Housing Support Grant (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:07 pm on 23rd January 1991.

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Photo of Tommy Graham Tommy Graham , Renfrew West and Inverclyde 10:07 pm, 23rd January 1991

The last time that the Minister was in my constituency he was seen on a penny-farthing bike. At least that bike worked. The miserable pittance that the Minister has offered to solve some of Scotland's housing problems will lead to him being called the Minister of rent-a-tent. The Minister's predecessors over the past 10 years have been weak-willed wafflers.

Scotland's housing crisis breaks my heart, and I am sure that it breaks the heart of many hon. Members who receive letters on the subject. I should like to read one which speaks clearly about the problem being created by the Government. It states: Dear Mr. Graham,I am desperately in need of your help. Due to a combination of low-paid work and high interest rates I have been forced to sell my house. After getting into difficulties with the payments I tried to catch up with my arrears, but this eventually became impossible and the building society advised me to sell before they took action themselves, this has left both my wife and I at our wits end— in fact my wife is on medication from her doctor.In order to try to save our home my wife secured a part-time job in Linwood. However, if we were forced to leave Linwood she would have to give this job up because the hours fit in with my children's school hours. The local authority has been nearly broken by the Government's mismanagement in failing to house people in such circumstances.

I have another letter which I am sure will break the hearts of many hon. Members on this side of the House. I hope that the Government will take some action because they have the power to do so. This is a letter from a sergeant in the Army for whom I have tried to secure a house. After 24 years in the Army, having given excellent service, he wishes to come to my area. He wants to stay with his family, with his mother and brother, and with people in the community. We cannot give him a house. The local authority has only a few left and there is not a big turnover in housing. But we have Scottish Homes, over which the Minister has absolute control. Did Scottish Homes respond to this man's need? No, it did not. The Under-Secretary of State should get the rules and regulations changed to allow this man to be housed by Scottish Homes or to allow the man even to purchase a Scottish home. The Government have denied him that right, too. The Minister should hang his head in shame if he cannot help a loyal service man with 24 years' service.

I have another letter to which I wish to draw attention although I shall not read it to the House. It is from an invalid, a woman suffering very serious health problems. She lives in another part of the country and wishes to come to our area. She has tried everything, but has been unsuccessful because the council does not have all the houses in its control. Our area is very much dominated by the houses owned by Scottish Homes. As hon. Members will know, Scottish Homes has become the biggest estate agency in Scotland. It does not contribute at all to solving the problem of homelessness or to assisting the people of Renfrewshire who wish to stay in the area.

I also instance in this debate the massive escalation in rents in my constituency. I believe that the Government are perpetrating mindless mugging. One has only to consider the escalating poll tax, increasing fuel costs, and the ongoing problem of homelessness, all of which have been created by this Government because of the economic position that they have taken in past years involving high interest rates. We know that factories in our area are closing practically every day of the week, yet the Government still continue their mad housing policy.

All hon. Members could quote cases such as I have instanced tonight. Scottish Office Ministers should argue the case, in Cabinet or wherever, to obtain sufficient money to build new houses. We desperately need new houses in Scotland. We also need money to renovate damp houses—houses in which people cannot live because the Government have constantly curbed funds for local government which wishes to improve such houses. I put it to the Minister that we also need sheltered housing accommodation. We need supported accommodation for some of the people whom this Government have thrown on the street. I refer to the mentally handicapped and mentally ill who are walking the streets in my area, in Glasgow and in other cities. The Minister has a duty and a responsibility to fight for the people of Scotland. There is a crisis and we need housing. Perhaps the Minister needs a pair of glasses. I shall give him some and then take him to see the problem.

It has been said tonight that the berry pickers are looking for houses. There are more than just berry pickers looking for houses—loyal service men will come home having fought a war for this country, and they will expect homes fit to live in.