It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests; I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association and the owner of a small property portfolio.
I rise to do three things: first, to talk about the situation in my own borough of Harrow; secondly, to look at the detailed report that we, as a Committee, produced; and thirdly, to add a few things that I think are needed. It is pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Mr Prisk, with his measured approach and his experience of having been the Housing Minister. Equally, it is a pleasure to follow the Chair of the Select Committee, Mr Betts, who I have worked with on this Committee over many years—probably more than we would care to mention.
On the Committee, and certainly since I have served on it, we make sure we proceed by consensus. Individuals may hold views that are not contained in the report, but it comes from the entirety of the Committee and is produced on a cross-party basis. I warmly welcome the Minister to her place and I hope she will tell us why the Government are not taking forward some of the measures that we have recommended—again, on that all-party basis.
In my borough, the private rented sector is growing dramatically. It used to be a tradition, in outer London in particular, that as people became more prosperous and more likely to commute for longer distances, they would sell their homes and move on, then commute into central London for a job. Nowadays, they tend not to sell their homes. They move on and acquire a new home, but they keep their existing home and rent it out. One challenge that has arisen in Harrow is that large numbers of properties—typical suburban, three-bedroom semis—are now rented out to 10, 12 or in some cases 20 people, who are living in them. This brings the consequences of antisocial behaviour and overcrowding, and quite frankly the people living there are being exploited.
Most people in that position come from eastern Europe. I now have 10,000 eastern Europeans living in my constituency. They are warmly welcomed—they are here to work and want to contribute to the economy—but they are being exploited. Rents of a typical three-bedroom property are in the order of £2,000 per month. If you have 20 people sharing that £2,000, then the rent is not too bad. However, the living conditions are absolutely disgraceful. That is, I think, one of the key challenges.
The local authority has responded by setting up a selective licensing scheme in one ward, which was vigorously opposed by the private landlords concerned for the obvious reason that they thought they would not be able to continue to exploit their tenants. The challenge for the Government when legislative changes take place is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford mentioned, that although the vast majority of tenants are satisfied with their position, what do we do about the bad, criminal landlords who exploit vulnerable people and make their lives a misery.