Orders of the Day — Homelessness

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:33 pm on 9th July 1992.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson, Shadow Spokesperson 8:33 pm, 9th July 1992

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) says that he knows Newham—I must test him on that some time, but not tonight. I shall tell him something about Newham and the voids that exist there. A large number of them are in the Taylor Woodrow Anglian tower blocks. The hon. Gentleman is probably too young to remember Ronan Point, but people had to be moved out of those tower blocks because they were unsafe. The Minister for Housing and Planning knows about those tower blocks as we went on an inspection together and saw how badly they had been built. They were jerry-built flats. We cannot place people in some of the accommodation units in Newham because the structures are too dangerous.

The hon. Member for Sutton might think it is a good thing for Labour party people to be placed in dangerous structures, but I do not think so. If the hon. Gentleman wants to know why there is a housing crisis in London, he does not have to look around to blame local authorities. It is a cheap and easy shot for Conservative Members to say that the housing crisis is caused by Labour local authorities. It is the crass, narrow-minded, narrow-sighted, stupid, ignorant attitude that I expect from Conservative Members as they know nothing about the subject.

What do Conservative Members know about living in rotten accommodation? How many Conservative Members are homeless? Most of them probably have two or three homes. We do not want lectures from a bunch of well-heeled Tory layabouts telling us what is endured by our constituents. If the hon. Member for Sutton wants to know why there is a housing crisis, I shall tell him.

In 1987–88, the London boroughs started building more than 13,000 new homes. In 1990, London boroughs started to build only 302 homes. The reason for the housing crisis is that the Government have ensured that the boroughs cannot provide accommodation for those who need it. It is absolutely disgraceful that in 1990 only 302 new homes were built—2 per cent. of the 1978 total. Between 1981–82 and 1989–90, the available permanent lettings to new tenants were reduced—a loss of 20,000 units.

One does not need a PhD in housing administration to know why there is a housing crisis in London. Some £8 billion is sitting in bank accounts, but no local authorities are allowed to use it to build new homes. The Government conned the House and the rest of the country by saying that if' local authorities sold houses, the money would be available to build new homes—lies. The authorities have not been allowed to use their own money to build homes for their own people.

The reason for the housing crisis sits on the Benches opposite—the nasty, ugly face of Toryism. Until we get rid of that, I am afraid there will be more and more people sleeping on the streets and in the doorways of London. That is a damned disgrace and so is the Minister.