Housing

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st June 1978.

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Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar 12:00 am, 21st June 1978

A great deal has been said about the Community Land Act, and not least about the excellent Press conference held yesterday by my ministerial colleague. The truth about the Community Land Act, contrary to the absurd charges which have been made, is that we have had just two years of its operation. In the second year of that period, for reasons I very much regret, we have had to reduce its activities. We are now setting aside substantial new resources for that Act and we expect it to be able to fulfil many of the purposes orginally set out for it.

Against that background of achievement, what have the Opposition to say? Of course they carp and crib, but what are the distinctive alternative policies of the Conservative Party? Encouragement of owner-occupation is not a distinctive policy. The fact that the majority of households are owner-occupied and that the number is constantly growing owes just as much to the Labour side of the House as to the Conservative Benches and gives equal satisfaction. Indeed, since we are the authors of the Home Purchase Assistance Bill, I do not think our credentials can be doubted.

It is not a one-off measure. As anybody who has attended debates and Question Times on housing matters will know, one of the main matters of concern repeatedly expressed on this side of the House is mortgage availability in general and a special concern for the supply of mortgage money for low income families. Indeed, it is no accident that the last major piece of legislation extending owner-occupation was the option mortgage scheme introduced by my late colleague and friend, Richard Crossman, when he was Minister of Housing. Therefore, there is nothing between the two sides of the House in the wish to extend owner-occupation.

What then does divide us? It came out clearly from the remarks of the hon. Member for Henley. It is the Opposition's manifest and obsessive dislike of local authority council housing. The origins are clear enough. It is their long-held belief that the taxpayer and the ratepayer contribute too much and the council tenant too little to the cost of council housing. Is that not the case?