Orders of the Day — Homes Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 8th January 2001.

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Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) (The Regions) 3:34 pm, 8th January 2001

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill was published on 13 December alongside our policy statement, "Quality and Choice: A decent home for all—The way forward for housing." That statement sets out our strategy for ensuring that everyone has the opportunity of a decent home. It followed our housing Green Paper—the most comprehensive review of housing for more than 20 years, which was widely welcomed—and our spending review announcement in July, which confirmed our commitment to more than double the capital investment in housing that we inherited in 1997, improving the quality, affordability and supply of housing and the choices available to all.

Those measures are all fundamental to tackling the serious housing problems that we inherited. Capital investment in housing was halved between 1993 and 1997. By 1996, there was a £19 billion backlog of renovation and modernisation work in council housing.

Boom-and-bust policies had created a crisis of confidence in the housing market, with the highest ever levels of negative equity, mortgage arrears, home repossessions and homelessness in the early to mid-1990s. It is rich of the Conservative party, given its lamentable record, to criticise this Government for not doing more to tackle homelessness. In the 18 years that the Conservatives had to do the job, the number of households accepted as homeless more than doubled. Their record is a disgrace. They are wrong again to say that the number of homeless people has increased under Labour. [Interruption.] No, that is not right.

Let me remind Conservative Members of the figures, as they seem to be so keen to argue. I will be generous to them and use their last 12 months in office. In the 12 months to the end of the first quarter of 1997, 110,800 homeless households were accepted by local authorities. In the latest 12 months, 108,000 have been accepted. I accept that that figure is far too high. We know that it is far too high, but it is a lie for the Tories to say that there has been an increase in homelessness under Labour. It is typical of the way in which they peddle untruths to try to conceal their shabby record. They should be ashamed of themselves. They should be ashamed of their record.