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Mr. Byers: The situation will be the one that applies under normal rules of contract. If the private sector contractors fail to deliver their contractual obligations, they will be in either a breach or a fundamental breach of contract, depending on the seriousness, and Transport for London will be able to impose penalties according to the nature of the breach. TFL will have responsibility. If there is a safety issue, it has immediate step-in rights and can remove the contractor and do the work itself, billing the contractor for any work that is necessary. If there is a breach of contract, the remedies, which depend on the seriousness, are there under the normal law of contract.
Mr. Byers: In a lengthy reply that I gave earlier today, I said that one of the conditions that we have attached to our approval is to ensure that there are no material changes in the contracts between the position today and the time of financial closure. That was one of Ernst and Young's recommendations.
Linda Perham (Ilford, North): I agree that after years of neglect and threats of privatisation from the Tories, we need the investment in London Underground, and I welcome the refurbishment of my local station, Hainault, planned for October next year, but does not my right hon. Friend agree that my constituents and other London underground users would much prefer priority to be given to improvements in track and signalling, and more trains? Does he also agree that, as other hon. Members have said, there is, unfortunately, a credibility gap with the PPP, particularly among party members and the trade unions?
Mr. Byers: When my hon. Friend has had the opportunity to examine the plan in detail, she will see that the bulk of the investment£8.5 billion, I thinkis going into track and signals. That will make a significant difference. Moreover, it is false to say that investment in stations will not improve the service. In many parts of the networkincluding places that most Members will know, such as Victoria, Oxford Circus and King's Crossstations are closed at certain times of the day because of overcrowding. One of the ways in which we can change that is by changing the design of the stations, so it is wrong to portray work on stations as merely a superficially attractive approach. There are good reasons, in terms of capacity, reliability and performance, why it should be a priority.
Mr. Iain Coleman (Hammersmith and Fulham): It is with considerable sadness that I have to advise my right hon. Friend that in my view, the overwhelming majority of the thousands of my constituents who struggle to work and back every day using the 11 underground stations in my constituency have to use a service that is dirty, chronically unreliable and expensive. It is their view that the worst possible way to try to turn the service round is to hand it over now to the Mayor and the Commissioner for Transport for London, who genuinely believe that the service is massively overcomplex, expensive and intrinsically unsafe. May I urgeindeed, begmy right hon. Friend, even at this very late stage, to reopen negotiations with Mr. Livingstone and Mr. Kiley, so that there can be an agreed settlement between the parties, which Londoners can support? They will then be able to have the service that they deserve. I have to tell my right hon. Friend that they certainly do not support thisand they do not deserve it, either.
Mr. Byers: The Commissioner for Transport was charged by the Prime Minister last year with the responsibility of trying to negotiate a deal with the private contractors, and was unable to do it. That is regrettable, but that was the situation. It is wrong to say that the new system will be unsafe. I know that allegations have been made, but it will be for the Health and Safety Executive
Roger Casale (Wimbledon): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, because although there is a time to debate such issues, there is also a time when it is the job of the Government to decide. I believe that I speak on behalf of the majority of people in my constituency who use the District and the Northern lines when I say that that time has now come. My constituents will judge my right hon. Friend's decision not on the quality of debate tonight but on the results of putting the investment in. They know that we will not get results by privatising the tube, as the Tories want to do, and they are not unrealistic enough to believe that an extra penny on income tax would produce those results, either. As my right hon. Friend will be aware, we have a very viable public-private partnership in the Merton to Croydon Tramlink. Will he continue to put the arguments about why the proposed public-private partnership is in the public interestbut, most important of all, will he please get on with the job?
Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend speaks for many of the travelling public in London when he stresses the importance of learning from success stories such as the Croydon Tramlink, which is a good example of a public-private partnership. There are other examples in London's transport system, too, and the important message is that our proposals for London Underground will ensure that it remains in the public sectorthere will be no privatisationsafety will not be compromised, and we will unlock £16 billion of investment in the London underground. That is the equivalent of £5,000 for every household in London. That is the scale of investment that the Government want to see and those who delay or block it will be condemned by generations of Londoners in the future.
Mr. Pickles: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance on how we may record the fact that of the 21 Labour Members who asked questions on the statement, only five were in favour of the PPP
Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham): I am grateful for the opportunity afforded by my first Thursday Adjournment debate in which I shall address the important issue of housing in Tottenham and the London borough of Haringey. This is the second debate on the housing crisis in London this week. I am especially grateful to the Speaker's Office, because I know that Mr. Speaker personally selects the subjects to be raised on the Thursday Adjournment.
Housing impinges on life's many fundamentals, including health, security, education and employment opportunities. Good-quality, permanent housing can generate a sense of community. It is the difference between a building and a home. A real home defines a sense of self, family and personal stability. It allows people a life of dignity and, in a sense, it is that dignity that is at the core of this debate.
No advice surgery I hold passes without a number of Tottenham parents describing the tremendous overcrowding in their two-bedroomed properties, where four or five brothers and sisters are crowded into one bedroom. That leads to poor health and safety standards for the family, little room for children to do their homework and endless sibling conflict. It is no wonder that many of our young people prefer the relative privacy of corners outdoors, on the estate, in the park or at the bottom of the street, where they can hang out with their friends, to falling out with their brothers and sisters in cramped conditions with stressed-out parents.
We know that such overcrowding leads to a breakdown in family relations, missed educational opportunities, exposure to physical and mental health problems and a growth in the drop-out culture, in which young people bypass legal employment and become involved in crime. That was the stark reality of Tottenham in the 1980s: surely in the 21st century it is time for us to move on.
The tremendous volume of temporary accommodation is probably our biggest obstacle to moving on in Tottenham. While it feels intensely like a problem faced only in Tottenham, it is linked to homelessness in London as a whole. In that respect, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) for securing an Adjournment debate yesterday on the housing crisis in London. In that debate, he stated, rightly, that there are 48,000 homeless households in accommodation in London. Some 10 per cent. of those households are in the borough of Haringey. That is 5,000 households1,000 more than in any other London authoritywhich is between 15,000 and 20,000 homeless people.
When I speak of homeless households, I am not referring to the 532 people who literally live and sleep on the streets. That number has fallen by two thirds, thanks to the work co-ordinated by the Government's rough sleepers unit. Rather, I am referring to people, including many families with children, who are without a home and who present themselves either to Haringey social services or to the housing department as having nowhere to live.
The trend in the past 10 years has been for the large-scale buying up of properties by landlords and less reputable real estate agents. It is a scandal that those private social landlordsmany of them modern-day pariahsrenovate the properties to minimum standards, divide already small houses into much smaller, unappealing flats and then, what is much worse, rent them back to local authority housing departments and the National Asylum Support Service at exorbitant rates.
If I may, I will describe the situation of a professional couple with young children in my constituency. The family bought a long lease in a privately built new block of flats in Tottenham. The flats were sold as an attractive and modern, new development with good transport links to the City and the west end. However, the developer and freeholder were soon in dispute and basic maintenance work was not done. A cycle of deterioration began: common parts were not cleaned, wear and tear stayed worn and torn, the walls became dirty, the carpets stained and ripped. The front door lock and the intercom were smashed and unrepaired. Attempts to get together with other leaseholders in the block to pressure the freeholder failed.
Families started to move out and sublet to others with less stake in the property. Leases became hard to sell without a loss. A landlord in the temporary accommodation business gradually bought up half the flats cheaply from people desperate to get out. Others rented out their flats and are living elsewhere. Soon, that couple were the only original leaseholders still living there. Their neighbours now come and go, sometimes leaving without warningsome are rehoused, some are deported and some are evicted when their rent stops being paid.
Corridors get litteredrubbish, unwanted furniture and items left by previous tenants are thrown in the yard outside, attracting more dumping from the surrounding area. Owing to the smashed front door and the availability of discarded furniture and beds, some rough sleepers have moved into the downstairs cupboard. The common parts are used by local young people to sniff glue, smoke crack cocaine or inject heroin. Burglary is a problem and residents never know who is going to be around the corner.
In all practical respects, the family are living in an unmanaged temporary accommodation block. The landlord who owns half the flats re-lets them to refugees and asylum seekers as bed-and-breakfast annexes and charges the local authority £250 per week. Breakfast appears to be a weekly plastic bag containing milk, a loaf of bread and a box of corn flakes.
If that were the only such example, I would not have asked for an Adjournment debate, but this is not an isolated incident. My constituents will tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that there is not a street, a close, an avenue or an estate in my constituency that self-seeking landlords have left untouched. The knock-on effects are huge and equally destructive. The opportunities for families who have grown up and lived in Tottenham for
Presently, planning powers are not sufficient to prevent the particularly insidious development of bed-and-breakfast annexes. Although intended to encourage home owners to buy and live in Tottenham, the recent announcement of relief on stamp duty on the purchase of properties in deprived areas will no doubt lead to the proliferation of those annexes. A knock-on effect of the annexes is the low incentive for tenants to become financially active because they know that they will never be able to afford to pay their housing costs, thus creating a poverty trap for all but the landlords.
Tottenham's proliferation of temporary housing is directly responsible for high population transience, which detracts from our best efforts locally and nationally to regenerate the area and build a safe, sustainable community. There is up to a 20 per cent. turnover rate of people moving in and out of the area, constantly, week on week, month on month, year on year. That level of transience seriously damages any hope of community cohesion. It is exacerbated by boroughs as far afield as Redbridge and Hammersmith and Fulham placing their homeless families in Tottenham without any obligation to let Haringey council know where those families are.
I will be honest: I am extremely worried. I have said before in the House that I grew up in a working-class community in Tottenham in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a community then of primarily white working-class, Caribbean, Irish and Cypriot families. It worries me that the children of the very families who thrived and made a home in that part of London, which has always been a gateway to the rest of Londona tradition of which we are proudshould now come to my surgery and express wrongly placed resentment towards newcomers for the poverty and instability that they purportedly bring.
Long-term residents who are housed by Haringey council find that they are unable to move to larger properties as their families expand, because those in temporary housing are naturally prioritised as permanent dwellings become available, leaving longer-term tenants lower down in the housing list.
We must not remain silent about the real backlash that asylum seekers face because of our failure to deal with London's housing crisis strategically. Families living in temporary households are disadvantaged because of the simple fact that they are seeking temporary accommodation. They face further social exclusion as they try to settle into a new area, get their children into a new school and gain access to public services. For many, English is their second language, and the one thing that they can be certain of is that they will have to move again in due course.
Research commissioned by Haringey council showed that of the children who had the stability gained from remaining in the same school in Tottenham for more than three years, 74 per cent. gained key stage 2, against the national average of 75 per cent. For children who had been in school for less than a year, the figure was 38 per cent. Clearly, their geographical instability was detrimental to their learning opportunities.
My hon. Friend the Minister will know that two weeks ago I took a delegation from Haringey council to meet Lord Falconer, the Minister for Housing and Planning. I am pleased that he agreed to work with the council to commission further research to help us to understand the issues.
The solutions need to be addressed in a pan-London framework. Local housing authorities should co-operate rather than compete. In the short term, I would like a quota system for the number of temporary housing placements in each London borough to be developed. In the medium term, we need increased planning powers to control the present mass buy-up of available properties in Tottenham. In the medium to long term, registered social landlords such as housing associations must be encouraged to take the lead in the acquisition and renovation of a large stock of good-quality temporary accommodation in London. That means providing registered social landlords with the financial means and incentives to purchase and renovate properties to a decent standard and protecting them to some extent from the financial risks involved.
Like other world-class cities, London faces the challenge of dealing with housing need. Its economy is growing, so its population will continue to rise, with consequent housing pressure on inner-London areas. Therefore, that issue requires strategic policy development and the implementation of measures that aim to control the problem, rather than allow it to overwhelm us.
Despite all I have said, as someone who has grown up in Tottenham I feel compelled to tell my hon. Friends that there are many success stories to applaud in Tottenham. That is undoubtedly due to the commitment of the Labour Government who have targeted deprived areas, so savagely attacked by the previous Administration. Money is most definitely going into Tottenham, with more than £100 million of investment going into regeneration. Unemployment is down 17 per cent. since 1997, our schools are improving with nine schools out of special measures. Thankfully, we are a long way from the ugly scenes of the 1980s when anger burst onto our streets, because the investments made by the Government have to some extent given my constituents the breathing space to heal those deep wounds.
This Government recognise the moral and economic imperative of creating a nation where all people have access to a top-class education, to decent jobs, to neighbourhoods of which they can be proud and call home. My constituents certainly share that vision. One of the greatest problems holding them back from living that vision is the housing situation that keeps them chained to social exclusion. One can lengthen the chain by improving schools, the health service and crime rates, but I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to help them break free from a housing situation that keeps my constituents shackled.