I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. As he knows, the landlord would have to serve a schedule of conditions relating to the new tenancy. As a practising solicitor, the hon. Gentleman will know that winkling is illegal. Furthermore, no existing regulated tenancy will be converted to a shorthold tenancy. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will confirm that categorically.
It is a long time since we heard the constructive words of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby). I shall re-emphasise what he said by quoting from the editorial of The Times of two days ago. It reads:
It is clear that there are hundreds of thousands of dwellings which are kept empty, or sold for owner-occupation once vacant, because the owner finds no incentive to let under present law. Equally clearly, there are many people seeking homes—students, transient workers, young families not yet ready to settle down permanently—whose needs are not efficiently met either by the private market or by council housing, cumbersome as it is in its allocation procedures. That much can be accepted by all but the most hidebound opponents of private renting … Both sides … look charitably on the efforts of their opponents to do the same.
I regret that the Opposition cannot look charitably on the bold and brave initiatives that the Government have taken in order to bring a breath of fresh air into the housing market. Over a period, the Government anticipate that the housing crisis will be eliminated. In January the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley)
gave an interview to the Local Government Chronicle. He categorically stated that if and when the Labour Party returned to power it would—without any hesitation or doubt—repeal the shorthold provisions. The right hon. Gentleman will live to regret that undertaking. In four years, barely the period of one short-hold, many of the electorate will suggest that if they cast their votes in favour of the Labour Party they may become homeless overnight—I regret that Opposition Members are laughing. Homelessness is no laughing matter.