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I am not sure how much influence I have with my own local authority. I was discussing with a Tory councillor only the other day the housing problem of Sutton, which is serious enough, though not as serious as in inner London. Members on the Opposition side may be interested to know his reason for building no more council houses in Cheam, which was that if they were built the occupants would all vote Labour, with which I would strongly disagree. But though that sounds amusing, I am sure that everyone will agree that it is deplorable.
I shall certainly use my influence, such as it is, to urge my local authority and other outer London authorities to realise that the problem of homelessness in London is one for London, and that it has a responsibility to help solve it. But it has a responsibility also to solve the problem of homelessness in our own borough, which is considerable.
It is not good enough for me or other hon. Members on the Opposition side to blame the Tory Government for their manifest failure to get to grips with the problem. Nor is it good enough for Conservative Members to blame the previous Government. It is not good enough for me to say that no Government have got to grips with it. The problem of homelessness is an indictment of our society and of every Member who claims to represent it.
If the Government are serious about getting to grips with the housing crisis they should pour massive aid into housing authorities to enable them to get on with realistic house-building programmes and improvement programmes. Millions of pounds are made directly available from the Exchequer to help with road building, yet local authorities still have to scrape around to borrow money at high interest rates which saddle them with a burden of repayments, probably for ever and certainly for many years. That should stop. The Government must provide the money for local authorities to solve the problem.