Mortgage Costs and Housing

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:20 pm on 13th December 1989.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 6:20 pm, 13th December 1989

I thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I will see you afterwards.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Summerson) has a charming and disarming way of addressing the House. It is no wonder that he was voted the most romantic Member of Parliament. He told us an anecdote. As he is the Member for Walthamstow, what was he doing cycling through Knightsbridge? He did not tell us. If he spent more time cycling through Walthamstow, he would see more of the problems facing his constituents.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow even comes to the House looking like Neville Chamberlain's private secretary. Many of his views hark back to those days, and I shall touch on some of them.

Personal anecdotes are no way to solve London's massive housing crisis. The hon. Member for Walthamstow asked why local authorities could not use the commercial opportunities represented by their land holdings and assets. They cannot do that, because the Government will not let them: it is as simple as that.

The hon. Gentleman should learn something more about capital receipts and the restrictions that have been placed on their use by central Government, in particular by the Housing Act 1988. He should know that that Act prevents more than 20 per cent. of receipts from the sale of council houses being used to build in the first year. The rest has to go towards the reduction of debts. At least in the past the whole 100 per cent. trickled through. Now it does not and some £8 billion of accumulated capital receipts cannot be used.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow wanted to find out why local councils are unable to use accumulated capital receipts, and why they do not release some of their assets. He should have asked why the Government that he supports will not allow them to use those receipts to reduce housing waiting lists, by building new homes.

I do not want to hear any lessons from the hon. Member for Walthamstow, who peripatetically cycles through Knightsbridge, about the problems of tower blocks. Newham has 110 tower blocks—the largest concentration in the country. Members of Parliament for Newham represent more constituents who live above the tenth floor than is the case in any other borough, or any other three hon. Members. Even though they live above the tenth floor, their feet are firmly on the ground.

As the hon. Gentleman said, the vast majority of them do not want to live in tower blocks, but what can we do? The hon. Gentleman suggested the attractive idea of knocking them all down and building nice little town houses. We would like to do that. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will use his good offices with his Front Bench to allow us to do that in Newham.