HC Deb 15 July 1971 vol 821 cc745-810

4.23 p.m.

Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)

I beg to move, That this House deplores the Government's delay in acting effectively on the Greve Report on Homelessness in London and other reports on London housing available to Ministers during the past 12 months. I start by drawing attention to the first policy objective set down in the 1970 Conservative election manifesto under the heading "Homes for All". This was "to house the homeless". More than a year has passed since then, and what has happened to the record of the Conservative Government in that time? The answer, generally, is many words but virtually no action. That is what the debate is about. It is not about the Government's failure to solve London's housing problems in a few weeks or months. That needs years of consistent effort, understanding, resource and organisation, and during such time there are bound to be ups and downs in the efficacy of policy and how effectively a housing programme can be mounted.

The debate is about the failure of the Government to act meaningfully on the evidence, conclusions and recommendations of the Greve Report on Homelessness in London and other relevant reports. Right from the start the Government dealt deviously with this report. It was commissioned by the previous Government as part of a general policy of building up full and more accurate data as a basis for housing policy decisions. The study was virtually on Ministers' desks on the day they took office in June, 1970.

Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)

Why was this report, which was commissioned by the previous Government, published not as a White Paper for discussion by Members of Parliament but as a commercial venture through the bookshops? It seems an extraordinary way to publish it.

Mr. Freeson

I also regret that there could not have been a Government publication. This matter was raised during an exchange in a debate in December, 1970, and there was an agreement between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Birmingham Centre of Urban Research on this matter. I understand that the book which has appeared is not the Report as such but an updated version of the material, based on the Report, using much of the material and material from other sources.

I am concerned here with what has happened since that report was made available, long before any publication in book form. It was commissioned by the previous Government as part of a general policy of building up information and accurate data as a basis for housing policy decisions, and it was on the desks of Ministers, and certainly within their Departments, on the day that they took office last June. Since early June it had been available in the Departments concerned, yet they pretended that it had not been received. Press reports appeared about its existence in the Department of Health and Social Security and the Housing Department.

Several of my hon. Friends asked Questions about it, but in November, 1970, the Secretary of State for Social Services told the House that he had not yet received this report. Then, in December, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment told us that the report had been received in June but that it was only a draft version, despite the fact that Professor Greve stated publicly the same month that his research team delivered its final report to the Department early in June.

This is a strange and somewhat irresponsible way for Ministers to handle an important study concerning the living conditions of millions of people.

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

Would the hon. Gentleman say whether it was in Professor Greve's contract that he was responsible for the publication and that the Government had no rights of publication?

Mr. Freeson

With respect, the point I make is not about publication. The Minister has rightly given an answer on this in December. I am saying that there was a denial of the existence of the report by the Department concerned. [Interruption.] I am told that this is "Rubbish". I refer again to the answer given by the Secretary of State for Social Services on 24th November. In an answer to a Question, he said : I have not yet received this report."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1970 ; Vol. 807, c. 68.] One month later the Under-Secretary of State said that it was available in June. He said that it was a draft report, whereas it was publicly stated to have been the final version. These are the contradictions. I am concerned today not about when a book was published but about the fact that the Government had the report in their hands in June and denied that they had received it in November.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Paul Channon)

Has the hon. Gentleman considered the possibility that we had that report in June but were not allowed to publish because of the terms of a contract made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland)?

Mr. Freeson

I am talking not about publication but about a denial of the existence of the report.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer (Lewisham, West) rose

Mr. Freeson

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have given way three or four times already.

I can well understand hon. Members opposite being a little sensitive on this point because they denied and contradicted the facts on several occasions in the House and in public by leaks to the Press. The plain facts is that the report was there, it was denied, and when it was accepted that it was there, we were told that it was a draft report when, in fact, it was a final report.

Worse was to follow. I see the Parliamentary Private Secretary is laughing. This is no laughing matter. The report having been inherited from the previous Administration in June, 1970, it was not until March of this year, nine months later, that any action was taken by the Government. That action was to set up another committee—a joint working party representing the Department of Health and Social Security and the London Boroughs Association. So far as I am aware, judging by the cover note to the report, it did not include representatives from the Department of the Environment, but I am not certain about that.

The terms of reference included centrally the point that the working party was to consider some of the implications of the Greve Report. Almost one year after the Greve Report was received, on 27th May of this year, the working party issued its first report, hurried along by the fact that publication of the book based upon the Greve Report was to take place the same day.

The working party's first conclusion was cursorily to reject the case for re-defining the term and concept of homelessness. The Greve Report examines at some length the need for a fuller definition of the term—for example, to cover the many thousands of families and individuals who are potentially homeless, those who are in shared households, split families, and other groups in similar difficulties.

None of this is discussed by the working party, which simply defines homeless-ness as actual loss of a roof, which is precisely what has been the problem in the past. It is the crudity of this definition which has caused widespread concern and criticism outside Government and inside Government, as well I know from my time in the Ministry.

The Conservative election manifesto a year ago declared The problem of the homeless is concealed by unrealistic official statistics. We will lay down a more sensible definition … The Secretary of State for the Environment made more than one speech or more than one reference and gave more than one undertaking to do precisely this.

The Minister for Housing and Construction should tell us this : does the undertaking given in the election manifesto to redefine the homeless still stand? If so, the working party's conclusion, which the Minister or the Secretary of State for Social Services has circulated to local authorities, must be rejected by the Government.

The rest of the working party's conclusions are commendable—for example, that councils should accept an overriding duty to ensure accommodation for homeless families with children ; that where homelessness or family breakdown seems imminent, the homeless should have separate dwellings in the council's housing pool, accommodation being a housing, not a welfare function ; that families should not be evicted or split up by councils ; that social services' functions should be to receive and act on early warnings of homelessness and to take preventive action, assess needs, and give social work support to families ; and that there should be uniform policy and practice throughout the London area.

I do not demur from one of these recommendations, but was it necessary to wait nine months to appoint yet another committee to repeat these recommendations? Every one of them is to be found explicitly or implicitly in the original Greve Report. Why wait nine months to get a further report repeating the same recommendations?

I understand that the G.L.C. and the London boroughs have been studying the Greve Report and submitting their views to the Government. Now the Government have sent them the working party's report and have invited them to discuss these proposals as soon as they have studied them. More reports are to follow in similar vein over unspecified periods ahead. I understand from my reading of the first working party report that it will take some time, whatever that may be, before it reaches conclusions on recommendations which arose from the conclusions and evidence stated in the Greve Report originally a year ago. Shall we find ourselves in July, 1972, still asking when the Government propose to act on the recommendations?

In view of the limited time for this debate and the number of hon. Members who wish to take part in it, I intend to refer to only some of Professor Greve's recommendations. I do not propose to go over much of the ground that he has dealt with so adequately and fully in his report, though I shall refer to some figures a little later.

I turn first to the recommendation that there is a need which should be examined very carefully for establishing community legal advice services in housing problem areas and housing stress areas. Several organisations have previously looked into this. Indeed, some of them have tried to sponsor such services in these neighbourhoods. Perhaps most notable is the study which was undertaken some time ago by the Society of Labour Lawyers, but it is not confined to that. There have been neighbourhood council sponsorships or similar sponsorships in a number of areas.

Under the previous Government the Lord Chancellor issued a White Paper in January 1970 entitled, "The Report of the Advisory Committee on the Better Provision of Legal Advice and Assistance", Cmnd. 4249. More than 18 months have passed and this report is still being considered by the new Lord Chancellor's Department. May we be told today when the Government will act on this recommendation, which is very largely relevant to the Lord Chancellor's White Paper under the previous Government?

The next recommendation that I want to mention is that the public needs to be better informed about selection procedures for council housing and the general management of properties and related matters. The Cullingworth Report—"Council Housing, Purposes, Procedures and Priorities"—is particularly relevant here. It was circulated to all housing authorities, if I remember correctly, towards the end of 1969 and was being evaluated in the Ministry prior to June, 1970, with a view to contacts, consultations and discussions with the local authority associations subsequently. That consultation was to follow from our evaluation in the Ministry and the studies that no doubt local authorities themselves were making of the reports, with a view to action being taken of many of the excellent recommendations which, despite the fact that we had not come to firm policy announcements, we were endorsing in speeches which we were making around the country and in our discussions with particular local authorities when we had contact with them.

Nothing further has been heard for over a year. When will the Government act on the Cullingworth Report, or has it been shelved? May we be told today because it is directly relevant to the Greve recommendation on this point?

The next recommendation I turn to is that there is a strong case for extending security of tenure to furnished accommodation in London. One of the main trends which the Greve Report found was an increase in furnished accommodation with little security, poor facilities, and exorbitant rents. It is within this type of housing that a substantial part of homelessness arises. Yet the Government have refused to act to help these tenants. They number about 200,000 in the London area, and they are for the most part, if not entirely, concentrated in the Inner London stress areas.

The Government must surely think again in the light of all the evidence presented by Professor Greve and many others on this score. It is absolutely appalling that we are to continue, if the Government persist in their previous decision on this matter, to exclude from further help that section of the London community which is in greatest need.

Perhaps one of the most important recommendations for the medium and long term was that there should be a regional housing authority with strategic powers and responsibilities for the London area. That recommendation repeats the major recommendation in the Cullingworth Report on London housing submitted to the Government last September. Both Greve and Cullingworth have said that that is a prime and urgent need for London, but no action has been taken, nor has any view been expressed by the Government on the matter, except in one inaccurate sentence in their appendix to the working party's report, where they say that it is the responsibility of the Greater London Council. If that is what the Government believe, they must be the only people in the country who do. It does not appear in the London Government Act, and it is not a view held by the G.L.C., much as its officials and individuals may wish it to be the case. It is not a view of the present position held by anyone who has studied the London housing scene. How much longer do we have to wait before there is a proper evaluation of the recommendation and action is taken upon it instead of there being an inaccurate public statement in the first sentence of comment on it?

Perhaps the most obvious recommendation, but the most important immediately and in the long term, is that the greatest need of the homeless is for more good housing in London.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Julian Amery)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Freeson

I am glad to hear the Minister say "Hear, hear". I only wish that some of his colleagues in local government had said the same over the past three years and had acted. The overall shortage of houses in London stands at about 250,000. That is the deficiency, irrespective of the condition of property. Apart from exhortation to local councils, letters and meetings, the Government have taken no action to increase the housing effort in Greater London. All that the Minister for Housing and Construction has done on the recommendations, so far as I can gather, is to announce a further conference of authorities in October—to do what, we do not yet know—and to issue Press notices to say that he has asked authorities to pursue a vigorous building programme and has requested outer areas to help the inner area's housing needs. Is that what he calls dynamic action? The Department is not even monitoring the results of such requests. Questions were asked in the House about land assembly and no answers were forthcoming. One of the big problems is inadequate monitoring, as I discovered when I was at the Ministry. Has there been any follow-up?

Let us remember when I make these comments that the Tories' first housing policy objective in their Manifesto was to house the homeless. I hope that the Minister will not trot out for too long his usual answer to every housing problem put to him, by referring to the White Paper on housing finance. We shall debate the rights and wrongs of that next Monday. What is important for today's debate is that 200,000 tenants of furnished tenancies in London who are most at risk of homelessness are excluded from its provisions. Yet the Greve Report shows that a disproportionate number of people who become homeless are from furnished tenancies. In boroughs with most homeless families, such as Kensington, Westminster and Camden, from one-quarter to one-third of the dwellings are furnished tenancies. But borough figures conceal the worst position. For example, in my own borough of Brent the percentage of furnished tenancies is 12.7, but in Willesden, which is part of the borough, the figure rises to 30 to 40 per cent. in stress areas. Haringey has a figure of 12.5 per cent., but in parts of Tottenham, which is within Haringey, it rises to 30 per cent. In such areas hundreds of thousands of people gain nothing from the White Paper, though they pay the highest rents and are among those most liable to become homeless.

The White Paper provides no extra help for housing improvements, modernisation and conversions in the twilight inner zones where families suffer the worst conditions. Above all, it does nothing to ensure that land in outer London is used to rehouse overcrowded families at risk in inner London as part of a bigger housing drive. That is the key issue. There is a net shortage of 250,000 homes and there are about 150,000 slums. There are 250,000 substandard dwellings in inner London. Therefore, London authorities need to build about 40,000 homes a year, clear about 15,000 slums and have about 40,000 sub-standard dwellings modernised if we are to solve our main problem in the 1970s.

Does the Minister accept those figures? If he does, what does he propose to do to achieve them, not immediately but within a reasonable period, a period which he might suggest? If he does not accept the figures—and he has been very shy in his public pronouncements about discussing such facts—perhaps he would like to tell us why he does not when they are figures drawn from within the Department when I was there.

For a few years we were on the road toward achieving such figures. Local authority housing starts rose from about 18,000 in 1963 to 31,000 in 1967 in the Greater London areas. Then the Conservatives won control of the G.L.C. and subsequently of most town halls in 1968. From then on the housing effort slumped, and it is now running at about 20,000 housing starts a year. Only 5,000 slums a year are being cleared, and that figure looks like dropping as the number of dwellings in slum clearance representations to the Minister has dropped over those three to four years from about 7,600 in 1967 to about 3,500 in 1970. House modernisation is running at 10,000 to 12,000 a year, an increase over previous figures, but we have yet to see whether the graph will show a constant and rapid move toward the kind of figure which is essential if we are to clear up the problem of obsolescence in London.

If the figures I have given continue, they spell disaster for London and continuing hopelessness for the homeless. Fresh initiatives must be taken. They may well have to cut across autonomy, and not only in local government. Like Greve, I … recognise that consideration of the limits of local discretion, and of variation in policies, raises sensitive and complex principles—of relations between central and local government and of 'local self-government'. But there is an overriding issue—our responsibility to end the urban squalor which millions of men, women and children have to suffer. If present methods are inadequate to do this, others have to be tried.

I want to put some of the proposals that we were studying when we left office last year. First, the Government should, in my view, direct the G.L.C. and the appropriate London boroughs to undertake an immediate and speedy listing of available sites for residential development. These should be purchased by negotiation or compulsory purchase order where necessary, and I have reason to believe that homes for about 60,000 people could be built on sites which could be made available in this way within the next two years as a first stage only.

Secondly, if the G.L.C. does not act, the Minister should act directly on the survey concerned. There are plenty of Labour-controlled councils now which will be glad to co-operate. He should act directly to plan the purchase of the sites in question with the local authorities and possibly the Housing Corporation or appropriate housing associations. It is a pity that, in their ideological attitude towards this problem, the Government have ensured that the Land Commission is no longer available to be used for this purpose. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will not smile too broadly at that because discussions were going on at one time between the G.L.C. and the Land Commission with a view to the Land Commission acting directly on assistance to local government in urban renewal areas.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

How many acres of land did the Land Commission manage to find in Croydon, which was one of the operations it was concerned about?

Mr. Freeson

The Land Commission had not completed the negotiations. The hon. Gentleman should listen to what I am saying. It had been approached by the G.L.C. to discuss ways in which there could be co-operation in urban renewal. If the hon. Gentleman is so concerned that Croydon should assist in dealing with the London housing problem, I suggest that he makes urgent and strong representations to the local authority concerned so that it may offer land to the Inner London boroughs, which wish to build, or the G.L.C., which wishes to build. He should make representations not to me but to the Minister and the Conservative-controlled council concerned. The Minister should act directly, as I have suggested, to get this purchase undertaken.

Thirdly, the Secretary of State should request, or if necessary direct, British Rail to make available immediately as much as possible, if not all, of the approximately 1,000 acres of its non-operational and surplus land for housing and related purposes. He should also direct that air and decking rights should be available immediately. I give a small example—small only in relation to the total problem. In my borough alone, this would provide about 100 acres of land for urban renewal purposes, with homes for about 3,000 families, or 9,000 people. Directions should be issued regarding air space rights for municipal housing by building on decks, specifically at such places as Victoria, Euston, King's Cross and St. Pancras, immediately to end the procrastination which has been going on for years under whichever Government. This would be of particular value as a contribution to solving the problem of the large and growing number of single people living in London. The problem of the single person household has been brought out by the Greve and other reports.

Fourthly, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, directions should be issued to such organisations as the gas boards and electricity boards to release and make available within a specified period surplus property and sites for residential development, particularly when they are in the middle of residential areas needing urban renewal. There are several gas stations and power stations in the London area about which no conclusions or decisions have been taken for a long time in the past and about which there should be urgent discussions to bring them into the housing land pool.

Fifthly, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Social Services, directions should be issued to regional hospital boards to act similarly. There are many acres of land which are frozen by hospital holdings dating back many decades and which could be brought into use. This is land which has been held on speculation against need for future hospital services. In my borough—no doubt there is a similar situation in others—30 or 40 acres are standing idle because of this which could be brought into the pool for urban use, whether for housing or other purposes, providing homes for about 4,000 people if necessary.

My last major point links up with the recommendations of the Greve and Cullingworth Reports for a strategic authority. I believe that there is a strong case for developing through the G.L.C., in co-operation with the London Boroughs Association, some form of urban renewal agency which, if necessary, could use the National Building Agency and the Housing Corporation and other selected bodies as instruments for this purpose. If the G.L.C. does not co-operate on this, or, indeed, on other matters to which I have referred, the Minister should use his reserve powers under the Housing Act, 1957, to direct that authority and, if necessary should use his powers to step in himself and sponsor such an agency. I believe that after the first three years of build-up following the establishment of such a working operation, such an agency could be building 3,000 to 4,000 homes a year in addition to the local authority effort in London.

I do not put forward this programme a panacea—far be it from me. But I do put it forward as essential to developing the strategic policy of action on land assembly and development which London's homeless in the widest sense of that term needs. A year has gone by characterised by slick public relations exercises and delays. We condemn the Government for this and call on them to act directly to implement the vital recommendations of the Greve, Cullingworth and other reports. They should act soon lest the heart of our city dies. The situation is grim, and it threatens to become grimmer still under present policies.

4.58 p.m.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Julian Amery)

I beg to move, to leave out from first 'the' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof : 'legacy of homelessness and housing shortage in London inherited from the last administration ; welcomes the steps taken by Her Majesty's Government, together with the London authorities, to secure better provision for homeless people in London ; and expresses confidence in the determination of Her Majesty's Government to solve these problems as quickly as possible'. The Opposition have launched this debate on a partisan Motion and the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) moved it in a partisan speech. I make no complaint of that. We have replied in kind. The Amendment draws attention to the legacy we inherited. Of course both parties are legatees of history in the problem of London's housing but clearly if there is to be any choice or balance as to where the heaviest responsibility lies, it is a little hard to deny that it lies more heavily on those who had six years in which to tackle the problem than on those who have only had one. [HON. MEMBERS : "Thirteen years."] We did rather well in those 13 years. I keep hearing arguments unsubstantiated that the problem has been getting worse in the last few years, not better.

But between the underlying and natural clash of opinion which arises from the two-party system, there is an appreciation on both sides, especially among London Members, that we are facing one of the most intractable problems, both social and, above all, human, because it involves individual families, that those responsible for urban policy have ever had to face. Its implications are so obvious as to be clear to the meanest intellect and felt by the hardest of hearts, but it has proved intractable to successive local and central administrations. It has baffled Governments, it has baffled the L.C.C., it has baffled the G.L.C. and it has baffled local authorities down the years.

I think that our debate would be most useful if, speaking for the Government, I concentrated particularly on the problems facing us and their solution, but before doing so I must reply to some of the charges made by the hon. Member for Willesden, East. I confess to being astonished by the charge of delay in the Government's handling of the Greve Report. It comes particularly strangely from a member of the previous Administration.

The Labour Party issued circulars to local authorities on the subject of homelessness in 1966 and 1967 calling for reports on the problem, and it even took action on some of them. But, for some reason best known to themselves, right hon. Gentlemen opposite left the consideration of the London reports to the end. This seems rather odd as this is the most serious of all the homelessness problems. It was not until February, 1969, that the Greve Report was commissioned.

The arrangement under which it was commissioned was odd. It was not to be a specific report to the Government to be published by the Government, but a report to which the Government were to have access, for which the authors were paid, and whose auhors were to be free to publish and to have the sole copyright when publishing.

What Professor Greve has called his preliminary report was available in January, 1970, and it was seen by Ministers at that time. But it was a preliminary report, and I do not blame Ministers for not acting on it at the time. What he has called his final report was presented in early June, just before the election, and I do not know whether Ministers even had time to look at it in that period. It was in the Department, not on Ministers' desks, when the election was over.

But although Professor Greve has called it a final report, to some extent this is a misnomer, because the report as it then stood was based on 1967 figures. It took no account of the latest report, the Third Report, of the Standing Working Party on London's housing needs, nor of a good deal of other material which was available to the Department. The Department collated material which it had and which it thought would be helpful to Professor Greve to enable him to bring his report sufficiently up to date for Ministers to be able to take action upon it. The material thus collated was passed to Professor Greve in August, 1970, that is, within a couple of months of the report being received in the Department of Health and Social Security.

When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services said in November that he had not received the report, he was absolutely right. The Department had received what Professor Greve has chosen to call the final report, which was a report which did not take account of the Third Report of the Standing Working Party or a great deal of other material. It was not until January, 1971, that Professor Greve was able to evaluate and take account of the additional information supplied to him.

It was thus in January that we had the report for which the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) had originally asked, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Willesden, East would be the first to agree, and that the whole House would be ready to agree, that if one commissions a report, it is no use trying to act on it until one has the final report, taking account of the latest evidence available.

Mr. Freeson

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the report of the Standing Working Party on London's housing needs up to 1974, the basis of which was passed to Professor Greve, was out of date by the time it was published in August last year, as is made clear in the Greve Report analysis? In view of what he is saying, would the right hon. Gentleman make it clear whether any recommendations or conclusions in the original report, the final report, as Professor Greve has called it, which was published last June, were changed in January as a result of the further statistical information provided by the Department?

Mr. Amery

I have no idea to what extent the hon. Member is right in saying that it is already out of date. It is certainly a good deal more out of date than the information on which Professor Greve had been working and which had been available in February, 1970.

Mr. Freeson

Answer the question.

Mr. Amery

I am answering. It was not made available to Professor Greve before he came to publish the final report. How far he took account of the additional information we gave him is his business and his affair and does not in the least invalidate what I am saying—that if one commissions a report and one gets a report based on statistical information which is not up to date, it is the duty of the Government Department concerned to provide the additional information to the person or persons making the report, and it took Professor Greve from August, 1970, to January, 1971, to make up his mind on how far the further information provided was of interest in enabling him to produce his final version.

Within a few weeks of receiving the final version, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services acted. He set up a working party. I am glad to say that it was not a question of nine months later, as the hon. Gentleman has been suggesting, but within less than a month of receiving Professor Greve's final conclusions on the inquiry with which he had been entrusted by the right hon. Member for Coventry, East.

Mr. Freeson

Will the right hon. Gentleman make this clear? I asked whether the conclusions and recommendations had been changed in January from the original report in June. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not know but he now says that Professor Greve made some final conclusions in January, this year.

Mr. Amery

I must assume that, being a conscientious academic, Profesor Greve would not have sat on additional information between August and January unless he thought that there was something worth giving careful consideration to.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Department of the Environment was represented on the working party. Of course it was : it was there with the London boroughs and the Department of Health and Social Security, and the G.L.C. provided an observer. It produced its report on 27th May, that is to say, within four months of the time that the Department of Health and Social Security received the final conclusions from Professor Greve. I do not see that there can be any charge of delay here.

The hon. Gentleman was not very friendly to the working party. He is entitled to his view. Personally I should like to pay my tribute to it for the speed with which it worked and for the substance of its report. I find myself in broad agreement with what it said and at any rate it provides a sound basis for talks with the London authorities.

The hon. Member referred to an undertaking of the party of which I have the honour to be a member. When in opposition we said that we would produce a more sensible definition of "homeless-ness". While the Labour Party was in power, the only definition available—I am not saying the Labour Party liked it or approved of it particularly, but it was the only one available—in any statistics was that an application for temporary accommodation had been received and accepted.

We thought that this was not a very sensible definition and the working party has given us a new definition. It has given the term a triple sense : first, the actual loss of a roof over the family's head ; secondly, a situation in which the loss of a roof is virtually certain ; thirdly, circumstances in which, on professional judgment, there is a serious risk of family breakdown as a result of housing needs and social stress. I do not say this is a definition on which we can rest for all time but it is one which corresponds closely to that of the Council for Social Services. It is not an academic definition but a directive for action and shows three spheres in which local authorities and central Government should work to eliminate what we call homelessness.

The working party has not been disbanded. It is turning its attention to the social services aspect of the problem and looking at the problem of the single homeless person to which Professor Greve in his book made reference although it gives little detail. It will also consider what further statistical or other studies are needed over the whole front and will produce a further report for Ministers and local authorities. Where the Greve Report and the work of the working party is concerned no charge of delay can be made.

In considering this problem of homelessness there is a paradox. London's population is by all accounts, and on all statistical information, falling. Yet the problem is no easier and, according to some authorities, it may be getting worse. How does this happen? Partly because people are marrying younger and living longer, with a resultant need for more individual homes. It may also be that the stringent rent controls applied over many years, and particularly since 1965, have reduced the number of rooms available to let. Certainly Professor Greve took that view at page 212 of his book. Whatever the precise reasons, all of us recognise that the underlying cause of homelessness, apart from psychological and human difficulties, is the simple physical shortage of houses. This is the real problem with which we have to wrestle and it is to that problem that I now turn.

The London housing shortage is very clearly defined in the standing working party report on London housing which was ready in February, 1970, although not published until July of the same year. This report is basically an assessment of housing progress between 1966 and 1969. It estimates the size of the problem in the immediate future and suggests that, if we go on as we did in 1968, Inner London will have a deficit of about 100,000 dwellings in 1974 with a further 150,000 unfit or in urgent need of improvement.

The situation is rather worse than that, since the 1968 rate of building was not maintained in 1969 or 1970. I would put the possible deficit in 1974 as high as 120,000 if we go on at the 1968 rate. The hon. Member for Willesden, East suggested that some responsibility lay with the Conservative authorities. This is a view I have heard expressed before.

Mr. Freeson

It is a fact.

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman says that it is a fact. I am sorry to disappoint him. I have had a look at some very interesting statistics which show the building programmes of those boroughs which changed their allegiance from Labour to Conservative. I will compare the performance of four of the boroughs with the worst housing problems in the two years immediately preceding the election year with their performance in the two years following it. I am taking the election year as 1968. Two of those boroughs changed from a Labour to Conservative administration. They were Islington, which increased the number of houses put to tender from 2,100 to 3,000, and Lambeth which managed to increase the number for 1,350 to 2,200.

The remaining two boroughs kept their Labour administrations. Southwark managed to put only 2,850 houses to tender against 3,600 before 1968 while the Tower Hamlets figure fell from 2,000 to 1,400. Hon. Gentlemen can look around and make their own examples and they will find statistics proving almost any variation of cases they like. I am asking the House to conclude that it is totally unfair and unwise to generalise and to say that one party is more or less efficient than the other in getting houses built in the public sector.

On taking office we recognised the gravity of this situation. In July my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Housing and Local Government commended the Third Report of the Standing Working Party to all the London borough authorities and published it for the first time. He stressed the need to pursue a vigorous programme of public as well as private building. He urged Outer London to help Inner London. He stressed the importance of improvement grants and the setting up of housing aid centres. In October—

Mr. Scott

Does the third report take account of the loss of residential accommodation presently occurring in Central London because of the spread of hotels into what have been residential areas?

Mr. Amery

Only up to 1969. In October my right hon. Friend and I met the G.L.C. and the London Boroughs Association to lay the foundation of a common policy designed to produce the beginnings of a strategy for dealing with a problem which we thought had not as yet been effectively tackled. In April I met the leaders of the stress area boroughs to discuss the consequences and conclusions of the Francis Report. We had long deliberations from which a number of specific suggestions emerged. They are being studied in those boroughs and they have promised to report to me by October.

Since then I have called for a conference of all London boroughs and the G.L.C. to meet me to discuss these problems. I had hoped to hold the conference before the House rose, but it proved on examination that after the changes which had occurred in many boroughs after the last local elections it would be more fair to allow the new authorities time to settle down. We propose to meet in September.

The hon. Member took up suggestions made by Professors Greve and Culling-worth on the importance of setting up a regional housing authority to tackle the problem of housing in metropolitan London as a whole. I am not yet convinced that the G.L.C. has not got all the necessary powers to do this, but I am content to proceed on the basis of the old hymn "One step enough for me", and to accept Professor Cullingworth's view that the first step should be voluntary co-operation in the assessment of London's housing needs through the London boroughs, the formulation of an adequate metropolitan policy for their solution and the determination of the contribution to be made by each borough in the effective control and implementation of such a policy.

The conference I have called is not the first step towards setting up a metropolitan authority, but it will help all those concerned and central Government to work out an overall strategy for the attack on London's housing problem.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

As the situation is as serious as we know it to be, could we not stop the destruction of decent, existing houses which is going on, particularly by the G.L.C. in order to build new roads in London?

Mr. Amery

The balance between communications and housing is a difficult and delicate one. It takes place to a great extent inside the Department. We try to weigh one, then the other. The problems of the capital depend not only on the circumstances of those who live there but of those who have to come in and work there. Those who live there depend on good transport to bring in supplies. The right hon. Gentleman may have particular points in mind on which he feels strongly, but I cannot give him a general reply saying that priority should necessarily go one way or the other.

There are many sectors of the battle against London's housing situation. Our information shows that there are a number of empty houses—something like 1,500 in the expanded towns, about 1,000 in East Anglia. I am glad to say that arrangements have been made by my Department and the G.L.C. to increase the flow of families from Greater London to these areas. The aim of these arrangements will be to make it easier for those who want to go to those towns and who have got jobs to go to or who do not need jobs because they are retired, regardless of whether they are on the waiting list. The G.L.C. will be discussing this with the housing associations.

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

In his discussions with the local authorities and the G.L.C., will the right hon. Gentleman be re-examining' the question of densities for new development in the Inner London area?

Mr. Amery

Yes ; that will be one of the problems discussed, although it does not relate directly to the new towns.

We have discussed the question of furnished tenancies before and I do not want to go over all the ground again. There are over 200,000 furnished tenancies in London. It is very hard to say how many are permanent accommodation and how many are genuinely furnished lodgings used by a transitory population. But I stand by the view of the majority of the Francis Committee that if we were to give the same security to furnished tenancies as we give to unfurnished tenancies there would be a very serious risk of the supply of furnished tenancies drying up altogether.

There is an interesting parallel in this respect. The Milner Holland Report, in recommending the regulation of rents, the maintenance of repair standards and the establishment of security of tenure warned that measures on these lines, unless they were associated with measures to stem the loss of privately rented housing, would be "disastrous". That warning was ignored. Rent regulation and security of tenure were introduced, but nothing was done to make letting a less unattractive proposition. The result has been a continual shrinkage of the privately rented sector, the consequences of which are well illustrated by the Greve Report.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Kensington, North)

Would the Minister say whether the decline in the rented sector was accelerated by the 1965 Act, whether it had been affected by the 1957 Act or whether there had been a constant decline long before the 1965 rent regulations were introduced?

Mr. Amery

It was certainly accelerated by the 1965 Act. Professor Greve shares that conclusion, as appears from page 212 of his book. I am still trying to discover how much of the decline in rented unfurnished accommodation has gone into the furnished sector and into owner-occupation. From the evidence I have, it would seem that much the greater part has gone into the owner-occupation sector.

To follow up the flouting of the Milner Holland warning by flouting the warning given by the majority of the Francis Committee would be a rash gamble, the cost of which would be paid in years to come by the neediest people in London. Land availability is a continuing problem, especially in London. Even allowing for the potential of the docks and Covent Garden, we shall still be faced with a very big problem.

In his Circular 10/70, my right hon. Friend asked all local authorities to take steps to secure the immediate release of more land for house building and particularly to make more land available for private building. In London, this has proved a difficult task because of the general shortage of land zoned for housing and because the overall needs of the metropolis must be borne in mind before a borough can legitimately dispose of any land it does not want.

I am therefore following up the circular with a letter to each of the London borouhs asking them to let me know of any land not at present zoned for housing which they think could be better used for that purpose. I will then take further steps with my colleagues in the Department to work for its release. I am also undertaking an urgent review within central Government and with the nationalised industries and public utilities to see what land there is in London surplus to requirements which could be made available for housing.

These are all points which the hon. Member for Willesden, East raised and about which he and his colleagues, when they were in office, did not seem to do very much.

Mr. Freeson

Will the right hon. Gentleman uncover the report which exists in the Department about which it has been impossible to get any information because it has been lost sight of and which was dealt with by the last Government concerning surplus British Railways land in 1965–66? There seems to be no way of getting information about it from the right hon. Gentleman's Department.

Mr. Amery

I will look into that point. It may be that it has got lost—like the report which the Leader of the Opposition got so excited about on Tuesday.

The G.L.C. has mounted an availability survey at the request of the Inquiry Panel into the Greater London Development Plan. All these considerations will form part of our discussions at the September conference with the London boroughs. But the essence of the problem lies in improving existing houses and saving them from becoming slums. Here I believe that our reform of housing finance will prove a shot in the arm. Landlords will have an incentive to improve their houses while at the same time tenants will be protected against any hardship by the rent allowances proposed. There has already been a substantial upswing in slum clearance in the first part of this year compared with the first part of last year, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will, I hope, be able to give the relevant figures when he winds up the debate. Our proposals for housing finance will give a shot in the arm to slum clearance.

It is quite wrong to think that in an area of stress like London there will be a setback to the building of council houses. On the contrary, London authorities which want to build more council houses will have my full support and will benefit. One of the chief effects of the new subsidy arrangements will be to increase the financial help which the Government give to boroughs with severe housing problems which are having to subsidise the provisions of council housing very heavily from their general rate fund. The exact effect will vary from borough to borough, but in some cases the burden on the rates could be reduced by as much as 40 or 50 per cent. Perhaps more important, that burden will no longer continue to grow at the frightening rate which was occurring under the old arrangements.

But it is not only—perhaps not mainly—in council housing that a solution must be sought. It is perhaps above all in new building for private ownership and in the extension of home ownership. Here the measures we have already announced for encouraging home ownership and facilitating mortgages will play their part. There is an upward trend in the building or private houses all over the country. The upward trend in the number of starts in the private sector has been very marked in Greater London. There has been a fundamental assumption, on which we have all agreed, that Inner London and Outer London must work together and the building of new houses in Inner and Outer London will help to facilitate solving the overall problem.

The building of new houses by all agencies will produce a fresh elasticity throughout the London housing market and thus help to ease the overall problem. I believe that the combination of our policies for the encouragement of home ownership, for the improvement of existing property, for the reform of housing finance and for the acceleration of slum clearance will, with the cooperation of the London boroughs and the Greater London Council, enable us to make a major inroad into this the most intractable of our social problems.

But I do not think that we should leave the matter there. After all, London is one of the greatest capitals—I think the greatest capital—in the world. It has 2,000 years of history behind it. It attracts people from every continent. It will be a great European capital. But so often great capitals present an ugly contrast between wealth and squalor. We must resolve not to allow that contrast to develop in London and, where it exists, to knock it on the head. We must resolve to overcome this grim, social and human problem, and I believe that the steps on which the Government have embarked will make their contribution to that end.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert GrantFerris)

I remind the House that there is just an hour left for back-bench speeches. The conclusions which hon. Members will draw from that are too obvious for me to emphasise.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

I am exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to participate in this short debate, and I promise to be brief. I will not use some of the material which I intended to use, in the hope that as many Members as possible who wish to speak will be able to do so. I would dearly love to take up some of the Minister's remarks, but I shall try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on Monday and perhaps deal with them in greater detail then. I shall confine myself today to making some remarks on the homeless and homeless families.

I start with the very important question of the definition of need. This has become more and more confused in recent months by various reports. I do not think people, certainly in my locality of north St. Pancras and the London Borough of Camden generally, are too worried about who produced this report or continued with that one, who commissioned this and who did that. That does not make one bit of difference to them. Most of them are very interested in the problem itself, and it is to that I hope, we shall devote most of our time in this short debate. The question of definition is extremely important, not just an abstract, academic exercise, because it will determine need and also how we use the resources available to help solve the problem. Camden, which is the local authority I know best, has 9,000-plus on the waiting list, and a council like that has the necessity of narrowing the definition and the meaning of homeless-ness to families who are actually without roofs over their heads. It is unfortunate, but it is a fact of life.

The Catholic Housing Aid Society and Shelter, and many other organisations, have gone much further in their definition and I would agree that a wider and more realistic definition would be along those lines as those organisations have defined them, and would include the young married couple who cannot even live in the same house together. Then there is the well known problem of the large family so overcrowded that they must dismantle the bed to make room to set up a table. That is not unknown in inner London. I would agree with the wider definition as outlined by the Catholic Housing Aid Society and Shelter and others. At this stage there is a necessity for Camden and for other local councils to narrow the definition to deal with the huge problem we have on our hands.

I move quickly on to the causes. The Minister has quite rightly said that the major, the prime, cause of overcrowding is insufficiency of good houses at reasonable rents. That could be the basis of a half-hour speech about what the present Government's policy is doing about that situation. We can say that their policies will have exactly the opposite effects from those which we desire.

Camden lacks something like 30,000 units, either new or improved dwellings, to deal with its own immediate problem ; in that one borough there is a deficiency of 30,000 dwellings. I quote Camden because I know it exceedingly well. I have lived there for over 37 years. The ironical thing is that improvement, however good it is, in that borough or in other Inner London boroughs, produces only more homelessness. The side effect of improved housing is the question of densities. As we improve housing and improve standards, in most areas we reduce densities and create overspill. This is an exceedingly difficult problem, which exacerbates the problem of homelessness. The basic cause is lack of land. This was mentioned both by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) and the Minister. It is the lack of land in Inner London.

It is just not good enough to say that we can filter out the excess population into Greater London and to other areas, because that in itself has many drawbacks. All of us who have people coming to us in our advice services know those who plead with us, "For heaven's sake, can't you do something to get us back into Inner London?" We cannot move people around as though they were draughts on a board. They do not want to pay increased fares travelling between Outer London and Inner London to work, for instance. Moving people out has many drawbacks. It is a glib policy to say, "We have been able to move people about". That policy is a failure in many instances.

Another aspect with which I am particularly concerned is the balance within the socio-economic groups left in inner London as a result of the movement of population. Hon. Members on both sides of the House, I know, have sincere feelings about this, and we are all concerned about the kind of balance which is left in Inner London in areas like Camden, Westminster, Paddington, Islington, as a result of previous policies by both Governments and all councils. I exempt none of them. For example, in Camden we have more than the average of managerial and professional people. We have probably our fair share of semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers, although we have a grave deficiency of skilled manual workers. There is a deficiency in non-manual workers and of the self-employed, and they are necessary ingredients to a balanced community. This must be something which bothers us all.

If London's population is declining it will be difficult to maintain even the existing balance, and there will be a greater demand on the social services and rent and rate rebate schemes in future as a result of this Government's policies being followed.

So there must be some kind of solution based on land use. This calls for the maximum use of the sterile railway lines, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East, and a reexamination of the density position. We are particularly vulnerable in Camden. Having said that there should be a reexamination of densities I know that I shall call down denunciation upon my head, as I have before over several years, because of the conflict which there is between the preservationists, who are determined to maintain open spaces such as there are at Hampstead Heath, Witan-hurst, and Branch Hill, and many other places, and people in great need of homes. I have a great deal of sympathy with the preservationists. There are areas where there are 10 houses per acre and a maximum of 30 persons per acre. There is a conflict between the preservationists and people in, for instance, the southern part of the borough where there are 200 people to the acre. Thus there is an argument for a re-examination of densities, certainly in some Inner London boroughs.

I want to mention very briefly the question of furnished accommodation which, in my area, accounts for over 23 per cent. of households. Contrary to popular belief, those people are by no means fly-by-nights, or people who just move around. On the contrary, they are people who have lived there for two years, at least, and some of them for much longer. This is where I differ in the main from the majority of the Francis Committee, which semed to infer that some of these families were birds of passage, who just flutter from borough to borough. This is quite untrue in Camden. They live in these furnished places because they have no other choice. It is as simple as that. There are some who need that kind of accommodation, and even that sort of accommodation is dwindling. I cannot support the majority view of the Francis Committee. It is well known that I support the minority view put forward by a member of Camden Council. To that extent, perhaps, I have a vested interest in the minority report. I welcome it, nevertheless, as being, if not a more honest, a more accurate reappraisal of the situation of furnished accommodation in inner London.

The majority view of the Francis Committee that these families move around is not true. On the contrary, they are at perpetual risk of becoming homeless. In my locality in 128 known cases in 1970 that risk became a reality. These people were rendered homeless and local authority housing had to be provided. This year there have been 132 evictions from furnished accommodation in Camden, and those people have had to be dealt with by the housing department, the social services department and so on. These figures do not include cases dealt with by the social services department under the National Assistance Act. In the main these are people who had been evicted from furnished accommodation. Seldom were they evicted for the nonpayment of rent. The reasons for eviction were usually the sale or development of the property to provide a bigger investment, or the improvement of the property, which causes great problems. This bears heavily not only on single persons but also on immigrant families who usually have to go into furnished accommodation in the first place.

If a housing and social and welfare problem exists anywhere, it is in Camden. We have the main line stations, and we are close enough to Paddington and Marylebone to be affected by the southward drift of population. I cannot divorce this drift from the Government's general economic policies, and I anticipate a worsening of the situation. People come from areas where there are houses but no jobs into areas where there are no houses but where there may be jobs.

The status of the homeless is another aspect which must be considered. The provisions of the National Assistance Act, 1948, were designed to deal with emergencies caused by unforeseen circumstances, and no one can say that the present housing shortage was unforeseen. Those provisions have created a vast army of second-class citizens who live for long periods in temporary accommodation known as Part III, or sometimes Stage 2. The application of those provisions has created in our midst the hopelessness which all hon. Members will have met when confronted by these unfortunate people. Homelessness, except for a minority of problem families, is the result of losing out in this highly competitive society. The least clever have the worst luck, and for their failure they are set apart, until society is prepared to grant them the right to enjoy living in a normal community. The segregation of homeless families, even just for a few months and with the full benefits of the assistance of professional and social workers creates an impression of punishment. The sooner homeless families are regarded as needing decent housing accommodation, the sooner we shall be on the road to enabling them to bring up their children as self-reliant citizens.

I have outlined some of the problems affecting inner London and Camden, and I hope that the Minister will reply on the problem of homlessness and leave Monday's debate as a separate issue. I hope that he will have in mind the drift to London being caused by the economic policies of the Government and that he will ask his right hon. Friends to rethink their policies in the light of what we have said.

Mr. Allason

On a point of order. As a disinterested spectator, I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the fact that the speech we have just heard lasted for 18 minutes and that there are many other hon. Members wishing to speak.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is not a point of order. Had the hon. Gentleman not raised a point of order which is not a point of order, I intended to draw the attention of the House to that very point. As this is a short debate, I hope that hon. Members will restrict themselves as far as they feel able to do so in the interests of their fellow Members.

5.47 p.m.

Mr. William Shelton (Clapham)

Hon. Members will agree that housing and homelessness problems in London cause more misery to our constituents than any other matter. Homelessness and housing problems probably cause hooliganism and delinquency, and many other social problems can be traced back to housing conditions.

Logically, there are three ways of reducing the amount of homelessness : first, by building more houses ; secondly, by improving the houses we have ; thirdly, by persuading people to move out of London to new towns. I would add a fourth way, which is by giving more information on housing to people who live in London. I want to dwell specifically on this narrow issue of trying to relieve some of our housing problems by giving more information. I do so because the Borough of Lambeth, part of which I have the honour to represent, has an outstanding record in this direction. A Housing Advisory Centre was started in Lambeth in May of last year. It has just completed a year and an analysis of the results can now be made, so that we have an idea of how well it has worked.

The total number of inquiries in the year was over 27,000, of which about 11,000 were in the first half and 16,000 in the second half. We can see that as the centre as become known more people have gone along to get advice. The daily average for the first six months was 86 people and for the second six months 125. The largest single group was seeking to get on the council's housing list. Some 2,000 inquiries were made about moving out of London, which I find encouraging. Nearly 3,000 inquiries were made about the availability of council mortgages—which I am sure Members on both sides of the House will find encouraging. The number of mortgages taken up in 1969 was 24, and in 1970 it rose to 80. Although this is a quite small number, it is encouraging and must be a direct result of the good work of the Housing Advisory Centre.

About 1,000 inquiries were made about improvement grants and a high proportion of those inquiries resulted in the provision of grants. If I tell the House that in 1969 some 210 improvement grants were approved, that in 1970 the figure rose to very nearly 400, and that in the first five months of 1971 the number of such grants almost equalled the number for the whole of 1970, it will be seen that the work of the Housing Advisory Centre is beginning to bear fruit.

I believe I am right in saying that Lambeth is the first borough to form a link with a development area. A Peterborough Week was held in March and April this year and it was extremely successful. I should like to tell the House a great deal more about that experiment, but I will keep my remarks short since I know that many others wish to contribute to this debate. Suffice it to say that this experiment has already resulted in some removals from Lambeth to Peterborough.

I conclude by saying that the action taken by the Borough of Lambeth in giving advice to people on how to set about solving their housing problems has been extremely successful. I know that other boroughs are undertaking similar work, and I hope that the Ministry will encourage these efforts in every way. Anything that can be done in this direction will be helpful in solving the problems of the homeless.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

As a Member of Parliament for Lambeth, I agree with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. William Shelton). However, I warn the Government Front Bench not to attach too much importance to the housing advisory centre since it will not make a major contribution to solving housing problems. What is happening in Lambeth is that the waiting list is being added to that much more quickly because people have been to the advisory centre. Such a body may solve some part of the problem but is not a complete answer.

We all have our own particular solutions for trying to solve the housing problem, and to some extent it has defied the initiative of both parties. It is true that rent control leads to less housing being available for letting, and also leads to more furnished accommodation. In some cases it has led to accommodation becoming more decrepit. Multi-occupation legislation, which has been helpful in some respects, leads to people being driven out of controlled areas into areas where there is no control. Falling population is at the same time linked to increased housing problems. This is a paradox in London which has defied both parties.

There are one or two suggestions I should like to make which I hope will contribute to solving some of the problems of homelessness and bad housing. In my own borough are large blighted areas near the town centre. Some are in action areas but have not yet been dealt with under the London Development Plan. Therefore, people cannot sell their houses and are allowing them to deteriorate. These houses have too short a life to be improved by the local authority and tend to go over to furnished accommodation. Various Ministers have been to see some of these houses in my constituency, and the local authority ought to acquire many of those houses, even if it lets them as substandard houses, I would rather they were let as sub-standard to two families than as sub-standard to four families. Every encouragement must be given to local authorities to do this sort of thing in areas of blight by buying such properties from owner occupiers. If this is done more widely the problem may not be so bad as it is at present.

The second matter that I wish to mention arises out of what I hear from people who attend my advice bureau. A young married couple go into furnished accommodation with one child, they soon find a second child on the way and it is even more difficult for them to seek unfurnished acommodation in which they can build their own home. A further complication is that the wife stops working and the financial situation becomes worse. A third child is born and very often the woman undergoes treatment for mental stress. When finally a fourth child comes along there is a real dilemma for that family. I feel that some kind of domiciliary family planning service should be made available to such a family.

The family would not have to take the advice it was given. I do not want to offend any religious feelings but I feel that any advice that could be given to help a young couple of the sort I have described would help to ease the situation. As more and more children come along the chances of finding unfurnished accommodation grow less and less. One feature that is graphically brought out by the Greve Report is the increase in the number of homeless families with four or more children.

Another matter which is mentioned in the Greve Report—I mentioned this in our debate on 15th February—is the need for a central housing authority. Subsidies are not necessarily the answer. A feature of the London housing situation is that those authorities with the biggest deficit on revenue account and with the biggest housing stress are generally the authorities which do the most to build houses to help the homeless. The authorities which do not have deficits and have plenty of land and money to help are often those which tend to do least. Lambeth and Southwark have big deficits and yet they go on building. Places like Bexley, Sutton and Croydon do not have such deficits and they have not very large housing programmes.

I feel that the answer is to have a central housing authority for the whole of London. It is a pity that my own Government when in office did not do anything about this matter. We sat on this question for far too long. Unless we treat the problem as a whole and, instead of having 32 fragmented areas, have one central directing body with a central strategy and with building powers we shall never solve the problem. We have to take people from Southwark to Bromley ; we must take people from Lambeth to Croydon ; we must take people from Camden to Sutton, and so forth. We must do all we can to ease the situation. Since the Greater London Council does not do the job, we need to set up a central authority.

A matter which was mentioned in a minority recommendation in the Francis Report and is also dealt with in the Greve Report is the necessity to give more security to furnished tenants. This is a dilemma, for there is a risk that if too much security is given the supply of furnished accommodation may dry up. However, it is a risk worth taking. People who let furnished accommodation will probably do so in any case, and it is the question of security with which we should be concerned.

If such accommodation does dry up, the answer is public ownership. Let us not dodge this issue. Large areas of furnished accommodation are in twilight areas and are often owned by absentee landlords. I do not refer to the woman who lets a room furnished in her own house ; I refer to accommodation which is let as an investment. Such property is often controlled by absentee landlords, and where security is not being given to tenants in areas with housing problems I do not see why local authorities should not be forced to step in and requisition property and impose a fair rent system so that the property may be run in a proper way.

This policy would help families to put together the nucleus of homes of their own. One difficulty experienced by people in furnished accommodation is that they never get together anything they can call their own. Many of these families are not fly-by-night, transient people. They are the permanent occupiers of large parts of London and are increasing in number. They must be given some underlying security and guarantee that they will pay only a fair rent for that property. Fair rent legislation for furnished tenants will not work so long as, automatically, they give themselves six months' notice to quit when they apply to a rent tribunal. It would be better to have a fair rent system, which in some cases would be fairer to landlords, coupled with security of tenure. Then we could begin to make inroads into the problem.

The third point which I wish to raise is that we ought to accept the recommendation of the Greve Report that we need more houses in London. That can be done only by reverting to the question of a central housing authority and making sure that houses are built in those areas which have plenty of land available or which at least have more opportunities for building than the inner London stress areas. This has to be done by direction. So far, encouragement by both parties has failed. Where it has failed, action must be taken.

If that is not done, not only are we sacrificing people's housing chances ; we shall also destroy a generation. We shall destroy the opportunities that our good schools offer people. It is no use giving educational opportunities when there is social deprivation in our homes. There are many disappointments in the London education system. The reason is that no matter how good the educational opportunities are, with social and home deprivation of this kind, the opportunities cannot be realised.

I hope that the Government will give more attention to the recommendations of the Greve and the other reports. Let us see strong action in favour of the homeless, not soon but now.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer (Lewisham, West)

It is a great pleasure to be called immediately following the speech of my neighbour, the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser), and to follow up a number of the points he made.

The subject that we are debating is a basic one for hon. Members on both sides, although our approaches may be different. As the hon. Gentleman said, we cannot improve education standards if children come from deprived homes, deprived not necessarily because of the families but because of the circumstances in which they are brought up, which make their lives intolerable and impossible.

That is why we have to beware of the easy answer, because we so much want an easy answer. We should like to be able to say that all that one needs to do is to redefine what homelessness means or to say that there is a great deal of land available in some mystic place. But even with regard to land availability in certain Outer London boroughs, we know, for example, how much land the Land Commission found in Croydon. It found under 10 acres. It may not have looked very hard. It may be that it got the figures wrong. That does not suggest that there is an enormous amount of land available. However, it indicates clearly that we should use what land there is as effectively and as quickly as possible.

For that reason, I hope that one of our first actions will be to see that land becomes available very much faster than it does at the moment. There is a great deal of land in the pipeline which the Ministry could release much more quickly than it does at present. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to look at this point, as well as at the present allocations of density throughout London. In many areas, reallocations could be made.

In addition, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to reconsider the arrangements under which demolition takes place today. It is quite wrong that someone should be able to pull down a house in London without any by-your-leave except for 12 or 14 days' notice pinned to his neighbour's door. Such an arrangement is unacceptable in a situation where, very often, after he has pulled down the house, he gets planning permission for a commercial development that he would have been refused had he sought it while the house was standing.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House must try to get away from the argument which makes hon. Members on this side talk about private development and hon. Members opposite talk about public development. The need in London is for more houses, provided by private developers, in the public sector, and in the in-between area of housing associations.

If we are to tackle the problem realistically, we have to ask ourselves whether the present situation, in which we sterilise large numbers of homes because at the moment they are council houses and have council tenants, is the answer to the problem of those who are most in need. I wonder whether we should not look at the possibility of arranging our affairs in London so that the council house building programme becomes a dynamic rather than the static management arrangement that it is so often. Too many councils are largely concerned with managing the homes that they have already. Often there are people living in them who, given the right opportunities, perhaps would wish to find accommodation that they owned. The answer might be for them to buy the houses which they occupy now, or to buy other houses built by private developers. If we have not enough homes for people to buy and we continue forcing up the cost of homes in London by artificially restricting the number built, it is difficult to see how we can solve the problem. I should like us to look again at the holding of council houses with a view to seeing whether we cannot meet the real need. Is it right for people today to be badly housed for a whole generation, while others hold on to accommodation which they have grown out of, with three or four-bedroom houses which they no longer fully occupy?

If that is true in the public sector, it is also true in the private sector. That is why I support the recommendations of the Francis Committee. It is a little odd that the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) should have referred to practically every report on the subject except the Francis Report. He did not refer to it, of course, because it was not convenient. It did not fit in with his argument. I hope that we shall consider all these reports together and not be selective because certain of them fit in with our prejudged political arguments.

If the Francis Report is to mean anything, we have to encourage widows and others who have unwanted accommodation and would like to let part of it by providing the means for them to do it without involving themselves in a situation which makes it impossible for them to live reasonable lives should they find their tenants unsatisfactory.

We in London shall not solve the housing problem by belly-aching about hon. Members on one side building too many council houses and hon. Members on the other side building only private houses. In London we have to see that we build as many houses as we can as rapidly as possible. Having done so, we must give the people of London the opportunity of knowing where those houses are, and we must provide them with the opportunity to buy, if possible, and to rent fairly, if necessary. We must not be content with a situation in which large areas are sterilised and people who desperately need homes are deprived. Our answer in London is to provide more homes in every sector.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. John D. Grant (Islington, East)

I begin by taking up the point made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer), who referred to the social deprivation caused by bad housing conditions. We are talking about a crisis in housing. It is a long-standing one, but a crisis none the less. Decent housing will do more than anything else ultimately to achieve the reduction in spending on the social services which the Government are so anxious to make.

If we had decent housing, it would help alleviate the problems of crime and delinquency, those of wrecked marriages and ill-health, and probably the prejudices which are aroused by the inequalities caused by bad housing conditions. It would be interesting to know, for example, how many of the man-hours and how much of the productivity lost can be traced back to the root cause of bad housing.

The plain fact is that we do not spend enough of our gross national product on housing. In this respect we compare badly with other countries. I think it would be very much in line with the Government's "one nation" theme to free us from the kind of injustices which we have heard described in the debate.

I cannot accept the Government's line about subsidies only for those in need as the way to keep down our overall expenditure on housing. That seems to be the message of the White Paper which will be discussed next week. If the Government want to provide decent homes for all those in need at a price which they can afford, they cannot contemplate cutting back on the overall figure of expenditure for housing. We must spend more. It is no answer to say that we cannot afford it. I do not believe that we can afford not to do it.

The Minister said that the Inner London boroughs should gain considerably from the new subsidies for slum clearance. I hope that that will prove to be the case. We shall see. But the vast majority of council house tenants, certainly in my constituency, will face rocketing rent rises as a result of the policies which the Government are anxious to pursue. I think that is the path to further inflation, which they have pledged to curb. I share the view that cash aid through subsidies alone cannot solve the problems of the Inner London boroughs.

I should like to give one or two examples of overcrowding. The Greve Report referred to Islington as having the highest proportion of families in London in shared accommodatoin—57.4 per cent. I regard it as a scandal and an indictment of this nation and of Governments past and present that that situation should still be prevalent in 1971.

A recent survey in North-East Islington, which took in part of my constituency, Highbury, has been published by Shelter. It was the work of one of the local community workers. That survey showed that only 43 per cent. of the households surveyed had their own hot water and only 18 per cent. had an inside lavatory. That, again, helps to illustrate the gravity and seriousness of the problem in that part of London. I do not believe that any solution or, at best, only a partial solution, is to be found within the framework of the White Paper, whatever it may say about subsidies for slum clearance and for council and private tenants.

We come back to the problem of the chronic shortage and price of land, which was particularly stressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser). In passing, I should like to mention a subject which I hope that the Minister will take up in his reply. My borough council is gravely concerned about the current handicap of the building cost yardstick because it believes that it is impeding its own housing efforts.

I should also like to mention the series which has been running in the Evening News called "Heartbreak Homes". It has been an excellent series based on Pimlico, but I have a similar problem currently obtaining in Canonbury where long-established tenants are under considerable pressure to quit their homes which are then sold at inflated prices or let at much higher rents. Either way, the tenants who will occupy those properties will not be from the low-income groups in the borough ; they will be people coming in from outside who are able and willing to pay the kind of profits which landlords and private developers are seeking. The lower-income group tenants in that area who might otherwise qualify for the Government's new rebate scheme will not get a sniff at it. I hope that the Minister will bear that point in mind. These landlords may not be in breach of the law, but they are doing nothing to ease the pressure on housing in my borough.

The Greve Report pointed out that there was no coherence in London housing. It mentioned that homelessness in Inner London was up by 156 per cent. in eight years and that the Inner London problem was utterly out of line with anything happening throughout the rest of Britain.

I come back to the suggestion in the Greve Report of a central housing agency, which many hon. Members have supported. I think that is right. The Minister should set up such a body without further delay and give it powers to direct specific local authorities to build in certain areas—particularly outer London areas. I make no bones about it. I believe that encouragement has manifestly failed over a long period. Therefore, we must have compulsory methods to get the Outer London boroughs to accept their proper share of responsibility for London's housing problems.

The Prime Minister had a great deal to say before the General Election about "one nation". I take it that that included housing. I have not heard him say very much, if anything, about housing since the election. That may be because he represents an Outer London, not an Inner London, borough. If he really wants to get to grips with this problem and achieve one nation, he might make a start by making one nation out of both Inner and Outer London.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Tugendhat (Cities of London and Westminster)

I should like to take up the point about the series in the Evening News entitled "Heartbreak Homes" which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. John D. Grant). It is no part of an M.P.'s job to pillory innocent people, to presume that people are guilty until they are proved innocent, or anything of that nature. The Evening News has made some serious allegations about my constituency and has named two companies, Central Estates (Belgravia) Limited and John Haskins & Co. We in Westminster are awaiting an answer from those companies justifying the activities which have been reported in the Evening News or pointing out in what regard that newspaper has been mistaken. As of now, we are deeply concerned about the allegations which have been made because they show how, apparently within the law, it is often possible for unscrupulous landlords to harass and pursue poor, low-income tenants so that they have to leave their homes and cannot take advantage of their legal rights.

I was much encouraged by an answer which I received from the Minister for Housing and Construction, who drew attention to the fact that if tenants are put under pressure by the use of fictitious schedules of dilapidations, the question of prosecution under the Theft Act, 1968, might properly be referred to the appropriate authority. This was a matter of which most people were unaware. I should like to know whether it is the responsibility of individuals who feel that they are the subject of fictitious schedules of dilapidations to bring the prosecutions or whether, when evidence is put before the Minister, the Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for bringing these prosecutions. I should also like to know whether the Government can do more to keep tenants, especially poorer tenants, informed about their rights so that when they are faced with these frightening legal letters by people with strings of initials after their names calling on solicitors and so on they are able to seek advice without having to fork out large sums in legal fees.

Apart from the terrible things about which I have been speaking, Westminster has some of the best landlords in the country. It has firms with a high sense of social responsibility which have done a great deal to make our capital the beautiful and prosperous place that it is. I know from my correspondence that the majority of landlords and agents deeply deplore activities such as those reported in the Evening News. They realise that great harm is being done to their profession by an unscrupulous minority which is causing hardship. I should like to know what more can be done for those in our society who most need protection.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, North)

It is very pleasant, in the first debate in which both the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer) and I have intervened, to find ourselves in such a large measure of agreement, although there are one or two points on the Francis Committee on which I do not think I can follow him.

In opening the debate the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps speaking from the advantage of Brighton Pavilion, apart from a few light-hearted party quips, spoke in philosophical vein and talked about the intractable nature of the problem. I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman entirely in his homespun philosophy. He is paid to make the problem tractable, and if we go forward on that basis we shall have a much happier time during the next couple of years than if we talk too much about intractability.

I should like the Government to reconsider the minority report of the Francis Committee. Particularly when it comes to the protection of furnished dwellings, Miss Lyndal Evans has been somewhat maligned in the general and popularised discussion of the report. It has been said that she just wants rent control and security of tenure for furnished premises. That is not entirely true. If that were to happen, there would be a reduction in the number of furnished premises available, because a number of people who let off a portion of their homes as furnished dwellings would withdraw them from the market.

Miss Evans wants security of tenure for tenants living in large blocks commercially let off as furnished premises. I do not think that if those were controlled there would be a reduction, because the landlords have purchased those properties with a view to putting them on the market and getting rents for them as furnished premises. If they do not let them in that way there is no alternative use for them. They would therefore accept security of tenure and press ahead.

Mr. Kenneth Baker (St. Marylebone)

Would the hon. Gentleman perhaps confirm that that sort of furnished property is becoming prevalent in Inner London, particularly in my constituency, where large blocks of mansion flats are being let continually on short lease of three months, one month, a week, or even a day, and thus moving towards becoming hotels? Would the hon. Gentleman agree that what is needed is not so much control as a change in the terms of leases so that the problem can be dealt with?

Mr. Moyle

I do not have time to go into that, but they would probably be kept as furnished tenancies in one form or another for the occupant, and some control has to be exercised.

I now propose to say something about the problems of an Inner London borough such as Lewisham, part of which I represent, and perhaps explain what a borough housing problem means. We have 7,000 families on the waiting list in Lewisham, 4,000 of whom have some degree of urgency. I should be one of the first to say that the solution of the problem in the London boroughs does not lie in terms of finance and subsidy, but the fact is that if we do not get the money we shall not solve the problem.

We are now rebuilding houses at the rate of about 1,200 a year, and it looks as though we shall keep up that pace, because we are more or less rebuilding Deptford. Although we are doing that, and although the subsidy from the Exchequer is estimated to be about £1,300,000, we shall have a deficit on our housing account of about £1,400,000. There are three-bedroomed houses in Lewisham to let at rents of £8.50 a week, which is a fantastically high rent. I have not had a chance to work out what the subsidies under the White Paper mean for the borough, but it seems that about £3 million a year will be required if we are to press ahead with the redevelopment of Deptford at the pace that we hope to do it.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for introducing the London Government Act, 1963. They were responsible for stopping the G.L.C. being a housing authority. They have to put something in its place because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. John D. Grant) said, we must have an area housing authority, or an area housing policy. Conferences of London boroughs will not do any good. To put it crudely and bluntly, we must have Government action. What we in Lewisham want is to be able to get our hands on the sylvan glades of Bexley, Bromley, Beckenham, Croydon and places like that and to get our surplus population in the north of Lewisham and Deptford into those areas.

If there is difficulty in finding land, there is a simple solution. I am not talking about suburban areas that are conservation areas. In those areas that I have mentioned there are large houses with large back gardens. They could be compulsorily purchased, knocked down and developed at a fantastically high density compared with what they are now. That sort of determined effort must be made if we are to solve the housing problems of places like Lewisham, Lambeth and Southwark.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)

I do not have time to follow the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) in some of the points that he made. I shall confine myself to three specific issues.

I maintain that if we are to have a decent quality of life in Central London it must be possible for a balanced community to go on living there. I put a slightly different emphasis on the issue from that put on it by my right hon. Friend. I maintain that we cannot regard Inner and Outer London as one, with total flexibility within it because, if there were an exodus from Central London of skilled workers to the new towns, and of middle-income groups to the suburbs, we would be left in Central London with waiters and stockbrokers. That would lead not to a balanced community, but to social conflict and the development of a class situation which would be extremely unhealthy. We have to make a conscious effort, through policies laid down by the central Government, and by local government, to ensure that that does not happen.

I agree that we cannot solve London's housing problems simply by subsidy arrangements, however good they may be. For years we have been subsidising units of accommodation and controlling rents, but the situation has got worse. Nor do I believe that a free market in housing in Central London would solve the problem in a million years. There must be a new strategy for housing in Central London.

In particular, I am worried about the way that we have squeezed unfurnished accommodation until, to all intents and purposes, it does not exist in my constituency. If we were to put in security of tenure for furnished accommodation we would be in danger of squeezing that, too. Already the supply of furnished accommodation in my constituency is being squeezed, and being squeezed most of all by the process mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Kenneth Baker) ; namely, the extension of hotels. This is frequently done by a creeping and gradual process under which furnished accommodation becomes short-stay accommodation, then becomes nightly furnished accommodation, then becomes an annexe to an hotel, and eventually is incorporated into the hotel, sometimes with no planning consent being obtained. I know that the Westminster City Council is aware of this problem and is trying to cope with it, but we all have to be aware of it.

Why do we not seek to divert more of our resources into houses in the city? I know that this is part of the aim of the White Paper, but it will fail in central London because we do not have unfurnished accommodation. The reason for that is that we concentrate so much on the furnished sector. Why not look again at the possibility of giving people prepared to invest in the provision of unfurnished accommodation a depreciation allowance on their investment, provided that they are prepared to conform to certain management standards with their property and adopt rent policies which follow a code of practice that has been set down by the central Government? In that way we could get extra resources into extra unfurnished accommodation in our city centres, and that would be a great step forward.

When property comes on the market, housing associations are at a disadvantage because they can buy only at the valuation of the local authority. A private landlord can afford to pay more because of the improvement in value that is likely to come over the next two or three years. As the chairman of a voluntary housing association, I continually find that we are 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. below the price that the private landlord is able to pay. The local authority is not allowed to make up that difference to us so that we can obtain the accommodation and use it to cope with the homeless in our area.

One point that has not been mentioned—it may be that it is special to Paddington and St. Marylebone—is that of the homeless young. I am referring to the groups of young people who come into London from outside, or come into a family conflict situation, and sleep rough in cafes, travelling the tubes at night. Sooner or later, we shall have to encourage local authorities to provide more hostel accommodation for these young people. Otherwise, we shall be building up a real social problem for ourselves in the years ahead.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

The hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) spoke a great deal of good sense about furnished properties becoming hotels. My constituency is not far from his and suffers the same problem. But he should be careful about arguing the case from the point at which he left it. Some control of furnished premises would make it more difficult to get tenants out and hand the premises over to hotels. We cannot take the argument too far tonight, but perhaps he should re-examine it and see whether he is not nearer to our position than he thinks.

To have only two and a half hours for a debate like this is most unsatisfactory. I suppose that this is the first time that two former leaders of local authorities in Inner London and two hon. Members who were housing chairmen at exactly the same time 15 years ago are presenting the case on London housing.

We are not very satisfied with the Government's attitude. The Minister did not think they did too badly in their 13 years. But I am interested in the four boroughs that he chooses as examples of the period 1965–71. Southwark is always chosen. I served on that authority, and I used to draw the facts to the attention of his right hon. Friend.

The Minister was not correct when he said that Southwark cut back on housing starts. It was developing a programme of 2,000 completions over five years, and at present it has 5,500 houses under construction. Over the five-year period it did not cut back but was assembling the land. It housed 4,500 families last year. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to repeat this point, which is not true.

I have many reservations about committees and working parties. The Minister referred to the First Report of the Joint Working Party, which contains the following passage in paragraph 32: We have so far concluded that families without roofs must be secured accommodation if they do not for any reason have it and that, subject to professional decisions about the desirability of receiving children into care and to the condition that 'secure' does not always mean 'provide', the accommodation should be a family dwelling. I do not know what that means. A joint working party should not talk mumbo-jumbo like that. I know many of the people serving on it and I find it extraordinary that they should make that sort of parlous comment, which means virtually nothing.

I urge the Minister not to rely too much on that information. He will recall how we started, in London particularly. The 1957 Rent Act was the beginning of the problems of London. It was argued that it would solve all the housing problems. Lord Brooke argued forcefully that it was the panacea, that once we decontrolled and landlords were able and willing to provide more accommodation at reasonable rents, local authorities would need to be only the supporting bodies.

The subsidies were reduced to zero. The only subsidies given were for slum clearance. My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) and I argued what was happening in London, but the Minister refused to listen. We kept chasing the present Secretary of State for Social Services all those years, but the Conservative Government refused to listen.

The Conservative Government set us the Milner Holland Committee in 1964, we gave evidence to it, and we were present when the report came before the House. These facts live in the memories of people who have been hurt in London by the policy that the Conservatives pursued. We can set up Cullingworth, Francis, Greve and other Committees but at the end of the day they all come to the same conclusion—that we must build more homes. Every hon. Member has made exactly the same point. I do not know how many more committees we shall need to tell us that. Build more houses is precisely what we have not done.

The right hon. Gentleman nodded sagely just now, so I suppose he agrees that we must build more homes. At a Press conference recently he spoke for what amounted to 12 column inches about private home building and right at the end added the six words : Council house building, however, remains static. This is deplorable, and shows what we are complaining about. This is the sort of priority that the Minister gives, and it is causing us a great deal of concern.

I urge the right hon. Gentleman to try to do something about this, and to understand that if one is to build more homes one has to do much more than the Government are doing.

Mr. Amery

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to misrepresent me. I was not advocating that it should remain static. I was giving a progress report to the private house builders about the progress in the private sector. I had to report that the public sector was not doing so well.

Mr. Brown

I appreciate that. I am not being unkind to the Minister, but this seems to be his feeling. If I had been giving that Press conference I would have said, "It is a damned disgrace that we have not built more council houses". But after 12 column inches all he could report was no progress.

Without a substantial programme, the right hon. Gentleman will not solve the problem. In paragraphs 125 to 131, Cullingworth argued cogently that the housing stock of the G.L.C. should not be handed over to the boroughs. The Cullingworth Report was not published until just after the election. After all those comments in favour of no transfer, Cullingworth suddenly said that, provided that the Government were prepared to take action to bring together the G.L.C., the working party and the London Boroughs Association, it would be possible to go ahead with phase 2 of the transfer.

There is no secret that I objected—I said that the transfers were wrong at the time, and I still take the same view—but the Government did not wait to do what Cullingworth suggested they might do first. They went haring off to produce their Orders and present them to the House without even having the courtesy to give us a chance to discuss the matter. On such an occasion, they could have argued the case and explained why they were so hastily going ahead with the transfers, although Cullingworth had made clear that, in his view, they ought not to do that but should be far more careful, able and willing to discuss the subject in greater detail in order to set up a structure which would be able to co-ordinate housing in London to achieve the purpose about which we are all concerned ; that is, the provision of more homes.

I ask the Minister to reread Cullingworth and pay particular attention to what he says in those paragraphs. The result of the Government's hasty action has been clear. He must now take it all back again because the financial arrangements come to at the time—I have always regarded them as bad—will now be put back in the melting pot as from 1st April, 1972, if the White Paper is accepted as the basis for legislation. The whole purpose of the White Paper upsets all those arrangements for transfer of those 46,000 properties. At the end of the day the Government's rush did not give any help to London. All the officers and authorities are busy trying to assimilate the properties and the tenants as well as trying to assimilate the staffs transferred, instead of paying attention to the building of more homes.

I urge the Minister strongly to examine his attitude on the transfer of the G.L.C., properties. I do not believe that he can show any evidence that it has in any way helped London's housing situation.

The attitude of the Greater London Council generally needs to be examined, also. It made some extraordinary comments on Greve. On the question of eviction by landlords, its comment was : But it must not be assumed that in all cases the landlord is acting unreasonably. As a comment by a local authority, that is a pretty poor effort. It is not exactly coming out with something new. On the question of eviction by parents, it made the comment : This is by no means uncommon. Really, the G.L.C. is not addressing itself to the problem.

Above all, the G.L.C. should be considering action to be taken to strengthen the position of tenants in furnished accommodation. If one could do that, one would eliminate some of the homeless family problems. It should examine, also, the question of action taken under various Acts of Parliament. For example, if a local authority takes action about a fire risk, if it takes action in terms of a direct management order or under the heading of multi-occupation, almost inevitably the owners will threaten to turn the tenants out. Thus, even though one tries to introduce management orders, the result in many cases is an addition to the homeless family problem rather than a move towards a solution of the housing problem.

London suffered badly from 1968 to 1970. There was complete Tory control. This has now ended. Instead of land being sold off, as happened in Islington, Hackney, Brent and elsewhere, we now have 22 Labour-controlled authorities willing and anxious to get to work. All they ask from the Government is money.

They want help to get the land from the outer areas, and help to do the job of providing more homes. Let us stop pontificating. We are talking about people now, about human situations and human problems, not statistics. Let us make sure that by straight Government action urgently taken we make life brighter for the people of London.

6.44 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Paul Channon)

With the last words of the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) a lot of us will agree. We are dealing here with people, and, perhaps, we have not heard quite enough about people today. The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) took my right hon. Friend to task for saying that this is one of the greatest intractable problems which we have. I do not agree. I think that it is one of the most intractable problems facing us. It is an appallingly difficult problem, a problem which has so far managed to defeat successive Governments and successive local authorities, and anyone who argues to the contrary is misguided.

I first became really interested in housing—I expect that this is true of many other hon Members who have not been closely concerned with housing for as long as the hon. Member for Shore-ditch and Finsbury and his hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson)—when I saw the film "Cathy Come Home".

Mr. John Fraser

As recently as that?

Mr. Channon

I am a great deal younger than the hon. Gentleman. [Laughter.] That was the first time I started taking a really detailed interest in the subject. I think that is probably true of the country as a whole. [Interruption.] It may be reprehensible, but it is true. I think it is true because that film showed how the homeless were facing really ghastly problems. That is what this debate is about, the sad cases which we have had described so often by people both inside the House and outside over the past few years.

In the short time available, I shall do my best to answer the points which have been raised. I cannot answer them all, and, should hon. Members feel that I have not dealt with the matters which they have raised, if they will get in touch with me I shall try to give detailed answers later.

First, I take the important point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat) about bogus schedules of dilapidation. This is already an offence under the criminal law. I suggest to my hon. Friend that he should advise people to take legal advice where they can or go to advice centres to seek advice on these problems. Having taken advice, they should then tell the local authority what the situation is. In suitable cases, the local authority may refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who may then take action.

I can tell my hon. Friend—I congratulate him on his diligence in pursuing the matter—that we are having new leaflets prepared describing people's rights in such circumstances. They will shortly be available, and if any local authority wishes to have some for distribution in its area, we shall be delighted to arrange it. I am sure that my hon. Friend will make certain that Westminster takes up that offer at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that the leaflet covers the scandal of deferred purchase, which is affecting a large number of people, particularly in my constituency?

Mr. Channon

I shall consider that point, but I regard it as urgent to prepare and send out the leaflets which I have described, and I should not wish to delay that process in order to put in anything else, no matter how important. If the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) would like some of the leaflets, he should get in touch with my right hon. Friend's Department, and we shall be glad to supply them.

I agree very much with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. William Shelton) and the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser) about the work of the Lambeth Housing Aid Centre and the problems which it has solved. We must not overestimate what it is able to do, but I know that it has made a great deal of difference.

As hon. Members on both sides have said, what we have to do in trying to help in London's housing problems is to deal with the problem of money and the problem of land. Those are the two main factors. As one hon. Member said, we have a paradox in London. There is a declining population. Between 1951 and 1961 it fell from 8.2 million to about 8 million ; it is now down a further 100,000 or so, and it may be down another 500,000 by 1981. But, with the change in household size, the pressures on Inner London are still very great.

Homelessness is inevitably the worst feature of housing pressure in a situation such as this. I wish we had a chance—we could have had it in a debate such as this—to discuss this great social problem dispassionately and reasonably. I regret that we have had to discuss it today on a partisan Motion, a Motion which I utterly reject for its allegation that the Government have been responsible for delay in dealing with the problem.

The Report of the Standing Working Party came out in July last year, shortly after we took office. It pointed to the problem of a crude housing shortage of 100,000 dwellings and a total of 230,000 unsatisfactory dwellings. Professor Greve says that there are statistical flaws in that argument, and that it is wrong. Whoever is right, we can all agree that it is a serious situation.

As soon as the report was received, my right hon. Friend the then Minister asked all the London boroughs to have a vigorous building programme. He impressed upon outer London the need to help and impressed upon the boroughs the need for improvement and for further housing advisory centres. My right hon. Friends have met the London boroughs and the G.L.C. I spend a large part of my time meeting the London boroughs, discussing their problems and urging them to go on with greater building programmes of all kinds, public or private.

My right hon. Friend has discussed with the boroughs the setting up of housing aid centres and the establisment of tenancy relations officers to help in the areas of stress. I hope that the boroughs will carry out the suggestions. Many of them are considering both recommendations. There are already at least three housing aid centres in London, and I hope that there will be many more. I understand that a further seven boroughs have decided to go ahead with them.

We are to have a further conference in September. I agree that conferences are no excuse for inaction, but they can help. People can come to understand each others' problems and we can discuss them and put forward proposals. Those present can consider them and make a positive contribution.

I was sorry that the hon. Member for Willesden, East raised the hoary old controversy about the publication of Professor Greve's Report [Interruption.] In that case, he raised the question of delay. I do not believe that any other hon. Member has followed him on that point, and it is not worth wasting time dealing with the matter. I have set out the position in full far too often.

It is very strange that the whole matter was arranged as it was in the first place, and I regret it. We have done what we can to press ahead. I am very sorry that in spite of the fact that we sent comments to Professor Greve in August the report did not come out until May. That is not our fault. In the interim, we have taken continual action on the problem of London housing. The working party was set up. Of course, it had to wait for the final version of Professor Greve's Report, because the figures were completely different. No one had any idea whether Profesor Greve would change his mind about any of the points. He was sent 12 pages of closely-argued evidence which he presumably thought was important, for it took him five months to reply. Therefore, we cannot be criticised for waiting a further few weeks before the working party was set up.

Mr. Freeson

Is it not a fact that the main part of that so-called evidence was a presentation of the statistical information based on the Standing Working Party's report, and that no changes were made in the recommendations arising from the original report presented last June.

Mr. Channon

That may well be so, but, then, it is astonishing that he took five months to answer.

The first report from the working party set up by my right hon. Friend dealt with the nature and prevention of homeless-ness. It made changes in the definition of homelesssness, and it dealt with homeless families with children as the first priority. However, single people are extremely important, too, and they will be considered in the next report, which I hope will be soon.

The report states that an over-riding housing obligation is for local authorities to accommodate as a priority those families who seem certain to lose their home and those where there is serious risk of imminent family break-down as a result of housing need and social stress. That follows closely the recommendations of the Council for Social Services, which can be found in Professor Greve's Report as well.

There was no coherent definition of homelessness before. The definition given is one that I hope the London boroughs will accept. I also hope that they will soon reply to the suggestions made in the working party's report. I think that they are sensible suggestions. I hope and believe that the boroughs will think so too, and that we shall have a chance to discuss them with the boroughs.

The solution to the problem lies in dealing with the London housing problem itself. Housing starts in London for the first five months of this year rose from under 12,000 to nearly 16,000. The number of completions so far this year also shows a small increase on the corresponding figures for last year. The number of local authority tender approvals last year was under 20,000, and I am glad to say that there seems a good chance that this will increase this year as well. In 1970 the total rate of slum clearance was 5,500. In the last quarter of 1970 it was 1,445 compared with the figure of 1,200 for the comparable quarter of 1969. In the first quarter of this year that figure rose to 2,288.

The House will have the opportunity to debate in greater detail on Monday the reform of housing finance.

The problems of slum clearance are crucial in London, but the real problems are obsolescence, sub-standard houses and the sheer lack of houses. For sub-standard houses in 1968 the improvement figures were 9,000. They rose to 17,000 in 1970. We intend shortly to mount the largest improvement campaign in the world in London. I hope that everyone concerned will join in making it an outstanding success.

The Government's proposals for the reform of housing finance provide for a rising costs subsidy which will meet about 75 per cent. of the costs to local authorities incurred when their housing costs rise faster than their rent income. In addition—and this will be of particular value to London—the provisions provide for an operational deficit subsidy which, broadly speaking, will relieve local authorities of half their rate-borne deficit now arising on their housing revenue account. A borough obliged to make a rate fund contribution of 20p in the pound in 1971–72 might well be able to reduce that contribution to a little more than 10p in the pound for 1972–73, while continuing to go full speed ahead in its building programme. Such a reduction might relieve the burden on the ratepayers of such a borough by £1 million or more. That is the proof of what we have always said, that we intend to help the areas and people in greatest need.

For the first time there are 750,000 people in London living in private unfurnished accommodation who, because of our rent allowance scheme, will have no need to fear eviction if they cannot afford the rents.

The working party made recommendations for improving the early warning scheme for local authorities to learn when people are in danger of eviction.

All these are constructive steps that the Government have taken in the comparatively short time we have been in office.

We are debating a tragic problem. The Opposition have approached it in an unconstructive way with their Motion. From the way they talked, one might imagine that the Greve Report deal with conditions while we were in power. It deals with conditions when the Labour Party was in power throughout London. It is an indictment of the policies of six years of Labour rule in London. Labour hon. Members should be hanging their heads in shame. The London Labour Party controlled London for 30 years, and the citizens of London should regret it. We have shown that we will tackle the problem energetically. [Laughter.] Laugh this off—the starts in London are up, completions are up, slum clearance is up, improvement grants are up and tender approvals are up, and the housing finance reform relieves the burdens on the needy.

The Motion reveals cynical political opportunism, preying on the misfortunes of a minority of people in London. The Labour Party had no real concern for them when they were in power. The hon. Member for Willesden, East was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman personally had concern. I withdraw that allegation from him at once. But he had his opportunity when in power to put forward the ideas he put forward so glibly this afternoon. The Opposition did not act when they were in power, and now they are resorting to carping criticism of a Government determined to act and help solve the problem.

I ask my hon. Friends to reject with contumely and contempt the Motion put forward with such cynicism by the Opposition.

Question put, That the Amendment be made :—

The House divided : Ayes 301, Noes 267.

Division No. 431.] AYES [7.0 p.m.
Adley, Robert Emery, Peter Kinsey, J. R.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Farr, John Kirk, Peter
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fell, Anthony Knox, David
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Lambton, Antony
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Fidler, Michael Lane, David
Astor, John Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Langford-Holt, Sir John
Atkins, Humphrey Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Awdry, Daniel Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Le Marchant, Spencer
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Fookes, Miss Janet Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Fortescue, Tim Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Balniel, Lord Foster, Sir John Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fowler, Norman Longden, Gilbert
Batsford, Brian Fox, Marcus Loveridge, John
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Luce, R. N.
Bell, Ronald Fry, Peter McAdden, Sir Stephen
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Galbraith, Hn. T. G. MacArthur, Ian
Benyon, W. Gardner, Edward McCrindle, R. A.
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gibson-Watt, David McLaren, Martin
Biffen, John Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Biggs-Davison, John Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McMaster, Stanley
Blaker, Peter Glyn, Dr. Alan Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. McNair-Wilson, Michael
Body, Richard Goodhart, Philip McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Boscawen, Robert Goodhew, Victor Maddan, Martin
Bossom, Sir Clive Gorst, John Madel, David
Bowden, Andrew Gower, Raymond Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Marten, Neil
Braine, Bernard Gray, Hamish Mather, Carol
Bray, Ronald Green, Alan Maude, Angus
Brewis, John Grieve, Percy Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Brinton, Sir Tatton Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Mawby, Ray
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Grylls, Michael Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gummer, Selwyn Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Gurden, Harold Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Bryan, Paul Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Hall, John (Wycombe) Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C.( Aberdeenshire, W)
Buck, Antony Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bullus Sir Eric Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moate, Roger
Burden F. A. Hannam, John (Exeter) Molyneaux, James
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Money, Ernle
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray&Nairn) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Monks, Mrs. Connie
Carlisle, Mark Haselhurst, Alan Monro, Hector
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hastings, Stephen Montgomery, Fergus
Channon, Paul Havers, Michael Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Chapman, Sydney Hawkins, Paul Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Hay, John Mudd, David
Churchill, W. S. Hayhoe, Barney Murton, Oscar
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Heseltine, Michael Neave, Airey
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hicks, Robert Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Clegg, Walter Hlggins, Terence L. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Cockeram, Eric Hiley, Joseph Normanton, Tom
Cooke, Robert Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, s ) Nott, John
Coombs, Derek Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Onslow, Cranley
Cooper, A. E. Holland, Philip Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Cordle, John Holt, Miss Mary Osborn, John
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Hordern, Peter Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Cormack, Patrick Hornby, Richard Page, Graham (Crosby)
Costain, A. P. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Critchley, Julian Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Peel, John
Crouch, David Howell, David (Guildford) Percival, Ian
Crowder, F. P. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Curran, Charles Hunt, John Pike, Miss Mervyn
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Hutchison, Michael Clark Pink, R. Bonner
d'Avigdor-Gotdsmid, Sir Henry Iremnonger, T. L. Pounder, Rafton
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James Irvine, Bryant Codman (Rye) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Dean, Paul James, David Price, David (Eastleigh)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Dixon, Piers Jessel, Toby Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Jones, Arthur (Northants S.) Raison, Timothy
Jopling, Michael Rawilinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Redmond, Robert
Dykes, Hugh Kershaw, Anthony Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Eden, Sir John Kilfedder, James Rees, Peter (Dover)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kimball, Marcus Rees-Davies, w. R.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Ridsdale, Julian Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Stokes, John Wall, Patrick
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Walters, Dennis
Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Sutcliffe, John Ward, Dame Irene
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tapsell, Peter Warren, Kenneth
Rost, Peter Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wealtherill, Bernard
Russell, Sir Ronald Taylor, Edward M.(C'gow, Cathcart) Wells, John (Maidstone)
St. John-Stevas, Norman Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Scott, Nicholas Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Scott-Hopkins, James Tebbit, Norman Wiggin, Jerry
Sharples, Richard Temple, John M. Wilkinson, John
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Shelton, William (Clapham) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Simeons, Charles Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Sinclair, Sir George Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Woodnutt, Mark
Skeet, T. H. H. Tilney, John Worsley, Marcus
Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Trafford, Dr. Anthony Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Soref, Harold Trew, Peter Younger, Hn. George
Speed, Keith Tugendhat, Christopher
Spence, John Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Sproat, lain van Straubenzee, W. R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES :
Stainton, Keith Vaughan, Dr. Gerard Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Stanbrook, Ivor Vickers, Dame Joan Mr. Jasper More.
Abse, Leo Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Hilton, W. S.
Albu, Austen Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Horam, John
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Deakins, Eric Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Allen, Scholefield de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Delargy, H. J. Huckfield, Leslie
Armstrong, Ernest Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Ashley, Jack Dempsey, James Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Ashton, Joe Doig, Peter Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)
Atkinson, Norman Dormand, J. D. Hunter, Adam
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Barnes, Michael Douglas-Mann, Bruce Janner, Greville
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Driberg, Tom Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Barnett, Joel Duffy, A. E. P. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Dunn, James A. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgton) Dunnett, Jack John, Brynmor
Bidwell, Sydney Eadie, Alex Johnson Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Bishop, E. S. Edelman, Maurice Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Jones Barry (Flint, E)
Booth, Albert Ellis, Tom Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur English, Michael Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Evans, Fred Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)
Bradley, Tom Faulds, Andrew Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Judd, Frank
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Kaufman, Gerald
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Kelley, Richard
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Kerr, Russell
Kinnock Neil
Buchan, Norman Foley, Maurice Lambie, David
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Foot, Michael Lamond, James
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Ford, Ben Latham, Arthur
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Forrester, John Lawson, George
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Fraser, John (Norwood) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Cant, R. B. Freeson, Reginald Leonard, Dick
Carmichael, Neil Galpern, Sir Myer Lestor, Miss Joan
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Garrett, W. E. Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Gilbert, Dr. John Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Ginsburg, David Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Golding, John Lipton, Marcus
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Lomas, Kenneth
Cohen, Stanley Gourlay, Harry Loughlin, Charles
Concannon, J. D. Grant, George (Morpeth) Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Conlan, Bernard Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) McBride, Neil
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. McCann, John
Crawshaw, Richard Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. McCartney, Hugh
Cronin, John Hamilton, James (Bothwell) McElhone, Frank
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) McGuire, Michael
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Mackenzie, Gregor
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Hardy, Peter Mackie, John
Dalyell, Tam Harper, Joseph Mackintosh, John P.
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Maclennan, Robert
Davidson, Arthur Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Hattersley, Roy McNamara, J. Kevin
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Heffer, Eric S. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.) Pentland, Norman Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Marks, Kenneth Perry, Ernest G. Strang, Gavin
Marquand, David Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Marsden, F. Prescott, John Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Marshall, Dr. Edmund Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Taverne, Dick
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Probert, Arthur Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Mayhew, Christopher Rankin, John Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Meacher, Michael Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Rees, Merlyn (Leeds S.) Tinn, James
Mendelson, John Rhodes, Geoffrey Tomney, Frank
Mikardo, Ian Richard, Ivor Torney, Tom
Millan, Bruce Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon) Tuck, Raphael
Miller, Dr. M. S. Robertson, John (Paisley) Urwin, T. W.
Milne, Edward (Blyth) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor) Varley, Eric G.
Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Wainwright, Edwin
Molloy, William Roper, John Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Rose, Paul B. Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) Watkins, David
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Sandelson, Neville Weitzman, David
Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Wellbeloved, James
Moyle, Roland Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) White, James (Glasgow, Pollock)
Murray, Ronald King Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.) Whitehead, Philip
Ogden, Eric Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Whitlock, William
O'Halloran, Michael Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
O'Malley, Brian Sillars, James Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Oram, Bert Silverman, Julius Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Oswald, Thomas Skinner, Dennis Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Small, William Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Padley, Walter Spearing, Nigel Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Palmer, Arthur Spriggs, Leslie Woof, Robert
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Stallard, A. W,
Parker, John (Dagenham) Steel, David TELLERS FOR THE NOES :
Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham) Mr. Donald Coleman and
Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Stoddart, David (Swindon) Mr. William Hamling.
Pendry, Tom

Main Question, as amended, put :

The House divided : Ayes 302, Noes 268.

Division No. 432.] AYES [7.10 p.m.
Adley, Robert Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray&Nairn) Fenner, Mrs. Peggy
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Carlisle, Mark Fidler, Michael
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Channon, Paul Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Chapman, Sydney Fookes, Miss Janet
Astor, John Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Fortescue, Tim
Atkins, Humphrey Churchill, W. S. Foster, Sir John
Awdry, Daniel Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Fowler, Norman
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fox, Marcus
Baker, w. H. K. (Banff) Clegg, Walter Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Balniel, Lord Cockeram, Eric Fry, Peter
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Cooke, Robert Galbraith, Hn. T. G.
Batsford, Brian Coombs, Derek Gardner, Edward
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Cooper, A. E. Gibson-Watt, David
Bell, Ronald Cordle, John Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Glyn, Dr. Alan
Benyon, W. Cormack, Patrick Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Berry, Hn. Anthony Costain, A. P. Goodhart, Philip
Biffen, John Critchley, Julian Goodhew, Victor
Biggs-Davison, John Crouch, David Gorst, John
Blaker, Peter Crowder, F. P. Gower, Raymond
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Curran, Charles Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)
Body, Richard Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Gray, Hamish
Boscawen, Robert d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Green, Alan
Bossom, Sir Clive d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James Grieve, Percy
Bowden, Andrew Dean, Paul Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Grylls, Michael
Braine, Bernard Digby, Simon Wingfield Gummer, Selwyn
Bray, Ronald Dixon, Piers Gurden, Harold
Brewis, John Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Hall, John (Wycombe)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher du Cann, Rt. Hon. Edward Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Dykes, Hugh Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Eden, Sir John Hannam, John (Exeter)
Bryan, Paul Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Elliot, Capt, Walter (Carshalton) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Buck, Antony Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Haselhurst, Alan
Bullus, Sir Eric Emery, Peter Hastings, Stephen
Burden, F. A. Farr, John Havers, Michael
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Fell, Anthony Hawkins, Paul
Hay, John Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Hayhoe, Barney Mawby, Ray Shelton, William (Clapham)
Heseltine, Michael Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Simeons, Charles
Hicks, Robert Meyer, Sir Anthony Sinclair, Sir George
Higgins, Terence L. Mills, Peter (Torrington) Skeet, T. H. H.
Hiley, Joseph Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Mitchell, Lt. -Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Soref, Harold
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Speed, Keith
Holland, Philip Moate, Roger Spence, John
Holt, Miss Mary Molyneaux, James Sproat, lain
Hordern, Peter Money, Ernle Stainton, Keith
Hornby, Richard Monks, Mrs. Connie Stanbrook, Ivor
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Monro, Hector Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Montgomery, Fergus Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Howell, David (Guildford) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Stokes, John
Hunt, John Mudd, David Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Hutchison, Michael Clark Murton, Oscar Sutcliffe, John
Iremonger, T. L. Neave, Airey Tapsell, Peter
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Nicholls, Sir Harmar Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
James, David Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Normanton, Tom Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Nott, John Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Jessel, Toby Onslow, Cranley Tebbit, Norman
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Temple, John M.
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Osborn, John Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Jopling Michael Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Page, Graham (Crosby) Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Kershaw, Anthony Page, John (Harrow, W.) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Kilfedder, James Peel, John Tilney, John
Kimball, James Percival, Ian Trafford, Dr. Anthony
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Trew, Peter
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Pike, Miss Mervyn Tugendhat, Christopher
Kinsey, J. R. Pink, R. Bonner
Kirk, Peter Pounder, Rafton Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robert
Knox, David Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch van Straubenzee, W. R.
Lambton, Antony Price, David (Eastleigh) Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Lane, David Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Vickers, Dame Joan
Langford-Holt, Sir John Proudfoot, Wilfred Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Le Marchant, Spencer Quennell, Miss J. M. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Raison, Timothy Wall, Patrick
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Walters, Dennis
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Redmond, Robert Ward, Dame Irene
Longden, Gilbert Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Warren, Kenneth
Loveridge, John Rees, Peter (Dover) Weatherill, Bernard
Luce, R. N, Rees-Davies, W. R. Wells, John (Maidstone)
McAdden, Sir Stephen Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David White, Roger (Gravesend)
MacArthur, Ian Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
McCrindle, R. A, Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Wiggin, Jerry
McLaren, Martin Ridsdale, Julian Wilkinson, John
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
McMaster, Stanley Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
McNair-Wilson, Michael Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Woodnutt, Mark
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Worsley, Marcus
Maddan, Martin Rost, Peter Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Madel, David Russell, Sir Ronald Younger, Hn. George
Marples, Rt. Hn, Ernest St. John-Stevas, Norman
Marten, Neil Scott, Nicholas TELLERS FOR THE AYES :
Mather, Carol Scott-Hopkins, James Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Maude, Angus Sharples, Richard Mr. Jasper More.
Abse, Leo Booth, Albert Cooks, Michael (Bristol, S.)
Albu, Austen Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Cohen, Stanley
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Concannon, J. D.
Allen, Scholefield Bradley, Tom Conlan, Bernard
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Broughton, Sir Alfred Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Armstrong, Ernest Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)
Ashley, Jack Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Crawshaw, Richard
Ashton, Joe Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Cronin, John
Atkinson, Norman Buchan, Norman Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard
Barnes, Michael Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Dalyell, Tam
Barnett, Joel Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Darling, Rt. Hn. George
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Cant, R. B. Davidson, Arthur
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Carmichael, Neil Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)
Bidwell, Sydney Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)
Bishop, E. S. Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Clark, David (Colne Valley) Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)
Deakins, Eric Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pendry, Tom
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Pentland, Norman
Delargy, H. J. Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Perry, Ernest G.
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Dempsey, James Judd, Frank Prescott, John
Doig, Peter Kaufman, Gerald Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Dormand, J. D. Kelley, Richard Probert, Arthur
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Kerr, Russell Rankin, John
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Kinnock, Neil Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Driberg, Tom Lambie, David Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lamond, James Rhodes, Geoffrey
Dunn, James A. Latham, Arthur Richard, Ivor
Dunnett, Jack Lawson, George Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Eadie, Alex Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Robertson, John (Paisley)
Edelman, Maurice Leonard, Dick Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lestor, Miss Joan Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Roper, John
Ellis, Tom Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.) Rose, Paul B.
English, Michael Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Evans, Fred Lipton, Marcus Sandelson, Neville
Faulds, Andrew Lomas, Kenneth Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Loughlin, Charles Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McBride, Neil Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Foley, Maurice McCann, John Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Foot, Michael McCartney, Hugh Sillars, James
Ford, Ben McElhone, Frank Silverman, Julius
Forrester, John McGuire, Michael Skinner, Dennis
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mackenzie, Gregor
Freeson, Reginald Mackie, John Small, William
Galpern, Sir Myer Mackintosh, John P. Spearing, Nigel
Garrett, W. E. Maclennan, Robert Spriggs, Leslie
Gilbert, Dr. John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Stallard, A. W.
Ginsburg, David McNamara, J. Kevin Steel, David
Golding, John Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Micheal (Fulham)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Gourlay, Harry Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Marks, Kenneth Strang, Gavin
Grant, George (Morpeth) Marquand, David Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Marsden, F. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Marshall, Dr. Edmund Taverne, Dick
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Mayhew, Christopher Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Meacher, Michael Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Tinn, James
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Mendelson, John Tomney, Frank
Hardy, Peter Mikardo, Ian Torney, Tom
Harper, Joseph Millan, Bruce Tuck, Raphael
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Miller, Dr. M. S. Urwin, T. W.
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Milne, Edward (Blyth) Varley, Eric G.
Hattersley, Roy Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Wainwright, Edwin
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Molloy, William Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Heffer, Eric S. Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hilton, W. S. Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Watkins, David
Horam, John Morris, Chartes R. (Openshaw) Weitzman, David
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Wellbeloved, James
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Moyle, Roland Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Huckfield, Leslie Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Murray, Ronald King Whitehead, Phillip
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Ogden, Eric whitlock, William
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) O'Halloran, Michael Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Hunter, Adam O'Malley, Brian Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Oram, Bert Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Janner, Creville Oswald, Thomas Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.) Padley, Walter Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Palmer, Arthur Woof, Robert
John, Brynmor Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parker, John (Dagenham) TELLERS FOR THE NOES :
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Mr. Donald Coleman and
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Mr. William Hamling.
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)

Resolved, That this House deplores the legacy of homelessness and housing shortage in London inherited from the last administration ; welcomes the steps taken by Her Majesty's Government, together with the London authorities, to secure better provision for homeless people in London ; and expresses confidence in the determination of Her Majesty's Government to solve these problems as quickly as possible.

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