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Industry and Education

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 21st November 1994.

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Photo of Mr Denzil Davies Mr Denzil Davies , Llanelli 5:28 pm, 21st November 1994

I am not complaining. Perhaps I should not do so in debates such as this, but I have been in the House long enough and I know that I am allowed to describe what is happening. The hon. Gentleman should not assume that I am complaining now. I shall come to my complaint when I get to the end of my speech. I am merely trying to describe the fact that, although no one is working in 45 per cent. of the households, thousands of houses are being built by national house builders. I am trying to point out that, in part, they are being built with public subsidy—the kind that must not go to BT, British Gas or to industry. Apparently, public subsidies are all right if they go to Wimpey, Tarmac or McAlpine.

The builders are pretty stupid. They can get cheap land that has been cleared for them, they can build reasonable houses at reasonable prices, but what if they cannot sell them in that low-income constituency? When I look around, I find that there is no problem. If they cannot sell them, there is always the fairy godmother of capitalism—the purchaser of last resort, which for houses in south Wales these days is the housing association.

Housing associations used to be collections of retired vicars, surveyors, trade unionists and various do-gooders, but not any more. They have become corporations. They have chief executives, public relations directors, nice motor cars, shiny offices. They buy the houses from the builders, who cannot sell them directly to individuals, and tenants are put into them. Again, I made some inquiries, and discovered that housing association rents are usually about twice as much as those for comparable houses built by that dreadful institution, the local authority. The Government are paying twice for those houses, which would have been built anyway. They are also contributing to the land, which is nice. They are creating problems for the future, because there is no planning for community services, or for anything else. So I am not complaining about public money—quite a lot of it goes into my constituency—but it is just scattered around. It is not planned. It is not even market driven.

I wondered how anybody could afford to pay the rent charged by housing associations, but it does not matter, does it? The Secretary of State for Social Security picks up the tab. He pays the extra rent, which goes to the housing associations to provide them with their empires. Yes, indeed, we have house building in my constituency, but it is not wealth-creating. All right, a few people will be employed, but we would rather have the money to recreate our industrial base so that my constituents do not have to live on handouts. Under the Conservative Government, a handout culture is developing. It does not really matter whether the money comes from Cardiff, from London or from Brussels, local authorities and Members of Parliament queue up for it. One cannot blame people, because the wealth-creating base of our communities has been steadily eroded since 1979.