The Secretary of State has regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues on a range of topics. In England we have committed to tackling issues in the private rental sector, including improving standards through the introduction of the decent homes standard, and providing tenants with greater security by banning “no fault” evictions. However, as the right hon. Member will know, rental issues in Wales are a matter for the Welsh Government.
Low quality, expensive private rented accommodation is a problem not only in Wales but throughout the UK. Does the Minister agree that we need more council housing built to a high standard, and will he join me in praising Flintshire County Council for its excellent programme of council house building? That would be an example to the rest of the country, but we need more investment in that area overall.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that question. North Wales certainly has a deficit of housing, as do many other areas, and, as he says, that certainly needs to be addressed through building more homes. I would point out that in 2021-22 there were three new homes built in England per 1,000 and just 1.7 per 1,000 in Wales, so there is much work to do.
According to Rent Smart Wales, the number of registered landlords in Wales fell by 328 during the two years to January this year and there were 301 fewer rental properties available. Does my hon. Friend agree that a significant cause of the current worrying state of the private rental market in Wales is the new legislation introduced by the Welsh Government, which imposes expensive and byzantine licensing obligations on landlords? Does he also agree with the Labour cabinet member for housing on Torfaen Borough Council, Councillor David Daniels, who recently told the council’s scrutiny committee that the new law was the straw that broke the camel’s back, because for landlords it has just been one thing too many?
I thank my right hon. Friend and constituency neighbour. He is perfectly right to raise this issue. He is referring to the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. It may be well intentioned, but the fact is that there is a shortage of housing and if we want to keep landlords in the market we need to incentivise them, so the mandatory regulations and costs imposed are really in place at the wrong time.
Private rental costs in Wales increased by 4.2% in the year to February 2023, the highest annual percentage change since the Tories came to power. The Government have accepted the need to uplift benefits in line with inflation, but they have completely failed to accept that the same principles should, at the very least, apply to the local housing allowance. Given that rent is the largest item of a family’s budget, can the Minister explain exactly why this is one area of policy where the Government do not seem to believe that inflation exists?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the local housing allowance rates were raised to the 30th percentile in 2020 and that there is also support through the discretionary housing payment scheme. There is, in addition, the whole array of support that has been provided through the recent cost of living pressures.