Schedule 6 — Financial penalty as alternative to prosecution under Housing Act 2004

Housing and Planning Bill — [2nd Allocated Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:03 pm on 12th January 2016.

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Amendments made: 27, page 103, line 30, leave out paragraphs 2 to 5 and insert—

“2 In section 30 (offence of failing to comply with improvement notice), after subsection (6) insert—

(7) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(8) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

3 In section 72 (offences in relation to licensing of HMOs), after subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(7B) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

4 In section 95 (offences in relation to licensing of houses under Part 3), after subsection (6) insert—

“(6A) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(6B) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5 In section 139 (overcrowding notices), after subsection (9) insert—

“(10) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(11) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5A In section 234 (management regulations in respect of HMOs), after subsection (5) insert—

“(6) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(7) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5B After section 249 insert—“

Financial penalties as an alternative to prosecution

249A Financial penalties for certain housing offences in England

‘(1) The local housing authority may impose a financial penalty on a person if satisfied that the person’s conduct amounts to a relevant housing offence in respect of premises in England.

(2) In this section “relevant housing offence” means an offence under—

(a) section 30 (failure to comply with improvement notice),

(b) section 72 (licensing of HMOs),

(c) section 95 (licensing of houses under Part 3),

(d) section 139(7) (failure to comply with overcrowding notice), or

(e) section 234 (management regulations in respect of HMOs).

(3) Only one financial penalty under this section may be imposed on a person in respect of the same conduct.

(4) The amount of a financial penalty imposed under this section is to be determined by the local housing authority, but must not be more than £30,000.

(5) The local housing authority may not impose a financial penalty in respect of any conduct amounting to a relevant housing offence if—

(a) the person has been convicted of the offence in respect of that conduct, or

(b) criminal proceedings for the offence have been instituted against the person in respect of the conduct and the proceedings have not been concluded.

(6) Schedule 13A deals with—

(a) the procedure for imposing financial penalties,

(b) appeals against financial penalties,

(c) enforcement of financial penalties, and

(d) guidance in respect of financial penalties.

(7) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about how local housing authorities are to deal with financial penalties recovered.

(8) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend the amount specified in subsection (4) to reflect changes in the value of money.

(9) For the purposes of this section a person’s conduct includes a failure to act.””

This amendment has two substantive effects as well as making certain drafting changes. The substantive effects are that: (1) an offence under section 234 of the Housing Act 2004 is added to the list of offences in respect of which a financial penalty may be imposed; (2) the maximum financial penalties available are increased.

Amendment 28, page 107, line 2, leave out “2A” and insert “13A”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

Amendment 29, page 107, line 6, leave out “30A, 72A, 95A or 144A” and insert “249A”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

Amendment 30, page 109, line 13, leave out “30A, 72A, 95A or 144A” and insert “249A” —(Mr Marcus Jones.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons

Consideration completed. I will now suspend the House for about five minutes in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung two minutes before the House resumes. Following my certification, the Government will be tabling the appropriate consent motions, copies of which will be available shortly in the Vote Office and will be distributed by Doorkeepers.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons

I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order, and that I have made no change to the provisional certificate issued yesterday evening. Copies of my final certificate will be made available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website.

Under Standing Order No. 83M, consent motions are therefore required for the Bill to proceed. Copies of the motions are available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website, and they have been made available to Members in the Chamber. Does the Minister intend to move the consent motions?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons

I am always happy to hear the Minister’s voice, but a nod suffices for the purpose.

Under Standing Order No. 83M(4), the House must forthwith resolve itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) and thereafter into the Legislative Grand Committee (England).

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) (Standing Order No. 83M).

[Mrs Eleanor Laing in the Chair]

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means 5:13 pm, 12th January 2016

There will now be a joint debate on the consent motion for England and Wales and the consent motion for England. I remind hon. Members that, although all Members may speak in the debate, if there are Divisions, only Members representing constituencies in England and Wales may vote on the consent motion for England and Wales, and only Members representing constituencies in England may vote on the consent motion for England.

I call the Minister to move the consent motion for England and Wales, and I remind the Minister that, under Standing Order No. 83M(4), on moving the consent motion for England and Wales, he must also inform the Committee of the terms of the consent motion for England.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

I beg to move,

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and Wales and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 97, 98 and 120 to 150 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 7 and 10 to 15 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England and Wales

Amendments 180 and 181 made in Committee to Clause 71 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 76 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108);

Amendments 127 and 128 made in Committee to Clause 85 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 92 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108).

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

With this we shall consider the consent motion to be moved in the Legislative Grand Committee (England):

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 1 to 63, 65 to 77, 79 to 81, 83 to 85, 87 to 95 and 99 to 119 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 1 to 6, 8 and 9 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

New Clauses NC6, NC7, NC29 to NC31, NC35, NC37, NC43 to NC46, NC59, NC60 and NC62 on Report;

New Schedules NS1, NS4 and NS5 on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England

The omission in Committee of Clauses 35 and 36 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75);

Amendment 4 on Report, resulting in Clause 78 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 111 on Report, resulting in Clause 64 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 129 on Report, resulting in Clause 86 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

The importance of what we are doing in the Chamber today is shown by the fact that so many of my hon. Friends are here to see us delivering on a manifesto pledge. I am just sorry that Labour Members do not think it is so important to do what is right for our country and its constitution.

As you have outlined, Mrs Laing, I am also required under Standing Orders to inform the Committee that I intend to move a further consent motion relating to England at the end of this debate. I will, however, address both consent motions now.

I draw the Committee’s attention to my written ministerial statement of 7 January, which informed the House that I had placed in the Library my Department’s analysis on the application of Standing Order No. 83L in respect of Government amendments tabled on Report.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Independent, North Down

Since so many of the clauses in the Bill have been designated as applying exclusively to England or, indeed, to England and Wales, will the Minister help the House—particularly Members who are excluded from the vote on the consent motion, if there is one—by stating what evidence he has that not a single person from Northern Ireland is a landlord in England and Wales and therefore that there is no particular Northern Ireland interest in the Bill?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

I will come on to that specific point in a few moments. I would, however, point out that the hon. Lady and other hon. Members were able to speak on Second Reading and on Report both last Tuesday—through to the early hours—and this afternoon, and that we touched on that very point.

I want to thank Mr Speaker for his careful consideration and certification of the Bill. I also pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House and of members of the Procedure Committee for getting us to this historic inaugural Legislative Grand Committee. I want to put on the record my thanks to the Clerks of the House for their, as ever, excellent service and advice to Mr Speaker and to my Department.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Many Conservative Members welcome some modest justice for England at last. We welcome the fact that at a time when Scotland is being given so many powers of self-government, we now have a small voice and a vote. May I encourage the Minister to go further and make sure that we have justice over money and over law making for England in order to have a happy Union?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

As ever, my right hon. Friend tempts me to go just a little beyond the Housing and Planning Bill, but I understand his point.

As we all know, the history of this House goes before us, so it is quite rare to see a true first. I am very proud to be the first Minister to stand at the Dispatch Box to address the very first Legislative Grand Committees for England and Wales and for England only.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House noted when he opened the debate on Standing Order No. 83L back in October, the process we will now follow has created

“fairer Parliaments and fairer Assemblies”,

giving, as my right hon. Friend John Redwood has just mentioned,

“the English a strong voice on English matters without…excluding MPs from other parts of the United Kingdom from participation in this House.” —[Hansard, 22 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 1175.]

The purpose of the Legislative Grand Committee is to allow English and Welsh MPs either to consent to or to veto the clauses of and the amendments made to the Bill. I will not detail the territorial extent of each clause and amendment, but I again draw right hon. and hon. Members’ attention to my written ministerial statement of 7 January.

When we discussed the principle of English votes for English laws in the House, we heard fears that it would or could create a class system within the Chamber. As the first Minister to lead a Bill through this process, I am happy to report that that has not been my experience. The debates in the Public Bill Committee and on Report clearly demonstrate that the majority of Members of Parliament support the measures in the Bill. For example, although we did not have the pleasure of their company in the Public Bill Committee, the hon. Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) and for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) ensured that constituents in Scotland were represented during our debate both on Second Reading and on Report. As well as the hon. Lady’s questions about the territorial extent of our new duty on public sector organisations to dispose of land, we have also discussed the implications of landlords or housing associations who may have properties in the devolved Administrations, as well as in England.

My Department is responsible for local authorities, communities and housing associations in England. In many ways, we are the Department for England. It is therefore fitting that the majority of the clauses in Mr Speaker’s certification before this very first Committee relate to England only. However, thanks to Members on both sides of the Chamber, I am satisfied that the House has considered the Bill’s implications for the whole of our United Kingdom.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

My hon. Friend has pointed out that the Bill relates to England only. May I put it on the record that it is absolutely right that only English MPs should vote for it? As one of those who will be excluded, I applaud the English MPs who have decided that their constituents should not have their legislation affected by people coming from Wales, Scotland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

My hon. Friend makes a good point that relates to the consent motion on English-only matters. Obviously, some parts of the Bill cover Wales as well and we will deal with those separately this afternoon.

My noble Friend Baroness Williams of Trafford will continue to ensure that any cross border issues are carefully considered in the other place.

This is an historic Bill in many ways. It will put homeownership within the grasp of generations that have only dreamed for many years that it could be possible. It will deliver a planning system that is the envy of the world. It will get Britain building again. By being the first Bill to go through this procedure, it goes further. I am proud of the steps that this elected Government are taking through this legislation to deliver our manifesto commitments.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the removal of secure tenancies from council tenants was not in the Conservative manifesto and that the Government have no mandate to introduce that abolition? Council tenants were not warned by the Conservatives that they would impose this on them.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

We had that debate in Committee and earlier today on Report. The hon. Gentleman should look carefully at the Bill because it does deliver our manifesto commitments. It will deliver homeownership to a whole new generation of people by bringing forward starter homes and it will extend homeownership to 1.3 million people who have been locked out of it. His party has fought to prevent both proposals at every opportunity, and disgracefully so.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

I will not take any more interventions on the Bill. This is about English votes for English laws.

I am proud of the steps the Government have taken to bring fairness to the devolution settlement. In that spirit, I ask this inaugural Legislative Grand Committee to consent to the certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and the certified amendments made by the House to the Bill.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I am grateful, Mrs Laing.

So, this is what an English Parliament looks like. It looks pretty much like the unitary UK Parliament to me. This is a remarkable day. It is worth noting how significant and historic this is. For the first time in the history of this House and this Parliament, Members of Parliament will be banned from participating in Divisions of this House, based on nationality and the geographic location of their constituencies.

Photo of Alberto Costa Alberto Costa Conservative, South Leicestershire

The hon. Gentleman’s constituents in Perth and North Perthshire, who may well have voted for him, surely see this as a very fair motion to safeguard the United Kingdom by having a fair devolution settlement.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

The hon. Gentleman tempts me. I will say a couple of things to him. First, I was elected on the same basis as him. My constituents expect me to participate in all debates and all legislation in this House. I am now denied that opportunity. Secondly, if he thinks that going down such a route as this, whereby Scottish Members of Parliament are banned from voting on certain issues that are considered English only, will save his Union, he has another think coming. Nothing has infuriated the Scottish people more than the measures on English votes for English laws.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

If the hon. Gentleman is such a passionate believer in us settling everything together, why am I not even allowed to express a view, let alone vote, on local government, health and education in his constituency?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

The right hon. Gentleman just does not understand, so I will try to explain it to him patiently once again. We live in the United Kingdom. There is asymmetric devolution within the United Kingdom. We have a Parliament in Scotland that determines and decides the very issues—[Interruption.]

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The hon. Gentleman is a Member of this House and has a right to be heard. He will be heard.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I did not know whether I was a Member of this House or an international observer, but I will take the initial one as your favour—thank you, Mrs Laing.

Let me say to John Redwood that we have a Parliament in Scotland that determines and decides on these matters—he is right; we do that in Scotland. We do those things in this House too, but what he wants, and what has been created today, is a quasi-English Parliament within the confines of the unitary Parliament of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. That is the nub of the issue, and that is why this first meeting today is so significant and remarkable.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South

May I remind the hon. Gentleman that what we have before us is a consent mechanism for Members from England, or England and Wales, to agree to measures that apply only to us? On Third Reading, if the hon. Gentleman fundamentally disagrees with something in the Bill, he will have a vote to vote against it.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman what it feels like to us. What it feels like to me, and to my right hon. and hon. Friends, is that we are on the wrong side of a banishment and a bar that denies us our right as legitimately elected Members of Parliament from participating fully in the House today. That is what is being done; that is the key point, which people still fail to grasp. What has been done with this Legislative Grand Committee is the creation of two types of Member of Parliament of this House. That is the issue that we object to and find so difficult.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

While Conservative Members find their handkerchiefs to mop their tears, will the hon. Gentleman say why, if he and his party feel so passionately about this Bill, there were no votes from SNP Members on Second Reading or Report?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

We have no great interest in this Bill. [Interruption.] I do not know why that comes as a surprise to the hon. Gentleman. Let me say it again, in case he missed it: we have no great interest in this Bill. He is right to say that we did not vote on Second Reading or any of the proceedings that we were allowed to participate in, because we respect the right of English Members of Parliament to determine issues on that basis—of course that is their right.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I am not giving way again—I am answering the hon. Gentleman’s point.

That is why we took no interest and stayed away on those Divisions. However, the creation of this Legislative Grand Committee—again, I am astounded that Conservative Members do not understand this—has created two classes of Members of Parliament of this House. One class is able to participate in every Division in this House, as we are about to see, while other Members of Parliament, such as my hon. Friends on the Benches behind me, are not able to participate in all parts of the legislation. That is what hon. Members have done.

Several hon. Members rose

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

Far too many Members wish to intervene, so I will say no to them all.

Even if I wanted a say in this Bill, I would be barred from doing so. I am not allowed to vote on this. I am not even allowed to call a Division, and if I attempted to do so, you would quite rightly rule me out of order, Mrs Laing, according to the standards of the House. If I were to vote in the Division I have no idea what would happen. I presume that the Serjeant at Arms would come chasing after me with his little sword, telling me that I cannot participate in this vote, and he would chase me out. That is what he should do; that is what his job would be.

Photo of Sarah Wollaston Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 5:30 pm, 12th January 2016

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He will know I have a great deal of respect for him. He talks about how this feels for him and his colleagues. How it feels for my constituents in south Devon is that an historic injustice has been righted. I put it to him that they feel they have been under-represented, and that we care about our constituents in this House, not ourselves.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

Here is something for the hon. Lady, for whom I have a great deal of respect, to consider: how about if we all retain equality in the House of Commons? How about we retain the same rights and privileges, just like we did just a few short weeks ago? The hon. Lady and all her hon. Friends obviously feel very strongly about this. I understand the passion of English Members of Parliament on this issue. How about they create a Parliament? How about designing a Parliament in their own image, where they can look after these issues like we do in the Scottish Parliament? Why do not they not have a Parliament, one that does not necessarily sit in this House but in one of the other great cities throughout the United Kingdom, where democracy could be seen in action? How about that as a solution? We could then come back together to this House as equal Members and consider the great reserved issues of foreign affairs, defence and international relations. That is how most other nations do it. It is called federalism and it seems to work quite adequately in most other nations.

What Conservative Members have done today is create this absolute mess—a bourach guddle. Nobody even understands how it works! We have just rung the Division bells to suspend proceedings, so that the Speaker can scurry off and consult the Clerks to decide whether it is necessary to recertify certain pieces of proposed legislation. This is what has happened to the business of this great Parliament. This is what we have resorted to today.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative, North East Somerset

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I think he has actually got it fundamentally wrong. Two tiers of Members of Parliament have not been created by the mechanism that has been used. By using Standing Orders, which can be changed by all Members of Parliament, and by this being a Grand Committee—we see where the Mace is—and not the House sitting in full session, the rights of every individual Member remain intact. That is crucially important.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

In all candour, I have to say that that is not what it feels like on this side of the House. If a Division is called, the hon. Gentleman will be able to vote and express his view as a legitimately elected Member of Parliament. My hon. Friends and I, as equally legitimate Members of Parliament recently elected at the general election, will not be allowed to vote. We will be banned. We will be barred. We will be effectively banished from that process.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

Does the hon. Gentleman really expect taxpayers to pay for another Parliament just because his feelings are somehow being assaulted? I do not how he could explain that extra layer of bureaucracy and cost to the British taxpayer, but maybe spending other people’s money is how they like to do things in Scotland.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I do not know whether I am grateful or not to the hon. Lady for her intervention. I think she is saying that she wants great dollops of cake so she can spend her time eating it and having a singularly English Parliament. Let us just use the House of Commons to accommodate that. The thing that has been created here is a quasi-English Parliament, but his Parliament belongs to me as much as to her. It belongs to the Scottish people as much as to the English people. What has happened today with the Legislative Grand Committee is that she will be able to represent her constituents in all Divisions, but my hon. Friends and I will not.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

I think what the House will take from the hon. Gentleman’s animated, passionate and, as ever, fluent speech is the fact that he is furious about a typically British evolution in the system of government that blocks his most devout desire, which is, of course, separation for Scotland.

This system makes it fair in England. It deals with that grievance and means that his hope for independence disappears. That is why he is so angry.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

As with so many things, the hon. Gentleman is half right. This has been noted in Scotland. A lot of people are observing this and seeing this Parliament becoming, in effect, an English Parliament. They are seeing the voices of their Members of Parliament, so recently elected, diminished in this House. They will not be able to speak or vote in particular circumstances.

Throughout the debate on EVEL, the Leader of the House gave the impression that these votes would be subject to a double majority—that the whole House would express its will and then there would be a vote for English Members, which would effectively be their veto—but that has not happened. Instead, there has been a banishment. That is the brutal reality of EVEL. This is what happens when we start mucking about with the Standing Orders and our membership arrangements. We are left with some Members who can do anything—participate and vote on any issue—and others who cannot. It is totally unsatisfactory. We have wasted God knows how much time discussing these issues today. It has made such a mess of parliamentary proceedings and added extra elements to the functions of an already hard-working House when considering Bills. It is a total mess.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot

The hon. Gentleman has already told the House that the Scottish nationalist party—[Hon. Members: “National!”]—that the Scottish National party has no interest in this measure, which in no way applies to Scotland, and therefore will not vote on it. What is his problem? SNP Members have every right to speak, and we have addressed an injustice. For years, Conservative Members felt like second-class citizens, unable to vote on health and education matters in Scotland, while they have been able to vote on matters solely to do with England. Would the SNP have voted on the measure to bring hunting regulations in England and Wales into line with those in Scotland?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I say this in all candour to the hon. Gentleman, whom I very much respect: we hear much from our English colleagues about their deeply held views on EVEL. He is a fine exponent of this perceived injustice: “How dare these Scots oppress English Members”—they only make up about 85% of the House!—“by coming down here and stealing our votes and having a say in our legislation?” With this Conservative majority, 88%, I think, of the House is English-only, yet we are the reason they cannot get their way. It is a ridiculous argument.

I do not want to take up any more time—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I can if Members would like—but we will return to these issues in the future. This is not concluded. I have heard several English Members say they are doing this to save the Union. I add a word of caution to my friends representing English constituencies: in establishing this Committee and pursuing the issue in this way, they are driving Scotland out of the door. That is how it is seen in Scotland. During the referendum campaign, as you will remember Madam Deputy Speaker, we were told: “Stay with us, Scotland. Scotland, we love you.” But the minute we park our backsides on these green Benches, we are diminished in status and not allowed a say in all matters.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

As someone proud to represent an English constituency, I feel—I do not know if my Labour colleagues feel the same—that the Tories are making precisely the same mistake as their predecessors did over Ireland. The way to proceed is for Scottish and Welsh Members to show self-restraint in deciding whether to vote on an issue. To have first and second-class Members does a disservice to the Union. I deplore what is being done.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I knew his would be one of the quality interventions of the debate. He is absolutely right. The only thing I would say to him is this: where on earth is his Front-Bench team? They are not even prepared to make a speech or statement. Why are they not participating? Labour Members used to be stalwarts of this debate. I remember when we had 50-odd Labour Members for Scotland. They would have been making a fuss and standing up for Scotland’s interests, yet today there is absolute silence from the Labour Benches.

Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

I am delighted the hon. Gentleman has given way, because no SNP Members have participated in the Bill proceedings. We agree that this process is a complete charade, but while I was voting at 2.45 am last week on behalf of my constituents, he was in his bed.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

Maybe. It is with great fascination that we hear from the one and only Scottish Labour Member of Parliament. Perhaps the reason why the hon. Gentleman is in such a diminished position is the Labour party’s silence on these issues. The fact that Labour Members have ignored them all the way through speaks volumes about the attitude of the Labour party. I do not know whether it is due to the particular chaos it is going through, but we need to hear from Labour Members to find out their view about what has happened.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cities)

Speaking as someone who was here in the wee small hours, I can say that Labour Members were notable for their absence, being far too busy clawing their own eyes out at the time. It is a bit of a cheek for them to seek to lecture us here.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding us that that was the night of the long reshuffle, so I suppose we should be grateful that any Labour Members were there. I do not wish to take up any more time.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Independent, North Down

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. Since the Front Benchers have boasted—and it was a boast—that this is an historic occasion, it would help if the occasion was not flawed. To take but one example, new clause 62 is designated as applying exclusively to England. Will the Minister quickly turn to it before we proceed in order to establish whether it applies only to England, because given that it appears in the new clause, I think the word “Wales” applies to it?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

The hon. Lady has made a creative intervention to put her point directly to the Minister, and I think it deserves a response. All I can say to her from the SNP perspective is that we are going to see lots more issues like that. Confining the EVEL rulings to a Grand Committee means that no consequential issues can be considered by the Speaker in making his certifications. That means that many massive issues will impact on my constituents down the line, but I will not be able to represent them in those matters.

If Conservative Members think they have won and believe that this will not have anything other than a totally detrimental impact on the fortunes of the Conservative party in Scotland, they need to have another think about it. This is unworkable; this is ungovernable; this is a mess; this is unfair. This creates two classes of Members in this House, which is totally unacceptable to my hon. Friends and the Scottish National party.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I rise to thank Ministers for taking England on its first step on the journey to justice and fairness for our country. Having participated in recent Parliaments and seen very large powers transferred to Scotland for self-government in accordance with the wishes of many Scottish people and their now vocal representatives from the SNP, I would have thought that on this day of all days it was time for Scotland to say, “We welcome some justice for England to create a happier Union, just as we have fought so strongly for so long for more independence for Scotland.” I hope that SNP Members will reconsider and understand that just as in a happy Union, where there are substantial devolved powers of self-government for Scotland that they have chosen to exercise through an independent Parliament, so there needs to be some independent right of voice, vote and judgment for the people of England, which we choose to do through the United Kingdom Parliament because we think we can do both jobs and do not wish to burden people with more expense and more bureaucracy.

On this day of all days, when Labour has been reduced to a party of England and Wales, having been almost eliminated from Scotland in this Parliament, I would have thought that the Front-Bench—[Interruption.] Our party is speaking for England. The point I am making is that now that the Labour party represents parts of England and Wales but has so little representation in Scotland, it behoves Labour Members to listen to their English voters and to understand that although they might not want justice for England, their voters do want it and are fully behind what this Government are doing.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that he has done for many years in championing the need for EVEL to be introduced. Does he agree that, given that they completely failed to persuade the Scottish people to end the Union, the greatest hope of the nationalists was that such would be the grievance and resentment in England that Scotland could be pushed out? Does he agree that this modest step is a way of alleviating that grievance, and that that is why Pete Wishart was quite so angry?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 5:45 pm, 12th January 2016

I entirely agree. We need fairness for England, in respect of the new financial settlement as well as our legislative procedures, but the way to preserve and develop the Union is to show that it is fair to all parts. I am sure that that will mean greater powers of independence for Scotland than we will gain for England, but we cannot ignore England. England deserves a voice, England deserves its votes, and England deserves, at the very least, the right to veto proposals that do not suit England but only affect England. I think that we shall need fair finances as well, because otherwise the English people will not be as happy with their Union as we should like them to be.

I hope that today is a day on which to advance the cause of the Union rather than to damage it. I hope that it is a day on which other Scots will welcome this small step on the road to justice for England, and will see that it helps them as well as us. What is wrong with England having a voice, its own political views, and some of its own political decision-making, in a Union in which Scotland took a great deal of that following the general election? In that election, all the main parties fought on the united proposition that there should be more rights to self-government for Scotland, but my party wisely said that that meant that there had to be some justice for England too. This is a small step towards that justice, and I hope the House will welcome it and not oppose it.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

We had intended simply to leave the Government to deal with the mess of their own making in this debate; and this debate is about the Housing and Planning Bill. With respect to John Redwood, it is not about the Union, or about justice for a part of the Union. This is, quite simply, a motion and a debate about the Housing and Planning Bill.

The rather ridiculous proceedings that we have seen this afternoon, and the over-excitement, underline the flaws in rushing reform of the House without proper consideration, without proper consultation and without proper cross-party agreement. We want, and recognise the need for, a stronger voice for England in this Parliament, but we have always said “a voice, not a veto”, and this Legislative Grand Committee constitutes a veto simply for those Members who are eligible. That should not be happening in this way, in a unified Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

The hon. Gentleman appears to have neglected the apposite point that was made by my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg and reiterated throughout the Procedure Committee’s discussion of this proposal, namely that it meant a change in Standing Orders on an almost “suck it and see” basis, so that we could see how it would work out. The great totemic change in the rules of the House that is supposed to have taken place does not exist, in statute or anywhere else. If we need to tweak this, we can, because it is only a change in Standing Orders.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

Standing Orders can always be altered, particularly by Governments, but by doing it unilaterally the Government have, on this occasion, created an extremely unsatisfactory procedure, as this afternoon’s debates have amply demonstrated.

Let me say something to the Scottish nationalists. I have not seen, none of my colleagues have seen, and the House has not seen them present in such numbers in debates on the Housing and Planning Bill, and at no stage—not on Second Reading, in Committee or on Report—have we seen them vote on the Bill. Pete Wishart said this afternoon, “We have little interest in this Bill”, and he was right, because so little of the Bill concerns Scotland. He and his party would do much better to concentrate on his own poor record in government, and on improving what the SNP Government are doing about housing in Scotland. There are 150,000 people on the council house waiting list in Scotland and there is the lowest level of house building in Scotland since 1947. This debate—these proceedings—is simply preventing us from getting on with the proper job of holding this Government to task on the Housing and Planning Bill in this Chamber, and I hope we can move on to Third Reading without any further delay.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

I remind hon. Members—although I do not think hon. Members really need to be reminded—that if there is a Division on the consent motion for England and Wales, only Members representing constituencies in England and Wales may vote. This extends to expressing an opinion by calling out Aye or No when the Question is put or acting as a Teller—I know Pete Wishart knows that I recognise a Scottish voice when I hear one.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and Wales and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 97, 98 and 120 to 150 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 7 and 10 to 15 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England and Wales

Amendments 180 and 181 made in Committee to Clause 71 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 76 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108);

Amendments 127 and 128 made in Committee to Clause 85 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 92 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108).

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Independent, North Down

On a point of order, Madam Chairman. On a serious point of order, I am very conflicted because I do not want in any way to be critical of the Speaker and his certification, but the Speaker clearly today confirmed his provisional certification and that included reference to new clause 62 as being exclusively applicable to England. New clause 62 applies to both England and Wales. What could the Deputy Chairman advise when a certification by the Speaker—for whom I have enormous regard—appears to be flawed?

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

The hon. Lady makes a perfectly reasonable point, and it is important that we consider points of order because this is a new procedure and the Procedure Committee has assured the House that it will be looking at the procedure and how it works in practice.

What I can say to the hon. Lady is that Mr Speaker did make available in the Vote Office, and in other ways, several days ago his provisional decision on this matter, and there have been several days during which the hon. Lady, and indeed any other hon. Member, had an opportunity to make representations to Mr Speaker exactly along the lines that she has just done. Perhaps if this happens in future and the hon. Lady has similar concerns, she will have ample opportunity to take those concerns up with Mr Speaker before we get to this point in the proceedings.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Independent, North Down

Further to that point of order, Madam Chairman. I do apologise for not bringing this to the Speaker’s attention earlier, but I am bringing it to the House’s attention today. I would hate to think there might be any consequences because flawed procedure has been followed in this case. It is a very important point. Members are going to be asked to go through the Division Lobby—apart from those of us from Northern Ireland, about which I feel exceedingly resentful, as I think it is quite wrong; and I do have an interest in this Bill because my constituents who are landlords are affected by it. So today I would like Madam Chairman to give advice as to whether we should pause and postpone this historic occasion until we get the certification corrected by the Speaker.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

No, again the hon. Lady is making a perfectly reasonable point, but I think I have already answered it. The fact is that the House took the decision on 22 October that we would proceed as we are proceeding today. As I have said to the hon. Lady, if she has concerns about how matters work in practice both the Procedure Committee will look at this as the weeks go on and Mr Speaker will be pleased to hear from the hon. Lady if she has concerns the next time we come to this point in the proceedings. But now we will proceed.

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England) (Standing Order No. 83M(4)(d)).

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

I remind hon. Members that no further debate on the consent motion for England is permitted, and that if there is a Division on the consent motion for England, only Members representing constituencies in England may vote. This extends to expressing an opinion by calling out Aye or No when the Question is put.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83M(4)(d),

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 1 to 63, 65 to 77, 79 to 81, 83 to 85, 87 to 95 and 99 to 119 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 1 to 6, 8 and 9 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

New Clauses NC6, NC7, NC29 to NC31, NC35, NC37, NC43 to NC46, NC59, NC60 and NC62 on Report;

New Schedules NS1, NS4 and NS5 on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England

The omission in Committee of Clauses 35 and 36 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75);

Amendment 4 on Report, resulting in Clause 78 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 111 on Report, resulting in Clause 64 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 129 on Report, resulting in Clause 86 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill.—(Brandon Lewis.)

Question agreed to.

The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decisions of the Committees (Standing Order No. 83M(6)).

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decisions reported.

Third Reading

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 5:56 pm, 12th January 2016

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is customary on these occasions to thank all those involved in the consideration and scrutiny of the Bill in question. On this occasion, I would like to pay particular tribute to the Minister for Housing and Planning for having moved so elegantly that historic motion for the first time in this House. I also commend the Leader of the House of Commons for giving us the opportunity to carry out our consideration of the Bill in this way. Throughout our proceedings, the debate has been rich and vigorous from beginning to end. Those of us who were here last week for the first day of its Report stage will know that there was no let-up in the passion—or indeed the number—of the contributions, despite the lateness of the hour.

Before embarking on the traditional congratulations, however, I suggest to the whole House that a degree of humility would be in order on the part of us all. Housing and planning policy has been debated in this House and in the other place for decades, yet for decades this country has not built the number of new homes that we need, despite the improvements of recent years, including the 50% increase in new housing starts and the fact that planning permissions now stand at more than 200,000 a year. The last time we consistently built 200,000 homes a year was back in 1988.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

May I take the Secretary of State back to his comment about humility? Will he take this opportunity to apologise to council tenants for not informing them at the general election of the Conservatives’ intention to take away their secure tenancies and for introducing that measure only towards the end of the Bill’s Report stage? Council tenants were not given that information before they went to vote in the general election.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Going back to 2010, the Prime Minister thought it was reasonable that when we were allocating homes and social tenancies, we should amend the idea that someone should inherit, without conditions, a tenancy. That business was notified as much as five years ago.

Evidence of the effects, over many Administrations, of not building the number of homes we have needed for many decades has been seen in the lives of those who could, should and want to be homeowners, but have been denied the opportunity that many of us have had. Those who say that we already build enough homes or that home ownership is not important would do well to remember that.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

I applaud the Secretary of State’s commitment to house building, to make sure that more of our constituents can be homeowners. I also applaud the Minister for Housing and Planning’s undertaking to look further at the quality of that house building in the response he made to my new clause 1 in the initial parts of our debate on Report.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in what she says, and she has made an important contribution to the proceedings. It is vital that we see an improvement in the quality of design of our housing stock. One feature of the last housing bubble that was experienced before the Government came into office was a dearth of new family homes. Instead, most of the increase in housing that came during that time was in the form of flats. That arose from the particular incentive structure in place, whereby units, rather than any suggestion of quality, were important. The points she made have been well noted; in fact, in some of the announcements the Prime Minister made in recent days we have stressed the importance, in regenerating our estates, of adhering to standards of the highest quality.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

It is no surprise to hear that the Secretary of State wants to move away from talking about council tenancies, because his treatment of them is a disgrace. He was not asked about inheriting succession rights; he was asked about security. Why can council tenants not continue, as happened under the Housing Act 1985, introduced by Margaret Thatcher, to have security in the same way that anybody else would want in their home? The situation is appalling. Why is he only building starter homes, which nobody can afford, in Old Oak in my constituency, instead of social homes, which people need and want?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong, and if he looked at our housing plans, he would see that they include building 100,000 houses for affordable rent as well as 200,000 starter homes. It is right, and it is the mandate on which this Government were elected, to provide homes for people who aspire to own their own home, as well as for those who want to rent. One failure during recent years has been that people who wanted to own their own home, in the way that many Members of this House have, have been denied that opportunity.

Photo of Richard Bacon Richard Bacon Conservative, South Norfolk

Does the Secretary of State agree that Andy Slaughter is wrong not only because this Government are allowing the building of more affordable homes, but because this Bill provides for self-build and custom house building on a larger scale than ever before—and this can also include social housing for rent?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we need homes provided right across the country, of all the different types and tenures that our constituents and residents want. There has been a dearth of affordable homes for first-time buyers for an increasing number of years, which is why the commitment in our manifesto to provide starter homes for first-time buyers is such an important part of our platform, which we are implementing with this Bill.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the most important single thing we can do is to get building, because it is only by supply outdoing demand that prices will come down, and that all the programmes we had in the Labour years, from key worker housing to all the rest of it, were band aids on a massive wound? It is building that we need. That is what will make housing more affordable and that is how we are going to deliver a true one nation Government.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My hon. Friend is right to say that we need to get Britain building again, and we are doing so, with a 25% increase in starts in the past year. We need to do this right across the country. I would have thought that all Members of the House, including Labour Members, would share in the warm welcome given across the housing sector, including by housing associations and by builders big and small, to the announcements the Chancellor made in the spending review, which double the housing budget. This is the biggest programme of affordable house building that we have seen since the 1970s.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Of course, what is affordable to the Secretary of State’s constituents might not be affordable to mine. Does he share my concerns that what we will see, as perhaps an unintended consequence of his measures, is the removal of properties from the social rented sector and their appearance in the private rented sector, costing more to the public purse in the long run?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

No, we want to see more homes of all types. We have committed to build 1 million homes over the next five years, which is something that the previous Labour Government signally failed to do. In fact, when they were in power, the number of homes that were built in a single year fell to 88,000, which was the lowest number since the 1920s.

Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Labour, Hyndburn

At the weekend, the Prime Minister said on the “Andrew Marr Show” that he expected a million properties to move from the social rented sector to private ownership. The Secretary of State is talking about building a million properties. Where are the extra social rentals coming from? It seems that the Prime Minister is saying not only that there will not be any extra, but that there will actually be a reduced number of social rented properties. Does he not see that the maths do not add up?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The reduction in social rented properties happened under the previous Labour Government, when the stock fell by 400,000. Our determination is to build more homes of all types, so that we can house the growing number of young people who want to own and rent homes of their own.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

On council houses, is not the real scandal that, in 13 years, the previous Labour Government failed to build the number of homes that we built in five?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As Housing Minister, he made a major contribution to the revival in house building that was necessary after the crash that took place under the previous Labour Government. We have seen, over the past five years, house building recover from the record lows of the previous decade, but, as this Bill makes it clear, these are the first steps away from a much longer record over successive Parliaments. Indeed, the connection between supply, affordability and ownership is obvious to all, and yet for decades successive Parliaments and Governments failed to find a lasting solution not because they did nothing, but often because they failed to tackle the underlying issues.

In the previous Parliament, the Government’s focus was on recovery from the worst housing crash since the second world war, but in this Parliament, our focus has shifted from rescue to reform. Though wide-ranging in scope, the Bill does not represent the entirety of what needs to be done. As the Chancellor made clear in the autumn statement and as the Prime Minister said last week, the Government are committed to a comprehensive and ongoing programme of reform, addressing the whole of the problem and not just part of it. This Bill is of central importance to the overall strategy.

Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

I appreciate the Secretary of State kindly giving way. He talked about the previous Labour Government’s record, but could he explain why funding for affordable homes was slashed by 60% when his Government came to power in 2010?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The record of the previous Government is very clear: we built more affordable homes, specifically more council houses, than the previous Labour Government did in 13 years, so we will take no lessons from the hon. Lady.

Photo of Tristram Hunt Tristram Hunt Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Will the Secretary of State confirm at the Dispatch Box that, under this Bill, there is no block to foreign buyers purchasing council housing built for British people down the generations? As a result, we will see the sell-off to foreign investors of properties that were built for workers in this country.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The hon. Gentleman might not be aware that restrictions are in place that prevent, for a considerable period, homeowners who have exercised the right to buy selling on. In fact, foreign ownership of UK property is still at a very low level. I do not recall the previous Labour Government introducing any particular restrictions on that. Let me point to two flagship manifesto commitments that the Bill implements, namely the extension of the right to buy to housing association tenants and the provision of 200,000 starter homes by 2020. The Bill is making good the pledges that were made directly to the British people and that were backed by the British people in the general election.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

That particular element of the Secretary of State’s scheme does not work in high-value areas where people, because of the sort of work that they do, will never ever be able to get a mortgage. Therefore, there are certain people who will never be helped by his Bill.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

I hope that, on behalf of her constituents, the hon. Lady will welcome the announcements that were made to extend the help-to-buy scheme in London to provide greater help there. In fact, housing associations, including those in her constituency, have welcomed enthusiastically one of the key features of this Bill, which is the provision that enables them to provide her residents with the right to buy their home and, at the same time, to build more homes in London.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee

On that point, does my right hon. Friend recognise that it is thanks to this Bill, the work of the current Mayor of London and the initiative of my hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith that we are seeing consistently more affordable housing being delivered in London? That is in contrast with what happened under a socialist Mayor and a socialist Government that persistently under-delivered for London.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Indeed, and one of the proud pieces of the legacy of the current Mayor of London, our hon. Friend Boris Johnson, is the opportunities he has given across the capital for people to own and rent their own home.

Of course, there are few pieces of legislation that cannot be improved by the deliberations of this House. This is a long Bill and I thank Members on both sides of the House for their informed contributions, their attention to detail and, on occasion, their perseverance. That applies especially to the members of the Public Bill Committee, adroitly chaired by my hon. Friend Mr Gray and Sir Alan Meale. I am also grateful for the expert guidance of my departmental officials and to the Clerks of the House.

Finally, allow me to thank my own formidable Front-Bench team, who conducted this Bill through all its proceedings with precision and tenacity and who have strengthened an already important Bill. In the same spirit, allow me to acknowledge the contributions of Opposition Members who served long into the night not just on Report but in the Bill Committee. In contrast to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, which I am informed has completed its passage unamended in the House of Lords this very afternoon, we might not have greatly expanded the common ground between us during our deliberations on this Bill, but I thank the Opposition for their contributions to a debate that has at times generated light as well as heat.

I join my hon. Friend Robert Neill in recognising the notable contribution of my hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith. London is a city like no other and it has a property market to match. In view of the special challenges and opportunities, it is right that proceeds from the sale of vacant high-value assets should be used to provide new affordable homes in London on a two-for-one basis. I am delighted that the Bill has been amended fully to support that objective, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park for his advice and advocacy in this matter. London is fortunate to have such a tireless and effective champion.

Of course, it is not only Members of this House who have contributed to the development of the Bill. I would like to put on record my gratitude to all those beyond this Chamber who have made their mark. That includes local government leaders of all parties, experts in planning policy, tenants’ representatives and the housing sector in all its diversity. Indeed, nothing has made a greater contribution to the development of the Bill than the historic deal agreed last year between the Government and the housing association movement. The voluntary agreement on right to buy not only speeds up the delivery of a commitment made to the British people at the election, but provides the basis on which housing associations can play a major role in the delivery of new affordable homes for both rent and purchase. I would therefore like to express my particular thanks to the National Housing Federation and its chief executive, David Orr.

The Bill has been the subject of intensive scrutiny and debate, with more than 40 hours in Committee and a further 15 on the Floor of the House. Furthermore, it has been a debate in which words have had consequences. The Government have listened and, as we should, we have acted on what we have heard. Significant and strengthening changes have been made as a direct result and thus, subject to today’s vote, the Bill goes to the other place in good shape, buttressed by a clear electoral mandate. I commend it to the House.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

As we complete this historic new procedure, I propose the Question that the Bill be now read the Third time.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning) 6:14 pm, 12th January 2016

As we pass this Bill on to the other place, I thank the officers and staff of the House, particularly those in the Public Bill Office, for their guidance and support throughout our work. I also pay tribute to my Front-Bench colleagues, my hon. Friends the Members for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods), for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce), for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) and for Easington (Grahame M. Morris). They relentlessly exposed the deep political, fiscal and policy flaws in the Bill as we opposed the worst of what the Government are trying to do. I am grateful, too, for the unified and strong support from my colleagues on the Labour Benches, particularly those who served on the Public Bill Committee—my hon. Friends the Members for Bootle (Peter Dowd), for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes). I pay tribute also to the other members of that Committee who worked through those 40 hours of scrutiny.

The voices of serious concern from the Conservative Benches are welcome, as well as striking—those of the hon. Members for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk) and for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), the right hon. Members for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) and for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), and the hon. Members for St Albans (Mrs Main), for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) and for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood), to name just a few. It is a warning to Ministers, and a signal to the other place, that Conservative Members and Conservative local government leaders rightly have growing criticisms about the loss of genuinely affordable homes in their area, rural and urban alike, about the sweeping new powers for Ministers to impose planning decisions on local communities, and about the so-called starter homes being unaffordable for many young families on modest incomes in their areas.

Usually, we hope to improve a Bill as it goes through the House. This was a bad Bill; it is now a very bad Bill. It was a bad Bill, now made much worse by amendments forced through at the last minute after the Committee’s line-by-line scrutiny—new clauses to define homes on sale for up to £450,000 as officially affordable. The Government are not building enough affordable homes, so they are simply branding more homes as affordable. Other late amendments included new clauses to stop councils offering anything longer than two to five-year tenancies, meaning the end of long-term rented housing, the end of a stable home for many children as they go through school, and the end of security for pensioners who move into bungalows or sheltered flats later in life.

How has it come to this—that we on the Labour Benches are having to defend the reforms and rights introduced by Margaret Thatcher? This is an extraordinary and extreme Bill.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this Bill makes the lives of Londoners and people in other regions as well much less secure? Added to the insecurity that many people are experiencing in the workplace, that makes everyone’s life much worse.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

My hon. Friend is right. The Bill fails to get to grips with the problems of modern life and the crisis of homeownership, especially for young people and families on ordinary incomes. The so-called starter homes are simply out of reach in those areas where people most need help to buy a home of their own. Last week, Tory MPs voted against Labour proposals to make those homes more affordable. The Bill sounds the death knell for social housing, which has had support from all parties for over a century, and for the first time since the second world war, the Chancellor confirmed in the autumn statement that there is no national investment programme to build such housing.

Starter homes will be built in place of affordable council and housing association homes, both to buy and to rent. Councils will be forced to sell their best properties and housing associations will not replace many of their right-to-buy sales with like-for-like homes. That is why Shelter, like the independent Chartered Institute of Housing, predicts that this Bill will lead to the loss of at least 180,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy over the next five years—an extraordinary and an extreme Bill.

We have tried to stop the worst of the plans, but Tory Ministers and Back Benchers have opposed our proposals to give local areas the flexibility to promote not just starter homes but homes of all types, depending on local housing need; to make starter homes more affordable and protect and recycle taxpayers’ investment; to stop Ministers from mandating that pay-to-stay limits hit working households on modest incomes; to allow local areas to protect council and housing association homes with a proper replacement of each; to limit any automatic planning permission from Ministers for brownfield land; and to protect stable family homes for council tenants.

In truth, many of the problems are caused by Ministers who announce first and ask questions later—no consultation and little time for proper scrutiny. More than 60 pages of new legislation were tabled at the last minute after the Committee had completed its scrutiny. There is a great deal for the other place to do.

In five years of government, we have seen five years of failure on housing under Conservative Ministers. Homelessness is rising, private rents are soaring and levels of homeownership have fallen each and every year since 2010; they are now at the lowest level for a generation. Over the past five years, the Government have seen fewer new homes built than under any Government in peacetime history since the 1920s. After five years of failure, the Bill does nothing to deal with the root causes of those failures; in many areas, it will make the problems a great deal worse.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Is it not also time that the Government practised what they preach? There are measures in the Bill to tackle houses of multiple occupation, yet in my constituency, but for the tenacity of Councillor Oliver Ryan and local residents, the Home Office and its contractors would have converted a small semi-detached family home into an HMO for the dispersal programme.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

My hon. Friend is right; I could have extended the list. Tory Ministers and Back Benchers have voted against our proposals to reinforce councils’ hands so that they deal with such abuse from landlords and such exploitation of tenants, to require homes to meet standards that make them fit for human habitation and to mandate annual electrical safety checks. They rejected each and every one of those proposals, to which we will return in the other place.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

Will my right hon. Friend add to that list the failure to address the fact that some private landlords use properties to launder drug money?

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

My right hon. Friend may well be right in some cases. One of the weaknesses of the enforcement regime and council powers, not to mention the resources being stripped out by the deep cuts, is that action to deal with such problems, often with other agencies, is prevented. Those issues blight many areas when they could be dealt with.

During the Bill’s passage the Prime Minister has been hyperactive with housing announcements; if press releases built homes, he would have had the housing crisis sorted by now. In years to come, people will judge him, the Government and the Bill on whether their housing pressures have eased, their housing prospects have improved and their housing costs have become more affordable. After five years of failure, we desperately needed a Bill to give people hit by the high cost of housing and the cost of housing crisis some hope that things will change. But this is not that Bill. This is an extraordinary and extreme Bill, and we will vote against it again tonight.

Several hon. Members rose

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. A great many Members wish to speak in this important Third Reading debate. We have only half an hour left. I hope that hon. Members will be courteous and take no more than three to four minutes: that means less than four minutes.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee 6:24 pm, 12th January 2016

I am saddened to have heard the speech by John Healey, because he and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State are two of the people I have always had the most respect for in this Chamber, but his diagnosis is fundamentally flawed. I am sorry that he has fallen into that error.

The reality is that the Secretary of State has brought forward a Bill that is necessary, proportionate and sensible. Anyone who tries to characterise anything that comes from my right hon. Friend as extreme is, I am sorry to say, not in touch with political reality. In the past—I understand why the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne was in difficulty—we saw a litany of failure by Labour Governments. As a result, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I, with my hon. Friend Mr Prisk and others, walked into the Department for Communities and Local Government, we inherited the worst rates of house building since the 1920s, the worst rates of social housing being built, and a market that was depressed and crushed.

That was particularly so in London, thanks to the very dirigiste and impositional views adopted by the previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who choked off the supply of housing, through unrealistic demands for a social element under section 52 agreements on developers and an almost an ideological hatred of the private rented sector—a sentiment which, I am sorry to say, slipped through in an intervention earlier. If run properly, the private rented sector has a crucial role to play in the housing mix of London and of any other city or nation. It is sad that we see a retreat not just back to the ’70s and ’80s but to policy of an incompetence that Herbert Morrison would be ashamed of.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

Does my hon. Friend recognise the problems that I experienced under the Labour Government of centrally set house building targets that led to high levels of flatted accommodation rather than the family homes that are being delivered under this Government, with hundreds of families getting starter homes of the sort that they could only dream of under the previous Labour Government?

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The London suburbs, in particular, suffered from the ludicrous policy of counting things in terms of units rather than the number of affordable homes. That meant that places such as Bromley, Beckenham and others were swamped with flats being built—one or two-bedroom units—when the real demand was for affordable family homes. That, at last, we are tackling. Good housing associations such as Affinity Sutton in my constituency were happy to sign up to the agreement with the Secretary of State, because it gives them flexibility to be innovative.

I remember when I was a councillor tons and tons of people in my ward wanting to buy their home and the Labour Government stopping them. I find it pretty appalling that someone I would usually respect seeks to obstruct and stop people from having aspiration. Aspiration goes beyond being forever a tenant—it goes to having a chance to buy and a chance to get on. It is that lack of aspiration that so characterises Opposition Front Benchers.

That is why their opposition to this Bill is so sad and, I would say, such a betrayal of hard-working people—people exactly like my shop steward grandfather, who worked hard to buy his own home and was helped to do so. They are exactly the people this Government are trying to help. We will not take any lessons from Labour Members about social inclusion or equality. They are reversing social inclusion and equality. They set it back, and we should congratulate—

Photo of Richard Bacon Richard Bacon Conservative, South Norfolk

While my hon. Friend is on the subject of Labour’s lack of radicalism, does he share my confusion that the Labour party, which has control of many councils and billions of pounds of reserves, is not establishing and promoting mutual housing co-operatives? There is nothing in law to prevent Labour from doing that. If it really wanted to promote in perpetuity social rents, there are avenues available to it. Where is the radicalism one would have expected to hear from Labour Members?

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Many local authorities would take that up. Housing co-operatives are a great idea. Labour’s attitude towards the private rented sector has been a barrier to the institutional investment in the private sector that would so much improve the quality of the stock. It is the consistent failure of Labour authorities to take their opportunities that is the real story, not the freedoms that this Government and the previous coalition Government had been giving them.

It is a sad day, but I have to say this frankly to the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne and his hon. Friends: I like them as people but they are profoundly wrong in their opposition to this Bill.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cities) 6:28 pm, 12th January 2016

I notice that Ian Murray, who criticised us earlier, has since vanished from the Chamber—what a shame.

Members may remember—I am not sure if Robert Neill was here—when I spoke on 2 November about my grandparents’ house in Wishaw. I passed it on Sunday, and new tenants have moved in. A house that was in my family’s care as socially rented council tenants has now moved on to another generation. That is a very nice and positive thing that this Government want to remove from England.

Listening to this debate has been like listening to a story about another country, because in Scotland—[Interruption.] If Andrew Griffiths wants to intervene on me, he can, rather than grumbling on the other side of the Chamber. We have not participated in votes on this Bill, because we felt it was important to allow English and Welsh Members to make those decisions. We did not need English votes for English laws to make us take that principled stance.

We have taken on board concerns raised by Shelter, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, which is worried about the impact on Scotland. We could not necessarily table an amendment on unintended consequences for, or things that might happen to, housing associations based in Scotland as a result of the Bill; there are a number of cross-border housing associations and we do not yet know what the impact on them will be. If they are forced to sell off stock south of the border, what will be the impact on their investment and other plans for Scotland and Scottish tenants? We do not know.

We have abolished the right to buy in Scotland, and for good reason. Those houses were being lost from the housing stock in Scotland and people were languishing on waiting lists. We realised that we could go no further, because people were not getting the chance to realise their aspiration of a socially rented home. Their aspiration was for a home, not a house, to live in for generations.

The tenancy limit is a cause for concern and will upset many people. People want to live and settle in an area and to belong to it. For many people, that will be the area they grew up in, while for others it will be elsewhere. If people’s rent is going to be up for review every two to five years, as stated in the Bill, they will not know whether they will be permitted to stay in their home. They might have to move and they will not know whether their children will be able to stay in their school. There may, therefore, be consequences for local schools in the area; if there is a constant turnover of pupils, that will impact on a school’s ability to work well, flourish and build a solid community in which we would all wish to live.

The Bill is pretty dreadful in many respects. The Minister said earlier that he did not want central command and control over housing. Why, then, does he want to set the rent and force housing associations to reduce rent by 1%, which undermines their ability to borrow, plan and provide essential welfare rights services to their tenants? They do not have that choice any more—he has taken it out of their hands through his central command and command system.

Pay to stay will have an impact on the personal relationship that many tenants have with their housing officer and their neighbours, who, if their daughter or son is waiting for a house, may feel inclined to clype, should somebody get a wee pay increase or if they want to improve themselves by getting a new job or a promotion. That undermines the principles of every party, because we all want people to get on and do better. It is just not right, and the Government have clearly recognised that by rolling back the scheme and making it voluntary rather than compulsory. I hope that in time they will get rid of it altogether.

I am also concerned about the selling of high-value homes, because they are not luxury mansions, but family homes that allow families to stay in local communities. We should look at that again, because it is very important that they are replaced properly. I will close on that point, because other Members want to speak and I would not want to abuse the House.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp Conservative, Croydon South 6:33 pm, 12th January 2016

I will do my best to stick to Madam Deputy Speaker’s injunction of an informal four-minute limit.

It was a pleasure to serve on the Bill Committee and to watch both Front-Bench teams in action. I welcome the Bill as an opportunity further to improve this Government’s record on house building. John Healey cited some statistics a few moments ago. I respectfully remind him that in his last year as Housing Minister, there were 125,000 starts across the United Kingdom, yet last year, under the current Secretary of State and Housing and Planning Minister, the figure had increased by 35% to 165,000 starts. This Government have a record they can be proud of.

Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

London has experienced a 55% increase in rough sleeping. There is a Tory Mayor and a Tory Government. Is that the kind of Tory aspiration we have heard about this evening?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp Conservative, Croydon South

I believe that the level of rough sleeping last year had gone down compared with five years ago. Of course action is needed to combat this terrible problem. I am sure that we can all agree on that.

There is agreement around the House that there is an under-supply of housing in this country when compared with population growth. That is true, and I welcome the measures in the Bill to increase the housing supply, particularly the measures to build on surplus brownfield land, as encapsulated by local development orders. The measures will also help to protect the green belt by making sure that we focus development in areas where it is most appropriate. The London Land Commission, which is jointly chaired by the Minister for Housing and Planning, is already doing its work. I welcome the announcement made a week or so ago about giving it further powers to bring publicly owned land into development. Similarly, amendments tabled on Report last week to introduce non-local authority providers of planning processing services—not decision-making, but processing powers—will expedite the passage of planning consents and further increase the supply of housing. All those measures will help to increase housing supply, and therefore help to improve affordability.

Another area in which the Bill does welcome work is that of home ownership. The right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne pointed out that home ownership has declined. The decline started in 2007, not 2010, but it is lamentable that home ownership has gone down. I welcome the starter home initiative, which I hope will reverse the trend. It is regrettable that the Labour party has passed up every opportunity to promote home ownership provided for by the Bill, which I shall be delighted to vote for in a few minutes’ time. In effect, every first-time buyer in this country will be given a 20% discount when the Bill becomes law. That is extremely welcome, and will I hope reverse the tide of home ownership decline. We should all be able to support that.

In summary, the Bill will increase the housing supply and promote home ownership. I urge all Members to support it. I even urge our SNP colleagues to support it vicariously.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice) 6:36 pm, 12th January 2016

It is difficult to dignify this Bill with analysis, because parts of it are so squalid and vindictive. What is pay to stay if it is not punishing success or making people on moderate incomes unable to afford to live in places such as my constituency. In the short time available, I want to focus on two of its aspects: one is the enforced sale of council housing, and the other is the end of secure tenancies.

Such sales are nothing less than ad hominem attacks on every council tenant, every housing association tenant and everyone who lives in a social landlord tenancy in this country. Frankly, the policy is outrageous. It has nothing to do with housing policy; it is to do with sectarian interests, gerrymandering and social engineering. I agree with Glenn Tilbrook, the leader of singer of Squeeze, who memorably sang to the Prime Minister on “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday that council housing—affordable and secure homes for people on low and moderate incomes—is

“part of what made Britain great”.

For my constituents, the policy means that 50% of council housing will be sold off: 6,500 homes will be lost from the public sector in that way when there is an absolutely chronic shortage of decent housing and no one can afford private rents or owner occupation in my constituency. I do not believe that such homes will be replaced. Whenever homes are demolished, either they are not replaced or they are replaced by meaner versions at the side of private sites. Zac Goldsmith let the cat out of the bag when he said that all the Tories will do is replace them with starter homes costing £450,000 and miles away from the areas in which such people are now living.

The attack on security of tenure is the most disgraceful thing in this Bill. Security of tenure is part of the social compact in this country, as Margaret Thatcher understood. When we had the Housing Acts 1985 and 1988, private tenancies were made insecure, which I regret, but assured tenancies and secure tenancies gave families something they could call a home. Why do this Government want to destroy that?

Finally, the largest development site in London— 24,000 new homes in Old Oak—is in my constituency. We are now told that they will be starter homes. Who will be able to afford homes at £450,000 each? The hon. Member for Richmond Park should be ashamed of himself. He cannot speak for London on this issue. The speech of my right hon. Friend Sadiq Khan shows that only one party and one candidate in the mayoral election will stand up for all Londoners in providing genuinely affordable housing in this country.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 6:39 pm, 12th January 2016

We will take no lectures from the Government on home ownership. It is at its lowest level for a generation and has gone down in every year under their tenure. They have to explain why they scrapped the £8.4-billion investment that was put into the programme in 2008 to build houses of all sorts, including affordable houses to buy, and cut it down to £660 million in their first Budget.

This is a war on social housing. For London, it is a war on traditional, long-standing, established working-class communities that have played their part in the economy of London for generations. There are several measures in the Bill that will wipe out the future of social housing. On planning, section 106 funding used to pay for most social housing, but will now pay for starter homes. There is the forced sale of housing association properties and the forced sale of high-value council housing properties to subsidise the rebuilding of housing association properties. We are yet to see the figures that prove that that is financially viable.

To the Government’s eternal shame, there is the removal of secure tenancies, with no mandate from the electorate whatsoever. There was no warning. We said that this was what the Tories wanted to do in 2010. We were told that we were lying. We are not lying now, are we, because it is exactly what they have done at the first opportunity to introduce it.

There is pay to stay. If someone goes out and increases their income or if the family income increases, they will be penalised with a higher rent. In what other social field would the Tories introduce a policy like that? It is just a war on social housing.

However, the Tories are prepared to subsidise home ownership. I am happy to see the subsidising of home ownership through various schemes, but it is not fair when the money is taken away from social housing. The Chartered Institute of Housing estimates that the cost of this measure will be £3.3 billion. We are yet to see where that money will come from.

Zac Goldsmith says that there will be two-for-one replacement in Greater London. Where are the figures to show that that adds up? It is a fig leaf to cover his embarrassment at the Bill, which is disastrous for communities in London. It is an excuse written up on the back of the fag packet by Lynton Crosby, who is running his campaign. It will not work for people in London.

What the Tories do not understand is that social housing is an essential part of any major city’s economy. People need to live close to where they work. Particularly on the back of the fare increases that we have seen from this Tory Mayor, people cannot afford to do low income jobs, live in outer London and travel into central London. That is why low-cost social housing is so essential in areas of high land values in central London. The Tories do not understand it—they never have and they never will. They have always had a hatred of social housing. This is a Bill that Margaret Thatcher could not have dreamt of. It is a disaster for communities in London and I’ll tell you what: the Tories will rue the day that they did this.

Several hon. Members rose

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Conservative, Hornchurch and Upminster 6:43 pm, 12th January 2016

In welcoming this large and excellent Bill, I thank the Secretary of State, who fell short of accepting my new clause 5, but who has agreed to set up a working party to look into the reasons why so few local authorities use the powers that are available to them to collect tenure information via their council tax application forms. I believe that the information so collected would be extremely helpful to local authorities and tenants in identifying rogue landlords and letting agents, as well as housing benefit fraud, unregulated houses in multiple occupation, environmental health issues and other parts of the housing and planning function. I look forward to the working group making progress to ensure that those powers are exercised consistently across all local authorities.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Leader of the Liberal Democrats 6:44 pm, 12th January 2016

It is right that the Government included a Housing Bill in the Queen’s Speech. Poor housing robs people of their freedom and liberty, and housing is the entry point to a civilised society. It is therefore a tragedy that in response to a broken market and chronic lack of supply, where we need 300,000 new builds a year over 10 years, where 1.6 million people are rotting on a council house waiting list, and where more than a quarter of 18 to 30-year-olds in this country are still living in the family home—

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Leader of the Liberal Democrats

I probably should not give way to be fair to other Members who wish to speak.

It is a tragedy that the scale of this crisis is inverse to this Government’s puny ambition. Where is the designation of the five to 10 garden cities that are needed over this decade? Where is the increase in income and building capacity for housing associations? Instead, there is a decrease in their ability to raise funds to develop homes. Where is the increase in social housing that we desperately need to meet the needs of 1.6 million people? Instead there is a diversion of funds towards the wrong priorities. In short, we have 200,000 so-called starter homes, instead of 300,000 section 106 actual affordable homes. Right to buy is the second huge assault on affordable housing.

If we believe that aspiration is right and that the right to own one’s home is good and something to work towards, we should be allowing a like-for-like replacement in advance. If, by an act of vandalism, we want to destroy social housing, we should do what the Government are doing.

Robert Neill took offence at those on the Labour Front Bench who used the word “extreme”, but this Government’s actions towards rural communities are absolutely extreme. If we consider that three in four council houses in South Lakeland are now privately owned, and many are expensive private lets, we realise the damage done to rural Britain, not just in the lakes but in the west country and other parts of the UK. That shows a complete lack of understanding of rural Britain, as well as a failure to tackle the second homes crisis in those areas.

The Government acknowledged a broken market and made a choice to keep it broken. It is often said that there is nothing more stressful than the time we move home, because it is costly and psychologically difficult. Well, welcome to real Britain everyday life for millions of people who cannot afford their own home. The Government have looked those people in the eye. To govern is to choose, and they have chosen to let those people down. This Bill should fall.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change) 6:47 pm, 12th January 2016

There have been many good amendments to the Bill, but sadly they were the ones the Government rejected. New clauses 3 and 4 would have set right many of the inadequacies of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, but they were rejected. New clause 52 —imagine, Mr Speaker, a clause to ensure that rented properties are fit for human habitation: defeated. Houses not fit for habitation were voted for by a Government not fit to govern. The Bill focuses on the abolition of social housing, both council and housing association owned, and it is a deliberate dismantling of the social rented sector.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

Is my hon. Friend aware that as a result of this Bill, one of my local housing associations is preparing to sell off stock that is expensive to maintain as it becomes vacant, even if that is through auction, and it is incrementally moving out of the very areas it was supposed to serve?

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and in my constituency 500 council homes in Brent would be at risk of forced sale, rather than going to people on the waiting list. We have 4,500 households on the waiting list in bands A to C. Band D has been abolished, and we have had to tell people that anyone in band D does not stand a chance of getting a home in Brent North. That is the scale of the problems we are facing, and the response that we have had from the Government is totally inadequate to meet the housing needs of people in London. High rent, lower than average incomes and a larger than average household size in my constituency means that affordability is a huge problem.

Council and housing association rents are to be cut by 1% a year. That is mixed news. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, it will help very few of the 3.9 million social tenants—it just comes off their housing benefit—but it is a great bonus for the Treasury. Some £1.7 billion will be removed from the housing benefit bill by leaving a disastrous hole in council and housing association finances. It is there, in the social rented sector, that the real price of this measure will be paid for and felt by tenants.

Future planning for housing development will have a greater and greater share of homeownership, rather than social rented housing. Communities will find themselves broken up by redevelopment or, in the long term, by the loss of secure tenancies, which have been a bedrock of stable neighbourhoods. I want children in my constituency to grow up knowing that in three years’ time they will be able to sit their GCSEs and their A-level exams at the same school they started off in at the age of 11. The Government are denying them that right. It used to be that an English family’s home was their castle—no longer.

Photo of Harry Harpham Harry Harpham Labour, Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough 6:51 pm, 12th January 2016

I would like to focus on a couple of areas that I find especially concerning.

First, on the planned extension to the right to buy scheme, Ministers have made much of it being agreed to voluntarily by the National Housing Federation. Given that it was accepted only with the clear knowledge that similar measures would be forced on housing associations, there are some doubts as to how voluntary the agreement really was. After the Government strong-armed housing associations into this position, it is no wonder that they are sceptical.

Forcing local authorities to sell off their housing stock to pay for the policy means councillors are not exactly keen either. As the Tory-led Local Government Association pointed out, councils are best placed to respond to their area’s housing needs. It is disappointing that Ministers, who not so very long ago prided themselves as the champions of localism, are now tying councils’ hands while they raid town halls for the money to cover this counterproductive measure.

The Chartered Institute of Housing has suggested that sales of these high value properties will fall well short of expectations, to the tune of some £3.3 billion. More to the point, who will these high-value homes be sold to? If they are high value, then certainly they will not be sold to first-time buyers. Councils are incentivised to sell them at a price as dear as possible to make sure they can meet Treasury demands, so they will, more likely than not, end up in the hands of speculators or buy-to-let landlords. Council housing that was once leased at affordable rents will move out of the reach of people struggling to meet their housing costs.

The other area where the right to buy policy really falls down is on its lack of a requirement for replacement housing to be built on a like-for-like basis. As it stands, the Bill is far too weak on housing association replacements. There is no requirement for them to build a similar property to the one sold, or even to build it at the same end of the country. A third are now saying that they will stop building affordable homes altogether. Housing associations have always worked with a social ethos, but the Bill hollows that out to the point where commercial survival is all.

On council tenancies, the Bill legislates for insecurity. By forcing local authorities to offer only short-term tenancies, the Government are encouraging uncertainty and worry for low-income families. For council tenants, the house they live in is not an asset to be managed. It is a home. It is where they have raised their family. For those on low and very limited incomes, a secure tenancy represents safety, stability and a sense of belonging.

I will end with a few remarks about the private rented sector. From my own experiences as a councillor in Sheffield, I know there are many dedicated and genuinely caring private landlords whose professionalism does them great credit, but there is far too large a minority who see their often vulnerable tenants as cash cows and who have little thought for their responsibilities, other than turning up every week on the doorstep to collect the rent. Private renting is on the rise. One quarter of all families with children are private renting, and it is a national scandal that nearly one third of these properties do not meet the decent homes standard. The Government are to be congratulated on trying to get to grips with the problem, but the Bill could be so much bolder. A statutory requirement for private landlords to make sure their properties are up to scratch throughout the lifetime of a tenancy would give their tenants a decent level of security and allow for much swifter action to be taken against landlords who give the rest a bad name.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 309, Noes 216.

Division number 163

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Aye

No

Question accordingly agreed to.