I received a request on 8th May to receive a deputation of GLC members and officers, including, no doubt, the council's new housing committee chairman, to discuss various matters relating to housing policy. I welcome such a discussion and steps have now been taken to arrange the meeting.
I welcome the Ministers reply and his willingness to meet the chairman. Will he bear in mind that that gentleman probably has inherited the gravest housing problems of any local authority in the country? Will the hon. Gentleman assure us that his Government will not obstruct or delay the solution of these grave problems? To this end, will the hon. Gentleman discuss with the chairman the urgent need for the strategic use of compulsory purchase orders, and will he begin by speeding up confirmation of the 140 odd CPOs still outstanding in the London area?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his attitude will determine the success or failure of the GLC's housing policy? He must be aware that London has become a property paradise for speculators. While they are making fortunes, homeless-ness and the waiting lists of local authorities increase month by month. Does the hon. Gentleman intend to give financial help to the GLC to buy up properties throughout London? When will he take action against those outer authorities which so far refuse to have anything to do with helping to solve the problems of inner London.
I cannot accept what the hon. Gentleman has said about that matter. It would be rash of me to enter into hypothetical discussions over this Dispatch. Box about a meeting which has not yet taken place. We had better wait to see what happens at the meeting.
Is the Minister aware that the housing crisis is not confined to inner London? Thanks to the unprecedented rise in house prices and rents over the last two years and the rather strange attitude of many outer London councils, which seem to regard council housing as inferior and council tenants as people who should not be there, there is a serious problem of homelessness in outer London as well. In welcoming the measures taken by the GLC and the Government's support of the GLC, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to take steps to ensure that the homeless in outer London boroughs do not suffer in comparison with those in inner London?
I am only too anxious to do everything in my power to deal with the problem of homelessness. I have already had one discussion with the London boroughs and the Greater London Council about the matter, and a number of measures are under consideration. I am sure that this is one of the topics which are likely to crop up at the meeting.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the outer London boroughs have problems of their own, with which they are dealing to the best of their ability, and that they have no reason to take care of the problems being created by the inner London boroughs after 30 or 40 years of Socialist rule?
I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a serious problem in Croydon and other outer London boroughs. In the time that I have been in this Department—during the last three years, with a short gap—I have done my utmost to try to help solve the problem of London housing, which is absolutely crucial to all.
The Minister has understandably said that he cannot go into hypothetical questions and answers regarding a prospective discussion with representatives of the Greater London Council. Will he indicate to the House and, indeed, to the country, whether it is the Government's policy to back the GLC and other local authorities in purchasing properties on a massive scale, to put a stop to the kind of speculative activities that are going on in London and to the erosion of the rental market, in an attempt to cut down on homelessness?
Secondly, will the Minister indicate whether it is his intention to increase special financial aid in stress areas for this purpose?
I am sure that all these matters will be discussed at the meeting. I do not think that I can unilaterally decide the housing policy for London. That is a matter that the GLC and the boroughs will wish to discuss with me. Each case must be considered on its merits. However, the idea that widespread municipalisation would add a single house to the housing stock is misguided.