HC Deb 16 December 1970 vol 808 cc1330-2
17. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what additional aid will be given to the London Borough of Lambeth for housing purposes in the next financial year.

Mr. Channon

I expect the borough to continue to receive special additional help under Section 5 of the Housing Subsidies Act, 1967.

Mr. Lipton

That is a vague answer. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that with 7,600 people officially homeless in the Inner London area, three times the number 10 years ago, London's housing problem has now reached catastrophic dimensions? It is no use playing with the problem, as the Government seem to be doing. When shall we have less talk and more do?

Mr. Channon

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House are deeply concerned about London's housing problem. But I cannot possibly take from the hon. Gentleman the suggestion that this is vague. This is a provision in the Act passed by his right hon. Friends. If he thought it vague, why did he not say so at the time?

Mr. Allason

Are not right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House deeply concerned about conditions in London, including the Opposition Chief Whip, and cannot the Government give some hope that there will be considerable improvements over the appalling performance of the previous Government?

Mr. Channon

I very much hope that that will be the case.

Mr. Loughlin

It will not.

Mr. Channon

The hon. Gentleman is a pessimist. My right hon. Friend has already taken action to try to solve this problem. As my right hon. Friend said on 3rd November, the present reforms of housing finance will mean that those areas where the housing problems are worst will get extra benefit.

Mr. Freeson

That will not operate until after 1972. The situation is getting worse. Lambeth is a notable exception. Is the Minister aware that most authorities in London in the last two or three years have been cutting back to a drastic degree on their housing programmes? Specifically, will he take action with the Sutton Borough Council to ensure—not request—that land is made available in Sutton to assist Lambeth Borough Council, and that similar action is taken—not requested—with other authorities round London?

Mr. Channon

I cannot understand what the hon. Gentleman was doing when he and his right hon. and hon. Friends were in office. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to imagine that, after six years of neglect of London's housing problem, by a magic wand we should cure it in six months.

Mr. Lipton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the completely unsatisfactory nature of those replies, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Maclennan

On a further point of order, Mr. Speaker. On a number of occasions you have ruled that it is unsuitable for a Minister to reply to a Question by asking a question in turn. The last reply of the Minister was in the form of a rhetorical question. Is that acceptable?

Mr. Speaker

It was a rhetorical question.

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