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My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Whitty for introducing this debate. Its quality so far shows how right he was to choose this subject. I also thank most warmly my noble friend Lady Osamor for a powerful and moving speech. I believe she has a great deal to offer this House in the future.
I want to make a plea: I hope that in our concern about housing we do not underestimate the significance of the rural housing crisis. The sale of council houses and the subsequent profiteering is an indication of the difficulties and challenges, but also an indication of how misguided a policy can be. I would like to put to the Minister a specific question on the part being played by the Land Compensation Act 1961 in England. It has obviously gone wrong, and it seems that unless we tackle the ground it covers, we will be in difficulties with whatever housing programme we want.
My experience in politics says that what matters most in all this is the political will to do it, which means not just one Minister but all the interrelated Ministers. We have the problems of health, mental health, poverty and acute unhappiness in old age. All are related to housing, and unless we get everybody behind this and a determination that we are going to do it, it will not get done.
In particular, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford for his terrific speech. He reminded us that a house is not just a house but a home. That means that in our programme and determination, we must think of the social issues, integration with health and schools, the police and the probation services—all these things—so that we make an integrated society where people are not stigmatised but part of the community, and so that we enable people to live rich lives.