HL Deb 16 December 1982 vol 437 cc709-10
Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their estimate of the additional numbers of families who will benefit from the extension of the right to buy their own dwellings to those living in leasehold council houses.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, we estimate that some 50,000 public sector tenants in England and Wales will become eligible for the right to buy from those provisions of the Housing and Building Control Bill that extend the right to buy to properties where the landlord does not own the freehold.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Can he confirm that, where tenants are leasing houses, local authorities are definitely able to sell these properties, and how quickly can the sales go through, possibly in anticipation of legislation?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, yes, I do so confirm. Where the local authority is prepared to sell voluntarily and the terms of its lease permit, there is currently no problem. It can, for example, grant similar terms as to discount to those eligible under the right to buy. The difficulty arises in those cases where authorities are reluctant to sell, and the fact that a dwelling is leasehold is at present a loophole which enables them to deny the right to buy.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, can the noble Lord the Minister tell the House whether the sale of these extra houses will help in any way at all to keep down rents of council tenants who cannot afford to buy and who, as the Secretary of State has already announced, will have to pay a further 85p per week increase from next April?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the proposals in the Bill will have absolutely no effect whatever on that point.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House whether those properties that have now been transferred to private ownership are being better maintained and, therefore, whether the life of those houses is being extended?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I have no information on that point. I think that as to that one would have to make one's own deductions.

Baroness Denington

My Lords, is the Minister aware that under the projected legislation the charitable trusts—particularly the Sutton Housing Trust, of which until recently I have been a member—are profoundly disturbed at the idea that they may be required to sell any houses that have been provided under their trust deed? In the case of Sutton, it flows from the will of Mr. Sutton, who died in 1894; he left his fortune to a charitable trust for, the provision of low rented dwellings for occupation"—

Noble Lords Reading!

Baroness Denington

My Lords, it continues: for occupation by the poor of London". I beg the House to bear with me one minute.

Noble Lords


Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I wonder if it would help the noble Baroness if I were to point out that the next Question on the Order Paper is the very one which I think concerns the point that is troubling her.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord the Minister, in order to give a balanced view, could indicate to the House whether the increase in the purchase of houses from local authorities has also led, peculiarly enough, to an increase in the number of tenants requiring housing from local authorities?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the statistics for which the noble Lord asks me are not to hand immediately, but I have said many times in the past, and I say yet again, that the purchase of a home does not affect one way or the other the availability of the number of dwellings to rent, because the people who buy their homes are those who live in them and who have, in the main, lived in them for many years. The fact that they then proceed to occupy, and contine to occupy, as owner rather than as tenant makes the dwelling neither more nor less available to the general pool of rented accommodation.

3.5 p.m.

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