Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance (Supplementary Credit Approvals) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 17th June 1997.

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Photo of Mike Hall Mike Hall Labour, Weaver Vale 4:33 pm, 17th June 1997

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for her excellent introduction to this much-needed Bill.

I enjoyed the speech by the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) and I hope that it is not his last from the Opposition Front Bench, given that he has backed the potential loser in today's Conservative leadership election. The right hon. Member actually analysed the failure of the previous Government's attempts to deal with the housing crisis and acknowledged that there was a crisis. However, there is a gap in his thinking about how to tackle that crisis. To their credit, the Government recognise that there is a housing crisis, and we have introduced this measure to go some way to dealing with it. Now the Conservatives have said that they will vote against it. That leads me to conclude that the Conservative party is no further forward in its thinking than it was on 1 May, and is totally out of step with thinking in the country at large.

I speak for the first time from the Government Benches and also for the first time as the Member for Weaver Vale. The boundary commissioner cut my constituency in half, so I took the Runcorn part of my previous constituency into a new one that stretches all the way down to Northwich. I will explain how the Bill will help the two borough councils that cover my constituency, Halton and Vale Royal.

I also speak as a former leader of a local authority. I know that all shades of political opinion in local government support the Government's moves to allow capital receipts held by local authorities to be taken into account in considering supplementary credit approvals in coming months. It is a shame that they are not welcomed by the small number of Conservative Members in the House today. That is not surprising. Over the past 18 years, the politically motivated approach to housing has turned the rather successful housing for rent situation of 18 years ago into the current crisis.

The crisis is manifested in several ways, such as growing waiting lists. New Members who have held surgeries will have had families come to ask what can be done to help with the provision of family accommodation. They may have been contacted by people with negative equity whose properties face repossession by building societies. They may even have been approached by homeless people looking for somewhere to live. They know the nature of the problem. Hon. Members have experienced those problems for many years. I hope that the Bill will go some way to tackling them.

The Government's chosen path for providing social housing was through the Housing Corporation and the housing associations.