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[Mr James Gray in the Chair] — Housing Benefit

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:52 am on 13th October 2010.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 10:52 am, 13th October 2010

No. I will give way to the right hon. Member for Barking, who initiated the debate, but in the remaining seven minutes, I want to respond to some of the points made in the debate.

I want to correct a number of the inaccurate impressions that have been given. As the hon. Member for Westminster North said, it is a helpful focus in this debate-as distinct from our July debate, which was on the position of tenants-to ask about the position of the receiving local authorities. That is an entirely valid point. We are in discussions with our colleagues in the DCLG. We are working with the local government associations across the country to work out how best to support local authorities, which will face challenges; I do not dispute that for a second.

The allocation of the discretionary housing payments, which will be trebled from £20 million to £60 million, is part of the picture. As Sheila Gilmore pointed out, one of the issues for people will be difficulty in securing deposits, and one of the things that discretionary housing payments can be used for is to assist people in paying for deposits. That is part of the purpose of the scheme. We have deliberately trebled that money and, although I cannot say anything definitive about the allocation of that funding, inevitably we shall want the money to go where the need is greatest, and inevitably that means that London will get a significant slice of that money. That is clear, and I think that it will help.

I want to question the description that we have heard of the private rented sector in London. I hesitate to do that in a room full of London MPs, but I shall give it a try. It has been presented as though it is an incredibly static situation, in which people live in communities for generations and it is always the same property, yet surely hon. Members would accept that there is massive turnover in the private rented sector in London. People move in and out of properties all the time.

The idea that there are static communities where any disruption will somehow undermine the community seems to me a parody of what is actually going on. The same applies to the suggestion that in the most expensive parts of London, there are mixed communities, with people at all income levels. The only people who can afford very high rents are the very rich and the very poor; there is nobody in the middle. The suggestion that we are somehow disrupting those terribly cosmopolitan, mixed communities is not true. [Interruption.] Indeed, it is not true. What can we do about the situation?