Homes Bill

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Mr. Raynsford: The right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon, who was formerly a Housing Minister, has much experience in the matter. His proposal is most interesting, and follows lines that we are considering. It was one of the recommendations of the policy action team investigating the problem of unpopular housing and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it was proposed in the Green Paper on housing, which received a positive response in consultation.

The provision would, in defined circumstances, enable a local housing authority to make an allocation that is not a secure tenancy. For example, that might be appropriate where house prices were not affordable to modestly paid key workers, who could be offered a short-term tenancy to enable them to save for a deposit or to establish roots in the area prior to buying a house. It would be possible, too, for similar arrangements to be used as a weapon in low-demand areas where there is unpopular housing. An authority might want to offer short-term tenancies in anticipation of the eventual redevelopment of an area, or to attract to a locality people who would not normally live there but who would bring greater economic prosperity.

As the right hon. Gentleman correctly anticipated, we are attracted to the principles underlying the proposal but we cannot accept it as it would add to the existing complexity of the tenure structure. We do not want to do that without considering the full panoply of housing legislation that relates to tenancies in the public sector and those that affect registered social and other landlords. The hon. Member for Eastbourne is not enamoured of the word ``holistic'' so I shall say that the issue must be considered in the round.

It may be possible to bring together the principal tenancies offered by registered social landlords and local authorities into a single tenure for the social housing sector. It would be sensible to do that as a considered and comprehensive package, rather than by introducing one step now and having to make subsequent alterations and amendments.

The proposal is welcome and we support its intention. We will further consider how it can be advanced in the context of other tenures to ensure that the right, long-term mix of tenures is available. On that basis, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw the new clause.

Mr. Curry: I anticipated the Minister's words but I want to query the need to

    ``consider the full panoply of housing legislation''.

That does not sound susceptible to amendment in another place, nor is it susceptible to legislation within an immediate time scale.

The Minister referred to what could best be described as the codification of tenancy, which would be a helpful tool for regeneration, and to allowing people to find a first foot on the housing ladder in areas where housing is scarce or to help community building where housing is over-plentiful. It would therefore be a pity to wait for a future Bill, under whichever Government's auspices, which may have no immediate prospect of consideration.

I shall withdraw the new clause, because I realise that the geo-political forces are weighed against me. However I hope that the Minister will say when

    ``the full panoply of housing legislation''

might fall to the attention of whoever has the portfolio. That would provide a little reassurance and the Minister could reflect on returning to the idea later in the Bill. The blurred outline might just take on a few thinly traced shapes for later consideration.

4.45 pm

Mr. Raynsford: I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that

    ``the full panoply of housing legislation''

is uppermost in my mind. As I said, we have to consider all the various strands in the complex pattern rather than legislate immediately. I cannot provide assurance about amendments in another place or later in the passage of the Bill, but the idea is on the agenda for Government action within the reasonably near future.

Mr. Curry: I have two reflections. One is that ``reasonably'' is a wonderfully accommodating word: we cannot define it because it would then lose its wonderfully accommodating nature. Secondly, I recall the Minister wanting to deal urgently with the licensing of houses in multiple occupation and with commonhold five years ago at the time of the 1996 Act, but those elements of the panoply have not been pulled together with the urgency anticipated at the time of the Minister's utterances.

I shall not press the new clause to the vote. The Minister has said that legislation will occur at some stage if he is still the Minister with responsibility for housing—it is rather like the second coming. We all hope that it will happen in the end and that we shall be on the right side of it when it does. It may fall to others to implement the necessary measures. We have had a useful debate and we have all agreed that it would be a jolly good idea if anyone gets round to it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Raynsford: On a point of order, Mr. Stevenson. We are approaching the end of our proceedings, so I want to make the few remarks that are customary when we are not so pressured to finish at a particular time.

We have had three extremely useful and productive weeks—mercifully short by comparison with my experience of previous Committees, which went on for months rather than weeks. Our debates have been intensive and productive. We have ranged over several important issues that affect virtually every member of our society—home owners, prospective home owners, people seeking accommodation through a local authority or registered social landlord, people exposed to the miseries of homelessness or racial harassment and so forth.

We have ranged wide geographically. We have had a brief excursion in the Yorkshire dales, visiting the cat-loving cottagers who are the neighbours of the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon. We have discovered that some members of the Committee have extraordinary connections with Bradford, and we eventually reached the faded splendours of the south coast. I also noticed that the right hon. Gentleman used his time productively to make a small paper boat—perhaps to evoke the delights of south-coast resorts such as Eastbourne.

We have considered a significant number of amendments with varying impacts and we have incorporated a number of changes into the Bill. That is exactly what a Committee should do—scrutinise a Bill and make it better. A number of those changes have resulted from specific points and concerns raised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. I am extremely grateful to them for the way in which they have tabled their amendments and contributed constructively to the process of improving the Bill.

I am also grateful to the various bodies that advised us and gave us the benefit of their experience on a range of housing issues. I should like to thank all members of the Committee for the constructive and good-humoured tenor of our proceedings. In particular, I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), who started the Committee as a Whip and now joins me as a Minister; my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes), his successor as Whip, who has ensured that we completed our proceedings on time; and my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Mr. Hope), who has to carry out the generally thankless task of a Parliamentary Private Secretary, which he has done with his customary skill and enthusiasm.

I should like to extend my thanks to all the officials who have helped enormously with the preparations of briefs and information, to the police who have ensured our security, to the Hansard staff who, as always, have provided an extraordinarily accurate representation of our remarks, including language from the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon that I am sure has appeared in Hansard for the first time. I should like to thank the Clerk for advising you, Mr. Stevenson, and Mr. Gale, your co-Chairman, in such a way as to ensure the expeditious handling of our proceedings. Above all, I should like to thank you, and Mr. Gale in his absence, for the way in which you have presided over the Committee.

This has been a good-natured Committee. It has dealt with difficult and sometimes controversial issues in a constructive and good-humoured style. That owes an enormous amount to the way in which the Committee has been chaired. You, Mr. Stevenson, and your co-Chairman Mr. Gale, have enlivened us with some humorous insight. You have always made sure that we kept strictly in order. You have not allowed us to stray too far into the unforeseen byways of political controversy and you have kept a good pace that has ensured that we shall complete our proceedings on time. I am grateful to you and I hope that you have an enjoyable weekend's rest after three weeks of arduous activity in this Committee.

Mr. Waterson: Further to that point of order, Mr. Stevenson. I associate myself with almost everything that the Minister has said. I should like to be able to ascribe to you and your co-Chairman the fact that we are finishing at five o'clock today, but it has nothing to do with either of you. It is the programme resolution.

On the whole, we have had a good-natured Committee, even if we have moved at a brisk pace at bayonet point. I thank you and your co-Chairman for your kind, indulgent and efficient chairing of our proceedings, Mr. Stevenson. I should also like to thank the officials, the staff and all those who make our proceedings run relatively smoothly, the Hansard writers and so on. I should like to thank all the members of the Committee. Just about every member has contributed to the proceedings, some more than others. I should particularly like to thank my right hon. and hon. Friends for their hard work on the Committee. The Minister referred to the model boat that my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon made. The Minister should have a care, as that is just the sort of example of the long-term therapy that most Housing Ministers engage in after any time in that thankless office. I also thank those who provided helpful briefings and draft amendments.

It has been an exciting Committee at times, despite an unprepossessing start, as it were. We had the alarums and excursions of the new heir to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake). We have discovered some interesting facts. For example, as a child, the Minister spent some time living in a caravan in Bradford, but that was under a previous Labour Government, so we should not be surprised.

Even in this relatively peaceful and quiet backwater, the ripples of great events have sometimes been felt. In Committee, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East was deservedly promoted from Whip to a ministerial post. The hon. Member for Doncaster, North became the Whip, and we welcome that. All that happened as a result of the understandable wish of the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) to leave public office and spend more time with his lawyers.

I thank everyone concerned, particularly you, Mr. Stevenson, and your co-Chairman, for a generally harmonious Committee.

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