Orders of the Day — Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:09 pm on 25th July 1984.

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Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid 6:09 pm, 25th July 1984

I rise with an apology, if I may, to you Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friend the Minister and the House because I fear that I may not be able to be here when my hon. Friend replies. I hope that in the event he will forgive me.

It is necessary to put right one or two statements. The hon. Members for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) and for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) failed to acknowledged one simple fact—that the long housing waiting lists in their constituencies, mine and those of my hon. Friends did not start in 1983, 1979, 1974, 1970, 1966, 1964 or even 1959. They started years ago. They perhaps started in 1919, when rent control was first imposed as a temporary post-war expedient. They were perhaps exacerbated by the fact that between the wars it did not pay reputable builders, and landlords such as Costain and the Wimpey group to build homes to rent. It might have been exacerbated when the Government, in their wisdom, introduced the Parker Morris standards and caused houses to be built of far higher standards and at far greater costs than necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It is not rubbish at all. Opposition Members shout, "Rubbish," but they do not understand that the capital cost must, in some way, have a reflection upon the rental income; otherwise, who pays? The taxpayer and the ratepayer have to pick up the tab. I am not necessarily suggesting that we should return to cost-rent, but there must be a relationship, as any hon. Member who has served in government or local government is aware, between capital and revenue.

Opposition Members fail to acknowledge that our housing problems are born of political dogma. I suggest that the political dogma is mongrel political dogma. Why was it that in 1977 the party then in government produced a Green Paper, from which I shall not quote but which, as the House is aware, specifically stated that rent control was one of the reasons for the excess of people over homes to rent? Despite the findings of that Green Paper, did the party opposite in government do anything to release the noose that is rent control? Not a bit of it. It did the opposite, and it was contradictory. When, in 1979, the Government introduced the Housing Bill, they introduced two forms of tenure that could, under normal, fair and reasonable circumstances, increase the supply of rented accommodation for just the people whom the hon. Member for Erdington has suggested are on his housing waiting list and that in my constituency.