Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:19 pm on 13th July 2012.

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Photo of Chris Williamson Chris Williamson Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 1:19 pm, 13th July 2012

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am bringing my remarks to a conclusion in any event. I am grateful to Sarah Newton for her intervention. I am sorry that she feels that I am striking a partisan note; all of us acknowledge, as she did in her intervention, that there is a much wider issue that needs to be addressed. I hope that we can get cross-party consensus on the importance of housing, and of ensuring that the Bill is just one of a number of measures that helps us to deal with the problems that confront far too many people in society.

We certainly welcome the Bill, but the Government must do better. Ministers should take steps to boost the number of new social homes, and abandon their proposals to abolish secure tenancies and to kick tenants out of their homes when they get a promotion or pay rise. They should make affordable housing genuinely affordable again, rather than proposing to link social housing rents to 80% of market rents. The problem with that proposal is that it will undermine the basis of the Bill; if rents are 80% of market rents, it will be a pyrrhic victory in some ways, because people moving into the dwellings will not be able to afford to go to work. We need to make work pay; that is an important goal, as all of us on both sides of the Chamber would agree.

We certainly welcome the general thrust of the Bill. I hope that the Government will support it, but go a lot further, and listen not just to Opposition Members but people right across the housing world. Our country faces a massive housing crisis. The Bill will act as a mere sticking plaster on the problem unless the Government step up to the plate, do better, ensure that we build the houses that people need, and ensure that the Bill has a much more meaningful impact on the availability of social housing in our society.