Localism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 17th January 2011.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 4:33 pm, 17th January 2011

Supply is important on all counts: supply in social housing, supply in rented housing, and, indeed, supply of affordable homes for people to buy. There is, however, absolutely nothing in this Bill about the private rented sector. In fact, in the name of protecting home owners-he referred to this earlier in departmental Question Time-the Secretary of State was all too keen to confer on private landlords with empty properties a general power to neglect for up to two years, rendering local councils powerless in the face of blight or antisocial behaviour. That is a dilution of local authority powers, as we enabled councils to take action after six months, and it was announced just three days before the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Stunell urged swift action to tackle empty homes, warning that empty properties attract squatters, vandalism and antisocial behaviour. The Minister even went to Oldham on a visit related to the policy, for which he had to apologise. It did not do the Liberal Democrat candidate much good. What we have here, therefore, is a chaotic policy and a hapless presentation, and it would be comic if the results were not so devastating.

The Secretary of State knows that I support sensible reform of social housing, but it must be reform that encourages employment, supports families and helps to create strong communities where people feel safe. Simply abolishing secure tenancies and kicking new tenants out of their homes when they get a promotion or a pay rise would just create fear and uncertainty. It would disrupt family life, and it could provide a disincentive to work. We on this side of the House could never support reforms that put a break on aspiration