Orders of the Day — Housing Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:59 pm on 30th November 1987.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng , Brent South 9:59 pm, 30th November 1987

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) saw fit to tax the Opposition with the words of the late Aneurin Bevan. It is a foolhardy Tory who throws in our face the words of Aneurin Bevan. The hon. Gentleman said that he had heard Aneurin Bevan's speech in Blackpool, but he should have quoted his much more important speech on the first occasion that he addressed the House as Minister responsible for housing. That was a true analysis of our current housing crisis. I commend that instructive speech to the hon. Member for Eastbourne and to the House because it tells us a thing or two about our problems today.

Aneurin Bevan reminded the House then, and we should be reminded now, that the only way to deal with such a great housing crisis was to ensure that local authorities were properly resourced and marshalled. He promised to ensure that resources were made available to enable local housing authorities to do that. He did rather more than that. He identified the fact that that housing crisis owed much to the failure over many years of private finance, and especially speculative finance, to resolve the problems of housing need. Speculators cannot properly take on board all the housing needs of all our people. Bevan said that, at best, they can cater for the most well-off and the upper end of the housing market for rent and sale. That is the best for which one can hope from private speculation and from the market, which is raised to such great heights by the Government and which Conservative Members believe can tackle our housing problem Bevan pointed out the fallacy of relying on market forces and the need to mobilise and marshal the resources of local housing authorities to respond to local needs, as the market could never do. Most importantly, he mentioned the dangers of playing off local authorities against building societies. I shall quote this especially important part of his speech, and it is a pity that the hon. Member for Eastbourne is not here to hear how the man who he held out as a reproach to us would address the problems. Bevan said: The conflict will be—and I warn hon. Members of it— between public housing on the one hand and the moneylender on the other. Many of these agencies that started off as building societies are now nothing but money-lending societies."—[Official Report, 17 October 1945; Vol. 414, c. 1225.] Those words echo the problem that we have today, and we would do well to heed them.

The Bill does not encourage a supportive relationship in which one sector complements the other, as the Opposition would like building societies and local authorities to complement each other. The Bill proposes that the role of local authorities will be undermined and that building societies will be encouraged to fill the vacuum. That is not in the long-term interests of building societies, nor is it in the interests—short, medium or long-term—of local authorities and of meeting the housing needs of our people. The Government should wake up to the fact that there is no easy answer to providing housing for rent. They are trying to delude the building societies and the House and are not addressing the deep-rooted problems of meeting housing needs.