Housing and Planning Policies

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 22nd June 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith 3:47 pm, 22nd June 1988

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.