HC Deb 29 October 1992 vol 212 cc1129-30
Q2. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Prime Minister if he has any plans to pay an official visit to the London borough of Newham.

The Prime Minister

I am making plans for a series of visits to all parts of the country. Newham is not yet included, but I am happy to consider it.

Mr. Banks

That is very good news. I will organise a riotous welcome for the Prime Minister when he comes, but I must tell him with great respect that he is about as popular in the east end as anthrax. If he were to come to my advice surgery on Friday, he would find that 60 per cent. of my cases are housing problems and that is true of all inner city hon. Members. In 1979 my borough was spending £50,000 a year on bed-and-breakfast accommodation and this year we are spending £7 million on it. We have only 1.4 per cent. of our properties vacant.

If the Prime Minister wants to do something about homelessness and to boost the economy, will he allow local authorities to spend the £5.1 billion of accumulated capital receipts? That would do something about homelessness and jobs, or is he only interested in his own job and his own homes?

The Prime Minister

I must say that that is a bit rich from the hon. Gentleman. Newham borough council's rent arrears now amount to 21 per cent. of its rent roll and it has 1,000 empty properties. Newham has the lowest collection of community charge almost anywhere in the country and as far as its collection record is concerned, perhaps some explanation of that is that seven of the Labour councillors refuse to pay their community charge.

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