My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to address a subject about which I feel passionate. It is a small way to begin to discharge a debt owed by people of my generation to those younger than us. I should also like to express my gratitude to those who will speak later in this debate. I trust it will lay bare an existential need to bring imagination, compassion and resource to the housing needs of young people.
I am a Methodist minister working in London, where the City of London and the boroughs of Islington and Hackney all come together. A Peabody housing estate and blocks of flats built by our local authorities attest to the provision of social housing in earlier times. These dwellings have been inhabited by thousands of lower-income families, many of whom are reached by the ministries of our church. It is with the children of these families that I want to begin. We work hard to raise their aspirations, broaden their horizons and help them strike out towards a bright future. A philanthropist friend has contributed millions of pounds to allow a steady stream of inner-city boys and girls to take up places at the Leys School, our Methodist school in Cambridge. He has also helped us to set up a small fund that helps dozens of our young people who head off for university, where some have gained very impressive qualifications. It is what happens next in the lives of these young people—educated, talented and multi-ethnic young people—that has led to my seeking this debate.
I should put alongside those young people from my congregation the pupils of two splendid inner-city secondary schools—one for boys in Islington and the other for girls in Tower Hamlets—which together form the Central Foundation Schools of London. One hundred and fifty years ago, this foundation was set up to provide for the educational needs of middle-class children. Both schools have undergone exponential change in recent years and are now among the best-performing schools in London. They send young adults on to higher education and into the world of work, and there are brilliant mentoring schemes with local enterprises. It is what happens to those pupils when they leave school that concerns me. They were born, have grown up and are being educated in this part of London. As they begin to establish their own lives, it is becoming virtually impossible for them to root those lives in the communities they know, close to friends and support networks.
If this were a sermon—which of course is a craft I know something about—I would begin with a text by St Theresa:
“If you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home”.
That is quite an opening blast from an incoming Prime Minister, especially when we remember all the experience that she gained in her years at the Home Office. So we hang on to the pledge with which she followed that declaration. She promised to make Britain,
“a country that works for everyone”.
Everyone includes, of course, young people, and it is in the spirit of that pledge that I offer my remarks today.
At this point, I suggest that there is little point in trading statistics across the Floor of the House—we must surely all be aware of the housing crisis facing us. Nor do I think there is much to gain from comparing the achievements or failures of successive Administrations. Everyone has tried to respond to the crisis but no one can honestly say that they have cracked it. This Government and their coalition predecessor brought forward their Starter Home scheme and offered Help to Buy equity loans. The Communities Secretary has recently called for 1 million new homes to be built by 2020. We can only wish him well. It is not the first time that that same call has been made—indeed, an identical target was abandoned only recently—but by all means let us have another go.
To meet the target, the maths are not difficult—just divide 1 million by four—but it has been notoriously difficult to get anywhere near the figure that results from that equation. The best that anyone has done in recent times was 10 years ago, in 2006-07, when 219,000 homes were built. Last year it was just 170,000 and the previous year a miserly 145,000. Even the 100,000 prefabs mentioned in the media this week as perhaps one way of helping to reach the jackpot would only scratch the surface of our housing problem.
A little YouTube clip that has been watched by millions of people says it all. It shows a young couple living in rented accommodation and trying hard to save up for a deposit on a house. Their joint earnings amount to £58,000 but they still cannot get enough money together for a deposit. Average rents have risen by 20% in the last five years, while average wages have risen by only 5%. Again, the maths are simple. Rent in London has now soared to a median of £1,400 per calendar month. As London First—a splendid coalition of London employers, the housing charity Shelter, the FSB and the CBI—puts it, as part of its Fifty Thousand Homes campaign:
It points out that even entry-level bankers will struggle to afford these rents.
The rented sector offers little solace for young people. Evidence of that was readily available in the Homes and Property section of yesterday’s Evening Standard. It looked at the rent levels of people seeking to live in one room. The borough of Bexley offers the cheapest such accommodation at £500 per room—that is per room, not flat. It was a frightening feature article and made it clear just how the rented sector proves such an attractive arena for private landlords who can so easily exploit the housing shortage to their benefit.
In the next few months, I will be moving from my tied accommodation into the housing market for the first time in my life. Initial exploration has revealed to me the risks, the lack of security and the costs that are involved in trying to find somewhere to live, whether to buy or rent. This hits young people hardest. It really is time that people of our generation come clean about the mess we have left for our children and grandchildren.
There has been much talk about the need to invest in large capital projects as we face an uncertain economic future. The Crossrail project is nearing completion, the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point has got the green light, HS2 is stuttering its way into life and a new runway at Heathrow seems to have got approval. The mood music is clear, but here come my questions. Why cannot we put the provision of housing on a par with all these grand projects? Is not the need to have a roof over our heads and a decent place to live a fundamental human right? Why can we not commit to a national plan to meet the housing targets that we continue to set for ourselves? Why can this not be bipartisan? Why can this obvious social need not command the best energies of us all in a concerted effort to change things? Is it really impossible to provide more support to local authorities that want to start building again? Is it really impossible or politically inexpedient to abolish the restrictions that prevent local authorities borrowing against the value of their housing stock, especially where this would be done within prudential limits? Is ideology or a refusal to recognise past failures always going to win on this matter?
The housing market is so totally skewed in the part of London where I live. Block after block of luxury flats is being built, and five years ago, the cheapest in a development 50 yards from my home was going for £650,000. There seems no end to the demand for these flats, yet nobody seems to live in them. Speculative building is taking up all our space, driving up demand, and contributing to the increasing unaffordability of housing for local people and thereby gentrifying our community. In 2010, 50% of pupils entering our local boys school were registered for free school meals. Six years later, this year, that has dropped to 16%. If this meant that local residents were becoming more affluent, it would be fine, but of course it does not mean that at all. It simply points to local people being edged out of their accommodation as wealthier people buy into it. Social change is a weird thing when it is forced by these artificial market forces.
I see these things from my metropolitan point of view. However, I am happy to acknowledge submissions I have received from other parts of the country from charitable bodies that work across England, and from the Countryside Alliance in respect of rural communities. They offer a broad measure of support for the case I am seeking to establish. The current housing crisis should be recognised as a national emergency and treated as such.
Shelter, that admirable champion of those seeking decent housing, has worked out a formula it calls the living home standard and applied it to the needs of young people. Shelter offers this standard as a,
“housing equivalent of the living wage”.
Unsurprisingly, it breaks down the essential elements of that formula into five basic components: affordability, space, stability, decent conditions and neighbourhood. It is the lack of provision across all these requirements, especially as they affect young people, that has led me to seek this debate today.
I am currently helping an author who has written the biography of Sir Kingsley Wood, an important Conservative politician of the 1920s and 1930s. At his untimely death in 1943, he was Winston Churchill’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. His most significant government service was in the Department of Health, first as assistant to Neville Chamberlain and then, later, as Minister in his own right. In those days, responsibility for housing fell within the Department of Health. Wood worked it all out: if people are decently housed, they are likely to enjoy better health. In 1925, as a Conservative Minister, he was brave enough, as he put it,
“to take a risk .... in the national interest”,
by directing £14 million then being spent on the treatment of tuberculosis towards housing on the grounds that such an investment offered a way of preventing the progress of the disease and, in the end, would save money.
I remember the research of a young scholar in our congregation who was examining the relationship between the conditions in which people live and their mental health. He was clear that mental illness was frequently a consequence of bad housing and the social environment in which people lived. He is now a professor in McGill University, Montreal, and his skills are sought globally. In other words, proper attention given to housing is likely to show good results across the board: employment in the construction industry; dignity in people’s personal lives; well-being and good social image; protection and security for ordinary people; and a better future for our young people, who are currently in danger of being locked out of the housing market and moved out of the neighbourhoods that have nurtured them. I hope that, in some small way, people will have heard my voice articulating their concerns.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, for introducing his debate on housing, which we all know is a central issue of our times. He did so with all the fluency one would expect of a minister of the Church without it ever quite sounding like a sermon. He was right to pinpoint the issue of the obligation of our generation and perhaps the generation after us to young people, who are finding this problem extremely difficult to overcome.
From having taken part in many debates on housing in the past 12 months, particularly on the Housing and Planning Bill, which had a difficult passage through this House, I feel encouraged now that the Government really do get it. The noble Lord quoted St Theresa, and I am encouraged by feeling that the Government now understand that this is a central issue which they have to tackle and which has to be judged accordingly.
Secondly, I am very pleased at the way that the new Ministers in charge of this area after the change of Government are tackling the issue, particularly Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State, who is an economist and former Treasury Minister, which is important in this context as he has the right sort of background to understand this issue, and Gavin Barwell who, as the noble Lord will know, is a London Member of Parliament and understands the problems that are particularly acute in our capital city. I am confident that they are the right team to tackle this.
Thirdly, I praise ourselves because in the report by the Economic Affairs Committee of this House, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, we had the right sort of solutions to the problems we face. He made a number of points, of which two particularly struck home. The first is that, above all, this is an issue of supply. The Government are saying that we must build up to constructing 200,000 homes a year. Our committee’s report said that was not enough. We should be building up to 300,000 houses a year. I know that that is a steep climb from 150,000 to 170,000 homes, which is where we are at the moment. Incidentally, that figure does resonate: it was the number that Harold Macmillan achieved after three years as housing Minister. It is not an unfair aim for a Conservative Government to reach in due course.
The second major point made in the Hollick report, if I can call it that, was that the private sector will not do this. We have to encourage social housing, whether through housing associations or council housing. They must build far more than they have done in recent years. That is fundamental because we will never get anywhere near what is necessary if we rely on the private sector, which has different objectives, above all around profit and so on, so clearly we have to get a grip on the social sector. In my view there are three areas that the Government should be looking at to tackle the issue.
First, as the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, has just said, the Government should abandon the cap on local authority spending on housing. He instanced a number of infrastructure projects that are going ahead in place of housing. It is ridiculous that local authorities can build swimming pools ad lib but cannot construct housing beyond a certain point. As he said, there are issues of prudence which councils can adhere to in order to prevent them being reckless in how they handle their finances.
Secondly, public land should be organised. A great deal of public land is available for housing, as it is for other things. I believe that the Government should organise it properly and relax the Treasury rules on getting good value for land. It should be more sympathetic to settling on a slightly lower price for relevant bodies. Indeed, I understand that the Secretary of State is looking at direct commissioning, whereby the Government will directly commission new housing on public land released at the right sort of value to make that possible.
Thirdly, the Government should encourage the formation of housing associations. I declare a former interest as the first chairman of the Circle 33 Housing Group, which is now the Circle Housing Group. It undertakes housing projects in the London area and around East Anglia, and it could do far more. Shortly I will be attending a meeting being held by the National Housing Federation—as, I am sure, will many other noble Lords—headlined “Ambition to Deliver”. We can and should be building more houses, and I believe that housing associations can do so.
The Government are heading in the right direction and they have the right team in place. I look forward to the White Paper that I believe will be published this month or in December, which will put more flesh on the bones of this critical issue of our time.
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Griffiths for initiating this debate. When 3.5 million young people are either forced to live with their parents or are sleeping rough, we have a very serious societal problem. It applies not only to the inner cities to which my noble friend referred, but to many smaller towns and in particular to rural areas. Young people in our countryside cannot afford to live and work in the villages and towns in which they were born and brought up.
The same applies in urban areas. Not far from here there used to be communities of people who did not need an excessive income to be able to buy or rent premises. Nowadays, the new generation is having to move out and its homes are being replaced by the kind of buildings referred to by my noble friend. As I say, this is a serious societal issue.
There are some great names among past government housing Ministers, from Maxton to Bevan to Macmillan and, indeed, Kingsley Wood, but the last 30 years of delivery on housing policy by successive Governments has been appalling. Young people in particular are not able to get on the housing ladder and we have a private rented situation that is, in effect, highly exploitative in areas of great housing stress and very insecure.
The noble Lord, Lord Horam, is absolutely right about completion of new-build houses. This is a supply issue. New-build houses have been running at about half the rate of household formation for nearly 20 years. Indeed, the housing that is being built is, of course, housing where developers can make money. For the most part it is not only high-end, unaffordable and out of reach for large proportions of the population, it is also, in its physical proportions, singularly inappropriate for single people, young couples with small families, or pensioners who want to move out of larger premises and thereby make way for younger families. I include in that, of course, retiring Methodist ministers. Instead, we have so-called luxury flats, which distort the housing market in our city centres, and restrictions on building in small towns and villages.
Provision of social housing has drastically fallen over recent years. Even now, with the social housing that still exists in our inner cities, we face sell-off, demolition and exile for the tenants and leaseholders in those premises. I am not making a party-political point. Councils of all persuasions have found themselves, because of the financial restrictions, forced into engaging in activities that break up communities and disadvantage the younger generation in particular.
Local authorities need to be able to play a much more positive and effective role. They need new-build programmes. Again, here I agree to a large extent with the noble Lord, Lord Horam. They need to have the cap on their building and finances removed. They need borrowing powers. We need to regard housing as a vital part of our infrastructure strategy. We need to ensure that we replace homes that are sold off by the extended right-to-buy provisions on a one-for-one and like-for-like basis, and that we produce housing that meets the needs of single people and young families.
Only a determined and new form of housing strategy will resolve the problems of the younger people and the wider housing crisis we have. This is not only a social and economic problem, as my noble friend implies, but a moral problem. There are great and growing divisions in society; generational divisions are some of the most dangerous. Compare the young people stuck at home with their parents or living in inadequate conversions, bedsits and multiple occupation with extortionate rents and poor premises, with our generation and that immediately below us, who by and large had acquired housing, were owner-occupiers, or were secure social tenants in council or housing association buildings. That is building up significant resentment on the part of the younger generation. It adds to the resentment of them having lower incomes and lower wages and the absence of potential pension provisions, as contrasted with us and the over-50s. This resentment is only part of the effects of the failure to deliver appropriate and affordable housing to our younger generation, but it creates not only immediate problems of policy but very dangerous social divisions.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Bury Port, for initiating this all-important debate and his eloquent summary of the current situation. I am registered as a vice-chair of the All-Party Group for the Private Rented Sector. I think we are all agreed on one thing: we would not start from here and 30 years of lack of housebuilding, in all mixes of tenure, has led us to this point.
At the end of this chain—on the front line—are homeless young people. Once a year, the charity Depaul UK, which works with vulnerable young homeless people, has a “CEO sleepout” to raise funds and awareness. On Monday night 200 of us, including some parliamentary colleagues, slept out. Just one night on a cold slab of concrete serves as a sharp reminder of where roughly 1.3 million young people have at some point ended up; namely, sleeping rough or in an unsafe place.
I recall lobbying both the Major and Blair Governments for the charity, Shelter, about the desperate need to solve supply at that time and even then having a limited impact. All Governments at some point have had within them great advocates for the need to promote supply, particularly of social housing, as the noble Lord, Lord Horam, has shown. But it is never enough.
In the coalition Government, the Help to Buy scheme, bringing empty homes back into use through the empty homes premium, increasing support for self-build and a small increase in the building of social housing were not enough. Even if we were to close down both Parliaments—no, let us close down the whole of Westminster—trained everyone in the area, reskilled them in the skills now lost to the housebuilding industry and started to build in earnest, it would still take too long for the supply of homes to meet current need. As the LGA says, we need to build a minimum of 250,000 homes a year—in the Liberal Democrats, we believe that it should be 300,000. But last year, as the noble Lord has already explained, around 170,000 homes were built.
If we would not start from here, my question for this debate is: is the private rented sector now part of the solution? According to the Financial Times, No. 10 is starting to think that it may be. Now that 20% of the population is living in this sector, with a growing number of people renting throughout their adult lives, perhaps it is. However, our private rented sector in too many cases is simply not fit for purpose, for families or for young people
Perhaps then this is a moment when this Government should take a long hard look at security in the private rented sector. There can be small but essential changes. My own Private Member’s Bill, to make provision for the rights of renters, will be in Committee in a fortnight—all are welcome to come along. There are two central proposals in it. First, if there is to be a database of rogue landlords, and we welcome that change in the Housing and Planning Act 2016, we believe that it should be open. If a landlord is designated as a rogue landlord under the new Act, a tenant should know that. Secondly, for too long, lettings agents have been able to double-dip into fees: they charge the tenant, who has no choice when it comes to who their letting agent is, having already made the difficult choice of a place to live and the landlord they will have. Instead, lettings agents should charge the landlords only. They are the party who can shop around and make the choice about which lettings agency to use. The law has been successfully changed in Scotland with little impact on either rents or the lettings agent sector.
Yesterday, I met a 41 year-old who has just started renting near Liverpool. He has paid £300 to a lettings agent for “admin fees”, with no transparency and no explanation of what it is for. He has also paid a deposit of just under £1,000. The flat is so damp that water is seeping up through the lino in the kitchen. So what is that £300 for? It is clearly not for checking whether the place was in good order in the first place.
People who rent are faced with significant up-front costs and often very short tenures, and they have to pay more fees and find large deposits every time they move. Young people in particular have to move often, especially in London. In England, the length of a let is always so short that they face those up-front costs again and again.
If the rented sector is part of the solution, or the stop-gap between here and the vision of housing in the future that I think many of us have, it is a market badly in need of reform. Shelter has published with YouGov a detailed survey of more than 3,000 private renters and a study of the differences in legal status of renters elsewhere in Europe. It is entitled Time for Reform: How our Neighbours with Mature Private Renting Markets Guarantee Stability for Renters. The findings are fascinating. I urge the Minister to read it and use it in the current DCLG working group that is looking, right now, at the private rented sector. The report explains that we are the nation with the least stable renting laws in Europe, the only exceptions being Switzerland and Portugal. In all other countries, including Poland, Slovakia and Greece, private renters are given greater security of tenure. Eighty million renters across the countries studied rent in markets where more than a year’s minimum security from eviction without grounds is the legal norm. Both Ireland and Scotland have recently introduced these changes.
We have heard the phrase “take back control” a lot over recent weeks—it is something of a mantra—but young people renting in this country have no or limited control. When the quality is poor, it affects relationships, plans to raise children, travel to work and health. It is time for a generation that has little choice but to rent to have much greater control over how they rent.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness with her long career in campaigning on homelessness and her detailed knowledge of the area. I too am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, for securing this timely and important debate—
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Burry Port on securing this important and timely debate. The housing shortage is harming many in our society, but there is one group I wish to highlight today. Women prisoners face many problems on release, one of which is homelessness. Without safe and affordable housing, they are at high risk of both exploitation and reoffending. Most are likely to have been victims as well as offenders. There is a high level of unmet mental health need, often resulting in self-harm and suicide. Some 19 women have died in prison this year.
Most women should not be imprisoned. Few women prisoners are notorious for horrific crimes. The majority are in for non-violent offences, serving short sentences which serve little purpose, apart from further disrupting their already chaotic lives. I hope that the government strategy to improve the treatment of female offenders in custody and in the community, promised today for early 2017, will reassess the use of these short sentences to rehabilitate and cut reoffending and instead support women’s centres. The Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison recently published a research paper, Home Truths, which calls for preventive action to deal with women having no home on release. A recent HM Inspectorate of Prisons report found that women had been issued with tents and sleeping bags for want of suitable accommodation on release.
Ensuring appropriate accommodation for people who offend is the foundation for rehabilitation, resettlement and risk management. Accommodation is one of the nine pathways to reducing reoffending for women recognised by the National Offender Management Service. It was identified by people who offend as second only to employment in improving their chances of resettlement and reducing reoffending. Yet women in trouble with the law may find themselves declared intentionally homeless, deemed ineligible for housing or cut off from housing benefit and evicted for rent arrears. Without a home, it is much harder to care for children, get a job or training placement, register with a GP and access healthcare, or arrange benefits. No wonder that a lack of suitable housing can be a driver to offending and reoffending. A homeless woman may commit a crime out of desperation to have a roof over her head, albeit in a police or prison cell. Women sleeping rough are even more vulnerable to attack and illness than men on the street.
Women in unsuitable accommodation may offend to obtain essential items of furniture, clothing or food, often for their children. The abolition of the Social Fund and the harsh benefit sanctions regime leads to despair, as Ken Loach showed in his recent film “I, Daniel Blake”. Local strategies to reduce women’s offending and imprisonment must take account of their housing needs, including the needs of those with dependent children, many of whom were separated from their mothers by imprisonment. This has a generational impact, especially if children end up in care, many of whom will go onto offend. Importantly, the time limit for eligibility for housing benefit for sentenced prisoners should be extended from 13 weeks to six months to reduce the risk of eviction for rent arrears.
In England and Wales, women are imprisoned on average 64 miles away from home. Families may find it hard to keep in touch, reducing the chance of rehabilitation, and distance makes it difficult for women to liaise with housing providers and support services on release. Most women receiving prison sentences are incarcerated for less than 12 months and 61% are in for six months or less. A third of women may lose their homes while in prison and six in 10 women do not have a home to go to on release.
Research suggests that people who commit offences are likely to have a volatile housing history, and 15% of prisoners were homeless before entering custody. The St Mungo’s report Rebuilding Shattered Lives revealed that almost half of the homeless women they worked with had an offending history, and over a third had been to prison; 19% of women in prison were not in permanent accommodation before entering prison, and 10% had been sleeping rough.
Accommodation needs to be safe. Women who return to unsuitable accommodation—for example, with an abusive partner or in a mixed hostel where they can be vulnerable to predatory men or where there is easy access to drugs—may feel that committing another crime to return to prison is a safer option. Sentencers need to consider that imprisoning a woman may lead to loss of housing and a cycle of reoffending; conversely, they should not imprison a woman because she is homeless or of no fixed abode by refusing bail. Pre-sentence reports need to contain sufficient information to enable courts to make appropriate decisions.
Nearly half of women entering custody do so on remand, and the majority of them do not go on to receive a custodial sentence. Women on remand spend an average of four to six weeks in prison, which can jeopardise their accommodation through rent arrears, with the resultant devastating impact on their children. Only 5% of children with a mother in prison are able to stay in their own home. Of course, local authorities are under extreme pressure but could have a crucial role in helping these vulnerable women. Local and national government must acknowledge the importance of housing women on release as the long-term fallout will affect generations to come. Unstable housing situations reinforce a cycle of crime at a cost to individuals, communities and, ultimately, society.
A transparent, co-ordinated approach and greater co-operation and information-sharing between local authorities, prisons and other agencies could improve women’s resettlement prospects. We urgently need a cross-government strategy to improve the housing pathway for women. I hope the Homelessness Reduction Bill will be part of that strategy. In the end, a greater provision of social housing—affordable and secure for the most vulnerable in our society—is the only way forward, as this debate has shown.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness for jumping the gun. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, for securing this important debate. It is important because it is young people who are most important to the future success of any society. I remind your Lordships of my interests in property, as noted in the register.
The noble Lord’s Motion emphasises the need to provide local housing to sustain communities. We are all becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustaining relationships for the healthy development of children and young people. Continuity of relationship is the key to recovery from trauma for children and young people in care but it is vital for all our young people.
I hope I may thank the Minister for the priority that the Government have given to housing since the last election. We have had a housing Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Horam, talked about the forthcoming White Paper. The coalition Government legislated in the area of looked-after children for staying put—allowing many care leavers to stay with their foster carers or close to home up to the age of 21. The Government are looking now at staying close—allowing care leavers from children’s homes to remain close to those homes and the important relationships there. In the Children and Social Work Bill, currently being considered, we are looking to support all care leavers up to the age of 25. Between 80% and 90% of care leavers aged 18 to 21 are now described as being in satisfactory accommodation, and Ofsted has recently begun inspecting care leavers’ services. These are all most welcome changes.
I should like to concentrate on housing for young people in care, care leavers, foster carers and families in temporary accommodation. The lack of affordable or suitable housing for care leavers is an issue of grave concern. Over the years, many of those in care and leaving care have expressed these concerns to me and I am particularly grateful to Jordan Morgan, a care leaver who produced his own report on care leaver housing issues from his own experience and those of others. He kindly wrote to and met me recently. I am also grateful to the charity the Who Cares? Trust for its work on the housing of care leavers.
Care leavers are suffering from the lack of affordable housing. They are often forced to rent in the private sector. They are dependent on benefits and can often be in worrying rent arrears, which can become exacerbated by the cut to their housing benefit that occurs at age 22, as they move into the shared room rate. No parent wants to see their child homeless or unable to afford to live safely in the area that they call home. However, many care leavers, unable to benefit from staying put, are facing real challenges in accessing safe, secure and suitable housing. Care leavers are offered homes that they will not be able to afford if they stop receiving benefits and move into work, particularly in London. This leaves individuals either reliant on benefits or facing a move when they find employment, adding increased pressure at an already stressful time. Care leavers are three times more likely to face benefit sanctions then their peers and two-thirds less likely to challenge those sanctions—yet when they do, most sanctions are overturned. Many continue to pay council tax and, too often, face the bailiff for failure to pay.
The tools and resources for individuals moving off benefits and into work are not often available to young people from care. Faced with anything of up to six weeks before their first salary payment and signed off from benefits, some care leavers still have to turn down employment opportunities. There is no consistency across the country for care leavers’ access to local authority accommodation, with some care leavers qualifying for a priority banding only if they have additional vulnerabilities. Fixed-term tenancies can act as cliff edges, forcing young people to move on regularly—often into accommodation of ever-decreasing quality, as the price of rent increases beyond their income.
In their strategy for care leavers Keep on Caring, the Government made a variety of commitments to improve outcomes for care leavers, including experiencing stability and feeling safe and secure, as well as achieving financial stability. I would be grateful to know how the Minister’s department is working with other government departments to increase the amount of suitable housing stock that is available for care leavers to access and how it plans to tackle some of the problems outlined above. I would also welcome an update on what the Government are doing to ensure that homeless young people aged 16 and 17 receive appropriate support during the crucial years of transition to adulthood. Perhaps the Minister could write to me on these issues. I would be grateful if he might consider sharing my concerns with the noble Lord, Lord Nash, and the Minister of State, Edward Timpson.
The charity Fostering Network has significant concerns about the impact of housing shortages and benefit cuts on foster carers. Staying put—allowing young people to remain with their foster carer to the age of 21—is most welcome but it puts pressure on the sufficiency of foster placements. Furthermore, two-thirds of foster carers report facing reduced financial support for their staying put role, while a quarter say that they cannot afford to provide staying put because of that lack of support. Local authorities are unwilling to assess families for fostering if they are in insecure housing, as they increasingly are. By far the majority of foster families are on low incomes. Foster carers’ homes are often of an inadequate size; this is exacerbated by the bedroom tax. The housing shortage prevents their biological children from moving on, so they lack the capacity to foster. The empty nesters are in decline. It has become more difficult to place sibling groups with foster carers. It is often important to keep together brothers and sisters who have been taken into care. It was reported to me that one foster carer had to sleep on the sofa to accommodate the sibling group of five whom she had felt moved to keep together.
I turn to families in temporary accommodation and their children. I am very grateful to Shelter for its campaigning in this area and its report on families in emergency accommodation, published today. There are 120,000 homeless children in Britain, the highest level since 2007. The number of families in bed and breakfast accommodation is 18% higher than last year—nearly 20% higher. The report looks at 25 families in depth. They all live in a single room, more than half of the parents have to share a bed with their children, three-quarters have to share lavatories and bathrooms with others and two-thirds describe their rooms as being in disrepair.
One family I have been in touch with over the past year began in Southwark, moved to a refuge from domestic violence in Hackney, then to a one-bedroom for the mother, her 16 year-old daughter and one year-old granddaughter, then, following eviction, to a bed and breakfast single room. In that period, the mother’s worst fear was of being rehoused possibly as far afield as Manchester, where she would know no one. This is a common experience nowadays. Thankfully, it now appears that Hackney will provide for her.
I should finish. Does the Minister share my concern for these families? What does he have to say to the increase in the use of bed and breakfast accommodation? When does he envisage the number of children facing homelessness declining? Will he bring forward a cross-departmental strategy on homelessness, as the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government in the other place recommended on
Although this debate deals with young people, whom I shall speak about, we have a problem with housing right across the board in both tenure and supply. In 2008, 68% of the population were owner-occupiers. In just four years, it dropped to 65%. It is quite shocking that today an average young working family will take 12 years to save for a deposit to buy a house. It takes six and half years, on average, for couples who do not have children, so it is clear that people have choice of whether to have a family and wait longer to get a deposit, or to forget a family and get a deposit earlier. That has led to more young people being dependent on their family for longer and living with them. In 2014, Shelter reported that just 23% of people aged 20 to 34 wanted to live with their family and 77% wanted to be independent and live by themselves. Irrespective of that, all young people today face higher housing costs than any generation before them. There is not much optimism in the future for them. That means that we have delayed family formation, which has strong implications for us as a society.
In addition to availability—and housing is in short supply—cost can be a real hurdle. Places for People looked at what it could do to help, apart from providing some cheaper accommodation. It has a personal loan service because young people are particularly vulnerable to being short of money, taking out a loan and finding themselves in a spiral of owing money and being in debt. Places for People has a scheme to make small loans of between £250 and £3,000 at a cheaper rate than normal, and 8,500 people have taken advantage of it. Pennywise in Bristol has a pilot scheme with one-to-one mentoring to help people develop and manage their financial affairs. It has engaged 1,700 people on the one-to-one scheme and another 1,000 people have received group mentoring. Quite often, people go into a tenancy and have a problem paying. It is interesting that 55% of those who were in at-risk tenancies are now in secure tenancies. It has helped to turn them around. There were also improvements in mental health for 35% of them—health has been mentioned in this debate—and 20% moved into work. There are small things that can be done to help, but we are still left with the big problems of shortage of supply and, sometimes, of cost.
What can be done? We need to look at what part of the problem is first. There is no overall planning, in the sense that the local authorities have become reactive. They are short-term and have low levels of resource—we all know that. Even where there is a vision and capacity to plan, there are too few organisations now able to partner with them. For instance, between 2007 and 2014, the number of housebuilders delivering 30 or fewer homes—small housing developments, which of course are particularly found in rural areas—reduced from just over 5,000 to 2,200. There are fewer builders available to provide the housing, which creates big delays. In 1995, firms building fewer than 100 homes delivered a quarter of our new housing stock; today, it is one in eight. So we have a capacity problem, quite apart from the issues that this debates raises. In addition, of course, housing associations have faced the rent reductions that were introduced last year, which mean that social housing rental income has reduced by approximately 12%. The figures came out just in June this year: housing association starts were down by 6%. It is a big problem that needs tackling.
One means through which the Government could increase housing supply is tax incentives such as those that apply in France and the United States. We carried out some research with De Montfort University and Cambridge University. The outcome, which I am quite happy to share with the Minister if he wishes, convinced us that there was merit in that. We certainly need triggers to encourage housing associations, which face rent reductions and have balance sheets they need to secure. They need more incentives to build than they are getting. The 6% drop by June this year is very worrying—I would certainly be worried if I was in the Minister’s shoes. We need to look at different incentives. Planning is one aspect, trying to build capacity is another and tax incentives might be yet another. I leave that thought with the Minister.
I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, for securing this debate. The Motion talks of young people’s desire to live in communities where they were born, raised and educated. Sadly, more often than not, young people looking for a home cannot meet any one of those considerations when moving from a family home.
It must be a fundamental requirement that in order for the young and others to live fulfilled lives, they need a decent home at a cost they can afford. Access to housing is fundamental to our liberties, our opportunities and our hopes for the future. Homes need to be a mix of owned and rental. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Horam for his contribution, because he drew attention to the fact that houses do not have to be built only by the private sector, although in fact, sadly, this Government are currently going very much in that direction. The noble Lord also said that public land should be brought into use for housing. I would add to his deeply felt remarks that the houses built should be for both rent and purchase, not only for the latter.
Not everyone will be able to purchase a home. Some may not want to purchase a home but want to rent. Conservative and Labour Governments have made the situation worse by the wholesale sale of council housing. Local government’s housing stock has been decimated—in many London boroughs, it is just not there any more. The Conservative argument that I have often heard—that even after sale someone is occupying the home—does not address the problem that these properties were never intended to be bought and sold in the way they are, often to people not in need. They were intended as properties for which a fair rent was charged—exactly the type of provision for those to whom this Motion relates.
UK housing provision is in the emergency ward. Tory and Labour Governments have for years and years failed to encourage the building of enough homes. The nation has an industry producing half the houses we need. What do the Government intend to do about the hoarding of building land? Our major housebuilders do not build to meet a need; they build so that they can sell at a good profit. Thus, on large sites with planning permission, builders will rarely sell more than 150 units per annum. This ensures that they sell the properties at a price to satisfy their shareholders.
What plans do the Government have to force or encourage a faster building programme? The Conservative Government’s reforms in the Housing and Planning Act will lead to less social housing being built, which will certainly affect young people from low-income backgrounds. How do the Government intend to address that problem?
Young people are increasingly having to stay in their family home with their parents because they are unable to rent privately and save a deposit at the same time. Those in Generation Rent have often had to spend more than half their monthly income on rent and household bills. The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, talked about 12 years to save a deposit. Sadly, at the end of those 12 years, the price of houses will have risen, so the deposit needs to be even greater. I echo the comments of the noble Baroness, but it is even worse than she said, because the price of houses rises.
Liberal Democrats have long called on the Government to set out a long-term housing plan to meet the housing needs of future generations. My noble friend Lady Grender said, and I repeat, that we should include a housebuilding target of 300,000 new homes per annum, including 10 new garden cities, targets for development on unneeded public sector land, the removal of the local authority borrowing cap, to which other noble Lords have referred, reintroduction of the zero-carbon homes standard and a government-backed housing investment bank.
The Government’s idea of what constitutes affordable housing is laughable. Tell the young that they can buy a starter home in London for £450,000. I am not sure that they will laugh; they will cry. The mortgage required will be on another planet for those in need of housing. We are told that an average home in the UK costs five times the average person’s income. I believe that in London, this is a gross underestimate. The young are in most cases earning less than an average income, which magnifies this insurmountable problem.
Meanwhile, rents have risen, which in turn results in increased housing benefit. Housing eats up 20% of typical family outgoings. What are the plans for garden cities, as only by a bold plan will we have any chance of solving the problem? Otherwise, we are just nibbling at the edges.
During the coalition, Liberal Democrats played a key role in helping young people to get on the housing ladder through the Help to Buy scheme, as my noble friend Lady Grender said, bringing empty homes back into use through the empty homes premium and increasing support for self-build. Can the Minister update your Lordships’ House on those initiatives?
An increased building programme needs an increase in apprenticeships and training in the construction industry if we are to meet our needs and objectives. Do the Government have plans for that need? What thought has been given to retaining the cohesion of local rural communities? Is there still a use for hostels? Have we as a nation failed to provide key worker accommodation for police and nurses?
We have not discussed the overseas purchase of properties for investment, which is destroying and reducing the number of houses for purchase and rent. They are often purchased by people from overseas off the planning board before they are even noted for sale.
Buy to let has distorted the market by reducing the number of homes to purchase to live in, although it has increased the number of privately rented properties. One current factor in the reduction of affordable homes to rent must surely be the rise of Airbnb, which does not fulfil a need for short-term lets. People must have a right, and even encouragement, to let out their homes for short periods—however, there must be stricter enforcement to stop multiple and professional landlords from converting long-term lettings into more profitable, short-term lets.
As the Motion states, the provision for housing which retains for the young a local and family connection has so many advantages, including that of family cohesion and stability.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Burry Port on securing this debate today. I refer noble Lords to my entry in the register of interests; I declare that I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Many of us agree that housing and the supply of housing which is truly affordable across a range of tenures—as my noble friend Lady Dean referred to—is crucial to ensuring that our communities flourish, and that it is so important for young people to be able to stay and be part of the communities where they were born, raised and educated, as my noble friend Lord Griffiths states in his Motion.
A number of factors come into play in the housing market, all sorts of statistics, plans and pledges. What is needed—and what the Housing Minister, Mr Gavin Barwell, says that he wants—is to build housing across a range of tenures. If he does this, he will have our full support. No debate on housing should fail to note and comment on the fact that home ownership is falling and is at its lowest level for 30 years here in the UK. The UK now has the fourth-lowest home-ownership rate in the European Union, after years of soaring house prices and soaring rents, which make it difficult for people, especially the young, to save enough money for deposits. According to the most recent comparable figures published by the European Union, only Denmark, Austria and Germany have lower home-ownership rates, which is shocking. If we want to help people to own their own home then we are going to have to do something about it—and the answer is not starter homes—otherwise we are on a path with an increasing private rented sector which does not work for everyone and a declining percentage of people who own their own homes.
A number of factors impact on young people’s ability to live in the community they grew up in, if that is what they want to do. In some cases, people want to move away, or work and other circumstances take them away, and if that is what they want then that is fine. But there needs to be a range of affordable housing that meets the need of the community. If we look at the statistics for population growth and the expected growth in the number of households, particularly the increase in the number of one-person households, we have a huge challenge to meet the projected demand for housing over the next few decades. The pressure on housing in all tenures affects young people particularly hard, as my noble friend Lord Whitty referred to. Some of the factors they have to cope with include the level of wages they earn, the level of rents in the private sector, the lack of social housing available to the young, the amount of income they spend on rent, and the ability to be able to save for a deposit if they want to buy. Looking at these points in turn we find that, on average, young people’s wage levels have fallen.
The level of rent that people have to pay in the private sector as a percentage of their income is a serious issue. We have all heard of Generation Rent, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill—young people who continue to face serious housing affordability problems. I have told the House before that I live in Lewisham; I often look in the window of my local estate agent and there are houses both for sale and for rent. It is very easy to find properties with rents considerably in excess of the median figure of £1,452 a month for a modest property in a part of south London. This is the problem. If you are a young person, your wages are lower than young people in similar circumstances were earning, say, 10 or so years ago, but rental costs are increasing and taking a larger part of your income, which makes your ability to save for a deposit to buy a home even more difficult, which can then force you out of the area you were born and grew up in because you just cannot afford the rent there.
I grew up on the Aylesbury estate in Southwark, and I am always grateful for the opportunities that living in social housing gave us. My parents were some of the first tenants on the estate. Although there were problems in later years with the design of the buildings, these homes took families out of some truly appalling, cramped, damp, dreadful accommodation. Both my parents worked, the rent was at a level that was truly affordable, the property was warm, safe and dry and we were very happy there. Thinking back to those days, I just do not see how my parents would have been able to cope if we were living in the private rented sector today, paying the sorts of rents that are commanded, while trying to bring up a young family, so council housing was very good for us. It was a step up and me and my three siblings are home owners today. Council housing helped us. Therefore, it is important to build social housing in large quantities to enable people and families to flourish, grow and better themselves. I feel ever more concerned that the Government see council housing as housing for the poor, people who are never going to be able to move on up, and that it is restricted to the smallest number possible. I hope that I am wrong on that, but unless we see real growth in the number of council homes and other social housing at rents that are truly affordable, we will stack up problems for ourselves and reap a terrible reward.
My noble friend Lord Griffiths of Burry Port was right to say that we can all trade statistics about who did what, who built this and who did that. However, as he said, we need to build more affordable homes. Why cannot we commit ourselves to the national plan for getting homes built that my noble friend called for? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Horam, that we need to build more council housing. The noble Baroness, Lady Grender, called for private tenants to be able to find out whether their landlord was a rogue landlord. We discussed this many times during the passage of the then Housing and Planning Bill. She is absolutely right. Why cannot those tenants do that? I supported that call and the call for action on letting agents’ fees.
In conclusion, I again thank my noble friend for tabling this Motion and enabling us to again discuss the important issue of housing, and how we provide enough good homes to enable people to live in the communities in which they grew up.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in this debate, which has touched on many areas and has been conducted for the most part in a fair, fluent and non-partisan way.
The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, is a living legend in the Methodist Church. In my own Methodist church in Golders Green, he is very well known for being articulate and fair, as he was in setting out his stall today. I thank him very much for bringing forward this debate on an area of key importance. In relation to what he said about some of the work of the Methodist Church, I pay tribute to the work of faith bodies, which help massively with this agenda, as does the third sector—the charitable and voluntary sector. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Bird, has made a fantastic contribution via the Big Issue. We need to recognise that, whatever successes we have, there will always be a role for those sectors to help on a local basis. I am most grateful for that, as I am sure we all are. I recently visited a cathedral and found in conversation with the people there just how much they were doing to help people sleeping rough by providing meals and assistance. That indicates that in areas where there is a gap the faith-based institutions provide massive assistance.
I will try to respond in a non-partisan way as most noble Lords made very fair points. After all, all three major parties have been in government over the last 25 years and this problem has not suddenly arisen; it has existed for many years. There is no silver bullet. As I think all noble Lords have recognised, this is a very far-reaching problem. The one point on which we are probably all agreed is that the main issue here is supply. We are simply not building enough houses and not providing enough houses for purchase or for rent. That is undoubtedly true. To put that in context, some of that is exacerbated by demographic factors. The country’s population has grown in an unprecedented way in the last 10 to 15 years. Demographic changes have resulted in families being structured differently. We probably need to provide units for smaller families than used to be the case. Therefore, these factors need to be fed into the situation as well.
However, rising house prices have pushed home ownership further and further out of reach for families, for “just managing” families and for the young. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has made clear that he agrees that this is a problem: we are simply not building enough houses. I thank noble Lords who mentioned the contribution that he and Gavin Barwell, the Minister in another place, are making to change the agenda, and it has been recognised that the Prime Minister regards this as a priority. Indicating that this is important has certainly been a hallmark of her coming into No. 10. With regard to announcements made on money for housebuilding, £3 billion will go to a help-to-build fund and £2 billion to direct commissioning. To relate that to points made by my noble friend Lord Horam, we have announced that we are putting money into direct commissioning and that there will be some pilots; we are looking into pilots in Gosport and elsewhere with regard to building in the public sector. I accept entirely the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, about the importance of building in the public sector under both his part and mine, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, which made a massive difference to the housing situation in this country. It is a different type of country now, and we will need different responses.
The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, talked about the importance of aspiration to home ownership and said that home ownership has fallen. It has fallen consistency since 2003 and has plateaued now. However, we certainly need to take measures, as we seek to do, to encourage home ownership and provide assistance for it.
We are being pressed to do two things, which are not inconsistent. One is to help home ownership, which is absolutely right. The other, which is also right, is to provide assistance for other forms of tenure; for example, to provide encouragement for the private rented sector. I think this will be reflected in the White Paper—we have not clearly nailed down the wording on housing yet—but as my noble friend Lord Horam said, this will see the light of day either this month or the next, therefore before recess, and will indicate some of the thoughts and challenges we face. I hope it will be a seminal White Paper that will look at some of the challenges we face and how we can transform the position, which means building far more. To come back to that, clearly it is partly about financial help; prices will come down if we are able to tackle the current shortage. The Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which will also come to this House before Christmas, does some things on compulsory purchase and planning, which will help that process, so it is not just about injections of cash but about seeing how we can make the planning process speedier. On the issue raised about people holding land and not developing it, again, I hope we will be able to use the housing White Paper to get thoughts on that so that we do not have long periods between planning permission and building. Those points were well made.
I will pick up some of the points that were made. I think the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, referred to prefabs; we like to call them “modern prefabs” because they are very different from those that came before. They will make a massive difference and they come in some bold, innovative and rather attractive designs and have been broadly welcomed. A survey was done in the Daily Mirror in the last couple of days which indicated a 67% approval rate of these modern, 21st-century prefabs, so they can make a difference.
The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that this was a generational problem and that we are a lucky generation. That is undoubtedly true, and it is exemplified not just in this field but in others such as pensions. It is a fair point that we need to tackle these issues for the young on a moral basis, not just because of the housing issue but across the board, in many other areas. Again, I hope the issues raised by Treasury rules will be addressed through the housing White Paper.
The noble Baroness, Lady Grender, talked about the important work of Shelter. I underline and acknowledge that; it is an important partner. That does not mean we always agree with Shelter but it carries out important work in this sector. She talked about sleeping rough, and there is undoubtedly an issue, particularly in large cities such as London. In the most recent survey in England, it was found that 3,569 were found to be sleeping rough on a single night. That is clearly unacceptable and we need to see how we can address that problem. We are taking action on homelessness and money has been put there; I hope we can make use of the trailblazing money that has been made available for particular areas that have come forward with plans. We hope to roll out more widely the social impact bond, which operates successfully in London.
The noble Baroness, Lady Grender, also mentioned self-build. We are taking that forward. The policy was initiated by the previous Government but we are taking it forward. I took through the regulations in this House a couple of weeks ago. We hope that will help not only supply but with speed and design. In virtually every other country on the continent there are far more self-build houses than we have here. The attitude is changing here and I hope the regulations will help and be part of the answer.
The noble Baroness, Lady Healy, fairly raised the issue of women prisoners, who are often victims as well as offenders. That is absolutely true. I recently visited a troubled families programme where this issue came up. The matter is particularly acute because there are so few women’s prisons, which is a good thing but a difficult issue when the family is affected and the mother is some way away. I take the point that the noble Baroness makes about the need to provide suitable housing for them. The issue also ties in with domestic abuse and, as she probably knows, we are about to make an announcement of funding, which we hope will help in that area.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, had almost two bites of the cherry but I thank him for his contribution. He has done so much in the field of helping vulnerable children, children in care and foster carers. The Government acknowledge his work and the fact that he keeps us on our toes. Perhaps I may respond to him in writing on some of the more detailed aspects, and on other issues that have been raised, and will send copies to other noble Lords who participated in the debate. Any issues that I miss we will pick up in a write-around and ensure that all noble Lords are copied in.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, talked about children in care and I acknowledge that there is a particular issue there, as there is regarding children in foster care. He asked more generally about what we are doing about homelessness and young people. He will know that families with young children are prioritised for temporary accommodation, on which we are having to rely on far more than I or anyone would want. We obviously do not want it but it is better than the alternative. It remains a serious issue. I will write to the noble Earl on those points. I should like also to offer him the opportunity to speak with officials to pick up the issues and, I hope, involve the Departments for Education and Work and Pensions. It is a global issue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, referred to the financial challenge of getting together a deposit to buy a house, which is a problem I readily acknowledge, along with the capacity issues she mentioned. I will take back her point about tax incentives, which have a broader compass within government, and look at the Treasury position, too. There is an incentive given as regards the right to buy when people are purchasing public sector property. However, I take her point that she is looking at this on a broader front.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, for the long list of issues that he raised. I will certainly seek to write to him about them. He asked, for example, about garden villages, and we are taking that matter forward in relation to Ebbsfleet, Bicester and elsewhere. I will ensure that he receives a more detailed response that will be copied to other noble Lords.
The noble Lord also asked about rural homelessness. He is right that there is a particular issue there because wages are still lower in rural areas. We need to ensure that we have a supply of housing in those areas. At this point, perhaps I may say that there is often a tendency to respond in a certain way when we address these issues. As soon as the Government come forward with a plan to build more houses or to provide for a permitted development, whether offices or residential, there is a tendency to cry foul and say, “We want you to do something but we don’t want you to do that”. So I just temper what I say by adding that I hope we will get support for some of the detailed policy points. Generally, if we get support to do something, that translates across to necessary action. The rural situation is recognised. The department is discussing it with Defra; in fact we were discussing it yesterday. I hope we will be able to tackle it somewhat when the housing White Paper goes out for consideration.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, put the case very fairly. Rightly, he sees that there is no silver bullet—no single thing that we can do. What is required is almost a change of attitude and a change of mood music, identifying that this is a really serious issue going forward. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, rightly said, it is a generational issue, as well as a serious political issue, and it ticks two important boxes, if I can put it that way. I hope that we will get a chance to look closely at the housing White Paper and, on a non-partisan basis, to see a way forward, ensuring that we do the right thing for the country and particularly for young people.
I thank noble Lords very much for their participation in the debate. I will ensure that all points are picked up and that a detailed response is sent. Once again, I thank noble Lords for a very interesting, important and well-informed debate.
My Lords, I add my word of gratitude to the Minister and to all those who have taken part. It has been a very enlightened and, I think, non-partisan debate on an issue that we all recognise as very important. It needs a degree of urgency, which perhaps has not been commanded up till now. I thank all those who have spoken. I am glad that my speech, being not quite a sermon, triggered a response from the noble Lord, Lord Horam. I am very pleased to have received his words and I thank him for them.
Perhaps the noble Lord will add to that and let me have it in writing. I repeat that I am most grateful. As I conclude, I just want to remind noble Lords that it is a great privilege of the life that I live that I have the ear of untold numbers of young people from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds. In presenting my remarks, I have sought to articulate the point of view that they have helped me to formulate, and I hope that will add a degree of urgency to the way that we look at this issue.