Inner Cities

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:42 pm on 11th December 1985.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton 6:42 pm, 11th December 1985

The right hon. Gentleman will reply to the debate. Other hon. Members have only a few minutes in which to speak. He should content himself — [Interruption.]—with replying to the debate. He should not seek to intervene.

The report asks why the poor either have no homes or live in bad housing. That is the basis of the report's housing section. I am not against people buying their own homes. I never have been. I bought my own home at an early stage. As I had no children, I should never have had a home without saving up and obtaining a mortgage. I would never have obtained a council house in the days when I was young. I lived for 10 years in two rooms.

I know about the housing problems of ordinary working people. There are millions of young people who have no opportunity of obtaining a mortgage or buying their own homes, but who need accommodation. The only way that can be solved is by renting. There is little private renting now. Council property has gone down and there is not sufficient being built to deal with the problems. That is the essence of the matter.

"Faith in the City" is a magnificent report, particularly the section on housing. It is first-class, and one of the best reports that I have read for a long time. If I may say so, I think it is even slightly better than the report we in the Labour party produced and put to conference.

It is similar to ours because it does not say that there is only one answer. It makes the very important point that, for many people in the urban priority areas, low wages and rising unemployment put home ownership beyond their reach. Their only chance of housing will be by renting.

Increasingly, rented housing will be necessary for existing owner-occupiers hit by unemployment. If one walks around the older areas of Liverpool today where working people are trying to buy their homes on mortgages, one will see road after road of "For sale" signs. Incidentally, they do not all have a bike to come south to find jobs. Even if they did find a job, how would they sell their house in an area such as Liverpool and then find two or three times the price to buy in London? That is the reality and I am glad that my hon. Friends have raised the subject.

I should have liked to speak longer but as there are many hon. Members who would like to speak I shall make a final point about Liverpool. I referred recently to an excellent article in The Guardian by Geoff Andrews called

"The Greening of Liverpool". The article says: Throughout Liverpool's financial crisis, the 'city housing policy' has been widely portrayed as an open drain down which the profligate council has been pouring cash that it didn't have. But, like everyone involved in the scheme, Tony Byrne firmly rejects these allegations.That response might have been dismissed as a political one until the arrival this summer of 'Utopia on Trial', a book by Alice Coleman, director of the Land Use Research Unit at King's College, London … When Coleman visited Liverpool she announced that 'practically everything we had recommended they are doing—not in patches but the whole lot—Liverpool is the pioneer'. That is what Liverpool is trying to do and if it got sufficient money and help from the Government it would deal with the problem—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Heseltine did that."] The 16 priority areas were introduced by Labour councils, not by the Secretary of State for Defence. If Liverpool could get the money, it could deal with the problem in the way that it is trying to do at the moment. I ask the hon. Member for Horsham to return to Liverpool. I agree with him that when one looks at parts of Liverpool one feels one has to cry about what has happened. We can look at the positive side, which is what the council has been trying to do and unfortunately has to continue to do, partially by mortgaging itself further with a loan from the Swiss, when it should have received assistance from the Government. That should have been the way to deal with Liverpool's problem. I totally support the motion.