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I may have been a Member of this House only since May, but even to an untrained eye it is clear that there is no better example of how not to legislate than the Bill in front of us today. It ignores the data gathered from the pilot project in the west midlands. It creates new enforcement powers when previous powers from the Immigration Act 1971 are seldom used, and it shifts the responsibilities of the understaffed immigration officers on to untrained and unaccountable private individuals.
The Bill represents a disproportionate infringement on the rights of individuals, with only a limited relationship between the legislation and its policy objectives. It is of little benefit to the common good; it is, in short, a shambles.
Restrictions on time allow me to focus on only one area, so I want to look at housing. The assessment of the pilot project in the west midlands by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants should act as a massive, shining red light on what is obviously a faulty policy. It identified clear problems with the so-called “right to rent” approach, none of which has yet been addressed by the Government. It also shines a light on the shameful failure of the Government to publish their own assessment of the pilot. They said yesterday that they would publish it before the Committee stage; they should have published it before today. As a member of that Committee, I want an assurance that it will be published in time for me to be able to assess it—in other words, in time for me to be able to do my job properly.
Despite the Government’s codes of practice, which they assured us would stop any discrimination, it is clear from the joint council’s report that there was an increase in discrimination in those areas in which the pilot was undertaken. Some 42% of landlords said that they were less likely to consider those without a British passport and 65% of landlords said that they were less likely to consider tenants who could not provide documents immediately.
The Government are creating a culture of fear. Although landlords do not wish to discriminate, the Residential Landlords Association said:
“Whilst the Residential Landlords Association condemns all acts of racism”— as it should—
“the threat of sanctions will inevitably lead many landlords to err on the side of caution and not rent to anyone whose nationality cannot be easily proved.”
Clearly, it is fearful that this Bill will force landlords to act in a way that could be racist. What it is also clearly saying is that it does not want to do that, but the fear of being criminalised or even jailed may leave landlords with no other choice. The Government need to listen to their concerns, and if this legislation is not defeated—