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Licensing Areas

Volume 532: debated on Monday 5 September 2011

The Housing Act 2004 requires local authorities to review the operation of selective licensing designations, and I certainly encourage them to do so. The Department has therefore not carried out an assessment itself of the effectiveness of those areas.

The main problem with selective licensing, of course, is that it does not deal with stock condition, and we see many properties in selective licensing areas that are squalid. Can the Minister assure local communities that the Government will allow councils to include the most recent decent homes standard as a licence condition?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has been very active on this issue, and I know that he has a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government next week, at which I am sure he will make that point very strongly. Licensing conditions are matters for local authorities when they draw up their proposals.

With more than 1 million people living in substandard privately rented accommodation, and with massive front-loaded cuts to council budgets making it harder to tackle slum landlords, the Housing and Local Government Minister is clearly failing in his responsibilities. However, as Henry Ford once said:

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

Will the Minister therefore adopt a more intelligent approach and abandon his laissez-faire attitude to regulation, which is creating a charter for slum landlords, by implementing the light-touch licensing system recommended by the Rugg review, adopted by Labour and welcomed by the National Landlords Association and the Association of Residential Lettings Agents?

I am happy to tell the House that 14 local authorities have accepted selective licensing areas—they have approved them and put them in place. That is the way to go. Local authorities should have the power and the responsibility to do that; they should not have the obligation to do it.