I declare my interest as the owner of unfurnished rented property. I am sorry that the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) has left the Chamber. He said that this problem could be cracked. I agree with him, but the tragedy is that it could be cracked so much more quickly if we had a bipartisan policy on housing. However, after eight years in this place I have given up all hope of that.
I begin by taking up the statement by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities which was so savaged by the Secretary of State. There are two very relevant points in that statement. The first is that Government approvals of improvements are roughly half those on new buildings. On the second, I quote from a report in today's edition of The Times:
If we are to get the housing programme moving again, local authorities must have the ability to plan for four years ahead, and have the freedom to determine their spending priorities within overall totals set by central government.
I do not believe that we shall get any further with the Labour Party on this issue. Therefore, I say to my own Front Bench that this must be our first priority when we take office. We must cut through the bureaucracy and red tape that at present surround the consideration of housing programmes by the Department of the Environment.