The sale of council houses and the way in which local authorities have been effectively conned by the Government is now becoming palpably clear even to the most myopic Conservative Members.
The policy was effectively sold on the ground that the money that local authorities got in capital receipts from the sale of council housing could then be applied to the building of further council housing. There was a certain symmetry in that argument that appealed to Conservative Members and even to some Labour Members. We now realise that that is no longer the case. Gradually the amount of money that can be applied in any given year has been steadily reduced, but. until the most recent changes, at least it still meant that 100 per cent. of capital receipts over a period of time could be used for further capital investment in council housing stock. That is no longer the case and tonight is the final twist in Government policy. Conservative Members used the Government's argument about the sale of council housing to justify accepting it hook, line, and sinker. I hope that they now realise that they have been conned by their Government.
A vigil is now being held outside No. 10 Downing street for homeless people in London. The plight of the homeless in London has now reached a crisis level that one could never have dreamt of in one's worst nightmares five years ago. The Government must realise that the situation in London is so dire that unless local authorities are allowed to go back to the full construction of council housing one trembles to think what London will be like in five years time.
Surely the Government must realise that their sale of council housing policy, linked to a refusal to allow local authorities to use capital receipts for further construction, is a disaster. It was a twist and a con from the start; now it has turned into a tragedy for millions of people who are desperately anxious for improved accommodation.
There are now hundreds of thousands of homeless in London and they will be pointing their fingers at the Government and blaming them for the housing crisis that now afflicts London and the nation.