Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:33 am on 18th November 2022.

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Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood National campaign co-ordinator 10:33 am, 18th November 2022

The hon. Member makes an important point: we absolutely need enforcement. I might also observe that we need some money in order to pay for that enforcement—it does not happen automatically. There is no magic wand that can be waved to make sure that enforcement takes place: it requires staff, officers to go around and do the enforcement, and a proper system that is well regulated and sufficiently resourced—to put it bluntly, a system that has the money that it needs.

The hon. Gentleman is right that enforcement of these rules will be incredibly important. That is one of the reasons why, although I welcome a local licensing regime, I still want to see action from the Government. In the end, it is only a national regulator—or by passing a duty to one of the existing national regulators—that will be able to police the system consistently across the whole of the country. By regulating practice nationally, rather than leaving it to local licensing regimes, we will achieve the economies of scale that are required to make the system of enforcement affordable. Local authorities do have a crucial role to play, though, and I have seen the changes in Birmingham: the pilots that the Government commissioned have been undertaken and have reported, and have done good work. However, if we leave it to local licensing regimes, we will still allow rogue providers to play a whack-a-mole system. These are highly enterprising individuals who will, at lightning speed, work out where the gaps in the system lie. If they think Birmingham has got tougher, what is to stop them going straight across to Sandwell or Walsall, where the licensing might not be as strong because those areas have not previously had such a big problem? Suddenly, they have a big problem and have to bring in licensing, and those rogue providers just go to another part of the country. Local licensing is a good step forward, but the Government’s feet should be held to the fire. We need a national regulatory system that applies everywhere, so that this whack-a-mole system can be defeated once and for all.