Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Welfare Reform and Work Bill – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 27th January 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Hollis of Heigham Baroness Hollis of Heigham Labour 9:30 pm, 27th January 2016

My Lords, I have a brief comment and a brief question.

I support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, has said. On Amendment 53, I urge the Minister to take seriously the need for housing associations to be able to plan their building programme and their revenues more than three to four years ahead. The viability of their bank covenants depend on that, and, therefore, their capacity to manage new investment. If there is a query as to whether this 1% rent reduction will be continuing in three years, in whatever form, there will be a serious question mark over the Government’s ability to meet their goal of affordable housing through the social landlord sector.

I urge the Minister to take that amendment very seriously. Some of us have been engaged in negotiations with banks worried about there being no direct payments and therefore tenants having to pay rent out of their UC. They were worried that this would destabilise the rent roll and asked if they could refloat their loans at X, Y or Z. Some of us have already been through that and banks are quite willing to inflate a risk in order to get the revenue returns they would like to see on their covenants. Therefore, the more predictability the Minister can give us, the better. I hoped we would have a clear line, and that after 2019-20 this would stop. If it does not, housing associations and local authorities will have real difficulty in managing their business plans.

Like everyone else I welcome the one-year suspension of the 1% rent reduction in the social rental and supported housing sector. Can the Minister tell me how that will end? Does he expect to notify the House by virtue of an SI? In other words, will he say to the House that from this point on this accommodation will, as a result of this review, be expected to have a 1% rent reduction? Will the Government claim financial privilege, given that it will be a financial measure, so that this House will find it very difficult to discuss it and, possibly, ask the other place to reconsider?