Housing

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 27th November 1991.

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Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:31 pm, 27th November 1991

The Minister intimates that he did not do so, but he certainly took a close interest in the passage of that Bill.

He will be aware that a series of amendments were tabled in that Committee, on Report and in the other place by my hon. Friends and me. The amendments would have made housing action trusts more open, in that they would have been the subject of a genuine ballot of the tenants and would have provided tenants with the option to revert to local authority control. The Government rejected all those amendments. We are able to say now that in certain circumstances, where there is local support, we are prepared to accept housing action trusts, because the amendments that we tabled at that time but which were rejected were ultimately accepted by the Government.

All parts of the House will accept as constructive many of the comments made by the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). What I have just said, however, about housing action trusts undermines the right hon. Gentleman's point. The right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir T. Raison) also made a fairly constructive and in some respects progressive speech. I refer him to the motion, in which he will find much more to agree with than he will find in the Government's amendment.

The genesis of the housing crisis was during the former reign of the Secretary of State for the Environment, accompanied by the hon. Member for Acton, who, in his first incarnation as a Minister with responsibility for housing, was a member of the terrible duo that is now reinflicting itself on housing policy.

The housing problems that we now face were foreshadowed by the Opposition. We warned the Government that they would eventually have to be dealt with. I refer the House to the Committee proceedings on the 1980 Housing Bill, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said: The Secretary of State"— the same Secretary of State as we have now— who has the effrontery to talk about enough new house building to meet demand, is certain to leave office with the unenviable record of having not only presided over but deliberately brought about the worst housing programme since the war."—[Official Report, 15 January 1980; Vol. 976, c. 1559.] My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith has already made it clear that that prediction has come true.