Greater London Authority Bill

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 8:08 pm on 12th December 2006.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 8:08 pm, 12th December 2006

The decision on the 700-odd one-bedroom flats in my constituency was made entirely locally by the Liberal Democrat council. That was a disgrace, and unfortunately the decision was not called in.

The powers of the Mayor over the London housing board and the Housing Corporation are very important. My hon. Friend Mr. Slaughter mentioned the behaviour of the Peabody Trust in selling large numbers of vacant properties. It is outrageous that housing associations should sell any vacant properties. We have a housing crisis in London. It is not the function of housing associations to sell off vacant property to the highest bidder at a time when people are living in hostel accommodation or in unsatisfactory rented accommodation, and children are growing up in grossly overcrowded circumstances, with the problems that that creates for everyone in our society. I hope that in Committee the Bill can be strengthened in respect of housing.

I agree with my hon. Friend Mr. Dismore about waste management and waste disposal. I do not understand why we cannot think this through. Waste collection is an obvious thing for a local authority to do. Some of them do it well while some do it less well, and some are very keen on recycling while others are less keen—but overall London's record on waste disposal is not good. For a long time, we tipped an awful lot of refuse into the North sea. We filled up every piece of landfill that we could find all over London and the south-east. There is even the idea of exporting waste abroad.

We must be serious about recycling: first, by reducing the amount of waste that we create; secondly, by having serious recycling methods and targets; and thirdly, by ensuring that the whole thing is properly run. This should be an ideal opportunity for a London authority, under the Mayor and the GLA, to take over waste disposal so that we have imaginative ways of dealing with it. For example, the creation of gas from waste and composting systems are both eminently possible. I understand why the Minister said earlier that she did not want to disrupt the existing process; that is a reasonable consideration. However, we do not have a reasonable situation, given the pathetically low rates of recycling across London, and now we have a legislative opportunity to do something about it.

We have achieved a lot in London over the past few years in improvements to public transport. It was not the Mayor's fault that the public-private partnership was introduced; he fought against it strongly. We have to give enormous credit to Ken Livingstone as Mayor for the huge improvements that have taken place in bus services, the accessibility of bus services, and the reduction in car use through the congestion charge. We are the only major city in the world where car usage is going down and bus usage, and public transport usage as a whole, is going up. That is something that we can be very proud of.

We have the opportunity to make London an even better city than it is, but we have to address the social inequalities. There is enormous poverty and need, and it is up to us to create a structure of government in London that gives elected officials the ability to deal with those problems. That is why more, not fewer, powers need to be given to the people of London, and why we particularly need to address the desperate need for housing for people who are growing up in awful conditions that are unacceptable, unnecessary and unsatisfactory in the 21st century.