Private Rented Sector

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:07 pm on 25th June 2014.

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Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 1:07 pm, 25th June 2014

I do not accept anything that the hon. Gentleman says, but then I never do. The fact is that the interests of his constituents who are tenants are best served by having more investment coming in, to produce rental property of a higher quality supplied by professional companies that they then will be able to access.

We have to ask ourselves why the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East has come to the House with this policy today. The first reason is that her boss, the Leader of the Opposition, wants to be seen as the man who will stand up to business and impose his will on the unruly forces of the market. He is not much interested in housing, and, lucky fellow that he is, it is a very long time since he needed to find a flat to rent, so he does not much care if the policy will work; he just wants a policy that will beef up his brand as the scourge of British business, and on that at least he has definitely succeeded.

The other reason lies deep in the DNA of the Labour movement. It is addicted to compulsion and control. From Douglas Jay, who thought that the gentleman in Whitehall knows best, to Nye Bevan, who wanted to know if a bedpan dropped in a ward in Tredegar, to Ed Miliband, who wants to decide how much rent should be charged on every property in the country in three years’ time, the instinct is the same: to make people do the things they want them do in the way they want them to do it. So they ignored the fact that, without Government intervention, average tenancy lengths have increased by 6% to reach an average of more than 21 months—without Government legislation. They block their ears to the majority of young people—still a very important group of tenants—who say that they value the flexibility of existing tenancies and do not want to be bound up in a three-year agreement. They draw a veil over the awkward truth that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East claimed was helping her to devise a benchmark for her rent controls, is doing no such thing and opposes the policy.

Last year, the Communities and Local Government Committee, chaired by the ever-wise hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), who is unfortunately not with us today, conducted a review into the private rented sector. It concluded that it did not

“support rent control which would serve only to reduce investment in the sector at a time when it is most needed. We agree that the most effective way to make rents more affordable would be to increase supply, particularly in those areas where demand is highest.”

Perhaps the Chair of the Select Committee is not in the House today because he did not want to face the embarrassment of disagreeing so intensely with his own party’s Front Benchers. The approach that the Committee suggests is the right one.