Sanctuary Housing Group

Part of Non-Invasive Precision Cancer Therapies – in the House of Commons at 5:19 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 5:19 pm, 18th July 2019

There are others available. The flag of Lancashire will, of course, be proudly flying, and the flag of Staffordshire as well. I also wonder whether my right hon. Friend knows the millennium clock in Rayleigh in his constituency, which was created in a competition for schoolchildren. One of the shields that appears on the clock was designed by no less a person than Sarah Morgan from my private office in the Department, who is currently sitting in the Box. She proudly tells us about it at every opportunity, and she has also said that one of her ambitions is to appear in Hansard. She has achieved that ambition today.

I will now move on to the content of my right hon. Friend’s debate. Importantly, he spoke about Sanctuary Housing and some of the things he said are a real cause for concern. He will understand that many of those contracts are private commercial matters between his local authority and the housing association, and that disputes should, in the first event, be resolved by the parties to those agreements. However, I was extremely concerned, as a Member of this House and a Minister in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to hear of that organisation’s dismissive attitude towards Members of Parliament who are doing their job by raising the concerns of their constituents. That is completely unacceptable, not just from Sanctuary but from every social housing provider. We are sent to the House to fight for our constituents, and my right hon. Friend is doing a wonderful job this evening. I call on all social landlords, in a positive way, to engage actively with their Members of Parliament, because it is often us that people come to talk to when things are going wrong, and if that route is closed down, Members of Parliament will not be able to do their job and the housing associations and social landlords will also not be able to do theirs.

Many of the points my right hon. Friend raised are matters of real concern, and I hope that Sanctuary will read the Hansard of this debate very carefully. Serious matters have been raised, and they should be dealt with at local level, but it is also a national issue and a matter of concern to all of us that people should engage with Members of Parliament with courtesy and respect and that the issues we raise should be taken extremely seriously. If they are not, we are going to see real problems in social housing sector, and I hope that Sanctuary will listen to the comments I make on behalf of the Department today.

On the issues my right hon. Friend raised about the changes we are going to see, particularly with the regulators, his concern is I think shared by all. We have to find a way to put the tenant voice and the tenant experience absolutely at the heart of our social housing providers. He, I know, is aware that the Government have recently concluded a consultation on the Green Paper; in fact, it concluded in November. We were delighted as a Department, but slightly overwhelmed, by the number of responses we had. Many of those responses, particularly in a world post that appalling tragedy at Grenfell Tower, were about how we as a Government can ensure that tenants’ voices are never lost when it comes to social housing. If we think about some of the consequences we saw on that night just over two years ago and about some of the missed opportunities to support the people of Grenfell Tower, I think we would agree that we should all take this extremely seriously. I look forward to the Government responding in detail both to the Green Paper and all the consultation responses, but I want to reassure my right hon. Friend that the tenant voice and the tenant experience will absolutely be at the heart of what we seek to achieve. That may well include changes to the role of the regulator, although I am not in a position this evening to give any further detail on that.

On a more positive note, I think we should take the opportunity of tonight’s debate to celebrate the work of social landlords and the housing sector more generally in building the homes that our constituents need. In his speech, my right hon. Friend talked about CHP, a local landlord with which he has had a good experience. That may not be universally shared, but it is an accolade that he says he has had no complaints about it. I think that shows how, where there is a great relationship between a council, a Member of Parliament, the tenants and a housing association, they can get things right.

The reason why we must celebrate the contribution of this sector is that we need to ensure and to focus on the fact that, by the mid-2020s, we will be delivering 300,000 homes a year. That is what our country needs, and what this Government are focused on. A good portion of those homes will be delivered by the social housing sector. I was delighted that the Prime Minister announced in September 2018 that we are going to make another £2 billion long-term funding pilot available for social landlords, starting in 2022, so they can get on with the job—to pick up on my right hon. Friend’s comments—of building homes, building communities and ensuring that our constituents, each and every one of them, have the opportunity to own their own home or have a home to call their own for which they pay an affordable rent. That is why I hope my right hon. Friend will join me, the specifics of Sanctuary aside, in celebrating the extraordinary contribution of social landlords more generally.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.