§ 15. Mr. Pawsey
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the progress of the right-to-buy legislation since 1980.
§ Mr. Michael Spicer
The 174,000 sales in 1988–89 bring the number of tenants who have exercised their right to buy their homes to more than 1.1 million.
§ Mr. Pawsey
I thank my hon. Friend for that complete reply. Does he agree that the sale of council houses represents the greatest shift of assets to the individual that the United Kingdom has ever experienced, and would he care to comment on the Labour party's policy? Although the Opposition say that they would maintain the sale of council houses, they will not confirm that they will maintain the discount system. Does my hon. Friend further agree that, without discounts, the sale of council houses would stop and that the Labour party's policy is typical humbug yet again?
§ Mr. Spicer
My hon. Friend is right on all counts, I think, although the Labour party's policy on the right to buy is a bit of a mystery. It seems that the Opposition have performed a volte face and decided that they now like a policy that they originally attacked, as they attack so many of our policies at their inception. On the other hand, there seems to be no question of the Labour party's giving incentives to buy. Moreover, it would seem from leaks of the Labour party's policy that its new policy on local 889 taxation would give a kick in the teeth to those who have bought their council houses. I do not know what sort of a policy that is.
§ Dr. Reid
Is the Minister aware that some Labour Members have always been pleased to support the provision of opportunities for working people to obtain their own homes, either by purchase or by rent? What we find criminal is that the selling-off of existing council houses has not been complemented by the building of new council houses for people who cannot afford to purchase their own homes. Is it not a very one-sided and unfair policy that correctly provides for the majority of people in Scotland and throughout Britain to purchase their own homes but at the same time deprives local authorities of the moneys necessary to provide the homeless and those on low incomes, who have no prospect of purchasing their own homes, with a roof over their heads?
§ Mr. Spicer
The Government take account of the total housing stock in Britain, and that has been expanding rapidly particularly in recent times. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is a massive increase ahead in expenditure in public sector housing by the Housing Corporation and housing associations, which will combine public with private money to build new homes, and that is precisely the way it should go in future.