Housing

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:29 pm on 22nd April 1986.

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Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Norwood 6:29 pm, 22nd April 1986

No, I will not give way.

The main feature about the housing crisis is that there is no division between the tenant and the owner-occupier. It is becoming more and more apparent from the crisis that there is a community of interest between those who live in the poorer owner-occupied homes, those in the privately rented sector, and those in council accommodation. All these people share the consequences of the famine of funds that has been imposed by the Treasury and probably reluctantly agreed to by the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction. The Treasury has done for the homeless of this country what drought did for the hungry in Africa.

The second tragic aspect of British housing is that the acute shortages and the poor condition of much of the housing stock is actually avoidable. We are not faced with an act of God; rather we are faced with a tragedy which I should perhaps not call man-made or person-made, but woman-made. It is a woman-made disaster.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham said, the political will is lacking. There is no shortage of funds to invest in housing in Britain. All of us with mortgages receive letters from the building societies inviting us to spend more of their money. Each building society is competing with the other to lend money. The building societies in turn are competing with the banks to lend money and both institutions are awash with cash. The local authorities are not short of money to spend on housing. Indeed, the amount of capital receipts which are unspent and largely unspendable, at £6,000 million, is four times greater than the housing investment programme permitted by the Government on the last occasion.

The real Minister for Housing is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Treasury is more in the business of forging shackles for local authorities than in the business of building homes. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) spoke about loopholes. He should have taken care, as his words were given careful attention by that stooge of the Treasury who calls himself the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction. We heard the Minister asking for more details about the loopholes from a sedentary position because he will want to work that information into his draft document on the limitations of capital spending by local authorities.