Amendment proposed: 2, page 1, line 25, at end insert—
“(2BA) A local housing authority which grants an old-style secure tenancy under subsection (2A) or (2B) has discretion to decide whether or not the maximum rent for the old-style secure tenancy should be determined according to regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/213) as amended by the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/ 3040).”—(Melanie Onn.)
Question put, That the amendment be made.
The House divided:
Ayes 246, Noes 302.
I remind the House that before Second Reading, as required by the Standing Order, the Speaker certified the entire Bill as relating exclusively to England and within legislative competence. The Bill has not been amended since then. Copies of the certificate are available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website.
I remind hon. Members that, if there is a Division, only Members representing constituencies in England may vote.
I call the Minister to move the consent motion.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Programme Order,
That the Committee consents to the Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [Lords].—(Mrs Wheeler.)
Question agreed to.
The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (
The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I will be very brief, because I believe the Bill has cross-party support. This short and targeted Bill is an important part of the Government’s wider aims of supporting victims of domestic abuse to leave their abusive situation, and ensuring that they and their families are provided with the stability and security they need and deserve. I am sure all Members agree that domestic abuse is a particularly horrible crime. Its effects are insidious and its impacts are wide-reaching. It has serious and lasting impacts on victims, their families and society as a whole.
The Bill will protect lifetime tenants who have to flee their home, whether they apply for rehousing by their own local authority or to any other local authority in England. It will also protect those who have lost their lifetime tenancy if they have fled their home, and it will protect those who want to return to their home after the perpetrator has left or been removed. It will ensure that in every case, where they are granted a new tenancy by the local authority, they will know that they are able to retain their lifetime tenancy in their new social home.
Lord Bourne was personally very committed to taking the Bill through the other place and I am proud to have been able to do so in this place. He was very grateful for the cross-party support he received from his noble colleagues and I would like to echo my thanks to hon. Members for their support. I know that we have had our differences regarding the detail, but I am sure we are all in agreement on the main aims of the Bill. We can all take credit for ensuring that this small but vital piece of proposed legislation is put on the statute book, but I would like, if I may, to pay particular tribute to Baroness Lister of Burtersett. She has been the mainspring behind the Bill and it is through her persistence during its passage in the other place that it is in such good shape.
I am heartened to know that the Bill has been widely welcomed by the organisations that support victims of domestic abuse, in particular Women’s Aid. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those who work so hard to support victims of domestic abuse everywhere, not just Women’s Aid but Refuge, IMKAAN and many more.
Before I finish I would also like to thank the members of the Bill team for their hard work and support in taking the Bill through: Frances Walker, Jane Worthington, Jane Everton, Lizzie Clifford, the parliamentary draftsman Anthony Brown, and finally, from my own team, Emma Andrews.
I would like to start by thanking my colleagues in this House, in particular my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones), for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins), for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield), and, for her contributions this afternoon, my hon. Friend Ruth George. I also thank Members in the other place for scrutinising this proposed legislation and ensuring that it leaves in a marginally better state than when it arrived. I would particularly like to pay tribute to my colleague Baroness Lister, as her amendment to the original Housing and Planning Act 2016 is the reason the Bill is before us today.
I am disappointed that the Minister has been so reluctant to support any of our amendments, as they would have strengthened the Bill by helping to equalise the quality of care across the country and guaranteeing that domestic abuse victims who move authorities still have a secure tenancy in their new authority. I had hoped that, given that mistakes had been made in this area in the past and such provision had not been included in the Housing and Planning Act 2016, the Government might have listened to some of the concerns from the sector about the ambiguity of the Bill. However, given that we have just divided on the matter, we will support the Bill as drafted.
Despite that, the Bill leaves the House today and it will do a large amount of good for many domestic abuse victims across the country. By guaranteeing a secure tenancy to victims of domestic abuse moving from a secure tenancy, the Bill will remove a key barrier that prevents domestic abuse victims from leaving their perpetrator. There is a clear need for a new radical and credible approach to housing and refuges, but the Bill will provide more security to many domestic abuse victims who are in secure tenancies. We therefore support the Bill.
Like my hon. Friend Melanie Onn, I was very disappointed that the Government were not prepared to listen, in particular to amendment 2. I urge the Minister to go back to housing benefit and discretionary housing payment practice in local authorities, because even the national housing executive guidance on the gov.uk website states that a discretionary payment will last for a set period of time. That is what happens in practice.
In the last period for which we have information on discretionary housing payment, 121 councils ran out of discretionary housing payment budget. That means time-limited grants that people are able to reapply for, but, in a domestic violence situation, that is another burden and payment cannot be guaranteed. That leads to further insecurity for victims and for their children, in particular in the very distressing circumstances, mentioned by my hon. Friend Jess Phillips, where children have been taken away due to failure to protect. We would all wish to see those circumstances come to an end as soon as possible for such families.
I turn to the wider implications of the Government’s policy on domestic violence, particularly around universal credit, which I have been looking at as a member of the Work and Pensions Committee. I very much hope that the Minister will take her experience of issues relating to domestic violence and to women who seek to flee from their abuser and speak to colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions about the single payment system under universal credit. The Financial Times highlights this issue today, saying that women will not even be able to access the money for a bus, train or taxi fare to leave their abuser. As I mentioned in an intervention, even when victims manage to leave, they need a benefits system that will respond immediately to their needs and guarantee them benefit and support. Some victims are not even able to access a place in a refuge without that support and end up going back to the perpetrator of their abuse. One cannot imagine the additional abuse that they will receive having attempted to leave, and then having to go back again.
Although the Bill is welcome, a lot of social housing providers are very concerned about universal credit in cases when there is a joint tenancy, because when a perpetrator of domestic violence leaves, the payment is split between the perpetrator and the victim of domestic abuse. This means that the victim receives only half the housing element of universal credit and therefore immediately falls into arrears. Evidence that we took on the all-party group on universal credit showed that some victims of domestic violence were already being evicted, because the system meant that their arrears had built up to thousands of pounds.
Although I very much welcome the Bill and the Government’s wider intentions, I hope that the Minister will use the experience that she has gathered on the Bill to talk to other Departments and to look at the overall experience of victims of domestic violence and the support that they get from Government.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.