§ 1. Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)
What plans he has to revise right-to-buy legislation. 
§ The Minister for Local Government and Housing (Ms Hilary Armstrong)
On 28 July I announced proposals to improve value for money by replacing the current £50,000 maximum discount limit with nine regional limits. This change would result in a maximum cash limit ranging from £22,000 to £38,000. Tenants would continue to be eligible for up to 60 per cent. off the value of a house and 70 per cent. off the value of a flat. We are considering the responses to consultation and we shall announce our decisions as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Hughes
I welcome what the Minister said, but may I ask her to be much braver and to look at other matters, especially things that adversely affect leaseholders in the borough where she lives when she is in London, of which I am a Member of Parliament—Southwark? Will she consider the fact that many boroughs, including Southwark, wait to do capital works on estates until the protected period for new purchasers is over, when they do not have to make much of a contribution, so that the leaseholders suddenly have to make a whacking contribution to the cost of what is otherwise a council development?
Will the Minister also ensure that boroughs do not abuse the system by lumping on to leaseholders' bills the cost of large amounts of communal works that they have not done for decades, so that leaseholders suddenly find themselves paying for drains, road repairs, pavements and so on, which the Labour council should have done a hell of a long time before?
§ Ms Armstrong
The hon. Gentleman is referring to another aspect on which the Government are about to consult—the future of leaseholding. We expect in the next few weeks to issue a consultation document on leaseholding, and the hon. Gentleman will then have every opportunity to make representations.
§ Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West)
Do the Government have any plans to introduce legislation to help people who, having been encouraged to do so, buy properties—such as high-rise flats—and then discover that those properties are worthless?
§ Ms Armstrong
Earlier this year, we announced proposals to offer councils a financial incentive to buy back ex-council flats and houses from owners in difficulty. We aim to enable people to enter home ownership and to sustain that wherever possible. However, as my hon. Friend says, it is impossible to re-sell some properties because they are in a block on 733 which lenders are unwilling to consider granting mortgages. Councils have the right—which they were given by the previous Administration—to buy back such properties. Under our proposals, 25 per cent. of councils' costs would be covered.
§ Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)
May I ask the Minister, lest she be tempted to do anything foolish, to think carefully before acting on proposals that will discourage home ownership and make it more difficult for tenants, especially in London and the south, to buy their own homes? Does she accept that the changes that are proposed will adversely affect approximately one in 10 families in England and one in four families in London, and that their discounts could be reduced by between £12,000 in London and £28,000 in the north-east? What possible justification is there for that type of attack on home ownership?
§ Ms Armstrong
I find it amusing that the hon. Gentleman cautions me about being foolish, but there you go, Madam Speaker. As I said in my previous answer, we are interested in sustainable home ownership, but we are also interested in ensuring that the taxpayer gets value for money. Both those interests must be upheld in pursuing this policy. The hon. Gentleman exaggerated somewhat.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I will not have comments from sedentary positions, whether they are from Front Benchers or Back Benchers.
§ Ms Armstrong
It is not one in four families in London who will be affected but one in four of those who buy at the top end of the market and who are already council tenants. The present figure for council tenancy in London is far from one in four families, so the hon. Gentleman is exaggerating. He clearly has not listened to what I have said—but that is not untypical.
We want to ensure that people are able to buy and sustain their own homes. At the same time, the Government respect the rights of taxpayers. The current policy costs taxpayers £400 million a year, and we want to ensure that that is not an ever-escalating bill. Our proposals will ensure that the vast majority of tenants continue to be eligible for a discount of up to 70 per cent. when buying their own homes. I believe that the taxpayers will find that very generous and very fair.