I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
approves Her Majesty's Government's policies of fair rents accompanied by a generous national scheme of rebates and allowances, of increasing the supply of houses for owner-occupation and of measures to make more building land available including the proposed land hoarding charge and welcomes Her Majesty's Government's measures to provide rate support grant at a record level and also additional relief to mitigate the effects of rating revaluation on domestic ratepayers.
There is obviously going to be a great deal of "fight, fight and fight again" on the Opposition benches. The Opposition motion deals with house prices, rents, land prices and rates. The speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) covered much the same ground as did the debate on housing land held in the House just over five weeks ago. He made it clear that during that interval the Opposition's thinking has not moved very far. The Opposition show the same lack of understanding of the realities of our housing problems.
Before dealing with the little the right hon. Gentleman had to say about rents and rates, I wish to say something about housing policy generally. In my recent statement on the Layfield Report on the Greater London Development Plan, I noted that the panel agreed with the view of the Greater London Council that:
Improvement of housing is the most vital step in improving the whole environment of London.
We all know that that clearly applies to other cities and towns as well.
I am sure that we all regard better homes for all who suffer from bad housing, ranging from inadequate to slums, as a top social priority. To deal with this situation two things are, and always have been, essential. First, the improvement of the older housing stock must be stepped up. I do not think it was helpful for the right hon. Gentleman to say what he did about improvement grants. We have had debates on these matters before and the Labour Party ought to claim a measure of the credit for the progress made under the Act introduced by Labour. They left the discretion to the local authorities and provided that no conditions should be attached to grants. My right hon. Friends and I have continually said that it is within the discretion of the local authorities as to the circumstances in which they give grants.
It is irresponsible to suggest that this policy—which has been a great success and which has provided better homes for many people—has been gravely abused in all directions. Nor has it led to a great deal of extra harassment. In so far as that is a problem—and we recognise it—the House will know that under the Criminal Justice Act we have greatly increased the penalty for harassment and have instructed and advised local authorities to deal with abuse wherever they find it. But the need to improve the existing stock is vital as an essential part of any constructive housing policy.
Secondly, we would all agree that the rate of new house building must be kept up.