It may not have solved the housing crisis nationally. But, if we reduce the number of council dwellings, we increase, not reduce, the difficulties. Even more so—this is the point to which I was coming before the hon. Gentleman intervened—at a time when it is becoming more difficult for people to buy, because of property price inflation and a 15 per cent. mortgage rate, there is a need for more, not fewer, council dwellings. In certain areas—the West Midlands, London and so on—people find it impossible to buy. Perhaps a few years ago they would have been able to do so. Because of their difficulties now, they will look to the local authority to assist them in finding accommodation. We have a housing crisis now, and it will get much worse on the basis of the Government's White Paper on public expenditure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) mentioned the position in our area. The allocation in the housing investment programme for 1980–81 has been reduced by 33 per cent. It is not an easy matter for the local authority. This is a housing stress area. We desperately need more council accommodation. Moreover, many older council dwellings need to be modernised.
Recently I received a petition from some of my constituents. They said "The local authority has promised that our houses, built before the war and in very bad condition, will definitely be modernised during 1980–81. Now it is likely that they will not be modernised." The tenants are very upset. Conservative Members would be upset if they lived in properties which needed to be modernised and a promise had been made that they would be modernised, but, because of the reduction in the housing investment programme, the local authority was unable to carry out that promise.
In Walsall, of the £13 million allocated in the housing investment programme, all that will be left for new work is some £234,000. After Walsall's commitment, that is the sum that will be left. How many new council dwellings can be built, how many modernisations can take place and how many major repairs and conversions can be undertaken with that sum of money? People in the area are bitterly angry at the reduction that the area has suffered. Local councillors have been to the regional office of the Department of the Environment in Birmingham to try to explain the position. Indeed, I have written to the Secretary of State, but the reply that I have received is not very satisfactory.
The housing crisis would normally be of great concern to the Government of the day. Unfortunately, this Government seem to be totally indifferent to housing. If anything, they have declared war on council housing. The Tories always seem to wage a vendetta against council housing. This has been going on for some time in Tory-controlled local authorities.
I hope that, even at this late stage, the Secretary of State will recognise the need to increase the funds in the housing investment programme for 1980–81. If the situation continues as it is, if the expenditure cuts in housing take place, many people—far more than in the past—will find it impossible to obtain decent accommodation. They will suffer the agony of the cuts being inflicted on the community by the Tory Government.