HC Deb 14 June 1988 vol 135 cc478-507
Mr. Allan Roberts

I beg to move amendment No. 88, in page 47, line 42, at end insert 'and at the end of that section there shall be added— (2) In deciding what assistance it is reasonable to render in discharging its duty under this section, a housing action trust shall have regard to the proportion of all vacancies arising in housing accommodation transferred to it by an order under section 69 of the Housing Act 1988 let to homeless persons in the year before the making of the order.".'. We want to make progress, but the amendments are so important and deal with such significant issues it is difficult to move quickly.

Amendment No. 88 relates to homelessness. We could not be discussing a more important issue in the House, whether it be Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mr. Skinner

It is Wednesday at Ascot.

Mr. Roberts

If the people at Ascot were addressing their minds to homelessness, the nation would be on the road to solving the problem.

The problem is that when. HATs are declared and the bureaucratic quangos or lackeys of Whitehall take over, the responsibility that rests with local government for rehousing and homelessness ceases to exist within the area that the HAT has taken over. Following pressure from the Opposition, the Government admitted in Committee that that was a problem and introduced an amendment designed to give HATs some responsibility for rehousing homeless people. That took the form of an amendment to section 72 of part III of the Housing Act 1985, which we used to know as the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977. It covered co-operation between local authorities and other housing bodies. Where a local housing authority requests a HAT to assist it in the discharge of its functions relating to rehousing the homeless, the HAT to whom the request is made shall co-operate in rendering such assistance in the discharge of the functions to which the request relates as is reasonable in the circumstances. If any hon. Member, including the Minister, can tell me what that means, and what responsibility is placed on the HAT within the definition of the HAT's requirements, they are doing better than I am. It is obviously Civil Service, legal or ministerial mumbo-jumbo, which does not place any responsibility on the HAT at all, except that it must co-operate in rendering such assistance in the discharge of functions to which the request relates as is reasonable in the circumstances. What does as is reasonable in the circumstances mean?

Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)

My hon. Friend has mentioned the monolithic council estate in Hulme in Manchester—a system-built estate which, frorn the day of its construction, has proved faulty. Suppose that that is declared a housing action trust. Because we cannot let the properties, there is an imbalance; the tenants are mainly students and single people, including single parents. Suppose that the Government bring in an unelected, unrepresentative body, a HAT, which says, "We cannot get any entrepreneurs to come back into Hulme to produce the necessary finance to rejuvenate the area." The Secretary of State will then give that body the responsibility—or authority—to demolish. Once it had been demolished, what will happen to all the single people who will then be declared homeless?

3 pm

Mr. Roberts

That is an important question and if Hulme is declared a HAT the Government will answer it. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland), I have had some experience in dealing with the Hulme estate; I was chair of housing in the city of Manchester. If the Government had the courage to act on a real problem estate, they would not declare the houses in Hulme, which can be rehabilitated, a housing action trust; they would declare the crescents a HAT. In 10 years' time they will have to be demolished anyway. Then, in co-operation with the local authority, they would accept responsibility to rehouse the people who live in the crescents and provide the necessary housing investment programme allocation to enable the city of Manchester to build low-rise council houses with gardens and purpose-built accommodation for single people. However, I do not expect that that will be the Government's response.

We are dealing with the responsibility of housing action trusts, wherever they are, for the homeless. One of our criticisms of the Bill is that homelessness is mentioned in only one place—in the amendment that we managed to persuade the Government to move, but which we believe to be inadequate. The words "reasonable in the circumstances" could enable a bureaucratic HAT to say, "We do not have any accommodation in the area for which we are responsible. It is therefore not reasonable to expect us to assist in housing the homeless". That could happen even if those people have become homeless in the area for which the HAT is responsible.

Our amendment seeks to tighten the definition of what is reasonable in the way of assistance by drawing the HAT's attention to the previous use of its newly acquired stock for rehousing homeless people. The ineffectiveness of section 72 of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, the homeless persons legislation, is clear. Section 72 applies where a local authority approaches another local authority, a registered housing association, a new town corporation or the Scottish Special Housing Association for assistance. During the debate on the provision in 1977 strong doubts were cast upon its effectiveness in forcing co-operation on unwilling bodies. We are sure that HATs, peopled by the friends of the Secretary of State for the Environment, will be unwilling to accept some responsibility for homeless families in their local authority area.

In the debate on the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill in 1977, the present Secretary of State for Defence said: That is not an extremely hard and demanding requirement."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A;23 June 1977, c. 369.] He said that it was a very mild requirement. You can say that again. It left the door wide open for the SSHA, for example, to say that it appreciated that it was being asked to co-operate but that it was not prepared to make houses available for homeless people. There were plenty of reasons that a body could give. That is what the housing action trusts are likely to say. They will say that they are not prepared to make their houses available for homelessness; there are plenty of reasons that they can give under the Bill.

Housing associations can also be required to help under section 72. The problem with them is also clear. The misgivings expressed in Parliament in 1977 have been borne out over time. Housing associations have been the major bodies to which local authorities have had recourse for help in fulfilling their responsibilities for rehousing the homeless. It is worth considering the results of that relationship. I do not criticise the housing association movement in any way. There are reasons other than the housing association movement's desire or otherwise to help the homeless to explain why matters have unfolded as they have. If co-operation with such generally sympathetic bodies as housing associations is not working out, there is even less likelihood of successful co-operation with housing action trusts.

Useful and mutually beneficial arrangements have been built up between individual councils and housing associations under section 72 of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act. Many housing associations perform a valuable role in helping to rehouse the homeless. However, according to reports from many London boroughs, not all is perfect. While some associations give all, or a large proportion of, their stock to rehousing the homeless, others house few or no homeless applicants because it does not, appear to them to be "reasonable in the circumstances". The Londonwide figures give us some idea of the problem. Between 1980 and 1986, the proportion of London local authority tenancies let to the homeless increased from 31 per cent. of the vacancies to 51 per cent. In the same period, the proportion of housing association stock let to homeless nominees rose from 16 per cent. to 21 per cent—an increase of only 5 per cent. as compared with the 20 per cent. increase faced by councils.

The Minister does not accept that the council is the housing authority of last resort. When all else fails, it is the council that has to deal with homeless people who have been rejected by private landlords, the housing association movement—and in future by the housing action trusts if they are established.

Mr. Skinner

Unless it is Tower Hamlets.

Mr. Roberts

Unless it is Tower Hamlets, which does not want to house the homeless at all.

The royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea provides a useful local example. In Committee the Minister mentioned the royal borough with pride as a good example of co-operation. The number of vacancies offered to it by local associations dropped from 386 in 1985–86 to 280 in 1986–87. That was despite the fact that the borough is unique in having more housing association property than council property, that it has provided more than £137 million in the last 10 years to develop housing association fair rent accommodation and that it alone provides around 12 per cent. of the total national and local authority funding for associations. There are many good reasons why the housing associations cannot fulfil their obligations to house the homeless as many of them would wish. In spite of blandishments and public statements by Housing Ministers and successive Secretaries of State for the Environment about how they support the voluntary housing association movement, the movement has faced exactly the same cuts in capital allocations as the local authorities during the Government's nine years in office.

There are many good reasons that partly explain the seeming reluctance of some housing associations to pull their weight. Housing association stock is not always appropriate for rehousing families, as many of the associations have been established to meet special needs. That is the special role of many of them, and it is welcome. Some housing associations are geared towards specific client groups of non-priority homeless whom councils would not have the responsibility of rehousing. Some prioritise internal transfers for their tenants before they take in new tenants.

The fact remains, however, that there are serious and growing worries among local authorities about the proportionately reducing role of housing associations in housing homeless people in London and throughout the country. The Bill makes matters worse by attempting to change the whole nature of the housing association movement, slowly nudging it out of the voluntary sector into the private sector with affordable rather than fair rents—with cuts in grant from central Government to housing associations and with housing associations being encouraged to take on the role of the organisation that facilitates the privatisation of council estates. As a result, housing associations will be less able to deal with the homeless.

Mr. Spearing

If there is a decline in supply, and the general level of rents goes up—which the Government have made clear is one of their aims—the amount of accommodation available to housing associations will decline, thus reducing their ability to help the homeless, and the cost to borough councils will increase as market rents rise. As somebody in my constituency said, that will result in camp sites in Epping forest.

Mr. Roberts

My hon. Friend is right. The squeeze on the homeless is coming from all directions. I am not criticising housing associations. I am criticising the Government for creating the circumstances in which housing associations, some of them very good, cannot fulfil their responsibilities.

The Labour party is committed to a housing association movement which is part of the public sector and involved in the provision of social housing for people in housing need, and which receives Government assistance to that end. We reject the Government's proposals, which would force housing associations into the private sector and into becoming instruments of the free market. That is what the Government plan.

I hear you asking, Mr. Speaker, how all this relates to the amendment. We have heard that no local authority has ever used section 72 of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 to influence a housing association to remedy a problem. Even when the section was drawn to their attention, they did not feel that it could be used effectively.

In Kensington and Chelsea borough council, for example, long negotiations initiated by the council with a view to increasing the number of voids offered to it by housing associations have ended without the council getting its way. It could argue that the housing associations are being unreasonable, but it is unlikely to do so because it has no confidence in the effectiveness of section 72.

The same will be true for HATs. I paraphrase what the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) said in 1977: it leaves the door wide open for the HAT to say that it appreciates that it is being asked to co-operate but that it is not prepared to make the houses available for homelessness—there are plenty of reasons that it can give.

The amendment would make the duty to co-operate more realistic. It would not make housing associations' duty to co-operate more realistic, as that could be done only if we tabled amendments that ensured that the housing association movement got the resources necessary to provide the accommodation needed for it to co-operate more realistically. Our amendment would make the HATs' duty to co-operate more realistic.

The HAT is, after all, taking over the local authority's housing stock and thus diminishing the local authority's ability to help the homeless. We think that there is a special reason why the duty on HATs should be stronger than it is on housing associations. We are making the duty to co-operate more realistic by defining more closely the criteria to be used when assessing whether it is reasonable for the HAT to assist a local authority. The amendment does not go as far as we should like, but it gives the HAT guidance, which is better than the amorphous phraseology of the Government's current draft.

3.15 pm

Given that, in theory, a HAT is meant to continue to use its newly acquired stock to provide social rented housing—that is what the Government have said, although we have reason to doubt that that is their long-term intention—it will need to have a clear picture of how the stock was used by the local authority. A large and increasing percentage of local authority housing is already being used to rehouse the homeless. Removing a substantial part of their pool of potential lettings will exacerbate local authorities' difficulties.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

My hon. Friend said that the number of homeless families being rehoused has risen from 25 to 50 per cent. of all vacancies in some parts of London. In the London borough of Hackney, the homeless are taking up 90 per cent. of vacancies.

Mr. Roberts

I am sure that that is true. Homelessness is increasing throughout the country. Many people who are not strictly defined as homeless are on waiting lists and would feel justified in being given accommodation, but they are having to wait much longer because of increasing homelessness and local authorities' responsibility to house homeless families. That is a major problem, and it will be exacerbated if HATs take out a significant proportion—or even a small proportion—of the local authorities' available stock. Removing properties available to the local authority does not affect just the homeless—it adds to local authorities' difficulties when trying to fulfil their housing responsibilities.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I do not challenge for a moment what the hon. Gentleman has said about the problem of finding homes for homeless people, but I am puzzled about how amendment No. 88 tackles that problem. If, for example, 12 homeless families were granted a tenancy in the year before their homes were declared part of a HAT, there is no way in which they could be evicted. They would have to be rehoused—unless I am reading the amendment incorrectly. They would not be homeless. Presumably they would have secure tenancies.

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman has obviously not listened to what I have said. Nor has he understood the amendment.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I have read the amendment.

Mr. Roberts

I have explained what the amendment would do to strengthen section 72 of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977. It would strengthen the Government's inadequate amendment, which would make HATs responsible for accepting the need to co-operate under section 72. If the hon. Gentleman would like it, I shall illustrate how our amendment would work, based on 1987 figures for a south London borough, which has so far managed to avoid using bed-and-breakfast hotels for its homeless families.

If the legislation requiring HATs to assist with homelessness is not strengthened, that borough will find that if a HAT is declared in its area and takes over 5,000 council properties, in the first year, it will lose 190 vacancies on the estate to which it would previously have had access. Some 81 per cent. of the vacancies would have gone to the priority homeless because the borough has the problems which my hon. Friends have mentioned, but more than 150 more homeless households will have to be housed in temporary accommodation.

The borough has used every alternative to bed-and-breakfast accommodation, but it will now be forced to start using it. Bed-and-breakfast accommodation would cost the borough £2.3 million in the first year. Unless the people involved can be rehoused, that cost will be paid in year two as well. By that time, however, another year's vacancies will have been lost, and so yet more families will have to be put in bed and breakfast. Our amendment attempts to prevent that happening. It would prevent HATs refusing at least some of the 190 vacancies on the estate of 5,000 council properties being used to rehouse homeless families.

The Government do not want HATs to be responsible for rehousing homeless families. HATs are not designed to assist tenants who live on the estate or the homeless or to alleviate the local authority's problems. The Government's aim is to yuppify and gentrify the council estate, and in the end bring in different people—in other words, their aim is to destroy Labour's base by getting rid of Labour voters. In Wandsworth, the council has modernised and improved the estates, built walls round them to keep out local residents and introduced security guards. Such councils do not want that gentrification to be spoilt by homeless families. That is their motive. They fall into the prejudiced trap of believing that the definition of a homeless family is similar to that of a problem family. We know that that is not true and that homeless families have as much right to a decent home as other people.

Our amendment means that the housing action trust will have to take factors such as I have described into account when deciding whether to assist a local authority. It will have a clear mandate to remain part of the local social housing sector and also a clear duty to act as a responsible agency in helping to solve local housing problems, which we suspect that the Government do not want it to do. They are involved in social engineering, not in dealing with social housing problems. That is the problem with the Government's proposals.

If the Government are prepared to accept the amendment, all well and good. However, if the Government and the housing action trust do not assist adequately and seek to avoid their responsibilities, the amendment gives clearer grounds for legal action to enforce the duty to the community. That is what we want.

In 1987, 112,730 households were accepted as homeless by local authorities under the homelessness provisions of the Housing Act 1985. Homelessness has more than doubled in the past few years while the Government have been in power. On 1 April 1987, 1,289,492 households were on council house waiting lists in England, of which 879,831 —68.2 per cent.—were assessed to be in serious and urgent need. All those figures come from the housing investment programme returns that the Department of the Environment has had from local authorities.

Homelessness is one of the scandals of our age. At Prime Minister's Question Time some weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister why homelessness had doubled during her period in office. She told me that it was because of marital breakdowns. If the party of the family has doubled homelessness because of increased marital breakdowns, it deserves condemnation by its own standards and moral values.

Homelessness is a serious problem. There are no proposals in the legislation that will help to meet the problems of the homeless. As I have explained, there are proposals in the Bill that will make the problems worse and will increase, not reduce, homelessness. Our amendment is a small attempt to alleviate the problems of homelessness and mitigate the difficulties that the Government are creating.

Mr. Boateng

In an intervention that he may regret, the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo), told the House that homelessness was to be a separate debate—I think that those were his words. But has he not realised over all the hours that we have been sitting here that this is a debate about housing? If housing is not about homelessness, what is it about? Why are we here? Why are we spending our time in this place if it is not to house the homeless?

The Conservative party agenda has nothing whatsoever to do with homelessness. Nowhere in the Bill, certainly nowhere in this part, which we are seeking to amend, does one find the word "homelessness". That is because the Conservatives do not care about the homeless. They do not care about those who, day in, day out, find themselves out in our streets in wooden boxes. They do not care about those who are cramped in appalling bed-and-breakfast accommodation and about those who are in inadequate and unsatisfactory accommodation throughout the length and breadth of our country. They simply do not care, so they do not address the matter in the Bill.

Mr. Winnick

Did my hon. Friend notice that when my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) said that one of the purposes of transferring council accommodation to HATs and then further into the private sector was to ensure that those properties were used by yuppies, the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Malins) nodded vigorously in agreement? He was honest enough—I give him credit for it—to admit what the Government refuse to acknowledge, which is that much of what is now in the public sector is being transferred to people who are not in housing need and who have the income to find other accommodation.

Mr. Boateng

My hon. Friend puts that well. The fact is that there are two purposes in the Bill, particularly in the provisions on housing action trusts.

The first purpose is to fatten up and farm out the best estates—to get rid of them and put them into the private sector. Then Porsches will be in and people out. That is the mentality of Conservative Members: out with the people, in with the Porsches.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo


Mr. Boateng

I hear the hon. Gentleman, from a sedentary position, shout "Disgraceful," but if he would only go but a few miles from this Palace of Westminster, he would find manifold examples, in docklands and Wandsworth, of precisely what I am talking about. One cannot move in docklands for the Porsches, yet does one see a pram there? Does one see children playing there? No, one does not. One sees people who make their money in the City and who go home at night to their demi-palaces, at £250,000 and £500,000 for a bijou maisonette. That is the reality of housing provision under the Tories, and we are here to say no to it.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo


Mr. Boateng

The hon. Gentleman has had his say.

We are here to say that we are not prepared to tolerate Conservative Members using the vehicle of housing action trusts to drive those whom we represent out of their homes. We are not here to allow them to do that.

That is the Government's first purpose, but there is another.

Mr. Sedgemore

My hon. Friend is talking about homes in docklands. Is he aware that in St. Katharine's dock he will find, as homes, yachts valued at —750,000, with radar equipment, which never see the sea?

Mr. Boateng

There is something peculiarly obscene about that picture, yet it is the day-to-day reality of our city now. Yachts are in docklands but there are cardboard boxes a few hundred yards down the road from the House.

There is a second agenda. I note that the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is smiling, grimacing and nodding. He knows a lot about fattening up and farming out. No wonder what I have to say brings a smile of recognition to his lips. I welcome that—it is always welcome to see recognition of the truth on the face of Conservative Members.

Mr. Skinner

It is not a real smile because the hon. Gentleman is upset as he wanted to be at Ascot.

Mr. Boateng

The Opposition are sorry to be keeping the hon. Member for Crawley away from Ascot, but no doubt he will find a way to get there somehow.

For the price of a box at Ascot one could house a family in London for a year. But will the Conservatives spend the money on that? Do they know what it costs to keep a family in bed-and-breakfast for a certain time? It costs £11,000 a unit. Do they know what it would cost in the first year to build a home for that family? The cost would be £6,000, reducing by the end of the seventh year to £1,000. Yet Conservative Members prefer to keep families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation rather than spend the money, as they should, in the public sector, providing low-cost accommodation to rent and, indeed, to buy, to give all the people a real choice.

3.30 pm

There is a second and more sinister reason behind housing action trusts. It is part of the hidden agenda. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South cannot wait to hear what is coming next. I will tell him. The second part of that hidden agenda, as he knows only too well, is to destroy the ability of democratically controlled local authorities to make adequate provision for housing in our cities. The Government want to destroy that function by introducing unelected, unaccountable bodies that will not be obliged to consult and take on board the needs and aspirations of the people in whose areas they have been imposed. There is no pretence about consulting on where those monstrosities will be erected. They will be erected according to the diktat of Ministers.

That is a totalitarian way of behaving. It denies people opportunity and choice, the very things that Conservative Members claim to support. They claim to belong to the party of the family, of choice and opportunity. Yet they deny opportunity and choice to families who seek no more than adequate and decent shelter. Why should they not have that? The Government will use the housing action trusts to drive a wedge between communities and their elected representatives.

The way in which they will use the housing action trusts is ingenious. The mischief that our amendment seeks to correct is that they will prevent local authorities from meeting the demands that we deal with in our surgeries every day. People with housing problems must even go to the hon. Member for Crawley in his surgery. It probably does them little good, but I am sure he is faced with such problems. When they come to us, what are we to say to them? We know that our local authorities, under the present regime, do not have the slightest chance of being able to house them.

The Under-Secretary is adopting a pose of becoming silence. If she were to speak, she would be obliged to say that only a few weeks ago she was busy congratulating my local authority, the London borough of Brent, on the innovative schemes it was developing, together with housing associations, to meet the needs of the homeless in my constituency. She has been to Brent and knows what is being done. Therefore, she must know that there is no way, with the imposition of housing action trusts, that that will continue. It will be like having a black hole imposed in one's constituency. All the capital and loot that Conservative Members are promising us for housing will be sucked into the housing action trusts. The most deprived estates, the houses that need refurbishment and repair and the new build for homeless families will be neglected.

The Minister must know that while she is heaping praise on the London borough of Brent for the work that it does—long may she continue to do so—our housing allocation for 1988–89 was only £19.25 million. We had asked for £82 million to deal with 900 homeless households in bed-and-breakfast accommodation and a further 800 in temporary accommodation. That is the extent of the crisis in that borough alone—the eighth most deprived borough. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) is nodding because he knows only too well that his borough is the most deprived in the country in terms of housing and on every other social and economic index. Yet the Government are cutting the resources available to us.

We have come to the House with a relatively minor and modest amendment. We are not asking for the world. We are asking only that the housing action trusts, when they are imposed, have a duty to take account—in the way in which Conservative Members are not prepared to do—of the plight of the homeless. We stand up for the homeless and, whether the Government like it or not, we intend to ensure that homelessness and the homeless are mentioned time and again in the Chamber and, one way or another, we will drive that into the Bill.

Mr. Winnick

One of the reasons why Labour Members are not willing to offer any apologies for what has happened during the Report stage of the Bill is our concern about the plight and tragedy of the homeless which has been expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) and for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng). I find it difficult to believe that Conservative Members really understand their plight.

In your absence, Mr. Speaker, at about 5 o'clock this morning, I referred to the people sleeping about a quarter of a mile from here. They are not all tramps or irresponsible people but they are sleeping, night after night, in cardboard boxes by the Embankment tube station. Is not that a tragedy? How many of those people have come from areas of high unemployment simply because they have been told that London is the place to find work? Even if they can find work, which is perhaps not as easy as is sometimes claimed, they cannot afford accommodation. The price of the cheapest housing unit in London and the south-east is about £50,000 or £60,000 and that is for a one-bedroom flat. Rented accommodation is simply unavailable. Is it surprising that they sleep in cardboard boxes just a quarter of a mile from the Palace of Westminster?

Mr. Skinner

I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that there would be plenty of photo opportunities for the Prime Minister if she went to Charing Cross instead of St. James's park. She should take the television cameras with her so that there would be a photo opportunity with the down-and-outs who have come to London to find a job because there are no jobs in the north. It would be wonderful if the Prime Minister recognised the gravity of the problem. All her photo opportunities are with the people she represents, those who will vote for her, so that she can kid the people by using the television. It would be a good idea, on some future occasion, if Labour Members went to Charing Cross and recognised the plight of those people in cardboard boxes.

Mr. Winnick

Even if, in the evening, the Prime Minister were to walk from No. 10 Downing street to Embankment tube station, it would not take long. In a car, it would take about two minutes. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is absolutely right, as he usually is on such matters. He knows that Mother Teresa had to lecture the Prime Minister about homelessness in London. It is almost impossible to believe that, with all the problems to which Mother Teresa has devoted her life on the Indian sub-continent, she is now having to lecture the Prime Minister about homelessness on the Prime Minister's doorstep.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)


Mr. Winnick

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover would agree that not only should the Prime Minister visit that area but the Secretary of State for the Environment should also go, as should the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin), who is seeking to intervene.

Mr. McLoughlin

The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the Prime Minister should visit the area. Will he tell us when he last paid a visit?

Mr. Winnick

Yes, certainly. I went about three weeks ago.

The feeling I had then was one of sadness. It is entirely up to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West whether he believes that I am telling the truth. I felt sad that in a country where much has been achieved over the past 50 or 60 years there are still people who spend so much of their time having to sleep in such conditions. It is a disgrace to a society in which the richest people are being so well rewarded by the Budget.

In addition, thousands of families are forced to live in bed-and-breakfast hostels. Let hon. Members imagine what it is like in this day and age trying to bring up young children in one squalid room, not through any malice on the part of the local authority—far from it—but simply because authorities are not in a position to offer accommodation. In the past eight or nine years, very few local authorities have been able to build. I do not know about your local authority, Mr. Speaker, but mine has been unable to build any local accommodation in the past nine years and there is no sign of the necessary finance being available in the future. That is one reason why there is so much housing stress and misery.

As a result of this part of the Bill, a certain amount —we do not know how much—of local authority rented accommodation will be transferred to completely unelected bodies appointed by the Secretary of State. After two or three years' managerial responsibility for the accommodation, the housing action trusts will not transfer it back to the local authority. The property will go from the local authority to the housing action trust and then into the privately rented sector. The hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) nods his assent to that.

Mr. Spearing

It is more likely to go out of the rented sector altogether and become privately owned.

When the Prime Minister came to the House this morning, she was reminded of her moral responsibility, a subject on which she claims to be an expert. The Under-Secretary of State must tell the House why the proportion of accommodation snatched from the local authorities should not carry with it a pro rata responsibility for any homelessness in the borough concerned. That would be moral, and it could be incorporated in our amendment.

Mr. Winnick

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, but the Under-Secretary of State will do no such thing because she has no instructions to do so from the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister. One cannot imagine the people at a Thursday Cabinet meeting being concerned about the plight of the homeless or discussing what should be done to help people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation and those living in cardboard boxes. On 30 November, when the Secretary of State moved the Second Reading of the Bill, he said in effect that the only way in which rented accommodation could be provided was through the privately rented sector. In other words, if one buys bread or other food in a private market, why should not one obtain rented accommodation in the same way?

Mr. Morgan

When the Prime Minister came here at 8.15 this morning, it was not to give the Secretary of State advice about the problems of the homeless but to ask him to go back to St. James's park with her because she had noticed another rising tide of rubbish and intended to do as President Kennedy did in August 1961 and assert her moral leadership of the western world with the ringing words, "Ich bin ein bin-liner."

3.45 pm
Mr. Winnick

I cannot improve on that. My hon. Friend sums up the situation very well.

The Prime Minister is keen to take credit for what she regards as her position as a senior statesman on the international scene, while a quarter of a mile from her official residence people have to sleep in cardboard boxes. Things would be different if the Government really cared about the homeless and those who, like so many of my constituents, are not technically homeless but have to live at the top of high-rise blocks with young families. Nowadays, even those with two children have almost no chance of being offered a council house. At one time, people with two children stood a chance. I have already described the shocking and tragic plight of people bringing up families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, but there are also thousands trying to bring up children in top-floor flats when they clearly need houses. Why should they have to wait for years on end to reach the top of the list?

One cannot blame the local authorities. They are not in a position to build houses, and so much public sector accommodation is being sold off. The situation will be exacerbated when more public sector accommodation is transferred to housing action trusts. One cannot blame the local authorities for the plight of all those people, whether they be in the west midlands or in London.

By definition, those people cannot obtain mortgages. If they could, their problems would be eased so long as they kept up the payments. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that there is some consensus between the two sides of the House in that both accept that a substantial minority of people require rented accommodation. The crucial difference, which lies at the heart of this debate, is that the Opposition believe that the needs of those people can be satisfied adequately only by local authority accommodation or genuine housing associations whereas the arch-Thatcherite Secretary of State believes that they can be satisfied only by the private sector and at market rents.

As the advertisements show, market rents in London or even the midlands are not £60 or £70 per week but more like £200 per week for a flat, let alone a house. Meanwhile, housing benefit is being drastically reduced. Anyone who can afford that kind of market rent can obtain a mortgage, with tax relief. We are concerned about the people who cannot afford market rents, but I detect no such concern from the Conservatives. The Government have not explained how the needs of those people will be satisfied by accommodation at market rents and the tenancy arrangements set out in the Bill.

The purpose of the amendment is clear, and it has been set out with characteristic eloquence by my hon. Friends the Members for Bootle and for Brent, South.

Mr. Boateng


Mr. Winnick

I would certainly describe both my hon. Friends in that way, though I plead not guilty to the charge myself, despite the fact that lack of charisma is almost a cardinal sin in politics these days. I do not make late-night telephone calls to Chris Moncrieff—I simply carry out my duties in the Chamber when necessary at that hour, along with my hon. Friends.

The amendment will place responsibility on housing action trusts to ensure that, in co-operation with local authorities, they assist the homeless. Originally, of course, there was no such provision in the Bill. Housing action trusts were to have no responsibility for the homeless. To some extent, the Government have recognised our argument, because they moved an amendment in Committee. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle said when he moved his amendment, the amendment that the Government moved in Committee adds nothing of substance, because it is so vague. At the end of the day, housing action trusts will be free of any responsibility. They will simply tell local housing authorities, "We have taken your request into consideration; we have noted it," and that is all. We want to ensure that, in practice, housing action trusts are responsible for the homeless.

As my hon. Friend said—he has not been challenged by any Conservative Members—in the first stage, the purpose of housing action trusts is to take accommodation from local authorities, manage it for two or three years at most, and then send it to the privately rented sector, or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) said, it will simply be sold off. If it is to be sold off, or if it is to go to the privately rented sector ar market rents, how on earth will that help the people whom we are debating—the homeless, whether they are in bed-and-breakfast accommodation or sleeping in cardboard boxes?

When he raised a point of order, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) asked you, Mr. Speaker, to confirm that at no stage were Opposition Members filibustering. You said that everything that was said by Opposition Members during the long hours of the debate was perfectly in order. I am pleased that you confirmed that. The last thing that we want to do on an issue that is so crucial to our present and future constituents who desperately need housing accommodation is to filibuster to prolong matters. We do not do that, least of all on such a crucial matter.

I ask those who challenge our sincerity and say that our words are mere rhetoric to state the three dominant domestic issues that the Labour movement has been concerned about from day one: the right to work, decent accommodation and adequate health. Those three major issues have dominated our political lives and those of our predecessors. They are crucial to our very being as Labour politicians. We feel strongly about the right to work. No one should be denied the right to work, decent accommodation and decent health services—hence our defence of the National Health Service. That is why my hon. Friends and I entered politics. Why else? It was not to sit in the House of Commons or to become a councillor at an early age or at any other age. It was to serve our community in the best way possible.

I suppose that all hon. Members have resolved their housing matters. Most of us own our accommodation and are able to pay off a mortgage. We want benefit for the people whom we represent, because we believe that we have a duty and responsibility to ensure it.

I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will recognise that my hon. Friend's amendment is reasonable. As I have said, the Government have recognised that some of our arguments are valid, or presumably they would not have moved their amendment in Committee. We are extending it a little further. However well-intentioned it was—if it was well-intentioned—the Government's amendment does not mean much, and it will not mean much to housing action trusts that take the view that they should have no responsibility for the homeless. They will simply say, "This is the law. We have looked at the matter, and we are satisfied that we cannot do anything." At least the amendment goes some way—but only some way—to ensure that housing action trusts have adequate regard for the homeless.

We are not in favour of housing action trusts. It would be foolish of us to argue otherwise. The Minister and her ministerial colleagues know how strongly we are against housing action trusts. But, to the extent that they will come into existence, because of the Government's majority there will be no rebellion here or in another place. We shall have housing action trusts for as long as this Government survive. Surely we are not asking too much. For goodness, sake, the Government should at least ensure that such undemocratic organisations do not play any role in housing. If they are to be brought into existence, let us ensure that they have some responsibility to help the homeless.

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend has always spent a great deal of his time talking about housing. Over many years, Opposition Members have listened carefully to what he has said when he represented Croydon, Central and, later on, part of Walsall. We could never accuse him of being naive. However, towards the end of his good speech, he pleaded with the Government to wreck their own Bill. That is roughly what he said. There is no chance at all of this Government accepting our amendment. As my hon. Friend said, they do not care about the homeless. They do not care about those who live in cardboard boxes at Charing Cross; they are not worried about them. They will not wreck the housing action trusts that are the embodiment of the Bill. That is where money will be made. People like Peter Clowes will be able to make a small fortune out of business expansion schemes allied to housing action trusts.

Although my hon. Friend is doing a great job—I hope that he gets the publicity he needs—the Government will not shift on this matter; there is no doubt about that. I hope that my hon. Friend will point out to the Government that we shall drag the Bill right through tonight and beyond to prove to the outside world that Opposition Members will fight tooth and nail today and, if necessary, tomorrow to support the homeless and all those who are looking for a roof over their heads.

Mr. Winnick

My hon. Friend deserves a reply. I value any compliments from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), whom I regard as a personal friend. He gave a potted history of my political life or career, as the case may be, and I appreciate that. He was perfectly right to say that I take a close interest in housing. He argued—perhaps realistically—that the Government will not undermine their own Bill. Like my hon. Friend. having been an hon. Member since the Government came to office, and being totally without illusions, I know that the Government are not concerned about ordinary people. They are dedicated to the interests of the rich and most prosperous in our community. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover recognises that I have no doubts or illusions.

I said that the Government made some movement in Committee. They at least recognised, whether well-intentioned or otherwise, what we have been arguing for a long time on this issue. If the Government do what my hon. Friend has predicted and refuse to accept the amendment, they will strengthen what my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has said. I said that we recognise that we cannot stop the Bill. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We spent a long time on this measure on Tuesday. It may well be that Tuesday will be with us for many hours to come. I am pleased that you confirmed, Mr. Speaker, that we have not been filibustering. We have been trying to illustrate the problems of the people about whom we are worried.

4 pm

If the Minister refuses to acknowledge our arguments, it will confirm our worst fear: that the housing action trusts will be unconcerned about the homeless and that the Government will not give those organisations any responsibility for the people who live, sometimes with their families, in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Without wishing to be personal, I imagine that the Minister has a family and has managed to ensure financially that they will not be brought up in such dire circumstances.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are always telling us that great economic progress has been made and that Britain is a prosperous country. At every opportunity, they boast about our economic success and say that Britain is doing wonderfully well. If we are doing so well, why must people live in the circumstances that my hon. Friends and I have been describing? If accommodation is taken from the control of local authorities and is given to housing action trusts, unless those trusts have some responsibility for the homeless, local authorities will be put in an even worse position than they are in now. That is why this reasonable amendment should be supported.

Mr. Sedgemore

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) intervened during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and quoted some German from President Kennedy. I lived in Germany for a couple of years, and I have obtained a copy of Harrap's Concise German dictionary. My hon. Friend quoted President Kennedy as saying, "Ich bin ein Berliner." The dictionary says that that means, "I am a doughnut." What President Kennedy meant to say was, "Ich bin Berliner." By using the indefinite article, my hon. Friend has given an historically inaccurate definition.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that that has anything to do with the Housing Bill.

Mr. McCartney

I shall make a short contribution to the debate, especially in respect of the work that I do on behalf of the Greater Manchester fire and civil defence authority.

There is a link between homelessness and houses in multiple occupation. In most urban areas where local authorities cannot provide hostel or other accommodation for the homeless, many young people and families end up in bed-and-breakfast accommodation or, worse, in houses of multiple occupation. The stress and pressure placed on the housing market mean that, almost daily, horrendous fires cause serious and sometimes fatal accidents. In some cases, entire families have been incinerated. That has happened because of the housing crisis and because of short-term measures taken to place families in houses of multiple occupation. Those premises are totally unsuitable and unacceptable, and the inability of local authorities to police housing arrangements has led to major fires.

Within the past two months, a homeless family placed in such a unit in Blackpool was destroyed completely. Days later, it was followed by another fire in the midlands. The Government recognise that it is a major problem. The Department of the Environment has received a survey showing that the crisis is deepening and that it is claiming many lives.

Recently the Department of the Environment conducted a postal survey, to which 96 per cent. of local authorities responded. It asked for information about the condition and location of houses in multiple occupation. It found that 40 per cent. of properties had inadequate means of escape from a fire and that 38 per cent. of properties required additional means of escape from fire. Thirty three per cent. of properties required major repairs and 28 per cent. required additional amenities and facilities for the families placed in them. In all, 162,862 properties were found to be physically unsatisfactory.

Ms. Gordon

My hon. Friend may wish to consider the fact that there are other hazards for homeless people. Some Bengali families have been forced by Tower Hamlets council to sleep in church halls. One mother who has two sick children is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Some people have been placed in John Scurr house, where the rent is —100 a week, but the estate is semi-derelict and people are afraid to go outside at night because it is an ideal place for them to be attacked.

Housing action trusts will be a close parallel to the urban development corporations from which we have suffered in Tower Hamlets. The London Docklands development corporation has encouraged house prices to rise and land prices to spiral, and it is clear that in a few years' time, or perhaps sooner, housing action trusts will force huge increases in rents and a great increase in homelessness.

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend has highlighted some of the problems of the homeless, and I hope that other hon. Members will mention them during the debate.

The Home Office has received statistical confirmation and evidence from fire authorities that the pressure of homelessness means that local authorities must use totally unsatisfactory houses in which to place homeless families. That places them in the moral danger to which my hon. Friend referred, and in physical danger, and some families have perished as a result.

The Department of the Environment report entitled "Houses in Multiple Occupation in England and Wales" shows that local authorities have had to take action against 3,853 landlords who have not provided adequate means of escape from fire, 2,268 landlords regarding the provision of extra amenities, and 897 landlords because of overcrowding. That shows the crisis among homeless families, yet in many areas housing action trusts will take out of the public sector the housing stock required to move families out of those dangerous conditions and into adequate homes.

Recently the Home Office provided statistics on the nature of fires and the number of deaths. It makes harrowing reading. For example, in detached and semi-detached houses in multiple occupation, some 77 people have perished—two because of cooking appliance fires, as a result of the cramped nature of the property, 16 because of fires from space heating appliances, four from matches, 29 from other ignitable materials and another 26 as a result of an unknown or unspecified type of ignition source.

In other dwellings of multiple occupation there were some 13,000 fires, in which 180 people perished and 1,828 suffered serious but non-fatal casualties. Some 4,385 fires are caused by cooking appliances, 793 by space heating appliances and 2,555 through matches and other ignitable sources. One could go on and on with such lists, and many such injuries and deaths are because the families have no means of escape. Such deaths could be prevented. They occur because families are in dreadful housing as a result of the housing crisis and the inability to provide homeless people with adequate, safe and secure homes to rent either on a long-term or short-term basis.

The Government must, as a matter of urgency, face up to this crisis. It is one thing creating a situation in which homelessness causes danger but another to continue such a situation with the result that people are dying simply because they are homeless. If all those 77 people died in one incident, there would be a national crisis, but because they were single incidents happening on a regular basis, in ones, twos, threes and fours, there is no such publicity.

The stark reality is that we are talking about the possibility that on each day of the year, there is the potential for one person or one family to die as a result of being declared homeless and placed in a multi-occupation house. It is unacceptable that children below school age should run the risk of incineration simply because parents are homeless and they are placed in temporary accommodation. It is unacceptable that, when the Government have these figures as a result of their own survey, they are still not prepared to take action to protect people. They must either provide local authorities with the resources to take these families out of multi-occupation properties or provide within the Bill the facilities for HATs and local authorities to work together in areas of multi-occupation systematically to get rid of such accommodation. Without such positive action, working people's families will continue to die and people will be maimed for life at an early age simply because their parents were homeless.

Such a dreadful situation would not have been accepted' in 1888, and we should not allow it to continue in 1988. The Minister must tell us what action, irrespective of the clause, she will take to prevent fire deaths among the homeless, because they have reached crisis proportions. Perhaps she will be able to provide us with the latest information, because these statistics are not up to date. This year's statistics are not yet available, but I believe, because of what has happened in Blackpool and elsewhere, and what happened with polyurethane foam in January, February, March and April, there will have been an increase in the number of fires in houses in multi-occupation, and an increase in fatal fires.

Many in Committee I asked the Minister to give us an adequate response to the issues that we had raised. On this issue of deaths among the homeless, she owes it to the House, to the homeless and to the country at large to give us the Government's response to this tale of carnage. All of us have children or know members of our family with children. Why should someone else's child die because the family is homeless? That is unacceptable, and the Minister must respond to it.

4.15 pm
Mrs. Roe

In Committee we discussed at length how HATs could work alongside local authorities in helping to deal with the homeless. We responded to Opposition concerns by introducing clause 65. Amendment No. 88 now seeks to go over that old ground by imposing a statutory requirement on HATs which we do not consider to be necessary. As we explained in Committee, we believe that many of the estates where the Secretary of State may decide to seek parliamentary approval to designate HAT areas are places where few would choose to live of their own free choice, where the problems have proved beyond the capacity of local authority management to solve and, therefore, where there are a large number of empty properties. The key contribution which we could make in part III to alleviate homelessness with HATs is to bring back into use stock that is lying empty. I say to the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) that we care, but we do not just talk about caring, we do something about it.

Mr. Boateng

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Roe

Not just yet.

I do not wish to debate yet again the local authorities' role in dealing with homelessness, but let me just repeat a few facts. First, this year the housing capital programme has been increased to £3,827 million, £365 million up on earlier plans—a 9.5 per cent. increase. We have also given local authorities additional resources totalling £53 million in the past six months.

Mr. Boateng

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Roe

No, but I will give way when I have completed these points.

Secondly, there are 112,000 council properties standing empty, and a quarter of those have been empty for over a year. At 1 April 1987, there were some 27,000 empty dwellings in London, and that is nearly three times as many as the number of homeless families. Thirdly, there is no restriction on the use of accumulated capital receipts for capitalised repairs. Fourthly, authorities not taking advantage of the absence of these restrictions are Camden and Fulham which, at 1 April 1987, had over £60 million in accumulated receipts.

The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) has suggested that the Government have been starving housing associations of resources, but nothing could be further from the truth. We have increased the Housing Corporation's approved development programme from £705 million in 1987–88 to £737 million in 1988–89, and we are further increasing this provision to £850 million by 1990–91.

Mr. Boateng

I am obliged to the hon. Lady for giving way in her catalogue of the Government's generosity to local authorities, but will she bear one thing in mind when she returns to it? Only a few weeks ago in Southampton, the hon. Lady specifically singled out the London borough of Brent for praise for its work for the homeless. In 1986–87—these are the figures in that catalogue—we were given £22 million for housing allocation. [HON. MEMBERS: "We?"] Yes, "we"—we, the people of Brent whom I represent here and for whom I am putting questions to the Minister; we, the ratepayers and the taxpayers. In 1986–87, we received £22 million. The next year it dropped to £18.7 million—a further reduction in real terms of 20 per cent. compared with the previous year. However, the borough had increased its estimate of essential repair costs to £154 million. The result was a 20 per cent. cut and a substantial increase in repair costs. How does that square with the Minister's picture of generosity to boroughs such as the one that I seek to represent?

Mrs. Roe

Brent council is one of the recipients of the estates action programme. I remind the hon. Gentleman that £140 million of the Department's estates action programme resources have been made available in 1988–89 to turn around the rundown local authority estates and to make empty estate properties available for the homeless. I have visited some of the estates in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and I know that a very good job has been done in that area.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

My constituents and I are glad to know that, following her visit to my constituency, my hon. Friend has singled it out to become part of the revitalisation service. I understand that the first public meeting will be held in July. It is hoped to have a housing action trust within the service. That will do a great deal to revitalise an area in my constituency which has been giving cause for concern for a number of years.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)


Mrs. Roe

I shall give way a little later in my speech. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) for her intervention. I enjoyed my visit to her constituency.

Local authorities will retain their overall responsibilities towards the homeless under part III of the Housing Act 1985. In most instances, it is likely that HATs will be taking over a comparatively small proportion of a local authority's stock. However, because they will become landlords of stock, HATs should be well placed to help local authorities to find accommodation for the homeless.

In Committee, we rejected amendments tabled by Opposition Members that would have imposed on HATs a statutory requirement for them to make available a specific percentage of HAT properties. Amendment No. 88 is more of the same. There is no need to impose such a requirement on HATs when clause 65 makes our intentions clear.

The duty on HATs is exactly the same as that which applies under section 72 of the Housing Act 1985 to local housing authorities, new town corporations, the Commission for the New Towns, registered housing associations and the Scottish Special Housing Association. It is a duty that requires that, where a local housing authority requests assistance in the discharge of various of its functions under part III of the 1985 Act, the other bodies specified in section 72(1) are required to co-operate in rendering such assistance in the discharge of these functions as is reasonable in the circumstances.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the Minister accept that the difference between the duties on the other authorities and those that impinge on housing action trusts is that the other authorities have not been placed compulsorily in the position of local authorities, which have been forced to hand over their property? Will she accept also that it is somewhat disingenuous of her to say that nothing that was said in Committee suggested that there would be any lessening of local authorities' duties towards the homeless? The hon. Lady says that, but it appears to be clear from one national daily newspaper that in the next Session there is to be legislation to reduce the duties of local authorities towards the homeless. With a reduced housing stock, they will have even less opportunity to carry out their responsibility to house the record number of homeless people.

Mrs. Roe

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's argument. I believe that HATs will help local authorities. I am sure that local authorities will be able to co-operate and will find that their requests will be looked on favourably.

We know that it is common for local authorities to agree nomination arrangements with housing associations, for example, even though authorities are not directly involved in grant-aided schemes that are funded by housing association grant, without any further specific statutory requirement under section 72. We see no reason why there should not be similar co-operation between HATs and local authorities, with clause 65 as the legislative back-up.

There are further safeguards. First, we shall make it clear to HATs in the management guidance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will issue to them, which will be published, that they will be expected to enter into agreements with local authorities, possibly by means of formal contracts that give local authorities access to stock held by HATs. Secondly, if local authorities were not satisfied with HATs' performance in fulfilling their duties under clause 65, it would be open to them to have recourse to the courts, although legal confrontation is unlikely to be in the best interests of the residents or of the HAT areas. Thirdly, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State could use his direction-making power if he considered that HATs were not co-operating sensibly with local authorities.

Mr. Lofthouse

Will the Minister explain to the House how local authorities can escape facing further and greater difficulties in housing the homeless with a housing stock that is much smaller than it is now?

Mrs. Roe

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would know that I have already covered that argument. In the areas in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may be considering to have HATs, we may find that many of the properties will be lying empty. Those properties will be brought back into use. Some of the areas that I have visited during my trips through the country have contained many half-empty properties. It must be good news that we intend to bring all these properties into use.

Against that background, I believe that the Government's response to the concern of Opposition Members is helpful and reasonable. I invite them to withdraw amendment No. 88.

Mr. Allan Roberts

The Opposition consider the Minister's response to be unreasonable and unacceptable. It is a complacent response that shows no concern for the homeless, who represent one of the major scandals of our time. The Minister's response is consistent with all the housing myths that the Government have tried to perpetuate as excuses for their lack of action in providing the accommodation that the nation needs in the public sector to help deal with the overall problem of homelessness.

Mrs. Mahon

My hon. Friend may have noticed that the Minister did not allow me to intervene on the estates action programme. There was a good reason for her refusal to give way to me. In Calderdale, we have seen the result of the programme, which is the flagship of the Tories' enterprise scheme. The private sector let us down and we were faced with the demolition of 400 flats and houses. Debt charges are now being paid on empty land on which flats and houses were demolished.

Mr. Roberts

Indeed. The schemes to which the Minister referred, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) has commented, are welcome, but they are mere palliatives. They amount to a small sop in local authority areas where housing investment programmes have been cut by massive amounts. The Minister had the audacity to blame local authorities. She added that the estates where HATs will be declared are beyond the capacity of local authorities to manage. They are beyond the capacity of local authorities to deal with adequately because the authorities have been starved of the resources that they need.

The Minister quoted increases in housing capital programmes and referred to small increases this year over last year's figures. In Wolverhampton, for example, there has been an 87.3 per cent. cut in the housing investment programme since 1978–79. Warrington received £15,727,000 in 1978–79 and this year it received £2,378,000. That is an 84 per cent. cut. In Bolsover—unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is not in his place—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?" My hon. Friend is normally to be seen in his place. If I were a Conservative Member, I would not welcome him back. In Bolsover, £6,791,000 was made available in 1978–79. It received only £1,063,000 this year. That is an 84 per cent. cut.

The story continues. In Manchester, in 1978–79 but at today's prices, £108 million was made available for the housing investment programme. It received £23 million this year. That was a 78–8 per cent. cut. In Sefton, which is the local authority in my constituency, the HIP in 1978–79 was £90 million. It is now £4,152,000, which is a 78 per cent. cut. In Liverpool the amount was £75 million in 1978–79 and is now £19 million, a 73 per cent. cut. In Bristol, the local authority which the Minister for Housing and Planning represents, in 1978–79 the figure was £32.969 million; today it is £10 million, a 69 per cent. cut. How dare the Government claim that they are increasing housing allocations for capital expenditure when they have been cutting them for nine years? The limited small increases which they quote are what they gave last year.

4.30 pm
Mr. Cryer

I hope my hon. Friend will challenge the Minister's assertion that local authorities can take housing action trusts to court if they are dissatisfied with their performance. That would involve a local authority in hundreds of thousands of pounds of expenditure, without any grant aid from the Government. In a sense, that is another cut in local authority expenditure if the local authority wishes to exercise any influence over a housing action trust which is not being helpful. As the Minister would not allow me to intervene, will my hon. Friend ask her why the Government did not produce decent legislation?

Mr. Roberts

I accept what my hon. Friend has said. To suggest that the legislation is satisfactory, and then to suggest that HATs should be taken to court by the local authority if they behave unreasonably, is outrageous. The Government actually suggest that a local authority may have to go to court to ensure that its own housing stock, which has been taken from it, is used to help the homeless.

The Minister reiterated another myth. She said that the way to solve the homelessness problem was to get the local authorities to bring into use all the empty houses in their ownership. I have an honourable record of campaigning to get empty houses in local authority and other ownership into use for homeless families and others. It is a travesty of the truth to suggest that local authorities are guilty of keeping houses empty unnecessarily.

In 1986 there were 111,600 empty local authority houses. In 1987 the number had gone down to 108,600. What about the private sector? The Government intend to hand council housing to the private sector if they can. In 1986 there were 493,000 properties standing empty in the private sector, compared with 111,000 in the public sector; that is nearly four times as many. The number in the private sector is increasing rather than going down. In 1987 in the public sector, 511,000 properties were standing empty. The real problem is caused by the properties standing empty in the private sector. The Government pretend that they are doing something about that; their shorthold provisions in the Housing Act 1980 were to do something about it, but they did not.

Mr. Spearing

Does my hon. Friend recall that Government spokesman have often cited the London borough of Newham as an authority not making use of vacant houses? I had a letter from the housing chairman only yesterday in which he told me that the effective vacancy rate in Newham is 3 per cent. and the figure in Wandsworth is 2.8 per cent. Those figures are both lower than the percentage in other sectors. Does this not show that the hon. Lady's claim is not right, that the visible solution to the homeless problem is to put those properties into use? She must know that.

Mr. Roberts

We want all empty properties to be in use and we want all properties that become vacant in any sector to be occupied as quickly as possible. But even in the owner-occupied sector the turn-round rate of properties which become empty for sale is lower than the turn-round of properties which are relet by local authorities.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

Is it not the case that many good Labour authorities are giving people three choices of empty properties? When people are offered such a choice, it is unavoidable that there are more vacant properties, because of the way the system works. In the past, some Conservative authorities have offered people only one property on a "take it or leave it" basis. Is that what will happen with the housing action trusts?

Mr. Roberts

One problem with the housing action trust legislation is that we do not know what we shall see, and we do not know what the code of management will be. All we know is that there will not be the same accountability to tenants and to the electorate as there is in local authorities, with all their faults. I do not accept that the Government have already dealt with the contents of our amendment and that they are aware of the need for housing action trusts to assist with homelessness. Their proposals are a recipe for the homeless not to be accepted by HATs.

It is clear from that what my hon. Friends have said in the debate that the Labour party regards this as an important issue. We feel strongly for those in housing need. We have policies to deal with homelessness, which has reached record heights. Last year, there were 112,730 homeless households, the equivalent of about 230,000 men, women and children accepted as homeless by local authorities in England alone. That compares with 53,000 homeless households in England in 1978.

Many more homeless people are not included in the official statistics, because most homeless single people and childless couples are not legally entitled to rehousing. In Great Britain since 1978, when the present homelessness legislation came into force, 800,000 households, most of them families with children, have been accepted by local authorities for rehousing as homeless. That is nearly one in 25 of the population. That is the scale of the problem. About half those who are accepted as homeless are rehoused by councils in permanent accommodation. That is what they use their permanent accommodation for. They fill it as quickly as possible with homeless families but they do not have enough accommodation to offer, because the house building programme has ground to a halt.

Because of the lack of accommodation that local authorities have to offer, homeless people have to stay in temporary accommodation such as hostels, caravans or bed-and-breakfast hotels for months or even years. The numbers in temporary accommodation have been rising, especially over the last few years when Conservative Housing Ministers have been trying to revitalise the free market.

In June 1987 there were 23,000 households in temporary accommodation, double the figure in June 1984. The number living in bed-and-breakfast hotels this June was 11,000, 4,000 more than 12 months ago. Homeless families from ethnic minorities tend to end up in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Over 90 per cent. of homeless families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation are in the south-east of England, where people come to look for work.

The Government have admitted that in Greater London a newly built council house would cost £7,000 in the first year, while acquiring a house in the open market would cost £5,000. The cost of keeping a family in bed-and-breakfast accommodation is £11,000 a year. That cost keeps rising with inflation and is not falling, like the cost of providing new council housing. What kind of Thatcherite, monetarist economics is that in housing? It does not make sense; it does not add up to anything except a policy of not caring about the homeless.

The homeless are reflected as well in the massive council house waiting lists to which I have already referred. The underlying problem is a shortage of decent housing to rent, estimated at 1.1 million by the Duke of Edinburgh's inquiry into British housing. The shortage is greatest for homes to rent, especially council homes. With the proposals for housing action trusts, the stock available for local authorities to rent to homeless families will diminish considerably without the safeguards that we want to write into legislation.

We want housing action trusts to have a duty to consult, to co-operate and to offer a reasonable number of relets to the homeless who need to be rehoused in the local authority area in which the HAT is. That is not a stupid or unnecessary thing to ask for. Anyone who had compassion for the homeless and who was concerned about the homeless would ask for that. We believe that the Government are rejecting our proposals because they do not care about the homeless and, as my hon. Friends have said, because they care about the gentrification of the estates that they are taking over and they do not want their friends who are taking over those estates to be encumbered by any social concern for those in housing need.

The Minister's response was scandalous. As a result of that, and because the Labour party and all Opposition Members feel so strongly about the problem of homelessness and about the homeless, we wish to divide the House on this, one of the most important issues of the Housing Bill, although every issue that we are debating is important.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I shall not keep the House long, but I should like to make two short points that, to my knowledge, have not been mentioned in the debate.

First, if the amendment were carried, it would introduce a new word—"homeless"—into the Bill. As the Minister of State admitted, there was a problem of presentation when the Bill was drafted—the homeless were left out. In 1988, when more than 100,000 families per year present themselves as homeless to local authorities in Britain, and when the number of homeless families has doubled, the Government have presented a Housing Bill which leaves out the homeless altogether. That in itself should be sufficient to make us support the amendment.

There is an argument that, if one is to do anything about the housing problem, one should start by meeting the needs of those who most need help—above all, the homeless.

Secondly, we need to be clear that the amendment seeks to preserve—not even to extend—the present position. The present position is that, if one is homeless and considered as eligible by law, the local council has to do something to give one a home. The amendment seeks only to make sure that when the property that the council used to own—empty or let—is taken over and handed to new housing action trust landlords, the same percentage of property in those units of accommodation goes to the homeless as it did under council ownership.

The figures up to the end of 1986 for every local authority in England were published in Hansard on 15 July 1987. They show that increasing numbers of properties owned by local authorities have been let to the homeless. Take my own local authority. I am not defending it or pretending that it could not do much better in other areas of housing management. I am arguing the simple case that the figures show that the demand on it to house the homeless has grown ineluctably.

In Southwark in 1981–82, 348 homeless families were housed and 8.3 per cent. of all new lettings were to the homeless. In 1982–83, 409 homeless families were housed, and 15.2 per cent. of all lettings went to the homeless. In 1983–84, the figures were more than double those of the previous year—878 homeless families were housed and 35.5 per cent. of lettings were to the homeless. In 1984–85, there were no figures, because there was a change in statistics in Southwark, as there was in other authorities. In 1985–86, a total of 1,119 families were accepted as homeless by Southwark. It had a duty to house them, and more than 50 per cent. of new lettings owned by Southwark borough council were let to the homeless.

I have reason to believe that since then the figures have continued to grow in a similar way and that now, in Southwark, no new lettings of property go to anyone other than the homeless or to those who have to be moved because of harassment or for personal protection. No one can move because they need a bigger property or a property on the ground floor instead of on an upper floor. They have to be homeless to move, and they have to be homeless to be taken in.

4.45 pm

The figures are similar in other authorities in London and elsewhere. I could go on in some detail, but I shall take only the most acute examples. For the last year in which figures are available, in 1985–86, a total of 68.6 per cent. of all new lettings in Camden went to the homeless. In Greenwich, 54.1 per cent. of new lettings went to the homeless. In Hammersmith and Fulham and in Islington, 61.9 per cent. of new lettings went to the homeless. In Lewisham, 58.6 per cent. of lettings went to the homeless. Even in the City of Westminster and in Wandsworth — Tory-controlled boroughs—the figures continue to be high. In the City of Westminster, 42.7 per cent. and in Wandsworth more than 50 per cent. of lettings went to the homeless. Of course the problem is most acute in London. In the last year for which figures are available, Wandsworth, a Tory-run authority, had to use more than 50 per cent. of its lettings to house the homeless.

Mr. Spearing

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of accusations, particularly from Conservative Members, that getting on to the homeless list is a quick way of jumping what would otherwise be a long waiting list? Does not the fact that he just mentioned, that Conservative-run Wandsworth has the enormous figure of 50 per cent. of its lettings going to classified homeless people, suggest that that argument, in respect of Wandsworth and probably elsewhere, does not hold water?

Mr. Hughes

Not only do I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I have checked three other areas of the country. I shall start with Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, the local authority of the Under-Secretary. For the last year for which figures are available, that authority in the affluent south-east and the home counties allocated more than 30 per cent. of its new lettings to the homeless. The Minister may be able to tell us that the figures have increased since then—that would be quite compatible with other figures. In an area that certainly is not renowned for its problems of social disadvantage, nearly one in three of new lettings by the hon. Lady's local council goes to families who have nowhere else to go.

In Gloucestershire, the home county of the Secretary of State, there are six local councils. In Cheltenham, 17.4 per cent. of lettings go to the homeless. The figure for the Cotswolds local authority is 22.2 per cent., for Forest of Dean the figure is 25.6 per cent. and for Tewkesbury, the Secretary of State's own constituency, the figure is 33.6 per cent.;one third. For Gloucester and for Stroud the figures are 48.2 per cent. and 49 per cent. respectively.

Lastly, I thought to look at the county of the Minister for Housing and Planning. Avon has six local authorities. They range from Bristol, with 21.9 per cent. of new lettings going to the homeless, to Bath—hardly poverty-stricken England—where 56.7 per cent. of new lettings go to the homeless.

Ms. Gordon

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many of those whom local authorities accept as homeless are mortgage defaulters who tried to buy their own homes but who ran into trouble and failed?

Mr. Hughes

I entirely accept the hon. Lady's point. A friend of mine, who is a Southwark councillor and a solicitor, speaks for my party on housing matters. She tells me that an increasing percentage of those who come through her door are mortgage defaulters and need help to try to prevent their homes from being taken over, after they have had pressure put on them to buy their homes.

Mr. Home Robertson

The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that in the local authority that includes my constituency, East Lothian, no fewer than 5 per cent. of council house allocations last year went to people who had lost their homes as a consequence of mortgage default.

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I did not know about that. The hon. Gentleman's constituency is not the kind of place that one imagines as the epitome of the housing crisis in Britain. It is a rural constituency, just north of the border. The statistics show that no area in Britain is exempt from the housing crisis.

Despite having been encouraged by several hon. Members to do so, the Minister did not refer in her speech to the press article which picks up the point that was made by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) —that young single people and young married couples are becoming increasingly concerned and frustrated, not surprisingly, about the fact that they cannot obtain local authority housing because the homeless take all that is available. Several young couples come to my advice centre every week and say that they are waiting for housing, but that they are not getting it. They include married couples, certainly those who are planning to be married and those who are engaged. They have no prospect, probably long after they are married, of obtaining accommodation.

The Government now propose, after the proceedings in Standing Committee, that in the next Session of Parliament the legislation relating to homelessness will no longer oblige local authorities to house those who have nowhere else to go. It is reported that the legislation for housing homeless persons that my noble Friend Lord Ross of Newport piloted through the House just over 10 years ago is to be repealed. Homelessness is to be replaced by ruthlessness. A permanent obligation on local authorities is to be replaced by a temporary obligation to take people in for a short period, immediately after they have been thrown out on to the street.

The amendment requires, very simply, that the same percentage of property should remain available for the homeless as was available before the transfer of property. It is not an unreasonable request. If 30, 50 or 60 per cent. of property is being used for housing homeless families in Broxbourne, Bath and central London, it is not unreasonable to ask that that obligation should be retained. Otherwise, that property might be used to accommodate people who can much more easily manage and afford to find their own homes. It is a modest amendment. If the Government reject it, that will be a token of their unwillingness to make even very modest concessions in favour of those who at the moment have nothing and who are asking for but the smallest crumbs.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 189, Noes 260.

Division No. 358] [4.54 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Alton, David Dewar, Donald
Anderson, Donald Dixon, Don
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dobson, Frank
Armstrong, Hilary Doran, Frank
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Douglas, Dick
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Duffy, A. E. P.
Barron, Kevin Dunnachie, Jimmy
Beckett, Margaret Eastham, Ken
Bell, Stuart Evans, John (St Helens N)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Bermingham, Gerald Faulds, Andrew
Blair, Tony Fearn, Ronald
Blunkett, David Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Boateng, Paul Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Boyes, Roland Fisher, Mark
Bray, Dr Jeremy Foster, Derek
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Foulkes, George
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Fyfe, Maria
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Galbraith, Sam
Buchan, Norman Galloway, George
Buckley, George J. Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Caborn, Richard George, Bruce
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Golding, Mrs Llin
Canavan, Dennis Gordon, Mildred
Cartwright, John Gould, Bryan
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clelland, David Grocott, Bruce
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hardy, Peter
Coleman, Donald Harman, Ms Harriet
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Haynes, Frank
Cousins, Jim Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Crowther, Stan Hinchliffe, David
Cryer, Bob Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cummings, John Home Robertson, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hood, Jimmy
Cunningham, Dr John Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Dalyell, Tam Howells, Geraint
Darling, Alistair Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Primarolo, Dawn
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Radice, Giles
Illsley, Eric Randall, Stuart
John, Brynmor Redmond, Martin
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Reid, Dr John
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Richardson, Jo
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Kirkwood, Archy Robertson, George
Lamond, James Rogers, Allan
Leadbitter, Ted Rooker, Jeff
Leighton, Ron Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Litherland, Robert Rowlands, Ted
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Ruddock, Joan
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Sedgemore, Brian
McAllion, John Sheerman, Barry
McAvoy, Thomas Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McCartney, Ian Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Macdonald, Calum A. Short, Clare
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Skinner, Dennis
McKelvey, William Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McLeish, Henry Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
McNamara, Kevin Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
McTaggart, Bob Snape, Peter
Madden, Max Soley, Clive
Mahon, Mrs Alice Spearing, Nigel
Marek, Dr John Steel, Rt Hon David
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Stott, Roger
Martlew, Eric Strang, Gavin
Maxton, John Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Meacher, Michael Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Meale, Alan Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Turner, Dennis
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Vaz, Keith
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wall, Pat
Morgan, Rhodri Wallace, James
Morley, Elliott Wareing, Robert N.
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Mowlam, Marjorie Wigley, Dafydd
Mullin, Chris Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Nellist, Dave Wilson, Brian
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Winnick, David
O'Brien, William Wise, Mrs Audrey
O'Neill, Martin Worthington, Tony
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wray, Jimmy
Parry, Robert Young, David (Bolton SE)
Patchett, Terry
Pike, Peter L. Tellers for the Ayes:
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Mr. Alun Michael and Mr. Adam Ingram.
Prescott, John
Adley, Robert Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Aitken, Jonathan Boscawen, Hon Robert
Alexander, Richard Boswell, Tim
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Peter
Allason, Rupert Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Amess, David Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Amos, Alan Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Arbuthnot, James Bowis, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Ashby, David Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Atkins, Robert Brazier, Julian
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Baldry, Tony Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Batiste, Spencer Buck, Sir Antony
Bellingham, Henry Budgen, Nicholas
Bendall, Vivian Burns, Simon
Benyon, W. Burt, Alistair
Biffen, Rt Hon John Butler, Chris
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Butterfill, John
Blackburn, Dr John G. Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Carrington, Matthew
Body, Sir Richard Carttiss, Michael
Cash, William Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Chapman, Sydney Knowles, Michael
Chope, Christopher Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Churchill, Mr Lang, Ian
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Latham, Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Lawrence, Ivan
Critchley, Julian Lee, John (Pendle)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Day, Stephen Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Devlin, Tim Lightbown, David
Dorrell, Stephen Lilley, Peter
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Dunn, Bob Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Durant, Tony Lord, Michael
Eggar, Tim Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Emery, Sir Peter Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Evennett, David MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Fallon, Michael McLoughlin, Patrick
Favell, Tony McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Madel, David
Fookes, Miss Janet Major, Rt Hon John
Forman, Nigel Malins, Humfrey
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Marland, Paul
Fox, Sir Marcus Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Franks, Cecil Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
French, Douglas Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gale, Roger Mates, Michael
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maude, Hon Francis
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Goodhart, Sir Philip Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Goodlad, Alastair Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mellor, David
Gow, Ian Miller, Sir Hal
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Mills, Iain
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Miscampbell, Norman
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gregory, Conal Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Moate, Roger
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Monro, Sir Hector
Grist, Ian Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Moore, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hampson, Dr Keith Morrison, Sir Charles
Hanley, Jeremy Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hannam, John Moss, Malcolm
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Nelson, Anthony
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Neubert, Michael
Harris, David Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Haselhurst, Alan Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hayward, Robert Oppenheim, Phillip
Heathcoat-Amory, David Paice, James
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Pawsey, James
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hind, Kenneth Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Porter, David (Waveney)
Holt, Richard Powell, William (Corby)
Hordern, Sir Peter Price, Sir David
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Rathbone, Tim
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Redwood, John
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Rhodes James, Robert
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Riddick, Graham
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hunter, Andrew Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Irvine, Michael Roe, Mrs Marion
Jack, Michael Rossi, Sir Hugh
Janman, Tim Rost, Peter
Jessel, Toby Rowe, Andrew
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Ryder, Richard
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Sackville, Hon Tom
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Key, Robert Sayeed, Jonathan
Kilfedder, James Shaw, David (Dover)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Kirkhope, Timothy Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Knapman, Roger Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shersby, Michael Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Sims, Roger Waldegrave, Hon William
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Walden, George
Soames, Hon Nicholas Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Speller, Tony Waller, Gary
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Walters, Sir Dennis
Squire, Robin Ward, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stern, Michael Warren, Kenneth
Stevens, Lewis Watts, John
Sumberg, David Wells, Bowen
Summerson, Hugo Wheeler, John
Tapsell, Sir Peter Whitney, Ray
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Widdecombe, Ann
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Wiggin, Jerry
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wilshire, David
Temple-Morris, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Winterton, Nicholas
Thorne, Neil Wolfson, Mark
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wood, Timothy
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Yeo, Tim
Trippier, David Young, Sir George (Acton)
Trotter, Neville
Twinn, Dr Ian Tellers for the Noes:
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Mr. Kenneth Carlisle and Mr. David Maclean.
Viggers, Peter

Question accordingly negatived.

Forward to