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Mr. Straw : I have a copy of the printout. I was quoting the figures --[ Hon. Members :-- "Apologise."] The person who should apologise is the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall). He had the figures the wrong way around-- [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. Seated interventions are not helpful.

Mr. Straw : The Minister is up to his usual tricks of trying to include, in his figures of empty houses available to let, houses awaiting demolition, houses awaiting major repair and those awaiting renovation. Let us consider the proportion of homes available for letting, in respect of which I have not misread a line. According to the printout, the percentage for Labour-controlled Hackney in Greater London is 1.54.

Sir George Young : The figures are clearly on the record and I read them out a few moments ago. Those figures were supplied to my Department by the local authorities concerned. The 1.9 per cent. is actually the figure below 4.7 per cent. and relates to Lambeth. However, it is worth repeating the figures. Hackney has 10 times as many empty local authority properties as Westminster. There are 3,750 such properties in Hackney as opposed to 331 in Westminster.

Mr. John Marshall : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Hackney has a greater percentage of its housing stock empty and available to be sold than Westminster? Should not the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) have pointed that out?

Sir George Young : The day the Labour party tries to shelter behind the efficiency of the London borough of Hackney is the day when Labour loses all credibility.

I want to place in a broader context some of the issues referred to by the hon. Member for Blackburn. Since we came to office, the housing stock has grown from just under 21.5 million homes in 1980 to 24 million homes in 1991. If we convert that into homes per 100 people, it is clear that in 1980 there were 38 homes per 100 people and that there are now 41 homes per 100. In addition, the condition of that stock has improved. The English house condition survey shows that there are an estimated 160,000 fewer unfit dwellings across all tenures than there were five years ago. There are more homes ; they are better heated and have more standard amenities and better insulation.

Each year, more of those in housing need are being rehoused than when we started. We are making better use of the public housing stock, with lettings in 1992-93 running at more than 500,000 compared with 473,000 in 1979-80. New lettings, rather than new builds, are the currency that really matters for those on the waiting list and those in housing need. The right to buy has brought home ownership within the reach of hundreds of thousands of families.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Will the Minister give way?

Sir George Young : No, I will not give way at the moment. Nearly 1.5 million people throughout Great Britain have benefited from a policy which is so successful that Opposition Members have now been forced to accept it. Before the hon. Member for Blackburn lectures us about

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capital receipts, let him recognise that there would have been no capital receipts if we had taken his advice not to proceed with the right to buy.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : The Minister referred to the right to buy. Will he take this opportunity, as the Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction, to condemn the actions of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) who used an intermediary to buy the council house next door to his home in Gayfree street at a £50, 000 discount? Was not that an abuse of the scheme? Will the Minister responsible for housing condemn those actions?

Sir George Young : No, I will not. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. The Minister, and indeed any hon. Member who is addressing the House, is entitled to be heard, however unpopular the remarks might be.

Mr. Straw rose --

Sir George Young : I am not giving way. I must make some progress. Mr. Straw rose --

Sir George Young : I am not giving way. I have given way twice to the hon. Gentleman. I want to make some progress.

The hon. Member for Blackburn touched on the private rented sector. I do not know how the hon. Gentleman had the face to talk about the private rented sector when Opposition Members' policies led to a decline in the private rented sector for 60 or 70 years. The Housing Act 1988 has arrested and reversed 70 years of decline of the private rented sector. The latest figures suggest that it has increased in size in recent years to more than 9.5 per cent. of the housing stock. I welcome the Labour party's belated conversion to the merits of making better use of the private rented sector and the abandonment of its dogmatic hostility to private landlords.

We are tackling rundown estates by creating new housing action trusts to begin the work of regeneration, working with tenants to secure a better future. Five housing action trusts have already been established, and residents at Stonebridge Park in Brent will vote shortly on whether to set up a sixth. Housing action trusts are yet another bright idea that Labour failed to welcome at the time. Elsewhere, we have promoted the redevelopment of unpopular estates with the private sector, diversifying tenure and creating a human scale environment with effective local management.

By harnessing the resources of the private sector to housing association development, we have added £2.6 billion to investment over the past six years, providing over 70,000 homes more than would otherwise have been possible. We look set to exceed by 25,000 the number of new homes to which we committed ourselves in our manifesto.

We are tackling the problem of rough sleeping on the streets of central London, where the problem is at its worst, with a closely targeted, practical package of measures in the rough sleepers initiative, which is significantly bringing down the numbers on the streets. As Shelter's magazine, "Roof", said after the initiative got off the ground :

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"Homeless people are finally beginning to disappear from the streets. And not into hospitals, prisons or cemeteries, as so often happened, but into good quality accommodation provided through a unique partnership between the Government and the voluntary sector."

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield) : If the rough sleepers initiative is so successful in London, why does the Minister not agree to extend it to other towns and cities where there is a problem of homelessness?

Sir George Young : Funds are available from my Department to help projects that bring direct help to the single homeless. Outside London, for example, we are helping Bristol with about £250,000 in grant. I urge local authorities outside London to look at the model that we have adopted in London and see whether, in partnership with voluntary organisations, it can be replicated elsewhere.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon) : My right hon. Friend should be congratulated on the rough sleepers initiative, which powerfully demonstrates his compassionate concern for the homeless. Does he agree that voluntary organisations have an indispensable part to play in the policy? Will he therefore consider further with colleagues in the Home Office how to ensure continuation of the funding which the voluntary services unit has provided for six charities involved in the rough sleepers initiative and the homeless mentally ill initiative? There is a question mark over the future of that funding. Will my right hon. Friend see whether he can secure its continuation?

Sir George Young : I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I applaud him on his perceptive article in today's issue of The Guardian, which I read with great interest. The answer is yes, I am in close dialogue with my hon. Friends in the Home Office and in the Department of Health whose co- operation in the rough sleepers initiative I greatly welcome. I will pursue that matter.

As a result of the policies that I touched on a moment ago, the figures on homeless households accepted by local authorities for rehousing are now falling for the first time since the original legislation was set up in 1977. The figures for the previous quarter were the sixth in succession to show a decline in the year-on-year figures. The number in bed-and-breakfast accommodation has dropped dramatically by 41 per cent. over the past year.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham) : As the representative of a south-east London constituency, I should like to say that among the things that local residents have noticed most are the programmes aimed at providing proper heating and proper insulation in some of the massive tower blocks and estates that were constructed 10 to 20 years ago. I want to convey to my right hon. Friend the thanks of those people, who are now able to keep warm on £5 a week instead of being cold on £20 a week. Thanks to the help of various Government Departments under schemes such as the EMMAUS project, people who are roofless, jobless and lonely have found what is almost a secular monastery, where they can rebuild their self-respect, enabling them to return to normal society.

Sir George Young : My hon. Friend has rightly drawn attention to the heroic work done by many voluntary organisations and by some local authorities to help the homeless. I applaud, in particular, the work of the

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EMMAUS project in Cambridge, which I look forward to visiting soon. My hon. Friend has also reminded the House of the estate action programme, which focuses on some of the worst estates, where properties are most difficult to let. Under that programme, homes have been renovated and life has been made more comfortable for tenants.

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North) : I should like to put a point to the right hon. Gentleman who, in better times, has given me some assistance with my arrangements. Let me give him a chance to extricate himself from the pack of ravenous Tory wolves whom he fell in with--inadvertently, I hope--at the Tory party's conference. What I understand him to have said on that occasion is not what he is reported as having said. He said that it was difficult to explain to a young married couple that they could not have a house because some young girl had unintentionally fallen pregnant. Will he confirm that he was not suggesting that young women were becoming pregnant intentionally for the purpose of securing a council house, and thus dissociate himself from some of the ravenous Tory wolves who have been peddling that cheap story for the past few months?

Sir George Young : I would not describe my hon. Friends in the language that the hon. Gentleman has just used. I hope that it will not be too long before normal relations between the two sides of the House can be resumed and the informal arrangement to which the hon. Gentleman referred is restored. I shall come in a moment to the question of access to social housing. In one respect the hon. Gentleman is right : I did not suggest that young ladies became pregnant intentionally in order to secure a council house. The principal advocate of that case is the BBC, which devoted an entire "Panorama" programme to support for the proposition. I believe that there are other grounds for reviewing the legislation on homelessness, and I shall deal with them when I have made some progress. Against the background which I have just outlined, I can say that we have a good housing record. However, I am determined to do even better. Of course we need more good-quality homes. Of all our people, 78 per cent. want to be home owners. How do we help those people? Economic policies creating the right conditions for sustainable growth, low inflation and low interest rates have meant that the affordability of homes for purchase is at its best for many years. That means that more and more families will be able to buy their homes as the economic recovery gethers pace and as builders construct more dewellings.

The Labour party's motion, by referring only to public sector housing investment, demonstrates the Opposition's usual knee-jerk reaction of assuming that the state must always provide. It measures success only by public investment in housing and ignores the very substantial contribution that the private sector has made in meeting housing need.

I am happy to say that the latest figures for mortgage repossessions show a fall in the number of homes repossessed by lenders and show that the number of possession orders applied for by lenders is down--there were 10,000 fewer in 1993 than in 1992--and that the number of people in arrears on their mortgages has fallen by 10 per cent. Those figures are further welcome news for borrowers and are good for housing market confidence at a time when housing starts in the three months to November are up by 34 per cent. on the same period last

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year, when housing transactions in the last quarter are up by 24 per cent. on a year ago, when chartered surveyors forecast that the housing market recovery is set to continue through 1994 and when mortgage rates are at a 25-year low of just under 8 per cent. We are determined to continue to work to improve the nation's housing. We are encouraging local authorities to make use of the planning system to achieve mixed and balanced communities, bringing more private investment into affordable housing, and we shall see the benefits of those policies even more as the recovery continues. For example, through our planning policy guidance note 3, we are encouraging local authorities to enable local people to secure affordable homes in the areas where they live, instead of having to move elsewhere. Local authorities are encouraged to include in their district plans obligations on developers to include in substantial new investments affordable homes for local people.

Large-scale voluntary transfers are giving councils the chance to transfer their stock to new owners, bringing in fresh capital and private sector management expertise. So far, 23 authorities have transferred--I hope to see many follow their lead--which will enable my Department to focus its resources on those authorities that have not yet transferred.

The right to manage, which will come into force in April, will give tenant groups the opportunity to take over the management of their homes, making an investment of their time and commitment in a better future for their communities and breaking free from intransigent and sometimes paternalistic local authorities.

Compulsory competitive tendering will also challenge monopoly control of council housing management, bringing private sector expertise into the day- to-day business of running council estates. I want tenants to be fully involved in that process. Tenants will, of course, benefit from the value- for-money improvements that flow from greater competition.

Then we have the new rent-to-mortgage scheme and the extra funds for cash incentives that were announced in the Budget. Those measures expand yet further the opportunities for home ownership, and cash incentives will help families in need by creating even more lettings in the social housing stock.

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West) : The Minister must not be allowed to run away from his review. Is it not the truth that the initiative for the review of the homeless came from Wandsworth borough council? It is contained in the paper that was put to the housing committee on 4 November, which says :

"Once the private rented sector is fully regenerated, it should be possible for local authorities to move to an assessment and emergency housing role for homeless families, but not retain a responsibility for permanent housing. The local authority could be obliged to offer temporary accommodation for, say, three to six months, after which time the family would have to find private rented accommodation this can only happen when the private sector is regenerated and provides a reasonable range of choice."

Does the Minister believe that the private sector is fully regenerated and ready for people to be pushed into a temporary situation?

Sir George Young : I regret having given way to the hon. Gentleman. As I said a moment ago, I shall come shortly to the question of access to social housing and the review of the homeless. At that stage, I shall gladly answer his question as fully as possible.

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I hope that over the past 20 minutes I have outlined a wide range of radical housing ideas being introduced to bring decent homes within the reach of more people. As usual, all that the Labour party can do is sit and listen while the policies are introduced, criticise them initially and adopt them later.

The Opposition have now embraced the concept of the right to buy and have gradually become more committed to tenants' rights, and more recently they have been won over to cash incentives. The Labour party's support for cash incentives--support that I greatly welcome--is tucked away in a document that the party produced last year, which is rather inaccurately entitled "A Moving Experience". On page 5, under the heading "Making Mobility Easier", tht document says : "We support portable discounts' which enable people to buy on the private market while freeing up a rented home for others. There should be no restriction on where families who receive such discounts buy a home, so long as the home is suitable for their needs and they genuinely required a discount in order to buy a reasonably priced property."

I hope that there is all-party agreement that cash incentives have a role to play in a coherent housing policy.

Ministers in my Department were aware of schemes run by the councils in Bromley and Brent--one of them Conservative-controlled and the other Labour -controlled--in the mid to late 1980s. Under those schemes, the councils paid grants to their tenants to encourage them to buy a home in the private sector. That released their council property for letting to homeless families. Following a study of their schemes, we decided to provide a specific power for local authorities. That was approved by Parliament, and it is now section 129 of the Housing Act 1988. That was extended in 1990 by allowing housing associations to pay similar cash grants under the tenants' incentive scheme.

The benefits of that policy are clear. It allows local authorities or housing associations to improve the supply of affordable housing for rent, and it is cheaper and quicker to secure those vacancies with a cash grant than with other forms of provision. It is also cheaper than keeping families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, and it encourages and increases home ownership. For every one home that can be built for rent, three could be released by a similar investment in cash incentives.

There has been some comment in the newspapers about grants to people who did not buy a home in the United Kingdom, but used the grant to move abroad. Councils and housing associations were allowed to formulate their own policies, and they could choose whether to place a geographical restriction on where tenants could buy a home with the grant. Both Labour and Conservative-controlled authorities have run cash incentive schemes without such a restriction, but to maximise the benefit to the United Kingdom housing market and to the construction industry, I have decided that all grants under the cash incentive scheme and the tenants' incentive scheme in 1994-95 should be restricted to those tenants who buy a home in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Blackburn made allegations about Westminster city council. I hope that the House will understand that it is not possible for me to go into the details of the auditor's report. I can say that a cash incentive scheme cannot and should not be run in isolation.

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Local authority schemes should tackle the housing problems of their areas and ensure that the number of grants paid is the same as the number of people who are rehoused in rented accommodation. I will say a word about the designated sales policy, which the hon. Gentleman touched on. As for the principle of a local authority disposing of some of its stock of housing which was originally built or required for letting, that may be a perfectly sensible way of meeting aspects of housing need in an area. Selling at a discount enables people on the waiting list to buy, and that satisfies the wish that is shared by about 80 per cent. of householders who wish to become owner-occupiers. Such sales help to break up the monolithic feel of some local authority estates and can produce more mixed communities.

The local authority gets a capital receipt, part of which can be reinvested in its stock. All that is good for existing tenants and for those in housing need. Many authorities--Labour and

Conservative--have decided that block sale policies have a role to play. I have seen some successful schemes involving the sale of hard-to-let blocks in which no one wanted to live and which the council could not afford to do up. Sometimes, those sales are to individuals and sometimes to developers ; for example, at Minster court in Liverpool, and in Salford. The sales can be part of estate action schemes, such as the one on the Bonamy estate in Southwark. Buildings in Holly street in Hackney are being demolished and rebuilt to provide homes for sale and for rent. Disposal of local authority stock can be the right solution and it would be foolish to condemn it out of hand.

The homelessness review was raised by a number of Opposition Members. The hon. Member for Blackburn talked about a review of the homelessness legislation in the wild terms we have come to expect. The principles behind the proposals that we published last week on reforming the access to local authority and housing association tenancies did draw support from a wide audience. For example, the idea of having a review was welcomed by Shelter, and the London Boroughs Association has now welcomed the thrust of the proposals. The hon. Member for Blackburn has asked where the idea for a review might have come from. Did he see the 7 July 1993 edition of The Independent ? The headline for the article stated, "Labour slants homes policy against the single parent". The article stated that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), who is the chairman of the Labour party, had talked of changing council waiting list systems to reward "responsible couples". The article said that there was a need to transform housing services so that more appropriate housing could be readily available. There was also a need for a housing waiting list structure which positively rewarded those who had tried their best to take responsibility and to have some order in their lives, such as people who were involved in a stable relationship prior to having children.

The hon. Gentleman went on to say in the article :

"People are not fools. If you can't get a house by waiting on the list, you present the maximum number of reasons why you should receive priority. That is not encouraging people to accept responsibility for their own lives and society."

Mr. Straw : The Minister has trotted out that cutting at least five times, to my certain knowledge. He knows that the last person in the world who would endorse either the review or its conclusions is my hon. Friend, who has called repeatedly for the type of policies which I spoke about this

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afternoon. Those policies include an extension of the numbers of houses that are built so that the housing crisis is dealt with. Will the Minister now say whether that is the total provenance for the review? Which boroughs called for it?

Sir George Young : The House will understand the hon. Gentleman's embarrassment at hearing that quotation. However, it is on record, and the article enunciates widely held views. I believe that the hon. Gentleman makes a mistake in trying to distance himself from those views.

If the hon. Gentleman does not accept what the chairman of the Labour party says, perhaps he will accept the views of a leader writer in The Guardian. Commenting on our proposals the day after they were published, The Guardian --not normally one of the Government's strongest supporters--asked :

"Who should have priority? A registered' homeless family, in temporary but comfortable accommodation--or an unregistered' homeless family, stuck in two cramped rooms in the home of a relative." The article continued :

"Sir George Young believes the criteria should be changed so that the individual needs of all families on the two separate routes to a rented home--homelessness and housing waiting lists--are weighed against each other. In principle he is right In some areas the only available way to be rehoused is to make yourself homeless. That is simply absurd."

Those who have read the consultation paper will be in no doubt that we are ensuring that a proper safety net will remain--

Mr. Straw : Will the Minister give way?

Sir George Young : No, I am not giving way.

Mr. Straw rose --

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order.

Sir George Young : I feel that I have given way a substantial number of times to the hon. Gentleman. There are many hon. Members who want to partake in the debate, and I propose to make some progress.

Mr. Straw rose --

Sir George Young : I am not giving way.

Those who have read the consultation paper will be in no doubt that we are ensuring that a proper safety net will remain for families and other vulnerable people who find themselves genuinely without anywhere to live, in a crisis that is not of their own making. I want local authorities to do more to prevent homelessness and do more to enable an increase in the supply of housing. The consultation paper sets out a number of ideas on how local authorities can act more effectively to prevent homelessness, how to give more advice to households on how to secure their own housing and how to build better links with the private rented sector.

I want people to think positively about how the enabling role of local authorities can be strengthened. I find suggestions that we are somehow going back to the days of "Cathy Come Home" quite absurd. The BBC went so far as to suggest on "The World Tonight" :

"this plan may lead to families being split up if mothers and children are housed"--

as the report suggested that the Government had envisaged "in special mother and children units, while the fathers are directed towards men's hostels."

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That is a travesty. There is no question of families being split up, and no one who read the paper could possibly believe that.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich) : Does the Minister accept that removing the entitlement of homeless people to have emergency accommodation while their case is being investigated, removing the obligation to provide permanent accommodation and allowing local authorities to assume that, if people can be deemed to have accommodation in the private sector, there is no need to accommodate them will totally undermine the provisions of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977? Will that not leave many families with children on the streets, in which case there is an obligation on social service departments to receive children into care? Will not that split up families?

Sir George Young : I reject that unequivocally. In a civilised society, there is no question of vulnerable people, which includes families with children, not having a home. I regret and deplore the scaremongering that many people have indulged in since the paper was published.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) : Will the Minister give way on that point?

Sir George Young : I have given way often enough. Other people want to take part in the debate, and I am conscious of the fact that I have taken up a substantial amount of time.

One of the other issues which was raised immediately after the publication of the document was the concern about the use of temporary accommodation. However, there is nothing temporary about the accommodation that authorities will be expected to provide in discharging their duty. I do not think that one can regard an assured shorthold in the private rented sector which runs for a minimum of six months, and often for many years, as temporary, other than in the sense that it does not guarantee the tenure of that property for life.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North) : A few moments ago, the Minister quoted an editorial in The Guardian headed "A policy where the roof leaks." As he quoted that editorial, does he agree with its conclusions? It said :

"This is a sticking plaster reform when fundamental change is needed : unfreezing capital receipts, an emergency mortgage repossession package and a serious Whitehall crackdown on Westminster-style cleansing operations."

Sir George Young : I intend to say something about capital receipts. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that, on the specific question of the review, The Guardian said what I said it said, and recognised an anomaly in the present position.

I envisage local authorities finding good-quality accommodation in the private sector, which some families might prefer to council or housing association homes. We all know from our experience of private sector leasing that such homes can often be available for periods of three years or more. In some cases, that accommodation is of a high standard. It is sometimes more attractive than the stock that many local authorities operate.

Millions of people live in satisfactory accommodation which does not carry total security, but in which they can lead decent and comfortable lives. One should not assume that the only answer to homelessness is a home provided by a local authority or a housing association. At the same

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time, one has to do more to bring back into use some of the 800,000 properties standing empty--700,000 of them in the private sector. Through accommodation agencies and other initiatives, I want to bring together landlords and tenants and ensure that there is real scope for developing the private sector yet further, providing good-quality accommodation for those who might otherwise be homeless. Already, in many parts of the country there are promising initiatives such as the Derby Landlords Forum, which actively promotes a partnership between the local authority and private landlords in effectively meeting housing need.

I am encouraged by the success of a commercial accommodation agency in my constituency that successfully places homeless families with private sector landlords and manages the property. I want to build on the best practice that is emerging and to encourage more local authorities to develop partnership arrangements and make faster progress in building links with the private sector.

The hon. Member for Blackburn touched on the Housing Corporation and housing associations. At a time when public expenditure restraint is necessary to secure sustainable growth, we have had to look squarely at what is possible and consider how best to use the resources at our disposal. We have done that with our proposals for housing associations.

In conjunction with the Housing Corporation, we have reorganised the investment programme to increase the output of new lettings from the cash available. We have done that by bringing in more private sector finance, taking advantage of reductions in development costs and increasing cost- effective home ownership schemes, which have the double benefit of the householder moving into owner occupation and a family getting a new tenancy as a result. At the same time, I have asked the Housing Corporation to increase the amount of its programme that goes towards rehabilitation of older properties, bringing new life to rundown areas and ensuring that we make the best use of the stock that is already available.

Unspent capital receipts are not simply stored in bank vaults, as one recent Labour policy document had it, lying around in piles of crisp fivers for a Labour Chancellor to get his hands on. Regardless of whether set- aside receipts have already been used to pay off debt or have been invested, to be drawn on later for debt repayment, the fact remains that they have reduced the overall level of indebtedness of local authorities and reduced the public sector borrowing requirement. Spending the receipts would increase indebtedness and hense the PSBR. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to appreciate that once.

A spokesman for the Leader of the Opposition was reported as saying before the last election :

"We certainly have no plans to alter the PSBR in this way You don't make new resources available by making new definitions. We have plans to change the way the accounts are presented, by making a distinction between investment and current spending, but that has nothing to do with taking receipts out of the PSBR."

I woke up this morning to the voice of the shadow Chancellor telling me that the Labour party had no manifesto commitments to increased expenditure. I come to the House of Commons and the first thing I get is a Labour party commitment to increase expenditure.

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Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) : Does the Minister accept that, while it might be true that, under Treasury rules since 1990, capital receipts have been used for the repayment of debt, before then there was no such rule and, therefore, receipts generated before 1990 were accumulated by local authorities? Those receipts are sitting in treasurers' accounts and could be used without affecting any realistic definition of the PSBR.

Sir George Young : That is not the case at all.

In the past 15 years, the Conservative Government have devised, introduced and implemented a range of radical solutions to meet the nation's housing needs. They include the right to buy ; housing action trusts to tackle the worst estates ; tenant incentive schemes ; shared ownership, bringing home ownership within the reach of more people ; the right of local authority tenants to manage their own homes ; the tenants charter ; large-scale voluntary transfers ; rough sleeping initiatives ; housing associations as managing agents ; the flats over shops initiative ; private funding for housing associations ; using the planning system to provide affordable homes for local people ; and much more.

While all that creative work has gone on, Labour has sat back, grumbled, moaned, criticised and then agreed when it has realised that our policies work. Those who really care about housing need to ask themselves who is likely to promote and implement the radical policies that we need for housing in the 1990s. Who will promote the mixed economy in housing? Who will break down the barriers and bring in private finance? Who sees the private sector as a useful ally and not as an enemy? Who really believes in empowering the tenant against a recalcitrant Labour-controlled authority? Who has the policies to keep interest rates low and bring home ownership closer to reality for more people? Who is challenging the inefficient monopolies in local authority housing? The answer is that we are. I urge all my hon. Friends to vote for our amendment.

Several hon. Members rose --

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, I remind the House that there have been a number of requests to speak and unless those who speak early in the debate exercise some restraint, there will be some disappointed Members at the end. 5.6 pm

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