Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:36 am on 2nd March 1984.

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Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Norwood 9:36 am, 2nd March 1984

Indeed: However, it is worse than that, because about £60 million of that advantage goes to those whose rate of tax is higher than 30 per cent. It is Robin Hood in reverse—it is robbing the poor to pay the rich. That is a consistent theme of the Government's economic policy.

I do not in any way begrudge the general level of support for owner-occupiers. It should be continued, sustained and concentrated on those who have the greatest difficulty in the owner-occupied market, such as first-time buyers and people in the lower income groups. At the moment the policy is regressive. The greater one's income and rate of tax, the greater the subsidy. The total should not be diminished, but it should be balanced more in favour of those who want to get into owner-occupation and find it difficult to make a start. That is why I deplore so much the ending of the do-it-yourself home ownership scheme, to which I referred. In equity, there should be a rough balance between the amount provided for the rented sector and the amount provided for the owner-occupied sector.

Things are bad enough, but there is a need to avert the major housing crisis that is round the corner. I am not sure whether it will be in 1984–85 or 1985–86. More well-informed commentators are beginning to forecast a major public housing crisis. There is a possibility of a sudden moratorium on local authority construction, with all the dreadful and costly consequences for the construction industry and the customers — the ordinary people wanting a home.

The reason for the impending crisis is that the Government are relying more on money raised from the sale of council houses. Last year they took 40 per cent. of the proceeds of the sale of council houses, which produced altogether £1·7 billion. In the next financial year the Government will give less assistance and take 60 per cent. of the proceeds. Many people forecast that the following year they will want to take about 75 per cent. of the proceeds. In other words, the Government are funding their expenditure by selling the furniture, as it were.

At the same time, as the more attractive houses have been sold under the Government's right-to-buy provisions, the sale of other council dwellings has diminished. I reckon that in two or three year's time, given the level of income of local authority tenants and the fact that more attractive houses as opposed to flats have been sold, the money from the sale of council houses will diminish to a trickle. That means that the Government will have 75 per cent. of a trickle to finance their house construction programme. That will result in a public housing crisis of major proportions, and it must be averted.

I shall be doing two advice bureaux tonight, as I do most Friday evenings. Half the cases will be housing cases. It is impossible to describe the despair, distress, frustration and waste of human lives after people have lived for years in unsafe, unsatisfactory, insecure or overcrowded accommodation. Neither I nor any of my hon. Friends will relent until there is equal opportunity in housing, and until the right to a home has become a reality. I wish that that conviction were shared by the Government. They have the resources, and the power to command those resources. They could employ the financial and human assets that we have to solve our housing problem. The tragedy is that they not only refuse to do so but have set their face against major public intervention. That intervention and the drive to make the right to a home a reality are necessary and inevitable, and will come perhaps sooner than we think. When there is a Labour Government, we shall turn that into a reality. It is what my hon. Friends and I will fight for.