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[Mr James Gray in the Chair] — Housing Benefit

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:10 am on 13th October 2010.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 10:10 am, 13th October 2010

Absolutely. My hon. Friend understands the borough very well. That is the situation, and I suspect that it is exactly the same in Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster and many other inner-London areas. There is enormous demand. This is a fast-growing, vibrant city where there is huge demand for private rented flats. The effect of the proposals will be social cleansing of the poorest people out of what are perceived to be high-cost areas. Like other boroughs, Islington is subject to the peculiar combination of being high cost but poor at the same time. That does not apply in the whole country, but it certainly does in London, and I hope that the Minister will at least begin to understand that.

Islington council cannot house all the people on the waiting list by any manner of means. There are 8,000 families on it at present, and serious overcrowding problems in existing council and housing association accommodation. A small amount of building has been started-I wish it well and welcome it-but I suspect that, after the Chancellor makes his statement, there will be an end to all council house building in this country, unless I have been misled by the media, which, of course, is possible.

I ask the Minister to look at the issue and deal with it in an intelligent, rational and humane way. He should not place a cap on housing benefit but instead look at the exorbitant private sector rents that are charged and introduce at least some form of appeal system against excessive rents. As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury said, if people are moved out of private rented accommodation, somebody else on housing benefit or housing allowance will not be moved in. The property will be filled by someone from the open market, because that is the reality of the situation.

James Murray, the executive member of Islington council who deals with housing, made an excellent submission to the Work and Pensions Committee, in which he states:

"Islington is a high demand area, with some of the highest private sector market rents...With over 8,000 people on its housing register, and demand for social housing far outstripping its supply, the borough relies heavily on the private rented sector to help house its residents."

Islington has placed, through the rent deposit scheme, large numbers of people in the private rented sector on an agreed rent, but all those arrangements will disappear. Islington has tried to co-operate with the private sector in doing that and calculates that,

"Over the past 18 months 228 of the 422 households placed through the rent deposit scheme will be adversely affected by the caps."

The answer is to recognise the housing needs of people in London and the social damage of overcrowding and homelessness, not punish the tenants and victims, and instead-I agree with the hon. Member for Colchester -build as many properties as rapidly as we can and deal with excessive rents, bad conditions and bad landlords, of whom, unfortunately, there are still far too many all over London. It breaks my heart when people living in vermin-infested flats, which we the public are paying several hundred pounds a week in rent for, come to see me. Such tenants feel that they have no rights and feel excluded. Their children are suffering educationally, from overcrowding and everything else.

We need a decent, fair society. The Prime Minister claims that we are all in it together, but I do not believe that he really thinks that, because if he did he would be doing something about the disgraceful way that many private sector tenants are treated. Support the tenants; do not bail out the landlords.