Housing and Planning Bill - Commons Reason

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:50 pm on 11th May 2016.

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Photo of Lord Kerslake Lord Kerslake Crossbench 3:50 pm, 11th May 2016

My Lords, I first declare my interest as chair of Peabody and president of the Local Government Association. The absence of another amendment signals that today will be considerably less dramatic than yesterday. I hope that the House, though, will bear with me while I say a few final words on this Bill.

In the end, any contest between this House and the other place will be an unequal one. That is as it should be: it is elected and we are not. However, that should not dissuade us from making our case clearly and forcefully on issues that really matter. In this case the matters involved matter a great deal. The underlying concerns about this Bill have been about its fairness, its commitment to localism and its deliverability. Most of all it has been about whether it will deliver the additional houses of all types and tenures that this country so desperately needs.

These issues came to the fore in yesterday’s debate. It is now clear that some manifesto commitments come ahead of others. In the competing demands of funding the extension of right to buy and funding the one-for-one replacement—both manifesto commitments —replacement will come a very clear second. Local authorities will have to draw on their own very scarce resources if one for one has any chance of being delivered. It has also become abundantly clear that the sums simply do not add up. How otherwise could you explain the resistance to what was after all a very modest amendment—certainly not a wrecking one—other than that it was born out of this financial discrepancy? It became very clear in yesterday’s debate, by seeking to align the means with the ends, that the financial means are simply not there. However, that will be a debate for another time, and it will go on outside and inside Parliament.

I, too, thank the Minister for her unfailing courtesy and integrity during the passage of this Bill. It is not her fault that she was lumbered with a Bill containing some deeply controversial policies and which in all truth was not really ready. I hope she will understand that it is the issues in the Bill that have created such passion, not the handling of it by her or her team.

I also thank all those organisations outside Parliament, such as Shelter, the Local Government Association, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Housing Federation, which have provided such great support to me and others during the Bill’s passage. As a result, we have been able to make some important improvements to it. We have also been able to change the terms of the debate about what its real impact will be.

Finally, I am not immune to the constitutional concerns nor the anxieties about the future position of the Cross-Benchers. I had an increasing number of fireside chats as we approached the vote yesterday, and with each one the temperature was turned up a notch. However, I have to balance these important issues against what I know about the world outside—as president of the LGA, the deep concerns of local government about the impact of the Bill; as chair of Peabody, the challenge of building more social rented homes; but most of all, what I know about the personal lives of ordinary people. I give just one example of a family with five children living in a two-bedroom flat less than half an hour from this House. The five children share a single bedroom. Will their chances of securing a decent family home be enhanced or diminished by the passage of this Bill? I fear we know the answer to that question. In my view, it is the interests of this family and the many others like them that should come first in our deliberations in this House.