Housing and Homelessness

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:05 pm on 10th February 1987.

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Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr 9:05 pm, 10th February 1987

Yes, I regret that. I apologised for the fact that I had to leave the Chamber after the hon. Member had started to speak, and I apologise now for missing the speech of one of my hon. Friends.

Our motion was drafted with care and precision. It is both responsible and moderate. All that we ask is that it should be the policy of any caring and responsible Government to ensure that there are enough fit homes for all the households that need them. We require a change of policy to bring that about. If the Minister, in reply to the debate, answers no other question, I ask him to say whether he agrees that it ought to be an obligation on any responsible and caring Government to have such a target for their housing policy.

What we were treated to by the Secretary of State was a non-housing speech. The debate has been worth while if only to get that speech on the record. We had enough of it last Wednesday at Question Time, when the Secretary of State said that the Housing Corporation had been given money to run up hostels for the homeless, and when he also said that they were not really homeless but were just registered as homeless. It is true, of course, that the 100,000 registered homeless who were accepted last year and who are only the tip of the iceberg of people who are really homeless are not all on the streets without a bed, but does the Secretary of State not appreciate that if local authorities have to use so many of their vacancies to deal with registered homeless people, the ordinary tenancy exchange and transfer scheme will come to a stop?

That must be grossly unfair. The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) who is not in his place, said that the tenants exchange and mobility schemes were not working properly. One of the reasons for that is that so many of the tenancy allocations are pre-empted by the need to deal with the registered homeless.

As we have said before, we want choice and variety and the freedom of choice to buy or rent. People should not be identified by income and status according to their tenure. That is the position that we are in today, and it has got worse under the Government. For the benefit of those hon. Members who were not present when the Secretary of State talked about the housing crisis and the rise in homelessness, I can tell them that he told us about Dick Whittington and shirt buying in Moscow. That was the main thrust of his argument. Housing policy is not safe in his hands. We require a change in housing policy, and for that reason we probably require another Secretary of State.