Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:12 pm on 1st July 1985.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 4:12 pm, 1st July 1985

I beg to move, That this House deplores the Government's very substanial reduction in housing public expenditure which has occurred in the past five years, and which has resulted in considerable hardship and indeed misery for so many unable to be offered rented accommodation; also recognises that much essential improvement and major repair work cannot be undertaken by local authorities, or owner-occupiers on limited means because of the cuts; and calls on the Government to reverse its disastrous housing financial policies and to allow local authorities and the voluntary sector the means to build the necessary accommodation as well as allowing urgent improvement work to be carried out in both the public and private sectors. This debate takes place against the background of an acute housing crisis. A large number of families and single people are now without adequate and secure accommodation, and many are forced to live in substandard housing and often overcrowded conditions. Homelessness is continually increasing.

In London alone, bed and breakfast accommodation is costing the boroughs £1 million a month — a sum that would be sufficient to pay off loan charges on 3,000 new council dwellings. In England and Wales, 1·25 million homes are now unfit for human habitation, and 1 million homes lack one or more basic amenities such as an inside toilet, bath or hot water. Across the country 2·5 million homes are seriously affected by damp, and 3 million homes each require immediate repairs that will cost £2,500 or more.

Between 1979–80 and 1985–86—the current financial year — there has been a 68 per cent. reduction in real terms in housing public expenditure, from £4,522 million to £1,431 million. The figures for central Government subsidies to local authority housing show that in 1980–81 —a year after this Administration came into office—the amount spent was £1,423 million. In the current financial year, it is just £400 million, a reduction of more than £1,000 million. Those figures explain why there is now a housing crisis and so much housing hardship and misery, so much of which stems from the lack of rented accommodation.

Ministers are fond of saying—we shall no doubt hear the same today—that cuts took place under the previous Labour Government. I do not deny that. There were cuts, of some of which I would not approve. It is unfortunate that the housing programe was adversely affected during the last two or three years of the previous Administration, but one should compare those cuts with the cuts made under the present Government. There can be no doubt that the present cuts go much, much deeper. Moreover, they are part of the philosophy adopted by the Government towards public sector housing.

I have accepted that there were cuts under the previous Labour Government, but it is interesting to note that in 1978 — the last full year of that Government — the number of new public sector starts was more than 107,000.