Duty to Keep Housing Revenue Account

Part of Clause 71 – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 7th November 1989.

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Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith 5:45 pm, 7th November 1989

We shall seek to divide the House on amendment (b) because we do not want any rent increase over and above the highest agreed by the Government in the last three years, which is about £1·95. As I have said, they will increase this year by £4·50 for many people. We shall seek to divide the House because we believe that the increase should be held to a maximum of £1·95, given that the increases that the Government have brought about over the previous eight or nine years have been well above what would normally have been expected by tenants.

I turn now to amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 119. As capitalised repairs will increase costs, when setting the Government's prescribed rent levels, I should like the Secretary of State to take their effect into account. As my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) said in an intervention, the danger is that if the new capital value rents are taken into account together with the capitalised repairs problem, there is no doubt that several local authorities around the country—again, of all political colours—will face rent increases running into two figures—in other words, of over £10 per week. Furthermore, the authorities will not be able to do much about it. They could stop doing some of the repairs, with all that that implies for a worsening in living conditions and a decline in the housing stock. However, even if they leave some repairs, they cannot ignore them all and will then face rent increases in some areas of over £10 per week.

I am simply asking the Secretary of State to take into account capitalised repairs before setting the rents. The Government's assumed maintenance figure for capitalised repairs may be wrong for 1990–91. Indeed, I am sure that it will be wrong. At this stage I simply want to put on the record the fact that I believe that there will be strong evidence to support that.

I have spoken for longer than I had intended, but as hon. Members will agree, I have taken several interventions. These issues are incredibly important. I end where I began, by saying that we are facing a housing crisis in this country the like of which we have not faced since the end of the second world war. The position is now desperately serious. I pray in aid again the Association of District Councils, which has produced a report entitled "A Time to Take Stock", stating that we need to spend between £36 billion and £50 billion just to maintain the existing stock in good repair or rather to improve its condition. When sentiments such as that come from Conservative organisations which are pleading with the Government to do something, I know that what my hon. Friends and I have been saying for many years is correct.

The housing crisis that is tearing apart the fabric of our society is not confined to the inner cities. It does not just affect the high-priced areas of the south. It is tearing apart the lives and the communities of people in urban and rural parts of Britain, in the north, south, east and west. Its worst form is the homeless child begging in the streets. Its everyday form can be seen in the people who cannot afford to pay their rents or mortgages and who become homeless as a result.