– in the House of Commons at 11:00 am on 3rd March 2023.
I would like to say that Neil Coyle, who has just given a personal statement, has been extremely supportive on the all-party parliamentary group for ending homelessness, and I hope we can welcome him back to helping in that regard.
As I was saying before the personal statement, the problem we are experiencing now in many parts of the country is rogue landlords jumping on the bandwagon with the ability literally to print money and exploit vulnerable tenants. The Select Committee report that I referred to highlighted that in many cases, the profit margins are even greater than illegal drug dealing, emphasising that the amount of housing benefit being taken from the public purse shows a clear abuse of the position.
I thank all Members who took part in the Bill Committee. It was an honour to have such an informed, esteemed and engaged group of people to ensure that any potential amendments were debated and considered in depth, taking into account any possible consequences that may arise, because we must look at the unintended consequences that may result from legislation. They were specifically: my hon. Friend Nickie Aiken, the hon. Members for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) and for Liverpool, West Derby (Ian Byrne), my hon. Friend Mrs Elphicke, the hon. Members for Birmingham, Erdington (Mrs Hamilton) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), my hon. Friend Eddie Hughes, Steve McCabe, my hon. Friend Mr Mohindra, Helen Morgan, my hon. Friend Mary Robinson and last, but by no means least, my hon. Friend Gary Sambrook. In addition, my hon. Friend Dr Wallis and Munira Wilson were not able to make the Committee, but their support was appreciated none the less. The comments, counsel and guidance from the Committee on the Bill were incredibly useful to ensure that all the amendments proposed were appropriate and complemented the Bill’s intentions.
Further, the Committee understood from the outset my vision for the Bill, which is that it is crucial that we drive out the rogue landlords and not hinder the brilliant work done by thousands of organisations across this country, who provide supported housing for those who really need it. I also thank the amazing Clerks in the Public Bill Office for the hard work they have put in to make all this possible. Anne-Marie Griffiths in particular has been on hand to direct the practicalities throughout the process, which has been integral in getting to Third Reading.
On the topic of thanks, I take the opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in drafting, giving evidence, advising and collaborating on my Bill. It has been a busy 10 months since the private Member’s Bill ballot was announced. I am wondering what exactly I will do with my extra time once the Bill goes through its final stages. However, the development of the regulations and the consultations required will, I am sure, keep me actively involved.
I met a variety of providers to ensure that those providing a positive service in the sector will not be compromised as a result of the regulation. I have been overwhelmed by the number of providers that genuinely put the needs of tenants first to support and assist them in rebuilding their lives. I have hosted many webinars organised by Homeless Link, Crisis, the London Assembly, the National Housing Federation, the Local Government Association and Birmingham City Council, which provided me with an opportunity to hear directly from large-scale, small-scale and chain providers. That has been invaluable to get a much more detailed perspective and to resolve any anxieties they may retain about the introduction of this regulation.
Additionally, we have co-operated with and listened to many local authorities across England on the concerns and practicalities they envisage. That has helped to steer the conversation so that the regulation is clear and the appropriate guidance and standards will be available for an efficient licensing scheme to be created by local authorities. As the Bill hopefully moves on to the other place, and then begins enactment in the Department, I have assured all bodies that I will continue to hold them to account and ensure that no unintended consequences are caused or extra unnecessary burdens placed on highly principled providers.
Creating the Bill has been a lengthy and frequently uphill challenge, but it has enabled me to work with some incredible people coming together with one main goal. Some of them I was familiar with from my work in the housing sector and on my previous private Member’s Bill, which became the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Others I have met through this process, and their contributions have shaped the Bill enormously to this point. Crisis, the homelessness charity, has been integral at every stage, providing invaluable support and guidance at all hours of the day and night. Most notably, Jasmine Basran and Sarah Rowe have worked extensively on the policy and logistical aspects of the Bill, providing briefings, advice and counsel, as well as partaking in an unthinkable number of meetings that have taken place over the past nine months.
When I was first drawn in the private Member’s Bill ballot, I approached Crisis informing it I was contemplating the regulation of the exempt accommodation sector. Helpfully, it agreed that this was a beneficial Bill in vital demand and therefore agreed to help draft it, for which I am extremely grateful. Emily Batchelor, Beth Exworth and Martine Martin, who used to be my parliamentary assistant, have also provided enormous support in arranging press releases and briefings to colleagues across the House on the Bill, and in providing secretariat resources for the all-party group for ending homelessness, which I chair jointly with Florence Eshalomi. I have no doubt we will continue these conversations long into the future, to safeguard and review the impact of the Bill on the sector.
Justin Bates from Landmark Chambers was instrumental in drafting the Bill, with his expertise on housing, property and local government law; having edited the erudite “Encyclopaedia of Housing Law and Practice”, there is little Justin has not learned about the subject, and his knowledge of it has been crucial in drafting the text of the Bill. He astutely pulled together our vision to create a thorough and comprehensive Bill, which I am proud has made it to Third Reading, albeit with assistance from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. I hope it can go through the other place and receive Royal Assent without difficulties or complications.
As the House is aware, during this process we have had the advantage of working with three separate Ministers with the portfolio for housing and homelessness: my hon. Friend Andrew Stephenson, who is in his place, and my hon. Friend Felicity Buchan have all been influential in shaping the Bill, in several different ways and several different directions, and allowing it to reach this point. Their guidance, recommendations and flexibility throughout the last six months are hugely appreciated.
I have no doubt that those afflicted by homelessness can trust that their views will continue to be represented fervently and ardently by the current Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, in her relatively new role, and I appreciate the commitments she gave at the Dispatch Box on Second Reading and the amendments she has tabled to aid the Bill. I am confident that, as has been expanded upon, these three amendments will strengthen the Bill’s intentions.
Departmental officials have been a great help in drafting the Bill; they have engaged in countless meetings and conversations with my team and representatives of Crisis, supporting and advising Ministers efficiently on issues affecting the sector. I have also had the pleasure of meeting several direct witnesses of supported housing. Many colleagues in the Chamber today will have listened to Wayne and Ian, both from Crisis Skylight Birmingham, at the “Regulate the Rogues” briefing that took place just before Second Reading. Wayne and Ian both displayed admirable courage and openness when describing their experience of living in supported housing. I am sure we can all agree that sharing such tough times publicly in front of a large group of strangers—telling stories of pure exploitation and deceit—is no easy feat, and I thank them greatly for their vital contributions, which have helped spread awareness of the need to implement regulation and helped engender support for my Bill.
I want to thank the Whips team, as well, for bearing with us during the process; organising a Friday full of debates in the aftermath of a parliamentary away day is no mean feat, as I am sure they will agree, particularly with coach drivers and traffic. Finally, I thank my parliamentary assistant Hattie Shoosmith for all her work in organising meetings and drafting speeches and articles.
Regardless of how seasoned and experienced a Back Bencher is, watching their Bill go through its final stages in the Commons is a truly extraordinary moment. It puts into perspective the intensity of the journey and the impact the Bill will hopefully have when on the statute book. I am, however, especially mindful that this has been possible only thanks to my luck—although I am sure I have questioned on several occasions whether it was good or bad luck—in Madam Deputy Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, drawing ball number 56 from her glass bowl. However, what matters is how we follow up on that luck.
I hope that the hard work of everyone who has been involved up to this point will be championed in the other place. It is an anxious part of the process for an hon. Member who can only watch from afar, but I am extremely grateful that my good friend Lord Best, who no doubt is in the Gallery today, will be a strong advocate for and custodian of the Bill.
The regulation that the Bill seeks to introduce will be a crucial step in supporting people who are in a compromised situation, whether that is because of substance abuse, domestic violence or leaving prison, or for any other reason. It will give them access to sufficient accommodation and a level of care that will aid their road to normalisation and to standing on their own two feet. It is therefore crucial that there be no complications or amendments in the other place that would hinder the Bill’s progression and allow rogue landlords to continue exploiting the public purse and risking the safety of their tenants.
I thank hon. Members for listening and look forward to hearing their contributions. I commend the Bill to the House.
I commend my hon. Friend Bob Blackman for his excellent Bill, on which I was lucky enough to speak on Second Reading in November. I commend the Minister for her foresight in tabling the Government amendments to which we agreed on Report just now; I hope the whole House agrees that they are an additional benefit. The Bill’s intention has the potential to be misinterpreted, so let us be clear: it is there to protect people in supported accommodation and to support the most vulnerable members of society.
In South West Hertfordshire, we have good housing providers and we provide the right support. There are 136 units of supported housing provided by private registered providers in Three Rivers and 2,541 units of supported housing in Dacorum, of which 536 are provided by private registered providers and the rest by the district council. Unfortunately, there are loopholes in the current system that have been open to exploitation. There is evidence that unscrupulous landlords have been capitalising on those loopholes; I have had numerous pieces of correspondence from constituents saying that people are claiming uncapped housing benefits to make a profit.
The Bill will create a minimum standard for type and condition of premises, as well as for the care and support provided. There has been a clear correlation between high concentrations of exempt accommodation and antisocial behaviour and crime. Poor quality of housing—with every room, including communal areas, being turned into a bedroom to make a greater profit for the provider—has led to organised criminal gangs and increased levels of vermin and rubbish, with knock-on consequences for neighbours and for the community as a whole. That creates a risk that local support for these types of dwellings will be undermined.
Lack of data is a really important point that we have debated before in this Chamber. Some 153,700 households in Great Britain were housed in exempt accommodation in May 2021, but the lack of data means that the problem could be much more widespread than even that figure suggests. In some areas of the country, the number of people living in exempt accommodation has doubled in just a few years. That shows the urgency of the issue. Demand is growing and will continue to grow, so we really need to get a handle on this.
I am conscious that several excellent colleagues wish to speak, so I will shorten my comments and end with a point about taxpayers’ money. There is no publicly available data on Government expenditure on exempt accommodation. As we all know, the Government have no money—the money belongs to taxpayers—so we always need to think about value for money. We cannot just throw money at the issue. It is more than possible that the Government may need to spend even more, but we need a better understanding of the issue, and that will be driven by increased data. In the current economic climate, we need to be a lot more conscious of saving the pennies and the pounds.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I commend once again Bob Blackman for introducing this extremely important Bill, and congratulate him on piloting it through Committee to its Third Reading today. Let me take the opportunity, as he did, to thank again all those who have contributed to the development and drafting of the Bill, including Justin Bates, Joe Thomas, Sam Lister, the team at Crisis and, we must not forget, Eddie Hughes.
The Opposition regret how long we have had to wait for legislation to address exploitation and profiteering at the hands of rogue exempt accommodation operators, and the fact that progress in this area has been dependent on the ongoing success of the hon. Member for Harrow East in the private Member’s Bill ballot. We have been clear since the Bill was published that we support the measures in it, as a means to enhance local authority oversight of supported housing and enable local authorities to drive up standards in their areas. As we have long argued, a robust framework of national standards for the sector is essential. There is an open and shut case for better regulating the eligibility for—and therefore access to—exempt benefit claims at local level.
That said, our position has always been that the Bill could be strengthened in important ways. As the House may recall, we made a number of specific suggestions to that end on Second Reading. They included new planning powers to allow local authorities to proactively manage their local supported housing markets; enhanced provisions for national monitoring and oversight; augmenting the list of new banning order offences; and establishing evaluation and improvement notice procedures, so that local authorities can drive up standards without implementing a full licensing regime. We remain of the view that those suggestions have merit, and we believe that they will need to be revisited if the Bill fails to deliver in the way that we all hope it will.
We welcome the three Government amendments that have been incorporated into the Bill, particularly amendment 2, which was initially pressed by my hon. Friend Mr Betts in Committee. As the Minister made clear, the amendment provides for conditions relating to needs assessments to be attached to a licence. We believe that the three amendments improve the legislation and we support them. However, although the Bill has undoubtedly been strengthened by their incorporation, there remain a number of important issues that we feel still need to be resolved, and I want to take the opportunity to speak briefly to three of them.
The first relates to methods of enforcing new national standards short of licensing. As hon. Members will know, although the Bill places a duty on all local authorities to publish a supported housing strategy, it does not require them all to implement a licensing scheme as a means of enforcing the new national supported housing standards that it introduces. On balance, we agree that the adoption of licensing of supported exempt accommodation should be optional. However, the fact that it will be gives rise to the possibility not only that local authorities with large amounts of badly run exempt accommodation could ultimately choose not to license, but that local authorities with limited resources or only one or two problematic providers will not be in a position to introduce licensing schemes and will therefore be unable to properly enforce new national standards.
We appreciate fully that the Government intend to consult on this matter under the duties set out in clause 6, but we urge Ministers to agree in principle now that there is a strong case for providing for a range of different enforcement options, in terms both of their strength and to whom they apply. In particular, we encourage the Minister to give serious consideration to giving local authorities powers analogous to those in part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, which provides for the housing health and safety rating system, hazard awareness notices and improvement notice procedures. As the Minister will know, outside large urban areas, most local authorities have only a handful of officers—if that—in their private rented sector teams. We need to ensure that there is a suite of options short of licensing that will allow smaller authorities to bear down on the problem.
The second issue relates to local authority resourcing. The Bill will place additional requirements on local authorities to carry out reviews of supported exempt accommodation in their districts and to publish supported housing strategies. In addition, authorities that believe it necessary to adopt licensing schemes and are in a position to do so will face additional costs as a result. In Committee, the Minister confirmed that a new burdens assessment will be made, but he seemed to imply that it would relate only to setting up supported housing strategies and the initial set-up of licensing schemes. We are therefore concerned that local authorities, ultimately, may not receive any support for ongoing costs, particularly in relation to licensing schemes. We would welcome some assurance from the Minister that the net additional cost of any new burdens arising from the Bill will be fully and properly funded and, if not, how the Government believe the ongoing costs can be made self-financing.
The third and final issue relates to the regulation of non-profit-making providers who let some properties at below-market rents, while letting others at market rents that are eligible for housing benefit support without coming within the scope of consumer regulation. We raised that matter at Committee stage of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, because it is a regulatory loophole that is being exploited by unscrupulous exempt accommodation providers, and this Bill contains no obvious provisions to close it. Indeed, our fear is that once the Bill receives Royal Assent, rogue providers of supported exempt accommodation will be incentivised to exploit the loophole in question further, as it will be one of the few that remain. We believe that the loophole can be successfully closed using the framework provided by the Bill, perhaps by using regulation to introduce passporting powers in respect of licensing schemes so that only those providers with a double-compliant grade could be automatically passported. I urge the Minister to give the matter further consideration and would be more than happy to engage with her on it.
Those specific concerns aside, we very much welcome the fact that the Bill will complete its passage today. It is not a panacea, but it will undoubtedly help to put rogue exempt accommodation operators out of business and better enable local authorities to drive up supported housing standards in their areas. In doing so, as the hon. Member for Harrow East said, it will improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society and bring relief to communities struggling to cope with the impact of concentrated numbers of badly run exempt accommodation properties. We recognise that today is a significant, important step forward and we are very pleased to give the Bill our support.
I appreciate that many Members wish to speak, so I will keep my remarks brief. I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend Bob Blackman, who is a veteran in being successful in private Members’ Bills ballots. I have long watched him. I used him as an example when I was in the classroom teaching sixth-form A-level politics students and he put through the House the Homelessness Reduction Bill, now the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. That is a fantastic piece of legislation, and it demonstrates the power that Back Benchers have to influence Government policy, engaging with all sides of the House to bring forward positive change. He deserves enormous credit for his incredible work to be a strong voice for, in many cases, the voiceless in our society.
I could not agree more on the importance of this Bill. We have really good providers in Stoke-on-Trent, whether Concrete or Brighter Futures. The latter charitable organisation is currently being supported by the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, raising money to help people who have come out of prison, or who are recovering from alcohol and drug addiction and so on, to get set up in a home and rebuild their lives. They are fantastic examples of organisations that have, and will have, nothing to fear from this Bill, because they are fine examples of what a good landlord should be doing. It is absolutely correct that the only people who will loudly moan and groan about it are the rogue landlords who seek to profiteer off the back of hardship and misery, seeking to take advantage of the defenceless who they know will not have a strong voice.
I introduced my own private Members’ Bill to increase fines on rogue and absent landlords under section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, because of the degradation of the Price and Kensington Teapot Works by a rogue landlord, who allowed fires to be set up on site and used it as a dumping site. That important grade II* listed building in Longport is now rotting and is sadly probably damaged beyond repair. I thank the Minister and the team from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for adopting my proposed legislation into the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently going through the House—I am lucky to be able to piggy-back off the back of Government legislation to get my own private Member’s Bill through the House.
On the scheme, I join the shadow Minister, Matthew Pennycook, in his concern about the cost of implementation. Stoke-on-Trent City Council is the second poorest in terms of what it brings in through council tax. Some 94% of our properties are band A to D, so when we put up council tax by 1% it brings in £900,000, whereas a council in Surrey would bring in £13 million. It will therefore be really important to find the funds to ensure that we deliver the scheme. That financial support will have to come from the taxpayer via the Government to ensure it can be enforced. Stoke-on- Trent will have a higher than average use of that kind of supported accommodation. Stoke-on-Trent City Council has tried schemes, such as the landlord accreditation scheme in Portland Street in the Etruria and Hanley ward, which I represent, but sadly it was a voluntary scheme that only good landlords signed up to and took part in. Rogue landlords avoided it. That meant we did not really get the benefit of holding them to account.
I am very supportive of the universal local licensing scheme. We absolutely should be looking to hold landlords to account. They have the great honour of owning these properties, so it is only right that they look after the tenants who currently pay such extortionately high rents. Sadly, we are not building as many homes as I would like, to increase home ownership and drive down cost in the rental market.
The licensing regulations and, most importantly, the support package that have come forward are essential. As the Minister outlined perfectly in her speech, vulnerable people should be assessed before they move into a property and a tailored plan should be designed for them. These people are stakeholders in our society and they need that support to ensure that they get back on the ladder and do not have to rely on friends and families for support when they have their own lives to be concerned about.
We also have to make sure that we find such houses in appropriate places so that we are not clumping or clustering vulnerable people together. Sadly, that will attract levels of antisocial behaviour and will increase the presence of vile drug gangs or county lines gangs, as has happened especially in Stoke-on-Trent North, who try to push their filth on the streets around those who are vulnerable. We need to make sure that we do all we can in that regard to have a properly regulated licensing scheme. Once again, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East on his fantastic Bill.
I refer hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I thank my hon. Friend Bob Blackman for bringing this important issue into the spotlight. It will be no surprise that I am pleased to endorse the Bill’s provisions and I am pleased that it has received cross-party support.
Let us keep in mind why the system exists. Simply, it acknowledges that the cost of managing shared supported accommodation can be higher than the average and that not-for-profit organisations’ supported housing services may be unviable if benefit levels are limited using the same rules as for mainstream private renting. What we have witnessed recently, however, is a minority of investors looking to maximise returns using the higher rents permitted by the exempt housing benefit schemes. In simple terms, unscrupulous agencies are now exploiting gaps in the regulatory regime to claim higher benefit levels while providing minimal levels of support, which often results in poor housing conditions and ineffective care and support for vulnerable residents. We cannot allow those practices to continue.
In the same way, however, I have concerns about absentee landlords in part of my Sedgefield constituency, who exploit the lower property costs in the north and do not look after their properties to the extent that they should for the tenants or for the local residents. Typically, they exploit the same cohort of vulnerable residents who we are talking about today.
Durham County Council has a registered landlords scheme that attempts to address failing landlords. I encourage it to urgently focus on the worst offenders, because too often it goes for the easy target of the good landlords. Landlords such as me want those people out—we want the worst offenders to be threatened—to ensure that we have the right accommodation for people. I have given a few specific cases to the council, such as places in Ferryhill and Station Town, where good streets are being undermined by the degradation of one property that pulls the whole area down. I would appreciate the council’s focus on that, because those absentee landlords just do not care.
That being said, when delivered well, exempt accommodation not only plays a useful role in providing good-quality transitional accommodation and support for people as they move on from homelessness, but often serves as a vital progenitor of social rehabilitation through the accommodation of some of society’s most marginalised groups. They include prison leavers, people leaving national asylum seeker services, people fleeing domestic abuse and others whose homelessness is compounded by factors such as substance dependence or mental health needs.
To that end, the crux of my contribution is to emphasise the urgent need for further investigation to quantify the scale and profile of exempt provision and the extent to which providers in any area are considered problematic. If the Bill is the first in an inevitable sequence of legislative proposals, we as legislators must be in full possession of quantifiable data. That is the only way to legislate effectively and responsibly as we crack down on the problem.
Regardless of the scale and the minor gaps in national data, however, it is clear that swift action is needed to safeguard the interests of those whose life chances are already being damaged by poor-quality exempt provision and to prevent further escalation of the problem. I commend the Bill.
It is a pleasure to speak on Third Reading of this important Bill put forward by my hon. Friend Bob Blackman. Supported living—supported housing—gives some of the most vulnerable people in our communities a safe haven. It offers them the most choice and control over their lives, and a chance to live a life like everyone else around them. Supported living can have an enormous positive impact on an individual’s quality of life—from their physical and mental health to their engagement with the community.
In 2020, the Government announced the national statement of expectations for supported housing, setting out their vision for ways of working in the sector and recommendations for standards in accommodation. This was an important step in establishing what good supported housing looks like and how it can be achieved.
Most supported housing providers deliver high-quality accommodation and go above and beyond minimum standards. However, it is vital not only that all supported housing is of high quality, but that the people who need the support have the accommodation that meets their needs and allows them to thrive—the right support in the right place—and that the vulnerable are protected from unscrupulous people who seek to take advantage of them. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but best practice also involves collaboration across housing, health, commissioners, providers and the third sector.
We have some fantastic supported housing organisations across beautiful Hastings and Rye—Aspens comes to mind, as well as Support 4 Independent Living. East Sussex County Council works really hard through its supported accommodation team to support providers who have houses, flats, or self-contained bedsits to provide accommodation, and assist tenants referred by adult social care services, and I am sure that the team would welcome this Bill. We have a very high level of need for supported housing services not only in Hastings and Rye, but across east Sussex, and local authority funding needs to better reflect this high need and I ask the Minister to consider that.
I note and welcome the Government’s amendments, further clarifying the licensing powers included in the Bill. This is a Bill that will help some of the most vulnerable in our society and I wish it well as it progresses through the House.
It is a pleasure to speak briefly on Third Reading. I congratulate my hon. Friend Bob Blackman on introducing this important Bill, and I thank him for his tireless efforts. This crucial Bill is key to stopping the exploitation of vulnerable people by rogue landlords operating poor-quality supported housing. I am determined to put an end to this abuse of the system.
In parts of the country there has been a growth in accommodation with little or even no support being provided, but where landlords are charging extortionate levels of rent, paid for through housing benefit. That is an abuse of the system and it puts people who should be receiving support at risk. The Government had already set out our intention to regulate the supported housing sector, and my hon. Friend’s Bill will bring in that much-needed regulation.
Let me be clear: we will do what we have to do to get ahead and stay ahead of rogue providers and make sure that supported housing is of good quality for all residents. These vulnerable people have often already reached a crisis point and it is crucial that they get the support that they need and deserve to help rebuild their lives.
The Bill will ensure that supported housing is of good quality for the residents living in it and, as my hon. Friend Mr Mohindra said, also good value for money for the taxpayer. The Government have committed to acting as quickly as possible. To that end, I shall repeat the commitment that I made on Second Reading to make regulations for the licensing scheme within 18 months of the Bill’s passing. In reply to the shadow Minister’s question, let me confirm that there will be a new burdens assessment. We envisage that over time the licensing scheme will become self-funding, but there will be a proper new burdens assessment, and we would expect the set-up of the scheme to be included in that.
Let me end by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East for introducing this important Bill. I also thank the charity Crisis, and my predecessors in this role—my right hon. Friend Andrew Stephenson, who is present, and my hon. Friend Eddie Hughes. I thank all the members of the Select Committee, and all those who served on the Bill Committee, many of whom are here today. Finally, I thank all my officials who have helped me with the Bill, including Darrell Smith, Emma Stubbs, Sarah Carpenter, Richard Loftman and Cathy Page, our legal adviser Melissa Spurling, and my private secretary, Ed Culliney.
With the leave of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank all the Members who have spoken today, including my hon. Friends the Members for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Mohindra), for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) and for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart), as well as the Opposition spokesman, Matthew Pennycook, whom I thank for his constructive support throughout the Bill’s passage, and, of course, my hon. Friend the Minister.
Thousands of organisations up and down the country do a brilliant job in helping vulnerable people. They have nothing to fear from this Bill, and we must keep emphasising that. Unfortunately, however, a growing number of rogue landlords are seeking to exploit the fact that vulnerable people need additional support and therefore have access to additional housing benefit and other additional benefits. It is right for them to have that access because they are vulnerable and need to rebuild their lives, but unfortunately an increasing number of rogues are seeking to exploit our generosity in helping them, so as the Bill leaves this House the message must be loud and clear: the time in which the rogue landlords have been able to exploit those vulnerable people is rapidly coming to an end.
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for her work, and for setting out her stall today with the regulations that we need to introduce and the consultations that are needed to ensure that we get those regulations right. Housing authorities throughout the country will need to consider setting up licensing arrangements, and they should start to think now about what they will need to do.
This is a proud moment for me. Having worked on the Bill for 10 months, I leave it in the excellent hands of my good friend Lord Best, who I am sure will ferry it safely through the other place towards Royal Assent and the statute book.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.