To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the 10 local authorities with the highest number of empty properties.
Local authorities with the highest number of empty council dwellings in April 1989 were Manchester—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Liverpool—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Sheffield—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Salford—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Birmingham—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Sandwell—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Hackney—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Southwark—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Wolverhampton—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; and Newcastle upon Tyne—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."].
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that it makes an absolute mockery of the Labour party's alleged concern for homelessness when its elected councillors cannot give proper care to the homeless within their areas?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The only other figures that I could have read out would have concerned rent arrears, which is almost the same list.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Liverpool's homelessness record is one of the best in the country? Might not that be due to the fact that, since 1983, when Liverpool city council came under Labour control, it has regularly been building houses for the people who live in the area? Is not it true that many of the so-called empty houses are blocks of flats that were built when the Tories were in power and that they are being demolished because they are a blot on the area? Is the Minister aware that the Government practically destroyed industry on Merseyside and that many rent arrears are due to the great poverty in the area?
I am delighted to hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I respond to him by asking him a question: who gave Liverpool the resources to build those houses?
Does the Minister agree that the picture is very much blacker than the list he gave in reply to the question? Is not it a fact that throughout the United Kingdom about 100,000 homes are standing empty in Labour-controlled council areas which, at a stroke, could take 400,000 people off the homeless list? Is not that diabolical? Instead of carping and shedding tears about it in this place, should not the Opposition get on to their friends in Labour councils about the homeless?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The figure of 100,000 has to be compared with only 40,000 people currently in temporary accommodation and 11,000 in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. My hon. Friend is absolutely right.
When the Tory flagship in Bradford is sunk without trace, will the Minister give a firm assurance that there is no prospect of his Department blocking grants for the building of new homes for rent and for the modernisation of older homes on the Lower Grange estate in Bradford, where many of my constituents have been living in the most deplorable conditions for many years?
It is this Government who have made the method of allocating credits across the country as transparent and objective as possible. We shall continue to use that objective assessment method in the future as we have done in the recent past.