Mr Dobson said: 'Everybody with a grain of sense knows that it's bad
for your health if you don't have somewhere decent to live. That's
why the new government is making sure that more new homes are built
releasing the takings from the sale of council houses, so they can be
invested in building new homes and doing up old ones.
'As shadow environment secretary, that was a promise I wanted to see
in our election manifesto. It's a promise that was in our election
manifesto. It's a promise we are keeping. And as health secretary,
I'm delighted as it's an important part of our policy to improve the
health of people in our country.
'Of course, it's not the only aspect. Unemployment makes people ill.
That's one reason why we are getting people back to work. Low wages
make people ill. That's one reason why we are introducing a national
minimum wage. Crime and disorder make people ill. That's one reason
why we are cracking down on the yobs who make life intolerable for
their neighbours. Air pollution makes people ill. That's one reason
why we will be cutting traffic pollution.
'Right across government we are pushing through policies which will
improve the health of the nation. That will be good for the people
who won't fall ill so often, and it will be good for the rest of us -
firstly, because people who are fit and well can make a bigger
contribution to the ecomony. And secondly, because people being ill
costs the country a fortune. And not just to pay for the NHS. It
costs a fortune in lost production - 187 million working days a year,
according to the Confederation of British Industry.
'So providing decent homes will help. We also need to provide homes
which are warm in winter. We've cut the VAT on fuel, and we are
devoting some of the welfare to work and housing investment to
improve home energy efficiency. That will mean more old people can be
looked after at home safely rather than going into care. It means
more people who no longer need to be in hospital will be able to go
home safely. That all helps the people concerned, and it frees up
beds in the NHS. So everyone benefits.'
Mr Dobson said: 'Breaking down the barriers between the NHS and the
local social services doesn't just involve social services. It
involves housing as well. Everybody needs to work together, and
that's what we are arranging.
'My officials tell me it's hard to prove that better housing improves
people's health. That's because it's hard to separate out the impact
of housing on health from the impact of poverty, crime, and
joblessness and all the other things that harm the health of most
people who have nowhere decent to live. That's just another way of
saying we have to tackle the lot - and that's what we are doing. Not
just the healthdepartment, not just environment, transport and the
regions. The whole government.'