Paul Uppal: I want to speak primarily from my experiences as a new MP for Wolverhampton. I dare say that some of my sentiments may be echoed by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), who mentioned the Wolverhampton arm's length management organisation that we both know. Right hon. and hon. Members will be pleased to know that I intend to make my speech brief, as I am sure that others have contributions to make.One of our primary goals as a Government is to move power away from Whitehall, out across the country to individual councils and cities and to the people who know what is best for their own communities. That is why it is so hard to speak about widespread national programmes such as decent homes. Different local factors-local economies, local councils and local needs-always play a part. I cannot comment on the programme as a whole, but I know that Wolverhampton needs decent homes.
The decent homes programme in Wolverhampton is carried out by Wolverhampton Homes, an ALMO doing good work in our community. I have had the opportunity to meet its representatives and see some of its programmes at first hand. Removing the ALMO's ability to complete the job that it has started would create a great deal of difficulty for Wolverhampton. Not only is Wolverhampton Homes updating houses in need of repair, it is providing jobs in a city with a high unemployment rate. It has also started an apprenticeship programme that has been training more than 60 apprentices a year.
One of the main factors driving me to contribute to this debate is that I have met many of those apprentices and had conversations with them. Since the new year, many young people have told me their personal stories of being involved in apprenticeships. I have been deeply touched by those experiences; they are similar to my own. It is often that first spark that sets somebody on a path by encouraging them and giving them the opportunity to pursue a career. Whatever way they take, that first step is the most difficult and important.
Wolverhampton Homes has also given the tenants that it is helping a way to be involved with the decisions that will affect them. Several of the tenants of affected homes serve on the board of Wolverhampton Homes.
Wolverhampton has undeniably been through tough times, and it is struggling. We appreciate that that is not specific to Wolverhampton; the country as a whole is facing a financial problem. However, will the Minister think carefully? Having met the apprentices and seen the good work being done by Wolverhampton Homes, I ask him to take time to look at the issue holistically. As a Conservative Government in coalition, we want people to have dignity and pride in their communities and work together to make that happen and make the nation a better place to live. What better place to begin than in their own homes?
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