Housing Support Grant (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:01 pm on 23rd January 1991.

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Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams , Paisley North 10:01 pm, 23rd January 1991

I visit the hon. Member's constituency, but I do not go to pick berries and I do not have to look for a job or a home there. The difference between Opposition Members and Government Members is that we want everyone to live in decent homes, not just some of the people.

Homelessness in Scotland has risen dramatically under this Government. The present situation is almost comparable with that of 100 years ago, with nearly as many homeless people in this country today as there were then. It is a disgraceful indictment of any Government.

Homelessness affects one's whole way of life. It is not just that a person has no roof over his head or is living under someone else's roof. People may be inadequately housed. In Renfrew district, for example, there are 25,000 people on the waiting list. I am not suggesting that they are all homeless, but they are all inadequately housed. Inadequate housing affects people's lifestyles. Children are not educated properly because often there is no extra room in which they can study. Renfrew has massive overcrowding because it does not have the houses to which to move people. The best will and all the management in the world will not solve that problem. Resources are required.

Conservative Members tell us again and again that the problems are caused by mismanagement and that if we tinker here and there many of them can be solved. They are suggesting a redistribution of poverty, which is the basic reason for our housing problems. That poverty is a result of the Government's economic policy. People who do not have jobs lose their houses and have nowhere to go. The Government have deliberately set about destroying public sector housing. Scotland was an egalitarian society in which most people lived in public sector houses, but the Government told them that that was not a good idea and, as a result, the best public sector housing has been sold. The Government have not made available resources to replace those houses and have not given us the receipts from sales to reinvest in the houses that are left. As a result, those houses have continuously deteriorated.

Conservative Members have spoken about empty council houses. A shell without a roof is not an empty house, it is an empty shell. Of course people will not accept such houses. I certainly would not and I defy any Conservative Member to say that he would. The people who are offered such houses are often those who do not have any resources to spend on them. They are single parents and people on fixed incomes. Some of the homelessness among such people has arisen because benefits are no longer available to some young people. Some households totally depend on state benefits and a young person of 17 who has no training, no job and no income cannot remain in such a household because his family cannot afford to keep him. The only way that he can become entitled to income is to go on to the streets and become homeless. His name will then be placed on the homeless list and he will be allocated a house and be entitled to benefit. The vicious circle continues.

Government policies have caused poverty, and that has created the homelessness which has destroyed Scotland's public sector housing. If the Government can offer no better answer than a massive reduction in the allocation of money, it is time that they moved over and moved off the park.