect of a former council home that is being used for letting, as that was not considered to be a business? Does she agree that that has widespread implications, in that a number of former council houses will be removed from housing stock and that, in future, more and more such properties may be used for businesses, rather than for housing?

Ms Armstrong

I am sure that the House understands that, because the matter is subject to appeal and is likely to go before the courts again, I am not in a position to comment on it. However, the Housing Act 1985 gives councils and other social landlords freedom to include reasonable terms and conditions when selling a home under the right to buy. For example, in rural areas, councils can prevent buyers from reselling to people who have not lived or worked locally for the past three years. In small communities, that helps to keep a stock of affordable housing available for local people. However, it is a matter for the council to determine.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

What assessment has the Minister made of the effect of the changed rules on the use of capital receipts from the sale of council houses on the level of interest repayments on local authority debt?

Ms Armstrong

This is an issue not of the right to buy, but of how councils use and organise their debt sales. The whole debt portfolio is a matter for councils. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the debt that he so complains about was sanctioned by the previous Government. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. There was an exchange between the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) and the Minister for Local Government and Housing that I did not hear.

Mr. Bercow

I sincerely hope that it is not the case, Madam Speaker, but it seems that the Minister accused me of lying.

Ms Armstrong

The hon. Gentleman implied that I had said something in my reply that I had not. I said that I hoped that he was not accusing me of lying and implying that I had said that debt had risen, when I had not said that.

Madam Speaker

Too many remarks are made from sedentary positions. I have said before that hon. Members who have something to say should wait to be called before they say it. If they have asked a question, it is right that they should listen fully to the answer.