Orders of the Day — Homes Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:43 pm on 8th January 2001.

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Photo of Liz Blackman Liz Blackman Labour, Erewash 7:43 pm, 8th January 2001

Yes, I am concerned about the current lack of an appeal process. I should be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that.

I understand that there are concerns about what is not in the Bill. Families suffering from domestic violence are covered by other provisions, but racial abuse and violence are not dealt with in any measure. I should like to hear the Minister's response on that. How will housing need be secured after a stock transfer? Housing authorities should continue to play a strategic role. I draw the Minister's attention to clause 4 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, which seems to take a more robust approach to that issue. I should like to hear his response to that provision and to know whether he is prepared to proceed further on that matter.

Accommodation during a review period is another issue that concerns me. At present, local authorities have powers to offer accommodation but frequently do not do so. It is often very off-putting that someone who is going through the review process and who is homeless and vulnerable has to take the process further because they do not have a secure home Further provisions to cover that point could be added to the Bill.

Like other hon. Members, I wish to flag up the issue of the suitability of accommodation for homeless people in priority need. Such accommodation is often below standard, so I call for a licensing system for houses in multiple occupation to be introduced as soon as is practicable. I understand that parliamentary time is an issue, but such a system would shore up the alternatives that we offer to some people.

I know that my hon. Friend the Minister mentioned this point, but I would like the code of guidance to be strengthened. Under current legislation, local authorities have a duty to have regard to that guidance, but that duty is weak. More teeth should be given to the guidance to ensure that local authorities comply with the Bill's most important aspects and meet its policy intentions.

I hope that my speech has not appeared niggardly; it was not intended to be so. I shall be very proud to walk through the Lobby tonight to vote for a Bill about which Chris Holmes was able to make such profound comments. However, when the Bill completes its passage through the House, I hope that it will be as good as we can get it. I also hope that, in less than a generation, homelessness will be, if not eradicated, greatly diminished and that the processes and procedures that are in place will be able to tackle it much better than they have done in the past.