asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many inquiries he has received from the public concerning his legislative proposals relating to the sale of council houses since he took office.
About 2,000 letters.
:Is my right hon. Friend aware that I receive many letters every week, and that I have done so since the general election of last year, from council house tenants in my constituency? Does he accept that he will have to consider the possibility that some local authorities—I hope that they will not include the Scunthorpe borough council—will try to defy the law if the Bill is enacted, as I hope that it will be, later this year?
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend as he has drawn the attention of the House to an important point. As I have said, I have received about 2,000 letters concerning the sale of council houses. About 90 per cent. of them indicate broad support for our policy. Indeed, the policy is well accepted and popular. Resentment and opposition to that policy comes only from the entrenched bigotry of the Labour Party.
:Has the Secretary of State had any representations from tenants who are in substantial rent arrears who wish to know whether they have the right to purchase their dwellings? Will the Secretary of State confirm that a tenant who is in substantial rent arrears has a right to purchase his dwelling under the proposed legislation? What powers do local authorities have to refuse a mortgage under that legislation if they have considerable evidence that the tenant will find it impossible to meet mortgage repayments?
If the tenant is in rent arrears, he will not have the right to purchase. I go further. I advise such a tenant not to purchase. If he is incapable of keeping up with his rent payments it would be an act of ill-considered judgment to take on the responsibilities of home purchase. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the overwhelming majority of council tenants are not in arrears with rent payments. Those people will have the right to purchase, unless the Labour Party gets its way.
Is the Secretary of State aware that it is not only socialist councils that are blocking the Bill? In my local authority, Liberals have not permitted that authority to proceed with the Bill.
I can well believe that. There are certain Liberals who do not yet know that the Lib-Lab pact is over?
Why does the Secretary of State adopt this jackboot attitude towards local authorities and councils, forcing them to carry out his policies? Why does he not apply the same jackboot attitude to private landlords? Is it because they are the sort of people who contribute to Tory Party funds? If it is fair for local authorities to sell off houses why is it not fair for private tenants to have the right to buy their houses?
:The answer is simple. The State has contributed to the cost of council houses through the revenues that it collects from the taxpayer. Therefore, the Government are entitled to make judgments about what they do with the taxpayers' assets. If I were a Labour Party Member I would concern myself with the penetration of extremists in the party before I started to talk about jackboot attitudes.