Andrew RT Davies is Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly.
In 1980, Margaret Thatcher, the then Conservative Prime Minister, introduced a right for all council house tenants to buy their own homes. ‘Right To Buy’ became and remains one of the most impressive social empowering measures of the twentieth century. In Wales, in the year 2015, Welsh Labour wants to scrap it.
Since the policy was first introduced 35 years ago, 138,000 homes in Wales have been sold under its terms. That’s 138,000 families across the whole of Wales who have their own firm asset. When Thatcher deployed he term ‘property owning democracy’, it meant that everybody should have the opportunity, regardless of background, education or class, to buy their own property.
The policy was never a magic wand which would end the extortionate deposits needed to buy homes which existed then, and certainly exist now. Nor was it a policy which would lead to a complete housing stock in the UK. But what it has done is help with both: the many thousands of people who now benefit from owning their own homes simply wouldn’t have been able to.
The Welsh Conservatives stand firmly behind the Right To Buy as one of the housing strategies needed. There are plenty of others – but if a policy which has stood the test of time and works, why scrap it?
Sadly, Welsh Labour disagrees. They have now announced that if they form the government in Wales in 2016, it will be scrapped. Their reason is that housing shortages mean the policy is no longer viable. That is utter nonsense.
Since 1999, Welsh Labour has had complete control over housing in Wales. They simply haven’t built enough houses. There is an estimated shortage of 40,000 homes across Wales and, to make things worse, house builders are actively pulling out.
Last year, Persimmon, a prominent house builder said that it couldn’t sustain building in Wales because of red tape and bureaucracy placed upon it by Welsh Labour. They said that house building in Wales is now £3,000 a year more expensive than in England, thanks to Labour’s failed housing policies.
Welsh Labour have scrapped the Right To Buy not because it doesn’t work – 138,000 houses shows it works. They have scrapped it as a sign of intent. A Thatcher-era policy still standing? Scrap it.
Look at their record and you quickly work out their policy agenda. Health spending – cut it. An Airport – nationalise it. Appoint a Business Minister – better make it one that likes Karl Marx.
The more Welsh Labour’s agenda is delved into, the more you can see the rhetoric of Big State, Big Government. The ‘Right To Buy’ is sadly a victim of that. Welsh Labour continue to downgrade ambition. The Welsh Conservatives will continue to be the champions of social mobility.