[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair] — Decent Homes

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:14 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Minister for Housing 5:14 pm, 27th January 2011

My hon. Friend is right to point out that what should count is the quality of the organisation, its ability to deliver and the need on the ground. I feel strongly that it is wrong to penalise tenants for whom it is almost impossible to do anything about the lousy management of their property, because they happen to have a useless landlord, and then penalise them again for that very fact.

My hon. Friend's wish will come through in the work that will be done by the Homes and Communities Agency in assessing those bids, which will be taken further next month. It seems natural that those organisations that are well run and have a good plan will be more successful within the limited resources. If they are good, they are good. I do not think that two stars necessarily means that an organisation is good; it can all too often mean that it is good at ticking the right boxes, and employing too many consultants on too high a salary to jump through hoops, which is irrelevant to the lives of people on the ground. I am sure, however, that there will be a correlation.

In response to the hon. Member for Lewisham East, and to the many Members who raised this issue, the revenue account will be a vital part of the reform package. We have established that in our view the country does not have the money to completely finish the decent homes programmes-to make significant further progress during this Parliament-but we can carry out housing revenue account reform, and we are legislating for that right now in the Localism Bill, building on the work undertaken in the consultation by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne. One upshot of that will be an ability to plan for the renovation, repair and renewal of local authority stock for the next 30 years. I am very keen, as the hon. Member for Lewisham East pointed out, to get that provision through, and I look forward to support from right across the House in securing the progress of that part of the Bill. I do say to the hon. Lady that Lewisham's chief executive could perhaps make a personal contribution by reducing his £192,000 salary. Times are tough, and I would have thought, as other Members have pointed out, that that would be a very good place to start.

The hon. Member for Islington North raised the point about two-star ALMOs. I have talked about how the system was unfair, and I am pleased to sweep it aside. In addition, I really do not mind if local authorities want to continue to manage their stock for ever. That is entirely their business, and this Government will cease the tricks of pushing local authority stocks into different forms of management. I sense from this debate that there is cross-party agreement on that matter, on the part of many MPs. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the subject of ending lifetime tenure, and affordable rent, which he and I have discussed previously. The most important thing that we can do is to provide more homes and upgrade the homes that we have.

I have judged that, given that the previous Government put £17 billion into building more homes, after 13 years they ended up with a net loss of 45,000 homes. Yes, there was the right to buy and yes, pathfinder knocked down homes, but if we tried to use that maths again, we would discover that we needed £50 billion to £100 billion from the Treasury simply to build more homes in that way. In other words, something was not working, and we needed to find a different solution. Affordable rent is my version of that solution. We can now use the additional money, in the way that the Chairman of the Select Committee suggested we do for renovation, for building more homes, and that will be a sensible step forward.

My hon. Friend Nicky Morgan made a number of important points, about the additional amounts of money sometimes required for homes built in different types of fabric-I know that the Homes and Communities Agency will take that issue on board-and, in common with several other Members, about round 6 bidding. Round 6 was never approved, so no one on the ground should have ever thought it was definitely going ahead. I will be meeting Lilian Greenwood, and I make the same offer to my hon. Friend and to Members across the House, to meet to talk about the issues and the possible ways forward.

I thought that one of the best speeches of the afternoon was made by the hon. Member for Vauxhall, who rightly pointed out so many of the common-sense realities of housing, and whose speech was devoid of any political back and forth. Many of the same issues were raised by other Members, but I thought that hers was a great contribution.

In response to the hon. Member for Nottingham South, I can say that I have visited Nottingham City Homes and have even had its chief executive, Chris Langstaff, to my office here in Parliament. I know the great work that the organisation does, and I know that that work will be able to continue. With the flexibility that we are now providing through localism, with money going locally rather than through larger regional organisations, and through the housing revenue account reform, organisations such as Nottingham City Homes will be able to continue to upgrade homes, albeit at perhaps a slightly different pace.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark made a great contribution. He and I have discussed housing on many occasions.

Sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(11)).