Adjournment (Easter and May Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:22 pm on 26th March 1985.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 6:22 pm, 26th March 1985

I do not find excuses for dictatorships, including that in Russia—unlike the hon. Member for Macclesfield, who can always we know be relied on to put the arguments for the apartheid regime. I think that that is disgraceful.

My second issue is domestic—the growing housing crisis. Many local authorities are increasingly unable to fulfil their statutory housing responsibilities. In London alone, bed and breakfast hotels receive over £1 million a month for housing homeless people. It is no wonder that a crisis exists when one considers the drastic fall in council housing starts. Because of Government financial restrictions, since 1979 Walsall has not entered into any contracts for new council dwellings. That means, of course, an ever-increasing number of people on the waiting list who cannot be rehoused.

Last year, fewer than 40,000 public housing starts were recorded in Britain. Due to further cuts in the housing investment programme allocation for 1985–86, even fewer starts will take place this year. The number will probably be down to 30,000. The Government restriction on the capital receipts that can be used will make it even more difficult for local authorities to build and modernise dwellings.

Housing Ministers claim that there was a sharp drop in housing starts when the Labour Government were in office. In 1978, the last full year of the Labour Government, there were over 107,000 starts in the public sector. In 1979, there were at least 81,000 starts.

People who require local authority accommodation but who do not have the means to obtain a mortgage should be rehoused by their local authority. Housing authorities should be able to carry out their statutory housing responsibilities, but how can they when they do not have the money? How can they when the housing waiting list grows longer and longer and boroughs such as Walsall are no longer building houses at all?

A large amount of pre-war stock needs to be modernised. The longer that is left, the more expensive and extensive it will be. Tenants are living in unfit accommodation because local authorities do not have the means to do the necessary work. How many people among the mass of unemployed are trained construction workers who could be released from unemployment and allowed to earn their living by doing essential community work in building and modernising dwellings? What a policy of madness it is to cause such tremendous difficulties for our constituents, so many of whom desperately need local authority housing.

I ask the Leader of the House to pass on to the Secretary of State our concern about the housing plight caused by local authorities not being able to carry out their statutory functions.