Orders of the Day — Homelessness

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:36 pm on 9th July 1992.

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Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South 8:36 pm, 9th July 1992

We have heard the usual emotional speech of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). The real reason for the housing crisis in London is socialism. We have suffered from decades of socialist legislation stating that it was immoral to make money out of renting properties or offices. The reason for the surplus in office accommodation in London today is that office rents have never been controlled.

Why is there a shortage of accommodation to rent? The answer is that for years and years there were rent controls, and today many potential landlords fear that a future Labour Government would reintroduce rent controls. Investing in property is a long-term activity, and no one will invest in property while there is a threat of a future Labour Government reintroducing rent controls. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West would do his constituents' cause much good if he said that a future Labour Government would never reintroduce rent controls, as that is the fear.

The second fear of those who are considering renting out their property is that of long delays if the tenant refuses to leave at the end of the lease. Some constituents told me that they had let out their property to a tenant for a specific period. At the end of the lease, the tenant said that he would not go. It took my constituents five months to get the tenant out and regain control of their home. Such legal delays prevent some people from renting out their property.

The final reason for the shortage of property in London today and why a few hundred people are sleeping rough is that five Labour councils have 8,163 empty houses. Why is it that vacancies in the London borough of Barnet constitute 1·1 per cent. of its housing stock, but in the London borough of Brent, which is Labour controlled, the figure is 5 per cent. and in Hackney the figure is 4·8 per cent.—excluding the illegal tenancies that Hackney council has decided to allow? In Tower Hamlets the figure is 4·5 per cent., in Newham it is 3–8 per cent., in Southwark it is 3·6 per cent. and in Islington it is 2·6 per cent. Those councils are the cause of homelessness in London today.

The Labour party, Labour legislation and Labour threats are the cause of homelessness in London. It is not for the Labour party to talk about homelessness. Labour Members should come to the debate and admit that they are the cause of homelessness.