Section 21 Evictions

Part of Select Committee on Education – in Westminster Hall at 2:28 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith 2:28 pm, 6th December 2018

Yes, take it or leave it. At that point, one of the children turns 18 and is not in full-time education. Suddenly the family is either told, “You can have a two-bedroom flat rather than the three of four-bedroom property that you need,” or, “Sorry—you’re not in priority need at all any more.” It is extraordinary that whole generations have had to grow up in wholly inadequate housing and temporary accommodation.

My hon. Friend has tempted me to digress, so I will give just one example. Many boroughs and housing associations use the locator scheme, which is the bidding scheme. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not, but something extraordinary happened in my borough. When the Conservatives took control of the council—I am pleased to say only temporarily—they simply abolished the waiting list. Having decided that they did not want to build any more affordable homes—indeed, they started selling off and demolishing the ones that we had—there was obviously a difficulty in rehousing people, so the waiting list and the locator scheme were abolished.

Suddenly, 10,000 people were no longer in line to be accommodated at all. Once the borough came to its senses and returned to Labour control, the list was opened again, but what happened created a hiatus of several years in people’s lives that they will never recover. In addition to the long waiting periods that people face in any event, they were not on a waiting list of any kind during perhaps the prime years when their children were growing up and going to secondary school. Again, many of them are languishing in over- crowded accommodation or unsuitable private rented accommodation.

I do not want to paint a rosy picture of the world in the 1980s. I remember some dreadful, terrible private-sector accommodation then, but at least there was sometimes redress. When local authorities were better resourced, there were housing action areas, so we could go mob-handed, if I can put it that way, into a particular ward with environmental health officers and housing advisers. Also, legal aid was still available—actually, they were quite good days now I come to think about it.

If private landlords took the mickey in terms of the conditions their tenants were in or the way in which they treated their tenants, enforcement action could be taken. How different the situation is now, as evidenced by the fact that the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North—the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill—is necessary to give tenants that power, because often local authorities are no longer able to take such action.