Adjournment (Christmas)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:54 pm on 19th December 1990.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 6:54 pm, 19th December 1990

All the evidence confirms my point of view. I hope that my hon. Friend will reflect carefully on what he has said. Opposition to fascism and criminal agression is longstanding in the Labour movement, and one of the accusations that we have made against the Tories on numerous occasions is that when they were not instigating criminal aggression, as in Suez in 1956 in collusion with France and Israel, they were appeasing it. Therefore, I do not require any lectures from my hon. Friend.

My second point is one which must concern the House. That is the plight of the homeless and those who are not necessarily homeless but who are in great need of secure accommodation. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) intervened during the speech of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to say that the crisis will never be dealt with until the Government allow local authorities to start building again; that is correct. The present housing crisis is precisely due to the fact that since 1979 local authorities have not been able to fulfil their basic housing responsibilities.

Yesterday, the Minister for Housing and Planning said that the Government remain of the view that councils should not build family housing—so much for the useful intervention of the hon. Member for Harrow, East. The Government's housing policy remains what it was under the former Prime Minister. The Minister went on to say that housing associations can do the job. I do not believe that housing associations can carry out the same full responsibilities as local authorities. In 1978, there were 20,500 housing association starts. In 1989, there were just 13,700. That shows that there has been a marked decline even in housing association starts. In 1978, there were 76,700 local authority starts and this year, up to October, there were 7,800.

There are people sleeping on our streets and it is scandalous that so many families are forced to live in squalid bed-and-breakfast hostels. There is no justification for that. But there are many other people not in that dire situation, who visit or write to their Members of Parliament—couples who live with their parents or in-laws or people living in multi-storey flats who, even with two children, still have to wait far too long.

The remedy is clear. Local authorities should be able to do the job that they did until the Government took office. I beg the Government to recognise that the problem simply cannot be resolved until local authorities are once again allowed to do what they cannot do now. In my borough, because of Government restrictions, there have been no new local authority housing starts since 1979. If we are really worried about housing, we know where the remedy lies.