I refer to new dwellings. As I have no first-hand evidence of stock transfer leading to the improvement cited by the Minister, I have to throw open the question for consideration. Why cannot that investment be given to local authorities to improve their stock? Why does it have to take either a privatisation, a semi-privatised or a quango route? Why are the Government so hostile to local councils that they would not even trust them with the money to invest in and modernise council housing stock?
The present Government inherited a mess created by the two previous Conservative Governments, but they have not tackled the housing crisis. That would have been done under the real Labour Governments, such as the Attlee Administration in the years immediately after the war and those of Wilson and Callaghan in the 1960s and 1970s, while one-nation Conservative Governments such as those led by Macmillan and Heath would not have allowed it to happen in the first place. New Labour has allowed the situation to deteriorate to an appalling level at which homelessness is increasing all the time and families living in inadequate accommodation know that their chances of being offered somewhere better to live are becoming more remote.
The contrast between 1979 and today is stark. In 1979, more than 75,000 local authority dwellings were built. In 1999, just 171 were built throughout the country. In the 15 years after the second world war, more public sector than private sector housing was built. I am not arguing for a return to that split. However, if the Government want to be true to the principles and ideals of their party's founders, they should make it a policy to return to the days when the Government funded local authorities to build more council houses to meet the needs of their communities.