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Council House Sales

Volume 84: debated on Monday 21 October 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many council houses have been sold to sitting tenants in Wales since May 1979.

About 43,568 council dwellings were sold to sitting tenants in Wales between May 1979 and 30 June 1985. In addition, 2,538 dwellings were sold by the Cwmbran development corporation and Mid-Wales Development.

How many complaints about delays in dealing with applications to buy have been made by tenants in the past 12 months?

Only eight complaints about delay have been received in the past 12 months. Instances of delay are far fewer now than in the initial period following the introduction of the right-to-buy scheme. We look into each individual case that is brought to our attention. We believe that the system is working satisfactorily and we are pleased with the way in which local authorities are operating it.

Is the Minister aware of the report by the chief housing officer for Wales in which he says that we need to spend £3,000 million in the next 15 years if existing council stock is not to slip into slumdom? Would that not be a better priority for the Government than their obsession with the sale of council houses?

I have seen the chief housing officer's report and newspaper reports on the subject. Between 1979 and 1984 the Government spent £34 million annually on repairs to public sector housing compared with £17 million during the period in which the last Labour Government were in power. In the private sector we spent £46 million compared with £12 million spent when the Labour party was in office.

Does my hon. Friend accept that receipts from council house sales should be used to fund further building and urgent repairs?

As my hon. Friend knows, the receipts can be applied to many purposes. The Government are restricting the amount that can be used in the current year to 15 per cent. Local authorities are, however, able to make use of other receipts in terms of their borrowing requirement. That is also important.

I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Robinson), but remind him that after the next general election he is likely to be looking for greener pastures.

May I take this opportunity to remind the hon. Gentleman of the terrible housing crisis that is developing in Wales? This is happening at a time when thousands of our building and construction workers are standing in the dole queues and when building materials are stacked in builders yards. Selling council houses is no substitute for building houses.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks about my appointment. I remind him that there is another marginal seat in Newport, and we are looking forward to an exciting battle there.

On his point about housing stock, I must tell him that the sale of council houses in no way diminishes housing stock.