Orders of the Day — Rent (Relief from Phasing)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:37 pm on 4th February 1987.

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Photo of Mr Peter Bruinvels Mr Peter Bruinvels , Leicester East 10:37 pm, 4th February 1987

Speaking after the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Raynsford) is quite depressing, because of his jaundiced and snide remarks. These are good measures, and all the hon. Gentleman is seeking to do is deter potential landlords from offering shortholds. This scare and smear tactic is completely unacceptable to people who are desperately seeking accommodation in London and elsewhere and who have a real opportunity under these two measures, which are welcomed by those who want to work in London. The Labour party spends its whole time knocking the Government over the unemployment figures. My hon. Friend the Minister is making a positive contribution and Labour Members baulk at it.

The shortage of short-term rented accommodation is becoming almost a national crisis. Whether or not the problem is mainly in London, it has certainly affected the employment situation. We all know that shorthold has been possible since 28 November 1980, but because it has been so difficult to remove difficult tenants who do not pay their rent, many landlords have hesitated to put their houses out to rent.

It is a smear tactic to criticise the landlords. The majority of potential landlords are decent people. Some of them have large properties. As the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) said in his excellent speech, there are housing problems. I do not think that I am risking anything by saying that, if the hon. Gentleman ever wishes to join the Conservatives, we would welcome him, especially in considering housing matters.

We certainly need more private sector rented accommodation. The orders will ensure that more properties become available. I shall continue to express concern at the lateness of repairs on properties sometimes, but, nevertheless, the measures are welcome. Years ago, private sector rented accommodation was a growth industry. Only abuses and the failure to repair property led to things going wrong. Because tenants had security of tenure, many potential landlords were deterred from lettng property.

The shorthold requirements, giving a fixed term tenancy, whether for one year or five years, will encourage many potential landlords to come forward. It is unfair for the hon. Member for Fulham to rubbish the tenant protections in the orders. It is clear to all Conservative members that any tenant on a shorthold tenancy will be safe for the full period of the tenancy, provided that he does not break the conditions of the tenancy. That is a fair, just and equitable way of dealing with the housing shortage, especially in London.

The arrangements for shorthold tenancies make it possible, subject to the usual conditions, for the tenancy to be liable for renewal after the shorthold period ends. That is a good provision. Fair rents may still be registered for all shorthold property. I do not believe that the majority of landlords will abuse the system. Of course, I believe in a market economy. Rents obviously must be fair. I should think that the proposed fair rent charges will be agreed on both sides. A landlord will have the right to repossess at the end of the shorthold tenancy, and that must be welcome news. At least a future tenant will know that he can go to London or Leicester for a minimum of five years, provided he honours the conditions of the tenancy. That will mean labour mobility, which must mean good news for employers who want to take on extra staff and for potential landlords who can increase their reserves by letting out part of their property. It is a crying shame that many houses fall into disrepair because no extra funds are coming into the household. As my hon. Friend the Minister made clear, the ability of any tenant to claim housing benefit on higher rents will not be affected by these changes.

The orders are good news for the tenants who want to move to better jobs. They are good news for the employers. They will ensure that housing becomes available to all. They will ensure that the landlord and the tenant have rights. I hope that houses will be kept in good repair. On that basis, we should support the orders.