I beg to move,
That this House deplores the failure of the Government to develop regional economic and planning policies, which would give adequate support to local authorities trying to contain unrestrained development in the South East and to deal with the effects of under-investment in the social and economic infrastructure throughout the country, and which would address the growing crisis of house price inflation and the shortage of low cost housing for rent or sale.
I must announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. I must also tell hon. Members that no fewer than 15 hon. Members have indicated that they wish to take part in the debate. It is only a half-day debate, so I appeal for brevity from both the Front and Back Benches.
From time to time Governments get into difficulties in the timetabling of their affairs and with aspects of their policy. It is a long time since a Government have been in such a mess on the timetabling of their Bills and on their policies, particularly as they affect the south-east of Britain. The motion addresses the Government's failure in that respect.
The Government have tabled an amendment to the motion which is complacent and naive, but at least they have suddenly discovered the word, "homelessness", a word that did not appear in the Government's White Paper when it was issued last year. Now they have suddenly realised that it is a problem, and it has been growing at a dramatic rate since the Government took office.
When I was first elected in 1979, in my local authority 4,000 people were on the council waiting list, mainly waiting to move from the private sector, or waiting to change housing within the public sector. I thought that that figure was poor then. There are now 10,000 people on that waiting list, about 700 in bed and breakfast or emergency accommodation. That has been true under successive Conservative and Labour Administrations.
The same is true of local Conservative, Labour and Liberal authorities throughout the country—so much so that when the Minister went to Southend some months ago and told its Conservative-controlled council that it ought to do more to get people out of bed-and-breakfast accommodation, the council told her that it was already doing everything possible. It was using all the initiatives that the Government had brought forward, but still it could not cope with the growing problem of homelessness in its area.
The finger points directly and dramatically at the Government for increasing homelessness, for house price inflation and for the collapse of the supply of low-cost rented accommodation. All that is compounded by the Government's blindness towards economic policies, which are distorting the economy, particularly as between the north and the south, but also within regions. We see it happening in parts of London. In addition, planning policies have been devastated.
We have seen today a headline in the Evening Standard which says that the Minister intends to introduce a new planning Bill, and we heard from the Secretary of State during Question Time that he is to review planning. That would be encouraging if we forgot for a moment that the previous Secretary of State for the Environment—the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine)—and the present Secretary of State set about devastating the structure of local government and the morale of local authority officers, not least planning officers.
We all remember the phrases which the Government and the Secretary of State used after being returned to office in 1979—there was to be a bonfire of planning controls. They had that bonfire. They now have the ashes in the south-east. That is why so many Conservative Members are angry about what is happening in their areas.
The Government have ignored the close but complicated link between economic development, infrastructure, planning and housing. Any attempt to separate them and to have individual policies which ignore their effect on other sectors is doomed to failure. Perhaps the biggest failure is the Government's failure on the economy. They chose to pull the plug on the industrial base in the north of Britain when we were awash with North sea oil. Instead of using that new-found wealth to create the new industries that we needed in the north, they simply let the old ones die. They pumped North sea oil wealth into the south, where it created a great deal of wealth, and left the north to pick up the pieces.
In those circumstances, there will necessarily be acute overheating in the economy in the south-east and a problem in the north. Despite complacent Government statements from time to time about wealth filtering up to the north, it is still having only a marginal effect. We remember the former Secretary of State for Employment —the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit)— telling people to get "on yer bike." That was a surefire way of saying, "If you cannot find jobs in the north, go south."
We now have what is called the Tebbit express. It is the train that runs from Liverpool to London, bringing people to work in the capital. They have to return home in the evening. Building workers may, with the permission of the developer, stay in Portakabins on the building site. That is increasingly common, and it is the only way in which employees can find temporary accommodation and the employer can find employees. When people look for accommodation, they cannot find any at prices that they can afford. There is an acute problem with low-cost rented accommodation in both the private and the public sector.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about the difficulties of unemployed people from the north in coming south and finding jobs because of the cost of housing in the south. Does he accept that one of the best ways to rectify the situation would be to make more rented accommodation available in the south, and that one of the easiest ways of doing that is to free the private rented sector and release future tenancies from rent control?
The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong in his last point, with which I intended to deal later.
However, I shall pre-empt my remarks by pointing out that, in a Department of the Environment survey, only 2·5 per cent. of landlords with empty properties said that they kept those properties empty because of the Rent Acts. The vast majority of people who own private property keep it empty either because it is not fit for letting or, more commonly, because it is much more financially beneficial to sell it.
If the hon. Gentleman studies the history of this matter, he will see that when the Rent Acts were last relaxed, in 1957, there was a dramatic loss of private rented accommodation. When the Government reduced controls in 1980, there was another dramatic decrease in the supply of private rented accommodation. At present, in London, well over half the properties available for rent in the private sector are already outside the Rent Acts. yet the supply of privately owned rented accommodation is drying up more rapidly than ever before. The hon. Gentleman must ask himself how much longer his party will continue to believe the myth that if one takes away rent controls and security of tenure millions of landlords will come on the scene and offer properties for rent. They will not do that.
One simply needs to work out the economics of the matter. If a house is valued at £100,000, the owner can sell it, put the money in a building society and earn £200 a week in interest without any of the hassle of being a landlord. What sort of rent would that person charge under market rents? One does not need to be too bright to work that one out. The hon. Gentleman must think more carefully before he becomes involved in that rather simplistic argument.
I wish to deal now with the question of infrastructure. Although the Government have allowed the economy in the south-east to overheat, they have also constrained investment in the economic infrastructure, particularly by the public sector, not only in the south-east, but throughout the country. The right hon. Member for Henley, who is going around the country complaining about the new developments, must accept some of the blame, because he approved many of those developments; for example, the 8,000 homes in Berkshire and his own area.
While that building is taking place, rail, road and other facilities are not being put in place to enable the economy of the south-east to respond to the development. The absurd traffic jams on the M25 therefore develop and the British Rail network, which should carry more goods and passengers, is unable to do so because the Government deliberately chose not to invest in the modernisation of British Rail to the degree that they should have done. Similarly, they chose not to invest in London Underground and London Transport, believing that people could get into their little metal boxes on four wheels and drive around the south-east without any environmental consequences whatsoever. Of course, that is simplistic and dangerous nonsense.
In addition, we have the bonfire of controls in development. Successive Secretaries of State have allowed office development along the London-Bristol corridor and have not thought through the consequences both for housing in those areas and for the strain on the economic infrastructure.
The right hon. Member for Henley says that the Government should be doing more to push employment up north by diverting some Government Departments up north, but he conveniently forgets that he cancelled one of the last acts of the last Labour Government to move the Property Services Agency to Middlesbrough. It is still down here. Such action damages the economy of the north and, in the long run, undermines the economy of the south because it overheats in the way that I have described.
Perhaps the most damaging act of all is the subtle one of the constant attacks by the Government on local government officers. It is almost as though someone who works as a planner—an honourable and proper profession supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute—is in some way a parasite on the economy. Public officers are regarded as a burden on the economy, instead of being part of the economy, as part of what is necessary to run a modern, effective, efficient and technological economy. If we do not recognise that the public sector has an important role to play and we undermine it, we cannot be anything other than surprised if we find public officers demoralised and on the offensive when the Government let the juggernaut of the free market run over them and everyone else.
At Question Time today we heard the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment say that local authorities should use all the derelict land that they have, but no less than 62 per cent. of derelict land is in the private sector. We do not hear the Government attacking the private sector and undermining its morale in the way that they attack local authorities. We hear only the attacks on the public sector, as though it can be dispensed with because it is not necessary.
In recent months, something interesting has happened. Back-Bench Conservatives have become worried about these nice rural new towns that will be set up around their constituencies. That worry was beautifully exemplified by the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) when he wrote a letter, released to the press, which said in effect, "You cannot allow all these new houses here. If you do that Mid-Staffordshire will become a Labour council in perpetuity and my majority might be at risk".
Why is the right hon. Member for Henley worried? It is because if 8,000 new homes are built in his constituency and that figure is multiplied by two because of household membership, the Boundary Commission will suddenly take an interest. Although some of those new developments may benefit the Conservative party, Conservative Members had better bear in mind that some of them, plus some of the things that the Government are doing in the south-east, are threatening the Conservative party. That is why some Conservative Members, led by the hon. and learned Member for Burton—
I shall let the hon. Gentleman in in a moment, but he must bear in mind the time. These Conservative Members, led by the hon. and learned Member for Burton, know that there are considerable dangers for the Conservative party in these developments.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my constituency is probably under the threat of receiving more new houses than any other. The new estates in my consituency and that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) have houses that go at a considerable price, and the owners are solidly Conservative. Therefore, such developments will increase my 22,000 majority to 30,000, so our protests have nothing to do with political gain. If I and my hon. and learned Friend were looking merely for political gain, we would say to my right hon. Friend, "Build as many houses as possible, because that will increase our majorities". The hon. Gentleman is way out.
The hon. Gentleman is forgetting one reason why Conservative Back Benchers are under pressure. He is right to say that houses in these developments will be sold to high-income families, but local people who want places where their sons and daughters can live, and who want to stay in their areas, are being denied that. The long-term implications of that for the Conservative party are far more serious than the hon. Gentleman has suggested. However, I am prepared to wait for that. I have no need to rush the matter. I am prepared to go along with this one and see how it emerges at the end of the day. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall look forward to it, and I suspect that in the long run he will regret it. We shall wait and see who is right.
The worry about the Boundary Commission intervening is clear in the Tory party. There is also a need, and at last the Secretary of State has realised it if reports in the press are right, to give a greater say to local comment in planning applications. I welcome that, but why was it taken away in the first place? The system has to be more flexible and responsive, and there has to be a more positive approach to planning. At the moment we tend to have a negative approach, in that the local people say what they do not want, rather than looking at the matter more positively and saying what they do want.
There will always be times when local interests need to be overridden. However, what has gone wrong is that the Government have ended up overriding decisions whenever they feel that it is appropriate to do so in the interests of the Secretary of State and the Conservative party, and ignoring the regional interests. By abolishing the metropolitan county councils and the GLC, and other tiers of local government, they have made the problem worse.
I can give a classic example of the Secretary of State using such powers. In my constituency of Hammersmith, a major development was planned for Hammersmith broadway. An inquiry was set up, at the end of which everyone accepted, either publicly or privately, that the scheme could not go ahead in its proposed form. In other words, the local community, the council and I were opposed to the scheme. London Regional Transport and the developers accepted that the scheme was not good enough and needed to be changed, and the inspector of the inquiry, which had been set up by the Secretary of State, agreed that it was a bad scheme that needed to be rethought.
The Secretary of State overrode the inspector and said that the scheme would go ahead. We were left with the absurd situation that the developer, the owner, the local authority and the community were all agreed that it was a bad scheme, they were backed up by the inspector, but were overridden by the Secretary of State. I find myself doing a job that I had not expected I would do when I was elected, although I knew that a Member of Parliament's job is varied. I have the job of trying to work out with all the groups involved some way of getting round the blockage imposed by the Secretary of State. I am getting support from everyone in my efforts, but why do I have to do it? If the inquiry is set up so that the inspector can make recommendations, why does the Secretary of State so readily and easily override such decisions? If the Secretary of State goes on using his powers like a blunderbuss, he will continue to hit half a dozen targets at which he is not aiming.
The other matter in the press today—if the report is right I should welcome such a move—is that developers should have to pay some—in many cases I would suggest all—of the costs of appeals. It is absurd to impose on local people, through the rates or whatever system, the costs of an appeal when the developer is appealing against the decision of a democratically elected body that a scheme is not good. It is absurd to ask the public sector to pick up the bill for the private sector. If the press report is right and the Government are moving on this issue, they will get our support.
The final part of this complicated pattern is the Housing Bill. We have been over this issue a number of times recently and we shall be debating it again next week. The housing component of this pattern is all important because, as the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) said, the problem in the south-east is that less and less low-cost accommodation is available for rent or purchase. The developments on the edges of villages and other such sites are of houses that often cost about £150,000. I have given the example of a number of places such as Basingstoke and Dorset, where two and three-bedroomed houses can cost as much as £200,000. If houses are selling for that sum, what does the ordinary employee—for example, in Dorset the average manual wage is £90 a week—do about housing? Such people cannot buy.
The Government have now come along with the Housing Bill and said, "Do not worry folks, we will take off all rent controls and let rents find their market level." That touches on the point made by the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh). When housing costs so much to buy, the cost of renting will be £100 to £200 a week and the Government are faced with the appalling prospect of either increasing housing benefit so dramatically that it begins to approach the amount of subsidy given to the house purchaser through mortgage income tax relief—about £5 billion—or doing nothing about it. The Government have already cut housing benefit eight times since 1979, although they say that they will increase it.
The other trap that they are in is that no matter how much they increase housing benefit, unless they do something about the tapers in it, they will not target it effectively on those who need it. We have the absurdity of the economy overheating in the south, but not expanding in the north. Planning controls have been devastated and local authorities are not allowed to initiate and develop progressive policies that are designed to help both the local economy and the local community. At the same time, we have a Government who have been smashing up the supply of housing. They claim to be a Government of sensible economics, but they have cut the housing supply so dramatically that the supply of public housing has been reduced from about 90,000 in 1979 to under 30,000 now. Housing associations have more or less stood still, and the private sector has increased its supply by only about 20,000.
One of the first lessons of economics is that if supply is cut drastically, prices will increase. With the present house price inflation, rents will increase for all the reasons that I have outlined. If all controls are removed, there is a crisis. As the number of rented properties available for rent declines, house prices increase at an even faster rate. That will be accompanied by an even faster increase in market rents. If that happens, the Government must dramatically increase public sector finance to act as a subsidy. or they must let the homeless figures rise and allow more and more people to be trapped in bad housing, which means that they are unable to transfer to the sort of properties that they would like. That is the fatal flaw in the Government's housing policy.
The hon. Gentleman will know what I have said before about that. I have said to the Government ever since I took on the job of shadow Minister of Housing and Planning that we shall examine with them—we are on our own at the moment because the Government are not willing to move on the issue—a reform of housing finance that makes the present system fairer both within and between the rented and purchase sectors. We acknowledge that any changes or reforms must be of a sort that do not throw either rent payer or mortgage payer into acute economic distress.
That is why I am saying that mortgage interest relief will not be abolished. However, we shall have to reform it. One quarter of the £5 billion subsidy of mortgage relief goes to those who earn over £20,000 per annum. I am not saying that they do not need a subsidy, but if the Government are prepared to issue a White Paper which states that they will not subsidise the rented sector because subsidy pushes people into dependence, why are they prepared to subsidise those earning £20,000 a year or more without the fear that they will be pushed into dependence?
Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the totality of mortgage interest relief is about equal to the housing benefit that is paid? Even now, there is almost equity.
No, it is wrong. There are gross distortions. It is true that a relatively small number of those who rent receive a large subsidy, but many others who rent receive virtually nothing. Many council tenants, especially those in Conservative-controlled areas, are paying rents that are used, in part, to subsidise the rates. They are paying rents that are then transferred to the rate fund to ensure that the rates are maintained at a low level. That is happening in Merton under a Conservative-controlled council. It is wicked. It is the same as saying that someone who is buying his own house should give money to the taxpayer.
We would not say that, but that, in effect, is what is being done to council tenants in Conservative-controlled local authorities throughout the country. It is grossly unfair.
How can we expect those who rent to pay between a quarter and a third—sometimes even a half—of their net salary or wage in rent? That, however, is what we are asking of many people. The outcry when the Government cut housing benefit in April was precisely about that. In my constituency, a 65-year-old diabetic lady found that she was losing£10·41 per week in housing benefit, which reduced her income to about£30 a week after she had paid her rent. I do not understand how anyone can be supposed to live on that. The Government seek to justify their position by saying, "We cannot do anything about this. We shall leave it as it is, or reduce housing benefit again." The problem must be tackled if it is not to result in a crisis.
When I responded to the intervention of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), I said that any reform of housing finance must make the system fairer for the two sectors. In some areas the majority of those in bed-and-breakfast accommodation are there because they could not pay their mortgages. They have been placed in that accommodation by local authorities. If there is a 1 per cent. rise in interest rates, many of those who have entered into a new mortgage agreement will not be able to continue to pay their mortgage instalments. They will find themselves going to the local authority and saying, "We are homeless. Please take us in."
If the hon. Gentleman wants evidence, let him go to Telford, where the majority of those who are in bed-and-breakfast accommodation find themselves in that position because they were unable to pay their mortgages. We all know that the number of those who have foreclosed on their mortgages has increased about 10 times. We know also that the problem will worsen. That will be the pattern until the Government reform housing finance so that the system gives more assistance to first-time buyers and to those who have managed to get their feet on the first rung of the ladder and bought accommodation that is only just large enough for themselves, and find that they want children and wish to trade up. In the south of Britain, and in other areas where there has been house price inflation, it is not possible to trade up to a two or three-bedroom house unless an individual enjoys a salary rise of£10,000 or£15,000. That is because the price of an extra bedroom or two bedrooms is so great.
The Government have made an appalling mess of housing finance, but there are a number of short-term measures that could be introduced that would help to deal with homelessness. For example, capital receipts that are available from council house sales could be used to house the homeless and to repair and renovate. At present, only a percentage of receipts is available for those purposes. If the Government adopted that approach they would instantly release large sums that are currently sitting in the banks doing nothing. At the same time, more people than ever before are sleeping rough and living in cardboard boxes, and more and more families are living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
What are we doing for families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation? Some of them live in it for two years.
Their children are supposed to be doing well at school. How can a child do well at school when he or she is in bed-and-breakfast accommodation? How is that achieved? What are local education authorities supposed to do? Some Conservative Members smile. I can only say that they should try living in that accommodation for a while. Let them try living in a cardboard box for a while and then tell me that there is not a housing crisis. We did not have this problem prior to 1979. We did not even have it under the Harold Macmillan Government. We have had it only under the present Government, and that is what makes them such a failure.
There must be a reform of housing finance in the way that I have outlined. An increasing number of people are aware of that. We are aware of the report of the Duke of Edinburgh and that of the Church. I and others have been advancing this argument for a long time, which leads me to ask why the Government cannot acknowledge that their Housing Bill is at best irrelevant, and at worst grossly damaging to the private rented sector as well as the public sector. They must get their act together and come forward with policies that are designed to address the imbalance in the economy, the infrastructure problem, the housing issue and the planning issue. On that basis, I recommend the House to vote for the motion.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
congratulates the Government on its housing and planning policies which have helped more people than ever before to own their own homes and, while protecting the extending the approved Green Belts, have created the conditions for a return of prosperity across the whole country; welcomes the proposals in the Housing Bill to widen the choice of housing available for rent; notes with satisfaction the planned increases in the Housing Corporation's programme and the additional resources being allocated to local authorities to tackle immediate problems of homelessness, bringing to£74 million the additional resources made available over the last six months; and urges local authorities to use these and other resources to end the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for families as quickly as possible.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) started with a strange description of the Government's economic policy. It was new to me and I did not recognise it. He then made some spirited attacks upon my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who I wish were in his place to defend himself. I shall justify many of my right hon. Friend's actions during his period of office, when the relevant points are reached in this debate.
One point I should like to clear up immediately concerns the hon. Gentleman's reference to a report in today's Evening Standard, that swingeing penalties will be imposed on those who appeal in the green belt. I do not know the source of that information, but from my reading of the article, my guess is that the report refers to the fact that already costs can be awarded against those who appeal vexatiously or frivolously, especially in the green belt. We have frequently given warnings that we will award costs when we believe that such action is justified in relation to the circular. We have nothing further in mind at the present time.
By linking housing and planning policies in today's motion, the Opposition enable me to make an important point, and it is one with which I hope that the hon.
Member for Hammersmith agrees. Our ability to ensure that everyone has access to a decent home, particularly in distressed parts of the country, depends to a large extent on our willingness to release at least some land for house building through the planning process. That is a factor affecting house prices too. I agree that there is a link between the restrictive planning policies we have been pursuing and homelessness, higher house prices, and the land shortage that causes those increased prices and shortages—affecting in particular local people in rural areas as well as those in the cities.
Many have questioned that link, pointing out—as did the hon. Member for Hammersmith—that new private sector houses are seldom within the reach of the low-income families. However, there is a cascade effect. The more houses we build as people move up the housing ladder, the more houses become available and affordable to households at the bottom of that ladder, whether they be owner-occupiers or tenants. That is the way more housing becomes available.
Housing seems to be one of those areas where the normal laws of supply and demand do not apply. For example, in London there is an excess of units of accommodation over the number of people who need to be accommodated. There are in London 94,000 empty privately owned properties, but the price of property there is going up and up. Will the Secretary of State for the Environment explain why he believes that building more homes will push down house prices?
Many of those properties are confined by the Rent Acts. If a house is in a state of disrepair, I see no point in holding on to it; one can always sell it for someone else to repair, or one can improve it. However, people do not wish to sell or let houses, because they prefer to enjoy their capital appreciation—but they dare not risk the Rent Acts.
I have a little more to say, and I do not wish to detain the House too long. I will allow my hon. Friend to intervene, but after that I must get on with my speech.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, after 70 years of political manipulation of the housing market, there is not so much a shortage of housing stock as a shortage of potentially available rented accommodation? Does he agree with the philosophical point that, contrary to the claim of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), if we were to reform the Rent Acts and to deal with the tax laws which give such an advantage to those who buy rather than rent, more privately rented accommodation could be made available?
Yes, I agree with both points. Nominally, there are about 700,000 more houses than there are households in the country as a whole. I agree also that a large number of empty and surplus houses could be released through proper arrangements for encouraging landlords to let, and we are dealing with that aspect in the Housing Bill.
This is a free country, where people are free to settle and live where they can, if they can find a house that they can afford. Many are concerned at the phenomenon of people selling up in London and moving out, so putting pressure on house prices and pricing out local people. The hon. Member for Hammersmith made that point. In a free country, that cannot and should not be prevented; there is no way in which it can be stopped. It would surety make matters worse to bring down the shutters on further development. It would not be the richer, incoming people who would lose as a result, because they could afford to buy more expensive houses.
If we wish to preserve our heritage of mixed communities in towns and villages—having mixed tenures, mixed incomes, and different ways of life—we must allow houses to be provided to meet the expected demand from less well-off, new households. Housing association houses to rent, increasingly in the changing circumstances of today, have much going for them in serving that purpose.
Much land can be found from within the urban areas. It is vital that redundant land in our towns and cities is fully used. We have encouraged house builders to look at opportunities in those areas and, where necessary. we provide funding through city grant and derelict land grant. The urban development corporations, including the London Docklands development corporation, play an important part in bringing back disused or derelict land into use. Those policies have been very successful, and more than half the land developed for housing in London and the south-east is recycled or vacant land in built-up areas.
The rate at which agricultural land is taken for development is now running at less than one third of the level seen in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite all that, some land will be needed on new sites outside existing urban areas. In some cases, as I said during Question Time, that might most appropriately be land around existing settlements. In others, it may be appropriate in a few cases to think of new settlements. Whatever housing is built, and however it is built, it cannot come without planning permission. It is for local councils to decide where development should take place. The extent to which planning is a local function is often overlooked. Ninety-eight per cent. of planning consents are given by local authorities, and only 2 per cent. on appeal.
My hon. Friend will forgive me if I continue, because I wish to make a little more progress.
The area where housing and planning policies arouse the most controversy is in the south-east; that is the price we pay for economic success in that area. As the House knows, in the south-east we work with local authorities through SERPLAN and the London Planning Advisory Committee to forecast future housing requirements in general and to agree figures for each London borough and shire county. I am glad to report that in conjunction with SERPLAN we are expecting a lower rate of new house building in the south-east over previous years in the projections for 1991 to 2001.
Several factors are at work. First, we are providing wider opportunities for renting in the Housing Bill, and we expect to see better use made of the existing stock, as private landlords in particular will once again have an incentive to let their property. That will bring many vacant houses and flats into use and reduce the need for new build.
Secondly, partly as a result of the huge disparity in house prices and costs between the south-east and other regions, but also thanks to the action we are taking in the inner cities, other regions of the country are becoming more attractive as places to which both people and businesses may move. Unemployment is falling rapidly in all regions, and fastest of all in the west midlands, the north-west and the north. House-building levels are rising in most regions outside London. The only area where they are not doing so is the west midlands. Land prices are rising fast.
We have a£3 billion per year programme of improvement to the older industrial areas and cities to attract private investment, and to improve infrastructure and skills in inner cities. We have seven urban development corporations up and running, and four more are in the process of being established.
No, I will not give way.
Those factors are beginning to take the pressure off the south. Firms are beginning to follow economic logic and to move away from the skills shortages and high prices of the south-east. All that is helping to reverse what has been a net flow of population out of the old industrial areas to the prosperous south. I am glad to tell the House that there is now a small but growing net migration away from the south-east and we expect that to continue and accelerate.
The provision previously agreed with SERPLAN was for 460,000 extra homes in the period 1991–2001, but the household projections released earlier this year suggest that provision might need to rise by a further 150,000 in that period. However, I am glad to repeat that new evidence produced by SERPLAN last week now suggests that a further 30,000 to 50,000 dwellings will become available by 1991. Therefore, the extra provision needed after 1991 will be only 100,000 to 120,000, which means that we shall need between 560,000 and 580,000 new homes altogether in that period rather than 610,000 which we had earlier calculated.
It is now up to SERPLAN and the local authorities concerned to propose where those houses should be built through regional guidance, the county structure plans and the district plans. That development must be well planned and locally planned. We expect, first, that in drawing up those plans local authorities should ensure that there is no unsuitable development in the green belt. I have made it perfectly plain over and over again that the green belt must be preserved.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, because I know that he wants to make progress. There is dismay in Kent at his refusal to give permission on the Dartford and Crayford marshes—1,000 acres of derelict land that should never have been scheduled as green belt—because it will put extreme pressure on urban constituencies such as my own, where his Department, through the Property Services Agency, is seeking to build houses on the only green land in the Medway towns.
My hon. Friend intervened at the precise moment when I was saying that we have made it plain that green belt must be preserved. It would have been a complete contradiction of that policy if we had agreed to the development to which my hon. Friend refers.
However, if the precise area of the green belt and its location is not thought by the local people to be correct, they can perfectly well propose an alteration of the green belt boundaries and have that approved through the normal processes. That is the way to achieve what my hon. Friend seeks, rather than to ask me to break the very guidelines about the green belt that I have made clear.
I sum up by saying that, in 1981, only 12·6 per cent. of the south-east outside London was built up. If the extra demand that I have described is met by 2001, it is unlikely that that figure will rise beyond 13·7 per cent. That means that 86·3 per cent of the home counties would still not be built up, which is hardly concreting over the whole of the south-east.
The role of district councils here is crucial. I mentioned local plans. Last week we issued a new draft circular on district plans. Only about 10 per cent. of local authorities have fully up-to-date approved local plans covering the whole of their area. They are the vital missing ingredient in the planning system. The lack of them is one reason why planning authorities sometimes find themselves losing an appeal and why, for example, people are unclear where green belt borders are and where local development is likely to occur.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith welcomed the emphasis on local people planning where development should take place, but he asked why that right had been taken away. It was never taken away. The fact of the matter is that 90 per cent. of district councils in the south-east do not have up-to-date local plans and I am urging them to do so. That is the way for them to take control of where developments should take place.
Does the Secretary of State accept that the other concern of local people and their elected representatives, with which he has not yet dealt, is that the housing that is built needs to be affordable? That is the crucial issue about development in London, the south-east or elsewhere. It is no good building homes if nobody can afford to rent or buy them.
The only way that I could bring down the price of houses in the south-east would be to allow planning restrictions to be stripped away so that the price of land fell dramatically. However, if he will only bear with me, I can tell the hon. Gentleman of some further plans. I should not have given way to him. Everybody tries to intervene just as I am about to answer their question.
It is clear to me in the discussions that I have had with local authorities in the south-east that we all realise that a balance has to be struck. High house prices in the south are contributing to the pressures on businesses and people to move away. But there is still tremendous demand for housing in the south-east, even at those high prices, which also causes those high prices.
Demand is rising chiefly due to social factors. There are more single-person households. People are not getting married or are living alone longer before marriage and can often afford to buy at the prices prevailing. More people are getting divorced. Old people are living longer in their own homes. It is those phenomena, not primarily the increase in population, coupled with the difficulty of finding new sites for housing, which are causing tremendous problems for the people at the bottom of the ladder and increasing the pressures which eventually cause homelessness.
I should just point out that the people described as "homeless" in our statistics, which Opposition Members are always quoting at us, as they did at Question Time today, are those with a priority right to be housed by councils under the homelessness provisions in the Housing Act 1985. Therefore, it is a misleading term, as those "homeless" households listed in the statistics are all found accommodation, many going straight into permanent homes.
I said at the beginning of my speech that the ability to ensure that everyone has access to a decent home depends partly on our willingness to release land for new house building through the planning process. But that is only part of the solution. There will always be people who cannot afford the economic cost of housing, and we accept that the Government must ensure that there are mechanisms to provide subsidised housing for those who need it—social housing. That we are doing in a number of ways.
No, I will not.
First, the Housing Bill will bring a large number of existing empty privately owned properties on to the market. There are about half a million empty private properties, and there will he greater incentives for people to let rooms in their homes and for landlords to build or convert for rent.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith referred to a figure, which I do not confirm, of only 2·5 per cent. being frustrated by the Rent Acts. Even that figure would result in 13,750 extra properties coming on to the rented market. I believe that the figure would be much higher, and so does SERPLAN. That would make a great contribution to ending the housing shortage in the areas concerned.
Secondly, we are providing for local authorities to be able to offer transferable discounts to people in council accommodation in areas of housing shortage who want to move out and buy, thus making available their accommodation for letting to new tenants.
Thirdly, we are considering ways in which the 112,000 empty council houses can be brought into use. It is a scandal that the number of empties in London exceeds the numbers in bed and breakfast. There is clearly a consensus in the House for early action to get empties back into use. We have had to consider statutory measures to achieve this. We will be putting forward proposals for legislation in the next Session to make best use of local authority stock and reduce their dependence on temporary accommodation.
In the meantime, I intend to use existing powers to ask all authorities to give me details of all their empty property. We need up-to-date information. Authorities which manage their stock efficiently will already have such data readily available. I will also be asking authorities in future HIP rounds to include with their submissions statements of their policy to minimise the number of empty dwellings. We will be consulting the local authority associations about these proposals in the near future.
Fourthly, we have made available a further£74 million in allocations in the stress areas over the last six months, much of it to tackle the immediate problem of homelessness.
When the Secretary of State brings those new powers to bear on local authorities, will he also ensure that the law is drafted in a way that makes it apply to Government-owned empty properties, because 6·9 per cent. of the Government's housing stock is empty, compared with 2·5 per cent. of local authorities' housing stock, which is the lowest of all? Secondly, why was that not a problem before 1979?
The answer to the second question is that economic recovery has completely changed the demand for housing. Under the policies of frustration and despair employed by the Labour party, the trouble was that half the people could not afford to leave home and buy their own houses.
Fifthly, the Bill will result in more new housing being provided for rent. Deregulation, coupled with the welcome Budget tax changes affecting landlords, will once again make rented housing a worthwhile proposition for the reputable private investor. It will also open the door to genuine private investment in new development by housing associations. That will enable the Housing Corporation's programme of support for housing associations to stretch further, and the grant element of that support, together with the corporation's supervisory effort—backed up with the new tenants' guarantee—will ensure that housing association accommodation remains within the reach of those on low incomes.
The corporation's grant programme is set to grow from£737 million in the current year to£850 million by 1990–91, and to that can be added any money attracted from the private sector. All those measures will bring additional dwellings into use, although I cannot estimate the numbers precisely.
I have resisted the temptation to catalogue the real chaos in housing management in some town halls run by the Labour party: uncollected rents, properties lying empty while families are housed in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, bad management, neglect and decay. I would be the first to admit that local authorities cannot be blamed for all of that.The Economist—not a paper from which I normally quote—last week described the mess into which misguided policies of rent control and mass provision of council houses had plunged our rented housing policy:
The obvious solvent for this mess is a flourishing competitive rental market at all levels of housing
That is what we are trying to create, and what the Labour party seems to be trying to frustrate. I ask the House to reject the motion with disdain.
I should like briefly to cover three important aspects of housing policy connected with the motion.
The first aspect is the whole issue of the housing finance system, irrespective of the type of tenure involved. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) asked my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) what would be the Labour party's likely attitude to mortgage tax relief. I cannot answer that question, but I will say one thing that may be of help to the hon. Gentleman and others. I find it rather strange that at a time when mortgage interest tax relief is going up and up—the current level is£5 billion—the Government seem to have set no upper limit at which in the future it will be capped and stopped. At the same time housing benefit has been clawed back substantially. The move was so unpopular that the Government had to introduce a transitional arrangement, but even that has not bridged the gap and solved the difficulties.
The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the level at which mortgage interest tax relief is paid is demand-led. It will, however, be of some consolation to him to know that, following the reductions in the top income tax rate from 60 to 40 per cent. and in the basic rate from 27 to 25 per cent., the cost of tax relief on mortgage interest has gone down.
That is an inevitable consequence of such changes. I still contend that the basic principles by which mortgage interest tax relief operates means that technically it can continue to rise irrespective of the changes that the tax system may impose in other areas. Mortgage interest tax relief contributes little or nothing to the development of sound housing policies. Most serious studies have concluded that its net effect has simply been to put up house prices. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith is quite right. At some stage either the party in power or a collection of parties must discuss the consequences of a policy which, while it may be superficially popular with the electorate, contributes nothing to housing policy and certainly does nothing to create more acceptable housing.
The Secretary of State, in his closing remarks, talked as though the Housing Bill heralded a new dawn of private rented housing that would act as a yardstick against which all other types of tenure could be judged. He and the Minister of State have yet to demonstrate, despite the Bill's three and a half months in Committee, how that is to happen. The diagnosis of the difficulties suffered by the private rented sector in the past 30 years or so has little to do with the Rent Acts and other landlord-and-tenant legislation; it has everyting to do with the economics of property ownership and what can be obtained by simply selling the property or by hanging on and getting the capital appreciation. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith hammers that point home every time he gets the chance.
It does not matter whether the legislation creates economic rents, or a whole new series of types of tenancies. The truth is that any kind of tenant living in a property whose value is constantly growing—in central London that is happening at an alarming rate—will be an interference with the accumulation of capital which any sensible person would avoid. I do not believe—perhaps the Secretary of State does, but I do not think that many of his colleagues do, certainly not the civil servants—that all those new private tenancies will be created. It simply will not happen.
If my hon. Friend visits the east end of London and looks at the London Docklands development corporation area he will see that, although a number of properties are available for rent, the rents range from£300 or£350 a week to about£750. Who would spend that amount on rent when he could get mortgage interest tax relief? People in the east end could not possibly do so.
My hon. Friend is perfectly right. It is obvious that with those rent levels the homeless certainly will not be encouraged to rent; indeed, it will be impossible for them to do so, just as it will be impossible for all those in serious housing need categories to pay such rents. The net effect is that some people will be housed, but not those in the most need. The present housing finance system does not make sense. It does not serve housing policy at all. It simply suits certain populist ideas with which the Government wish to be associated.
The Minister of State and others have said many complimentary things about housing associations. One of my concerns is housing co-operatives. I believe that the Government sincerely want housing co-operatives and associations to continue to provide for people in housing need, using their high levels of housing management expertise.
There is a difficulty about introducing private finance, and although the Minister knows of it we must hammer it home at every opportunity. If one introduces a combination of private finance and housing association grant into the equation, for an investor—in the form of a building society or other financial institution such as a bank—to get the guarantees that he needs on a property, difficulties will arise in many areas in which there are low values and high costs, of which Knowsley is an example. The net effect in my area would be that the cost of building a house would have to be reduced by about£10,000. I accept that the Minister of State supports the continued existence of housing associations and has made supportive statements about co-operatives, but the introduction of private finance into these areas may result in a fall in the standards of housing provided by housing associations and co-operatives. I hope that that will not happen and that steps will be taken in the Department of the Environment's current review to ensure that it will not.
Finally, I mention some of my worries about local authority housing. I, like my hon. Friends—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"]. Conservative Members are making great play of where my hon. Friends are, but perhaps we should stick to the subject—[Interruption.] It is interesting that a signal went round the Conservative Benches to create that interruption, and Conservative Members thought they would take the chance to make sedentary interventions. I shall continue with the subject in hand.
Some of the difficulties with council housing have been caused by the Government since 1979. To be honest, some of them relate to the way in which council housing has been managed and maintained at local level. So it is not always a question of what the Government have done. However, the Government have consistently withdrawn the capital investment that is needed for housing stock since 1979, and that is a major factor in the growing problem of disrepair. The Minister should be aware that my borough needs more than£20 millon a year for its housing investment programme to keep its stock at something approaching a reasonable level. At present it receives£4·5 million from central Government. It manages by means of a series of devices—leaseback and other schemes that local authorities have to use—to get that up to£11 million. There will be a gap of about£10 million a year in the money needed merely to keep the stock in a decent state of repair. Therefore, there will be a continuing problem of disrepair because there is not enough money in the system to deal with it.
Whatever Conservative Members may believe ideologically about council housing, it is becoming worse and more starved of resources. In support of my point, I wish to quote from an article by an objective commentator in last week's New Statesman—[Interruption.] The article is by Anne Power, who has been a director of the Government-sponsored priority estates project, which intensively tackles the problems of Britain's worst council estates. Conservative Members may laugh at the publication for which she writes, but they should at least take her seriously because the Government have been footing the bill for her work for the past nine years.
Conservative Members are laughing at the New Statesman, but my hon. Friend will recall that the Secretary of State quoted The Economist as though it were a lofty, objective, politically neutral publication, whereas it is a Right-wing Tory rag. It is hardly surprising that the right hon. Gentleman quoted it in his own support.
I should imagine that any journal that agreed with the Secretary of State would be almost unpublishable by definition.
Speaking about council housing and Government legislation, Anne Power says:
But the context of the current changes is entirely negative. Demoralised staff working in the housing departments of local authorities face an uncertain future. There is intense competition for access to housing in areas of shortage; and council housing is becoming increasingly ghettoised.
That is the effect of Government policies on local authority housing, whatever the inherent problems. The Secretary of State spoke as though the problems of council housing were the result of Labour-controlled authorities' policies. The Government have been in power long enough to have done something about the problem if they believe that, yet they have done nothing.
Conservative Members know that the Government's housing policies have failed over the past nine years. The Government are on a fast track to even greater failure in future.
I commend the words in the amendment that commit the Government to ending
the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for families as quickly as possible.
My right hon. Friend was right to remind the House that 28,000 houses and flats owned by local authorities have been empty for more than 12 months. Part of the tragedy of empty council houses and flats is that the authorities with the largest number of empty houses and flats that have been empty for the longest periods are often precisely those with the greatest number of homeless people.
I warmly welcome the initiative of my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning in allocating extra resources to the local authorities with problems of homelessness and of empty accommodation. It is by no means always the case that the reason for those 28,000 houses and flats being empty for more than 12 months is that the local authorities concerned have not had enough money to put them in order. The overwhelming majority of people who have the misfortune to live in unsatisfactory bed-and-breakfast accommodation would prefer to live in a house or flat, even though it is not ideal.
Secondly, I refer to the part of the amendment that testifies to the truth that since 1979 the Government's housing policies have
helped more people than ever before to own their own homes
That dramatic escalation of home ownership in the past nine years—an escalation more rapid than at any time in our history—has not been welcomed with total enthusiasm by the Opposition—
I do not know what that says about the hon. Gentleman or about me, but I shall accept it.
Why, if the Government have such a wonderful record, has homelessness doubled since 1979?
Part of the reason for the increase in homelessness is that we have never had as many as 28.000 council-owned houses and flats empty for more than 12 months. Part of the reason for the extra nominally homeless people and genuinely homeless people is the tragedy of empty houses. I shall presently deal with empty houses in the private sector.
I am honoured to be that. The hon. Gentleman's analysis is wrong. If he looks at the figures given to me yesterday by the Under-Secretary of State about the percentage of new lets that go to the homeless, he will see that over the last eight years Tory, Labour and Liberal-controlled local authorities have substantially increased the number of properties let to the homeless. In Bromley the increase was 100 per cent. and in Birmingham and Manchester it was over 400 per cent.—as in my borough. The problem is not that properties are empty and not let by local authorities, but that the number of homeless people is greater because there are no homes for them.
One cannot escape the truth that if the empty houses and flats owned by local authorities and those owned by the private sector were occupied there would be a complete and immediate solution to the problem of homelessness.
I note that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) did not bring himself to criticise the Government's record of nearly 3 million more properties in owner-occupation in 1988 than in 1979. The hon. Gentleman nods in agreement. I think that by his silent approval and possibly he speaks for his party—he welcomes that impressive increase in home ownership. There is an important political consequence of the dramatic increase in home ownership. The more that the ownership of homes, of capital, increases, the greater will he the reluctance of the people to support the hon. Member for Newham, North-West and his hon. Friends.
The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that I call it the Common Market Assembly, because that more accurately reflects what it is. It has no powers of legislation. The hon. Gentleman is eulogising home ownership. What attempt will he make to convert his Government to giving people in private rented accommodation the right to buy in the way that they have foisted on local authorities legislation to force them to give that opportunity to tenants?
There is a great distinction, which is not appreciated either by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts), who is the sole occupant of the Opposition Front Bench, or by his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). The hon. Member for Bradford, South has tempted me into giving him an analogy. It is open to the hon. Gentleman to take his hon. Friends the Members for Bootle and for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and give them a sumptuous dinner at Le Gavroche and pay for it out of his own pocket. That is legitimate, but it would be illegitimate for the hon. Member for Bradford, South to take his two hon. Friends to Le Gavroche and pay for the dinner out of public funds. That is the distinction. The Government were entitled to grant the right to buy to public sector tenants because every house and flat owned by local authorities was financed by public money. Therefore, it is open to the Government to lay down the terms for their tenants in the same way as it is open to the private landlord to lay down terms for his tenants.
The hon. Gentleman is saying that it is legitimate for the Government to force local authorities to give big discounts and to spend public money on giving people the right to buy. That has nothing to do with increasing owner-occupation or with the rights or freedoms of council tenants. It is an attack on the public rented sector. If the Government and Conservative Members really believe in increasing owner-occupation and in freedom of choice for tenants, they would grant the same privileges to the tenants of the private landlord. They are interested only in making profit out of housing.
When the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) returns to the Opposition Front Bench and finds out what has happened in his absence, he will not be pleased that he left the Chamber. The hon. Member for Bootle gave the impression to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), who has a greater knowledge and experience of these matters than any hon. Member now in the Chamber, that he was opposed, not only to the right to buy, but to the discounts presently offered by the Government. That impression was given not only to my hon. Friend but to many other hon. Members who were listening carefully to the hon. Member for Bootle.
The whole House knows that nine years ago, when the Conservative Government started the policy of forcing councils to sell houses at large discounts, the Labour party opposed it. We said that the best of the houses would be sold and that the councils would be left with the rest. That has happened. The best of the houses have been sold. One can no longer oppose the sale of what has already been sold. Conservative Members find that amusing, but if the best of the houses have been sold there is no point in opposing the sale. We have never advocated the taking back of any council houses that have been sold. That was a lie put about by Conservative Members on doorsteps during the general election. We can no longer oppose the selling of council houses, because they have been sold
I have exciting news for the hon. Gentleman. The process of giving tenants the right to buy their houses or flats is continuing. There are still hundreds of thousands of actual and prospective tenants who will wish to take advantage of the choice given to them by the Government. We thought that the hon. Gentleman had been converted to supporting that choice, but henceforward there will be great doubt in the House and outside about whether the Opposition are still in favour of choice.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the comments by the Opposition show that they are completely adrift? They say that only the best sell. But because the cost-floor provisions have prevented the sale at massive discounts of brand new houses—the better end, if one likes, of the housing stock—the bulk of the sales have been of pre-war houses and of houses built in the 1950s and early 1960s. That is where maximum discounts have been of the greatest benefit to council tenants.
My hon. Friend is perfectly correct. Houses and flats that range from the not-so-good to the very good have been sold as a result of choice. Alas, the percentage of flats has been much lower than the percentage of houses.
I have given way many times, and I am mindful of what Mr. Speaker said at the start of the debate.
I should now like to turn to the motion in the names of the hon. Member for Hammersmith and his hon. Friends. The motion speaks about
the shortage of low cost housing for rent or sale.
The Housing Bill will bring into use some of the empty accommodation presently in the private sector. Following the enactment of the Bill, the owners of those houses will be encouraged to let them. I say that because since 1915 rent legislation designed to assist the prospective tenant has actually injured the real or prospective tenant.
By our Rent Act policy we have injured the very people whom we were trying to help. Twin evils have flowed from that legislation—security of tenure and rent control. As the Opposition will discover, under the Housing Bill, unused or under-used accommodation will be brought into use and we shall attract significant new investment for the conversion of existing property to let and the construction of new property to let—something that we have not been able to do since the war. That is most welcome and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on the Bill.
I now come to my final and most controversial point, which deals with the part of the Opposition motion that refers to the
growing crisis of house price inflation.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the only way in which we shall be able to arrest, and later diminish, the rise in house prices is to build more houses, and to build them in those parts of the country where they are most needed. I agree that sites available in urban areas must be developed, but we must also recognise another long-term feature of the supply of land. In the coming years, land that is used at present for agricultural purposes will no longer be required for those purposes. If agricultural land that is not particularly good is to be put to better use, if the owner of that land wishes to sell, if a builder wishes to buy it, if the builder, having built on the land that the farmer or owner wished to sell can find a purchaser for the house or flat, there is a presumption in favour of granting planning permission. I am not saying that that presumption is not rebuttable.
I say to my hon. Friends who, like me, represent constituencies in the south-east that in the coming years we shall be unable simply to say to the Minister for Housing and Planning, or the district councils, that there must be no more building on green sites in the south of England. It is the duty of those who are responsible for planning to ensure that the available land is put to the best use. If today there is no longer the same need for the agricultural use of land, the best use for some of it is most emphatically for housing. Only in that way will we be able to solve a problem that is familiar to my hon. Friends the Members for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) and for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), both of whom realise that people from the north and the midlands are seeking, and may have found, employment in the south-east, but cannot bring their families here. They will not be able to bring their families here unless we can increase the supply of land in the south-east.
The Opposition motion shows a scant recognition of the truth that, after nine years of Conservative Government, the overwhelming majority of our people are better housed than ever before. I commend to the House the policies of my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning and the terms of the amendment to the motion.
The Opposition motion as originally tabled referred to the chaos in the Government's housing and planning policies, but the Table Office said that that infringed the rules in some way, so it had to be changed.
We have an opportunity to reflect on the stage that the Government's housing and planning policies have reached a year into their third term of office, and when for the first time for many years the Department of the Environment has one Minister of State who is responsible for both housing and planning. I reflect too, in passing, that at times those policies seem to have been best symbolised by the recent state of the Department of the Environment. Its telephone system has just been changed. Nobody could get through from the outside to the inside, and it certainly looks as if nobody could get through from the inside to the inside. If the left hand has not seemed to know what the right hand was doing—or if one of the two right hands has not known what the other was doing—perhaps that is the explanation, although when the same Minister is responsible for two areas of departmental policy it is usual to expect him to talk to himself enough to get policy agreed.
Last month we had a debate on a private Member's motion tabled by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman), which gave the Government an opportunity to comment on their planning policies. They gave estimates of the amount of land needed, the number of houses needed and so on. I made two fairly uncontroversial points. I am not in the habit of quoting or even referring to my own recent contributions, but one of the points I then made was that the Government should bring empty property into use. That is vital, and if the Government did that we could proceed incrementally to deal with the shortage of housing.
The second was that we should assess how much provision was already made for new housing in structure plans and so on, and that if we did that accurately, we would find that there was quite a lot of provision. During that debate, the Government gave specific estimates for housing need in the south-east, after assessing the figures for each county. Yet last Friday the Financial Times carried the headline
South East Homes Need Scaled Down.
We read that the Secretary of State for the Environment had
scaled down by up to a third the number of extra new houses expected to be needed to cope with demand in London and the South-East.
I was pleased to read that the first two of the three reasons given by the Secretary of State were precisely the points that I made in my speech. The first was:
Between 30,000 and 50,000 units are likely to become available in the form of empty residences coming onto the market.
The second was:
More land is available and more houses are under construction or are more likely to be built by 1990 than had been expected.
It seems to me that those in the Department who deal with forecasts of the number of homes needed had not consulted adequately those in charge of monitoring county structure plans, who deal with the land supply and the number of homes that counties think will be needed. The figures did not add up. The fact that the figures have been scaled down is welcome, and I hope that we shall get even more accurate figures in future. However, there appears to have been substantial confusion about the real need and demand for housing, and it is about time that that confusion was sorted out.
There is one other relevant statistic on planning. The London Planning Advisory Committee, a body established by the Government, reported on 23 May. It had surveyed land in London and found enough for between 225,000 and 300,000 new homes in Greater London by the year 2000—enough for London to cope with its own growth. I was therefore interested to read an article by the Secretary of State in today's edition of The Daily Telegraph. That gave the old figures, whereas this afternoon he gave us the new figures, which presumably means that he was working on last week's brief in the article and the figures were not corrected. The article said that it was expected that only 150,000 to 200,000 of the 600,000 new homes needed could be supplied in London. However, according to the LPAC figure it now appears that 250,000 will be available in London, and the total figure for the south-east has been scaled down so that it is now as low as 500,000. I am sure that hon. Members who represent the home counties would like to know whether the LPAC assessment is accurate and what the implications are for green field development in the south east.
There is a postscript to what the LPAC said. The Secretary of State ducked this issue completely in his speech. It recommended that 100,000 of the new homes for London should be affordable. The Secretary of State went through his list of measures, but one cannot legislate to deregulate the housing sector and take away rent controls without reducing the chance of providing homes at a cost that people can afford.
I welcome the fact that planning authorities are to be given more power. Of course there should be district plans, and decentralisation is vital. There should be decentralisation to the regions, too, but the Government have not helped that by abolishing the strategic planning powers in Greater London and the metropolitan areas. The sooner we get back to strategic regional planning, the better.
We should also include in the evaluation of development the quality of life. It is vital that planning and development are seen to be qualitatively acceptable. People in villages, towns and cities all over Britain want to live in pleasant environments. It was ironic to wake up this morning to hear, as colleagues must also have done, the Prime Minister speaking from Toronto, saying that what was wonderful about Toronto was the quality of life there and how clean it was—as I understood it, that was even without her picking up the litter.
If the market is the arbiter of planning policy, quality of life considerations are not allowed to determine policy. That is a fundamental flaw. Indeed, it is not even a free and perfect market because it will be distorted by those with the money—the developers—who will be unfairly competing against those with a need for housing and who want most an environmentally acceptable environment. As the argument about the market is flawed, the Government should no longer adhere to it. We must re-evaluate these criteria seriously and urgently.
By contrast, I do not think that there has been any dispute about the Government's objectives for housing policy. They are clear: first, to permit the market for private rented housing to operate freely; secondly, to reduce the amount of housing owned by councils by diversification of rented social housing; and, thirdly, to bring in private money. The Minister for Housing and Planning made clear the Government's primary motivation in the Committee debate on the Housing Bill in February when he stated:
at this stage the primary purpose is to introduce greater plurality to the near monopoly holders, the municipal sector.
—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 25 February 1988; c. 1166.]
Tenants' choice is a mechanism—it is not an objective. That is clearly reflected in the fact that the voting system has now been changed and that it is so biased in favour of transfers and not in favour of people having a democratic choice—
No, it is not voting, but the Government would have us believe that it is a system like voting. Also it is principally the landlords' choice, not the tenants'. No doubt we shall debate that issue again next week.
Given the Government's objectives, the chaos in their housing policies has been amazing. First, in the general election campaign the Government were all over the place with their housing policies, just as they were with their education policies. The Prime Minister had to back-track, clarify and modify.
The Government always argue that one. The Minister knows that since 1979 his party has gone to the country three times and that every time its share of the vote has decreased. One political distortion that people outside the House may never understand is that in our general elections fewer people can vote for the Conservative party, but more Conservative Members may arrive in this place. It is a pretty funny system when seen from outside, let alone from inside. I do not accept the Minister's proposition. The Conservative party may be in first place, but that is under an equally perverted voting system.
The second cause of chaos and confusion was that, having forecast a year of massive legislation for the Department of the Environment, the Department was short of civil servants and had to recruit staff from the private sector. Then it rushed out the Housing Bill, got it wrong, and had to reprint it. Then the Government did not make their housing policy clear until they were in Committee. The Minister had to perform an exercise that looked a little like trying to discern the shape of Dover castle as one crosses the Channel on a cloudy day—as one gets nearer, one sees a bit more, until eventually one can see what shape the castle is—or the legislation. The Government's housing policy was clearly being made, in the now famous phrase, "on the hoof".
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) adds from a sedentary position that the Government's housing policy is now a fallen monument.
The Government then said that there would be a social landlords' charter before Report stage. Not only has one not materialised, but what was pretended to be it was not one. Next, we were promised more support for tenants' co-operatives and a quick and speedy review. However, it has just been announced that that will not be completed until December, when presumably the Housing Bill will be law.
Two Ministers gave answers to my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) and to myself about homelessness legislation saying that the Government had no plans to change the laws—
Lastly, the Secretary of State for Wales then came up with a further idea for giving away council houses. Interestingly, that idea was nearly approved by the Wilson Labour Government and I can produce evidence of that. The idea now appears to be going before the Cabinet.
The Government's housing policy has changed fundamentally during the past year, and even now the Government still do not seem to have caught up with themselves.
We have identified homelessness as an issue. I must advise the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) that he was not right—all local authorities have catered in their properties for many people who are homeless. The reality is that, for various reasons, there are now more homeless people. Housing them should be the Government's first priority.
We must deal with the cost of housing, both for rent and for sale. House price inflation has now been taken out of the retail price index and is thus not reflected in the normal inflation figures. If it were, the inflation figures would be much higher. House price inflation is enhanced by policies for housing which must be reformed. I noticed with interest that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden)—a Conservative Member—argued in The Daily Telegraph of Tuesday 7 June 1988, first that mortgage interest tax relief should be abolished, and secondly:
mortgage relief conflicts head-on with every tenet of modern Tory philosophy.
He effectively argued that it is inconsistent with the self-help, non-dependency culture. On the same day, the editorial of The Daily Telegraph made a similar point, stating:
The time has surely come when the Government should think again, as Mr. Walden argues, about the sense of subsidising house purchase regardless of the circumstances of the purchaser.
When it comes to the crunch, the Government avoid the issue or do not honour their promises. That has happened in relation to the green belt, and over planning. The Secretary of State voted for the Okehampton Bypass (Confirmation of Orders) Bill and for the Hampshire (Lyndhurst Bypass) Bill, breaching respectively a national park and the New Forest. When it comes to housing policy and price rises in the rented sector—
No, I shall not give way.
When it comes to housing policy and price rises in the rented sector and when an opportunity to deal with that is offered by legislating for affordable rents, the Secretary of State rejects it. When it comes to price rises in the private sector of owner-occupation, and when an opportunity to curb that through reducing mortgage interest tax relief is offered to the Secretary of State he rejects it, even when that opportunity is put forward from within his own party.
The Government's policies on housing and planning have been in amazing chaos for the past 12 months. I only hope that the Government now sort themselves out, deal with the real problems and honour the obligations that they, as a Government, have to the British people.
The most pressing problem in my constituency, and elsewhere in the county of Berkshire, is massive development. It has spawned a slightly offensive new phrase—that we are all Nimbys—we are all Not-in-My-Back-Yard followers. We find that offensive, for reasons that I shall outline briefly to the House.
Successive hon. Members of all parties have made it clear that the major problem is high house prices, especially in the south-east. We can take as an example Bracknell district council, which is the authority covering the area where most of the extra houses will be built and where many extra houses have already been built. That district council has been forward-looking in its house building policy. It has a certain amount of land that it has owned for several years, which it has sold to developers at historic land cost price on the clear understanding that that price will be reflected in the house prices to enable first-time buyers to purchase those houses. More to the point, it has insisted that the purchasers be nominated by the district council and that those nominated should be either existing tenants or people on the council house waiting lists.
For those who cannot afford to purchase outright with the help of a mortgage, even at those relatively modest house purchase prices—for the Thames valley—the district council has agreed to retain various chunks of the houses—50 per cent., 40 per cent. or 30 per cent.—with rent to be paid on that percentage. As the owners of those houses prosper, they can purchase the extra sections from the district council. That shows the progressive and imaginative polices of our district council. We are still prepared to build houses—not council houses, which are not in the interests of the community, but low-cost houses for purchase.
In the past 15 years, we have agreed to a large number of houses, but enough is enough. We have some responsibility to future generations to keep some green fields in Berkshire. I readily acknowledge what my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) said: agricultural production will reduce and some agricultural land must be brought under development, but that should be in rural areas, not areas such as central Berkshire. If we build on the remaining few green-field sites, we shall have a long urban sprawl from London, through Slough and Reading, to Bristol, with no decent environment whatever.
It is all very well for developers to build houses, but there is no infrastructure to go with them. We have overcrowded roads and terrific pressure on social services, hospitals and schools which make life extremely difficult. It is in the national interest not to continue developing Berkshire at a fast rate.
Unusually, I fall out with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne when he says that we have many successful companies, particularly high-tech companies, in the south-east, so unemployed men and women in a region of high unemployment should get on their bikes and move to the south-east, and we should build extra houses for them. If we take that to its logical conclusion, we shall have an environmental wasteland in the south-east and an industrial desert in the north. That is not the sort of country where I want to live; nor do I believe it is the sort of country where the great majority of people wish to live.
I believe in market forces and democracy. Locally elected people should decide where they want extra companies or houses to be built. It is more than likely that, in an area of negative unemployment, such as Bracknell and the royal borough of Windsor, the planning authority will not encourage extra development of houses, factories and offices. Conversely, a local councillor in a region of high unemployment will bend over backwards to grant planning permission for housing, factory and office developments.
It must be in the national interest to encourage more firms to move to areas of high unemployment. That does not mean following the old path of bribes and regional grants, which barely worked. It means allowing market forces to work. We in Bracknell do not want any more factories or offices. We have negative unemployment, rising house prices and an overstrained infrastrucure.
Recently a multinational company chairman told me, "The district council will not give us planning permission to build new headquarters. I must warn you, Mr. MacKay, that if you do not pressurise it into giving planning permission, there will be 260 job losses in Bracknell and we shall move elsewhere." I said that we would be delighted for the company to move elsewhere, because we had a large number of companies which found it difficult to recruit staff, so if my constituents were made unemployed they would get a nice redundancy package—it would be like winning the pools—and the following week they would find new jobs in Bracknell and there would be less pressure on our infrastructure. He turned white and said, "This has been a waste of a rather expensive lunch," and it had been.
We must allow market forces to operate. If the Thames valley discourages the building of more offices and factories, and if house prices rise so that employers cannot find skilled workers and managers, companies will increasingly move to other regions which will improve employment opportunities elsewhere. I am glad to say that several companies in my constituency have expanded into other parts where there is high unemployment. That reduces unit labour costs and makes the enterprise more efficient.
I will tell my hon. Friend. Companies are having to bribe people to come to the south-east with extortionately high salaries, which are out of all proportion to the work, and that makes them uneconomic in world markets. It is much wiser to pay the going market rate in another part where there are lower house prices and less pressure on mortgages. That makes evident sense.
Can my hon. Friend explain how he takes his philosophy into the future for young people in the Bracknell area? Does he say that, becuse there are no houses and no new jobs, they must migrate, or will he forcibly retire their parents to enable them to take their parents' jobs? I find his whole philosophy amazing.
There is a great shortage of people at all levels to work in Bracknell, and any youngster leaving school, college or university can readily find a job on a high salary. We have no shortage of employment—
My hon. Friend surprises me. I thought I had made it abundantly clear that I am encouraging companies to move to the north and employ his constituents. If he does not want his constituents to be employed, it is hardly my fault. Perhaps they should go to Bury instead. With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, he has missed the point.
Let me help the hon. Gentleman, who is getting into difficulties. He is basically right, and he is making the point that I made earlier, but he is trying to pretend that the intervention of local authorities, Members of Parliament or the Government makes for a free market. The whole essence of what we are saying is that the crisis in the south-east is caused by the Government letting loose an unrestrained free-market juggernaut. That is why the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) is worried. He is right to say that this has gone too far and that the Government must intervene and abandon their philosophy.
The hon. Gentleman grossly exaggerates when he says that there is a crisis in the south-east. If we allow local authorities to decide planning permission without intervention by the Secretary of State on appeal, a large number of companies will inevitably move to areas of high unemployment and that will be to the nation's benefit. I believe that in the months ahead that will happen increasingly.
We must take into account a further national factor. The Government, rightly, are a strong supporter of inner-city rejuvenation, and that is applauded by hon. Members on both sides of the House. If developers have a choice between a green-field site in Berkshire and reclaiming land in the inner city, they will inevitably choose a green-field site in Berkshire.
Far from it, dear boy.
A contractor is drawn to an area by the price of land and communications. From London, it takes one hour 38 minutes to Doncaster, two and a half hours to Sheffield, and how many years to Langbaurgh I do not know. So communications is one of the things which determine where people go. We have beautiful green fields around Sheffield. It is a lovely place to live, but it is difficult to get to Sheffield from here. Sadly, London appears to be the centre of the commercial universe.
My hon. Friend has made a valid point about communications. I am not so sure that London is any longer the centre of the universe, as he suggests. The congestion on our roads is considerable, and the environment in the south-east is no longer so attractive.
We are told at times by Ministers and by developers that it is essential for the headquarters of many companies to be in the golden triangle formed by London, the M3 and the M4 motorways and to be within easy distance of Heathrow. We are told that, if companies are not allowed to develop there, they will move not to other parts of the United Kingdom but abroad. I do not believe that is so.
Because of the economic policies of the Government, multinational and indigenous companies decide to invest in and to stay in this country because there is an enterprise culture, a healthy tax regime and good industrial relations. Therefore, if companies cannot develop and expand in the south-east, I do not believe that they will go to Europe instead. They will go to other parts of the United Kingdom, to the obvious benefit of those areas.
Modern high-tech communications are another important factor. No longer is it necessary to have everyone on one site. Therefore, the Government should move more civil servants away from their high cost offices in Whitehall. There is no longer a need to have a large number of civil servants in London. With high technology, it would be possible for civil servants in different parts of the country to communicate with one another. Therefore, there could be more diversification of companies in the private sector too.
If it is so logical, according to my hon. Friend's argument, for people not to pay £10 per square foot for high technology space in his constituency and not to face the staff shortages which he has described, and if equally it is easy to develop a business with its headquarters in the south but with all the production units in the north where it is more profitable, why did not the business man with whom he was having lunch say, "I am very sorry, but I am going to leave your constituency and go to the more profitable climate in the north"?
Education has to be done. There are two factors. First, time moves on and only now are employers realising just what high unit labour costs they are experiencing and how difficult it is to attract staff. Secondly, they are realising what high rental costs they have to pay. My hon. Friends who represent northern constituencies will confirm that there is also a psychological factor in that too many people who are running major companies in the south-east rarely head north and have a false idea about the enterprise culture in the north and in the regions. There is a job to be done by local authorities, by Ministers and by hon. Members on both sides to persuade the people who can influence commercial moves to look round the regions.
I was speaking about inner-city rejuvenation when my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam intervened. I believe that the Government's inner-city policy, which I wish well, will be only partially successful until we discourage building on green-field sites. Far more can be done in the inner cities. I remind the Minister that we are not Luddite in Berkshire, but we do not want any more development. We are building for first-time buyers because we acknowledge the house cost problem, but for environmental, local and national reasons we believe that excessive development in Berkshire has to stop quickly before further damage is done.
It is essential to root housing policies on a careful assessment of the real needs of the people for decent and appropriate housing at a price they can afford, to buy or to rent. That policy should also take careful consideration of the present condition of the housing stock in both the public and private sectors. All that the Government seem to be offering is a housing marketing and sales programme based on the worship of the idol of the free market. It is surprising that this afternoon devotees of that very idol on the Conservative Benches are at last beginning to challenge the policy.
The policy was given its social face by the Minister. The Minister brought us the idea of the social landlord, but when the Secretary of State spoke it was clear that he was underlining the word "market" in the phrase "the social market" and insisting that market policies be forced upon his Minister. So we never saw the social landlords charter that was promised in Committee.
Local authorities, in co-operation with the Department of the Environment, are drawing up their bids on the basis of the latest available research into the condition of the housing stock and the needs of the people for decent housing. I hope that the Minister will take the local research seriously and not suggest, as the Department, the Secretary of State and he himself have done recently, that the homeless figures are bogus and have not been drawn up properly. That is not the case.
Let us take a simple example of conditions in Leeds, part of which I represent, which has a population of 750,000. The Secretary of State said that in the next Session the Government would bring forward proposals to deal with empty properties in the public sector. I hope that he will bring forward measures to deal with all empty properties. I refer him to the fact that in Leeds there are 20,400 unfit private sector properties and 56,500 private sector properties in need of repair. The cost of repairing those houses is assessed at over £5,000 per house. There are also many houses in multiple occupation, of which 9,000 require works costing approximately £12,000 each to bring them to an acceptable standard.
One problem in the public sector is no longer referred to in Government policy. I am referring to the system-built or non-traditional dwellings that were built through a tied-aid programme after the war. The Government told local authorities that because of the shortage of the basic materials of bricks and timber they could have their housing investment programmes enhanced if they provided system-built housing. Many local authorities of different political persuasions have been left with a legacy of houses that need repair. When will the Government deal with that problem?
In Leeds there are 28,000 non-traditional properties awaiting repair or replacement. Major investment is needed for the repairs. The expenditure on individual properties is beyond the means of individuals, whether owners or tenants. If repairs are needed to owner-occupied houses—for example substantial repairs to the roof., or major improvements—usually this expenditure takes place after the house has been sold. It is carried on the mortgage; it is not paid by the individual at one time.
The need for a proper housing investment programme has been developing since 1979, but the response to that need has been far from adequate to tackle the backlog. Even now we urge the Government to consider restoring the improvement grants for public and private sector housing that they have cut from housing investment allocations. Why not consider allowing renovation programmes, public and private, to get moving? They have been held back by the Government. Why not provide a realistic housing investment programme settlement to enable national resources to be channelled through local authorities, which seem to be rediscovered by Conservative Members when we discuss planning issues, and allow them to put resources into public and private housing stock?
My hon. Friend has raised a very important matter. I want to reinforce the case that my hon. Friend makes for Leeds, and to add to the catalogue of crisis the plight of the west midlands. The housing forum of the west midlands is not made up of Lefty Labour authorities. It is represented by the county councils of Hereford and Worcester, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and the metropolitan districts of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It is unreal to sit in this Chamber listening to speeches about the positiveness of the Government's policy on housing when in a document recently published—
My hon. Friend was making the point that everyone seems to accept that there is need for investment in the housing stock to provide for the needs of the people, whether it is the Duke of Edinburgh's report, the "Faith in the City" report or the analyses of local authorities throughout the country.
It is not just a question of numbers. I can refer the House to a particular family who live in a system-built home. They live in a Myton house, which has been classified by the Department of the Environment in its survey as defectively built. It is a council house. They cannot afford to buy it because of their circumstances, because the wage-earners in that family are unemployed.
I shall not delay the House by discussing defective properties, but I meant that the houses were defectively built. Some were defectively designed and some were defectively built.
I shall give way in a moment.
If that family could afford to buy the house, they would not be able to get a mortgage precisely because those homes have been classified as defective by the Department of the Environment. If they had bought a defective house they would not be able to sell it to someone else. Therefore, they would not be able to move and would be trapped, because the house was classified as defective. If the local authority or others cannot carry out substantial repairs to those defective properties—and the backlog is massive—people will be condemned to live in defective properties until the end of the century. People will have to live in houses that are bad for their health because of the lack of heating systems. They will have no hope of living in a decent and appropriate home.
That applies to some 18,000 people in Leeds who are on the waiting list for a decent and appropriate home. Elderly people cannot get up and down stairs in blocks of flats and need ground floor accommodation. That right should be met and not written off as a statistic. There are 14,500 people on transfer lists waiting to be transferred to housing that suits their needs, as family needs change as people have families, as families grow up and as people become elderly. The figures that I have quoted for Leeds do not take account of the rising tide of homelessness in our society.
I thank the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) for his courteous remarks. As a senior Member, he sets a bad example. I ask the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) to tell us who supervised the building of those council houses that were badly built? Who paid for them? Who wrote the cheque? The fact remains that they were supervised by councils and by their employees who were satisfied when they were built. Suddenly, we decide that they were not up to standard. It is a bit late in the day.
It may be worth tabling a motion to discuss defective housing with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) and other hon. Members. I seem to recall that the Building Research Establishment gave certificates stating that those houses were in decent order when they were built. The defects were detected after some years of wear and tear. I suggest simply that the defects were not known, or the building was badly supervised. I am not going into a full account of defective housing.
Most people feel that the prospect of having a decent home that is appropriate to their family and personal needs is disappearing before the end of the century in city areas such as my constituency. The Government amendment to our motion refers to
a return of prosperity across the whole country".
That prosperity does not apply to everyone.
As my hon. Friend says, hon. Members should try asking those who have to sleep out whether they feel that they are participating in that return of prosperity across the country.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree, or disagree, with the Labour-dominated northern regional council report this year, which says that the north of England is improving under the economic policies of the Government?
I am glad that the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) put it in those terms. The situation is improving, but we are slightly tired of hearing remarks about prosperity across the country. The Prime Minister says that everyone is participating in the increased wealth in Britain. Clearly, everyone is not participating in that wealth. It is unfair to make an inclusive statement that suggests that everyone is sharing in it when some people have been excluded from the wealth that Conservative Members claim exists.
Finally, I must address the issue of homelessness. In the late 1960s and the early 1970s I spent some time working with organisations such as the Cyrenians which tried to deal with homelessness on our streets. Homeless people used to be elderly single men who were alcoholics or who had been broken by the wars. Now, homeless people are predominantly young people and people with families. I never imagined that that would happen in my lifetime.
I believe that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) has already asked this question, but will the Minister tell the House whether the Government intend to change the law on statutory provision for the homeless in our society and to weaken it to reduce the number of homeless people by the statistical exercises that were used in the unemployment debate? Just as the millions of unemployed do not have jobs, and still exist in areas such as my constituency, so the homeless will still be sleeping out on the streets, to the shame of all hon. Members, who at least return to their beds after our debates. Will the Minister confirm that he does not intend to repeal the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act and to limit local authority provision of temporary shelter? It is not just a bed for the night that is required. Surely human beings have a basic right to decent and appropriate housing which they can afford to rent or buy.
I ask the Minister to make it absolutely clear to the homeless and those who work with them that the Government are prepared to honour their responsibilities and will not renege on them.
It has become clear during our debates on housing that the Opposition have not bothered to understand the Housing Bill. The performance which some of us sat through, hour after hour, last Tuesday going through into Wednesday, made it clear that the Labour party does not have a serious strategy in this important area of policy to put right the serious problems which we all know exist in our inner cities, especially London. What the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) said shows that, far from having anything like a serious strategy, the Labour party has not tried in policy terms to deal with this important area.
We have heard the trivial remark that the word "homelessness" does not appear in the Housing Bill. That is insulting to the homeless because it suggests that the Bill does not deal with the problems that lead to homelessness. If Opposition Members had bothered to listen to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said today, they would know that many of the Bill's provisions will help homeless people. No doubt we shall return to those arguments when we debate the Housing Bill next week.
We must examine Labour's record on this subject. I refer to its record not when in government, or indeed what it has promised it will do, but right now. In London, the Labour party controls many councils, and some of the worst slum landlords in London are Labour-controlled councils. They suffer from bad management and a work force which does not work.
The London borough of Lambeth is plagued by strikes. When people in the housing department moved to new refurbished offices the alarm system was still being worked on, so they came out on strike, on and off, for two months. Never mind negotiating and getting on with the job of serving people who need help in Lambeth, they just went on strike. When they are not on strike, they have an unparalleled sickness record. The housing department has gone through three directors in as many years.
Worse, a system designed to help people in sheltered units and the elderly living alone in flats was delayed for years. Now, after five years, that Piper system has been installed in only a small number of sheltered units. Because of political interference—it is difficult sometimes to tell the difference between officers and councillors in Lambeth—the council refused to offer the system to surrounding blocks of flats where old people live by themselves because it was thought that that would somehow be helping the private sector and people who own their own homes. Labour's record is shameful.
There is political interference. For example, Councillor Hazel Smith, when chairman of the housing committee, destroyed officials' confidence by giving instructions to officials at all levels in the housing department. She destroyed their confidence to get on with the job, which is why I say it is difficult to tell the difference between councillors and officers.
When Councillor Fred Taggart was chairman of the housing committee, he said that Vietnamese refugees, whom we all want to help, were fleeing a perfectly reasonable regime and that they were therfore not political refugees. Because of his refusal to help and his instructions to housing officials, 80 and 90-year-old women from Vietnam are living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation to this day. He is also a senior officer in the London borough of Hackney.
Anybody who knows how Labour councils hound and harass their staff if they are not members of the Labour party would think me mad if I revealed my source. It is interesting, however, that the hon. Gentleman should challenge my source rather than the veracity of what I am saying. He must be patient as there is lots more where that comes from. If the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) thinks that my information is not correct, he should find other facts and tell us that what I am saying is not true.
Lambeth council cannot use its housing stock effectively. Joe Hunte court in Knights hill is a sheltered unit reserved exclusively for Afro-Caribbean use. Some hon. Members may say that that is the wrong way in which to use sheltered housing stock, but we should put that argument aside and assume that it is done for the best of motives. The council could not find enough Afro-Caribbean people who qualified for places, so it left at least six units empty. It preferred to leave units empty than to give them to people who desperately needed them. For all I know, some are still empty.
We all know how much it costs to convert a flat for use by a disabled person, but Lambeth does not have a central record of where its disabled units are, so, when somebody moves out, the council cannot put another disabled person in. The result is often that units are squatted and vandalised. Expensive units, paid for by ratepayers or the Government, are therfore no longer available to disabled people, but the council says that it wants more money.
About a year ago, councillors, including the mayor, and council officers went around the Tulse hill estate to see how tenants were getting on. They found that most of the people who lived there were not on the council's roll of tenants, and that there were tenants of whom they had never heard in flats that they expected to be empty. They discovered that rent books were changing hands for money. In short, on that estate, as with many others, Lambeth has lost control of its housing stock.
That is a silly point. Of course, we want money to be spent on the disabled. What I am saying is that when we spend it, we should not spend it on people such as those who run Lambeth council who plainly do not know how to use it.
Inner London is littered with empty blocks of flats in areas of highest stress. That blows out of the water, as does my example of disabled units, the claim that we need more Government money. The examples of empty flats go back further than that. For instance, in Turner road in east London, late 19th-century properties owned by Tower Hamlets council have been empty for 15 years, although I do not blame the Liberals, who control it, for that. When housing associations and charities have sought control of those properties, at least temporarily, to use them for homeless people, Tower Hamlets council has refused.
In case some hon. Members think that that is only a short period, let me give an example involving a longer period. During the past 24 years, the people of King George street, London, SE10, have seen Governments come and go, they have seen policies come and go, but they have seen two properties, owned by the Inner London education authority, stand empty. To suggest, as Opposition Members do, that those properties would be brought back into use if only the Government would provide more money is nonsense and insulting to homeless people in London. If Opposition Members would get off their butts and make sure that those properties were brought back into use, they would be able to talk about this subject, but, until they do, they have no status at all to do so.
There is an absence of Labour strategy. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech—presumably made on the hoof—at the Institute of Housing last week, referred to the crux of everything that we have heard from the Labour party today and in the Housing Bill Committee. All that we have heard is that councils must invest massive amounts of money in council housing, which would be a return to the sort of management that is doing so well in the London borough of Lambeth. That is an insult to those people who need genuine help. The Leader of the Opposition has understood what is needed, but it is a pity that his hon. Friends who speak on housing have not. He said:
Those policies for housing must include the sensitivity to calculate whether forms of provision that might meet simple demands for accommodation also meet the more complex need for homes.
That is absolutely right. The crux of the Housing Bill is that is provides variety. We are seeking to provide social landlords of various sorts, expand housing associations, bring back private renting and protect private tenants from being harassed. We are seeking to expand the provision of housing in London to help the homeless. It is Opposition Members, with no imagination, policies or strategy, who would keep people away from any solution to the problems of housing and homelessness.
I shall not follow the comments of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes). One speech by a Conservative Member which rang a bell and deserves study is that by the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay), who raised a number of important points of which I hope the Government will take note.
The motion combines the housing problems of south-east England and of other parts of these islands. The problem came home to me graphically the other day when a taxi driver mentioned that, some time ago, he had sold for £80,000 the council house that he had bought for £10,000. He then moved in with his mother-in-law, whom he and his wife clearly expected to die fairly soon, helped her to buy the flat in which they were living, and expected to have about £150,000 at his disposal before long. He then hoped to move from London to either Cornwall or Wales, buying a property for £50,000, having £100,000 in the bank and living on the interest.
That brings home the problem that is hitting my part of the world at present and is affecting other areas, including Cornwall, the Lake District, East Anglia and other parts of Wales. The real crisis in rural Wales is the cheque-book invasion—by people who are selling out, particularly in south-east England, and buying up housing stock, as a result of which the prices are shooting up. In the past three months, house prices have gone up by about 20 per cent. One of my constituents has been gazumped three times in six months in trying to buy a property in the constituency, and he can no longer compete. That is the problem facing young married people in my area, where incomes are very low.
The problem is exacerbated by the amalgamation of estate agents. Large companies are now moving in so that, as soon as a house becomes available in some of the rural areas, it is immediately advertised in conurbations such as Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham and London. The cheque-book invasion starts before local people have a chance to compete in the market place. That is having a massive effect on the community in my area and a greater effect in such places as the Lake District, East Anglia and Cornwall. It has an even greater effect in areas where there is a linguistic difference. Hon. Members can well imagine the effect that that can have on a community.
We have heard about the way in which wealth is apparently sweeping across these islands. A press report last February stated that Wales had slumped in the national wages league. According to a report last month in a newspaper covering north Wales, family incomes are less than £80 a week. On average, wages in Wales are £183 per week, according to the new earnings survey last year, compared with £246 per week in south-east England, but many areas of Wales have substantially lower wage levels. In the Arfon area, in my constituency, 43 per cent. of families have less than £80 a week, as the press report states.
There is high unemployment in that area. In the adjoining area of Dwyfor, the unemployment figure last winter was 24·7 per cent., yet that area has the longest waiting list for houses in Pwllheli and Dwyfor that I can remember, as people turn to the public sector to obtain rented accommodation because they cannot compete with people moving in to buy private housing stock. It is a classic example of uneven development and of the core-periphery relationship. We are very much on the periphery.
The situation in my area is exacerbated by the problem of second homes, although that problem is not restricted to my area. In Dwyfor, 17·5 per cent. of the housing stock consists of second homes and, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas), the figure is 16·8 per cent. More than 50 per cent. of some villages consist of second homes. That means that the services disappear in winter and the population then wants to move from the villages to the towns because the basic services are not available, which worsens the situation.
A package of policies could be implemented to reduce the impact of this problem. First, we must consider planning control when a house changes from being a first home to a second home, just as we do when a house becomes a shop or office. Secondly, there should be greater resources for local authorities to intervene to buy up houses to let them in areas where local people could not otherwise compete. That has already started. Some £200,000 has been allocated in the Dwyfor area by the Welsh Office for that purpose, but we need more resources to make an impact. Thirdly, the use of section 52 powers needs to be clarified. The Lake District tries to use those powers considerably to ensure that local authorities can help local people to have a first option on new housing stock in that area.
In Wales, we have a severe problem with unfit houses. A recent house condition survey in Wales showed that 70,000 houses were unfit, out of a total housing stock of about 1 million. The cost of putting those right would be £1·25 billion, which is an enormous sum. That sum reflects a backlog over a number of years. Once again, the Dwfor area in my constituency has the worst figures. A quarter of all the housing units were deemed to be unfit. We expect the valley industrial areas to be the worst, yet a scattered rural area such as Dwyfor came out worst in that survey.
May I draw to the House's attention an item in yesterday's Western Mail which shows that a house in Aberaman in the Cynon valley is on sale for £2,550? It is a partially improved miner's cottage. That sum probably represents the weekly increase in house prices in parts of the home counties. The reason why one can buy such a property for that sum is that local people do not have the incomes to undertake the major repairs required. As a result, we in Wales do not wish to be patronised, as we were at the Conservative party Welsh conference last weekend, when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said:
If you are going to spread prosperity more widely in the North, in Wales, in Scotland, you need the South-East to be prosperous…Its wealth helps pay for the policies to make the rest of the country more wealthy.
I accept that. There is a problem in that buying these houses involves the cost of renovation, not simply the cost of buying. Many in the valleys of industrial south Wales are worried that people will move in because they have the resources to buy up these houses cheaply and renovate them, so that local people are priced out because they do not have enough combined resources both to buy and to renovate. This is also a worry in the Swansea valleys, in Glamorgan and in other areas of Wales from which I have had representations.
Some bodies are trying to overcome these problems —for example, the housing associations. Some of them are doing excellent work in buying up, renovating and letting property, but there is a great danger that, if housing associations have to go to the market to get capital and therefore have to pay the going rate for that capital, the inevitable rents will be out of the reach of many of the people who need such housing. A housing association in my constituency has done a survey of the income level of its tenants, and the average is £60 a week. Such an income will not fund the loans that have to be paid at commercial levels.
I am aware that there is not a Welsh Office Minister on the Government Front Bench, but I hope that the Minister for Housing and Planning, or a Welsh Minister, will look into this problem. There is a need for the Housing Corporation, as it has been restructured in Wales, to be a broker between commercial funds and housing associations to enable adequate additional funds to be both made available from the commercial sector and distributed evenly among the housing associations in Wales.
We need that mechanism, but we also need to make sure that the interest rates do not lead to a rent set at a level above the means of those who need the housing stock prepared by housing associations.
There is also worry in my area about the implications of the wholesale disposal of council estates that is implicit in the Housing Bill. There is a worry that, some five or six years after some of the more attractive rural council estates have been bought up, commercial companies will sell out to the cheque-book invasion and there will be even less rented housing stock available for local people. The answer in such areas does not come from rented private houses, because those who have private rented stock want to retain it for the holiday home market in summer, when they can get a higher rent.
All these problems come together, but planning can overcome them. First, we need primarily to build to meet the local need, and the hon. Member for Berkshire, East made the same point in different circumstances. Planning decisions need to be taken locally, as has been stressed by a number of hon. Members, and the Secretary of State must not overrule planning refusals unless there is an overwhelming case for doing so.
In relation to planning matters in north Wales as in my constituency, is not another restraint on new development the incursion of British Coal's Opencast Executive, which blatantly affects planning applications on green belt land and land next to urban and semi-urban development by the use of large-scale opencast developments, which has a major effect on the environment and the community in the development of new housing and the retention of old housing?
That is a worry in Clwyd and other parts of south Wales. It is important that the interests of the community are taken into account.
I warn the Government of the tensions that are building up because of the cheque-book invasion. People are calling for protection against that invasion in the same way as the people in the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands called for the protection of their housing stocks. We realise that there are impracticalities. However, tensions and feelings are building up, and the Government must realise that they need to make sure that local communities, whether in rural Wales, Cornwall, East Anglia or the Lake District, have enough protection to ensure that their people have a roof over their heads.
Something else is happening. Because of the prices in the south-east, people can make a computation between the cost of moving right out of London—often into south Wales—and commuting back to London, and still be in profit. That has put another pressure on prices of housing in places such as south Wales.
There are great pressures on local people on lower income levels. One realises that income levels are higher in the south-east because of the higher costs, but when such people come in to our areas, it is difficult for our young people and young families to buy. The Government's policy to maximise owner-occupation will not be achieved in such circumstances. There will be tension unless there is action.
Local authorities need resources to buy in, renovate and either rent or sell to people on the waiting list, as happens in Berkshire. There must be lower interest finance to enable local people to compete in buying houses against people from outside the area with higher incomes and we need, overwhelmingly, greater economic growth so that we can have natural competition and do not need to rely on artificial barriers. If our people are forced into a future in which they have neither work to sustain them nor homes which they can afford, there will be a highly explosive cocktail, which the Government will ignore at their peril.
Any debate on housing policy shows the divide between the two sides of the House in both practicalities and philosophy. In terms of practicalities, it is necessary to look at what the Labour party did when it had the opportunity to do something, as the Labour Government's failures in housing gave this Government the opportunity to do what they have been doing. They were no saints. Their failure to keep to their bargain on house building and their severe cuts in home improvement grants were due to their failure to get their sums right and to live up to their promises.
In housing philosophy, the failure was even more marked. Labour's post-war housing philosophy is marked not so much by its professed desire to supply appropriate housing to all households, but more by its determination to use council housing as the sole vehicle for this, whatever the cost and whatever the failures. Secondly, it was marked by a gut desire to restrict the private landlord and the private rented sector, which was to have profound consequences for homelessness today. The loss of 400,000 private dwellings from the rented sector between 1974 and 1979 has cost us dear in the changing nature of homelessness in the past 15 to 20 years.
In this atmosphere of failure of both philosophy and practical policies, the Conservative Government came to office in 1979. The interesting changes of both philosophy and practice have helped to give the Conservative Government's housing policy the large measure of popular support that it now enjoys. First, it has increased involvement of tenants in the management and running of their estates. Not many hon. Members have mentioned the success of the Government's Estates Action programme. In my constituency that programme has been at work in one of the poorest estates, where there is now a growing difference in attitude and environment. Smaller scale management has been encouraged, and there is no doubt that the closer the relationship between those who are tenants and those who manage them is bound to lead to an improvement in relationships and the general environment for those who live on the housing estate.
There has also been a boost in owner-occupation and home ownership. I do not want to make too much of that, because it is possible to over-egg that pudding. The Government's desire to reverse the antipathy that the Labour Government felt towards owner-occupation meant that they may have missed the necessity to concentrate also on the need for low-cost rented housing. However, there has been a marked improvement on that in the past couple of years. The proposals outlined in the Housing Bill to encourage further development in the rented sector, both public and private, will have profoundly beneficial consequences for those who, up to now, have been homeless. It has been necessary for the Government to adopt a two-pronged strategy of both owner-occupation and a greater mix in housing.
The major complaint that my constituents would have of Opposition Members is their rigid adherence to the old solutions to housing problems. There are many areas in this country which have been under Labour local control for about 50 years irrespective of changes in central Government, many of which are still in the same state of decay from which they suffered 30 years ago. The failure of traditional council house management policies since the war has caused the problems that now face us.
The Government have reacted by a change in thinking. They have tried new measures and varied ownership by supporting co-operatives. We welcome the fact that the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) is a great supporter of co-operatives. A few years ago, Liverpool city council—Liverpool being only just down the road from Knowsley—operated a direct policy against co-operatives because it decided that the only way through for rented accommodation was to be found with municipal housing. That is a dead policy.
The dead policies are being pursued by Opposition Members. Improvements in housing in owner-occupation and the rented sector lie only with the Government, where there is variety, choice and freedom.
I accept that, following the elections of 1964 and 1966, the housing policy of the Conservative party became generally a vote winner for it. In 1964 and 1966 the Labour party's policy was definitely a vote winner. Unfortunately, we lost the initiative. That was partly because of the Government's successful sale-of-council-houses policy. The selling of council property to sitting tenants at large discounts proved to be extremely popular.
Housing policy has once again become a vote winner for the Labour party. That will be become increasingly clear as the Housing Bill is understood and the Government's record dawns on people the length and breadth of the country; when people on council estates realise that their homes will be sold to the private sector over their heads. Labour is back in harness and winning votes on account of its housing policy. The Tories are losing votes by wanting to hand over housing to the private market, with all that that means.
I listened with care to the Secretary of State for the Environment. With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, I have produced an ode to the right hon. Gentleman. It is as follows:
I am the very model of a modern Housing Minister; my policies are Conservative, free market, very sinister.
I seek acclaim for all the acts of mine which I deem suitable. But blame all local councils when my mistakes are irrefutable. I baffle all in Parliament with a lengthy documentary,
Ensuring that every syllable gives rise to great controversy. And then if southern Tories are still the victims of perplexity I blame the right hon. Member for Henley, the only thing that makes sense to me.
That was the sum total of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He blamed local authorities for the housing crisis that has been created by the Government's policies. He chose to blame the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) for the disastrous planning policies that the Government have pursued in the south of England.
The Government's record needs careful examination, and the British people understand that. There has been a doubling of homelessness and the creation of the transient homeless youngster because of the Government's changes in social security benefit. There are 2 million who are living in homes that are unfit for human habitation. There are 390,000 concealed households—homeless households who are dependent on relatives and friends. These are the "front-room" families. There has been a 30 per cent. increase in the number of families on local authority waiting lists since 1979. That is not surprising when there has been a 75 per cent. cut in Government money to local authorities to house these people. Local authorities are prevented by the Government from building to replace the dwindling supply of attractive modern council homes. The massive backlog of essential repairs to local authority housing follows in the wake of Government cuts. The Audit Commission estimates that the cost of these repairs is growing at the rate of £900 million a year.
The plight of the public sector pales into insignificance when we consider the state of the private housing sector, where 77 per cent. of unfit dwellings are to be found. Shelter estimates that at the present rate of progress it will take 167 years to eliminate overcrowding for the 1 million who are currently living in multi-occupied housing. It is worth noting that if the pace of house building that prevailed until 1979 had been continued we would have at least 330,000 more homes for 330,000 more families.
We are faced with what amounts to a Government created housing crisis. There is a housing shortage of massive proportions, with an especial shortage of housing to rent. If there is a shortage of a commodity as vital as housing, there must be rationing. If council housing committees, or housing associations, are not controlling the rationing, the market is. Control is inflicted by price. Because the availability of housing to rent and to buy at prices that ordinary people can afford has diminished, families in many parts of the country are stretching themselves to financial breaking point to get on to the ownership ladder. Household debt has consequently increased from slightly less than £51 billion in 1978 to over £204 billion in 1986. Of that sum, £173 billion is accounted for by mortgages. In its wake, repossessions by building societies have increased tenfold between 1979 and 1987. According to the Association of District Councils, 53 per cent. of households in the east of England could not afford to buy their own homes, compared with 15 per cent. only four years ago.Yet the Tories have the audacity to claim to support and assist owner-occupation.
My hon. Friend has referred to repossessions by building societies. When repossessions take place and families are thrown out of their homes, local authorities have to put them in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. I dealt with such a case at my surgery last Friday. The local authority is having to spend more money keeping the couple in bed-and-breakfast accommodation than the couple were having to pay in mortgage payment instalments.
That is happening the length and breadth of the country.
The Tories claim that they are the party of freedom as well as the party that supports owner-occupation. Why do they not implement the Labour party's policy and give tenants of private landlords the right to buy? Why not give the private tenant the right to opt for another landlord, such as the council, a housing association or a co-operative? Why not do that if they want alternative forms of tenure? Why do the Tories not adopt the Labour party's policy of a real right to rent? We would define categories of housing need, and if families came within them they would be entitled by law to accommodation to rent in the local authority sector. If local authorities did not have sufficient housing, the resources that would be provided by a Labour Government would be used to acquire property from the private sector to rent to those in housing need.
That is the reverse of what the Government intend. It seems that they now intend to destroy the homeless persons legislation. They seek to destroy the limited rights to rehousing that homeless families now have in law. Yet the Conservative party claims to be the party of freedom. There is no freedom in a housing crisis of scarcity and price.
The Government's proposals as set out in the Housing Bill—it is still before Parliament, thanks to the Labour party—will make the position even worse. Where is the choice for the council tenant who cannot get a transfer or exchange, who wants to move and who cannot afford to
buy? Where is the choice for the tenant who is railroaded into a housing action trust and into the hands of an unknown housing association, with no vote or right to consultation? The Institute of Housing assessed HATs and stated:
The danger of a housing centred approach based upon changing tenures is that regeneration may come about through changing the nature of the population living in the area, rather than through improving the economic circumstances and life chances of those already there.
It is social engineering of the worst sort. That is why the majority of tenants in potential HAT areas are opposed to the proposals.
Where is the choice for tenants under the Government's pick-a-landlord scheme; tenants who do not want to opt out but who see the decision-making system rigged and the voting system fixed to make nonsense of the idea of choice? We read today in The Guardian that the people who, in the pick-a-landlord scheme, opt to remain with the local authority will pay the same high rents as those who choose to go to a private landlord. It will be chaos. The Minister has said that the local authority can subsidise the rent of the person who has opted to stay with the council and who has to pay the same rent as those who chose to be with a private landlord. We have the local authority, with diminished resources, having to subsidise the private landlord. That is what the Minister's remarks mean.
Where is the choice for the family who are in bed-and-breakfast accommodation? Where is the choice for those who cannot afford the Tory's new market rents? Where is the choice for the elderly who cannot get into sheltered housing or an old person's bungalow? Where is the choice for the elderly who have to sell their house after a lifetime of paying for it to provide an income to supplement their benefit, which has been so cruelly cut by the Government? The Government believe in housing choice—choice for the rich to be well housed, choice for the private landlord and not for the tenant, and choice for the poor and those on low incomes to be badly housed. That is the kind of choice offered by the Government's housing policies and Housing Bill.
This debate is also about planning, and something needs to be said about the Government's record in that respect. The Tories see planning as a fetter on the free market, and since 1979 successive Secretaries of State have been doing their best to destroy Britain's proud planning system. The present Secretary of State may be the worst and the ultimate arch free market man, but the right hon. Member for Henley was not much better. He began and inspired the whole process in the first place. As the party that founded the planning system with the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, Labour has been watching with dismay as the planning system has progressively weakened, especially at a strategic level.
The Government have produced a number of special measures which they claim are designed to revive urban areas, enterprise zones, urban development corporations and now simplified planning zones—to say nothing of garden festivals. Such measures may have revived a few areas of urban land, but that has been done at the price of local democracy. Local urban development corporations have imposed policies that are at complete variance with those of the local authorities. Urban development corporations, and particularly the LDDC, behave as if they are dealing with green-field sites rather than with places where people already live and work. Elsewhere, dereliction has been created. Research commissioned by the Government themselves shows that, in many cases, enterprise zones and urban development corporations have merely sucked in development from the surrounding area, so dereliction has only been moved, not reduced.
At the same time, the Government have been dismantling strategic planning. The abolition of the metropolitan authorities and the GLC has left a gap that district and borough council joint committees cannot fill. The Government now propose to replace county structure plans with weaker "county statements". The power of counties to intervene when districts are faced with plans that go against structure plans has already been removed. Planners are being asked by the Government to facilitate development, not to judge it. That is the basis of the difficulties in which the Secretary of State finds himself with his own supporters in the south of England.
The Government claim, under pressure from their own supporters, to be protecting green belts and the countryside from piecemeal development, yet their public investment programmes direct development towards the countryside. New motorways such as the M25 and M40, and the concentration of defence establishments along the London to Bristol access, are two huge examples. Individual decisions by the Secretary of State on housing, out-of-town superstores, second homes, mining or forestry for national parks breach the plans for areas under pressure and create more "hope value" and development pressure around them.
The recent change in opencast coal mining policy announced by the Department of the Environment is a prime example of the environment being sacrificed to facilitate development and of the Department's decisions being investment-led. rather than environment-led, which is wrong.
What is Labour's alternative? We believe that there should be a strategic overview. A strategic authority should be established to provide planning guidance and set the context for local planning. As part of a general commitment to a better environment, land use planning should incorporate an environmental dimension. Noise, air and water pollution and the protection of natural areas all need to be considered when planning applications and local plans are discussed. Our proposed environmental protection service, which a Labour Government would establish, would be locally run and be provided with the necessary back-up.
At present, people have only limited powers within the planning system to control the shaping of their environment. Labour is committed to changing that. Our charter for the environment sets out proposals for public action zones, which we shall empower and encourage local authorities to declare. As with urban development corporations, public action zones will have Government support, strong compulsory purchase powers, and considerable public funding to tackle key areas of decline. Unlike urban development corporations, they will be based on the needs and wishes of local communities; they will not override them.
The Labour party seeks a balance between city and country and to revive urban areas, making them pleasant and attractive places in which to live. If further urban expansion is needed, it should be planned, with properly serviced and properly centred development, rather than an unplanned sprawl. Both existing and new urban areas should be affordable to all. Unlike the Government, we seek to enhance and protect the countryside, but as an open recreational resource accessible to all. Planning should not he considered in isolation. It is the means of creating healthier, livelier and more pleasant communities for all. The Tories see planning as an impediment to the operation of the free market. If the Secretary of State has his way, planning as we know it will be destroyed, as the free market takes over. As the planning system is destroyed, so too will be the environment.
Hon. Members have made a number of points, to which I shall respond, but first I remind the House of two comments made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the beginning of this debate. Opposition Members have charged that we do not have any regional housing and planning policies. It is true that we do not believe that all house building should be centrally planned and directed. As the last Labour Government proved, the centralist approach neither aids growth nor helps the poorer regions. Instead, it delays change, inhibits growth, and depresses living standards.
By contrast, the Government's approach has been proved to work. In housing, we first set out to encourage owner-occupation. The number of home owners has increased by 3 million and private house building is at its highest level since 1973. We are now tackling the rented sector, encouraging investment and creating the conditions that will allow a more diverse and responsive rented sector to be created. Again, we aim to put consumer choice in place of state imposed choices. By doing so, we believe that we will both increase investment and give the people the housing that they want.
We need to bear in mind the link between housing and planning policies. Turning first to the planning side, the Government have strenuously sought to update the apparatus of planning and to keep policies for the development and use of land in tune with current needs. The planning system that we inherited had to be adapted to cope with the realities of the 1980s, and successive Secretaries of State have faced the need to make the many —sometimes controversial—changes that were required. We have increased permitted development rights by changes to the General Development Order, recast the Use Classes Order, and introduced provisions for simplified planning zones.
At the same time, we have not hesitated to increase control where that has been needed to protect and enhance the environment. For example, we have increased controls over farm and forestry buildings and roads in national parks, and in revising the General Development Order we shall be introducing controls over intensive livestock units, loft conversions, and stone-cladding in conservation areas.
Many people have expressed concern about the green belts and the Government's stewardship of them. Those fears have proved unfounded, as all Members must now concede. Despite frequent challenges and planning applications and appeals, local planning authorities and the Secretary of State have consistently upheld the integrity of the green belts.
Concern has been expressed today that too much unrestrained development is taking place in the south-east.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) asked whether the estimates of future housing provision by SERPLAN and LPAC, covering the period from 1991 to 2001, are correct. We would all like a definite answer, but there are a number of variables. They include the estimated number of extra households, the number of existing dwellings, and the number of properties that will be built between now and 1991. SERPLAN provided new evidence last week and LPAC is still working on its advice to the Secretary of State. We shall he resolving that matter and issuing strategic guidance for London and the south-east in due course.
We would like to encourage development in other areas where it will be welcome; hence our inner-city policies. The uniform business rate will make locations outside the south more attractive. High land and house prices will also tend to encourage development elsewhere, where prices are lower and skilled labour is more readily available. As my right hon. Friend commented, there are already signs that the growing prosperity, which first became evident in the south-east, is spreading to other parts of the country. Opposition Members should be wary of discounting those market mechanisms too quickly and committing themselves to the bureaucracy and inefficiency of centralised planning.
My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) mentioned the problem of coping with extra housing provision in Berkshire. The modifications to the structure plan proposed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State were to ensure that provision met the requirements arising from the local population.
It is necessary to be realistic about what the planning system alone can achieve. It cannot stimulate development that does not meet demand. Restraint in one area will not automatically steer development to another. As 1992 approaches, we also need to be cautious about driving development out of the country altogether. We do not want to force people to live where they are unwilling to go. The household projections show that the growth in households in the south-east comes largely from indigenous growth. All of us should think very carefully before committing ourselves to a policy which might, in effect, force sons and daughters to seek homes and work away from the areas in which they were brought up.
They have obviously not read the proposals in detail and are unaware of the benefits that that will bring to other parts of the country.
There is already restraint in the south-east. The debate is about whether it would be wise to make that even tighter, with all the consequences for house prices and the availability of housing for the less well off that that would entail. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) made a cogent statement of the arguments and of the need to provide more housing where people want to live.
The pressure for development and the increasing resort to the appeals machinery have put increasing strain on the planning system. It is important to stress that 98 per cent. of planning permissions are given by local authorities.
More frequent resort to appeals can also create uncertainty. But in many places that is compounded by the absence of any local plan. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned, last week we issued for consultation a draft planning policy guidance note on the preparation of local plans. The message to district planning authorities is to prepare plans as quickly as possible, particularly for areas where there is a conflict between the need for development and the interests of the local environment. Proper consultation on local plans will provide the best way of allowing local communities to resolve these conflicts themselves in a sensible and realistic way. We believe this message will be widely welcomed and we hope that districts will act quickly to extend their coverage of detailed plans.
By this means local amenity can be safeguarded and provision made for necessary development, including additional house building. More importantly, this approach will help to ensure that, wherever possible, the conflicts between development and amenity are solved at local level.
I hope that the local plans will be brought up to date. Many councils do not have up-to-date local plans. Unfortunately, that means that there is no basis for a planning decision, and action has to be taken through the inspector appeals system.
On housing, our policies are clear. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey tried to argue that they were not, but we have always had two clear policy aims. Our first aim is to ensure that as many people as possible can own their own homes. That is why we are committed to mortgage interest tax relief and have pursued the right-to-buy policy and diversified the rented sector. The hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) suggested that mortgage interest tax relief served no housing policy aim. Helping 3 million more people to own their own homes is a worthy aim.
In order to create greater choice for those who do not want or cannot afford to buy their own homes, we want to reduce tenants' dependency on the local authority sector and the restrictions that have squeezed out private investment in housing for rent. The provisions in the Housing Bill to deregulate private-sector rents and give tenants the opportunity to change their landlord represent the first step in encouraging a greater variety of landlords.
We have not avoided debate on those issues and we have been willing to bring forward amendments to the Bill. We are, after all, believers in democracy.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) talked about the effect of market rents. He quoted figures over £100 per week. The hon. Member for Knowsley, North made a thoughtful contribution, in which he pointed out that the supply of rented accommodation depended upon the economics of property ownership. He, too, felt that private rented housing would be out of people's reach. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey also stressed the need for new rented housing to be affordable. I agree with the hon. Member for Knowsley, North that it all depends on the economics, but Opposition Members have forgotten the extent of the measures taken to encourage private investment.
We will ensure that public subsidy is available where it is necessary to provide accommodation to let at below market levels. Housing association grant will be available from the Housing Corporation and local authorities will be able to provide subsidies to private and housing association landlords. We have just announced that, as with housing association grant, such subsidies can be up to 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. of total scheme costs, depending on the area.
On top of the direct subsidies available to the private rented sector, the business expansion scheme is to be extended to private renting, and that will give favourable tax treatment to investment in private renting over the next five years. The tax concessions, combined with subsidies from local authorities, will provide a powerful stimulus to private investment in rented housing, enabling us to get more houses from the public resources available for housing investment. The generous tax relief available and the subsidies available from the Housing Corporation and local authorities demonstrate that we are committed to putting Government support where it is needed most.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne was near the mark when he talked about rented accommodation at reasonable rents. The measures will provide a powerful incentive to bring private rented properties back into use and to build more for rent.
To answer the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), the measures will also help to stimulate investment in the repair and improvement of private rented dwellings. The hon. Gentleman asked us to restore expenditure on improvement grants to home owners. Spending on improvement grants is still nearly double in real terms what it was when the Labour Government were in power, and since 1979 we have spent £3·5 billion on grants to home owners.
Several hon. Members referred to the state of the local authority stock and the availability of resources for repair. Local authorities are spending nearly £3 billion a year on repair and maintenance, and a number of authorities, including Labour authorities, which complain of lack of resources, fail to use to the full their power to spend up to 100 per cent. of receipts for capital repairs.
That represents a coherent strategy to end the local authority monopoly in rented housing, to increase investment, to widen consumer choice and improve standards of management. We may not believe in direct public sector provision, but more public sector resources are being made available.
The Opposition appear still to hanker after the failed dirigiste attempts at planning of the 1960s, to want to impose the dead hand of control and regulation, and to exhume the bodies of the Department of Economic Affairs and the national plan. The Government's policies have created a boom in private house building and in owner-occupation; and we are now intent on reviving the rented sector. We want to create the conditions in which the private sector can thrive and where even those who need help with their housing costs have a choice. We aim to give people the housing that they want.
|Division No. 374]||[6.59 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Dalyell, Tam|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Allen, Graham||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)|
|Alton, David||Dewar, Donald|
|Anderson, Donald||Dixon, Don|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Dobson, Frank|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Doran, Frank|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Douglas, Dick|
|Ashton, Joe||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth|
|Barron, Kevin||Eadie, Alexander|
|Battle, John||Eastham, Ken|
|Beckett, Margaret||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Bell, Stuart||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Fatchett, Derek|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Fearn, Ronald|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Blair, Tony||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Blunkett, David||Fisher, Mark|
|Boateng, Paul||Flannery, Martin|
|Boyes, Roland||Flynn, Paul|
|Bradley, Keith||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Foster, Derek|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Foulkes, George|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Fraser, John|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Fyfe, Maria|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Galbraith, Sam|
|Buchan, Norman||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Buckley, George J.||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Caborn, Richard||George, Bruce|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Canavan, Dennis||Gordon, Mildred|
|Cartwright, John||Gould, Bryan|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Graham, Thomas|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Clay, Bob||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Clelland, David||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Grocott, Bruce|
|Cohen, Harry||Hardy, Peter|
|Coleman, Donald||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Corbett, Robin||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Cousins, Jim||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cox, Tom||Hogg, N.(Cnauld & Kilsyth)|
|Crowther, Stan||Holland, Stuart|
|Cryer, Bob||Home Robertson, John|
|Cummings, John||Hood, Jimmy|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D.(S'heath)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Howells, Geraint||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Hoyle, Doug||Parry, Robert|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Patchett, Terry|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Pendry, Tom|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Pike, Peter L.|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Prescott, John|
|lllsley, Eric||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Ingram, Adam||Radice, Giles|
|Janner, Greville||Randall, Stuart|
|John, Brynmor||Redmond, Martin|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)||Reid, Dr John|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)||Richardson, Jo|
|Kennedy, Charles||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Rogers, Allan|
|Lambie, David||Rooker, Jeff|
|Lamond, James||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Rowlands, Ted|
|Leighton, Ron||Ruddock, Joan|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Salmond, Alex|
|Lewis, Terry||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Litherland, Robert||Sheerman, Barry|
|Livingstone, Ken||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Livsey, Richard||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Short, Clare|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Skinner, Dennis|
|McAllion, John||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Smith, C.(IsI'ton & F'bury)|
|McCartney, Ian||Smith, Rt Hon J.(Monk'ds E)|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Snape, Peter|
|McFall, John||Soley, Clive|
|McLeish, Henry||Spearing, Nigel|
|Maclennan, Robert||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|McTaggart, Bob||Stott, Roger|
|McWilliam, John||Strang, Gavin|
|Madden, Max||Straw, Jack|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Marek, Dr John||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Martin, Michael J.(Springburn)||Turner, Dennis|
|Martlew, Eric||Wall, Pat|
|Maxton, John||Wallace, James|
|Meacher, Michael||Walley, Joan|
|Meale, Alan||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Michael, Alun||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Williams, Alan W.(Carm'then)|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Wilson, Brian|
|Morley, Elliott||Winnick, David|
|Morris, Rt Hon A.(W'shawe)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)||Worthington, Tony|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Wray, Jimmy|
|Mullin, Chris||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Nellist, Dave||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|O'Brien, William||Mr. Frank Cook.|
|Adley, Robert||Atkinson, David|
|Alexander, Richard||Baker, Rt Hon K.(Mole Valley)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)|
|Allason, Rupert||Baldry, Tony|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Amess, David||Batiste, Spencer|
|Amos, Alan||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Arbuthnot, James||Bellingham, Henry|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bendall, Vivian|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Ashby, David||Benyon, W.|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Atkins, Robert||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Body, Sir Richard||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Boswell, Tim||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bottomley, Peter||Gorst, John|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Gow, Ian|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Bowis, John||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Gregory, Conal|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Brazier, Julian||Grist, lan|
|Bright, Graham||Ground, Patrick|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Grylls, Michael|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hannam, John|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Hargreaves, A.(B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Burns, Simon||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Burt, Alistair||Harris, David|
|Butcher, John||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Butler, Chris||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Butterfill, John||Hayes, Jerry|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hayward, Robert|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Carrington, Matthew||Heddle, John|
|Carttiss, Michael||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cash, William||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hill, James|
|Chope, Christopher||Hind, Kenneth|
|Churchill, Mr||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochtord)||Holt, Richard|
|Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S)||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K.(Rushcliffe)||Howard, Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Conway, Derek||Howarth, G.(Cannock & B'wd)|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Couchman, James||Hughes, Robert G.(Harrow W)|
|Cran, James||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Critchley, Julian||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hunter, Andrew|
|Curry, David||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Davies, Q.(Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Irvine, Michael|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Irving, Charles|
|Day, Stephen||Jack, Michael|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Jackson, Robert|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Janman, Tim|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Jessel, Toby|
|Dover, Den||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Dunn, Bob||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Durant, Tony||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Key, Robert|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Kilfedder, James|
|Evennett, David||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Fallon, Michael||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Farr, Sir John||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Favell, Tony||Knapman, Roger|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Knowles, Michael|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Knox, David|
|Forman, Nigel||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirllng)||Lang, Ian|
|Forth, Eric||Latham, Michael|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Franks, Cecil||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Freeman, Roger||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|French, Douglas||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Fry, Peter||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Gardiner, George||Lightbown, David|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Lord, Michael|
|Lyell, Sir Nicholas||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|McCrindle, Robert||Scott, Nicholas|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael||Shephard, Mrs G.(Norfolk SW)|
|McNair-Wilson, P.(New Forest)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Madel, David||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Shersby, Michael|
|Mans, Keith||Sims, Roger|
|Maples, John||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Marlow, Tony||Speller, Tony|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Squire, Robin|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Steen, Anthony|
|Mills, lain||Stern, Michael|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Stevens, Lewis|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Moate, Roger||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Sumberg, David|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Summerson, Hugo|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Morrison, Sir Charles||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Moss, Malcolm||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Mudd, David||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Neale, Gerrard||Thompson, D.(Calder Valley)|
|Needham, Richard||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Thorne, Neil|
|Neubert, Michael||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Townsend, Cyril D.(B'heath)|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Tracey, Richard|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Tredinnick, David|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Trippier, David|
|Page, Richard||Trotter, Neville|
|Paice, James||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Patnick, Irvine||Viggers, Peter|
|Patten, Chris (Bath)||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Pawsey, James||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Walden, George|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Waller, Gary|
|Portillo, Michael||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Price, Sir David||Warren, Kenneth|
|Raffan, Keith||Watts, John|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Wells, Bowen|
|Rathbone, Tim||Whitney, Ray|
|Redwood, John||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Renton, Tim||Wilshire, David|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Wolfson, Mark|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Wood, Timothy|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Woodcock, Mike|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Yeo, Tim|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Ryder, Richard||Mr. Robert Boscawen and|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Mr. David Maclean.|
|Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Division No. 375]||[7.14 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Day, Stephen|
|Alexander, Richard||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Allason, Rupert||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Dover, Den|
|Amess, David||Dunn, Bob|
|Amos, Alan||Dykes, Hugh|
|Arbuthnot, James||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Evennett, David|
|Ashby, David||Fallon, Michael|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Farr, Sir John|
|Atkins, Robert||Favell, Tony|
|Atkinson, David||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Baker, Rt Hon K.(Mole Valley)||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Fmsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Baldry, Tony||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Forman, Nigel|
|Batiste. Spencer||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Forth, Eric|
|Bellingham, Henry||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Bendall, Vivian||Franks, Cecil|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Freeman, Roger|
|Benyon, W.||French, Douglas|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fry, Peter|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Gardiner, George|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir lan|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Body, Sir Richard||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Boswell, Tim||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Bottomley, Peter||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Gorst, John|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Gow, Ian|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Bowis, John||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Gregory, Conal|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')|
|Brazier, Julian||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Bright, Graham||Grist, Ian|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Ground, Patrick|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Grylls, Michael|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Burns, Simon||Hannam, John|
|Burt, Alistair||Hargreaves, A.(B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Butcher, John||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Butler, Chris||Harris, David|
|Butterfill, John||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hayes, Jerry|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hayward, Robert|
|Carttiss, Michael||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Cash, William||Heddle, John|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Chope, Christopher||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Churchill, Mr||Hill, James|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hind, Kenneth|
|Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S)||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K.(Rushcliffe)||Holt, Richard|
|Colvin, Michael||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Conway, Derek||Howard, Michael|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Howarth, G.(Cannock & B'wd)|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Couchman, James||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Cran, James||Hughes, Robert G.(Harrow W)|
|Critchley, Julian||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hunt, John (Ravensboume)|
|Curry, David||Hunter, Andrew|
|Davies, Q.(Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Irvine, Michael|
|Irving, Charles||Pawsey, James|
|Jack, Michael||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Jackson, Robert||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Janman, Tim||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Jessel, Toby||Portillo, Michael|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Price, Sir David|
|Jones, Robert B (Herts W)||Raffan, Keith|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Key, Robert||Rathbone, Tim|
|Kilfedder, James||Redwood, John|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Renton, Tim|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Knapman, Roger||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Knowles, Michael||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Knox, David||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Rost, Peter|
|Lang, lan||Rowe, Andrew|
|Latham, Michael||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Ryder, Richard|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Scott, Nicholas|
|Lightbown, David||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Lilley, Peter||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lloyd, Sir lan (Havant)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Lord, Michael||Shephard, Mrs G.(Norfolk SW)|
|Lyell, Sir Nicholas||Shepherd, Colin (Heretord)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Shersby, Michael|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Sims, Roger|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Maclean, David||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Speller, Tony|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|McNair-Wilson, P.(New Forest)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Madel, David||Squire, Robin|
|Malins, Humfrey||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Mans, Keith||Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|Maples, John||Steen, Anthony|
|Marlow, Tony||Stern, Michael|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Stevens, Lewis|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Sumberg, David|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Summerson, Hugo|
|Mills, lain||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, lan (Esher)|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Mitchell, David (Hanfs NW)||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Moate, Roger||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Thompson, D.(Calder Valley)|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Morrison, Sir Charles||Thorne, Neil|
|Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Moss, Malcofm||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Townsend, Cyril D.(B'heath)|
|Mudd, David||Tracey, Richard|
|Neale, Gerrard||Tredinnick, David|
|Needham, Richard||Trippier, David|
|Nelson, Anthony||Trotter, Neville|
|Neubert, Michael||Twinn, Dr lan|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Viggers, Peter|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Waddington, Rt Hon Davld|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Page, Richard||Walden, George|
|Paice, James||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Waller, Gary|
|Patnick, Irvine||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Patten, Chris (Bath)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Warren, Kenneth|
|Watts, John||Wolfson, Mark|
|Wells, Bowen||Wood, Timothy|
|Wheeler, John||Woodcock, Mike|
|Whitney, Ray||Yeo, Tim|
|Widdecombe, Ann||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wilshire, David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Winterton, Mrs Ann||Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and|
|Winterton, Nicholas||Mr. Tony Durant.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Allen, Graham||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth|
|Alton, David||Eadie, Alexander|
|Anderson, Donald||Eastham, Ken|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Ashby, David||Fatchett, Derek|
|Ashton, Joe||Fearn, Ronald|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Fisher, Mark|
|Barron, Kevin||Flannery, Martin|
|Battle, John||Flynn, Paul|
|Beckett, Margaret||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Beil, Stuart||Foster, Derek|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Foulkes, George|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Fraser, John|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fyfe, Maria|
|Blair, Tony||Galbraith, Sam|
|Blunkett, David||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Boateng, Paul||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Boyes, Roland||George, Bruce|
|Bradley, Keith||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Gordon, Mildred|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Graham, Thomas|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Buchan, Norman||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Buckley, George J.||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Caborn, Richard||Grocott, Bruce|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Hardy, Peter|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Canavan, Dennis||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Cartwright, John||Hinchliffe, David|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hogg, N.(C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Holland, Stuart|
|Clay, Bob||Home Robertson, John|
|Clelland, David||Hood, Jimmy|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cohen, Harry||Howell, Rt Hon D.(S'heath)|
|Coleman, Donald||Howells, Geraint|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Hoyle, Doug|
|Corbett, Robin||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Cousins, Jim||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Cox, Tom||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Crowther, Stan||lllsley, Eric|
|Cryer, Bob||Ingram, Adam|
|Cummings, John||Janner, Greville|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||John, Brynmor|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Kennedy, Charles|
|Dewar, Donald||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Dixon, Don||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Dobson, Frank||Lamond, James|
|Doran, Frank||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Douglas, Dick||Leighton, Ron|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Lewis, Terry||Reid, Dr John|
|Litherland, Robert||Richardson, Jo|
|Livingstone, Ken||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Livsey, Richard||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Rogers, Allan|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Rooker, Jeff|
|McAllion, John||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Rowlands, Ted|
|McCartney, lan||Ruddock, Joan|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Salmond, Alex|
|McFall, John||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McLeish, Henry||Sheerman, Barry|
|Maclennan, Robert||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McWilliam, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Madden, Max||Short, Clare|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Skinner, Dennis|
|Marek, Dr John||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Smith, C.(lsl'ton & F'bury)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Smith, Rt Hon J.(Monk'ds E)|
|Martin, Michael J.(Springburn)||Snape, Peter|
|Martlew, Eric||Soley, Clive|
|Maxton, John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Meacher, Michael||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Meale, Alan||Stott, Roger|
|Michael, Alun||Strang, Gavin|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Straw, Jack|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Turner, Dennis|
|Morley, Elliott||Wall, Pat|
|Morris, Rt Hon A.(W'shawe)||Wallace, James|
|Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)||Walley, Joan|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Mullin, Chris||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Murphy, Paul||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Nellist, Dave||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Brien, William||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Williams, Alan W.(Carm'then)|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Wilson, Brian|
|Parry, Robert||Winnick, David|
|Patchett, Terry||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Pendry, Tom||Wray, Jimmy|
|Pike, Peter L.||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Radice, Giles||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Randall, Stuart||Mr. Frank Cook.|
That this House congratulates the Government on its housing and planning policies which have helped more people than ever before to own their own homes and, while protecting and extending the approved Green Belts, have created the conditions for a return of prosperity across the whole country; welcomes the proposals in the Housing Bill to widen the choice of housing available for rent; notes with satisfaction the planned increases in the Housing Corporation's programme and the additional resources being allocated to local authorities to tackle immediate problems of homelessness, bringing to £74 million the additional resources made available over the last six months; and urges local authorities to use these and other resources to end the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for families as quickly as possible.