I recently announced a package of proposals to strengthen the hands of social landlords and tenants, so that they can take swift and effective action to tackle antisocial behaviour.
All too often, the rights of very badly behaved social tenants seem to be given more weight by the courts than the alarm and distress that their poor behaviour causes to fellow tenants in the wider community. Will the Minister agree to meet representatives of Kettering borough council, of which I am a member, to discuss how the problem can be tackled?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this important issue, of which I am aware. The amount of time that it takes to evict antisocial tenants is a severe problem, which is why the measures that I announced on 11 January included a proposal for mandatory grounds for evictions when a case has occurred before. I should be happy to meet my hon. Friend.
Let me first draw attention to my interests, as declared in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
It is quite right for the Government—and all of us—to take action to protect tenants against antisocial behaviour on the part of those who make their lives a misery, but do the Government not recognise that their imposition of harsh housing benefit cuts and steep increases in rents for social housing, and their termination of security of tenure for new social lettings, will inflict misery and insecurity on many more tenants in the future?
That is an entirely inaccurate portrayal of what is happening. For one thing, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, the rent policy was set by the last Government in a deliberate attempt to merge housing association and council rents. Ministers in past Governments, including some in the last Government, recognised that the lazy consensus that houses should be given to people for ever, even if their circumstances changed, was long past its sell-by date. It is ironic that so many Opposition Members are prepared to fight and die in a ditch for a policy of lifetime tenures that was introduced by Margaret Thatcher.
Antisocial behaviour is not confined to those in social housing. Neighbours from hell may also be owner-occupiers. What action can be taken to deal with the many landlords of buy-to-let properties who do not care a damn about their tenants, let alone their neighbours?
The big difference between the public and private rented sectors is that because private sector leases tend to be for six months or more, it is much easier for landlords to terminate them. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the difficulty experienced in the private sector, and I am keen for the Government to assist in any way they can.