Housing and the Building industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 11th February 1981.

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Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Merton Mitcham and Morden 6:06 pm, 11th February 1981

I shall in no way be shamefaced as I try to reveal, outside the Department in Marsham Street next Wednesday, some of the facts of life about housing and some of the fallacies with which the Secretary of State is regaling the public and the House. We have just listened to a characteristic speech from the right hon. Gentleman. It was filled with half-truths, misleading statements, and a vast amount of irrelevance. Practically all the second half of the right hon. Gentleman's lengthy speech was devoted to issues that were irrelevant to the motion. We experienced his usual enthusiasm for the economic policies of the Prime Minister in respect of which The Sunday Times this week stated Wrong, Mrs Thatcher, wrong, wrong, wrong. It was a headline over a detailed destruction of the Government's policies by a newspaper that is not customarily regarded as a Labour Party supporter.

Even more characteristic of the Secretary of State was the way in which the right hon. Gentleman quoted from the article by Mr. David Lipsey in that issue of The Sunday Times.He did not quote the passage immediately preceding the part that he read out. In his article Mr. Lipsey referred to: the bare bones of the housing crisis that is inevitable in the mid-Eighties.It means council waiting lists of 2 million compared with 1 ·2 million now—a wait for the average family on the list of 21·4 years.It means a continued deterioration of existing homes. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities estimates there is a £14 billion backlog of housing maintenance and improvement—at a time when we are clearing houses at a rate that means each one must last on average 500 years. In inner London, no less than one property in seven is reckoned unfit for habitation.It means—as Shelter's director, Neil McIntosh, puts it—this, in human terms: "In the Seventies we could house people normally at the point of their lives when they could reasonably expect to be housed—when they got married, for example. Now, if you cannot afford to buy, you will be provided for only when you have been projected into a crisis—like battering your child.Because in housing there is a lag between cause and effect—this year's starts are 1982/3's completions—the full crisis has not yet hit us. But already Housing Minister John Stanley"—