Orders of the Day — Housing and Building Control Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 23rd November 1982.

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Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West 4:41 pm, 23rd November 1982

I wish that the local authorities thought that the position was as simple as that, because if they were sure that they would have that money and that the Secretary of State would let them spend it and meet the revenue consequences of that expenditure, they would be very pleased.

The Secretary of State should be aware that one of the main stumbling blocks on capital spending is that local authorities are uncertain about capital allocations for future years. If the Secretary of State is so anxious to increase capital spending, why does not the Bill contain provision for giving local authorities some machinery by which they can be given security about the level of capital expenditure for two or three years ahead? If the Secretary of State is so anxious about capital spending, I wonder whether he would give effect to it by supporting an amendment in Committee that could bring some forward planning into the existing machinery for allocating capital spending to local authorities.

From what the Secretary of State has said, it seems that he has no other causes for concern about housing than the right to buy. However, the Bill will clearly make no significant impact on the parts of the housing crisis to which the Government have turned a blind eye. There is no mention of help for the homeless, yet the number of homeless families has reached a record level. It is a year since the Department quietly published a report called "Single and Homeless", which showed clearly that for the vast majority of single homeless the overriding need was for ordinary, reasonably priced rented houses. The report came from the Department of the Environment, but there is nothing in the Bill to help the homeless.

There is the problem of houses in multiple occupation. It is true that the Department introduced regulations last year after yet another tragic hostel fire. However, they cover only the larger hostels. They would have done nothing to prevent most fire tragedies in the past, and they do nothing to ensure adequate standards in hostels generally.

Although the Bill will help some council tenants to buy, it does nothing for the rest—the majority. Why does not the Secretary of State try to do something for them by ensuring that they will get more for the increased rent that he is forcing them to pay? If councils are making a profit out of their tenants, as many are, there is surely a case for ensuring that tenants receive the benefit of that profit in better services.

Why do not the Government extend the tenants' charter? They took over the Labour tenants' charter and put it into the 1980 Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Conservative Members seem to have a short memory. Their party took over our tenants' charter and put it into the 1980 Act.