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House of Commons Hansard
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Housing and Planning Bill
12 January 2016
Volume 604

[2nd Allocated Day]

Further consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

Clause 67

Payments to Secretary of State

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I beg to move amendment 131, page 29, line 14, leave out clause 67.

This amendment, together with other amendments leaving out all the clauses in this chapter, would prevent vacant high value housing from being compulsory sold.

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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 92, page 29, line 21, at end insert

‘that shall include—

(i) the repayment of capital debt on any high value properties sold

(ii) the cost of replacing any high value properties sold on a one for one basis within the same local authority.’

The amendment would ensure the replacement of property locally and it would also ensure appropriate deductions are included in legislation.

Amendment 51, page 29, line 21, at end insert—

‘(2A) The total payment required from all affected local authorities in any financial year shall not exceed the total grant paid in that year to private registered providers in respect of right to buy discounts.’

The amendment would avoid powers being used a general means of taxing councils and tenants for the benefit of the Exchequer.

Amendment 93, page 29, line 32, leave out from ‘regulations’ to ‘for’ and insert

‘require a local housing authority in England to define “high value” in its area’.

The amendment would enable local housing authorities to define high value property in line with local housing market conditions.

Amendment 94, page 29, line 33, at end insert

‘that will not apply to more than 10% of the total authority properties in the local housing authority area’.

The amendment would safeguard a proportion of local authority housing stock in high value areas.

Amendment 53, page 29, line 35, at end insert—

‘(10) Regulations under subsection (8) may not define a dwelling as “high value” if its sale value is less than the cost of rebuilding it and providing a replacement dwelling with the same number of bedrooms in the same local authority area.’

The amendment would ensure that the cost of replacement dwellings is not specified as one of the costs and deductions to be made as required by sub-section 67(2) and would allow for one-for-one local replacement.

Amendment 132, page 29, line 36, leave out clause 68.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Amendment 55, in clause 68, page 30, line 11, at end insert—

‘(5) Regulations under subsection (2)(b) shall specify that housing shall be excluded where it forms part of a housing regeneration scheme or consists of specialist housing or recently improved housing.

(6) In this section—

“housing regeneration scheme” means a programme of regeneration or development of an area which includes the provision or improvement of housing and for which finance may be available under section 126 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996;

“specialist housing” means any housing designed for or intended for occupation by older persons or persons needing care or support or persons with mental health problems or learning disabilities, or which has features which are designed to make it suitable for occupation by a physically disabled person, or which it is the practice of the landlord to let for occupation by persons with special needs;

“recently improved housing” means housing where there has been substantial works of repair or improvement carried out on the relevant dwelling or group of dwellings within the previous two years.’

The amendment would exclude certain types of property from inclusion in the high value homes determination.

Amendment 133, page 30, line 12, leave out clause 69.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Amendment 134, page 30, line 28, leave out clause 70.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Amendment 135, page 31, line 2, leave out clause 71.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Amendment 136, page 31, line 12, leave out clause 72.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Government amendment 112.

Amendment 137, page 31, line 20, leave out clause 73.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Amendment 138, page 31, line 28, leave out clause 74.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Amendment 139, page 32, line 2, leave out clause 75.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Amendment 140, page 32, line 16, leave out clause 76.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Amendment 141, page 32, line 28, leave out clause 77.

See explanatory statement for amendment 131.

Government amendments 130, 9 and 11.

Government new clause 59—Reverting to original rent levels.

Government new clause 60—Private providers: policies for high income social tenants.

Government new clause 61—HMRC information for private registered providers.

New clause 39—Living Rent Commission

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall appoint a body, to be known as “the Living Rent Commission”, to discharge the functions conferred under this section.

(2) The Secretary of State shall refer to the Living Rent Commission to determine a definition of “affordability”, based on which it shall make recommendations on rent levels for all housing provided by local authorities and private registered providers in England, at a level of locality considered appropriate and practicable by the Commission.

(3) Before arriving at the recommendations to be included in the report produced under subsection (4), the Living Rent Commission shall consult—

(a) such organisations representative of providers of affordable housing as they think fit;

(b) such organisations representative of affordable housing occupants as they think fit; and

(c) if they think fit, any other body or person.

(4) The Living Rent Commission shall, after considering the matter referred to it under subsection (2), make a report to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State which shall contain the Commission’s recommendations regarding affordable rents.

(5) The Secretary of State may by regulations implement the Commission’s recommendations on affordable rents for private registered providers and local authority provided housing.

(6) If, following the report of the Living Rent Commission under subsection (4) above, the Secretary of State decides—

(a) not to make any regulations implementing the Commission’s recommendation, or

(b) to make regulations which do not relate to a recommendation of the Commission,

the Secretary of State shall lay a report before each House of Parliament containing a statement of the reasons for the decision.

(7) The definitions determined and recommendations made under subsection (2) shall be reviewed annually by the Living Rent Commission.’

This new clause would set up a Living Rent Commission to define and determine affordable rents.

Amendment 144, page 33, line 12, leave out clause 79.

This amendment, together with amendments 145 to 153, would leave out Chapter 4 of Part 4.

Government amendment 113.

Amendment 95, in clause 79, page 33, line 15, at end insert—

‘(1A) Any regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section will not apply—

(a) to people aged over 65;

(b) to people who have a registered disability;

(c) to people on zero hours contracts;

(d) to people with seasonal contracts of employment;

(e) to households where one or more members is in receipt of ESA;

(f) where a household member is in receipt of care

(g) where a member of the household is a carer for another household member;

(h) to those living in supported housing; and

(i) to households in receipt of housing benefit.’

The amendment would establish exemptions from the application of high income rents system.

Amendment 57, page 33, line 19, at end insert—

‘(d) to be increased on a tapered system relating to income and level of rent charged.’

The amendment would introduce a taper scheme into the application of high income rents to prevent huge jumps in the rent level being charged with only modest increases in income.

Amendment 58, page 33, line 19, at end insert—

‘(d) to take into account the need to promote socially cohesive and mixed communities.’

The amendment would enable local authorities and social housing providers to take into account the need to promote and encourage a degree of diversity in their communities.

Amendment 59, page 33, line 19, at end insert—

‘(d) take into account local affordability.’

The amendment would establish that rent levels should reflect local affordability.

Amendment 60, page 33, line 22, at end insert—

‘(3A) The Secretary of State must make regulations to provide for the external valuation of high income rents.’

The amendment would establish that the application of a higher income rent should be subject to external valuation.

Amendment 96, page 33, line 22, at end insert—

‘(3A) Any regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section must include provisions for—

(a) a notice period of one year before the new rent becomes payable; and

(b) transitional protection and arrangements as the tenant moves to the higher rent.’

The amendment would make it appropriate for tenants deemed to have a high income to be given time and a degree of transitional protection to enable them to relocate to another property or increase their income further

Government amendment 114.

Amendment 61, page 33, line 27, at end insert—

‘(6) All provisions in this section shall only apply—

(a) for new tenancies commenced after 30 April 2017; and

(b) where the tenant has been provided with a new tenancy agreement.’

The amendment would establish that the high income rent regime would only apply to new tenants from April 2017 and where they have been given a new tenancy agreement.

Amendment 145, page 33, line 29, leave out clause 80.

See statement for amendment 144.

Amendment 97, in clause 80, page 33, line 30, at beginning insert ‘subject to subsection (1A)’.

See amendment 98.

Amendment 98, page 33, line 32, at end insert—

‘(1A) High income” must be set with reference to average incomes in the area with high incomes being defined by income falling in the top quartile of incomes in the area.’

The amendment would establish that high incomes will reflect the top quartile of income levels.

Amendment 62, page 33, line 32, at end insert—

‘(1A) For the purposes of this Chapter high income cannot be set at a level lower than median income.’

The amendment would establish that the high income level cannot be set a level lower than average/median salaries.

Government amendment 115.

Amendment 146, page 34, line 6, leave out clause 81.

See statement for amendment 144.

Government amendments 116 to 120.

Amendment 147, page 34, line 19, leave out clause 82.

See statement for amendment 144.

Government amendments 121 to 123.

Amendment 63, in clause 82, page 34, line 27, leave out subsection (c).

The amendment would establish that the creation of a public body to transfer information from the HMRC to a local authority or registered provider of social housing is not necessary.

Government amendments 124 to 126.

Amendment 148, page 35, line 15, leave out clause 83.

See statement for amendment 144.

Government amendments 127 and 128.

Amendment 149, page 35, line 28, leave out clause 84.

See statement for amendment 144.

Amendment 64, in clause 84. page 35, line 30, leave out ‘estimated’.

The amendment would establish that payments to the Secretary of State would not be made on an estimation of income receipts.

Amendment 65, page 35, line 38, leave out subsection (5).

The amendment would establish that it will not be possible for payments to be made to the Secretary of State based on assumptions that are not borne out by reality.

Amendment 150, page 36, line 1, leave out clause 85.

See statement for amendment 144.

Government amendment 129.

Amendment 152, page 36, line 31, leave out clause 87.

See statement for amendment 144.

Amendment 153, page 37, line 7, leave out clause 88.

See statement for amendment 144.

Amendment 142, page 37, line 20, leave out clause 89.

This amendment, together with amendment 143, would enable councils to be free to manage flexibly tenancies in a way that drives best value from stock whilst supporting strong local communities.

Amendment 143, page 37, line 32, leave out clause 90.

See statement for amendment 142.

Amendment 105, page 86, line 1, leave out schedule 4.

To remove this schedule from the Bill.

Amendment 106, page 99, line 20, leave out schedule 5.

To remove this schedule from the Bill.

Amendment 107, page 27, line 21, leave out clause 61.

This amendment would remove the ability of the Secretary of State to make grants with respect to Right to Buy discounts to private registered providers including housing associations.

Amendment 88, in clause 61, page 27, line 23, at end insert

‘with the exclusion of—

(a) supported housing for older people;

(b) supported housing units (including self-contained homes where floating support is provided for vulnerable people);

(c) key worker housing (which includes self-contained flats subject to nomination agreements with third parties);

(d) units that form part of major regeneration schemes planned or already under way;

(e) rural settlements;

(f) homes built for charitable purposes without Government grant and homes provided through S.106 agreements requiring stock to be kept as social housing in perpetuity;

(g) cooperative housing;

(h) ALMOS (arm’s length management organisations); and

(i) Alms houses.’

The amendment would exclude the listed categories of specialised housing from being subject to the Right to Buy provisions of the Bill.

Amendment 89, page 27, line 25, at end insert—

‘(2A) The conditions at subsection (2) must include a condition that money equivalent to the market value (disregarding any discount) of a dwelling sold under right to buy and to which the grant applies is spent by the private registered provider on the provision of affordable housing in the same local authority area or London, including at least one new home replacing that sold which is—

(a) of the same tenure,

(b) located in the same local authority area or London borough, and

(c) in accordance with assessed local housing need.’

The amendment would require housing associations offering the Right to Buy to their tenants in London and elsewhere to re-invest all the money received as a result of the sale in replacement affordable housing, including a guaranteed like-for-like home in the same local authority area or London borough.

Amendment 50, page 27, line 28, at end insert—

‘(4) Grants must not be payable on properties bought and turned into buy-to-let dwellings within ten years.”

The amendment would prevent property sold under Right to Buy from being converted into buy to let dwellings for a period of ten years.

Amendment 108, page 27, line 29, leave out clause 62.

This amendment would remove the ability of the Greater London Authority to make grants with respect to Right to Buy discounts to private registered providers including housing associations in London.

Government amendment 111.

Amendment 90, in clause 64, page 28, line 24, at end insert—

‘( ) The discount should remain in perpetuity’

The amendment would ensure that homes sold under the Right to Buy remain as discounted housing in perpetuity.

Amendment 91, page 28, line 24, at end insert—

‘( ) A dwelling must not be sold under the Right to Buy without the Housing Association having the ability to—

(a) verify the source of funding for purchase,

(b) establish who is occupying the property,

(c) check that the person/s seeking to purchase the property under Right to Buy has no interest in another property,

(d) has sufficient time to carry out checks for fraudulent activity, and

(e) be able to prepare reports on (a)-(d) for the Housing Association Board of Trustees to consider.’

The amendment would ensure that housing associations are able to carry out proper checks before proceeding with the Right to Buy offer.

Amendment 109, page 28, line 24, at end insert—

‘( ) A dwelling must not be sold under the Right to Buy without the Housing Association having first—

(a) identified the dwelling that will become the replacement for the dwelling sold, where—

(i) the replacement dwelling may be an existing dwelling or a planned new-build,

(ii) the tenure of the replacement property is presumed to be the same as that of the dwelling sold under Right to Buy, unless a different tenure can be justified on the basis of local needs, and

(iii) the replacement dwelling is located in the same local authority area as the dwelling sold; and

(b) communicated the replacement plan to the Regulator.’

This amendment would ensure that a home cannot be sold under Right to Buy until a suitable replacement home has first been found or planned.

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It is a pity that we are dealing with the four most contentious aspects of the Bill in one two-hour session, and that the Government did not accept our alterations to the programme motion, which would have made it a bit more sensible.

I shall begin by considering the forced sale of high-value social housing, covered in chapter 2 of part 4 of the Bill. As the Government will be aware, we tabled a number of amendments to chapter 2 on a range of issues relating to the forced sale of such housing. Amendment 92 would ensure that the replacement of property locally with appropriate resourcing was included in legislation. Amendments 93 and 94 would give local authorities more agency over defining “high value” and would limit the number of houses sold in a particular area to 10% of the stock.

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I thank the hon. Lady for giving way so early. I wanted gently to challenge her comments about today’s debate bearing in mind that the programme motion was agreed with the Opposition and that we agreed to the changes they asked for.

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I remind the Minister that we voted against the programme motion.

Amendment 53 safeguards the replacement of like-for-like housing; homes cannot be sold if their sale value is less than the cost of replacing the original property. Amendment 55 seeks to exempt certain types of specialist housing from “high value” determination. Owing to the extremely limited time available today, I will not speak in detail on those amendments. I will focus instead on amendments 131 to 141, which leave out all the clauses in chapter 2 of part 4, effectively removing the chapter from the Bill.

Labour Members are not against local authorities making sensible decisions about their assets, but that is not what the clauses in this chapter of the Bill would enable. They will force local authorities to sell off much-needed council housing, even when they have huge waiting lists. Glyn Robbins, estate manager of Quaker Court, stated that many council homes in London in places such as Quaker Court are likely to be deemed high value, and that is where the Government’s legislation will have the most severe impact.

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Of course, this is not just about the loss of council properties in high-value areas. The impact of the policy would surely be that those properties would move into the privately rented sector, meaning that the housing benefit bill is likely to increase to enable the same properties to be rented out.

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My hon. Friend makes an additional point about how truly appalling and nonsensical the policy is. I hope to come to that a bit later.

Glyn Robbins said:

“This is about as high-value an area as you’re going to find. So every time we get an empty council flat, instead of that home going to the next person on a waiting list in Islington that has 18,000 people on it, it’s going to be sold into the private market.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing, among others, has also expressed concern that the Government’s expectation of the number of houses to be built as a result of forcing the selling off of so-called high-value housing is much, much too high. It says that the Government appear to have vastly overestimated the number of homes that will become vacant in the category of high value that might be defined within any local authority area, which in turn will have a negative impact on the replacement of sold-off homes by housing associations. The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing stressed that more funding needs to be made available for affordable housing and that

“full compensation for housing associations will be absolutely vital if they are going to be able to build more affordable homes for people who can’t afford to buy”.

As far as commentators are concerned, the provisions of this chapter of the Bill are likely to lead to less council housing being available and to any replacement housing that does materialise being out of the financial reach of many people. We know that housing waiting lists will become longer and people will be forced to stay in temporary accommodation for longer, which of course will mean a greater cost to local taxpayers. Councils will have less of an incentive to invest in stock, as it might push the value above the arbitrary thresholds for forced sale. Moreover, the reduction in the number of social rented homes available will intensify competition for private rented sector homes at the bottom of the market, driving up rents.

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Is not the concern that we should see this in the overall context of Government policy? Not only will these council homes be sold off, with the opportunity to replace them on a like-for-like basis almost certainly not being available, but it will be very difficult for most housing associations to replace their sold properties on a like-for-like basis. As was confirmed in the Select Committee yesterday, there is no new money at all in the comprehensive spending review for any new social rented housing. At the end of this Parliament, there will almost certainly be fewer council homes to rent than there are now.

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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and one that we want to emphasise this afternoon. Most commentators are now saying that there is no additional money to provide the replacement affordable housing and there are no provisions in the Bill to allow a like-for-like replacement in the same local authority for homes that are sold off.

This chapter of the Bill is not only damaging to social housing but will have a negative knock-on effect in the private sector that will mean there is simply no respite for low income families and no housing that they will be able to rent at a level that they can afford. The Government must reconsider this part of the Bill and must take this chapter out of it.

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My hon. Friend talks about the impact on homelessness. Across the country, there are probably millions of families in housing need who are waiting for appropriate accommodation in the social sector. A constituent I met last week has two children and lives in a one-bedroom flat. One of the children has skin cancer and they are waiting desperately for a two-bedroom home. Who should get a property—a family with that housing need or someone who can buy on the open market for £500,000 or more?

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My hon. Friend makes a truly brilliant point that we should reflect on in the Chamber this afternoon. Many councils are telling us that they have thousands of people on their waiting lists, yet this measure will reduce further the number of homes that will be available.

Again, as the Minister is aware, we have tabled a number of amendments to try to make the pay-to-stay provisions more palatable. Amendment 95 would establish exemptions from the application of the high income rents system, while amendment 57 would ensure that the system was tapered to avoid a sudden jump in rents when an increase would apply. Amendment 58 looks to ensure that local authorities and housing associations take into account the need to promote and encourage a degree of diversity and social cohesion in their communities, and amendment 59 makes sure that rents reflect affordability on a local basis.

Amendment 60 would establish that the application of a higher income rent should be subject to external valuation and not the whim of the Secretary of State. Amendments 96 and 61 both look to give some notice and protection should tenants be moved on to higher rents, with amendment 96 giving tenants who have been determined to have a high income transitional protection and time to enable them to relocate to another property if that is at all possible. Amendment 61 would establish that the high income rent regime would apply only to new tenants and that they would be given a new tenancy agreement.

Amendments 97, 98 and 62 are designed to ensure that what is considered to be a high income is based on local realities and a multiple of median income, but again the lack of time that the Bill has been afforded together with the incredibly unfair nature of these clauses means that I will be focusing on amendments 144 to 150 and 152 to 153, which seek to remove all the clauses, and therefore the complete chapter, from the Bill.

We are not necessarily against a gradation in rent paid, but we do not think the pay-to-stay proposals that remain in the Bill are in any way acceptable. The proposals will hit people on modest incomes hardest, and this section of the Bill is seemingly a continuation of the Government’s assault on council tenants and a cash grab by the Chancellor, and it is entirely anti-localist as local authorities, and indeed housing associations, already have the discretion to charge high income tenants higher rents.

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Did not Westminster council let the cat out of the bag on pay to stay with a leaflet that it distributed last week, “A guide to the Right to Buy Social Mobility Fund”, which stated:

“Under Government proposals, households with an income greater than £40,000 will pay a substantially increased rent. This is an opportunity to avoid this and become a home owner”?

Is not pay to stay about driving home ownership, rather than reflecting income in rent policy?

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My hon. Friend makes a relevant point about the proposals.

So why are the Government now imposing this scheme on councils, if not to punish council tenants? What have they done to deserve this unique vitriol from the Minister? I remind the House that the threshold for high income, as it stands, is £40,000 per household in London and £30,000 outside London. This would hit people who earn the Chancellor’s new minimum wage. Most people would think that is disgraceful. The policy will hit hardest those who are working in low paid jobs, and that is where it is going to have the most devastating effect.

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One of the examples that has been given to me is that of a tenant who has been offered a promotion at work but has decided to turn it down because of the consequential increase in rent under the proposals. Is that not an attack on aspiration?

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I could not agree more. The proposals are an attack on aspiration, leaving some families with impossible choices.

As Tony Stacey, chair of PlaceShapers, which represents 100 housing associations, said, this policy conflicts with the Government’s desire to get people into better paid work. He said that it was a bit perverse, compared with the Government’s other policies to make work pay. If the policy goes ahead, it seems that people who are paid more for additional work undertaken or for promotion could face a sudden increase in rent or eviction.

It is interesting to see that the Government caved into pressure from housing associations and removed the element of compulsion from them, but that only means that council tenants are now being singled out for the application of these extraordinary measures. As councils say that the provisions are unworkable in any case, will the Minister explain to us why he has insisted that they should remain for council tenants?

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Is the hon. Lady seriously suggesting that people should receive heavily subsidised housing even if they earn very high incomes?

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As we did our best to explain to the hon. Gentleman in Committee, such housing is often not subsidised. The point that we are making is that councils already have the discretion to set higher rents for people with higher incomes if they choose to do so. What we are querying this afternoon is why the Government are introducing an element of compulsion and why this will apply to council tenants only.

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We should kill the myth of subsidised council housing. Under the rules that this Government changed following the proposals from the previous Government, housing revenue accounts are self-funding. There is no subsidy. The only subsidies that I can see are right to buy discounts and starter home discounts that the Government are proposing.

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My hon. Friend has won that round of the debate.

So shocking is chapter 5 of part 4 that we have tabled amendments to remove all of it from the Bill. We have tabled amendments to leave out clauses 89 and 90 and the schedules relating to them. We saw no value in amending these elements of the Bill as the ending of security of tenure for council tenants would be one of the greatest travesties for the future of affordable housing in this country. The only position we can adopt is to ask for it to be removed from the Bill entirely.

Three decades from now, when our grandchildren look back on the decisions of our generation concerning housing, their social mobility will have declined compared with that of previous generations, despite what David Cameron may think, as a result of the instability that this Government’s policy creates. Having a stable home to grow up in is crucial for working families whose income barely affords them an adequate standard of living. Children should not be faced with the threat of having to change schools every two to five years when the council is forced to review the tenancy contracts of their parents. This could have disastrous effects on their education. Like a number of colleagues, I was brought up in a council house and thus was able to acquire better educational opportunities than my parents as a result of growing up in a stable home with security of tenure. We want to ensure that that option exists for families who need it today.

However, the Government are removing the most basic protection for tenants that has existed in our country for decades—that council housing would be provided by local authorities to secure rented homes for people on low incomes, and that those homes would be of good quality. The Government need to stop attacking council tenants. I thought that we had cross-party agreement not only that the council housing sector should be valued, but that measures should be put in place to enhance its attractiveness and availability, rather than it being attacked in the way that it is in this Bill.

In 1979, 42% of Britons lived in council houses. Now, that figure is less than 8%. Government investment in social rented housing was cut by two-thirds when the coalition Government came to power. While the Government pledged a one-to-one replacement for every home that was sold under the right to buy, the latest figures show that for every nine homes sold, only one is being replaced.

The Government are wrong in their assumption that council tenants with security of tenure can afford to buy a home or live elsewhere. A recent study found that 91% of homes in England and Wales were unaffordable to homebuyers even in some areas where they had the national average income of £26,500. Local authorities, under the Localism Act 2011, already have the ability to offer flexible tenancies if they so choose. Why are the Government introducing this degree of compulsion and why do they attack council housing tenants in this way?

Recently a woman living in a council house in London told The Guardian:

“In the long run, London needs us service workers more than we need London. Most of us will not be able to survive with the current rental prices. We are no longer children, to be able to share a flat with 10 other people. This is a shift of the goalposts and will leave people in desperate conditions.”

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My hon. Friend mentions a lady working in London who was concerned about people like her for economic reasons. Is my hon. Friend aware of the concerns about the housing crisis as iterated by the London chamber of commerce and industry? It said that the housing crisis in London is affecting London’s economy, as well having a human cost, as we all know.

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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We have pointed that out to the Minister on a number of occasions and provided evidence to him in Committee.

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My hon. Friend is making a powerful case. She rightly mentions London, as do a number of colleagues, because it is an acute issue, but is she not concerned that the issue exists throughout the country and that the Government’s approach makes a sham of their promise to support localism, as they are riding roughshod over the ability of local councils to use discretion in this important area?

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I totally agree; I am really pleased that my hon. Friend has reminded me that we need to consider how this area of the Bill affects council tenants and local authorities up and down the country.

Labour has tabled amendments to chapter 1 of part 4 to try to limit the negative impact of the right-to-buy provisions. Amendment 88 seeks to protect certain types of specialised housing and amendment 89 would require housing associations offering the right to buy to their tenants in London and elsewhere to reinvest all the money in replacement affordable housing, including a guaranteed like-for-like home in the same local authority area or London borough. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) was among those who tabled that amendment.

We have also tabled amendments that would prevent property sold under the right to buy from being converted into buy-to-let dwellings for a period of 10 years; amendments that would ensure that the discount for homes sold under the right to buy remained in perpetuity; and amendments that would ensure that housing associations were able to carry out proper checks before proceeding with the right-to-buy offer. Yet again, we find ourselves stretched for time. We are facing a chapter that has the potential to decimate the social housing sector, so I will speak to the amendments as one group.

Shelter has estimated that about 113,000 homes could be lost immediately through the provisions in the Bill. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that owing to the scheme’s current vagueness and the

“coalition’s less-than-impressive record in delivering replacement housing under the existing right-to-buy…There is a risk that these policies would lead to a further depletion of the social housing stock”.

What seems to have complete consensus across the housing sector is that there is no guarantee of like-for-like replacement for homes sold under the right to buy. Of course, the Minister will tell me that the Government are guaranteeing a two-for-one replacement of affordable housing, but that measure needs closer inspection. The Government’s new definition of “affordable” housing in new clause 31 includes starter homes, which can be up to £250,000 outside London and up to £450,000 in the capital. That means that a housing association home sold under the right to buy can be considered to have been replaced by another house or even another two houses that will be for sale at up to a quarter of a million pounds or almost half a million in London. That is not a replacement of like for like by any stretch of the imagination.

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The definition of “affordable homes” has been described by one hon. Member of this House as “elastic and misleading”. Does my hon. Friend agree with that characterisation from the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), whom I congratulate, by the way, on becoming a dad again this week?

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My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. What we are trying to say in this debate is that the Government’s right-to-buy proposals do not bring about like-for-like replacements. To have two very expensive homes replacing one home for social rent does not add up to a sensible policy for most people. The Government want to push up the rates of home ownership and we agree that there should be measures to promote that. However, we do not think that those should come at the expense of the social rented or local authority sectors.

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My hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) are making exactly the right point. The idea that £450,000 homes for sale can replace socially rented homes, and when they are not in the same area, is what I understand the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) told the Camden New Journal last week; if he is here, he may wish to clarify. Getting rid of council homes in inner London and replacing them with homes for sale at vastly inflated prices in outer London and beyond is not acceptable.

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I totally agree. We are attempting to show how unappealing the measures put forward by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) are and how they simply will not tackle the problem for Londoners.

Part 4 of the Bill is nothing but an attack on council housing and council tenants, who have already suffered under the Government’s bedroom tax and cuts to council services. Adding the pay-to-stay provisions and reducing the stock available for rent amounts to a full blown attack on the council housing sector. Housing associations do not fare much better, as the right to buy could deplete their stock without adequate replacement. This is a further attack on people on low incomes and, most worryingly of all, will do almost nothing to tackle the housing crisis that so many people are facing.

We would like to remove most of part 4 of the Bill but simply do not have the time for the necessary votes. As an indicator of our great displeasure, we are going to press clause 142 to a vote, when appropriate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting will press amendment 89. We call on the whole House to reject this awful Bill later today.

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I shall not detain the House for long, as I am not sure that anyone would hear me. However, my constituents would expect me to raise the exceptional challenges of the central Oxfordshire housing market. Many of the Bill’s measures will be welcomed locally: more stringent measures to tackle rogue landlords, the brownfield register and measures such as Help to Buy, starter homes and the Prime Minister’s commitment to commission thousands more affordable homes directly.

Although commendable, the raft of policies to build more affordable houses is not in itself enough. Houses need to be built in areas that need them most. High-cost areas are either where growth is the highest or where markets are sclerotic because sites are hard to come by, infrastructure is at capacity and planning authorities are weak. In some areas such as Oxford, both those factors apply. High growth is becoming constrained by failing local housing markets. Many colleagues have local difficulties with housing, and I wish to explain briefly what our challenges are.

Median full-time earnings in Oxford are now £26,500; median house prices are £427,210. That means that house prices are 16 times the earnings of the average worker. The Centre for Cities analysis has found Oxford to be the least affordable city in England when prices are set against local incomes. The number of people owning their own home in the city is well below the national average, and median private rent for a three-bedroom house is £300 a week, more than half of median earnings. Some 30% of residents rent compared with 25% in London. The House of Commons Library has found that Oxford City Council delivered zero affordable homes in 2013-14 and only 20 in 2014-15; it is ranked as the fourth worst in the country for delivering housing of any tenure. Yet Oxford requires 1,400 homes to be delivered each year until 2031.

There are lots of specific local problems. To give the council its due, I should say that we have relatively few brownfield sites and all sorts of challenges, given that two thirds of land is in private ownership. That complicates active public management. The city has a relatively low density and development is highly restricted due to the amount of protected and listed buildings. It also has 400 hectares of green-belt land within its local authority. Nevertheless, if we compare Oxford with Cambridge—a reasonable comparison—we see that Cambridge provided 550 affordable homes in 2013-14 and 320 in 2014-15.

It is reasonable for us to call for more to be done because the issue is obviously causing significant problems for our local private and public sectors. One in two senior academic appointments fails because of house prices. Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spends more than £100,000 a week on agency staff: it cannot recruit permanent staff because of local housing affordability. Some 30% of local businesses cite housing costs as their top barrier to recruitment. The failure to build homes where they are needed in cities constrains growth. The issue matters to the national economy as well, as such cities are the most productive and have the most jobs. If people cannot afford to live in these cities, they cannot access those jobs and businesses cannot sell to them. The economy suffers.

We are not yet getting this issue right. Between 2008 and 2013, in respect of local incomes, relatively more homes were built in Barnsley—the second most affordable city in Great Britain—than were built in London or Oxford, which are the least affordable cities. More of these homes need to be built in our most successful cities, where affordability is lowest and demand is highest.

In justifying Government amendment 112, and acknowledging the exceptionalism of the London housing market, the Minister has accepted that housing in Britain’s most economically successful cities is the least affordable and that we need policies that target our affordable house building efforts towards our least affordable areas. That is little more than common sense, but we have all known too many occasions when common sense has fallen by the wayside in our legislative process.

Amendment 112 will ensure that enough receipts from the sale of high-value homes go to the Greater London Authority for it to build two affordable homes for every one sold. Obviously, the receipts left with the GLA would have to be sufficiently high to allow that. I am of course very pleased for Londoners that this important measure has been secured for them, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) on the efforts that he has gone through to do so. This is possible for Londoners largely because house prices are so high that huge amounts of money are generated from sales, so it is reasonably easy to fund two for one without putting too big a dent in the revenue stream going to central Government.

In my view, unsurprisingly given my bias towards Oxford, this should also apply to other high-value areas such as Oxford, Bath and St Albans. I will set out how it might work in practice in our case. About 12% of council homes in Oxford would be deemed to be of high value and so the council would be under a duty to consider selling them when they become vacant. Given vacancy rates, this works out at 29 homes a year being sold rather than going to the next person on the waiting list. Our estimates suggest that 29 council homes sold on the open market in Oxford each year would generate about £8.6 million in receipts, so a similar two-for-one provision would ensure that £8.6 million stays with the council for it to provide two extra units of affordable homes for every one sold. If, say, each high-value council home sold for £293,385 each—£8.9 million divided by 29—that would ensure that enough was still going to central Government for them to do as they plan, but we would be able to provide two for one for Oxford.

Amendment 112 gives the Secretary of State the power to create exceptions to subsection (4) for other local authorities along the lines of the two-for-one provision that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park has so valiantly provided for London, so that is written explicitly into the Bill. Such an exception would be essential for Oxford to ensure that we have sufficient social and affordable housing. However, I remain to be convinced that the power will be sufficient to ensure that this is delivered, following the challenges that we have faced.

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My hon. Friend is making a valiant charge on behalf of all of us who have very expensive houses in our constituencies. The median house price in St Albans is £392,000, and we are ringed by green belt. I share her concern about how deliverable this is, but we are right to push for it in areas that suffer similarly with high prices, such as London. I hope that the Minister takes that into account.

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I thank my hon. Friend, and I agree with her.

The Minister has been very generous in the time that he has taken to discuss this with us. I am grateful to him for offering to have meetings with us about how we can implement the measures in amendment 112 to deliver for Oxford and other high-cost areas. We need to ensure that this commitment will be implemented as a matter of urgency and works in practice for areas such as mine where residents face a genuine housing crisis and genuine hardship on a daily basis. My colleagues from high-cost areas such as Bath, Cambridge and St Albans and I will, if necessary, look to the Lords to ensure that these measures deliver for our constituents, because affordable housing needs to be targeted towards high-cost areas where we face the biggest challenges in the country.

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I rise to speak in favour of amendment 89, tabled in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) and other hon. Friends. I hope that colleagues will understand and forgive me if I focus my comments on London.

The Bill before us will do nothing to help solve the housing crisis facing London.

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Rubbish!

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The Member who has heckled describes the Bill as I would—rubbish.

In fact, on balance, the likelihood is that the Bill will make the crisis even worse. As a result, London’s famed social mix is under threat. Many parts of inner London could be hollowed out, with the city becoming the preserve of the very rich. Do not just take my word for it. When the Government published this Bill, the heading on an Evening Standard editorial was “Don’t lose social houses to fund right-to-buy”. I kept a copy of the newspaper from that day. The editorial said:

“The most serious objection to the Government’s proposal to allow housing association tenants to buy their homes at a discount is that its effect would actually be to diminish the amount of social housing in London at a time when demand is increasing. To fund the discount, councils would be obliged to sell off higher-priced council homes—and given the level of property prices in London, this could, potentially, be disastrous in its effects.”

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Will my right hon. Friend give way?

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I will give way once and then I want to make some progress.

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My right hon. Friend is right to quote the Evening Standard saying that this will be disastrous. For many inner-London authorities, it means that the majority of their council stock will be sold. It is, in effect, the end of security of tenure of council housing in inner London. That is what the Government intend.

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My hon. Friend will know that I spend a lot of time visiting all 32 London boroughs. This morning I was in Camden, where people think that more than 40% of their family homes could be sold off as a consequence of this Government’s Bill.

Nobody is against the aspiration of home ownership, but changes to the Bill are required, even at this late stage, to minimise the impact on London. That is why I have tabled and supported amendments all of which, to date, the Government have opposed. I hope, for the sake of Londoners, that that changes today. Amendment 89 is the “like-for-like replacement” amendment. It would say to housing associations across the country, “If you’re going to go ahead with right to buy, you have to spend the money raised from the sale locally on replacement affordable housing.” It has been estimated that the sell-off could lead to over £800 million a year being lost from London unless there are proper guarantees put in place to keep these receipts in the city.

The House should be wary of imitations, because other hon. Members are trying to fool Londoners by saying that their amendment will protect the city’s affordable homes. I refer, of course, to amendment 112, which is in the name of the Secretary of State, but which, rather cosily, the Prime Minister and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) announced last week. Let me pause to congratulate the hon. Member for Richmond Park on, as I said, becoming a father again this week. I am sure that the whole House sends him and his family our very best wishes.

I say this to hon. Members and to Londoners outside this Chamber: do not be tricked by the spin and hot air coming from the hon. Member for Richmond Park and the Government; do not allow the wool to be pulled over your eyes, because all is not as the Tories would have you believe. It is a con. For a start, amendment 112 tries to make palatable the Government’s plan to sell off council homes in London. The editorial in the Evening Standard set out three useful tests to judge the impact of this Bill. Let us look at how both amendments measure up to those tests. Under the first test,

“it is absolutely necessary to keep money raised by the sale of London council houses in London.”

The amendment announced with great fanfare last week clearly fails on this front. It fails to ring-fence the money for London, which means that money raised by selling off London’s council homes will still flood out of the capital to subsidise the Government’s national right to buy scheme. This contrasts with my amendment 89, which would ring-fence all the money from London housing association homes sold under right to buy for new affordable homes.

On the second test, the Evening Standard stated:

“It could be a mixed blessing if some central London boroughs lost most of their housing-association stock even if it meant more council houses being built in outer London.”

Again, amendment 112 fails on that front. It opens the door for homes to be replaced outside the borough where they are sold off. If there is any doubt that that is the case, the hon. Member for Richmond Park admitted to the Camden New Journal just last week the truth about the Government’s and his own amendment. He owned up to the fact that inner London would be hollowed out under his amendment. He said that, under his proposals, it was a “mathematical obstacle” to replace social housing in Camden and other inner London boroughs such as Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea. There we have it: an admission that the hon. Gentleman’s amendment will let London be hollowed out.

By comparison, amendment 89 guarantees a replacement, like-for-like home in the borough where the original home is sold, before the rest of the money is spent on more affordable housing across the capital. My amendment will do exactly what it says on the tin.

The third test set out by the Evening Standard reads:

“A healthy housing sector is a mix of private ownership, private rentals and social housing: the Government, in its attempt to promote home-ownership, should not forget the rest.”

Under amendment 112, the reality is that the so-called affordable homes the Government promise to build could all be for sale for nearly £500,000. I politely tell the hon. Gentleman that in few people’s eyes are homes that cost £450,000 affordable.

We know just how interested the Prime Minister is in getting hung up on what is and what is not truly affordable. His response last week to those who dared to suggest that £450,000 was not really affordable was remarkable. He said that

“people get too hung up on these definitions…the definition of affordable housing is a house that someone can afford to buy or afford to rent”.

Let us think about that for a moment. On that measure, some of the most expensive homes in London, such as the £26.5 million Holland Park mansion sold last year, are affordable, because someone has been able to buy them. That shows just how far from reality and out of touch the hon. Member for Richmond Park and this Government are with the housing crisis. Last week, the hon. Member for Richmond Park told the Camden New Journal that the term “affordable” has become “elastic and misleading”.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

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I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has been heckling me loudly and rather rudely from a sedentary position.

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I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would never heckle from a sedentary position. The starter home provisions give a 20% price cut to every first-time buyer, which is very welcome. In my borough of Croydon, the average 20% discount means that a starter home would be only about £220,000 or £250,000, which I am sure even he would agree is extremely affordable.

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It usually takes a parliamentarian years to become out of touch, but the hon. Gentleman has done it in six months. Shelter says that for someone to be able to afford a £450,000 starter home, they will have to earn an annual salary of £77,000 and have a deposit of £98,000. Let us put aside for the moment the nurse, the junior doctor and the bus driver—people who get a starter job in a top FTSE 100 company in the City of London will not be able afford one of the Government’s starter homes. That is how out of touch the Conservative mayoral candidate and the Government are.

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The right hon. Gentleman makes a good case. I understand entirely why he is focusing on London, but we must not allow the Government to pretend that London is a specific and solitary special case. There are many parts of the country, particularly the Lake district, the Yorkshire dales and many rural parts of the United Kingdom, where house prices are incredibly expensive, wages are low and the availability of social rented housing is essential to the social mix of those communities. Does he agree that that is not just a problem in London?

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I agree completely with the hon. Gentleman, but I would go a step further. I do not think that the Government are making a special case for London; I think that the combined effect of the Chancellor’s autumn statement and this Bill shows that the Government have it in for London.

As I have said, I visited Camden today, where the average cost of a property to rent is 73% of the average income there. So much for the Conservative mayoral candidate being in touch with Londoners. We also discovered last week that the Government are watering down the definition of what is affordable to include starter homes that cost 17 times the average British salary. By comparison, my amendment 89 would guarantee a new home for social rent to replace one that has been sold.

In short, amendment 112 is, to quote once more the hon. Member for Richmond Park, “elastic and misleading”. My amendment is clear and firm. It meets the tests that Londoners expect and I urge Members, especially anyone who claims to understand the housing crisis in London and who wants to help fix it, to ignore the overblown claims about amendment 112 and instead support my amendment 89.

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I will be brief, because we do not have a lot of time. Clearly, we are discussing a national issue and concern, but there can be no doubt that housing is the No. 1 issue for London. Last year, prices rose by about 10% on average. The average price for a first-time buyer in London is now more than £400,000. No one can argue that Londoners today are not being priced out of their own city. It is no longer just a social problem—that point has already been made in relation to another city—because it jeopardises London’s economy as well.

The bottom line is that we need to build more and we need to build for people across the entire income spectrum. It is no good taking a polarised approach with a zero-subsidy option on the one hand and social housing on the other. We need to ensure that the market can accommodate young professionals, key workers and the like—people who perhaps do not qualify for social housing.

I was pleased with the Government’s interventions last week, with an emphasis on shared ownership, which will work around the country and have a particular impact in London. There is also going to be a London version of Help to Buy, which has been a very successful scheme nationally, but less successful in London, because we live in a different world here. The prices are so out of kilter with the rest of the country that that bespoke offer will have an impact. Finally, we have the two-for-one amendment under discussion.

I have a few questions for my hon. Friend the Minister. Amendment 112 requires that two new affordable homes be built for every single high-value council home sold as a consequence of the extension of the right to buy. That is based on my amendment, as has been acknowledged, and I sincerely thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his diligence in making it work.

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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Just give me a moment, please.

When my hon. Friend the Minister wraps up on this group of amendments, will he update the House on his discussions with London’s local authorities about how they will be able to work together to deliver the homes that London needs? I know that he has been having discussions with council leaders from all the different parties in both inner and outer London. It would be good to have an update.

May I ask my hon. Friend about housing associations? They are absolutely essential to the delivery of the next generation of homes. I believe that the G15, the group of 15 London housing associations, has already committed to delivering a one-for-one replacement of any home that is sold, but it has also said—it has told me this—that it could deliver a great deal more.

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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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In just one moment, if the hon. Lady does not mind.

The G15 would even be able to replace each home sold with two new homes, provided that the Government give it the flexibilities it is asking for and, even more importantly, access to public sector land. Will the Minister commit to looking carefully at the flexibilities for which housing associations are asking, and will he look at the most critical issue, which is access to public sector land?

As my hon. Friend knows—he can take some credit for it, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson)—the London Land Commission is now live. It will provide a complete inventory of all publicly owned brownfield land in London, and we will have the figures shortly. We do not have all the details yet, but we know that an enormous amount of publicly owned brownfield land could be developed. We know that to build the homes we need, such land absolutely must be released, so it would be useful to hear from the Minister, when he wraps up the debate, whether he has a likely timetable. When will we have the full picture, and what will be the process for releasing that land both to housing associations and to developers?

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rose

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I said I would let the hon. Gentleman intervene, and I will let him do so before I finish my speech.

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Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear whether he agrees that the forced sale of empty council properties is a good idea or a bad idea? If it goes ahead, does he agree that those properties should be replaced with like-for-like in the same local authority area? Is that his position?

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As the hon. Gentleman knows, I stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to extending the right to buy to housing association tenants. That is the right policy: it will enable hundreds of thousands of people to achieve home ownership who would otherwise not be able to do so.

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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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In a second: I am just answering the previous intervention.

That achievement would not be possible without the sale of empty high-value council homes. If, as a consequence of amendment 112, each sale leads to two new affordable homes being built, I would regard that as a good thing for London.

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rose

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rose

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I am not going to take any more interventions. [Interruption.] I did take an intervention.

Finally, will the Minister commit to ensuring that public bodies can take the widest possible and longest term view of best value when releasing land? That point has been raised with me time and again by great and small developers, as well as by housing associations. We need a redefinition or an expanded definition.

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The National Audit Office study of the disposal of public land showed that, in the last tranche, enough land was sold off for 109,500 potential homes. Does my hon. Friend agree that people do not live in potential homes, but actual homes, and that it is essential for the public interest to make sure, when a sale takes place, that there is a plan to ensure that something happens in a timely manner?

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My hon. Friend makes my point for me. That is absolutely essential. We will not get best value out of the available public land with a rapid fire sale; that will require a much more coherent and strategic view from public bodies. I hope we will see more of that as a consequence of this Government’s intervention.

I thank the Minister again for the work he has put into delivering the two-for-one amendment. I am very grateful to him for amendment 112, which will ensure that the Bill works for London.

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Let me first welcome the amendments tabled by the Government, as the Minister announced to the Communities and Local Government Committee before Christmas, to make the pay-to-stay scheme voluntary for housing associations, which is a sensible move. My argument is that what is good enough for housing associations should be good enough for local councils as well, and that councils should have the discretion under the pay-to-stay scheme to operate within their housing revenue accounts, which of course receive no subsidy from the general taxpayer. The Government could easily do that without affecting the general public finances in any way. In the spirit of localism, the Government should do that.

I turn to the sale of high-value local authority houses. In Sheffield, we live in a slightly different world from the prices in London. The Prime Minister got rather alarmed when he saw council houses valued at £1 million, but most of the houses in Sheffield that will be sold under the legislation are good-quality family homes that are promised to be sold for about £100,000 to £150,000. However, the reality of the Government’s proposals is that all vacant houses in certain parts of Sheffield will be sold off under the Bill. High-value houses tend to be in high-value areas, which means that, for people on the council waiting list, there will in future be parts of Sheffield where no vacant properties will come up for people to rent. That is the reality: people can be on the waiting list for such a home, but the wait will be forever, because no vacant properties will ever become available. The chances of properties being replaced on a like-for-like basis in those areas of a city such as Sheffield are non-existent. After the discount for right-to-buy properties has been funded, there simply will not be enough money left to replace one social rented property with another.

I accept that the Government have a mandate to bring in the right to buy for housing association tenants—they were elected on that policy—but it would be much fairer if the policy were funded by general taxpayers as a whole, rather than solely by prospective social housing tenants who, as a result of the policy of councils having to sell off their high-value properties, will not have a home to rent in the future. It is unfair that only one section of the community—a more deprived section—should be the one that has to fund and pay for this Government policy.

It is also totally unfair for councils that have sold off their properties in a stock transfer to have to make no contribution at all towards the policy, and for the totality of a policy funding housing association sales all over the country to be paid for only by some councils or council residents, not by others. Why do the Government think that a policy which is national in nature should not be funded nationally, but should be funded only by councils that happen to have retained their council housing stock? There is no logic in that. There would be a lot more understanding of, and agreement with, the housing association right to buy and its consequences if the Government changed that aspect of how the policy is funded.

I turn to security of tenure and the rather nasty, mean-spirited schedule 4, which the Government introduced in Committee. Why are council tenants deemed to be second class? Why have the Government got it in for council tenants? When, during the last Parliament, the Select Committee looked at the private rented sector, it was pretty obvious that one of the biggest problems people have in the private sector is the lack of security. We should try to give people in the private rented sector greater security. Many people will remain there, probably renting privately for the rest of their lives, so they need great security. Instead of giving private sector tenants greater security, why are the Government doing exactly the opposite by transferring the problems of the private rented sector to the council sector and by giving council tenants insecurity? Just what is the logic of doing that?

Let us look at the impact of the policy on families. This is about not just families having to move home, but their having to uproot and change jobs—finding another one if they can—and kids having to move schools. There is nothing more damaging to kids’ prospects and to their future lives than having their education constantly disrupted by having to move house and having to move from one school to another. That is what the Government are moving towards by bringing in this policy.

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My hon. Friend is, as always, making a very powerful speech. This issue will affect not just individual families, but entire communities. If families feel that they may have to move within a very short period, what incentive do they have to get involved in the local community, put down roots or build community ties that will be cut unnecessarily quickly?

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My hon. Friend must have been looking over my shoulder. I am sure she cannot read my handwriting—it is very difficult at the best of times—but that is exactly my next point. This is not just about individuals in their own home; individuals who are part of the wider community may join and become active members of their local tenants and residents associations only to be told that their home has suddenly gone, and the community life with it. The community, as well as such individuals, will lose out.

Of course, it is not just families who will be affected. A pensioner in their family home who has retired might decide that they want to move to a bungalow or flat that is more suitable to their immediate needs. I think that this legislation applies to people of retirement age, but perhaps the Minister could confirm that. If that pensioner is in a secure council property, they now face the prospect of moving into pensioner accommodation that does not have a secure tenancy.

We are therefore asking people to take the risk of moving from a family home with a secure tenancy to pensioner accommodation without that security. That will undermine mobility because it will mean that fewer family homes become available and that such pensioners cannot move on to more suitable accommodation. If they do, they will be faced with the prospect of being turfed out of that accommodation in their 80s on the wish of their landlord. It simply cannot be right to put pensioners in that position.

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One argument that was put forward in support of the heinous bedroom tax was that it would encourage people to move to smaller properties when the opportunity arose. Is not what my hon. Friend has just described completely inconsistent with the aims of that policy?

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This proposal will indeed discourage people from moving from a secure tenancy on a family home to an insecure tenancy on a smaller property. If it is the Government’s intention to ensure that people who have more space than the Government think they need move home, surely the answer is to build more properties in the first place so that there are more social rented properties for the people on the waiting lists who need them.

Finally, let us take this down to an individual level. Imagine a family sat around their breakfast table or a pensioner couple, who are now on a fixed-term tenancy, sitting in their home. They are waiting for the postman to come, bringing a letter from their local council or housing association. Perhaps in future, it might be called the “Lewis letter” when it drops on people’s doormats. That Lewis letter, when they open it with trembling hands, will tell them, without any forewarning, some six to nine months before their tenancy ends, whether they can stay in their home—these are not houses, apartments, flats or bungalows, but people’s homes at the end of the day—at the whim of the council for another five years, whether they can move to another property that is some distance away in a different neighbourhood, with a different school, or whether they will have no home at all from the council in the future. Just feel the tension in that household when the Lewis letter drops on the doormat and people open it. Even if the answer is, “Yes, you’ve been a good tenant and can stay in your home for another five years,” the trauma that this will put people through is beyond measure.

I hope that the Government will think again. This schedule is mean-minded and dreadful. I hope that the Government withdraw it and, if they do not, that amendments 142 and 105, which were tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods), will be successful, so that we can give families, pensioners and everyone else the security of tenure that they rightly deserve.

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I have kept the House up to date with my struggles to get on the property ladder as a 29-year-old. Just before the Christmas recess, I managed to get on the property ladder with my partner after a struggle of about 10 years. I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) on the lack of house building under this Government, but I have been struggling to get on the property ladder for the past 10 years, like thousands of young professionals around the country, and I am afraid that he was a member of a Government who built far fewer houses than we are building today.

Thousands of my constituents in Bath, which is one of the least affordable cities in the UK, are also struggling to get on the property ladder, so I empathise with them. Put simply, we need to build more houses than we have done previously. It will not surprise anyone who has visited Bath to learn that it is one of the top 10 most expensive places to live, taking into account local earnings ratios. In Lloyds bank’s latest affordability review, Bath is ranked above Greater London as the sixth most expensive place to live in the UK. That means that for many people in Bath, buying a home will remain only an aspiration for a very long time.

Furthermore, it will not surprise the Minister to hear that my constituents fear that the much-needed rail electrification of Brunel’s Great Western main line, which is under way thanks to this Government’s investment and which will improve train journey times into London, will make the cost of buying a home increasingly unaffordable, forcing Bath residents to wait even longer before they can make the first step on to the property ladder.

Proposed new subsection (4) of clause 72 in amendment 112 shows that the Government are committed to increasing the number of affordable homes in London, where Generation Rent seems to have taken hold. Such changes prove that this is the party of opportunity that will help everyone to reach important life goals such as buying their own home. I welcome the announcement that the Government will ensure that in London, two affordable homes will be built for every high-value unit that is sold in the city. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) on championing that proposal. Having worked with him in the past, I am certain that he will make a superb Mayor of London.

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My hon. Friend is rightly highlighting the challenges in Bath. I know that the same is true in Oxford and elsewhere. The two-for-one principle that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) has identified merits consideration in other hotspots. Does my hon. Friend hope, as I do, that the Minister will consider that carefully?

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Yes, I absolutely endorse my hon. Friend’s comments. I see from the amendments before us today that that is being considered. I welcome the assurance that the Government will look at replicating the proposal in other high-price areas such as Bath, St Albans, which we have heard about today, and Oxford using proposed new subsection (6) in amendment 112.

Development is under way on brownfield sites in Bath such as the Foxhill development, which recently received an extra £313,000 of Homes and Communities Agency funding. That will help to build more homes on brownfield sites. I am pleased to see that the Government are committed to building more affordable homes in London and other expensive areas. I desperately look forward to working with the Minister, as do other colleagues, on rolling out amendment 112 to other high- cost areas.

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I wish to make a few remarks on the impact of the Government’s proposals on Stockport.

The impact of the sale of high-value properties will be an issue in Stockport because property prices are high and land is scarce. Even a committed arm’s length management organisation such as Stockport Homes will find it a struggle to find funding for the building of new homes, whether for rent or sale.

For the high-value proposal to operate fairly, it will have to operate on a local level to ensure that no one authority bears the brunt of the sales. In Greater Manchester, for example, a regional high-value level could mean that Stockport sells the vast majority of its stock because it has higher property prices than most areas in the region. Depending on the scale, that could have a significant effect on the ability to meet housing need in the borough.

The new pay-to-stay thresholds should take into account the cost of private renting in each area, as well as income. The Bill proposes pay-to-stay market rents for people who earn a combined household income of £30,000. That threshold is very low. A couple who both work full time at the average Stockport wage of £19,083 would have to pay a significantly higher rent than their neighbours. Let us say, for example, that it was set at £40 a week. In August 2015, the rents in private rented accommodation in Stockport were twice Stockport Homes’ average rent of £74.60 and there was a limited supply. Clearly, moving to the private sector would not be an option. The problem is that £40 a week is still a lot of money to find and may be unaffordable for a family.

One way out would be for people to earn less money to ensure that they do not meet the threshold by cutting the hours they work or leaving a job altogether. Clearly it cannot be right that the proposal would provide a disincentive for people to work the maximum number of hours they can. That runs counter to everything the Government espouse. The cost of renting privately varies greatly from area to area. It would be better if the pay-to-stay market rents that are to be introduced took account of the average income of couples and rents in the private sector in the area so that there are no disincentives to work.

I hope that the Minister will consider the situation for care leavers under his proposals. Housing benefits for single people under 35 years of age will be capped at the shared accommodation rate. That proposal might make it even more difficult than it already is for young people to find a home they can afford. About 1,800 of Stockport Homes’ current tenants are under 35 and receiving some level of housing benefit. The changes would mean that the social housing and private rented sectors will become increasingly unaffordable, and young people will be at increased risk of homelessness, at a time when homeless acceptances have risen nationally by 36% since 2009, and by 15% in Stockport over the last year. The typical young person under 35 will need to find the difference between the average Stockport Homes rent of £74.60 a week, and the shared allowance rate of £62—a cut of £13 a week once the changes come into effect, and obviously more in the private sector.

Under the proposals, care leavers are exempt from the application of the shared local housing allowance rate only up to the age of 22, yet care leavers are often vulnerable people with complex support needs and problems that can last all their lives. It is therefore important that care leavers are excluded from the shared accommodation housing benefit cap beyond the age of 22. They do not have the alternative of moving in with family members as many other young people do, and they are likely to live alone for longer than the average young person. It is therefore problematic to impose such a low exemption age, so I hope that the Government will further consider the circumstances of care leavers when the Bill goes to another place.

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Like all London MPs, particularly inner-London MPs, I welcome any efforts that boost supply and tackle what has become an emergency situation for our capital city. Research by the City of London Corporation found that even the cheapest 10% of London’s houses are affordable only for the highest earning 25% of workers, and businesses now believe that housing supply costs are a significant risk to the capital’s economy.

We have heard contributions from MPs who represent Oxford, Bath, Sheffield and other cities, and it is increasingly apparent to me that there is now also an acute need for specific, London-based solutions to housing costs, so I hope that we can capitalise on the enthusiasm that we have heard in the House today towards devolution in that regard. I would like briefly to share with the Minister the thoughts of my two local authorities, and those of local housing associations, in the hope that we can start to carve out a proper London housing policy.

In almost every speech that I have made in this House on housing in the past 15 years, I have lamented the increasing polarisation of central London, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) referred. Those on medium incomes, and increasingly even those on high incomes, have been pushed out to cater for a new global super-rich and those who qualify for precious social housing. I say to my hon. Friend, and to the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), that as Londoners we recognise that we are an attractive city, largely because of the social capital that generations of Londoners before us have built up, but many future generations of Londoners will not have the opportunity of benefiting from that social capital.

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The right hon. Gentleman represents a major part of central London that has some of the highest land and housing values. Will he answer the question that the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) completely avoided and say whether he agrees that the two-for-one policy is absolutely worthless unless the income from the sale of those houses is reinvested in the same local authority area in central London?

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It is not absolutely worthless, although I echo the comments made earlier on that issue, and hope that the Minister—as well as accepting amendment 112, to which I was a co-signatory—will indicate that as far as possible the Government will wisely consider the legal terms and the wording of the amendment. The wording does not guarantee that the proceeds of any sales will be retained in London; it simply governs the terms of agreements that the Government might choose to make to that effect. It would be helpful to have something on the record about the strength of the commitment to ensure that there is replacement building in the capital, but I will leave that to the Minister.

It is fair to say that plans to allow housing association tenants the right to buy their homes came as a bit of a rabbit out of a hat before May’s general election. I appreciate and agree with the general aspiration to roll out home ownership to as many people as possible, but I worry that forced sales will deplete stock, and that once a windfall has been pocketed the property concerned will simply be rented out to a high earner. That is what has happened in many housing estates in my constituency, where the second or third buyer after a sale under the right to buy has been—dare I say it?—a well-paid yuppie.

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rose

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I will not take any more interventions because I know that other Members want to speak.

On a philosophical level, I confess that I am uneasy about the principle of the forced sale of properties that have been built or bought with private, philanthropic donations, and without Government grant. In the case of Peabody—a major social housing provider in my constituency—that approach risks disregarding the intention with which the founder, George Peabody, made his original charitable endowment in the late 1800s, when 10,772 Peabody homes were built without Government grant in my constituency and slightly beyond. I accept that we crossed the Rubicon on that with leasehold reform legislation over the past 30 years, but I worry about the precedents we are setting. It has already been mooted by Opposition Members that buy-to-let landlords should be forced to sell their homes to tenants. I think that would be entirely wrong, but it would probably be the extension of what is proposed.

That touches upon the inherent “fairness” of this policy. Had the Secretary of State been here, I would have taken him on a walk down memory lane. He was a former councillor in my constituency and the Warwick ward of Pimlico, and I walked through that area two or three weeks before the general election, canvassing the stucco-fronted homes of Cumberland Street. On one side, tenants of London and Quadrant pay perhaps £100 per week rent for their flats, whereas on the other side, in almost identical properties, private renters—I accept that this is a hotspot of central London—are paying £350 per week. Already those tenants are in a financially disadvantageous position, yet the former group will get a discount on the purchase price of their properties, and will potentially be able to rent them out further down the line. I question the fairness of giving such huge advantages to those already in secure housing, yet giving no advantage to those in the private rented sector whose voice is perhaps not heard as loudly in this debate, particularly from Labour Members. Central London is an extremely expensive place to live.

I have spoken to a number of housing association residents, such as Lee Millan of the Golden Lane Estate Residents Association in the City of London, and Nicole Furre of the Seven Dials housing co-operative. They pointed out that charging families to “pay to stay” in their council home if they earn more than a certain level of income—£30,000 a year outside London, or the relatively modest amount of £40,000 in central London—also introduces unfairness. For a family in my constituency, £40,000 is not a large amount, and I believe that the cap should be set higher and staircased so that people pay rent that is linked to what they are earning at a particular time. There is also a natural worry that the starting level of that cap might be reduced as time goes by.

There is much that is good in the Bill, and I wish to end on a positive note, but all London MPs share some major worries. Meeting the housing needs of the capital requires the commitment and action of all local authorities, and to help to address those shortages I am proud that the City of London Corporation has committed to building 3,700 new homes by 2025, many of which will be outside the square mile—as many Members will know, some of the most successful London housing estates outside the square mile are run by the corporation. The programme will be funded through planning gain receipts, grant funding, borrowing through the housing revenue account and a cross-subsidy from the market sales of new homes.

I am sorry that I have concentrated on London, but Members will appreciate why I have done so. All London MPs know only too well that our city will function successfully only if we start thinking creatively in a way that a number of Members from—dare I say it?—both sides of the House have been doing. Together, we must try to address the housing crisis. Once the Bill is on the statute book, as I hope it will be soon, all London MPs stand ready to help the Government—and any future Government—to ensure that we are able more successfully to tailor London’s housing policy so that the social capital to which I referred earlier is kept intact. Some issues of constrained housing supply can be addressed only at a national level, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to this timely debate.

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It is a genuine pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), who agrees with many of the concerns about the Bill that have been raised by Labour Members. Today we are debating provisions on affordable housing, which has been the subject of much deliberate confusion, and smoke and mirrors, by the previous coalition Government and the current Conservative Government.

The Mayor of London has tried to redefine affordable rent as up to 80% of very high private market rents. To put it simply, that is anything but affordable to the vast majority of Londoners. Rent now consumes an average of 62% of Londoners’ income, and the Government now include a starter home of up to £450,000 within the definition of affordable housing. That will not wash; something does not become affordable simply because the Government label it so.

Across the country, we need more social housing at rents that are directly related to the income of lower-income households, more intermediate housing for key workers and middle earners to rent or buy, and more low-cost starter homes for those taking the first step on the home ownership ladder. That is what the people of this country aspire to and it is what the Labour party will campaign for. These clauses have been drafted by a blinkered Government who have no interest in carefully assessing and responding to housing need as it really is, and every interest in peddling a myth of accessible home ownership to people, many of whom stand very little chance of achieving it. By doing that, they are trading off the interests of one section of the community against those of another.

In my short time as an elected Member of this House, I have spoken several times in the Chamber about the extent of my constituency’s housing need. I represent a part of the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. Each borough has more than 20,000 people on the waiting list for a council home. Each week, my surgery is full of people who come to see me because they are in desperate housing need.

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The hon. Lady is a fellow member of the Communities and Local Government Committee. She rightly said that an artificial and fixed definition of affordability does not work, and that the move to relate affordability to an individual’s circumstances, which is central to the Bill, goes in the right direction. Is my interpretation of what she said right?

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A definition of affordability that bears no relation to median income—the key test—is meaningless.

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On that point, will the hon. Lady give way?

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I will not take a further intervention from the hon. Gentleman for the time being, if that is okay.

Each week, people ask me why they should have to live in damp, overcrowded and extortionately priced private flats, why their children should be subject to the insecurities that come with short-term tenancy after short-term tenancy, and who is going to help them in their housing need. Many more people will find their situations made much worse as a consequence of the Bill than will be helped by it.

A family who came to my surgery late last year is typical of many who contact me. The mother is a part-time teaching assistant who is studying to become a teacher, while the father is a pharmacy technician. They live in a two-bedroom housing association property with their four children. The two older girls, who are both at secondary school, share a top bunk, while their two younger siblings share the bottom bunk. The parents described the toll that the situation is taking on their relationship. Their older daughters, who are model students, are often tired and stressed at school. The family works hard and could not have more aspiration for a better life, but their situation will be made worse by the Bill. They will not be able to afford to exercise the right to buy their housing association home, and even if they could, that would be a pretty big gamble, since it is not suitable for their needs. The family home that they desperately need is likely to be exactly the type of home that will either be sold under right to buy, or that councils will be forced to sell to fund the right to buy for other housing association tenants. The Bill delivers nothing for this family, nor for many other residents like them who cannot raise a mortgage but nevertheless have significant housing need that should not and must not be ignored. I sat and wept with this family as they described the sheer unfairness and impossibility of their situation.

During yesterday’s sitting of the Communities and Local Government Committee, I was dismayed to hear senior CLG officials confirm that they have not yet completed any analysis of the likely sums that will be raised from right-to-buy sales and the forced sale of council homes. The Government therefore simply do not know whether the funds will be available to replace housing association homes that are sold under right to buy, and still less at a rate of two for one. The Select Committee heard evidence from an officer at a Conservative-led local authority in Cambridgeshire who said that the council was up to the limit of the borrowing cap against its housing revenue account. When its high-value homes are sold, the first call on the receipt will be HRA debt repayment. Once the subsidy for right to buy has been deducted, there will be almost nothing left to deliver new homes. Members are being asked to vote on a major housing reform without any evidence that it can or will deliver what the Government promise that it will.

There are further attacks on affordable housing in the Bill. The pay-to-stay clause, which is introduced with no taper and no lead-in time, is simply a Conservative tax on hard work and aspiration. There is a deep inconsistency within pay to stay. On the one hand, the Government have decided that a household comprising two people earning the new minimum wage outside London or the London living wage—by definition the minimum required to live on—is “high earning” yet, on the other hand, the Government take a different view of the high-earning threshold for tax purposes. The two are not the same figure.

The impact of pay to stay will be that rents rise to market levels overnight. I cannot see any justification at all for requiring the rent paid by residents living in social housing and earning the minimum wage or the London living wage to be doubled or, in some parts of London, much more than doubled. Pay to stay will break up communities and it will price people out of their homes despite the fact that there is no private sector or other affordable housing for them to move into. It will increase homelessness and act as a disincentive to seek promotion at work or to take on more hours. It is a Conservative tax on aspiration.

Finally, there is the measure to end secure tenancies, which was introduced on the final day of the Public Bill Committee, meaning that members of that Committee had no opportunity to hear the views of residents or councils about the proposal. That shoddy way of legislating shows contempt for this House and for the constituents and communities we serve. Councils already have freedom under the Localism Act 2011 to end secure tenancies, but the compulsory imposition of the ending of secure tenancies is yet another anti-localist measure that slashes councils’ freedom to respect and respond to the views of their tenants and residents, and to address local housing need in the best way for their local area. I have received emails from constituents who are terrified about the possibility that they will be forced to move home, to move their children to a different school in a strange area, and to seek new jobs and childcare arrangements.

The solution to the housing crisis is not to engage in a race to the bottom on security of tenure, nor to recognise only the aspirations of those who are able to raise a mortgage. The solution to the housing crisis is to build more genuinely affordable homes across all tenure types and to regard social housing as an investment that pays for itself many times over, both financially in comparison with private renting, and in the social benefits that it brings.

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I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the debate, given that I was a member of the Public Bill Committee. I note your strictures about keeping speeches short, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Had I listened to the debate without any knowledge, I might have been persuaded by Opposition amendment 142, which deals with security of tenure. However, all is not as it is being portrayed—in fact, far from it. It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), who was a town planner for many years and served on the Bill Committee with me, but she should be reassuring the constituents whom she claims are frightened. The changes to security of tenure do not apply to anyone who currently has tenure, which has conveniently been forgotten in much of the scaremongering led by Opposition Front Benchers.

Equally, I cannot be alone in hearing a number of housing associations and councils saying that the balance in the housing stock, where need is not matched by current occupation, is not right. It is therefore only right that as future tenancies come up, we ensure that stock is used most appropriately across the affordable housing market. This has not been mentioned today, but tenancies will be expected to last for five years. They will not be automatically thrown out after five years. There will be a review and the landlord will need to prove why he is removing a tenant.

It is a surprise to hear the Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), who is usually much more advanced on these matters than I am, clearly miss out the two important points that detract from his argument. First, the Government have already said to local authorities that there are exceptions when people move tenure. They can grant new life tenures, in particular for people moving jobs and for the elderly. Secondly, he clearly missed what the Government have said to housing associations about the elderly and those with disabilities because, in those cases, the presumption on the housing authority will be to provide life tenure. It is important to get those facts on record because they clearly negate the argument for amendment 142, which I strongly urge the Minister to reject.

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On the point about discretion, in schedule 4, proposed new section 81B(2)(b) of the Housing Act 1985 excludes the requirement to give a new secure tenancy except in cases when

“the tenant has not made an application to move”.

In other words, if the tenant has made an application to move to a smaller property, they cannot be guaranteed a new secure tenancy, according to the Bill.

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I hope that the Minister will clarify that point, but the key thing is the possibility of new longer tenancies, especially for elderly people, which deals with the point that the hon. Gentleman raised earlier.

I support amendment 112. Many Members have spoken about hotspots and affordability, so I will not rehearse those arguments, but suffice it to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who previously tabled such an amendment, has been leading the debate on the matter. The right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) talked about pulling the wool over Londoners’ eyes. I will not challenge his statistics, some of which were questionable, but the key thing that Londoners need to remember about the amendment is that it is a two-for-one provision, whereas amendment 89 represents a one-for-one provision. On that basis alone, Londoners would be wise to support amendment 112, which I am delighted that the Minister, having listened to the arguments, has brought forward today. I hope that the House will support that amendment in the Lobby later.

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Many of us have said repeatedly that we have a major housing crisis and that not only is the Bill a missed opportunity to take the necessary urgent action, but it will make a bad situation worse.

My new clause 39, which I plan to press to a vote, would draw on the work done to establish a nationally agreed living wage level—that agreed by the Living Wage Foundation, not the pale imitation the Government like to call a living wage but which is nothing of the sort—and establish a living rent commission, adopting and linking to the principles behind the living wage commission, to calculate what a genuinely affordable level of rent in different places would look like, bearing in mind other costs of living and wage levels. It could also incorporate other factors, such as tenancy security, by taking into account the average length of tenancy in a given area.

Just as the living wage is demonstrably good for employers, employees, society as a whole and the local economy, so too could a living rent lead to significant benefits for all. To best understand what those might be, I hope the House will bear with me while I remind colleagues of the scale of the crisis in Brighton and Hove. As others have said, the problem is by no means limited to London.

Research released by HomeLet today reveals that tenants in Brighton and Hove, where my constituency is based, along with those in Bristol, suffered the worst rent rises of anywhere in Britain last year. Landlords raised prices by an average of 18%, meaning that Brighton and Hove has become only the second city in the country where rents have passed the £1,000-a-month barrier. These record rent rises mean that a typical flat in the city now costs £1,078 a month and that the average earner has to put aside 65% of their salary just to pay for a typical two-bed flat. That is simply untenable.

Given that Brighton and Hove has one of the biggest private rented sectors in the UK—about 30% of the housing stock is in the hands of private landlords—the impact of such rent rises is widely and deeply felt. High rents in the private rented sector have an inevitable knock-on effect on rents in the so-called affordable housing sector, too, and the cost is disproportionately borne by individuals and the state. People on low incomes are going without food and heating to pay rents. People who grew up in the city are having to move away from friends, family and communities to afford enough space to have children. A 2012 assessment of affordable housing need identified 88,000 households in Brighton and Hove—72%—that could not afford to buy or rent without some subsidy or spending a disproportionate level of their income on housing costs. The chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust, Andy Winter, has warned that by April 2017, when the local housing allowance changes in the autumn statement come into effect, 75% of its properties will be unaffordable for under-35s, meaning people will have nowhere to go.

New clause 39 would tackle some of those problems head on. A living rent commission would consider the facts and recommend a reliable and fair way of determining an affordable rent level. For example, it would consider whether we need two different living rent levels—one for London and one for elsewhere—as happens with the living wage, or whether, as seems more likely, it should be more localised, and, if so, on what basis. It would require the commission to undertake that work in conjunction with providers, landlords and tenants, and then report to the Government. In essence, it commits to nothing other than trying accurately to define the much bandied term “affordable”, which has effectively been rendered meaningless given that council homes have been sold to housing associations, which are now raising funds by increasing rents on re-lets from social housing at a rate of up to 80% of market rates. That is what counts for affordable at the moment, yet it is nothing of the kind.

I add a word of caution: a living rent is not a magic panacea. The underlying reasons for our local and national housing crises are many and varied, and so too are the solutions. We need wholesale reform to address insecurity, inequalities between owners and private renters, decency standards and the better use of public subsidy, as well as affordability. No one measure will work in isolation—it must be part of a broader programme—but the new clause would introduce a solution that could start to have a significant impact on all these problems, and it has not yet been given much consideration in our debates. It goes further than the so-called smart rent controls that some Members advocate. Such controls would link rent levels to inflation and would certainly be a step in the right direction. Capping rents is a step further and is usually linked to local incomes or could be set at a certain percentage more than social rents.

That could help prevent costs from spiralling further out of control, which would be welcomed by the tenants I see in my surgeries who are struggling with the cost of the private rented sector, but given that rents are already so high, even capping them at those levels would offer tenants only limited protection. For the renters in Brighton, Pavilion who are already forced to set aside 65% of their income for rent, it would mean rents not getting any worse, but it would not mean their getting better or becoming affordable or sustainable. They are the result of a market utterly out of control and in need of genuine reform to bring them in line with wages and the cost of living. They need better to reflect what people can afford to pay in rent while maintaining a decent quality of life.

I acknowledge that some see capping and controlling rents as controversial and that there are instances where such policies have had perverse effects, but there are also many instances where they have worked, and a commission would help us learn the lessons from different models to develop one that might work here. Regulators in other countries agree that rent controls can be part of the solution, especially when taken alongside other positive measures. In Sweden, rents in the private sector are not allowed to be more than 105% of rents in equivalent accommodation owned by a municipal housing company. It is a stable private rented sector in which the quality of repairs and maintenance is good and tenants and landlords alike benefit from secure, indefinite tenancies. Indefinite tenancies and rent controls are credited with giving Germany the most stable private rented sector in the world, alongside the US. France, which has rent controls and more secure long-term tenancies than we do, has a growing private rented sector.

Understandably, there will be concerns about the impact on landlords and, in turn, the effect on supply. What happens if landlords cannot afford to take reduced rents, meaning that housing standards plummet or properties are sold out of the rental market? A living rent commission would model all those possibilities and risks and take them into account when making its rent level recommendations. In the meantime, it is worth noting that a recent survey of landlords found that 77% were in employment; that 60% earned more than £2,000 a month from their employment; and that the 79% of landlords who controlled 61% of all privately rented dwelling earned less than a quarter of their income from those rents. In other words, landlords tend to have reliable sources of income other than rent. We also know that many have bought property as an investment or, more commonly, as a pensions supplement.

If Ministers or the Opposition are worried about the finances of those landlords, I humbly suggest they commit to a secure living pension for all that adequately covers the cost of living. The example from countries such as France suggests that to link a particular policy—say rent control—to shrinkage of the private sector is flawed. With the right policy mix, rent controls can be part of a growing private rented sector in which standards are high. As a final word on landlords, I imagine that many of them will be keen to demonstrate their ethics and, just as forward-thinking employers have backed the living wage, many landlords will voluntarily adopt a living rent for their properties.

To sum up, I appreciate that some colleagues will disagree with the idea that a living rent is a good, let alone the best, mechanism to deliver such benefits, but I say this to them. New clause 39 does not prescribe whether a living rent should be legally enforceable or simply voluntary. What it would do is set up a commission to consult widely, consider the evidence and make a series of recommendations. It will give renters a benchmark against which to compare the rent they are currently charged and start a long overdue debate into how best to balance the needs of landlord and tenant. That is why I hope colleagues will support my new clause, which I hope to press to a vote.

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Given the time pressures, I shall limit my remarks to my amendment 109. I have made it clear that right to buy is, quite simply, the wrong spending priority at a time of great housing need when resources should be focused on building new homes. In my view, it is also being used as a means to reduce social and affordable housing at the very time that such homes are most desperately needed, particularly for the 1.6 million people currently rotting on a social housing waiting list who are often struggling to bring up children in temporary and inadequate accommodation.

Paying for the extension of right to buy through selling off high-value council housing is simply absurd and will have a crippling financial effect, taking away resources that are much needed by councils to build homes in their areas. The fact that no definition of “high value” is given in the Bill provides far too much wriggle room, with no guarantee of replacement—with the exception of amendment 112, which relates only to London. It has been discussed at length, so I shall not go into any further detail. I see no good reason, other than a political one, for not extending the deal to all regions and not just to London. London is so often the focus of attention when it comes to housing, but the housing crisis is just as real in many other places, especially in rural parts of Britain, including the west country, Cumbria, Northumberland and North Yorkshire.

The extension of right to buy, furthermore, is not genuinely a voluntary option for housing associations, as the Government have attempted to claim. The only voluntary aspect was the vote taken by members of the National Housing Federation last September, in which 45% of associations either voted against or abstained, masking the fact that many felt that the extension was already a done deal. The choice on the table was essentially between the immediate death of social housing or a slightly more drawn-out affair.

To cast this assault on social housing, and especially the assault on rural communities, as something willed by the housing associations is just bogus. The Bill puts many small and specialist housing associations, particularly those in rural areas such as mine, in an extremely difficult position. Some are worried about the impact it will have on maintaining additional services to residents—jobseeking advice, for example, which is often crucial to getting people back on their feet. I would therefore like to see the right to buy extension taken out of the Bill altogether. If the extension is to go ahead, however, a commitment to replacing the property sold off must be included. That is what would be achieved by my amendment 109.

Let me make it clear that I am not opposed to right to buy in principle. I am a supporter of the aspiration of those who wish to own their own home, and I want us to support housing associations as they seek to build mixed developments to give people the opportunity to get on to the housing ladder.

There are two possible reasons for extending right to buy. The first is to encourage aspiration and the second is to decimate and get rid of social housing. If it is the first that people care about most, legislating to extend right to buy would be focused on ensuring replacement, in which case my amendment 109 should be supported. This would provide people with the opportunity to buy their own home without at the same time depleting affordable housing stock for other families in need.

If the motivation were simply to reduce social housing—those motives are too depressing at this time even to bother discussing—the policy would be exactly what the Government are doing: right to buy would be extended and housing associations would be press-ganged to go along with it, with verbal expressions of intentions to replace homes. That would also mean ensuring zero guarantee in the legislation that any replacement must happen.

Sadly, it is clear that this Government’s reasons for press-ganging housing associations to extend right to buy are based on a pretty grubby desire to get rid of social housing. We know what happens when intentions to replace homes are expressed, but not enforced, in legislation. We have had many decades of experience of that. We know that one-to-one replacement simply does not happen. Even in recent years, since the one-to-one replacement policy was introduced in 2012, only one in every nine homes sold has been replaced.

My amendment 109 is designed to overcome that problem and guarantee the replacement of homes by insisting that before a home is sold off under right to buy, a replacement home must first be identified. This could be a home within a new planned development or an existing home that is acquired by the housing association with the proceeds of the sale. Housing associations should be required to identify that replacement property and communicate the plan to the regulator before selling the home.

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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Probably not, because there is not much time left and I do not want to prevent others from speaking.

In addition, the replacement home should in most cases be equivalent to the one sold off. It should be located in the same local authority area and there must be an initial presumption that the replacement home would be the same tenure unless there is a strong case for changing it, based on local need. This would avoid the squeezing out of social homes for rent, which are often occupied by some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, in favour of other potentially more profitable tenures. My amendment would provide not only a one-for-one replacement of homes, but in many cases like for like. I urge Members to support it.

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I support the amendments tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I want to say from the outset that I am proud to support amendments 112 and 130. I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) and for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), as well as to colleagues across London not just for inspiring these amendments, but for working so passionately and diligently to ensure that we get a good result for London. That is quite a contrast to Labour, from whose Members I have received no direct approaches about doing anything positive to increase the housing supply in London.

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rose

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I shall give way in a few moments.

I join others in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park on the birth of his son.

We shall be looking to ensure that local authorities in London can make an agreement with the Government. These provisions will require two new affordable homes to be provided for every vacant, high-value dwelling that we expect to see sold.

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Perhaps the Minister will explain why the joint duty on the Secretary of State, the Mayor of London and local housing authorities in Greater London to provide two units of affordable housing for each council home sold, which was set out in new clause 1 in Committee, failed to make it through to amendment 112, which we are debating today?

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Well, it did not get through Committee. As we shall come on to later, it is interesting to reflect on how few provisions Labour Members voted against in Committee, yet today they seem to have found a voice that they did not have before.

We all know—it has been spoken about on the Floor of the House today—that housing markets vary across our country, and that has been reflected in the legislation so that, for example, it is possible to define “high-value” areas differently in different areas. Housing need is most acute in London, as we have heard today—hence amendment 112.

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rose

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I am not giving way at the moment.

I intend to use the flexibility of the agreement process to take account of the difficulties that other local authorities might have in seeking to deliver more housing—again, if they had high-value areas, for example. My hon. Friends have spoken about that this afternoon. The Bill is framed to provide as much flexibility as possible, so that we can consider the circumstances of each local authority and its housing need.

I look forward to working with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood) along with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) and my hon. Friends the Members for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady), for Bath (Ben Howlett), for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk), for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth), for St Albans (Mrs Main), for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), for Bracknell (Dr Lee), for Woking (Jonathan Lord) and for Braintree (James Cleverly), as well as with hon. Friends from other areas to make sure that we get these regulations in the right place so that local authorities can deliver the housing that they need.

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I would like the Minister to add South Cambridgeshire to the list.

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I am happy to work with South Cambridgeshire. In fact, we are working well with it; it provides a good example of central Government and local government working together, as we have seen with 10,000 homes being delivered for Northstowe. I encourage local authorities to join others from across London that have already spoken to us. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park rightly asked about progress, and the London Land Commission will be building on the work opened up by the Government’s delivery of public sector land. We have allocated sufficient land for 160,000 homes, although the London Land Commission must go further to see what more can be done in London.

This is a real opportunity for a step change in housing supply for London. I am not talking just about the two-for-one scheme that has been discussed this afternoon, important though that is, but about a huge opportunity for Londoners and those in other places around the country that has also been outlined this afternoon: the added flexibility for councils to work together on innovative new ideas to deliver more homes across our country, and, unlike Labour, to drive up supply.

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Will the Minister explain how building houses in areas other than the part of Brent North where 500 houses will be lost will help my constituents who cannot afford to get on to the housing ladder at all?

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I suggest that the hon. Gentleman google #ownyourhouse, where he will find a range of Government schemes to deliver more homes, including new homes, for people throughout the country.

We heard from the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) about her opposition to councils’ using vacant high-value building to build more homes and help more people into home ownership. Labour Members have also stated their opposition to ensuring that social tenants on high incomes pay a fair rent. I am not going to rehash the arguments that we had on Second Reading and Report—

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Will the Minister give way?

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No, not at this stage.

Opposition Members had their chance to vote against these clauses in Committee—that is what clause-by-clause stand part debates are for—but they stayed quiet. I will not stay quiet this afternoon. I want to make it very clear that we are introducing these clauses because we have an elected mandate to do so. We will deliver new homes for those who need them, and that will include the opportunity to gain access to home ownership. There is no time to lose.

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Will the Minister give way?

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Not at this stage.

Government amendments 9 and 11 will enable this part of the Bill to come into force on Royal Assent so that funding becomes available as soon as possible. We discussed amendment 51 in Committee as well. I want to ensure that we have full flexibility to use receipts to deliver new homes. Amendments 92 and 93 would result in a reduction in flexibility, and we therefore cannot support them. As I said in Committee, amendments such as amendments 89 and 109 represent the worst examples of the command-and-control, centralist approach that Labour seems to like. We see the same mindset in amendments 94 and 53, which attempt to limit the definitions of high value and high income, once more attempting to introduce exclusions into the Bill. As I have said time and again, we will let further engagement inform detailed policy.

Labour Members also want the Government to tell home owners that they must sell their properties at less than the market value, and to prevent them from letting their homes for a period of 10 years. I think that that is unfair and inappropriate. People should have the right to do with their own homes what any other home owner would do. The Government want a voluntary agreement with housing associations rather than the imposition of unnecessary requirements in legislation, which is what would result from amendment 91

Let me now clarify the position relating to the payment of grant under clause 61. I know that the National Housing Federation is interested in this. I am happy to confirm that, under clause 61, grant will be paid to housing associations as compensation for the right-to-buy discount. The terms of the grant-making power in the clause will enable it to be considered a revenue grant, so it will be sufficient to classify the grant as income. Of course, if the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) had his way, there would be no clause 61 or clause 62.

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Will the Minister give way?

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Will the Minister give way?

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I will not give way at this stage, because we are short of time and I want to respond to the points that have been raised by those who have spoken.

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale spoke about amendments 107 and 108. I trust that the housing association tenants in his constituency who want to buy their own homes will note his comments, and will remember them when they are home owners at the next general election.

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Is the Minister aware that in the 1980s the late Willie Whitelaw expressed concern to the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, about the impact of the right to buy, unmitigated, in rural communities such as the Lake district? Thirty years on, will he at least take note of what was said by the great man?

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I appreciate that one of the problems of the right to buy is that for 13 years, for every 170 homes that were sold the Labour Administration built only one, which is disgraceful. That is why, under our reintegrated scheme, there is one-for-one replacement. I think it right to move to two-for-one in London, given the higher-value asset sales there. The Labour party neglected to replace supply for 13 years, but Labour Members still think that the public will believe their rhetoric.

Let me return to chapter 4, part 4. Government new clause 59 and amendments 119, 120 and 128 will ensure that tenants who do not provide information on income cannot then have their rent raised any higher than the maximum chargeable under the policy as a whole. Government new clauses 60 and 61 and amendment 111, 113 to 118, 121 to 127 and 129 are part of our wider deregulatory package for housing associations. Amendment 111 removes clause 64, which is no longer needed.

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Will the Minister give way?

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No, not at this point.

We heard the thoughts of the hon. Member for City of Durham on amendments 57 to 60. Again at the risk of repeating myself, I want to make something clear. I have already made it crystal clear, in Committee and elsewhere, that we propose to introduce a taper so that there will always be an incentive to find and keep work. I accept that, as Opposition Front Benchers were not present for the whole Committee stage, they may have missed that at the time.

I want to ensure that our policy is simple to implement, as well as flexible. The option to create a central body to enable data to be transferred to landlords—which amendment 63 would remove—has been provided for the sake of simplicity. For example, the role could be carried out by one local authority on behalf of others.

I listened carefully to what was said by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) about new clause 39. As she knows from her engagement with the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, the Government have already decided to reduce social rents by 1% a year, so I do not believe that the body that she has proposed is necessary.

Let me now deal with Members’ opposition to chapter 5. The approach adopted by the hon. Member for City of Durham would mean that families continued to be trapped in overcrowded council homes, while older tenants whose children had left home continued to occupy homes that might no longer be appropriate for their needs, with no opportunity to move.

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Will the Minister give way?

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No, I will not give way at this stage. I must try to deal with all the points that other Members have made.

Moreover, the hon. Lady’s approach would mean that some lifetime tenancies would be passed on to family members who were perfectly able to meet their own housing needs.

I can make it clear to the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), that when someone with a secure tenancy is asked to move, the tenancy will be transferred with that person. We will give local authorities the freedom and flexibility to apply that to voluntary moves as well.

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Will the Minister confirm that if someone with a secure tenancy applies for a transfer, and a new tenancy is therefore created in a new property, the security of tenure will pass to the new property and the new tenancy?

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In the interests of speed, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman look at the report of what I have just said, but yes, we will ensure that secure tenancies continue when tenants are asked to move, and councils will be able to consider applying them to voluntary moves as well.

I do not believe that the hon. Lady’s proposal represents a good use of social housing, and I trust that the House will agree. The Government amendments will result in a Bill that will bring fairness and efficiency to the housing market, and will further the dreams of aspirational home owners. I commend them to the House.

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As I said, we would have liked to remove the chapters on the forced sale of council housing and the mandatory rent rises, but we cannot do so because of time. I therefore wish to withdraw amendment 131, to which we shall no doubt return in the Lords. I will, however, press amendment 142, which seeks to protect security of tenure for council tenants, and in due course my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) will press amendment 89.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 72

Reduction of payment by agreement

Amendment made: 112, page 31, line 19, at end insert—

‘(4) Where the agreement is with a local housing authority in Greater London, it must require the authority to ensure that at least two new affordable homes are provided for each old dwelling.

(5) But if the Greater London Authority has agreed to ensure that a number of the new affordable homes are provided, that number is to be deducted from the number for which the local housing authority must be made responsible under subsection (4).

(6) The Secretary of State may by regulations create other exceptions to subsection (4) in relation to one or more local housing authorities.

(7) In this section—

“new affordable home” means a new dwelling in England that—

(a) is to be made available for people whose needs are not adequately served by the commercial housing market, or

(b) is a starter home as defined by section2;

“new dwelling” means a building or part of a building that—

(a) has been constructed for use as a single dwelling and has not previously been occupied, or

(b) has been adapted for use as a single dwelling and has not been occupied since its adaptation;

“old dwelling” means a single dwelling taken into account under section67(2) for the purposes of the determination.

(8) If a determination under this Chapter relates to more than one financial year—

(a) an agreement under this section may be made in relation to the determination so far as it relates to a particular financial year, and

(b) if such an agreement is made with a local housing authority in Greater London, the reference in subsection (7) to the determination is to the determination so far as it relates to the financial year to which the agreement relates.

(9) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this section so as to change the meaning of “new affordable home”.’ (Brandon Lewis.)

Where a local housing authority is required to make a payment to the Secretary of State in respect of its vacant high value housing, Clause 72 allows an agreement to be made to reduce the amount. This amendment is about the terms and conditions that must be included in an agreement.

Clause 153

Regulations: general

Amendment made: 130, page 76, line 21, at end insert—

“( ) regulations under section72(9);”—(Brandon Lewis.)

This amendment is consequential on amendment 112 and ensures that regulations amending the definition of affordable home are subject to the affirmative procedure.

Clause 155

Commencement

Amendments made: 9, page 77, line 11, at end insert—

“( ) Chapter 2 of Part 4;”

This amendment provides for Chapter 2 of Part 4 (vacant high value social housing) to come into force on Royal Assent.

Amendment 11, page 77, line 17, leave out paragraph (a). (Brandon Lewis.)

This is consequential on amendment 9.

New Clause 59

Reverting to original rent levels

‘(1) Rent regulations may include provision for the purpose of ensuring that where a requirement imposed under section 79(1) ceases to apply, the rent is changed to what it would have been if the requirement had never applied.

(2) Rent regulations may include provision for the purpose of ensuring that where—

(a) a local housing authority is required by section81(2) to charge the maximum rent because of a tenant’s failure to provide information or evidence, and

(b) the tenant subsequently provides the necessary information or evidence,

the rent is changed to what it would have been if section81 (2) had never applied.” (Brandon Lewis.)

This relates to Chapter 4 of Part 4. It is primarily intended to ensure that where a person ceases to be a high income tenant, his or her rent returns to normal levels for social tenants. It also deals with circumstances where a person has failed to provide information or evidence but subsequently does so.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 60

Private providers: policies for high income social tenants

‘(1) A private registered provider of social housing that has a policy about levels of rent for high income social tenants in England must publish that policy.

(2) The policy must include provision for requesting reviews of, or appealing, decisions under the policy.”—(Brandon Lewis.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113. Where a private registered provider decides to adopt a policy of charging higher levels of rent to high income social tenants this new clause requires the policy to be published and to contain provision about the procedure and disputes.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 61

Hmrc information for private registered providers

‘(1) HMRC may disclose information for the purpose of enabling a private registered provider of social housing to apply any relevant policy about levels of rent for high income social tenants in England.

(2) The information may only be disclosed to—

(a) the private registered provider of social housing,

(b) the Secretary of State for the purposes of passing the information to registered providers,

(c) a public body that has been given the function of passing information between HMRC and registered providers by regulations under subsection (3), or

(d) a body with which the Secretary of State has made arrangements for the passing of information between HMRC and registered providers.

(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations—

(a) give a public body the function mentioned in subsection (2)(c), and

(b) make provision about the carrying out of that function.

(4) The Secretary of State must obtain HMRC’s consent before making—

(a) arrangements under subsection (2)(d), or

(b) regulations under subsection (3).

(5) Information disclosed under this section to the Secretary of State or to a body mentioned in subsection (2)(c) or (d) may be passed on to a registered provider for which it is intended.

(6) Information disclosed under this section may not otherwise be further disclosed without authorisation from HMRC.

(7) Where a person contravenes subsection (6) by disclosing any revenue and customs information relating to a person whose identity—

(a) is specified in the disclosure, or

(b) can be deduced from it,

section 19 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (wrongful disclosure) applies in relation to that disclosure as it applies in relation to a disclosure of such information in contravention of section 20(9) of that Act.

(8) In this section—

“HMRC” means the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs;

“relevant”, in relation to a private registered provider’s policy about levels of rent for high income social tenants in England, means a policy that—

(a) has been published as required by section (Private providers: policies for high income social tenants), and

(b) complies with any requirements imposed under subsection (2) of that section;

“revenue and customs information relating to a person” has the meaning given by section 19(2) of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005;

“tenant” includes prospective tenant.” (Brandon Lewis.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Clause 79

Mandatory rents for high income social tenants

Amendments made: 113, page 33, line 14, leave out “a registered provider of social housing” and insert “an English local housing authority”

This is the first of a number of amendments that restrict Chapter 4 of Part 4 of the Bill (high income social tenants: mandatory rents) to local authorities. Private registered providers will not be required to charge high income social tenants specific rents but NC60 and NC61 are intended to facilitate them doing so on a voluntary basis.

Amendment 114, page 33, line 23, leave out “registered provider of social housing” and insert “local housing authority”.(Brandon Lewis.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Clause 80

Meaning of “high income” etc

Amendment made: 115, page 34, line 3, leave out “registered provider of social housing” and insert “local housing authority” .(Brandon Lewis.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Clause 81

Information about income

Amendments made: 116, page 34, line 7, leave out “registered provider of social housing” and insert “local housing authority” .

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 117, page 34, line 9, leave out “registered provider” and insert “local housing authority”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 118, page 34, line 11, leave out “registered provider of social housing” and insert “English local housing authority”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 119, page 34, line 12, leave out “rent at the market rate” and insert “the maximum rent”

Clause 81(2) enables regulations requiring rent to be charged at the market rate to a tenant who has failed to comply with a requirement to provide information about income etc. This amendment and amendment 120 change this so that the tenant must be charged the maximum rate that they would have to pay as a high income tenant (which might still be less than the full market rate).

Amendment 120, page 34, line 18, at end insert—

‘( ) In subsection (2) “the maximum rent” means the rent that a local housing authority is required to charge a high income tenant of the premises under section 79 (or, if regulations under section 79(3)(a) provide for different rents for people with different incomes, the rent that a person in the highest income bracket would be required to pay).”.(Brandon Lewis.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 119.

Clause 82

HMRC information

Amendments made: 121, page 34, line 20, leave out “registered provider of social housing” and insert “local housing authority”.

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 122, page 34, line 24, leave out “registered provider of social housing” and insert “local housing authority”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 123, page 34, line 26, leave out “registered providers” and insert “local housing authorities”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 124, page 34, line 28, leave out “registered providers” and insert “local housing authorities”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 125, page 34, line 31, leave out “registered providers” and insert “local housing authorities”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 126, page 34, line 39, leave out “registered provider” and insert “local housing authority”.(Brandon Lewis.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Clause 83

Power to increase rents and procedure for changing rents

Amendments made: 127, page 35, line 16, leave out “registered provider of social housing” and insert “local housing authority”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 113.

Amendment 128, page 35, line 17, leave out “increase” and insert “change”.(Brandon Lewis.)

This amendment is consequential on NC59.

Clause 86

Enforcement by Regulator of Social Housing

Amendment made: 129, page 36, line 4, leave out clause 86.—(Brandon Lewis.)

The enforcement powers in Chapter 4 of Part 4 were primarily aimed at private registered providers. In light of amendment 113 they are no longer needed.

Two hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme order, 5 January).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Clause 89

Secure tenancies etc: phasing out of tenancies for life

Amendment proposed: 142, line 20, leave out clause 89. .(Dr Blackman-Woods.)

This amendment, together with amendment 143, would enable councils to be free to manage flexibly tenancies in a way that drives best value from stock whilst supporting strong local communities.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 160

12 January 2016

The House divided:

Ayes: 207
Noes: 296

Question accordingly negatived.

View Details

Clause 61

Grants by Secretary of State

Amendment proposed: 89, page 27, line 25, at end insert—

‘(2A) The conditions at subsection (2) must include a condition that money equivalent to the market value (disregarding any discount) of a dwelling sold under right to buy and to which the grant applies is spent by the private registered provider on the provision of affordable housing in the same local authority area or London, including at least one new home replacing that sold which is—

(a) of the same tenure,

(b) located in the same local authority area or London borough, and

(c) in accordance with assessed local housing need.” —(Sadiq Khan.)

The amendment would require housing associations offering the Right to Buy to their tenants in London and elsewhere to re-invest all the money received as a result of the sale in replacement affordable housing, including a guaranteed like-for-like home in the same local authority area or London borough.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 161

12 January 2016

The House divided:

Ayes: 212
Noes: 297

Question accordingly negatived.

View Details

Clause 64

Disposal Contents

Amendment made: 111, page 28, line 16, leave out Clause 64. —(Brandon Lewis.)

Clause 64 amends legislation that requires private registered providers to obtain consent before disposing of property. The purpose of the clause was to allow a disposal to refer to the right to buy agreement. This clause is no longer needed because NS1 removes the general requirements for private registered providers to obtain consent before disposing of property. This explanation was previously mistakenly given for amendment 4, which leaves out clause 78.

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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I had an exchange with the Minister at the end of the previous debate about a secure tenant making an application to move to a new property. His response may have inadvertently misled the House or at least confused the House—it certainly confused me—about whether a tenant has that right. Proposed new section 81B(2)(B) seems to suggest that where tenants—

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Order. The hon. Gentleman is aware that that is almost certainly more a point of annoyance than a point of order. The Minister has heard what he has said and he has put his point on the record, but it is not a point of order and we are really pressed for time. I am therefore going to call the Minister on the next group, who may or may not wish to respond on this matter.

New Clause 62

Offence of contravening an overcrowding notice: level of fine

‘(1) Section 139 of the Housing Act 2004 (overcrowding notices) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (7), omit “and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale”.

(3) After subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) A person who commits an offence under subsection (7) in relation to premises in England is liable on summary conviction to a fine.

(7B) A person who commits an offence under subsection (7) in relation to premises in Wales is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.” —(Mr Marcus Jones.)

The maximum fine for contravening an overcrowding notice under section 139 of the Housing Act 2004 is currently a level 4 fine. This new clause would remove the restriction on the level of fine that may be imposed where a conviction relates to premises in England. Where a conviction relates to premises in Wales the maximum fine is unchanged.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 3—Conversion of leasehold to commonhold for interdependent properties—

‘(1) On 1 January 2020 long leases of residential property in interdependent properties shall cease to be land tenure capable of conveyance.

(2) On 1 January 2020 long leases as set out in subsection (1) shall become commonholds to which Part 1 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 (“the 2002 Act”) shall apply, subject to the modifications set out in this section.

(3) Leaseholders, freeholders and those with an interest in an interdependent property are required to facilitate the transfer to commonhold, in particular they shall—

(a) by 1 January 2018 draw-up an agreed plan for the transfer;

(b) by 1 October 2018 value any interests to be extinguished by the transfer where the interest is held by a person who after transfer will not be a unit-holder; and

(c) by 1 January 2019 draw up a commonhold community statement for the purposes of—

(i) defining the extent of each commonhold unit;

(ii) defining the extent of the common parts and their respective uses;

(iii) defining the percentage contributions that each unit will contribute to the running costs of the building;

(iv) defining the voting rights of the members of the commonhold association; and

(v) specifying the rights and duties of the commonhold association, the unit-holders and their tenants.

(4) In any case where the parties at subsection (3) cannot or refuse to agree arrangements to facilitate the transfer any of the parties can make an application to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for a determination of the matter.

(5) Section 3 [Consent] of the 2002 Act shall cease to have effect on 1 January 2017.

(6) In subsection (1) “long lease” means—

(a) a lease granted for a term certain exceeding 21 years, whether or not it is (or may become) terminable before the end of that term by notice given by the tenant or by re-entry or forfeiture; or

(b) a lease for a term fixed by law under a grant with a covenant or obligation for perpetual renewal, other than a lease by sub-demise from one which is not a long lease.”

This new Clause would end the tenure of residential leasehold by 1 January 2020 by converting residential leases into commonhold.

New clause 4—Tenants’ rights to new management in property sold under LSVT—

‘(1) This section applies to housing which—

(a) was previously owned by a local authority;

(b) was part of a large-scale voluntary transfer falling within the definition of section 32(4AB) of the Housing Act 1985; and

(c) the disposal of which was subject to the consent of the Secretary of State under section 32 of the 1985 Act.

(2) Where the transfer took place more than five years before this section comes into operation the current owner of the transferred housing shall consult the current tenants on their satisfaction with the management of that property.

(3) Where the transfer took place less than five years after this section comes into operation the current owner of the transferred housing shall not more than every five years consult the current tenants on their satisfaction with the management of that property.

(4) If more than 50 per cent of tenants responding to the consultation under subsections (2) or (3) are dissatisfied with the management of the property, the owner of the housing must carry out a competitive tender for the management of the property and report the outcome to the tenants.”

New clause 42—Mobile Homes Act 1983: limit of commission—

‘(1) For sub-paragraph (5) of paragraph 7A of Schedule 1 to the Mobile Homes Act 1983, as inserted by section 10 of the Mobile Homes Act 2013, substitute—

“(5) The new occupier is required to pay the owner a commission on the sale of the mobile home at a rate not exceeding five per cent of the purchase price of the mobile home as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.”

(2) For sub-paragraph (8) of paragraph 7B of Schedule 1 to the Mobile Homes Act 1983, as inserted by section 10 of the Mobile Homes Act 2013, substitute—

“(8) The person to whom the mobile home is sold (“the new occupier”) is required to pay the owner a commission on the sale of the mobile home at a rate not exceeding five per cent of the purchase price of the mobile home as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.””

This new clause would limit the amount of commission that a site owner could receive when a park home is sold to no more than 5% of the purchase price.

New clause 52—Implied term of fitness for human habitation in residential lettings—

‘(1) Section 8 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (c.70) is amended as follows.

(2) Leave out subsection (3) and insert—

“(3) Subject to subsection (7), this section applies to any tenancy or licence under which a dwelling house is let wholly or mainly for human habitation.”

(3) Leave out subsections (4) to (6).

(4) After subsection (3), insert—

“(3ZA) Subsection 1 does not apply where the condition of the dwelling-house or common parts is due to—

(a) a breach by the tenant of the duty to use the dwelling-house in a tenant-like manner, or often express term of the tenancy to the same effect; or

(b) damage by fire, flood, tempest or other natural cause or inevitable accident.

(3ZB) Subsection 1 shall not require the landlord or licensor of the dwelling house to carry out works—

(a) which would contravene any statutory obligation or restriction; or

(b) which require the consent of a superior landlord, provided that such consent has been refused and the landlord or licensor has no right of action on the basis that such refusal of consent is unreasonable.

(3ZC) Any provision of or relating to a tenancy or licence is void insofar as it purports—

(a) to exclude or limit the obligations of the landlord or licensor under this section; or

(b) to permit any forfeiture or impose on the tenant or licensee any penalty or disadvantage in the event of his seeking to enforce the obligation under subsection (1).

(3ZD) Regulations may make provision for the exclusion of certain classes of letting from subsection (1).

(3ZE) In this section “house” has the same meaning as “dwelling house” and includes—

(a) a part of a house, and

(b) any yard, garden, outhouses and appurtenances belonging to the house or usually enjoyed with it.”

(5) In section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, after “waste water”, insert—

(6) Regulations may make provision for guidance as to the operation of the matters set out in section 10 which are relevant to the assessment of fitness for human habitation.

(7) This section shall come into force—

(a) in England at the end of the period of three months from the date on which this Act receives Royal Assent and shall apply to all tenancies licences and agreements for letting made on or after that date; and

(b) in Wales on a date to be appointed by the Welsh Ministers.””

This new Clause would place a duty on landlords to ensure that their properties are fit for habitation when let and remain fit during the course of the tenancy.

New clause 53—Requirement to carry out electrical safety checks—

‘(1) A landlord of a rental property shall ensure that there is maintained in a safe condition—

(a) any electrical installation; and

(b) any electrical appliances supplied by the landlord so as to prevent the risk of injury to any person in lawful occupation or relevant premises.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), a landlord shall—

(a) ensure that the electrical installation and any electrical appliances supplied by the landlord are checked for safety within 12 months of initial leasing and thereafter at intervals of not more than 5 years since they were last checked for safety (whether such check was made pursuant to this Act or not);

(b) in the case of a lease commencing after the coming into force of this Act, ensure that the electrical installation and each electrical appliance to which the duty extends has been checked for safety within a period of 12 months before the lease commences or has been or is so checked within 12 months after the electrical installation or electrical appliance has been installed, whichever is later; and

(c) ensure that a record in respect of any electrical installation or electrical appliance so checked is made and retained for a period of 6 years from the date of that check and which shall include the following information—

(i) the date on which the electrical installation or electrical appliance was checked;

(ii) the address of the premises at which the electrical installation or electrical appliance is installed;

(iii) the name and address of the landlord of the premises (or, where appropriate, his agent) at which the electrical installation or electrical appliance is installed;

(iv) a description of and the location of the electrical installation or electrical appliance checked;

(v) any defect identified;

(vi) any remedial action taken;

(vii) the name and signature of the individual carrying out the check; and

(viii) the registration number with which that individual’s firm is registered with a Part P competent persons scheme approved by the Department for Communities and Local Government and certified as being competent in periodic inspection and testing.

(3) Every landlord shall ensure that any work in relation to a relevant electrical installation or electrical appliance carried out pursuant to subsection (1) or (2) above is carried out by a firm registered with a Part P competent persons scheme approved for the time being by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

(4) The record referred to in (2)(c), or a copy thereof, shall be made available upon request and upon reasonable notice for the inspection of any person in lawful occupation of relevant premises who may be affected by the use or operation of any electrical installation or electrical appliance to which the record relates.

(5) Notwithstanding subsection (4), every landlord shall ensure that—

(a) a copy of the record made pursuant to the requirements of (3)(c) is given to each existing tenant of premises to which the record relates within 28 days of the date of the check; and

(b) a copy of the last record made in respect of each electrical installation or electrical appliance is given to any new tenant of premises to which the record relates before that tenant occupies those premises save that, in respect of a tenant whose right to occupy those premises is for a period not exceeding 28 days, a copy of the record may instead be prominently displayed within those premises.

(6) A landlord who fails to comply with this section commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.”

The new clause would introduce a requirement for landlords to undertake electrical safety checks.

New clause 54—Description of HMOs

‘(1) The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) England Order 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) Clause 3, subsection (2), leave out paragraph (a).

(3) Clause 3, leave out subsection (3).’

The new clause would remove the three storeys condition from the conditions HMOs must satisfy in order to be of a description prescribed by article 3(1) of the Housing Act 2004.

Amendment 154, in clause 91, page 38, leave out lines 6 and 7.

This amendment would retain sections 225 and 226 of the Housing Act 2004 regarding accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers.

Amendment 99, in clause 92, page 38, line 24, at end insert—

“(c) has a current entry on the Database of Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents as set out in Part 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2015”.

The amendment would deny those with an entry on the Database of Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents from being granted a licence for a HMO.

Amendment 67, in clause 93, page 39, line 25, leave out “as an alternative” and insert “in addition”.

The amendment would allow for a financial penalty as an addition rather than as an alternative to prosecution.

Government amendments 27 to 30.

New clause 47—Duty of Care—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall by 31 December 2016 introduce via regulation a statutory Duty of Care to be placed upon acquiring authorities.

(2) The Duty of Care established under subsection (1) must include, but need not be confined to specifications regarding the treatment by acquiring authorities towards those losing land or property to compulsory purchase.”

This new clause would place a Duty of Care upon acquiring authorities to ensure that those losing land or property to compulsory purchase are treated fairly, as well as introducing a clear set of guidelines by which authorities would have to adhere to and could be judged against.

Amendment 79, in clause 141, page 70, line 44, at end insert—

‘(6) If an acquiring authority fails to make an advance payment of compensation and the landowner has fulfilled all of the requirements to facilitate a payment, the acquiring authority will not be able to take possession of the relevant land without the written permission of the landowner or until an advance payment has been made.”

This amendment would require compensation to be paid in advance of entry to allow for the purchase of replacement land or another business asset. The failure to provide compensation in advance would prohibit the acquiring authority to take possession of the land in question without the written permission of the landowner.

Amendment 76, in clause 142, page 71, line 15, at end insert—

‘(1A) The rate of interest on compensation due to be paid in advance of entry, but paid late, shall be set at 8% above the Bank of England base rate.

(1B) Interest on compensation that is paid after entry, but was not due in advance of entry, shall be paid at 4% above the Bank of England base rate.”

This amendment would set the interest rate on compensation that was due before entry, but not paid on time, at 8% above the base rate, in line with the interest rate on late commercial payments. Any compensation which is paid after entry but was not quantifiable at the time of entry would attract an interest rate of 4% above the base rate, in line with commercial lending rates.

Amendment 77, page 71, leave out lines 24 to 32.

This amendment is consequential to amendment 76.

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First, I shall respond to the point raised by the Chairman of the Select Committee. I know he has discussed it with the Minister for Housing and Planning previously, and the Minister has just told me that he will undertake to write to him to clear up the confusion.

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rose

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I will give way later in my comments. This is the final group before we send this Bill to the other place. A small number of landlords and property agents do not manage their lettings or properties properly, sometimes exploiting their tenants and the public purse through renting out overcrowded accommodation. New clause 62 deals with the contravention of an overcrowding notice under section 139 of the Housing Act 2004. The maximum fine currently allowed is set at level four, which is £2,500. The amendment, which affects premises in England only, would remove the restriction on the fine that may be imposed. The landlords and property agents who let overcrowded properties will therefore face the same penalties as those who let out substandard and unsafe properties.

Amendments 27 to 30 revise schedule 6 to the Bill to increase the maximum amount of civil penalty that can be imposed as an alternative to prosecution for the following offences: failure to comply with an improvement notice; failure to obtain a licence for a licensable house of multiple occupation or to comply with HMO licence conditions; and failure to obtain a licence for a property subject to selective licensing, or to comply with licensed conditions. The maximum penalty for those offences will now stand at £30,000. The amendments also increase the civil penalty to £30,000 for contravening an overcrowding notice. Once again, that is in line with the civil penalties for other housing offences under the Housing Act 2004.

In addition, the offence of failing to comply with management regulations in respect of a house in multiple occupation has also been added to the list of offences that can attract civil penalties as well as an alternative to prosecution.

We have listened to the debate that has taken place as the Bill has progressed through the House. In Committee, Members expressed concern that £5,000 was not much of a disincentive for a rogue landlord to continue to operate as they could easily recoup that sum in a relatively short period of time through unlawfully continuing to rent out properties, and we absolutely agree with that. A potential fine of up to £30,000 will significantly negate any economic advantage a rogue landlord might seek to achieve through breaching a banning order. The amendments tabled during this part of our debate will help to create a fairer housing market and to see unscrupulous landlords driven from the sector.

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I rise to speak to new clauses 52 to 54 and amendments 154, 99 and 67.

New clause 52 follows on from the private Member’s Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), which sought a similar aim, and from the discussions in Committee. It seeks to put into legislation a duty on all private sector landlords to ensure that, when they let their properties, they are fit for human habitation.

The majority of landlords let property that is, and remains, in a decent standard. Many go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted out quickly and efficiently, which makes it even more distressing when we see reports of homes that are unfit for human habitation being let at often obscene prices. A quarter of a million properties in the private rented sector are estimated to have a category 1 hazard. According to a major report by Shelter, following a YouGov survey, 61% of tenants were found to have experienced mould, damp, leaking roofs or windows, electrical hazards, animal infestations or a gas leak in the previous 12 months.

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I am sure that the hon. Lady will reflect the frustrations of colleagues across the House when it comes to dealing with category 1 hazards. The fact is that local authorities already have significant powers to tackle such problems. Before we give these new powers to local authorities, will she tell us what more can be done to encourage authorities to exercise the powers that they already have to tackle problems in properties?

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That matter was raised earlier. At the moment, the private rented sector is massively increasing, yet resources are not. I agree that many local councils have the powers, but they have depleted members of staff able to inspect properties. We need to show that we take this matter very seriously. Councils should ensure that they have properly staffed departments. I know that they will then come back and say that they do not have the funds, and that is another issue. The fact that there are not the funds does not mean that we should not make tackling the matter an aim of this House.

For more than 100 years, Parliament has legislated for standards in the private rented sector. The Housing of the Working Classes Act 1885 and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 both placed on landlords regulations to ensure safety in their properties. Indeed, the 1985 Act placed a statutory duty on landlords, covering issues such as damp, mould and infestation, yet those duties applied only to those fulfilling a particular limited rent criterion that is now well outdated. Last updated in 1957, those duties now apply only to properties where the annual rent is less than £80. This new clause seeks to remove those limits, which will allow the previous legislation to fulfil its purpose and to place a duty on landlords to provide a safe and secure environment.

I am sure that all Members will have received casework from constituents living in poor conditions. Indeed, in my own constituency, it is one of the biggest issues. The office phones ring off the hook with calls about mould and its impact on health and the inaction of some landlords in rectifying the situation. Where else in modern day life could someone get away with such behaviour? It is a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that did not work, did not do what it said it would, or was unsafe, I would take it back and get a refund. If I purchased food from a shop that was unsafe to eat not only would I get a refund but there is a high possibility of the shopkeeper being prosecuted. If I rent the only available property for me from a landlord and it is unsafe to live in, I can either put up or shut up. In a market where demand outstrips supply, renters lack basic consumer power to bargain for better conditions.

Shelter notes that one in eight renters have not asked for repairs to be carried out, or challenged a rent increase in the past year because they fear eviction. By introducing a new minimum that all properties must meet, we can drive up standards across the private rented sector. As there is no current legislation in place to force landlords to ensure that their property is safe to live in, a third of private rented homes fail to meet the Government’s decent homes standard. Failure to legislate in this area will see the quality of accommodation in the ever-growing private rented sector fall drastically behind other tenure types.

Many Members in this place will have horror stories of poor living conditions from their own casework. Just this week a family wrote to me about thick mould covering their walls, a broken heating system, a leaking toilet and a sewage problem, and about the impact those problems had on their health. Their five-year-old son has had a cough his entire life, and he has just finished a course of steroids and yet another course of antibiotics, and their daughter suffers from constant migraines, but the landlord refuses to do anything about the problems. The environmental teams often lack resources to carry out proactive inspections and enforcement work. Although it is true that the majority of properties are safe and fit to live in, it is unacceptable that, in 2016, we still have people—our neighbours and our constituents —up and down the country living in properties unfit for human habitation. This clause would change the lives of many tenants and provide a more robust, secure and safe private rented sector, which surely we all desire.

New clause 53 is about safety and would introduce a requirement for landlords to undertake electrical safety checks. Many organisations from across the sector support the measure, such as the Local Government Association, the London fire brigade, Shelter, the Association of Residential Letting Agents, British Gas, Crisis and the Fire Officers Association. They have all given their support in the past to measures that will see the introduction of mandatory electrical safety checks.

It is estimated that electricity causes more than 20,000 house fires each year, leading to about 350 serious injuries and 70 deaths across the UK. Carbon monoxide, gas leaks and other fires and explosions cause fewer deaths and injuries, with 300 injuries and 18 deaths—these risks remain serious and it is right that we should continue to monitor them, but that shows what is at stake as regards electrical fires in the home.

Although landlords have a duty to keep electrical installations in proper working order and to ensure that any electrical appliances they supply are safe, poorly maintained installations in the sector remain and there is no explicit requirement for landlords to prove to a tenant that a property is electrically safe. Houses in multiple occupation are inspected every five years, so if someone is in an HMO or a bed and breakfast they are safer than if they are in the more general private rented sector.

In an HMO where a landlord lets to six unrelated people, an inspection is needed, yet there will be houses let to six people, who might not be related to each other, but that are not HMOs, and there is no legislation for them. Many good landlords run electrical safety checks and ensure that all appliances are tested at the beginning and end of a tenancy, but there is growing consensus across the UK that introducing mandatory electrical safety checks is a worthy cause. We have seen movement on this issue in Scotland, where the Scottish Government have introduced provisions. In Northern Ireland, a review is being run of the private rented sector in which mandatory fire safety checks are one of the issues, and in Wales we have growing cross-party support for them.

Electrical Safety First ran a survey of MPs in England back in September, and there was overwhelming support for such a provision. In Committee, the Minister intimated that he felt warmly towards the suggestion so I would be grateful if at some point he let us know how far those conversations have gone and whether there will be some movement in future.

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My hon. Friend is making a very strong case for the Government to take electrical safety checks more seriously. May I suggest, given the pressure on housing and the increasing number of buy-to-lets, HMOs and Airbnbs, and the different ways in which people are renting property, that this is an issue that will not go away? In fact, it could get worse. As my hon. Friend says, most decent landlords are already carrying out these checks and this is very much about encouraging those who do not to follow good practice.

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I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and that is exactly right. Across the private rented sector, many good landlords do all the things we would wish of them. It is for the minority that we need to legislate. As I mentioned, the Minister said in Committee that the Government were considering this and I know that there have been conversations with the sector, so I would be pleased to hear how far they have gone and whether something will be introduced in future.

New clause 54 would remove the three-storey condition for HMOs. That would require mandatory HMO licences for all buildings that meet all the other requirements of an HMO but are not three storeys high. HMOs come in a variety of forms and the current definition does not fit the actuality on the ground.

I know that the Government are consulting on extending mandatory licensing of HMOs and I shall be interested to hear where the Minister thinks that consultation might go. HMOs make up one of the main forms of private sector housing for students, young professionals and single people on low incomes and the three-storey threshold means that many actual HMOs do not require a licence. Indeed, down my road there is a bungalow—it clearly does not have three storeys—that has over the previous year had as many as 10 unrelated people living in it. Clearly, it would be classed as an HMO in any other regard apart from the fact that it is not three storeys high.

Private rented housing is an important part of the housing sector and with the reduction of housing benefit for the under-35s allowing only shared occupancy, more and more properties are in effect HMOs apart from the fact that they do not meet the three-storey provision. The new clause and wider Government consultation provide an opportunity to evaluate the purpose of HMO licensing simply to provide for a more robust, secure and safe private rented sector through the licensing of houses in multiple occupancy that operate with shared facilities.

Amendment 154 would lead to the retention of sections 225 and 226 of the Housing Act 2004, under which every local authority must, when carrying out a review under section 8 of the Housing Act 1985, carry out an assessment of the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers who reside in the area, and provide for the Secretary of State to issue guidance on how local housing authorities can meet those needs. Clearly there has been and continues to be a need to recognise the differing housing needs of Gypsies and Travellers. Anyone with an understanding of the community will appreciate that they have different housing needs and the Government’s impact assessment for the Bill recognises a perception of differential treatment of Gypsies and Travellers. In Committee there was a great deal of written and oral evidence of the devastating impact that the withdrawal of sections 225 and 226 could have on Gypsy and Traveller communities. This amendment would retain those sections.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation noted that the former Commission for Racial Equality concluded in 2006 that Gypsies and Irish Travellers were the most excluded groups in Britain. Concern was expressed that the existing provisions weakened the understanding of those groups’ specific accommodation needs. As the Department for Communities and Local Government’s “Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessments: guidance” of 2007 states:

“In the past, the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers . . . have not routinely formed part of the process by which local authorities assess people’s housing needs. The consequences of this have been that the current and projected accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers have often not been well understood.”

If the requirement specifically to assess their accommodation needs is removed, there will be an even higher rate of homelessness, even fewer sites to meet their assessed need will be delivered, and even less land will be allocated in local plans to meet their need.

As a result of the shortage of authorised sites, Gypsies and Travellers will have no alternative but to camp in an unauthorised manner, which impacts not only on their community but on the settled communities around them. Without authorised sites they will have difficulty accessing running water, toilets, refuse collection, schools and employment opportunities. Local authorities already spend millions of pounds each year on unauthorised encampments in legal costs, evictions, blocking off land from encampments and clear-up costs, so this is a lose-lose situation. Where Gypsies and Travellers’ needs are not assessed or met, local communities are impacted upon as a consequence. The Community Law Partnership is concerned that as a result of the clause Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs will be buried within general housing need. CLP highlights the fact that this community consists of traditionally hard to reach groups, and calls for focused guidance for local authorities to assess their needs.

Gypsies and Travellers already experience some of the poorest social outcomes of any group in our society, and accommodation is a key determinant of those wider inequalities. We have seen written evidence from the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, the main representative body for travelling show people, which shared extreme concern about these clauses and the impact on its work. I would be grateful if the Minister outlined the impact on travelling show people and provided reassurance to the guild and show people that the clauses will not affect them.

The policy in this area is different across the nations. The Welsh Government are taking a different approach, introducing a statutory duty on local authorities to facilitate site provision. Why does the Minister think Gypsies and Travellers should face such a postcode lottery? We believe the amendment is necessary to continue support for Traveller and Gypsy communities, which are some of the most excluded groups in Britain.

There are legal concerns, too. The public sector equality duty recognises Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers as ethnic minorities, and the European Court of Human Rights has held that the UK has an obligation to facilitate the traditional way of life of Gypsies and Travellers. Will the Minister clarify whether the removal of the clause would go against that?

Our amendment would retain sections 225 and 226 of the Housing Act 2004, which would ensure that the housing needs of Gypsies and Travellers were assessed by local authorities. This would make sure that safe sites could continue to be identified and would avoid the lose-lose situation set out in the Bill, where an under-represented group faces the prospect of its housing needs being swallowed up within the general housing need. As the clause stands, it would lead to many unintended consequences—a shortage of authorised sites for Gypsies and Travellers, a rise in unauthorised sites, worse safety standards, and greater pressure on local authorities and on local communities. I hope the Government will consider the amendment.

Amendment 99 to clause 92 would ensure that those with an entry on the database of rogue landlords and letting agents would not be granted a licence to run an HMO. Although those subject to a banning order would not be able to receive an HMO licence as they would be in breach of the banning order, there may be others on the rogue landlord and letting agents database who could still apply and receive an HMO licence. As the House is aware, a local housing authority may include other persons on the database, rather than applying for a banning order in a case where a person’s offences are slightly less serious and the local authority considers that monitoring the person is more appropriate than seeking a banning order. This amendment seeks assurance that those people would not be considered for an HMO licence. It would have the added bonus of ensuring that the local housing authority checked with the rogue landlords and letting agents database to ensure that the application was allowed and that nobody subject to a banning order could slip through. If in future the database of rogue landlords and letting agents were expanded, that would provide further protection for tenants against such landlords.

As was mentioned in earlier debates, including in Committee, we support measures to tackle rogue landlords to ensure security and safety for tenants in the sector and to penalise criminal landlords. However, we would like this further measure to be added, to ensure that in no circumstances can rogue landlords be granted an HMO licence. The amendment would help drive up standards across the sector and protect tenants in HMOs from rogue landlords.

Amendment 67 relates to clause 93, which would change the Housing Act 2004

“to allow financial penalties to be imposed as an alternative to prosecution for certain offences.”

Our amendment would ensure that financial penalties could be sought “in addition” to prosecution rather than as an alternative. Although we support the measures that tackle rogue landlords, we believe that the Bill could go further to penalise criminal landlords, to make it harder for them to get away with housing-related offences and deter them from committing the crimes and from returning to the sector, as well as providing an adequate punishment for their offence.

At present, the Bill would allow for a financial penalty to be sought instead of a criminal prosecution in cases ranging from failure to comply with improvement notices to letting an unlicensed HMO, among other offences. Clearly there will be cases in which a financial penalty is more appropriate, just as a prosecution route will be in others. However, there may well be further situations where both routes would be appropriate. Our amendment would allow that to happen.

The amendment would also help in situations where the impact of the offence was unclear. A local authority may deem a financial penalty appropriate, but for repeat offenders, or if the impact of the original offence escalates, it may also wish to use an additional prosecution route. Making provision for both routes will allow greater flexibility: local authorities could choose to fine, prosecute or do both. The amendment would increase the options available to local authorities. In that way, we hope to ensure further security and safety for tenants in the sector and to help drive up standards.

If the Government do not agree to it, we will divide the House on new clause 52. Amendments 79, 76 and 77, tabled by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), among others, seek to test the House’s will on the compulsory purchase order provisions. We believe that those amendments would water down those provisions, so the Opposition will oppose them in a vote.

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I rise to speak in favour of new clause 42. It is a contradictory situation, but in very high-value areas such as St Albans people often want to live in mobile home parks because that is the most affordable route to securing their own home. There are many mobile home sites in my constituency, as well as some of the highest house prices and lowest affordability in the country.

I was pleased when the coalition Government sought to tackle some of the abuses of rogue site owners, but the issue of people being able to sell their own mobile home freely without being shackled with enormous costs really needs tackling. New clause 42 probes that issue and I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views.

Residents at Newlands Park, a mobile home park in my constituency, have told me that when a home becomes available it is often so difficult to sell that the site owner ends up buying it. Gradually, more and more park homes are becoming the property of the site owner, who then rents them out for very high rents. On many sites in the United Kingdom not only is the cost of selling mobile homes hugely disproportionate to the value of the units, but restrictions are placed on those selling them. For example, in Newlands Park there is an insistence that the site owner should vet the potential new buyer of the mobile home. There are also restrictions on how and when advertisements for selling the mobile home can be displayed, and on the associated wording. As a result, mobile home or park home sites that are poorly run, or run by landlords imposing onerous demands, can start to become controlled by the site owner. This Bill—or, if not this one, perhaps another relating to the Mobile Homes Act 2013—could provide a tool to try to restrict the control that unscrupulous owners may choose to try to exercise over those who wish to divest themselves of a park home site.

Park home sites are often owned by elderly, divorced or single people, or people on very low incomes, who are not always very savvy or able to defend themselves legally should they find themselves put in a difficult position. Putting new clause 42 into law would show the willingness of the Government to support these owners. It might also be a shot across the bows of the unscrupulous site owners who seek to make life so difficult and expensive for park home owners who are selling homes, often as a result of an elderly person having died. In the end, they give up and sell it to the site owner, and he or she—he, in this case—builds up a lucrative property empire, in effect removing the ability of other people on low incomes to buy them in an affordable manner.

The drift of the new clause is very welcome. I hope that the Minister can indicate whether greater protections are going to be given to people who live on park home sites. If it is not going to happen now, I would like to know that it is coming down the road at some point in future, because park home owners have been one of the most disadvantaged, grey areas within housing, and it is time that they had a much stronger champion. This Government, in coalition, acted last time, and I hope that this time they will take it a step further and strengthen the protections for park home owners.

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I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), who, apart from her other duties in this place, very ably leads the all-party parliamentary group on Bangladesh, on which I am pleased to be one of her vice-chairs.

I want to speak on new clauses 3 and 4, which stand in my name. I express my appreciation to Mr Glenn McKee in the Public Bill Office for his expert assistance in drafting them. I thank the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership for its encouragement in making sure that we have new clause 3 on leasehold reform. Poplar and Limehouse has the second highest number of leasehold properties in the country, so this is a matter of great constituency significance. In relation to new clause 4 on tenants’ rights, 50% of the properties are social-rented, so that is also a big issue locally.

I am pleased that the Government have recognised the scale of the leasehold reform issue. The hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) has led on the issue, having campaigned on leasehold reform for many years. I am pleased to support him, backed up by the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, which is organised by Martin Boyd and Sebastian O’Kelly. The hon. Gentleman and I have arranged a number of open forums here at Westminster for parties interested in leasehold reform. They have been attended by professional bodies, individual leaseholders and others who have raised these matters with the civil service and with Government. I am grateful to the Minister for affording us a number of opportunities to meet him and civil servants at DCLG to explore these issues and try to identify a way forward.

One of the major successes that we have had in the past 12 months is that although the Government initially estimated that there were between 2 million and 2.25 million leaseholders, it has now been recognised that there are now at least 4.5 million. That demonstrates that this is a bigger problem than perhaps the Government thought it was before. Of course, that does not take into account the nearly 2 million leaseholders of former council properties who exercised right to buy or who subsequently bought those properties, so we are talking about nearly 6 million households, which means that a significant number of our citizens are affected by leasehold regulation.

The issue affects my constituents, among whom are not only very wealthy professionals who live in smart and very expensive properties in Canary Wharf, but a number of pensioners in the east end who exercised right to buy and who own former council properties. They clearly do not have access to the resources, assets or finances available to some of my constituents. The issue also affects retirement homes. Leaseholders are represented in every strata of society, from the poorest right the way to the richest, so nobody is excluded from being exposed to the vulnerability of living in a leasehold property.

I use the word “vulnerable” because the lack of protection and the informal dispute resolution procedure, which is abused by unscrupulous freeholders who employ high-powered barristers, affects ordinary leaseholders, whether they be professionals, rich or poor. I see that Conservative Members are smiling because they are either vulnerable leaseholders or freeholders. I will not say that they are unscrupulous, because that certainly does not apply to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), who I know, as a fellow West Ham United supporter, would never be unscrupulous when it comes to his properties. There are major anomalies and weaknesses in leasehold regulation, including the amount paid in service charges, as well as insurance, ground rent and forfeiture charges, all of which mean that leaseholders are vulnerable to unscrupulous freeholders. Sadly, there are too many such freeholders, even though they are in the minority.

It is appropriate to recognise that the sector has been attempting to improve its performance and raise its game with a new voluntary code. Significant progress has been made, but leasehold reform should be on the Government’s radar, especially given that leasehold has been increasingly used over many years. Six major statutes, a number of statutory instruments and dozens of sections of other Acts of Parliament have dealt with the issue. Previous Conservative Administrations—notably in 1985, 1987 and 1993—and Labour’s Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 all tried to address that which is recognised collectively as an area that needs attention, but we have signally failed to protect leaseholders. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response.

New clause 3 proposes to abolish leasehold by 2020. I hope—I am sure that other colleagues do, too—that it will galvanise the Government into asking why nothing has happened in respect of commonhold. I understand that the Government have been having key discussions on moving responsibility for commonhold legislation, which still falls under the Ministry of Justice, to the Department for Communities and Local Government and the housing department. It would make sense to place such responsibility for housing in that Department. At the end of the previous Administration, with the general election approaching, all three main political parties supported moving that responsibility to DCLG, but there has been no movement. I would be grateful to hear the Minister’s response.

New clause 4 is far less complex, but I am disappointed that there has been no movement on the issue, because it is very much one of localism and community empowerment. One of the few existing protections for leaseholders—it is, however, very difficult to implement—is the right to sack property management companies responsible for the upkeep of residents’ homes. There is provision within legislation for ballots to take place, and a simple majority allows residents to look for a new property management company to manage their properties. However, as I have said, it can very seldom be used.

In recent decades, many thousands of tenants in my constituency have voted in stock transfer ballots to move responsibility for their homes from the council to housing associations. That was one of the mechanisms that the Labour Government between 1997 and 2010 used to deal with the 2 million homes we inherited that were perceived as being below the decency threshold. That led to upgrades of nearly 1.5 million of those properties by 2010, including new kitchens and bathrooms, double glazing, new security and all the rest of it.

Most such schemes were successful. However, in a small minority of transfers, the offer provided by the housing associations when seeking the support of local tenants was not delivered. There is no provision for those tenants to express their disappointment and to sack their registered social landlord. This is a basic element of consumer protection. For any product that one buys on the open market, there are protections in consumer law—the ability to return the product, and to seek a refund, redress or compensation—but for a home, and a council tenant who has voted to move to a new registered social landlord, there is nowhere else to go once they have been transferred. A leaseholder at least has such a provision, even though it is rarely used.

With my new clause 4, I am trying to introduce an provision—with, I suggest, a five-yearly review—to give council tenants an opportunity to say to the housing association or their registered social landlord that is supposed to deliver the services for which tenants are paying, “You are not doing a good enough job. If you don’t up your game, we will have a ballot in five years’ time. We can then sack you and move to a new housing association, go back to the council or set up a tenant management organisation.” That would basically give tenants the right to hold their housing association to account.

The current protections are to complain to the Housing Ombudsman Service, the Homes and Communities Agency or the regulator. It is very difficult to go to such lengths, however, and the regulator is very reluctant to transfer ownership and responsibility from one housing association to another. New clause 4 suggests that tenants should have the right, when the registered social landlord or housing association is not delivering, to say, “You’re not doing a good enough job. We want somebody else to manage our property.”

On new clauses 3 and 4, one of which is very complex and the other relatively straightforward, I am very disappointed that the Government have not seen it to be in their interest to introduce such provisions. I am sure that there will be some interest in them when the Bill makes progress in the other place. I will be very interested to hear the Minister’s response to the points I have made in supporting my new clauses.

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It is always a particular pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick). As a fellow officer of the all-party group for the advancement of West Ham United—happily, they are doing rather well at the moment—it is always a pleasure to speak after him and to recognise his very real commitment and expertise in housing, particularly in the area of leasehold.

I ought to refer to my entries in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. One of them includes being a leaseholder in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. My experience of stock transfer has been rather more positive, but his serious and important points need to be addressed. For any London MP, dealing with leaseholders is particularly important, because leasehold is such a critical part of the capital’s housing stock.

I was reminded of some of the remarks made to me in the past by my good friend, who has now left the House, Jacqui Lait, the former Member for Parliament for Beckenham. Many hon. Members will recall that she was a very doughty and active advocate of leasehold reform and of improvement in that area of the law. It is time that we paid tribute to her for her work.

I will turn to new clause 47 and amendments 79, 76 and 77 on compulsory purchase, which stand in my name. My smile at the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse related not so much to being a leaseholder, but to his reference to high-powered barristers. It never quite seemed like that in the Bow county court—that is all I can say.

Compulsory purchase is a complex but important area of law and one where Ministers are engaged in the need for reform. The simple truth is that our compulsory purchase law has evolved piecemeal since about 1840, when the initial legislation and case law started. It has grown up incrementally, it is not coherent and lags well behind the rest of the planning system in terms of being updated. The Law Commission has recognised that and continues to work on it. I hope that we will revisit this matter in the course of this Parliament. Frankly, we need to get a grip of compulsory purchase law and have wholesale reform. That is not possible in the context of this Bill, but I welcome the improvements that it does make on compulsory purchase and land compensation, which are good steps forward. I will suggest some other steps forward.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) thinks that these are negative proposals. I do not see them that way and will try to persuade her of that, although I suspect I will not succeed, given that she comes from Charlton territory. For all that, let me at least try.

I will set out the essence of what I am trying to do. There are three aspects of the new clause and amendments. First, they are about fairness of treatment to landowners whose land is acquired compulsorily. People assume that this somehow relates to landed estates and the aristocracy, but that is not the case at all. Many people whose land is acquired compulsorily are small businesses or smallholders in one way or another. They are small people who sometimes struggle to finance the running of their businesses. It can happen in an urban area. We can think of compulsory purchase orders that have been made in relation to infrastructure projects in London and elsewhere. Fair treatment for the landowner is as important as fair treatment for the public or other authority that acquires the land.

Secondly, we must ensure that there is prompt payment. I think all of us would agree that, whatever the circumstances, the payment of compensation should be done swiftly and at a fair rate of interest. The rate of interest is the third aspect of my amendments. We are still deficient in this. The Government have made an important step forward in the Bill in increasing the rate of interest. I welcome that, as do bodies such as the Country Land and Business Association, which represents landowners and businesses in rural areas, but I am pressing Ministers to go further.

Let me explain why these changes are needed. First, there is the question of a duty of care. Duties of care are often written into statute in relation to a number of issues. The acquisition of land can bring fundamental change to the future of a business in an area and to families. Frequently, we are talking about family businesses that may be acquired or have part of their land acquired compulsorily. There is nothing wrong with compulsory acquisition. It is sometimes necessary for the greater good, but the fair treatment of those people is important.

New clause 47 would place a duty of care on acquiring authorities to ensure that those who lose land or property through compulsory purchase are treated fairly. It would also introduce a clear set of guidelines by which the authority would have to adhere and against which it could be judged objectively. The Minister might say that we do not need primary legislation for that. We can talk about that in due course, but the issue needs to be flagged up because there is concern among many practitioners.

I am grateful for the support not only of Mr McKee in the Table Office, who was rightly referred to earlier, but of people in the Compulsory Purchase Association—practitioners in the legal field—who highlighted the concern about consistency and suggested the possible means of having a transparent mechanism for determining a fair rate of compensation. At the moment, there is a bit of a horse-trading process. A proper set of guidelines on conduct would give people a benchmark against which to judge whether the acquiring authority was behaving in a fair and reasonable fashion.

The state gives considerable power to acquiring authorities in compulsory purchase. I do not object to that, but the corollary is that it should be exercised in a sensible, professional and genuinely fair fashion. Most of the time it is, but there are occasions when it is not, and that is what we are seeking to address. If that measure might be achieved through means other than primary legislation, I hope that we can take that forward in the constructive way that the Housing and Planning Minister spoke about when discussing the other compulsory purchase amendment that I tabled on Report. I hope the Minister will concede that we need to address this issue.

Amendments 76, 77 and 79 are tabled in my name, but it is not right to characterise them as weakening the power of compulsory purchase. Compulsory purchase requires fairness for both sides, and we are seeking first to ensure prompt payment, and secondly to ensure that payment comes at a fair rate of interest for those who will be paid. Amendment 79 deals with advance payment. Often, if land is compulsorily acquired, whether that land is a farm or a rural business—the principle is the same—people find it difficult to secure funding to take their business forward. If part of their holding is severed and part of the business is, in effect, taken away, that may interrupt and disturb their existing financial arrangements with their bank. They may have to go back to the bank because they have mortgaged or borrowed against X number of acres, and suddenly that figure is reduced and the bank will inevitably want to reconsider its arrangements. In order to give comfort to the bank, it is important that people receive prompt compensation and at a fair rate for what has been taken. That is what we are seeking to address.

At the moment, even though it is possible to sort out the acquisition and compensation sum, there are frequently long delays after the authority has taken possession of the land. Once the acquiring authority has taken possession of land under compulsory purchase, it is no longer available for use as part of the business. The land has gone from the landowner, but they might not receive compensation for many months and they will have to make bridging arrangements with their banks in the interim.

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Before coming to Parliament I was involved in a case in which the bank required an immediate repayment of a loan facility because of the reduction in its security, and the business had to close because it did not have immediate access to funds. My hon. Friend’s reasonable amendment suggests that payment should be made promptly to ensure that in such a situation there is a possibility of the business continuing. I would have thought that would be welcome.

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who I know has professional experience and expertise in this matter. Of all the amendments and new clauses in my name, I urge the Minister most strongly to pay urgent attention to this provision. As my hon. Friend said, this issue is the one thing that puts people out of business, and that cannot be in anybody’s interest, and I urge the Minister to look swiftly and urgently at the matter. Perhaps it does not require primary legislation, but it needs to be addressed. My hon. Friend is right—established firms have folded from time to time when the bank required a redemption, and people may need to increase their exposure and put up the family home, for example, to provide that security, which cannot be just under such circumstances. My hon. Friend effectively encapsulates the point of the amendment.

Finally, failing to pay advance compensation runs contrary to virtually all other commercial transactions, and it is an outlier that often puts people who have been compulsorily required to sell in a disadvantageous position compared with public bodies. It makes it really difficult for any landowner or businessperson to run their business efficiently against that backdrop, as they do not have the financial security they would otherwise have. That is the purpose of the amendment and I hope it will be looked on favourably by the Government. I am not fussed about the route. Achieving outcome and fairness is the most important thing. Amendment 77 is consequential to that amendment; they hang together.

On amendment 76, it is important not only to have prompt payment but a realistic level of compensation. That can be assessed through the current system, but there is the question of interest on late payment. The coalition Government and the current Government have rightly emphasised the importance of prompt payment to businesses, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills set up codes to encourage prompt payment. The importance of prompt payment weighs particularly heavily on small and medium-sized enterprises, because they are more exposed than most to the need for external bank financing. They are not likely to be able to draw down on capital.

I recognise and welcome the Government’s increase—to 4% as I recall—in the rate paid. That is an important and valuable step forward, but, for exactly the same reasons that have already been referred to, I urge them to go further. When a compulsory purchase goes through, very often landholders find it difficult to secure the funding to move forward. In particular, it is important to have a realistic rate of interest. Even with the current proposed changes, the rate will lag behind what is effectively the market rate.

The nature of compulsory purchase means that the majority of compensation due is meant to be paid before entry. When it is, all well and good. When it is not, there ought to be some compensation for those held up by late payment. By and large, the Government have now proposed introducing an interest rate of 2% above the base rate on late payments. That is a step forward, but still well below the commercial rate.

On compensation due before entry but not paid on time, the amendments seek an interest rate of 8% above the base rate. That is in line with the rate of interest charged on the late payment of commercial transactions. The truth is that that would be no burden on acquiring authorities. All they have to do is pay on time. If they pay on time, they will not attract the punitive rate of interest. It is a spur to good behaviour by acquiring authorities. An 8% rate would be closer to the market rate than the 4% rate currently available.

We suggest that any compensation on a quantifiable amount should be at 8%, which would put it in line with interest on a judgment debt after a finding by a court or tribunal. Other payments, which are not always quantifiable immediately but become apparent, should attract an interest rate of 4% above the base rate. That would be in line with commercial lending rates. We are therefore simply saying to acquiring authorities, “Behave like any other commercial body would.” I say to those on the Opposition Front Bench that that would not undermine the compulsory purchase regime, but ensure fairness and efficiency from an acquiring authority. Those that are efficient would have nothing to fear: if they just pay up promptly they will not have to pay the rate. If they do not, why should a landowner who has been compulsorily acquired against be in a worse position than if the land had been acquired as a result of a commercial negotiation or a judgment of a court not under the compulsory purchase regime?

That is the point of the amendments. They may sound technical, but they are actually quite important to a lot of rural businesses. I can say that there is little constituency interest for me—I think we have one farm in Bromley and Chislehurst—but this is an important issue for many businesses in rural areas.

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It is a delight to follow my colleague from the all-party group on London, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), given his expertise on housing and planning. I want to talk about conditions in the private rented sector and to express my agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) on leasehold reform.

I am not an expert on housing and planning, but I have just opened my 1,000th constituency case since 8 May—there is an awful lot of work to be done—and 60% of those who have come to see me, written to me, phoned me or emailed me have talked about housing. Whereas 20 years ago the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green would have been dealing mainly with local authorities, housing associations and homeowners, many more cases now relate to the private rented sector. For that reason, it is a pleasure to speak today. As we know from our debate on the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), the condition of many homes in the private rented sector leaves something to be desired. Instead of 10% or 15%, up to 45% of the population of an average London borough are in the private rented sector, which is why we need to be much more ambitious when it comes to the quality of homes.

We know that fewer and fewer people can afford to own their own home and that the level of homeownership is at an all-time low. The Government’s policy is to try and assist people, but, when I last looked, only one household in my constituency, which has 80,000 electors, had been helped by the Government’s Help to Buy incentive scheme, which indicates how difficult it is for people to get on the housing ladder. It is important, therefore, that while people save up, in the hope of one day owning a home, we ensure high-quality private rented homes.

Most landlords are very good and want to look after their tenants and follow best practice, but unfortunately, owing to the high demand for privately rented homes and because people want to live near where they work, standards sometimes drop and people are afraid to raise issues of poor quality with their landlord for fear of being evicted. We have heard stories of people queueing up with baked goods—cakes, biscuits and so on—for landlords and saying, “Please can I be your tenant?”, such is the demand for properties. There is, therefore, no great incentive on landlords to provide high-quality homes. Instead of having to fix the plumbing, they are getting cakes. We are ambitious for our communities, however, and want to ensure the provision of high-quality homes. We need to ring-fence funding for local authorities to ensure quality in the privately rented sector. Local authorities, given their duty to prevent homelessness, should have an eye to this anyway, but they rightly complain of a lack of funding, so we should ring-fence funding for high-quality homes, particularly as up to 40% of families live in the private rented sector.

My particular bugbear is where housing benefit either wholly or partly pays the rent. That is state-sponsored squalor. It is not fair that the state subsidises landlords where conditions are not good. It is one thing for people paying out of their own pockets to think, “Maybe I won’t demand better conditions”, but, where the state subsidises landlords, we must demand much better quality homes.

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Will the hon. Lady join me in hoping that, where a tenant also receives housing benefit, the landlord will offer a longer lease? Up to 45% of people in London boroughs rent in the private sector, but the assured shorthold tenancy is not fit for purpose for families. Will she join me in encouraging the Government to take forward their very good proposal to encourage landlords to offer family-friendly tenancies with longer lease terms, especially where tenants receive housing benefit?

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for that excellent point, which is something I have campaigned on for a long time. Now that the private rented sector is the new normal, we need to move towards tenancies of three or four years. People do not have to accept three or four years, but six months as the norm is simply unacceptable, particularly when we know that in places such as Finsbury Park people need an income of £75,000 to rent a three-bedroomed place for the family. Finsbury Park is not Chelsea, but now that such a high income is required, we need to do much more to deal with the problem of short-term leases and lack of security. The length of tenancy is a crucial issue. I am sure we will get another bite at the cherry when it comes to tabling an amendment to deal with that. Unfortunately, such an amendment was not accepted in Committee, but we will continue to campaign for it. The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) was quite right to mention it.

In the olden days, we used to talk about the decent homes standard, which included things such as kitchens and bathrooms, heating, security, windows and so on. We should have exactly the same thing in mind when we talk about conditions in the private rented sector. We all know about the long-term health impact of living in a cold home. Now and, funnily enough, in many places, our social homes have better conditions—on account of the decent homes standards I mentioned, which were introduced under the Labour Government up to 2010—and many tenants live in quite acceptable accommodation.

Private tenants, however, who are now paying more, are living in colder homes, which we know leads to a greater chance of getting respiratory illnesses. In London, we should not be seeing the increased number of tuberculosis cases that we are seeing. Tuberculosis is aggravated by overcrowded and cold accommodation. Problems such as these are a regular feature of our constituency surgeries, and we should be ambitious about seeing the end of something like tuberculosis.

Another issue is the number of days that children miss at school because of illness, and this applies whether we are talking about primary school, secondary school when pupils are doing their GCSEs or even university years. Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders and other respiratory problems are holding our youngsters back; and we must not forget the healthcare of our older folk.

When we are reflecting on what we want our local authorities to look at, I hope that we can include high-quality heating systems. I would be surprised to find any social sector homes left in the borough of Haringey that did not have a proper heating system. However, I have been into homes in the private rented sector where tenants are still switching on low-quality heating systems.

That brings me to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse about the importance of having electricity checks. Every local authority knows about CORGI—Council for Registered Gas Installers—and it seems to me basic common sense that we need something similar to that for electricity. It will need a new name, but we need something for electricity standards—names on a postcard to the Deputy Speaker if anyone can think of one today. The CORGI standard is the reason we do not have as many accidents caused by problems with gas. People have campaigned on gas standards for the last 20 years and we now have that protection put into rules and regulations through statute. When checks are carried out for gas, we could do the same thing for electrics. It is such a basic point; we must make this part of what we do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse and others mentioned leaseholder issues. With 4.5 million people living in leasehold properties, it has become, like the private rented sector, the new normal. A third of all residents living in social homes in some of our London boroughs are leaseholders, so we need to look further at providing some form of regulation to deal with service charges and ground charges, and to control the interaction between the freeholders and the leaseholders. A number of leaseholders have come to me with specific questions in circumstances where it is plain that the freeholder is not being a good landlord. We need to deal with that, and we need some kind of cap on what can be charged where the freeholder is a private entity and leaseholders are at their mercy when it comes to repairs, unreasonably high bills and general lack of rights. Being a Member of Parliament with just one caseworker in a constituency where there are thousands of unhappy leaseholders is not good. [Laughter.] Everyone is laughing because they know what the situation is like for leaseholders.

There are a number of other steps that need to be taken, and I think that we may need more time to consider them. Some of them are very specific. In the case of both the private rented sector and leaseholders, we are no longer talking about small groups; we are talking about more and more people who cannot afford to buy into the property market and get on to the housing ladder. Notwithstanding all the announcements by politicians wearing hard hats and wonderful fluorescent jackets, we know that supply is a desperate problem which will not be fixed overnight. What we can do is improve the conditions of leaseholders, and, first and foremost, ensure that the private rented sector is at the forefront of our minds.

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I want to say a few words about new clause 42. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) for her support, and I entirely agree with what she said earlier.

The Minister will be pleased to know that I do not intend to press the new clause to a vote. However, I seek a reassurance from him that the issue will be properly reviewed in 2017—as has been proposed by Ministers previously—and that, if necessary, the Government will seek to amend the law if that is required.

Given that the Bill concerns housing, there have of course been discussions about home ownership, whether freehold or leasehold, and about tenancies, whether in the private or the social housing sector. There are also different types of housing: detached houses, terraced houses and flats. However, we should not forget the mobile park home. A surprising number of people own such accommodation in constituencies all over the country, and certainly in mine. Under the current law, a site owner can charge a commission of up to 10% on the sale price, which I think many people—including politicians and, especially, mobile park home owners—consider to be grossly unfair and, indeed, outdated. I acknowledge that the commission was reduced from 15% to 10%, so there was an acceptance that it was an issue, but that was back in 1983. I think that we live in a very different world now, and that the 10% commission should be reviewed.

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There are other exorbitant charges. For instance, mobile owners buy their fuel through site owners, who can rack up charges all over the place. This is just another opportunity to milk some rather poorer members of the community.

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That is an interesting point. Although I have concentrated on just one aspect of mobile homes, I think that the 2017 review should consider the issue holistically, across the board, rather than focusing on one or two specific issues.

My new clause would reduce the maximum commission to 5%. I accept that there are counter-arguments. Site owners suggest that the commission forms part of their investment calculations or business models, and can make their businesses viable. They also suggest that a reduction in the commission could result in increased pitch fees or service charges. The Select Committee considered the issue during the last Parliament, and concluded that the commission should remain at 10%. I would ask, however, whether it is right for site owners to benefit from an increase in value when they have not actually done anything. I do not believe that it is.

There are a number of possible solutions. We could gradually reduce the percentage—by, say, 1% a year over five years—to allow site owners to adjust their business models. The commission could be charged only on the difference between the original purchase price and the subsequent sale price. Alternatively, there could be a straight reduction from 10% to 5%, as my new clause suggests. I accept that there could be an increase in pitch fees, but arguably that would reflect the true costs of running a site. Site owners cannot guarantee that they will receive income from any sales because they do not know when those sales will occur.

The new clause is intended to achieve three things. It is intended to highlight the issue in the House, and to remind Ministers that there are different forms of home ownership and that this is one of them. Most important of all, however, I seek confirmation from the Minister that the Government will properly and comprehensively review the issue of mobile park homes in 2017, as previously promised.

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(Worthing West): May I pick up the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) on the need for fair outcomes, and may I tie that to the excellent speech by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), with whom I co-operate on leasehold issues? His new clause 3 talks about commonhold. The Act on that of about 13 years ago did not work. I ask the Government to make sure that by the time this Bill gets considered in the House of Lords, they will put in the simple changes that will make commonhold accessible, before we even get to the point made in the hon. Gentleman’s amendment, which is to transfer all long leaseholds to commonhold.

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Does the hon. Gentleman agree that had commonhold been part of the conditions for developers, with all new build having to be sold as commonhold in 2002, that would have effected the step-change many of us wanted to see at the time?

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Yes. I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that.

Each Member of this House has on average 9,000 leasehold residential properties in their constituency; that is 15,000 constituents. In London, over half the homes owned are leasehold. Over half the homes in the Government drive for more property will be leasehold. They should be commonhold.

The scandals attached to this situation are set out in my contribution to the Queen’s Speech debate in June 2014, when I listed the kind of things that the Tchenguiz interest got involved in, when the old Peverel and Cirrus call button scandal was going on. I make this warning to those who are accumulating bunches of freeholds because they think they are going to get an extraordinary return from charges other than simple ground rent: do not expect that to be left alone by Parliament or the courts. I hope that by the time this Bill gets into the House of Lords, the Law Commission proposals on event fees can be put into legislation, rather than having to wait two or three years for another Bill to come by, and I make this point: any kind of unfair clause should be declared ineffective by the property chambers, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court because for too long bad freeholders, sometimes with incompetent managing agents, have exploited leaseholders, whether previously from council homes or in the private sector.

I say to McCarthy and Stone, who have come back and may go for a flotation this year, “You try to explain why it is that so many retirement properties that come on to the second-hand market do so at a far lower value than when they were first sold.” Solicitors should warn their clients about the problem. We can solve the problem so that McCarthy and Stone, and our constituents, can have a better future.

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I want to speak briefly to new clause 3 proposed by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick). I have some concerns about it and I guess that it was tabled to probe this issue, which is extremely important and on which I think the Government should look to act.

Long leases in the residential sector have been one of the most established forms of tenure in our country for literally hundreds of years. I can remember when I was training as a property lawyer and looked at the leases of the Grosvenor Estate, for which 999 years was the average lease term. I remember thinking, “I’ll be long dead before anyone has to consider this returning to the freeholder.” I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests: I own some properties on long leaseholds.

It is important to note that although there are problems with long leaseholds and that form of tenure, a lot of them tend to be London-related. In my constituency, leasehold is often a way of protecting areas by stopping inappropriate development, such as the clauses in leases that prevent the development of gardens without the landlord’s or freeholder’s consent. They are an important form of tenure and one that the new clause would abolish by 2020, which probably illustrates its probing nature.

Long leaseholds have advantages, particularly in the area of estate management, where I have personal experience of them. In my professional life, I have set up many estates to be run for the benefit of tenants. They have involved important cost-sharing measures relating to matters such as estate roads and the maintenance of the outside of buildings. It is important that we preserve such measures in any changes that we make to this historic and important form of tenure. That said, the spirit of the proposal seems to relate to estates with service charges and rent charges, and to ask what more the Government can do to ensure that the interests of tenants are protected. This is an important area and I hope that the Government will explore it in more detail in the months and years to come.

A particular issue with leasehold properties occurs when the management company no longer exists. This is a big issue on housing estates. I can think of one in Irwell Vale in my constituency—unfortunately, it was severely flooded on Boxing day—in which the road attached to the estate has been passed to a freehold company. Despite the tenants and other residents of the estate being more than prepared to contribute to the maintenance of the road, it can no longer be maintained. The Government should certainly look into the circumstances in which tenants want to take on the management of an estate. There should be specific provisions for when some freeholders have exercised their rights under leasehold enfranchisement legislation and taken away the landlord’s interest but some leaseholders are still involved. This is a complicated area of the law, but these are not issues that can be resolved by the proposals in new clause 3. I will not support the new clause, but it would be worth while for the Government to introduce some proposals in this important area.

I was working in a law firm when the then Labour Government introduced their proposals on commonhold, and I remember there being lots of seminars on the subject to teach us how they were going to affect property law. It never really happened, however. No one really embraced commonhold. In my view, that was not because we did not tie it to a compunction for a development to offer commonhold, but because it sought to solve problems that often did not exist. A much better route for dealing with problems relating to long leaseholds would be to give the tenants real rights and powers against the freeholder, rather than creating an entire new form of tenure.

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I recall the situation that the hon. Gentleman describes, because I was sponsoring the whole drive for leasehold reform at that stage, along with the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley). The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) talks about giving tenants rights against the freeholder, but in some situations a head leaseholder might be putting through vicious surcharges that are completely uncalled for and charging rack rates for administering the issuing of legal letters. I do not really feel that his suggestion would present a solution, but I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) for tabling his new clause. It is vital that the Government take this issue seriously. There has always been cross-party consensus that something needs to be done, and it is high time that the Government took action.

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I would like to disagree with the hon. Gentleman at length, but time will not allow me to do so. Leasehold tenure solves problems that cannot be solved by commonhold, including problems relating to the flying freehold, which can be dealt with only by a lease. I do not believe that commonhold is the answer to that problem. Whatever the answer is, however, if we were to create a new form of tenure, of which we expected commonhold to become a part, we would have to ensure that mortgage companies were happy with it. In my career, I have seen lots of properties with a market value of zero because they were unmortgageable owing to problems with flying freeholds.

Finally, I want to comment on the proposals on the electrical safety certificate set out in new clause 53, tabled by Labour Members. It is a good idea for the Government to find ways of ensuring that landlords prioritise electrical safety, but I do not agree with the proposals in the new clause. Subsection 2(b) seems to propose that a landlord would have to provide a certificate every 12 months. That is too onerous and a longer period should be proposed.

It is important that landlords take electrical safety very seriously, but we should also be looking at ways in which we can get owner-occupiers to take it more seriously. We lived in the house I was brought up in for 35 years and when we put the light on to go into the cellar it would flicker on and off. We had had no electrical work done for 35 years, yet my parents were amazed when the people who bought the house from them, when they eventually moved, said that it needed rewiring. Anything that can encourage people to look at what is in place in their own home, not just rented properties, would be advisable. I do not think it is necessary to have primary legislation to deal with this, because I know from properties I let that estate agents often insist that landlords provide an electrical safety certificate. If they do not insist on it, often the insurance company will insist on an up-to-date electrical safety certificate for a proper buy-to-let commercial insurance policy. I am not sure that we need primary legislation, but I would encourage people to look at this.

Finally, I reiterate my call on the Government to push forward with the excellent family-friendly tenancy, which is sat there waiting for Ministers to embrace it to ensure that families are protected. All the other provisions in this Bill relating to the private rented sector would be so much more welcome if people could have more security of tenure in private rented leases.

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Given the time available, I will move straight on to dealing with the proposals. On the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), I recognise the comments that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) made about the benefits of commonhold tenure, but there are important differences between it and leasehold. For example, a different statutory framework of rights and protections is in place, and my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) eloquently explained his experience of some of the challenges in that area. That is partly why commonhold is, and was intended to be, a voluntary alternative to long leasehold ownership, and we believe it should remain so, without forcing commonhold on those who may not wish it. Notwithstanding that, I hear what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I know that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West have discussed this matter with the Minister for Housing and Planning. He will keep it under review and will continue the dialogue with them.

I understand the arguments put forward in new clause 4, but I do not believe it to be necessary. It would conflict with last week’s deregulatory clauses. Housing association tenants already have a number of ways to scrutinise their landlords and hold them to account, in addition to the Homes and Communities Agency’s regulatory standards. They may, for example, refer complaints to the housing ombudsman, who may also, along with tenants, raise specific concerns with the regulator, who has the power to initiate a statutory inquiry. That can lead to interventions in housing association management structures or to forced mergers or takeovers where the boards are not fit for purpose.

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Will the Minister give way?

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I need to make progress because I have not got long. I am glad to say that the regulator rarely needs to use such powers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) tabled new clause 42, and I can understand why he has raised this issue, as has my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), and why mobile home owners object to a 10% commission on the sale of a home. Commission is one of the legitimate income streams for park home businesses. If the commission was reduced or abolished, there would need to be a compensatory increase in pitch fees to cover the shortfall in income, a move which many park home residents would not support. Following its inquiry into the park homes sector in 2012, the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government held an inquiry into the park homes sector just before legislation was passed, recommending that the right of site owners to receive up to 10% commission from the sale of a home should remain in place. The coalition Government agreed with the finding of the Select Committee, and this Government’s view remains unchanged. That said, the Mobile Homes Act 2013 introduced substantial changes to the sector and it is important that the new measures are given time to have an impact. We will therefore review the effectiveness of the legislation in 2017. I can reassure colleagues that a working group is already in place, and I am sure that they will await its recommendations with bated breath and anticipation.

On the amendments tabled by the Opposition Front Bench, new clause 52 will result in unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords, which will deter further investment and push up rents for tenants. Of course we believe that all homes should be of a decent standard, and that all tenants should have a safe place in which to live regardless of tenure, but local authorities already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality and unsafe accommodation, and we expect them to use them.

The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) will know that we debated the provisions in new clause 53 extensively in Committee. I confirmed then that the Government would carry out the necessary research to understand what, if any, legislative changes and amendments for such requirements in the private rented sector should be introduced. On that basis, the amendment was withdrawn. To update her, let me say that officials are now undertaking research and have spoken already to Shelter and Electrical Safety First. Given the time, I do not want to cover any further ground on that new clause in this debate.

I understand where the hon. Lady is coming from with regard to new clause 54. Local housing authorities have the power to apply additional licensing schemes to cover smaller HMOs. We issued a technical discussion paper recently seeking views on whether mandatory licences should be extended to smaller HMOs. We hope to publish a response to that in the spring, and I do not want to pre-empt that by amending the Bill at this point.

Similarly on amendment 99, a local authority is already required to have regard to a range of factors when deciding whether to grant a licence. They include whether the applicant has contravened any provision of the law relating to housing or of landlord and tenant law. That would include all offences leading to inclusion in the database.

With regard to new clause 47, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) for bringing such matters to the attention of the House. I know that he has raised them on a number of occasions, and that he has had discussions with my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning, who I know is considering what he has said extremely carefully, and will, I understand, meet him and the Country Land and Business Association.

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his response, and will of course not press my amendment. I hope that we can now go forward with some constructive discussions.

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In the same spirit let me say that I am extremely glad to hear that. I am sure that the Minister for Housing and Planning will continue to work with my hon. Friend, as he has undertaken to do.

In bringing this stage of the Bill to a close, I wish to say that it has been a pleasure to support my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning in helping the House to scrutinise the Bill and the amendments that we have tabled to improve it. I trust that the House will look favourably on the remaining Government amendments, and that Members who have spoken to other amendments will not push them to a Division.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 62 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 52

Implied term of fitness for human habitation in residential lettings

‘(1) Section 8 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (c.70) is amended as follows.

(2) Leave out subsection (3) and insert—

“(3) Subject to subsection (7), this section applies to any tenancy or licence under which a dwelling house is let wholly or mainly for human habitation.”

(3) Leave out subsections (4) to (6).

(4) After subsection (3), insert—

“(3ZA) Subsection 1 does not apply where the condition of the dwelling-house or common parts is due to—

(a) a breach by the tenant of the duty to use the dwelling-house in a tenant-like manner, or often express term of the tenancy to the same effect; or

(b) damage by fire, flood, tempest or other natural cause or inevitable accident.

(3ZB) Subsection 1 shall not require the landlord or licensor of the dwelling house to carry out works—

(a) which would contravene any statutory obligation or restriction; or

(b) which require the consent of a superior landlord, provided that such consent has been refused and the landlord or licensor has no right of action on the basis that such refusal of consent is unreasonable.

(3ZC) Any provision of or relating to a tenancy or licence is void insofar as it purports—

(a) to exclude or limit the obligations of the landlord or licensor under this section; or

(b) to permit any forfeiture or impose on the tenant or licensee any penalty or disadvantage in the event of his seeking to enforce the obligation under subsection (1).

(3ZD) Regulations may make provision for the exclusion of certain classes of letting from subsection (1).

(3ZE) In this section “house” has the same meaning as “dwelling house” and includes—

(a) a part of a house, and

(b) any yard, garden, outhouses and appurtenances belonging to the house or usually enjoyed with it.”

(5) In section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, after “waste water”, insert—

(6) Regulations may make provision for guidance as to the operation of the matters set out in section 10 which are relevant to the assessment of fitness for human habitation.

(7) This section shall come into force—

(a) in England at the end of the period of three months from the date on which this Act receives Royal Assent and shall apply to all tenancies licences and agreements for letting made on or after that date; and

(b) in Wales on a date to be appointed by the Welsh Ministers.”’—(Teresa Pearce.)

This new Clause would place a duty on landlords to ensure that their properties are fit for habitation when let and remain fit during the course of the tenancy.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division 162

12 January 2016

The House divided:

Ayes: 219
Noes: 312

Question accordingly negatived.

View Details

More than four hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, 5 January).

The Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Schedule 6

Financial penalty as alternative to prosecution under Housing Act 2004

Amendments made: 27, page 103, line 30, leave out paragraphs 2 to 5 and insert—

“2 In section 30 (offence of failing to comply with improvement notice), after subsection (6) insert—

(7) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(8) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

3 In section 72 (offences in relation to licensing of HMOs), after subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(7B) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

4 In section 95 (offences in relation to licensing of houses under Part 3), after subsection (6) insert—

“(6A) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(6B) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5 In section 139 (overcrowding notices), after subsection (9) insert—

“(10) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(11) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5A In section 234 (management regulations in respect of HMOs), after subsection (5) insert—

“(6) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(7) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5B After section 249 insert—

Financial penalties as an alternative to prosecution

249A Financial penalties for certain housing offences in England

‘(1) The local housing authority may impose a financial penalty on a person if satisfied that the person’s conduct amounts to a relevant housing offence in respect of premises in England.

(2) In this section “relevant housing offence” means an offence under—

(a) section 30 (failure to comply with improvement notice),

(b) section 72 (licensing of HMOs),

(c) section 95 (licensing of houses under Part 3),

(d) section 139(7) (failure to comply with overcrowding notice), or

(e) section 234 (management regulations in respect of HMOs).

(3) Only one financial penalty under this section may be imposed on a person in respect of the same conduct.

(4) The amount of a financial penalty imposed under this section is to be determined by the local housing authority, but must not be more than £30,000.

(5) The local housing authority may not impose a financial penalty in respect of any conduct amounting to a relevant housing offence if—

(a) the person has been convicted of the offence in respect of that conduct, or

(b) criminal proceedings for the offence have been instituted against the person in respect of the conduct and the proceedings have not been concluded.

(6) Schedule 13A deals with—

(a) the procedure for imposing financial penalties,

(b) appeals against financial penalties,

(c) enforcement of financial penalties, and

(d) guidance in respect of financial penalties.

(7) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about how local housing authorities are to deal with financial penalties recovered.

(8) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend the amount specified in subsection (4) to reflect changes in the value of money.

(9) For the purposes of this section a person’s conduct includes a failure to act.””

This amendment has two substantive effects as well as making certain drafting changes. The substantive effects are that: (1) an offence under section 234 of the Housing Act 2004 is added to the list of offences in respect of which a financial penalty may be imposed; (2) the maximum financial penalties available are increased.

Amendment 28, page 107, line 2, leave out “2A” and insert “13A”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

Amendment 29, page 107, line 6, leave out “30A, 72A, 95A or 144A” and insert “249A”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

Amendment 30, page 109, line 13, leave out “30A, 72A, 95A or 144A” and insert “249A” —(Mr Marcus Jones.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

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Consideration completed. I will now suspend the House for about five minutes in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung two minutes before the House resumes. Following my certification, the Government will be tabling the appropriate consent motions, copies of which will be available shortly in the Vote Office and will be distributed by Doorkeepers.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming—

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I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order, and that I have made no change to the provisional certificate issued yesterday evening. Copies of my final certificate will be made available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website.

Under Standing Order No. 83M, consent motions are therefore required for the Bill to proceed. Copies of the motions are available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website, and they have been made available to Members in the Chamber. Does the Minister intend to move the consent motions?

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Thank goodness.

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I am always happy to hear the Minister’s voice, but a nod suffices for the purpose.

Under Standing Order No. 83M(4), the House must forthwith resolve itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) and thereafter into the Legislative Grand Committee (England).

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) (Standing Order No. 83M).

[Mrs Eleanor Laing in the Chair]

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There will now be a joint debate on the consent motion for England and Wales and the consent motion for England. I remind hon. Members that, although all Members may speak in the debate, if there are Divisions only Members representing constituencies in England and Wales may vote on the consent motion for England and Wales, and only Members representing constituencies in England may vote on the consent motion for England.

I call the Minister to move the consent motion for England and Wales, and I remind him that, under Standing Order No. 83M(4), on moving the consent motion for England and Wales, he must also inform the Committee of the terms of the consent motion for England.

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I beg to move,

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and Wales and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 97, 98 and 120 to 150 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 7 and 10 to 15 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England and Wales

Amendments 180 and 181 made in Committee to Clause 71 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 76 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108);

Amendments 127 and 128 made in Committee to Clause 85 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 92 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108).

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With this we shall consider the consent motion to be moved in the Legislative Grand Committee (England):

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 1 to 63, 65 to 77, 79 to 81, 83 to 85, 87 to 95 and 99 to 119 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 1 to 6, 8 and 9 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

New Clauses NC6, NC7, NC29 to NC31, NC35, NC37, NC43 to NC46, NC59, NC60 and NC62 on Report;

New Schedules NS1, NS4 and NS5 on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England

The omission in Committee of Clauses 35 and 36 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75);

Amendment 4 on Report, resulting in Clause 78 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 111 on Report, resulting in Clause 64 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 129 on Report, resulting in Clause 86 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill.

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The importance of what we are doing in the Chamber today is shown by the fact that so many of my hon. Friends are here to see us delivering on a manifesto pledge. I am just sorry that Labour Members do not think it is so important to do what is right for our country and its constitution.

As you have outlined, Mrs Laing, I am also required under Standing Orders to inform the Committee that I intend to move a further consent motion relating to England at the end of this debate. I will, however, address both consent motions now.

I draw the Committee’s attention to my written ministerial statement of 7 January, which informed the House that I had placed in the Library my Department’s analysis of the application of Standing Order No. 83L in respect of Government amendments tabled on Report.

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Since so many of the clauses in the Bill have been designated as applying exclusively to England or, indeed, to England and Wales, will the Minister help the House—particularly Members who are excluded from the vote on the consent motion, if there is one—by stating what evidence he has that not a single person from Northern Ireland is a landlord in England and Wales and therefore that there is no particular Northern Ireland interest in the Bill?

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I will come on to that specific point in a few moments. I would, however, point out that the hon. Lady and other hon. Members were able to speak on Second Reading and on Report both last Tuesday—through to the early hours—and this afternoon, and that we touched on that very point.

I want to thank Mr Speaker for his careful consideration and certification of the Bill. I also pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House and of members of the Procedure Committee for getting us to this historic inaugural Legislative Grand Committee. I want to put on the record my thanks to the Clerks of the House for their, as ever, excellent service and advice to Mr Speaker and to my Department.

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Many Conservative Members welcome some modest justice for England at last. We welcome the fact that at a time when Scotland is being given so many powers of self-government, we now have a small voice and a vote. May I encourage the Minister to go further and make sure that we have justice over money and over law making for England in order to have a happy Union?

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As ever, my right hon. Friend tempts me to go just a little beyond the Housing and Planning Bill, but I understand his point.

As we all know, the history of this House goes before us, so it is quite rare to see a true first. I am very proud to be the first Minister to stand at the Dispatch Box to address the very first Legislative Grand Committees for England and Wales and for England only.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House noted when he opened the debate on Standing Order No. 83L back in October, the process we will now follow has created

“fairer Parliaments and fairer Assemblies”,

giving, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) has just mentioned,

“the English a strong voice on English matters without…excluding MPs from other parts of the United Kingdom from participation in this House.” —[Official Report, 22 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 1175.]

The purpose of the Legislative Grand Committee is to allow English and Welsh MPs either to consent to or to veto the clauses of and the amendments made to the Bill. I will not detail the territorial extent of each clause and amendment, but I again draw right hon. and hon. Members’ attention to my written ministerial statement of 7 January.

When we discussed the principle of English votes for English laws in the House, we heard fears that it would or could create a class system within the Chamber. As the first Minister to lead a Bill through this process, I am happy to report that that has not been my experience. The debates in the Public Bill Committee and on Report clearly demonstrate that the majority of Members of Parliament support the measures in the Bill. For example, although we did not have the pleasure of their company in the Public Bill Committee, the hon. Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) and for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) ensured that constituents in Scotland were represented during our debate both on Second Reading and on Report. As well as the hon. Lady’s questions about the territorial extent of our new duty on public sector organisations to dispose of land, we have also discussed the implications of landlords or housing associations who may have properties in the devolved Administrations, as well as in England.

My Department is responsible for local authorities, communities and housing associations in England. In many ways, we are the Department for England. It is therefore fitting that the majority of the clauses in Mr Speaker’s certification before this very first Committee relate to England only. However, thanks to Members on both sides of the Chamber, I am satisfied that the House has considered the Bill’s implications for the whole of our United Kingdom.

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My hon. Friend has pointed out that the Bill relates to England only. May I put it on the record that it is absolutely right that only English MPs should vote for it? As one of those who will be excluded, I applaud the English MPs who have decided that their constituents should not have their legislation affected by people coming from Wales, Scotland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

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My hon. Friend makes a good point that relates to the consent motion on English-only matters. Obviously, some parts of the Bill cover Wales as well and we will deal with those separately this afternoon.

My noble Friend Baroness Williams of Trafford will continue to ensure that any cross border issues are carefully considered in the other place.

This is an historic Bill in many ways. It will put homeownership within the grasp of generations that have only dreamed for many years that it could be possible. It will deliver a planning system that is the envy of the world. It will get Britain building again. By being the first Bill to go through this procedure, it goes further. I am proud of the steps that this elected Government are taking through this Bill to deliver our manifesto commitments.

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Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the removal of secure tenancies from council tenants was not in the Conservative manifesto and that the Government have no mandate to introduce that abolition? Council tenants were not warned by the Conservatives that they would impose this on them.

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We had that debate in Committee and earlier today on Report. The hon. Gentleman should look carefully at the Bill because it does deliver our manifesto commitments. It will deliver homeownership to a whole new generation of people by bringing forward starter homes and it will extend homeownership to 1.3 million people who have been locked out of it. His party has fought to prevent both proposals at every opportunity, and disgracefully so.

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rose

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I will not take any more interventions on the Bill. This is about English votes for English laws.

I am proud of the steps the Government have taken to bring fairness to the devolution settlement. In that spirit, I ask this inaugural Legislative Grand Committee to consent to the certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and the certified amendments made by the House to the Bill.

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I call John Healey.

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No, I do not want to speak.

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I do not call John Healey. I beg the right hon. Gentleman’s pardon. I call Pete Wishart.

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I am grateful, Mrs Laing.

So, this is what an English Parliament looks like. It looks pretty much like the unitary UK Parliament to me. This is a remarkable day. It is worth noting how significant and historic this is. For the first time in the history of this House and this Parliament, Members of Parliament will be banned from participating in Divisions of this House, based on nationality and the geographic location of their constituencies.

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The hon. Gentleman’s constituents in Perth and North Perthshire, who may well have voted for him, surely see this as a very fair motion to safeguard the United Kingdom by having a fair devolution settlement.

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The hon. Gentleman tempts me. I will say a couple of things to him. First, I was elected on the same basis as him. My constituents expect me to participate in all debates and all legislation in this House. I am now denied that opportunity. Secondly, if he thinks that going down such a route as this, whereby Scottish Members of Parliament are banned from voting on certain issues that are considered English only, will save his Union, he has another think coming. Nothing has infuriated the Scottish people more than the measures on English votes for English laws.

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rose

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How can I resist the right hon. Gentleman?

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If the hon. Gentleman is such a passionate believer in our settling everything together, why am I not even allowed to express a view, let alone vote, on local government, health and education in his constituency?

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The right hon. Gentleman just does not understand, so I will try to explain it to him patiently once again. We live in the United Kingdom. There is asymmetric devolution within the United Kingdom. We have a Parliament in Scotland that determines and decides the very issues—[Interruption.]

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Order. The hon. Gentleman is a Member of this House and has a right to be heard. He will be heard.

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I did not know whether I was a Member of this House or an international observer, but I will take the initial one as your favour—thank you, Mrs Laing.

Let me say to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) that we have a Parliament in Scotland that determines and decides on these matters—he is right; we do that in Scotland. We do those things in this House too, but what he wants, and what has been created today, is a quasi-English Parliament within the confines of the unitary Parliament of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. That is the nub of the issue, and that is why this first meeting today is so significant and remarkable.

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May I remind the hon. Gentleman that what we have before us is a consent mechanism for Members from England, or England and Wales, to agree to measures that apply only to us? On Third Reading, if the hon. Gentleman fundamentally disagrees with something in the Bill, he will have a vote to vote against it.

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Let me tell the hon. Gentleman what it feels like to us. What it feels like to me, and to my right hon. and hon. Friends, is that we are on the wrong side of a banishment and a bar that denies us our right as legitimately elected Members of Parliament from participating fully in the House today. That is what is being done; that is the key point, which people still fail to grasp. What has been done with this Legislative Grand Committee is the creation of two types of Member of Parliament of this House. That is the issue that we object to and find so difficult.

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While Conservative Members find their handkerchiefs to mop their tears, will the hon. Gentleman say why, if he and his party feel so passionately about this Bill, there were no votes from SNP Members on Second Reading or Report?

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We have no great interest in this Bill. [Interruption.] I do not know why that comes as a surprise to the hon. Gentleman. Let me say it again, in case he missed it: we have no great interest in this Bill. He is right to say that we did not vote on Second Reading or any of the proceedings that we were allowed to participate in, because we respect the right of English Members of Parliament to determine issues on that basis—of course that is their right.

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rose

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I am not giving way again—I am answering the hon. Gentleman’s point.

That is why we took no interest and stayed away on those Divisions. However, the creation of this Legislative Grand Committee—again, I am astounded that Conservative Members do not understand this—has created two classes of Members of Parliament of this House. One class is able to participate in every Division in this House, as we are about to see, while other Members of Parliament, such as my hon. Friends on the Benches behind me, are not able to participate in all parts of the Bill. That is what hon. Members have done.

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Far too many Members wish to intervene, so I will say no to them all.

Even if I wanted a say in this Bill, I would be barred from doing so. I am not allowed to vote on this. I am not even allowed to call a Division, and if I attempted to do so, you would quite rightly rule me out of order, Mrs Laing, according to the standards of the House. If I were to vote in the Division I have no idea what would happen. I presume that the Serjeant at Arms would come chasing after me with his little sword, telling me that I cannot participate in this vote, and he would chase me out. That is what he should do; that is what his job would be.

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rose

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I will give way to the hon. Lady, because I like her.

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He will know I have a great deal of respect for him. He talks about how this feels for him and his colleagues. How it feels for my constituents in south Devon is that an historic injustice has been righted. I put it to him that they feel they have been under-represented, and that we care about our constituents in this House, not ourselves.

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Here is something for the hon. Lady, for whom I have a great deal of respect, to consider: how about if we all retain equality in the House of Commons? How about we retain the same rights and privileges, just as we did just a few short weeks ago? The hon. Lady and all her hon. Friends obviously feel very strongly about this. I understand the passion of English Members of Parliament on this issue. How about they create a Parliament? How about designing a Parliament in their own image, where they can look after these issues like we do in the Scottish Parliament? Why do not they not have a Parliament, one that does not necessarily sit in this House but in one of the other great cities throughout the United Kingdom, where democracy could be seen in action? How about that as a solution? We could then come back together to this House as equal Members and consider the great reserved issues of foreign affairs, defence and international relations. That is how most other nations do it. It is called federalism and it seems to work quite adequately in most other nations.

What Conservative Members have done today is create this absolute mess—a bourach, a guddle. Nobody even understands how it works! We have just rung the Division bells to suspend proceedings, so that the Speaker can scurry off and consult the Clerks to decide whether it is necessary to recertify certain pieces of proposed legislation. This is what has happened to the business of this great Parliament. This is what we have resorted to today.

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rose

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I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, who I also like very much.

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I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I think he has actually got it fundamentally wrong. Two tiers of Members of Parliament have not been created by the mechanism that has been used. By using Standing Orders, which can be changed by all Members of Parliament, and by this being a Grand Committee—we see where the Mace is—and not the House sitting in full session, the rights of every individual Member remain intact. That is crucially important.

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In all candour, I have to say that that is not what it feels like on this side of the House. If a Division is called, the hon. Gentleman will be able to vote and express his view as a legitimately elected Member of Parliament. My hon. Friends and I, as equally legitimate Members of Parliament recently elected at the general election, will not be allowed to vote. We will be banned. We will be barred. We will be effectively banished from that process.

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Does the hon. Gentleman really expect taxpayers to pay for another Parliament just because his feelings are somehow being assaulted? I do not how he could explain that extra layer of bureaucracy and cost to the British taxpayer, but maybe spending other people’s money is how they like to do things in Scotland.

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I do not know whether I am grateful or not to the hon. Lady for her intervention. I think she is saying that she wants great dollops of cake so she can spend her time eating it and having a singularly English Parliament. Let us just use the House of Commons to accommodate that. The thing that has been created here is a quasi-English Parliament, but this Parliament belongs to me as much as to her. It belongs to the Scottish people as much as to the English people. What has happened today with the Legislative Grand Committee is that she will be able to represent her constituents in all Divisions, but my hon. Friends and I will not.

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I think what the House will take from the hon. Gentleman’s animated, passionate and, as ever, fluent speech is the fact that he is furious about a typically British evolution in the system of government that blocks his most devout desire, which is, of course, separation for Scotland. This system makes it fair in England. It deals with that grievance and means that his hope for independence disappears. That is why he is so angry.

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As with so many things, the hon. Gentleman is half right. This has been noted in Scotland. A lot of people are observing this and seeing this Parliament becoming, in effect, an English Parliament. They are seeing the voices of their Members of Parliament, so recently elected, diminished in this House. They will not be able to speak or vote in particular circumstances.

Throughout the debate on EVEL, the Leader of the House gave the impression that these votes would be subject to a double majority—that the whole House would express its will and then there would be a vote for English Members, which would effectively be their veto—but that has not happened. Instead, there has been a banishment. That is the brutal reality of EVEL. This is what happens when we start mucking about with the Standing Orders and our membership arrangements. We are left with some Members who can do anything—participate and vote on any issue—and others who cannot. It is totally unsatisfactory.

We have wasted God knows how much time discussing these issues today. It has made such a mess of parliamentary proceedings and added extra elements to the functions of an already hard-working House when considering Bills. It is a total mess.

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The hon. Gentleman has already told the House that the Scottish nationalist party—[Hon. Members: “National!”]—that the Scottish National party has no interest in this measure, which in no way applies to Scotland, and therefore will not vote on it. What is his problem? SNP Members have every right to speak, and we have redressed an injustice. For years, Conservative Members felt like second-class citizens, unable to vote on health and education matters in Scotland, while they have been able to vote on matters solely to do with England. Would the SNP have voted on the measure to bring hunting regulations in England and Wales into line with those in Scotland?

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I say this in all candour to the hon. Gentleman, whom I very much respect: we hear much from our English colleagues about their deeply held views on EVEL. He is a fine exponent of this perceived injustice: “How dare these Scots oppress English Members”—they only make up about 85% of the House!—“by coming down here and stealing our votes and having a say in our legislation?” With this Conservative majority, 88%, I think, of the House is English-only, yet we are the reason they cannot get their way. It is a ridiculous argument.

I do not want to take up any more time—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I can if Members would like—but we will return to these issues in the future. This is not concluded. I have heard several English Members say they are doing this to save the Union. I add a word of caution to my friends representing English constituencies: in establishing this Committee and pursuing the issue in this way, they are driving Scotland out of the door. That is how it is seen in Scotland. During the referendum campaign, as you will remember Madam Deputy Speaker, we were told: “Stay with us, Scotland. Scotland, we love you.” But the minute we park our backsides on these green Benches, we are diminished in status and not allowed a say in all matters.

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As someone proud to represent an English constituency, I feel—I do not know if my Labour colleagues feel the same—that the Tories are making precisely the same mistake as their predecessors did over Ireland. The way to proceed is for Scottish and Welsh Members to show self-restraint in deciding whether to vote on an issue. To have first and second-class Members does a disservice to the Union. I deplore what is being done.

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I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I knew his would be one of the quality interventions of the debate. He is absolutely right. The only thing I would say to him is this: where on earth is his Front-Bench team? They are not even prepared to make a speech or statement. Why are they not participating? Labour Members used to be stalwarts of this debate. I remember when we had 50-odd Labour Members for Scotland. They would have been making a fuss and standing up for Scotland’s interests, yet today there is absolute silence from the Labour Benches.

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I am delighted the hon. Gentleman has given way, because no SNP Members have participated in the Bill proceedings. We agree that this process is a complete charade, but while I was voting at 2.45 am last week on behalf of my constituents, he was in his bed.

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Maybe. It is with great fascination that we hear from the one and only Scottish Labour Member of Parliament. Perhaps the reason the hon. Gentleman is in such a diminished position is the Labour party’s silence on these issues. The fact that Labour Members have ignored them all the way through speaks volumes about the attitude of the Labour party. I do not know whether it is due to the particular chaos it is going through, but we need to hear from Labour Members to find out their view about what has happened.

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Speaking as someone who was here in the wee small hours, I can say that Labour Members were notable for their absence, being far too busy clawing their own eyes out at the time. It is a bit of a cheek for them to seek to lecture us here.

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding us that that was the night of the long reshuffle, so I suppose we should be grateful that any Labour Members were there. I do not wish to take up any more time.

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. Since the Front Benchers have boasted—and it was a boast—that this is an historic occasion, it would help if the occasion was not flawed. To take but one example, new clause 62 is designated as applying exclusively to England. Will the Minister quickly turn to it before we proceed in order to establish whether it applies only to England, because given that it appears in the new clause, I think the word “Wales” applies to it?

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The hon. Lady has made a creative intervention to put her point directly to the Minister, and I think it deserves a response. All I can say to her from the SNP perspective is that we are going to see lots more issues like that. Confining the EVEL rulings to a Grand Committee means that no consequential issues can be considered by the Speaker in making his certifications. That means that many massive issues will impact on my constituents down the line, but I will not be able to represent them in those matters.

If Conservative Members think they have won and believe that this will not have anything other than a totally detrimental impact on the fortunes of the Conservative party in Scotland, they need to have another think about it. This is unworkable; this is ungovernable; this is a mess; this is unfair. This creates two classes of Members in this House, which is totally unacceptable to my hon. Friends and the Scottish National party.

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I rise to thank Ministers for taking England on its first step on the journey to justice and fairness for our country. Having participated in recent Parliaments and seen very large powers transferred to Scotland for self-government in accordance with the wishes of many Scottish people and their now vocal representatives from the SNP, I would have thought that on this day of all days it was time for Scotland to say, “We welcome some justice for England to create a happier Union, just as we have fought so strongly for so long for more independence for Scotland.” I hope that SNP Members will reconsider and understand that just as in a happy Union, where there are substantial devolved powers of self-government for Scotland that they have chosen to exercise through an independent Parliament, so there needs to be some independent right of voice, vote and judgment for the people of England, which we choose to do through the United Kingdom Parliament because we think we can do both jobs and do not wish to burden people with more expense and more bureaucracy.

On this day of all days, when Labour has been reduced to a party of England and Wales, having been almost eliminated from Scotland in this Parliament, I would have thought that the Front-Bench—[Interruption.] Our party is speaking for England. The point I am making is that now that the Labour party represents parts of England and Wales but has so little representation in Scotland, it behoves Labour Members to listen to their English voters and to understand that although they might not want justice for England, their voters do want it and are fully behind what this Government are doing.

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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that he has done for many years in championing the need for EVEL to be introduced. Does he agree that, given that they completely failed to persuade the Scottish people to end the Union, the greatest hope of the nationalists was that such would be the grievance and resentment in England that Scotland could be pushed out? Does he agree that this modest step is a way of alleviating that grievance, and that that is why the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) was quite so angry?

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I entirely agree. We need fairness for England, in respect of the new financial settlement as well as our legislative procedures, but the way to preserve and develop the Union is to show that it is fair to all parts. I am sure that that will mean greater powers of independence for Scotland than we will gain for England, but we cannot ignore England. England deserves a voice, England deserves its votes, and England deserves, at the very least, the right to veto proposals that do not suit England but only affect England. I think that we shall need fair finances as well, because otherwise the English people will not be as happy with their Union as we should like them to be.

I hope that today is a day on which to advance the cause of the Union rather than to damage it. I hope that it is a day on which other Scots will welcome this small step on the road to justice for England, and will see that it helps them as well as us. What is wrong with England having a voice, its own political views, and some of its own political decision-making, in a Union in which Scotland took a great deal of that following the general election? In that election, all the main parties fought on the united proposition that there should be more rights to self-government for Scotland, but my party wisely said that that meant that there had to be some justice for England too. This is a small step towards that justice, and I hope the House will welcome it and not oppose it.

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We had intended simply to leave the Government to deal with the mess of their own making in this debate; and this debate is about the Housing and Planning Bill. With respect to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), it is not about the Union, or about justice for a part of the Union. This is, quite simply, a motion and a debate about the Housing and Planning Bill.

The rather ridiculous proceedings that we have seen this afternoon, and the over-excitement, underline the flaws in rushing reform of the House without proper consideration, without proper consultation and without proper cross-party agreement. We want, and recognise the need for, a stronger voice for England in this Parliament, but we have always said “a voice, not a veto”, and this Legislative Grand Committee constitutes a veto simply for those Members who are eligible. That should not be happening in this way, in a unified Parliament of the United Kingdom.

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The hon. Gentleman appears to have neglected the apposite point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) and reiterated throughout the Procedure Committee’s discussion of this proposal, namely that it meant a change in Standing Orders on an almost “suck it and see” basis, so that we could see how it would work out. The great totemic change in the rules of the House that is supposed to have taken place does not exist, in statute or anywhere else. If we need to tweak this, we can, because it is only a change in Standing Orders.

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Standing Orders can always be altered, particularly by Governments, but by doing it unilaterally the Government have, on this occasion, created an extremely unsatisfactory procedure, as this afternoon’s debates have amply demonstrated.

Let me say something to the Scottish nationalists. I have not seen, none of my colleagues have seen, and the House has not seen them present in such numbers in debates on the Housing and Planning Bill, and at no stage—not on Second Reading, in Committee or on Report—have we seen them vote on the Bill. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said this afternoon, “We have little interest in this Bill”, and he was right, because so little of the Bill concerns Scotland. He and his party would do much better to concentrate on his own poor record in government, and on improving what the SNP Government are doing about housing in Scotland. There are 150,000 people on the council house waiting list in Scotland and there is the lowest level of house building in Scotland since 1947. This debate—these proceedings—is simply preventing us from getting on with the proper job of holding this Government to task on the Housing and Planning Bill in this Chamber, and I hope we can move on to Third Reading without any further delay.

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I remind hon. Members—although I do not think hon. Members really need to be reminded—that if there is a Division on the consent motion for England and Wales, only Members representing constituencies in England and Wales may vote. This extends to expressing an opinion by calling out Aye or No when the Question is put or acting as a Teller—I know the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) knows that I recognise a Scottish voice when I hear one.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and Wales and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 97, 98 and 120 to 150 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 7 and 10 to 15 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England and Wales

Amendments 180 and 181 made in Committee to Clause 71 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 76 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108);

Amendments 127 and 128 made in Committee to Clause 85 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 92 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108).

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On a point of order, Madam Chairman. On a serious point of order, I am very conflicted because I do not want in any way to be critical of the Speaker and his certification, but the Speaker clearly today confirmed his provisional certification and that included reference to new clause 62 as being exclusively applicable to England. New clause 62 applies to both England and Wales. What could the Deputy Chairman advise when a certification by the Speaker—for whom I have enormous regard—appears to be flawed?

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The hon. Lady makes a perfectly reasonable point, and it is important that we consider points of order because this is a new procedure and the Procedure Committee has assured the House that it will be looking at the procedure and how it works in practice. What I can say to the hon. Lady is that Mr Speaker did make available in the Vote Office, and in other ways, several days ago his provisional decision on this matter, and there have been several days during which the hon. Lady, and indeed any other hon. Member, had an opportunity to make representations to Mr Speaker exactly along the lines that she has just done. Perhaps if this happens in future and the hon. Lady has similar concerns, she will have ample opportunity to take those concerns up with Mr Speaker before we get to this point in the proceedings.

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Further to that point of order, Madam Chairman. I do apologise for not bringing this to the Speaker’s attention earlier, but I am bringing it to the House’s attention today. I would hate to think there might be any consequences because flawed procedure has been followed in this case. It is a very important point. Members are going to be asked to go through the Division Lobby—apart from those of us from Northern Ireland, about which I feel exceedingly resentful, as I think it is quite wrong; and I do have an interest in this Bill because my constituents who are landlords are affected by it. So today I would like Madam Chairman to give advice as to whether we should pause and postpone this historic occasion until we get the certification corrected by the Speaker.

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No, again the hon. Lady is making a perfectly reasonable point, but I think I have already answered it. The fact is that the House took the decision on 22 October that we would proceed as we are proceeding today. As I have said to the hon. Lady, if she has concerns about how matters work in practice both the Procedure Committee will look at this as the weeks go on and Mr Speaker will be pleased to hear from the hon. Lady if she has concerns the next time we come to this point in the proceedings. But now we will proceed.

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England) (Standing Order No. 83M(4)(d)).

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I remind hon. Members that no further debate on the consent motion for England is permitted, and that if there is a Division on the consent motion for England, only Members representing constituencies in England may vote. This extends to expressing an opinion by calling out Aye or No when the Question is put.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83M(4)(d),

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 1 to 63, 65 to 77, 79 to 81, 83 to 85, 87 to 95 and 99 to 119 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 1 to 6, 8 and 9 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

New Clauses NC6, NC7, NC29 to NC31, NC35, NC37, NC43 to NC46, NC59, NC60 and NC62 on Report;

New Schedules NS1, NS4 and NS5 on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England

The omission in Committee of Clauses 35 and 36 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75);

Amendment 4 on Report, resulting in Clause 78 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 111 on Report, resulting in Clause 64 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 129 on Report, resulting in Clause 86 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill.—(Brandon Lewis.)

Question agreed to.

The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decisions of the Committees (Standing Order No. 83M(6)).

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decisions reported.

Third Reading

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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is customary on these occasions to thank all those involved in the consideration and scrutiny of the Bill in question. On this occasion, I would like to pay particular tribute to the Minister for Housing and Planning for having moved so elegantly that historic motion for the first time in this House. I also commend the Leader of the House of Commons for giving us the opportunity to carry out our consideration of the Bill in this way. Throughout our proceedings, the debate has been rich and vigorous from beginning to end. Those of us who were here last week for the first day of its Report stage will know that there was no let-up in the passion—or indeed the number—of the contributions, despite the lateness of the hour.

Before embarking on the traditional congratulations, however, I suggest to the whole House that a degree of humility would be in order on the part of us all. Housing and planning policy has been debated in this House and in the other place for decades, yet for decades this country has not built the number of new homes that we need, despite the improvements of recent years, including the 50% increase in new housing starts and the fact that planning permissions now stand at more than 200,000 a year. The last time we consistently built 200,000 homes a year was back in 1988.

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May I take the Secretary of State back to his comment about humility? Will he take this opportunity to apologise to council tenants for not informing them at the general election of the Conservatives’ intention to take away their secure tenancies and for introducing that measure only towards the end of the Bill’s Report stage? Council tenants were not given that information before they went to vote in the general election.

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Going back to 2010, the Prime Minister thought it was reasonable that when we were allocating homes and social tenancies, we should amend the idea that someone should inherit, without conditions, a tenancy. That business was notified as much as five years ago.

Evidence of the effects, over many Administrations, of not building the number of homes we have needed for many decades has been seen in the lives of those who could, should and want to be homeowners, but have been denied the opportunity that many of us have had. Those who say that we already build enough homes or that home ownership is not important would do well to remember that.

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I applaud the Secretary of State’s commitment to house building, to make sure that more of our constituents can be homeowners. I also applaud the Minister for Housing and Planning’s undertaking to look further at the quality of that house building in the response he made to my new clause 1 in the initial parts of our debate on Report.

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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in what she says, and she has made an important contribution to the proceedings. It is vital that we see an improvement in the quality of design of our housing stock. One feature of the last housing bubble that was experienced before the Government came into office was a dearth of new family homes. Instead, most of the increase in housing that came during that time was in the form of flats. That arose from the particular incentive structure in place, whereby units, rather than any suggestion of quality, were important. The points she made have been well noted; in fact, in some of the announcements the Prime Minister made in recent days we have stressed the importance, in regenerating our estates, of adhering to standards of the highest quality.

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It is no surprise to hear that the Secretary of State wants to move away from talking about council tenancies, because his treatment of them is a disgrace. He was not asked about inheriting succession rights; he was asked about security. Why can council tenants not continue, as happened under the Housing Act 1985, introduced by Margaret Thatcher, to have security in the same way that anybody else would want in their home? The situation is appalling. Why is he only building starter homes, which nobody can afford, in Old Oak in my constituency, instead of social homes, which people need and want?

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The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong, and if he looked at our housing plans, he would see that they include building 100,000 houses for affordable rent as well as 200,000 starter homes. It is right, and it is the mandate on which this Government were elected, to provide homes for people who aspire to own their own home, as well as for those who want to rent. One failure during recent years has been that people who wanted to own their own home, in the way that many Members of this House have, have been denied that opportunity.

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Does the Secretary of State agree that the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) is wrong not only because this Government are allowing the building of more affordable homes, but because this Bill provides for self-build and custom house building on a larger scale than ever before—and this can also include social housing for rent?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we need homes provided right across the country, of all the different types and tenures that our constituents and residents want. There has been a dearth of affordable homes for first-time buyers for an increasing number of years, which is why the commitment in our manifesto to provide starter homes for first-time buyers is such an important part of our platform, which we are implementing with this Bill.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that the most important single thing we can do is to get building, because it is only by supply outdoing demand that prices will come down, and that all the programmes we had in the Labour years, from key worker housing to all the rest of it, were band aids on a massive wound? It is building that we need. That is what will make housing more affordable and that is how we are going to deliver a true one nation Government.

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My hon. Friend is right to say that we need to get Britain building again, and we are doing so, with a 25% increase in starts in the past year. We need to do this right across the country. I would have thought that all Members of the House, including Labour Members, shared in the warm welcome given across the housing sector, including by housing associations and by builders big and small, to the announcements the Chancellor made in the spending review, which double the housing budget. This is the biggest programme of affordable house building that we have seen since the 1970s.

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Of course, what is affordable to the Secretary of State’s constituents might not be affordable to mine. Does he share my concerns that what we will see, as perhaps an unintended consequence of his measures, is the removal of properties from the social rented sector and their appearance in the private rented sector, costing more to the public purse in the long run?

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No, we want to see more homes of all types. We have committed to build 1 million homes over the next five years, which the previous Labour Government signally failed to do. In fact, when they were in power, the number of homes that were built in a single year fell to 88,000, which was the lowest number since the 1920s.

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At the weekend, the Prime Minister said on the “Andrew Marr Show” that he expected a million properties to move from the social rented sector to private ownership. The Secretary of State is talking about building a million properties. Where are the extra social rentals coming from? It seems that the Prime Minister is saying not only that there will not be any extra, but that there will actually be a reduced number of social rented properties. Does he not see that the maths do not add up?

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The reduction in social rented properties happened under the previous Labour Government, when the stock fell by 400,000. Our determination is to build more homes of all types, so that we can house the growing number of young people who want to own and rent homes of their own.

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On council houses, is not the real scandal that, in 13 years, the previous Labour Government failed to build the number of homes that we built in five?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As Housing Minister, he made a major contribution to the revival in house building that was necessary after the crash that took place under the previous Labour Government. We have seen, over the past five years, house building recover from the record lows of the previous decade, but, as this Bill makes clear, these are the first steps away from a much longer record over successive Parliaments. Indeed, the connection between supply, affordability and ownership is obvious to all, and yet for decades successive Parliaments and Governments failed to find a lasting solution not because they did nothing, but often because they failed to tackle the underlying issues.

In the previous Parliament, the Government’s focus was on recovery from the worst housing crash since the second world war, but in this Parliament, our focus has shifted from rescue to reform. Though wide-ranging in scope, the Bill does not represent the entirety of what needs to be done. As the Chancellor made clear in the autumn statement and as the Prime Minister said last week, the Government are committed to a comprehensive and ongoing programme of reform, addressing the whole of the problem and not just part of it. This Bill is of central importance to the overall strategy.

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I appreciate the Secretary of State kindly giving way. He talked about the previous Labour Government’s record, but could he explain why funding for affordable homes was slashed by 60% when his Government came to power in 2010?

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The record of the previous Government is very clear: we built more affordable homes, specifically more council houses, than the previous Labour Government did in 13 years, so we will take no lessons from the hon. Lady.

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Will the Secretary of State confirm at the Dispatch Box that, under this Bill, there is no block to foreign buyers purchasing council housing built for British people down the generations? As a result, we will see the sell-off to foreign investors of properties that were built for workers in this country.