Class XX, Vote 18

Part of Estimates, 1986–87 – in the House of Commons at 7:47 pm on 24th June 1986.

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Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle 7:47 pm, 24th June 1986

At the high rates.

The backlog of repairs and the blame for the current housing crisis that the Select Committee highlights lies firmly with the Government. They have repeatedly cut the budgets for housing expenditure. Indeed, since 1979 housing has borne the brunt of public spending cuts, with expenditure cut by more than a half, taking account of inflation. As a result, the proportion of its national income that the United Kingdom spends on housing is far smaller than that of any other EEC country. That is the housing crisis as highlighted clearly by the Select Committee's report.

The Select Committee received from the previous Secretary of State for the Environment, now the Secretary of State for Education and Science, a note on urban policy headed "Traditional Urban Programme", which is optimistic. But we must realise that the urban programme is not an urban policy. It is financially, managerially and politically marginal to urban government. In 1985–86 the urban programme comprises only £2 in every £10,000 of total planned Government spending. The base urban programme allocation for some programme authorities is less than 2 per cent. of their revenue budget.

I welcome every penny of urban programme money that the Government give, especially if it comes to Bootle, but we must put it in perspective. Total urban aid from 1981 through to 1987 is £1,910 million. Government cuts in rate support grant to local authorities were nearly eight times more than that—£8,060 million. The only way to solve the urban problems of our inner cities with which local authorities are having to battle is not through the urban aid grant but through the mainstream programmes of local authorities which are highlighted in the report, such as housing and so on, about which the Select Committee is concerned. The only way to solve the problems is by increasing Government expenditure, not reducing it. I regret that the Select Committee cannot table any resolutions to increase expenditure rather than reduce it. If that were possible, that is what the Opposition would be doing.