Local Government Finance (Supplementary Credit Approvals) Bill — 17 Jun 1997
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
In our manifesto, we stated our long-held commitment to help meet housing need by building new houses and rehabilitating old ones, through the phased release of capital receipts from council house sales. We shall now honour that commitment.
There is a good reason why we made that commitment. Since 1979, more than £22 billion has been raised from sales of council housing, a policy which has enabled many people to realise their dream of owning their own home. But where did the money go? How did the Government use that extremely valuable asset? Very little of it went back into housing. Now we want to make sure that some of the money is put back into housing, so that tenants and homeless families can know that they, too, may benefit from the opportunities that a decent home brings.
This Government were elected on a promise to govern for the many, not just for the few. We shall not forget those who were left behind by an Administration who lacked a housing policy and ensured that many of those folk simply never had a chance.
The need to spend more on housing is clear. During the previous Parliament, there were successive cuts to housing capital programmes. Local authorities in particular have suffered as allocations under the housing investment programme, for investment in both public and private housing, have been cut from more than £1.7 billion in 1991-92 to less than £900 million this year.
Those cuts to local authority resources have had a major effect on council housing stock. Tenants have to live in properties that often lack adequate kitchens and bathrooms; doors, windows and roofs are not being replaced until long after they have reached the end of their useful lives. Local authorities have to patch and mend instead of undertaking long-lasting repairs and improvements.
That is a waste of scarce resources. Last year, local authorities estimated that the backlog of work needed to bring the stock up to a reasonable state of repair was £20 billion. Obviously, that is a local authority estimate, not ours, and it needs to be treated with some caution. But none of us can deny that the decline in resources over a number of years has resulted in the deterioration of much local authority housing stock.
Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton):
What my hon. Friend is saying about the provision of new housing and improvements to old housing in local authority stock is most welcome. Will she also bear in mind the question of rents? Under the Tory Government, private housing and housing associations had to ratchet up rents in line with the Government's philosophy. What we want is affordable
If that was smoke and mirrors, this was a bonfire in the hall of mirrors. If the Bill achieves anything, it is to make the comprehensive spending review look like a model of transparency and clarity.
Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--
The House divided: Ayes 409, Noes 151.
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