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The Government are again in a mess with their legislation, thanks to the obduracy of the Secretary of State for the Environment—principally—and the people responsible for this abysmal piece of legislation.
Tonight, the House has to consider 62 pages of more than 270 amendments, mainly emanating from the Government. I make it clear that we are perfectly willing, indeed keen, to continue debating the issues. We know that Conservative Members do not want those issues to be the subject of proper scrutiny or debate, because they are deeply embarrassed about their consequences for millions of families throughout the country.
We know also that matters such as a change of landlord by rigged or gerrymandered voting systems are not among those that the Government want rigorously examined. We know that the Bill's implications and the housing action trust proposals will affect not only thousands of families but whole neighbourhoods and communities. We know also that those proposals have caused misery, distress and uncertainty among communities the length and breadth of the country, and will continue doing so if the Bill is left unamended.
The Secretary of State for the Environment is in the process of hanging a second major albatross around the Government's neck. First there was the poll tax, and now the Housing Bill. It is something of a surprise that the right hon. Gentleman has quit so early in the discussions. After all, it was his well-known boast in the Committee Corridor when this legislation was being considered concurrently with the poll tax Bill that the Housing Bill was more interesting, principally because, as he claimed, he was the author of it. I hope that the Secretary of State's right hon. and hon. Friends are thinking about the quagmire into which he is again leading them.
That is bad enough. What is worse is the Bill's terrible consequences for families in council and private tenancies whom it will affect. I can understand the Secretary of State being miffed about what has happened, but what is more surprising is his apparent belief—of which he was able to convince his right hon. and hon. Friends—that somehow these matters would slide quietly through the House and that we would not be asking serious and searching questions about them.
I have every confidence in my hon. Friends' ability to ask all the questions. I have been here almost all evening, and the questions have been asked but have not been answered. We shall go on asking those questions until we are given the answers.
The Government have not made their intentions clear, but we suspect that there is a guillotine lurking round the corner. It is my hope—and I trust that Conservative Members have the good grace to share it with me—that we shall not see the abandonment on Friday of the promised debate on housing and homelessness in response to the Select Committee on the Environment's second report.