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Social Housing - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:13 pm on 31st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Chair, EU Internal Market Sub-Committee 2:13 pm, 31st January 2019

My Lords, I thank everyone who has taken part in this debate. I particularly appreciated the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Osamor.

Until the Minister spoke, I was going to say that we have a wide consensus in this House. I know the Minister’s heart is with that consensus but he felt obliged to read out—unusually for him—large chunks of his report to defend the Government’s position. However, all Governments have failed on this front and we are faced with a colossal problem. We are in the midst of an enormous housing crisis in general and we will not get out of it without a substantial contribution from council housing.

Yes, that has to be afforded and directed towards the priority areas. The noble Lord, Lord Fraser, asked where the money was coming from. There is a huge amount of money effectively being wasted in housing benefit, which, over a 20-year strategy—if the Treasury was slightly more strategic and intelligent—we could begin to transfer back into building and improving the fabric of housing available to everyone.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. The noble Lord, Lord Bird, reminded us that social housing has to be sociable and the right reverend Prelate said that this is all about community, which it is—absolutely. This is not only about individuals but about community. For social housing to meet the needs of people and to become a community, it must be available to more than those who are emergency and urgent cases. That used to be the case and should be again.

Some words have changed their meaning. The word “affordable”, in relation to rent, rapidly needs replacing. I do not disagree with some of what the Minister said but it means that the exorbitant rents that exist in the private sector are now reflected for new tenants in the social sector as well. That is not going to solve any problems.

Finally, as my noble friend Lord Sawyer, said, we are in danger of exacerbating the gap in our society between those who own and those who rent. I would remind my noble friend Lord Sawyer that the most important football result was Millwall 3, Everton 2. However, he makes an important point.

There are wider issues than bricks and mortar in housing—wider even than the safe and secure conditions we seek—because housing has an impact on health, our society as a whole and the dreadful scourge of homelessness. I remind the House that Nye Bevan was Minister for Health and Housing and it may be that a broader remit for the Ministers and the civil servants involved in this field is necessary. For the moment, I thank everyone who has participated and broadly supported the recommendations of the Shelter report. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.