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Column 913security payments to unemployed 16 and 17- year-olds acts as a formidable deterrent to teenagers who might otherwise come in from the cold."
A report this morning by Shelter, or SHAC, said that large numbers of youngsters were being forced into prostitution and drug trading because they were desperately trying to scrape together the money to exist on the streets of London.
The hon. Member for Harrow, West played a good and useful part in the Greater London council. I cannot understand why he does not rant and rave at the Government, as I do from time to time. They do not listen to me, but they might listen to him, because he represents an authentic voice and is an expert on local authority housing. He has sat quietly and said nothing. I find that difficult to understand.
Mr. Soley : My hon. Friend's point is made even more powerful by the fact that, until the GLC was abolished, 4,300 extra beds were available for youngsters and single homeless people. With the abolition of the GLC, those 4,300 beds went, and, with the abolition of the other metropolitan counties, even more beds went. That is why homeless people, particularly young people, are more vulnerable in London and other cities and, increasingly, in rural areas. We now find homelessness in Exeter, Bristol and other towns where we never found it before. As I said, in 1979 I could always get someone a roof over his head. Nowadays, I cannot do that. Mr. Banks : My hon. Friend makes a good point. All over the country, the Government's policies are inevitably leading to greater homelessness. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith could say that so-called care in the community, which has meant that many people have been turned out of long- stay mental institutions, has caused distressed people to go wandering on to the streets.
I must continue to refer to London. Other hon. Members can make their own points about their own cities, but I know a little about London. In recent years I have noticed that two categories of people have suddenly appeared on the streets of London. The first category is the young. They are on the streets because of changes in social security provision and unemployment. They are being forced to move around, like an army of the dispossessed, from one cardboard city to another and from one railway arch to another.
The other category includes the many more people who are mentally incapable of looking after themselves. They have been turned out of long-term mental institutions and, in many cases, put into the so-called community, which means that their own families, who might be hard-pressed in terms of their living, social and environmental conditions, cannot manage. That creates more problems in the homes to which these people go. It may mean that they are told, "Sorry, we cannot look after you any more," and are pushed out into the street. Those two categories of people include the most appalling and dramatic statistics that we have seen for several years.
Mr. Soley : It is extremely important that Conservative Members should understand the causes of those problems. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that income support changes are crucial. Obviously, unemployment
Column 914also had a part to play. However, the other crucial factor for young people is the catastrophic decline in council house building and, at the same time, the drying up of the private rented sector. The very sector that the Government said would expand has contracted. There are 500,000 fewer houses and flats available for rent in the private rented sector than there were before, precisely because the Government pushed people to buy rather than to rent.
Mr. Banks : As ever, my hon. Friend is correct. One does not need a PhD in housing administration to work out that, if we create a situation in which local authorities are not allowed to build any council houses, there will be an upsurge in homelessness. It is obvious. I should have thought that it was well within the intellectual grasp of Conservative Members to work that out. I do not need rhetoric to argue the case. We need only to examine the statistics. A good article in "City Limits" coincided with the week-long protest against homelessness in London. If the Prime Minister would venture out of her bunker in No. 10 Downing street--the railings are not there yet, but no doubt she will have them erected at some stage ; I bet that she will manage to get out every day even with the railings there- -and go to the other side of Whitehall, she will see the young people and others who are involved in a vigil there. Why does she not talk to them and listen to them? I do not think that she listens to anybody. She would want to tell them how to tidy up their cardboard boxes to make them look more comfortable. She would say, "Wouldn't it look better if you cut a few holes and put up chintz curtains?" If she were to listen for a while, she would know a little more about what is going on in the streets of London. The facts in "City Limits", which were taken from statistics provided by Shelter, the London research centre, and the Association of London Authorities, clearly show us the picture. The article states :
"In September 1987 there were 18,906 people living in temporary accommodation in London. By March 1989 there were 24,578, an increase of 30 per cent."
Homelessness has more than doubled since 1979. The article continues :
"By the beginning of 1989 over 106,000 council properties had been sold to their sitting tenants. Until the end of 1987, some 30,000 had sold up and moved on.
In 1975 local authorities started building 20,100 new homes." That is in London.
In 1986, the figure was 1,200. The key to this whole issue is that in the mid-1970s local authorities in London were building about 25, 000 new units of accommodation per year. They are now building about 1,500 per year. That is one of the main keys to homelessness in this country. As I said, one does not need a PhD or even a CSE to work out that statistical correlation.
The article continues :
"In 1988 30,000 people were squatting in London."
There were 2,000 people sleeping rough in central London. "London boroughs spent almost £88 million on bed and breakfast accommodation in 1988- 89. In 1981, the figure was £4.3 million. As we in Newham will be affected by this appalling Bill, I can tell the House that we have moved on from the appalling situation in 1981 when we had nine families in a hostel because in January 1989 we had 1,151 families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, non-secured lettings, private leasings and hostels. Whereas we were spending a
Column 915few thousand pounds in 1980-81 on bed-and- breakfast charges in the London borough of Newham, last year we spent £5.2 million. We cannot afford that waste of resources. We should be putting people into decent homes, and for £5.2 million we could build a lot of them. This is craziness. It is the economics of the madhouse which, I suppose, is where the Prime Minister will end up. It is cheaper to build new units of accommodation than to house people in inadequate bed-and -breakfast accommodation.
Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) : Does my hon. Friend agree that there are several unique aspects to the problem of homelessness in London which the Government have signally failed to address in the past decade? The first is that the appalling cost of private rented accommodation and of private homes in London forces those on average wages to look to the public sector. Those people are suffering under the Government's policies and from their refusal to allow council house building.
The second aspect is the appalling conditions in which many homeless people have to live in the bed-and-breakfast hostels that scar our capital. Hon. Members will remember the terrible fire at a bed-and-breakfast hostel in Bayswater many years ago. Many families are in danger of perishing because of the fire risks in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
A further unique dimension--my hon. Friend has referred to this--is the millions of pounds that boroughs such as Hackney have to spend to keep people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
Finally, it is impossible for those on low and middle incomes to find accommodation in the inner cities. That factor might appeal to Conservative Members because it is one reason why employers in the inner city encounter such huge problems in getting labour.
Mr. Banks : I agree with my hon. Friend who emphasises the point that I am making from the "City Limits" article, which also states : "In Kensington and Chelsea, the average price for a home is now £167,000 ; luxury lettings are as high as £1,000 a week ; some council rents are over £100 per week"
People simply cannot afford those levels of rent. Surely Conservative Members can understand that. I do not know what happens in their advice surgeries--
Mr. Banks : I am sure that some of them do, but I should be interested to know why they do not seem to be affected by the evidence that must be brought before their eyes. I do not understand how people in my area can survive.
Mr. Banks : Yes, the hon. Gentleman seems to be laughing. I assume that he is not laughing at the plight of the homeless in London because, frankly, he should hang his head in shame as should every other Conservative Member who has ventured into the Chamber this evening.
This is not a crisis that has been visited upon us by God because we are a sinful people ; it is a crisis created by Government policies. Sometimes one can say that Opposition Members stir things up a bit and blame the Government for bad weather or whatever--and that might
Column 916be considered a little unreasonable--but on this occasion one can point the finger with unerring accuracy and say that the responsibility for the housing crisis in this country lies with the Government's policies. That is where the responsibility lies, and that is where we are determined that it will remain until these policies change.
Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston) : I accept everything that my hon. Friend is saying about the crisis in London. I warn Conservative Members, lest they feel that it is a purely London matter and that they can be complacent on a national scale, that in Preston the homelessness situation is worsening rapidly. We have been able to avoid using bed-and-breakfast accommodation for some years. But tomorrow the local housing committee will be considering having to resume the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation. In other words, it is a national problem.
Mr. Banks : All local authorities are affected by this legislation. All council rents are likely to go up. It will become more difficult for all authorities to deal with the homelessness crisis. We have always been used to a degree of homelessness in London. Some people have always slept rough on the streets of the capital. That is a sad fact, but it is a fact. But it is now obvious that this depressing feature is spreading to cities throughout the country. More and more people are wandering the streets looking for somewhere to sleep at night. It is criminal of the Government to have inflicted that level of social misery on people.
Mr. Spearing : Some Conservative Members will say that people are attracted to London and exacerbate the problem. Is my hon. Friend aware that in the south of Newham, in the borough which we both represent, half of my constituents live in municipal dwellings, but that due to the policies of the Government--introducing market rents bit by bit across the whole housing sphere--there will be no opportunity for the young people of Newham to obtain, own or in some way live in council accommodation? When recently I have told the members of residents associations about the Bill, saying that many would have to live in tents in Epping forest, they have not dissented from that statement. That is what the Government are forcing people to do.
Mr. Banks : My hon. Friend, like me, is affected by the severe crisis in the London borough of Newham. I have not yet had an opportunity to describe in detail the situation that we face in Newham. We have tried to explain it to Ministers, but Ministers at the Department of the Environment come and go with bewildering regularity. I congratulate the Under-Secretary on being one of the few who has stayed the course, probably because he is so unnoticeable that the Prime Minister has not realised he is there. Perhaps anonymity in politics is sometimes useful. Alternatively, the right hon. Lady may know that he is such a ruthless Right-winger who is prepared to do anything on instructions from No. 10 that she feels confident in having him in his present office. If that is so, I am surprised that he has not yet become Foreign Secretary. But given the number of shuffles we have each week, even he may end up as Foreign Secretary or as some other exotic figure of state.
On Fridays at my advice surgery young people come to see me with their children and, having been put in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, wonder what the
Column 917future holds for them. For a number of reasons which I cannot fully understand, Newham is not a centre for hotels. We must move our people out to other parts of London, putting them in Westminister, Paddington, Ilford and Romford. Imagine the destruction that that inflicts on the family unit. The education of the children is disrupted and many of the people involved find it impossible to hold down a job.
Those are the human realities behind the policies that are pursued ruthlessly and relentlessly by the Government. They do not seem to care. I can only assume that some calculation has been made to the effect that as the people about whom we are talking are so depressed over what is happening--struggling hard to survive on an hourly basis from morning to night--they do not provide any political threat to the Government.
No hon. Members will have to sleep rough on the Embankment or go to the type of bed-and-breakfast accommodation that I have described ; they will stay in decent hotels because the allowances are good. I know an awful lot of people in the borough of Newham who would like to receive the overnight allowances that are given to hon. Members who live outside London to enable them to have a decent dinner and a decent sleep. I do not object to Conservative Members having a decent dinner. They get many decent dinners-- in many cases it is someone else's dinner and it is certainly paid for by someone else. Why should they vote for decent dinners and decent homes for themselves and deprive others of exactly those benefits? That smacks of hypocrisy, but that is what one associates with the Conservatives. 9.15 pm
I do not know how people are surviving in London or Preston on a daily basis. All I know is that the Opposition must stand up and fight for them because they cannot fight for themselves. No hon. Member has to suffer their deprivations, so we shall continue to speak for them even though, with the poll tax and the new regulations, more and more of those people are moving out of the political process altogether. That is why Conservative Members do not care. Those homeless people do not pose any political threat as voters to the fortunes of the Government. They are a threat to those fortunes, however, because the conscience of the nation has been aroused by their plight. We are able to articulate their plight in this place and we are able to campaign for changes not only in policies but, ultimately, in Government. It is only with a change in Government that the homeless of London, Preston, Burnley, Liverpool and elsewhere will have a decent chance.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : My hon. Friend is right that the situation is getting worse. Just after the war, when we were faced with the destruction of so many homes, the Government of the time, which happened to be Labour, gave hope to the people because they built council houses. I lived in two rooms for 12 years and I know about housing problems. At least we had the hope, however, that, sooner or later, we would get council accommodation. It so happened that I did not take up that accommodation. After the war we got all the people off the streets, apart from those who wanted to stay out there. After the war one only saw a few people living on the
Column 918streets. Now there is no hope. Masses of youngsters come to London from Liverpool and the like looking for jobs, but they end up under the arches or elsewhere. The indictment against the Government is that they have taken hope away from people.
Mr. Banks : My hon. Friend speaks with great experience and wisdom. We know that it was Conservative and Labour local authorities that gave people the opportunity of a decent home. That chance has been destroyed and, as far as the Government are concerned, local authorities are rather like the trade unions, enemies within.
Mr. Robert G. Hughes : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman as he is talking about an important subject. I have looked carefully at the amendments in this group, however, and I do not believe that a single word of the hon. Gentleman's speech, important though it may be, relates to those amendments.
Mr. Speaker : I have been in the Chamber for 10 minutes and I do not believe that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is out of order as this is a pretty wide debate on housing. The hon. Gentleman should look at the amendments, however, and ensure that his comments relate to them.
Mr. Banks : I have kept the amendments under my thumb all the time. I have made sure that I stayed in order and I wait for you, Mr. Speaker to decide when I am out of order rather than the hon. Member for Harrow, West. That hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding the things I said about him and his contribution to local government, has chosen not to intervene positively in this debate even though he has had ample opportunity to do so.
The Opposition amendments will ensure that the Secretary of State takes into account the impact of the proposed changes in the Bill on rents and housing maintenance before he makes any determination. Those amendments must be illustrated and that is what I have been doing by showing what effect the Bill will have in areas like Newham.
No doubt the hon. Member for Harrow, West feels very uncomfortable. He knows that I am speaking the truth. It must be a very uncomfortable experience for him to hear the truth. He must be feeling very guilty, despondent and ashamed, and so he should.
Mr. Soley : The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) emphasised that this debate is about the housing revenue account. He is right. Under this group of Lords amendments local authorities will not have to keep a housing revenue account. As I said in my opening speech, if they do not keep the account, what will happen to the homeless?
Mr. Banks : That is precisely the point. The hon. Member for Harrow, West knows a bit about this. I hope and trust that he will have a very difficult time tomorrow when he tries to act as a craven apologist for the Government's policy on housing when he talks to housing experts.
In Newham, we have tried desperately to advise Ministers about the likely impact of the Bill and why our amendments to Lords amendment No. 119 should be accepted to ameliorate the position. We have taken several
Column 919Ministers around Newham and our last briefing was for the current Minister for the Environment and Countryside. We are grateful for the opportunity to talk to Ministers. We would sit down with the devil himself--and we did in terms of the previous Secretary of State for the Environment. My hon. Friends the Members for Newham, South and for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) and I want to get the best deal possible for Newham. The problems in our borough are bad and they will be made so much worse by the Bill if it is not amended tonight. Newham has the highest number of unsatisfactory dwellings of any London borough. Those dwellings are unfit and lack basic amenities. There is a severe shortage of dwellings in Newham and we have the fastest increase in homelessness in London. I have told Conservative Members just how dramatically that has increased over the past four or five years. Newham also has more dwellings lacking inside WCs and baths than any other London borough and the highest proportion of dwellings lacking facilities in England. Fifty-five per cent. of the borough's housing was built before the first world war, and 80 per cent. of the private sector stock is of the same age. It is estimated that the total cost of repairing the private sector stock is £328 million. The proportion of unfit private properties increased from 21 per cent. in 1979 to 36 per cent. in 1985 while in London as a whole the proportion fell from 10 per cent. to 6 per cent.
There is also severe overcrowding in Newham, a problem that is suffered disproportionately by ethnic minority households. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South knows more about the public sector than I. In that area, Newham has a specific problem with 107 tower blocks of more than eight storeys. Many of those blocks suffer from structural problems or have reached an age when services need renewing. Nine complete tower blocks in south Canning Town in the constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South are currently vacant. Others are being decanted and Ronan Point has been demolished.
How on earth can we deal with those problems with the extra restrictions which this Bill will introduce? We just want to deal with the problems. We are not trying-- [Interruption.] Clearly, the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) has had a very good dinner. I welcome her to our proceedings, although she has come very late.
Mr. Spearing : My hon. Friend mentioned Ronan Point and its sisters. Is he aware that the borough made strenuous efforts to fulfil the Government's objective of going into partnership with private firms to redevelop these areas so that people could afford the rents in the houses with gardens that would replace the thousand empty flats in the sky? However, the economics of housing and interest rates made that very difficult, even with the best will in the world. Will my hon. Friend ask the Minister to take account of that, because we have done our best to try to meet the Government's criteria? The sums just do not add up.
Mr. Banks : My hon. Friend is right. Newham borough council has attempted to arrange partnership dealings with the private sector, and Ministers and civil servants from the Department of the Environment know that to be true.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) rose --
Mr. Banks : We have tried everything and we shall try everything. We are so desperate that I will even listen to the hon. Lady, in case she says something sensible for the first time since she was elected.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : The hon. Gentleman referred to a vast number of tower blocks. Why were they built? It so happens that I was vice- chairman of housing in the London borough of Camden. We inherited many tower blocks, both built and being built, but we did not build a single one during the time of our Conservative administration because we did not believe in them. The hon. Gentleman has been landed with the problem because he built the blooming things.
Mr. Banks : I shall excuse the slight hint of hysteria because hysteria and lunacy are catching among Conservative Members. Because of cost yardsticks and because of requirements laid down by Conservative and Labour Governments, local authorities thought that tower blocks were the best way to meet their housing problem
Mr. Banks : Yes. I am no hack ; I do not go around defending past decisions that I would not have supported. I was on Lambeth borough council when we were still being pressurised into building tower blocks, and I resisted that Labour council's attempts to construct more of them. They are not the sort of environment in which people should be placed.
Wandsworth has sold some of its tower blocks. Such blocks can provide luxury accommodation, but that means swimming pools, porterage, security alarms and all sorts of facilities that no local authority would be allowed to put in. We could turn all our tower blocks, even though I do not like them, into small heavens on earth if we were given the resources by central Government--but will we get them, and will the hon. Lady help us to get them?
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Why not imitate what was done in part of Liverpool and go into partnership with the private sector? When we took over in Camden we housed exactly the same number of people per acre by building in six steps--two storeys, then another two and then another two-- with lifts to alternate floors. In that way we housed the same number of people without the appalling way of life involved in tower blocks.
Mr. Banks : I do not disagree. I have said that many decisions taken by Tory and Labour-controlled Labour authorities under Governments of both complexions are not defensible in retrospect. They were explicable and understandable, but they were indefensible in social terms. I am trying to deal with the problem that we have inherited. It is no good the hon. Lady saying that we should not have built these blocks. Rightly or wrongly, we built them and now we have to try to deal with them. The problem is not only in Newham ; it is found in Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow and many other cities.
It was not only Labour local authorities that built tower blocks ; all local authorities built them. Apart from anything else, they were part of the fashion, and architects and planners wanted to destroy all the existing properties and start from a green field site and build vertical streets. I should like to get hold of some of those architects and planners, put them on the 22nd floor, nail the door and
Column 921leave them there for a few years to see what it is like. Architects, planners and developers do not live in such places ; they just build them for other people to live in. They live in nice rural retreats deep in the country.
I say to those people and to hon. Members that by all means they should have the good things in life, but they should not deny them to other people. That is precisely what the Government do day in day out with the sort of policies that they pursue. I have made my point about the amendments. The Minister should remember that we have not invented the housing crisis in London. It has been created by the policies of the Government. If the Government are not prepared to change those policies, they should go, and every homeless person will throw his hands in the air and cheer to the echo the end of this Government and their damnable policies.
Mr. Chope : At times during the debate Opposition Members have been hysterical but I suppose they can be congratulated on demonstrating that they are still in quite good voice and capable of filibustering. The Opposition have certainly indulged in much bluster on the issue. I find it rather depressing that most Opposition Members have continued to repeat the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Government policy. In Committee and subsequently, those Opposition views have been shown to be totally inaccurate. They are short of policies of their own and are therefore trying to attack policies that they are inventing and attributing to the Government. I assure the House that Government policy on these matters is very different from the policy that has been represented by the Opposition. We heard in the debate the familiar but false accusation about the rents policy. The Government do not intend to push council rents to market levels. We want only market-related patterns of rents. We are not interested either in capital value rents. It should be obvious from our proposals for 1990-91, with minimum increases of 95p and increases damped everywhere, that we are not seeking to establish market rents, except perhaps in areas where rents are very low. The hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) said that we are seeking to control council rents. The hon. Gentleman interpreted our 95p guideline as the imposition of a 95p minimum increase whether or not councils want it. That is nonsense. The Bill explicitly allows authorities to determine their own budgets and they may set rents higher or lower than the guideline if they wish to budget for an appropriate level of service.
The hon. Members for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth), for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg), for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) and for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) failed to understand that their council tenants will benefit next year as a direct result of the Government's policies on rents. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) said he thought that rents should go up next year by about £1.95. Opposition policy is that there should be the same increase everywhere. That is an absurd proposition and that is why we want to have the new system. Under that system the constituencies of
Column 922the hon. Members that I have mentioned will benefit. It is surprising that none of those hon. Members was able to recognise that during the debate.
Rent rebates have also been mentioned tonight.
We have also seen an extraordinary distortion of the Bill's provision for rent rebates. The hon. Member for Hammersmith persists in asserting that the better-off tenants will pay the rebates of their neighbours. This is nonsense, as has been said in earlier debates. We shall simply be proposing rent guidelines at sensible levels. Where an authority can meet the costs of those rebates, partly or in full, it is right for it to do so. However, most authorities will always require assistance from subsidy, and we can say categorically that if an authority gets its rents higher than the guidelines for any reason, then the higher cost of rebates will be met in full by our subsidy. Other tenants will not have to meet it.
Mr. Chope : I am the first hon. Member to speak from the Government Benches for about four hours. I gave way many times during my opening speech, and I am sure that the hon. Member will understand that I have to reply to the points that have been made, and I am seeking to do that.
The hon. Member for City of Durham was one of the many who got things completely wrong about rates rebates. I understand that he actually served on the Committee examining the Bill, so I can be less forgiving towards him than I might be towards an hon. Member who had not done so. The hon. Gentleman has asserted that the housing revenue account will have to bear 3 per cent. of the cost of rebates. He was wrong. Although the present rate of subsidy on rebates is 97 per cent., under the new system we shall take 100 per cent. of the cost of rebates into calculation of the housing revenue account subsidy.
Mr. Chope : I gave way to the hon. Gentleman on this issue on more than one occasion during my earlier speech, and he is doing his Back-Bench colleagues a disservice in not allowing me to reply to some of the points that they have made.
Mr. Battle : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have sat through debates in which we considered amendments from the other place, and I thought that the tradition was that we clarified the detail. In that case, if a Minister makes a statement, surely it is incumbent on him to allow us to challenge it, or it will not be questioned. Some of the Minister's remarks clearly demonstrate that he does not understand the Bill.
Mr. Speaker : The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know, as the House knows, that if an hon. Member, or a Minister, does not wish to give way, then those wishing to intervene must not persist in rising.
Mr. Chope : I shall continue with examples of the way in which Opposition Members have this issue so wrong. The hon. Member for City of Durham asserted that Durham would have a negative subsidy entitlement. That is extremely unlikely. Negative subsidy entitlement arises only when, in the notional account, income from rents plus interest on receipts is more than expenditure on management and maintenance, loan charges and rent rebate. Try as I might, I cannot draw up a notional account for Durham in which that happens. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman goes away and does his sums again. The hon. Member for City of Durham made another point, about the shortage of resources for investment. If capital receipts have been used for genuine capital works, we have said that we will take that into account in housing investment programme allocations.
The hon. Member for City of Durham expressed fears about the lack of allocations. I suggest that before he makes such alarmist remarks he waits for the statement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Member also asked about direct labour organisation profits. They should go to the general fund. If they are then transferred to the housing revenue account, that is another form of rate fund contribution. The ring fence will prevent such contributions, but--I do not think that the hon. Member understood this--subsidy will cover the gap caused by loss of those contributions so that there will be no extra rent increase as a result.
Mr. Chope : That is a guarantee. I have just told the hon. Gentleman how the new system will work. I find it depressing that so many Opposition Members, although they have served on the Committee, do not understand the way in which the new system will operate. Many right hon. and hon. Members have talked during the debate about the plight of homeless people. Homeless people, whether young or old, deserve better than to be used as pawns by the Opposition. The Opposition seem to will the end, but deny the means. They and their local authorities preside over tens of