Adjournment (Christmas)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 19th December 1990.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 6:31 pm, 19th December 1990

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am glad that I gave way to him. He says, in effect, that none of us could dissent from the view that there is a desperate shortage of rented accommodation at affordable prices, whether that is provided directly by local authorities or indirectly through housing associations. The political argument is far less important than the housing shortage. There is a desperate shortage of rented accommodation at affordable prices throughout the country. It is not sufficient to say that the market should be left to meet the need, because it has failed to do so.

There are many European or international problems that cannot be resolved by one Government alone. The problem of housing the homeless in Britain is not one of those, however, and the Government of the United Kingdom have no excuse if they do not solve the problem, however complex the solution may be.

The Leader of the House will have read, I am sure, that young members of the Churches are beginning a vigil today on the streets of London to mark their opposition to the prospect of war in the Gulf and to show that they are in favour of peace. It is linked with the Churches' calls for prayers for peace over Christmas. People in Britain, and the Government especially, have taken a strong view about the attack that has been carried out by the Iraqi Government on the Government and people of Kuwait. It is only right that a strong view should be taken. If we as a people and a Government had at least as strong a view on the attack on the freedoms of people in this country, who we are condemning to poverty, homelessness or bad housing, we would solve the problems to which I have referred.

The young people who are participating in the vigil will voluntarily be joining on the streets many who are not there by choice. Historically, Christmas may be best celebrated by being without a home, but in a civilised and modern society the reality is that we should be able to provide everyone with one. It is about time that Parliament made sure that its Members did not go on holiday to comfortable homes until everyone else in the country had been provided with the opportunity of going safely home as well.