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Part of Housing and Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 3rd May 2016.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government) 5:45 pm, 3rd May 2016

The hon. Lady will be interested to hear what I have to say in a few minutes about how the policy will work in practice to ensure not only consistency, but that it always pays to work.

We have brought forward a package of amendments and statements of intent to ensure that the policy is fair and that it does not damage the incentive to find work and keep in work. In addition, we have committed to allow local authorities to retain reasonable administration costs, and my officials are working with the sector to establish an approach to implementation that would minimise costs.

Amendment 55 would set the amount of the taper at 10% on the face of the Bill. Our view is that a 10% taper is simply too low. Our preference is for a taper set at 20% or an extra 20p in rent for every pound earned above the income threshold. That would mean, for example, that a household earning over the £31,000 threshold would contribute just a few pounds a week in additional rent. The level recognises the importance of protecting work incentives, but it is a fairer contribution. It is important that we retain the flexibility to set out the detail of the taper in secondary legislation. We want to keep the position under review, and putting details on the face of the Bill would prevent us from doing so. We have confirmed that the regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure, which I am sure will be welcomed by the House, so there will be another chance to debate the regulations before they come into force.

Amendment 57 would set higher income thresholds, which totally undermines the principle that social tenants on higher incomes should start to contribute a fairer level of rent once they earn more than £31,000—or £40,000 in London. We have listened to concerns about the policy and taken a number of steps as a result. There will be an automatic exemption for any household in receipt of housing benefit and universal credit. The definition of “household” will not include income from non-dependent children, such as an 18-year-old who is starting his first job. Certain state benefits such as tax credits, disability living allowance and personal independence payments will not count towards the calculation of income, and the income thresholds will be supported by a taper, which will ensure that households towards the start of the proposed income thresholds see their rent rise by only a few pounds each week.