§ Mr. Fitzpatrick
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will announce the results of the consultation exercise on the changes to the right to buy maximum discount. 
§ Ms Armstrong
We intend the Right to Buy scheme to continue, and that eligible tenants should continue to buy at substantial discounts. The annual cost of the scheme to the taxpayer is currently around £400 million a year at net present value. Tenants are, and will continue to be, eligible to claim up to 60 per cent. discount on a house and 70 per cent. discount on a flat, but we want to provide value for money to the taxpayer so the maximum cash limit of £50,000 will be reduced.
We announced plans on 28 July 1998, Official Report, columns 124–25, to reduce the limit to a fairer level which reflected more closely the actual cost of buying a local authority home in each of the nine English regions. The consultation period ended on 30 September. We had 197 responses. The great majority of these welcomed the proposal to reduce the level of discount.
Today the Housing (Right to Buy) (Maximum Discount) Order 1998, SI 1998 2997 has been laid before Parliament for approval.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, the change will come into force on 11 February 1999. For anyone applying to buy on or after that date, the maximum cash limits on discounts available under the Right to Buy, the preserved Right to Buy and voluntary sales of council housing will range from £38,000 in London and the South East to £22,000 in the North East.
The limits are based on 70 per cent. of the average value of local authority houses and flats in each region, and 65 per cent. in London where pressure on social housing is currently greatest.
The Right to Buy scheme was reviewed as part of the Housing Comprehensive Spending Review. We are strongly committed to promoting sustainable home ownership so the Right to Buy scheme will still provide tenants with the opportunity to buy at generous discounts.