Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 27th March 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench 10:15 pm, 27th March 2012

My Lords, I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, on her persistence in pursuing this issue. Over time, she has opened our eyes to just what is involved.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised the question of homelessness and housing supply. One of the things that worries me a lot is the number of blocks of flats that are blocked up over huge areas and have been, I should have thought, for a good 12 months. They are areas of housing that could have been redeveloped much earlier if there had been any sense of urgency about getting on with that sort of building. We all know that there is a great deal of replacement of existing buildings in this country; it goes on the whole time. We know that we are in a financial crisis and that there are many people out of work who do not have the money to pay rent. I commend noble Lords to remember that just outside our own door, at the entrance to the Underground, one can find signs of people sleeping there at night. They sleep on the cold stone with their tiny bits of property literally outside the entrance to the Underground and cover themselves up with cardboard boxes as best they can. It is hardly a good advertisement for what we are doing to help those who are genuinely homeless.

I would like the noble Baroness who is responding to the amendment to concentrate on how many premises remain empty when they could be inhabited by families. That is no doubt a factor that increases rents. I will leave it at that. However, I have certainly begun to think rather more seriously about the issue than I did when the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, first raised it.