This episode will be noted outside the House by many millions of people who regard the housing crisis as much more important than the Heseltine crisis. As I was saying, I intend, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with your agreement, to proceed with the speech which you called me to make.
I want now to speak about rent increases. It is obvious that Conservative Members do not want to hear about rent increases. The huge rent increases which have been imposed by this Government will be an intolerable burden on tenants whose average household income is 24 per cent. below the national level and whose rents will almost have doubled since this Government came to office. What is more, they are rent increases which amount to a massive additional tax totalling between £700 million and £840 million. As my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) pointed out, this is Robin Hood in reverse.
But at least each of those families will have a home and, very likely, a home built to acceptable standards. Meanwhile, the Government's unprecedented withdrawal of finance from the housing programme will be inflicting a catastrophe on the nation's stock of dwellings. The money evaporates. It is down 32 per cent. this year and will be down 48 per cent. by 1983–84. Subsidies are being wiped out completely and the problem will take on almost uncontrollable dimensions. The quality of the nation's housing stock is deteriorating fast.
The Secretary of State does not care about any of this. He is concerned about his own personality, not about what he is doing to the housing needs of the country. The quality of the nation's housing stock is deteriorating so fast that the cost of installing basic amenities and making good arrears of maintenance probably totals £14½ billion.
The collapse of the house-building programme under the Government is likely by 1986 to mean that the nation will have 400,000 dwellings fewer than it needs. The cost of providing such dwellings at today's prices is at least £7½ billion. The price of the Secretary of State is mounting rapidly beyond £20 billion.