[John Robertson in the Chair] — Backbench Business — Communities and Local Government (CSR)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 13th January 2011.

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Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 2:30 pm, 13th January 2011

I am not going to defend the level of social housing building by the previous Government; I do not think that it was adequate and I have said that many times in the Chamber and in Committee. A lot of the things that the Labour Government did, including the decent homes programme, were good, but we ought to have built more social housing. I am not sure that the Government proposals will address that matter. There is effectively a total withdrawal of funding from social housing as we know it, so that does not address the reasonable criticism made by the hon. Gentleman.

We should perhaps look harder at the tax and other impediments to real estate investment trusts. They are a good idea. Yesterday, I met with organisations that seek a more direct way of getting institutional investment linked to people who may want to part rent, part own houses. Is the Minister willing to meet a delegation to look at that? Some interesting ideas ought to have cross-party support.

I am sorry for taking up so much time, Mr Robertson, but I have tried to take interventions. My questions for the Minister are: why are local governments taking cuts that are well above the average for other Departments? Why is such front-loading necessary? It creates particular hardships, as councils up and down the country are explaining. The cuts have been large and fast. Is that why the Government have not been able to make them fairer, meaning that they hit poorest areas the hardest? If changes are made to eligibility criteria for social care, if libraries and sports centres are closed and if bus services are withdrawn, will it not be those suffering the greatest deprivation and need who are hit hardest? Is it not likely that the housing crisis that is looming large will be worsened, not helped, by the Government's measures?

Those are my questions, and it is probably appropriate to end on them. I am sure that the Minister will have positive and good things to say in answer to all of them, although whether I totally agree with him remains a matter for doubt.