Right to Buy in Wales

Apr 13, 2017Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues0 comments

Plenary Tuesday 14 March 2017


Spoken Contribution – 15:51:48
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Thanks to the Minister for his statement today. In UKIP, we do broadly support the right to buy, but we also recognise the practical difficulties that this policy has led to. It’s interesting that the right to buy has become an ideological battleground between Labour and the Conservatives, because it was actually Labour that first proposed this kind of scheme in their 1959 general election manifesto under Hugh Gaitskell. However, Labour lost that election and it was the Conservatives who eventually, 20 years later, began to enact the sale of council houses, and it proved to be a popular policy, as David Melding has articulated earlier today.

However, sometimes it does take a distance of a few years before we can see if a policy has really worked or not. So, has right to buy helped to facilitate more home ownership in the UK? Well, up to a point, it certainly has. In 1980, when the Act came in, 55 per cent of British householders owned or mortgaged their own home. After the Act, this steadily rose, peaking at 71 per cent in 2003. Unfortunately, since then the figure has declined to its current level of less than 64 per cent, which means that, for the first time, we actually have lower home ownership rates than in France. So, it is a bit of a mixed message and I can see your concerns over right to buy.

The figures do become more concerning when they apply to the young. In 1990, 45 per cent of 25-year-olds were on the property ladder. In 2000, that figure had gone down to 34 per cent, and in 2010, it stood at 21 per cent. So, it certainly seems that today the young are being priced out of the property market. Indeed, the flip side of the 1980 Housing Act seems to have been that the severe restrictions on councils’ ability to build new council houses has ended up in a shortage of housing. Revenue from council house sales was directed by the central UK Government to go to reducing councils’ debt. So, we have had a period in which councils have been severely restricted in their ability to build council houses. We now enter a period in Wales when, as you, Minister, elucidated earlier, we are now seeing some council houses built again, which is a welcome development. But you are now addressing the problem of the depletion of stock, and that seems to be principally why you want to end the right to buy in Wales. We in UKIP think that there should be ring-fencing of revenue from the council house sales, with councils obligated to reinvest this into either new-build council houses or regeneration of existing stock.

We need to continue to push for job investment away from the major coastal towns and cities as far as we can, because this could then help to address the problem of the depopulation of the Valleys.

Spoken Contribution – 15:54:48
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Well, I will start to introduce some questions. Thank you for reminding me, Deputy Presiding Officer. So I wondered, Minister, what you thought about this as part of your joined-up approach, presumably, to the housing issue. Because perhaps you can comment on this when I suggest that what we don’t really want are endless new private estates on the green belt, with only grudging and very minimal elements of social housing, whose residents clog up the road when they travel into their jobs in the city. Is this a good idea for the future? Perhaps you can elucidate your vision on this? Far better in my view—in our view—to try to keep jobs in the Valleys as far as possible, and to regenerate housing in the Valleys themselves, and also to develop brownfield and infill sites in the city. So, I wondered what your thoughts were on those ideas.

There are also other external factors—[Interruption.]—that you may be able to shed some light on—and I thank you for your interest, Members over there. For instance, we are leaving the EU—

Spoken Contribution – 15:55:54
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I am indeed. I am indeed, Deputy Presiding Officer.