My Recent Oral Parliamentary Questions

10 Mar 2004

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): What steps the Department is taking to reduce overcrowding in housing.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): My hon. Friend will agree that the basic answer to the problem of overcrowding is to increase the supply of affordable housing. That is why the Government are investing in that twice the amount that we inherited from the Tories in 1997. Meanwhile, I look forward to sharing with my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who have a specific concern about overcrowding the results of the reviews on the subject carried out by and for the Department. My hon. Friend will also know about the commitment that I made in the Committee that considered the Housing Bill to examine what might be done to improve the statutory overcrowding standards incrementally. I shall follow up that commitment on Report.

Ms King: I agree that the answer is to increase the supply of affordable housing. I thank the Minister for initiating research following my comments, and those of others, about the negative impact of overcrowding on my constituents and many others; but what further steps will the Government take to tackle the problem? The current subsidy encourages housing associations to build one and two-bedroom properties, and discourages them from building three and four-bedroom family-size accommodation. What can the Minister do to increase the amount of such accommodation?

Keith Hill: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but we are making significant progress on overcrowding. I am sure that she and others with an interest in the subject will welcome that. I take her point about the nature of the accommodation. We are anxious to ensure that new housing development features appropriately sized accommodation, and we are working to that end.

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22 Mar 2004

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): What progress the Government have made in implementing the recommendations of the Lawrence inquiry; and what further steps are being taken to promote race equality.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): The Stephen Lawrence inquiry report was published on 24 February 1999 and made 70 recommendations. I am pleased to say that the vast majority of the recommendations have now been either completely or partially implemented. I have commissioned research by the London School of Economics to evaluate the overall impact of the recommendations on the police. That report is due in the summer. Following recommendation 11 of the Macpherson report, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 introduced a duty on specified public authorities to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups.

Ms King : I thank my hon. Friend for her reply. Does she agree that promoting community cohesion is one of the most important aspects of her Department's work? I hope that she is aware of the progress that Tower Hamlets has made and the national recognition that it has received for that. Will she argue for more resources to be devoted to community cohesion and promoting race equality? The issue affects all of us—as many white constituents come to see me following race attacks as black and Asian constituents. Although ethnic minorities face specific problems of institutionalised racism, which the Lawrence inquiry examined, I hope that the Government recognise that Britain must invest in promoting race equality for all the citizens of this country.

Fiona Mactaggart: My hon. Friend is right to draw the House's attention to the fact that delivering race equality and community cohesion is good for every citizen of this country, whether white or black. It is important that we all recognise that. She is also right to draw our attention to the excellent work on community cohesion being done in her constituency. Our ambition is to embed the lessons learned from the pathfinders on community cohesion in the mainstream operations of central and local government, because only by making that a normal part of doing business will we build genuinely cohesive communities throughout our country.

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