I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about housing in Newham. In fact, I am pleased to be allowed to speak at all, Mr. Deputy Speaker—in complete contrast to your experience and mine in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
In Newham, as in many other areas—but in Newham in particular—we are entering a new period of promise, despite what the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) felt obliged to say. That promise has been built up over the past 10 years during which the tide has turned against years of neglect of a supposedly unfashionable part of London that has had to shoulder the legacy of a past that has sometimes been colourful but which has generally been weighed down by the burdens of industrial decline. Many housing difficulties remain to be overcome in Newham but they are now being confronted through Government policies which will transform housing in the area.
Let me respond directly to some of the questions that the hon. Member for Newham, North-East asked in his speech. There has been a significant decline in the private rented sector—from 50 per cent. of the total housing stock immediately after the war to 8 per cent. now. That is totally unacceptable. The amount of private rented sector housing has fallen for two reasons—first, because the Rent Acts have inhibited those who would be private landlords or potential investors in private rented stock, and secondly, because of the expansion of municipalisation. The problem that we face with large housing stocks—and no one denies that Newham has a large housing stock—is that it is impossible for local authorities to control and manage it effectively. I shall return to that later.
There will not be much political knockabout in my speech, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall address myself to the questions that he raised. I must say, though, that I find it fascinating that, despite the Labour party's love of municipal housing, the last Labour Government reduced public expenditure in public housing in each of the three years before they were kicked out of office in 1979. Labour Members have never given me a suitable explanation of that—either because they cannot or because they know what Conservative Members suspect —that the Labour Government were forced to take such action through the IMF intervening. We are all familiar with that period in the Labour Government's chequered history.
I will concentrate on two main ways in which the Government are acting to improve the homes and lives of Newham residents. First, we are acting through the opportunities provided by the Government's policies for the regeneration of east London—docklands and the areas beyond. All will benefit from the increased wealth that those policies are bringing. Housing has a major part in that regeneration. Secondly, we are acting through the Government's housing policies which offer choice, effective targeting of resources, and the attraction of private resources along with public money, in place of the hopelessly monolithic and unimaginative solutions which have previously been tried with good intentions but with poor results.
Let me begin with the first, by explaining the benefits of the exciting programme of the London Docklands development corporation for the royal docks. Although the hon. Gentleman tried to convince the House that there is no ideological difficulty with the local authority of Newham working with the private sector, I have not seen much evidence of Newham council working with the London Docklands development corporation.