[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair] — Decent Homes

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:14 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Minister for Housing 5:14 pm, 27th January 2011

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Bone. I congratulate Mr Betts on securing the debate-or, rather, the Backbench Committee on nominating it and the Chairman of the Select Committee on securing it. It has been a high-quality debate and, after listening to it for the past three hours, I know why. It started with a political back and forth in the opening few minutes, but it then settled down to be a most intelligent and well argued debate, with people who are passionate about social housing. It has been very good. In that spirit, I will follow the same path.

Let us get the politics out of the way. We know that the money had run out and that it was no longer possible to continue borrowing money we did not have to build a greater deficit that our children and their kids would carry on paying for the rest of their lives. Something had to change. When the hon. Member for Sheffield South East spoke about "our cuts," I had to resist shouting back, "But they are not 'our' cuts!"; they are the cuts that the previous Administration were not prepared to make.

I am delighted that that is out of the way, because I can now start to address, in as much detail as possible, the excellent comments that have been made this afternoon. I shall preface my comments by saying that, despite the economic environment in which we find ourselves, the decent homes programme has not been cut by anywhere near as much as the Chair of the Select Committee suggested. I want to pick him up on his twice-repeated claim that there has been a 50% reduction to the programme. That is untrue. A reduction was made to the programme under the previous Administration. My predecessor, John Healey, raided the programme for £150 million in-I speak from memory-July 2009 to pay something towards the so-called housing pledge, which is the new build programme. That was the first cut to the decent homes programme.

I think I am right in saying that some £319 million was indicatively signalled to have been spent on the programme, but, despite these economic times and some tough decisions, we are still spending just over £2 billion on decent homes, which, thinking back to the spending review, is more than most commentators thought likely. It is divided into about £1.6 billion to local authorities and £500 million to help some of the organisations that are in transition having left local authorities. I just wanted to put that on record. It could be argued that the reduction is 15% or 20%, but not 50%.