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[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair] — Decent Homes

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:01 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington 3:01 pm, 27th January 2011

Thank you very much, Mr Bone, for calling me to speak in this important debate. I congratulate Mr Betts, who opened the debate. He is very knowledgeable on this subject, which he has spoken on for many years, and he is clearly a fount of substantial knowledge.

The hon. Gentleman rightly drew attention to a number of matters, such as the respective performance of ALMOS and housing associations. There is an issue for housing associations regarding their performance. Originally, the idea was that local authorities were not particularly responsive, because they were large and managed large numbers of properties. Therefore, people thought that housing associations should take on local authorities' role as they would be more responsive. Many Members may now feel that many of the problems that were associated with local authorities are associated with housing associations, given their size and the geographic extent of the areas they cover. The hon. Gentleman was right to highlight that. He was also right to highlight the importance of tackling issues in the private sector, where the housing stock is often unacceptable.

Before I focus on what is happening in relation to Sutton and the Sutton Housing Partnership, I want to make one political point. Opposition Members need a reality check, and they should acknowledge that the situation the coalition Government are in is very similar to the one they would have been in had they been elected. It is not, therefore, good enough simply to say that the coalition Government's proposals for reducing budgets are unacceptable; there must be an alternative proposal. The Labour party would have been in the same place and it would have had to work within the same boundaries-they would perhaps not have been exactly the same-as the coalition Government. It would have faced the same challenges, so simply bemoaning the fact that budget reductions have to happen is not good enough. In seeking to position themselves as a future Government, the Opposition owe it to everyone who reads the report of this debate to come forward with some solutions, rather than simply bemoaning the position we are in.