Housing

Part of STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS, &c. – in the House of Commons at 6:51 pm on 26th January 1994.

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Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris , Birmingham, Yardley 6:51 pm, 26th January 1994

My hon. Friend is right. We have seen massive centralisation in respect of decisions affecting very local matters such as a house in a street or a street in an area. I am sure that my hon. Friend's constituents also ask him, "How bad does my house have to become before it falls into the category that the Government think need assistance?"

There is no doubt that constituencies such as mine have great housing need, but they are made to compete with areas that have even greater housing need. The 2 per cent. of my constituents without indoor facilities have to compete with the 4·6 per cent. in the neighbouring Sparkhill ward. The 44 per cent. of my constituents without central heating must compete with the 62·5 per cent. in the nearby Washwood Heath ward. The result if obvious—constituencies such as mine lose, and need is unmet.

Just as the proposed new Government guidelines for homelessness attempt to pit the homeless against the inadequately housed, so the Government's obsession with competition pits people with poor housing against people with even poorer housing. The Government should be under no illusion about the potentially devastating consequences of making the needy compete against the more needy.

The statistics show that outer-ring areas, constituencies such as mine, are often the losers when it comes to housing allocation, are where unemployment is increasing the most and where crime has risen the most. People in outer-ring areas have a growing feeling of isolation and community breakdown, and they consider that the Government are ignoring their needs and leaving them out.

I do not question the need of areas with city challenge and estate action status. I would be the first to welcome an attempt to regenerate those areas, but let us be clear about why special projects exist. The Government did not choose their strategy because it is the best way of meeting housing need; it is born out of the need to concentrate resources because there is not enough to go round. Their strategy is born of the political objective of eventually handing over publicly renovated houses to the private sector. That strategy is driven by the desire to take the role of social landlord from local authorities.

The Government have singled out my local housing authority as being one of a high standard, yet its housing investment programme allocation has fallen from £67 million to £62 million, £53 million and £49 mil lion in recent years. The Government leave it with little discretion as to how to spend its money. The Government's policy has turned it, just as it has turned every other local authority, into a city of housing winners and housing losers. Conservative Members expect millions of citizens to live in conditions which none of them or their families would tolerate.

The housing crisis now extends far beyond the inner areas of our great Victorian cities. It is at the root of many other problems which we have discussed in the Chamber. Saddest of all, it is a crisis that the Government have never, and certainly not today, shown any ability to solve.