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Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak) : Has the hon. Gentleman had a chance to confer on this discussion with his hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)? His hon. Friend said last week :
Column 329"It is an unacceptable position that a first time tenant, whether they are a conventional two children, married family, a single mum with three children or a single person with mental illness, goes to what may, in many cases, be brand new housing stock, when over the other side of the road are people who have been overcrowded for 30 years, paid their rent on time and cannot be moved".
Mr. Rendel : I certainly agree with my hon. Friend on that point. I was just about to come to it, but, unfortunately, Conservative Members have a tendency to break in just before one reaches the point that would answer the question.
There is a need for change, not necessarily to current legislation, but certainly to the way in which it is implemented. Authorities up and down the country are avoiding the problem that the hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) just mentioned. It is perfectly possible to use a cascade system for the allocation of housing, so that the newest and best housing goes to those who are waiting to move from perhaps rather less good housing. The slightly less good housing could then be used for those who are immediately homeless and are coming off the homeless list.
That is being done already in various local authorities, and there is no reason why it should not be done in all of them. If one uses such a system, one avoids the problems of envy that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. Therefore, my hon. Friend is quite right to say that changes are needed to bring that system into effect wherever it is not being carried out now.
Some further changes are also needed. As has been mentioned already, we need to change the system for emergency accommodation, particularly in cold weather and particularly outside London. Far too many people who lie on our streets in shop doorways, cold and sometimes near to death, are not being given even emergency accommodation outside our great city.
There is also a need to look into the problem of 16 and 17-year-olds out on the streets, who are not thought of as vulnerable and therefore not a priority, and who, particularly if they are female, are liable to be dragged into prostitution. That is not a situation that the Government or any Government should allow to continue.
If "back to basics" in housing means anything, it surely means back to the basics of four walls, a roof and security of tenure. It is that last point that the Government have forgotten.
Interestingly, the Government got one thing right in their housing policy a year or two ago when they began to provide extra money for the purchase by housing associations of second-hand housing, a policy that worked well for a time. A number of houses were bought up, which to some extent stopped the slide in the housing market and meant that some accommodation was brought back into use much more rapidly than it otherwise would have been to house the homeless and those at that time on waiting lists.
That was a policy that we in Newbury commended, although we were not a Conservative-controlled authority at that time. It is a policy to which the Government would have done well to stick. Unfortunately, it has now come to an end. It does not work in all parts of the country, but it works in some.
It is odd that, in a sense, it is exactly the reverse of Westminster city council's policy. Westminster city council sells properties that were in the public sector to
Column 330private owners. Under the other policy, housing associations bought properties that had been owner-occupied for those on the waiting lists who desperately needed them. How the Government can think that both policies were right I am not sure. It is similar to what I described a moment ago--when, wearing their planning hat, they reversed the policy that they had adopted wearing their housing hat. The Government's amendment condemns the policies of
Labour-controlled local authorities. I am interested to see that the Government have found nothing to condemn in Liberal
Democrat-controlled authorities, such as my own, whose housing policy, I am glad to report, the Department of the Environment has frequently praised.
However, the Government's amendment is hypocritical, because they are responsible for the worst housing management. Let us look at the facts. In 1993, there were 864,000 empty properties. If we divide that up into the various sectors, 1.9 per cent. of council houses were empty, 2.4 per cent. of housing association homes were empty, 5 per cent. of the private stock was empty, but, worst of all, 6.8 per cent. of the Government's stock was empty. The Government are three and a half times as bad as local authorities at managing their stock. That shows the sheer hypocrisy of the Government's amendment. This debate is about temporary accommodation and the homeless. Temporary accommodation is what we all like when we go on holiday. What the Government need to realise is that homelessness is no holiday.
Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) : A great plethora of figures has been bandied around tonight by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Naturally, the Opposition will not accept any figures with which they do not agree. I do not believe that the Department of the Environment produces one set of figures for Labour Front-Bench spokesmen and another for the Government, but if the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who sadly is not here at the moment, was trying to suggest that Hackney performs better than Westminster in maintaining its houses, he must be joking, because no one on this earth will believe that.
Rather than dealing with facts and figures, may I suggest something easier, particularly for those Opposition Members who do not know London very well because their constituencies are far away and they do not spend a lot of time in the centre of London? All they have to do is go out of the door, turn left, walk for a few minutes, cross Lambeth bridge and walk down to the imperial war museum. On a nice day, it is a pleasant stroll.
Across the road, hidden behind a tall modern tower block called Lambeth towers, they will see an old Lambeth-owned council estate. It is one of those estates built by the great gerrymander Herbert Morrison. At the time, they were well built, and, as he put it, he built them to build the Tories out. He did not say Tories ; he used another word which would be unparliamentary.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : When I go home, I walk to Charing Cross tube station. If I walked a little further up the Strand, I would find, sadly, despite what the Minister said, a number of people sleeping in doorways. They sleep in doorways in very cold weather, and they have no other accommodation. That is quite a common
Column 331sight in various parts of central London, but it was not the case before 1979. It might be useful if the hon. Gentleman took a look tonight.
Mr. Atkinson : I too walk around that part of London. People have slept rough of their own volition in that area for many years. [Interruption.] Hon. Members should listen. For those who need them, beds are available.
May I continue my walk south of the Thames into Lambeth, where that Herbert Morrison block is to be found, which, in its day, was well built? I suggest that hon. Members wander round that block. When it was built, it provided ideal homes for families. It was low-rise and looked out over little gardens. The trees that once adorned the gardens of the 19th-century houses that were whacked down to build it were retained to make a nice backdrop for the families.
Look at that block today. Several of the flats are boarded up, no doubt awaiting maintenance. I went there today and spoke to a lady who said that the flat next door to hers had been empty for four years. Other flats were occupied but had boarded-up windows. Paving stones were broken and dangerous, and litter and cans disfigured the courtyards. From some flats, where I am told squatters still live, came the sound of deafening reggae music.
That block is 10 minutes away from the House. Hon. Members can go there and see the effect of bad management by a local authority. That little estate could be turned into a paradise if Lambeth council so wished. If it had been properly managed and not been allowed to decline over the years, families would have volunteered to live there. If it had been sold to the private sector, those flats would be advertised in The Sunday Times as 10 minutes away from the West End and the City. That is why they are desirable apartments. In past decades, that estate has lacked proper and competent management. That property is owned by Lambeth council, which has spent its time and money on crackpot schemes, about which we all know. It is a shame that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley), who speaks for the Opposition on transport matters and who was a Lambeth councillor, is not here tonight. She is responsible for shipping affairs, but God help the British Navy if she were in charge of it.
Lambeth council has squandered money over the years on its crackpot schemes. An investigation costing £20 million is under way into money allegedly unlawfully spent on civil engineering projects. It is alleged that £800,000 has been overpaid to some Lambeth teachers. That would have done up some of the flats on that estate. We have heard of housing benefit fraud involving 750 members of staff, and there is nearly £30 million of uncollected rent.
From a sedentary position, I heard the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) comment on London housing. I have had first-hand experience, because, like my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Sir P. Beresford), I happened to be a member of Wandsworth council. I was pleased and surprised to be part of the team that had to sort out the mess left by Labour.
To recap one or two of my hon. Friend's points, the Labour party had a policy of municipalisation under which the chairman went about on a bike, writing down which houses the council should buy. Once we had chucked out
Column 332Labour, I was given the job of chairing a committee to dispose of those houses. I could not go around on a bike, as there were too many houses involved--there were nearly 2,000 boarded-up houses in the borough of Wandsworth, many in the leafy streets of Putney, when we took over.
It was amazing that the council did not know what it had bought--we did not know to whom the boarded-up houses belonged. As chairman of the disposal committee, I was given the task of advertising in the local paper, asking anyone who lived next door to a boarded-up house please to get in touch with the council, because we were not sure whether it might belong to us. We found several dozen properties in Battersea and Putney which the council had purchased but then forgotten. We strongly suspected that the owner of one property had been paid twice for it--he must have thought that he had struck it lucky.
Labour spent millions on nutty schemes in Wandsworth and, as a consequence, was unable to do up its houses. It boarded them up and left them empty for many years, during which time they became eyesores. Labour had spent the money on buying the properties and did not have sufficient money to maintain its existing council properties. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central explained exactly what happened.
The Labour council's gerrymandering scheme went wrong, because the tenants rose up and chucked out the Labour party. I was standing in a ward in which nearly 80 per cent. of the voters were council tenants and, as much to my surprise as to anyone else's, I was elected, because the tenants were fed up with inadequate and poor maintenance.
It was not only Wandsworth's Labour council which had municipalised and sought to gerrymander--the Greater London council was also in the game, trying to help the Putney Labour party keep Putney Labour. Of course, the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) was involved in the Putney Labour party in those days.
The Labour council built the Roehampton estate. Why? It is a tower block estate on the edge of Richmond park. It was not built to disfigure the skyline, which it ruined anyway ; it was not built to provide convenient homes because the flats were high rise ; and it was not built because of its convenient location. The council dumped thousands of people miles from any jobs, in an area with virtually no public transport. They were stuck in a wasteland because the council wanted to increase the number of Labour voters in that part of London.
When the GLC finally transferred all its Wandsworth properties to Wandsworth council, councillors were puzzled because no rent was forthcoming from two of the blocks. Eventually, someone went to see the two blocks that the GLC had given us and discovered that the blocks did not exist--the GLC had had no idea of what was going on. It is easy to score points off loony left councillors in London--it is all good knockabout stuff--but Labour Members should take my advice and walk across the Thames. Despite the rhetoric and the jokes, I am angry that families have to live on the Lambeth estate in unacceptable conditions merely because of the idleness, ineptitude and corruption of a bunch of Labour councillors.
Column 3336.13 pm
Housing in Manchester, as in every other major city, is under extreme pressure for the simple reason that, since the Conservative party took office, we have witnessed a decline in capital resources. That decline has brought in its wake a deterioration in housing provision and conditions the length and breadth of the city. The central Government allocation for housing investment programmes has been severely cut and, as night follows day, the local authority cannot meet the needs of its citizens. In 1992-93, our housing improvement bid was £131 million and the allocation was £35.8 million. In 1993-94, the bid was 28 per cent. of the previous year's--we submitted a request for £40 million but received only £36 million. In 1994-95, the bid was treated in exactly the same way-- a bid for £46.8 million was met with an allocation of £29 million. One does not need to be a mathematician to realise that the resources are not sufficient to provide decent living accommodation for the people of Manchester.
I stress the fact that there is a tremendous need for housing and housing improvements. It will be possible to rectify the situation only with investment from central Government and the private sector, as has now been acknowledged by Manchester city council. The Government must act as a catalyst, but I regret to say that they are failing miserably in that role.
The local authority in Manchester has stressed time and again that additional resources are essential if we are to get off the treadmill. If the resources are not forthcoming, things can only get worse. If we bear in mind that the council estimates that £300 million is needed for private sector improvements and £500 million for public sector improvements, we get some idea of the scale of the problem facing the providers of housing for those in need. Because of the widening gap between needs and resources, Manchester city council has had to take a long look at the problem and has come up with what is termed a corporate housing strategy.
The strategy recognises the need for a fundamental review of the council's own role in the housing market. It has taken cognisance of the limited resources and of the necessity to stimulate private sector investment. Its aim is to deliver an effective housing service. The Manchester strategy has also taken into consideration the changing tenure patterns and the trends which have led to the rethink of housing policy. Gone are the days when the direct works department built 1,300 houses, employed 5,000 workers and 1,000 apprentices, provided jobs for the disabled and saved the ratepayers money--we now have a new ball game.
The Government's financial controls have led to a severe reduction in local authority housing in recent years. Private investment has been directed towards houses for sale, not towards houses for rent. Housing associations, which once had a minor role to play in the provision of housing, were given a new status by the Government but, as their finances dry up, their properties in Manchester are boarded up, vandalised or used for the illegal dumping of waste or they become havens for undesirables. That is a sacrilege while people are waiting for a roof over their heads.
Column 334There have always been changes in housing. The mean terraced streets of houses at the turn of the century, which were all owned by private landlords, gave way to the great slum clearances which resulted in monolithic council estates. At one point in the 1970s, Manchester city council owned about 90,000 properties.
However, there have been rapid changes in the past 10 years. We have witnessed a decrease in the number of houses to rent in the private and public sector. The right-to-buy policy has taken the more desirable houses from the pool of properties on offer to waiting list applicants. People do not buy the flats that we are knocking down--the system-built rubbish. They buy council houses that overlook golf clubs, and so on. Those are the desirable properties.
We have witnessed the demolition of system-built obscenities that have blighted the city. That has also reduced the relets. The city, in its strategy statement, welcomes the diversity of tenure and of choice, but I warn the city council that it must never lose sight of the fact that any change must be for the benefit of people.
The choice of increasing ownership is useless if a family cannot pay the mortgage payments, suffers repossession and has to turn to a local authority for help. We have witnessed the increase in homelessness. What choice do homeless people have? How does the council tackle that acute problem without adequate resources? The number of households who are admitted to be in priority need has more than doubled. The demand for specialised homes for the elderly and disabled has trebled.
The sharp increase in homelessness has led to a 22 per cent. increase in the number of households living in temporary accommodation. It is estimated that 618 persons become homeless every month in Greater Manchester and most of them gravitate towards the city. That is not one of the features that we are proud of. We do not show the International Olympic Committee the people sleeping rough in the streets of Manchester.
Patterns have changed, but not for the better. Whatever imaginative policies the council pursues in response to the ever-changing scenario, the financial resources must be made available to meet the needs. Those needs are great. The council points scheme alone, shows that 20,000 households from the waiting list are classified as being in housing need.
Different types of accommodation are needed to meet the demand from single parents and as a result of the break-up of families. Overcrowding is now estimated at 39 per cent., and that has coincided with the right to buy and the reduction in the availability of family housing. More than 13,000 good- quality houses have been bought by tenants, which has added to the problem of diminishing stock. Manchester's structure and population change continually. The decline in population to about 400,000 does not mean that the pressure on housing has decreased--quite the opposite. We have more low -income families and more vulnerable and immobile households and the demand for affordable houses to rent is increasing.
Column 335Poverty adds to the problem, as does unemployment, especially in the inner-city area. In the inner-city area of Manchester, unemployment is well above the national average. Male unemployment is 30 per cent. That should take the smirk off the face of the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Sir P. Beresford). There has been an increase in the number of households who receive free school meals and in the number of households who receive benefits.
Those are the people who do not have a choice. They are denied access to home ownership. Those are the victims of the Government policy. Demand outstrips supply at every turn and the providers are not providing.
When a city council's housing stock decreases by 3,000 in one year and the replacement is only 874, and those dwellings are built, not by the city council, but by a housing association, that proves that there is no support from the Government for a serious house-building programme.
The city council's ideas and aims are well-intentioned and thought out and they are enshrined in six key objectives. I will quote from its report :
"1. To provide a choice of desirable and affordable housing to improve the quality of life for current residents and to encourage people to come and live in Manchester.
2. To make special provision for people who are homeless or inadequately housed and for people with special needs.
3. To offer tenants a wide choice
4. To deliver a customer orientated, locally based, value-for-money housing service
5. To prevent homelessness "
Those objectives are commendable but, whatever the strategy undertaken to remedy the crisis in Manchester or any of the major cities, we shall always return to the dependency on the Government for adequate levels of funding resources. That is where the exercise is flawed. We have only to consider the Government's appalling housing record to realise that the objectives of the Manchester city council strategy for housing will remain just a well- intentioned programme of words and figures in a well-presented brochure and that none of the aims for decent housing will materialise for the people. If they have to rely on the Government to make them work, it will all remain a pipe dream.
The Government have lost credibility. The Government cannot be trusted.
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : We should consider why the market for housing, compared with other markets that meet people's needs, manifests such desperate mismanagement and terrible shortages. Surely that is so largely because the property market is bedevilled by legislation which has been passed by the House at different times in the past few years.
Planning controls are one type of legislation ; they have limited the amount of land available on which to build housing. Secondly, controlled rents have meant that, for many decades, low rents gave no incentive to people in the private sector to provide or recycle property. Thirdly, the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, which was passed by the Labour Government, increased enormously the number of people who flooded into inner cities, especially London, and put enormous strains on the housing market there.
Column 336It is to the credit of the current Housing Minister that he has tackled many of those problems and introduced some imaginative policies. For example, when I was a member of Westminster city council, we identified more than 50 acres of land in the Westminster part of the central London catchment area alone which were derelict and could not be built on because, for one reason or another, planning consents were bedevilled by past legislation. There was a vast amount of housing which had fallen into complete disrepair and where no one wished to live ; it accounted for some of the startling figures which we are often given about the number of empty houses. It was not so much that they were empty as that they were uninhabitable, in the centres of cities.
The world and his wife, coming to Britain, often ended up in Westminster, expecting to be housed by the city council, which already had to tackle an enormous demand from the British people and from people who were long- standing residents of Westminster or had family connections there. Children were growing up and wanted alternative accommodation to a room in their parents' house. That situation, coupled with the driving out of the private landlady, who has always in the past provided short-term accommodation for young people, many of whom are highly mobile and simply want accommodation on a short-term basis, has made the housing problem of places such as Westminster unique.
The policies that the Government have recently adopted, including that of making it possible for private individuals to take in lodgers without being bedevilled by half a dozen inspectors and to earn a modest amount of money- -about £3,000 a year--without having to fill in complicated tax returns, have helped to free up accommodation for many young people.
It is a fact that 35 per cent. of all the people on waiting lists are under 25, and many of them are unmarried. Many of those people would have been willing to take a small flat or rooms in a private house if those had been available, but they resorted to the council because there was no alternative, especially in inner cities, as the cost of the housing available in the private sector was beyond their means. They turned to the council, not because they wanted council housing but because that was the only available housing that they were able to afford.
All those factors distort many of the so-called statistics that the Labour party likes to hurl at the Government as a testimony to their supposed failure to provide adequate housing. It is the responsibility of everyone in the House to ensure that those policies are reformed. The Government are determined, and their latest consultation paper continues to meet those problems head on, so they are to be commended.
The result of those restrictive policies has been that all sorts of palliatives, such as housing associations, have been adopted. Although housing associations provide low-cost housing, they do so at heavily subsidised rates. Those subsidies would not be necessary if we freed up some of the property suffering from planning blight, such as the enormous number of empty dwellings over shops. The dwellings cannot be let for residential use because, under planning regulations, the buildings are zoned for commercial purposes. They have stood there for years becoming derelict. I recall writing a paper on the subject back in the mid-1970s, long before I became a Westminster
Column 337councillor. The Government, sensibly and commendably, are tackling the problem head on, so that is another plus for them.
We also introduced the right to buy--a sensible policy, but one that still deals only with those who wish to own a property. Many people are mobile and want not property to own but property to let. No mention has yet been made of the deplorable policies of councils such as Camden and Islington, which in the mid to late-1970s bought whole streets of houses, boarded them up and then let them to what became known as SLUGs, pronounced "slugs"-- short life user groups. The SLUGs in turn let the houses to their chums, most of whom were socialists, to judge by the number of red banners that appear down the streets at election times.
That was another distortion of the housing market, because those councils were buying up massive areas in the inner cities and deliberately converting them into housing for council tenants. Furthermore, much of the housing was sub-standard, and that made it difficult for people to find properties in the private sector. I am familiar with the situation in Westminster, because I was on the housing committee of Westminster council for two years, and in that time I was party to the implementation of many Government policies, such as designated housing. I say straight away that I have no vested interest in council housing, because I have never lived in, rented, bought or sold council accommodation, under the right-to-buy scheme or any other scheme. However, I have suffered from a slur put about by Labour members of Westminster council, who deliberately asked council officers to present them with confidential files on Conservative councillors and Conservative Members of Parliament--I ask hon. Members to note the word "Conservative"--who have bought freeholds in Westminster.
The council owns, or did own, a great deal of land in Westminster, for which it obtained peppercorn rents. In an attempt to raise money to build a large leisure centre, the Queen Mother centre, the council examined its assets and decided to get rid of the freeholds of many of those dwellings.
One of the people who bought the freeholds was the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), but he did not feature in much of the material printed in the newspapers early last week, because he is a Labour Member, and the councillors concerned, Andrew Dismore and Gavin Millar, deliberately asked the officers for files on transactions involving Conservatives. That is a scandalous use of privilege to bring about the disclosure of confidential file material to a national newspaper, and those people may yet have to answer for it.
Incidentally, I must point out that the Transport and General Workers Union bought the freehold of its building, Transport house, as did many other commercial organisations--at the market rate. The Labour party may feel that the report about Westminster council gives it the opportunity to run another smear campaign. The report was leaked ; none of us has yet seen it- -
Column 338stranger to controversy, because he was the solicitor and adviser to the hard-left Greenwich council for several years. During that time, the council was ill advised enough not to set a rate and it was eventually overruled by the district auditor. In the end, Greenwich ratepayers had to pay much more than they needed to pay. Greenwich council was also advised to have the temerity to take the Department of the Environment to court, because it did not consider that it was getting enough in its grant settlement.
That individual, whom I maintain is highly politically motivated, helped to produce the report, which we are given to understand is peppered with emotive language. That is what has given rise to the quotable quotes in the initial report supplied to the press. We have heard the case for the prosecution ; I am waiting to hear the case for the defence.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is a precise point. The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) is putting into the mouth of the person to whom she referred the comments of Mr. Magill, the district auditor. I know, because I was the objector, all the reports are in my office and I have read them.
Mrs. Gorman : While we are on that subject, Mr. Magill was put into the job by Touche Ross, a firm that, by prolonging the inquiry over many years, has been claiming £250 an hour for every hour served by him. Westminster people have also had to fork out for that. I have dealt with the difficult problems of Westminster council, and I shall now deal with its extremely credible record both of housing homeless people and of dealing with the unique problems of the area. Only 20 per cent. of the people of Westminster own their own homes, compared with 60 per cent. nationally. That means that there was an enormous gap between the people who could afford to buy their homes and people who could find only rented
accommodation--low-income people in either council housing or housing owned by associations such as the Peabody Trust and the Guinness Trust.
It was to deal with that deficit of middle-class, middle-income people who could not afford to buy property in Westminster that the council decided to implement the designated sales policy, for which there was total Government approval. Through designated sales, many people who did not wish to buy council property in an area that was not congenial were allowed to choose to exercise their right to buy within a designated block, which did not have to be in the area in which they were living.
There was also the cash incentive scheme, to which the Minister has already referred. That allowed residents who wanted to move out, especially people who were retiring, to use the equivalent of the rebate that they would have received had they bought their apartment or house--but only if they were purchasing property elsewhere. The money did not go into their pockets ; there was no giveaway. It had to be used to find accommodation in areas where there were properties that they found more congenial. That again is part of Government policy.
Column 339As a result, council tenants, housing association tenants and people from the waiting list were able to find accommodation under designated sales. Of all the sales under that scheme, 96 per cent. were to people whose original residential area was in Westminster. It is not true that hundreds of people came from outside Westminster and bought flats from the council at cheap prices.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Before the hon. Gentleman begins his point of order, let me say that I hope that it is about something on which the Chair should rule in relation to procedures before the House. I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on that.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : I shall certainly reflect on that matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not it clear that in refusing to give way, the hon. Lady recognises that there is a counter-case that she does not want to be put?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The hon. Gentleman is a senior Member of the House and has shared with me years on the Public Accounts Select Committee. He knows that that was not a genuine point of order. I hope that in future he will be a little more responsible.
Mrs. Gorman : If the hon. Gentleman can contain himself and not keep interrupting me, he may get a speaking spot himself. Westminster council, with its unique problems of large numbers of people coming into the area and the difficulty, because of high property prices, of its own residents being able to buy property, took part in the London mobility scheme. It was a scheme operated between boroughs so that if people were waiting to be housed in one borough and another borough had empty properties, boroughs could do a swap and enable people to find accommodation.
Mr. Campbell-Savours rose --
Mr. Peter Bottomley : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Twice, we have had examples of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell -Savours) trying to make a point of order when he could not. There is a constant run of sedentary interruptions making it difficult to listen to the speech. I should be grateful if hon. Members would listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) because what she is saying should be heard on both sides of the House.