Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:21 pm on 19th March 2018.

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Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Labour, Chesterfield 6:21 pm, 19th March 2018

I partly agree with the hon. Lady. A big flaw in the original right to buy policy was that the same number of houses were not replaced. That was a deliberate political decision. I do not think that Mrs Thatcher wanted to see large numbers of tenants in council houses. She introduced the policy with a view to reducing the number of council house tenants. Like with so many other policies, she wanted to reduce people’s dependence on the state, because she thought there was a political purpose for doing so. Therefore, there was a flaw in the original policy.

I would certainly like to see more council houses being built and some kind of link between the number being built and the number being sold off. To an extent, these are two different questions. There is one question about whether we replace the number of council houses. Some Members want to see more council houses built, but we should have a specific exemption from the right to buy on brand new properties, so that those council houses could regenerate the money for local authorities before they are expected to sell them. Councils would then be more enthusiastic about building more council houses.

If we head back to the 1980s when the Thatcher Government introduced the right to buy, we would see that a very reasonable point was being made at the time. It was that local authorities had built these houses and that families had lived in them for 30 or 40 years and had spent in rent far more than they would ever have spent if they had bought their houses in the first place. Therefore, it was perfectly reasonable for them to say, “Well, look, I have already paid for this house many times over.” Getting a discount when they bought their houses seems very reasonable, and I support that entirely.

None the less, if we want local authorities to build more council houses in any substantial way—there is a real need for that now—a moratorium should be introduced. I will encourage my colleagues on the Front Bench to develop this as Labour party policy. In those early years, councils could build the required number of houses, giving domestic violence victims and others the opportunity to move into them—I say this without in any way wanting to undermine the value of the right to buy as a policy more generally—and that is how we will achieve the council house building that we need.

I very much welcome this Bill, but we cannot discuss the impact of policy on domestic violence victims in the round until we address issues such as housing allocation for domestic violence victims and the shortage of council and social housing more generally. Notwithstanding that, this Bill is a welcome step forward that I look forward to supporting.