Orders of the Day — Housing and Building Control Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:10 pm on 5th July 1983.

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Photo of Mr Jerry Hayes Mr Jerry Hayes , Harlow 7:10 pm, 5th July 1983

It is a privilege and an honour to speak for the first time in this place, especially when looking after the interests of the people of Harlow. The House will be aware that Harlow is a new town which is surrounded by beautiful Essex villages. Like many new towns, it evolved in the late 1940s and was built up in the 1960s.

Harlow has a great diversity of industry. It was decided that Harlow would not make the mistake of being dependent on one industry and having subsequently to face the problems that would occur when that industry eventually died. British Petroleum, Cossor electronics, Standard Telephones and Cables Limited and a flourishing body of new businesses are situated in Harlow. The new businesses owe a considerable debt to the Government for the measures that have been introduced to help small businesses to flourish — for example, the business expansion scheme and the credit loan scheme. Some weeks ago, I was privileged to visit a new business by the name of Perchem which was started four years ago. I saw it receive the Queen's award for technological achievement. That was a considerable achievement after only four years.

For a short period Sir Winston Churchill represented the old part of Harlow. From 1970 to 1974, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who is now Secretary of State for Employment, represented Harlow. My immediate predecessor was Stan Newens. Who was greatly liked by Members on both sides of the House. He is a good and kind man and he worked hard on behalf of his constituents. It is to his credit that throughout the election campaign—it was sometimes hectic and difficult—not an acrimonious word passed between Stan and myself. I and my wife Alison wish Stan and his wife Sandra every success in their new life.

Harlow, unlike many other new towns, is not a concrete jungle. There are green wedges in Harlow, park lands which break up the urban sprawl. The people of Harlow have considerable benefit from their environment. However, they have had to put up with many outrages and injustices from the local district council. It was only when the Harlow district council found itself being dragged to the door of the High Court that it decided to implement the Housing Act 1980. It has since been implementing the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.

I commend the Bill because it includes provisions to increase discounts from 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. That will be of considerable benefit to the people of Harlow. Why should those who have lived in their homes for 20 or 30 years and contributed towards their upkeep not have the opportunity of buying their homes at a generous discount?

Another provision that I particularly welcome is the implementation of the co-ownership and part-rent and part-buy scheme. It will be of tremendous benefit to young people setting up homes in Harlow. That is demonstrated by the number of people in Harlow and in similar constituencies who have put their money where their mouths are and applied to buy.

Perhaps the most pressing issue in Harlow is council house repairs. The houses that were built in Harlow and in many other new towns in the 1960s received design awards, gold medals and citations. Very often we find that those houses have become socially obsolete. I have seen the modem squalor that has been imposed on many areas of Harlow. Governments of both political complexions must bear some guilt. They have been dragging their feet on section 10 grants and local authorities have been dragging their feet. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will accept that there will be one or two problems in implementing the regulations set out in the Bill, but the essence of them is to give people the opportunity to take the law into their own hands. Surely that must be right.

I ask the Government to bring the regulations before the House as soon as possible. It is clear from the provisions in the Bill that the enactment of this measure will mean that councils will no longer be allowed to get away scot free with their previous attitudes. They will be legally bound to give legal advice and assistance and to disclose documents. They will have to say, "This is what we are proposing to do and these are your rights." If people make a mess of their right-to-buy forms and if there are errors, the forms will not be nullified.

I, and I am sure the vast majority of the people of Harlow, welcome the Bill. We have seen the probably largest single transfer of assets from the state to the individual in history. That is only to be welcomed.