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Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre) (Lab):
Speaking about what gloriously is in the Bill, has my right hon. Friend read this month's edition of Park Home and Holiday Caravan magazine yet? On page 13 is an article entitled "Bill of Rights". Nothing could express better the feelings of park home residents about
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the great improvements that the Government have made via the Bill to their situation. I pay particular tribute to the work of the Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper). I hope that we can go on without further ado to have excellent, constructive discussions about implied terms and further reform in the park home sector.
Keith Hill: My hon. Friend anticipates my allusion in due course to park homes, but as we are on the subject, I concur in his congratulations to the Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) on her work on the matter. When she introduced the park homes amendments to the Bill in Committee, I was able to follow by taking the opportunity to congratulate, and I am happy to do so again, my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) on his sterling work in leading the campaign for that very necessary reform. He may have to be satisfied with what is already in the Bill.
The Bill will help those most at risk from bad landlords and poor conditions. As my hon. Friend pointed out, it will strengthen the rights of park home owners. In that regard, there was universal rejoicing among all those who had been involved in the proceedings of the Bill. The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) said in Committee:
"It has been a good Committee in which hon. Members on both sides contributed to improving the Bill. Although we may return to some battles at future stages, we made progress, especially earlier today when the Government accepted the case for better regulation of park homes. That was a notable achievement."[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 24 February 2004; c. 732.]
Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): I echo the comments about the changes for people in park homes. I hope my right hon. Friend will assure me, on behalf of the many park home owners in Cleethorpes, especially those living in Barton Broads, who are having problems with a new landlord, that the Bill will help them. Will my right hon. Friend do everything he can to get it on to the statute book as speedily as possible?
Keith Hill: I am alarmed to learn of the actions being taken against some of my hon. Friend's constituents. To help them and thousands of other park home dwellers throughout the country, I give her my firm undertaking that I will do everything to secure the relevant provision in the Bill at the earliest opportunity. I am grateful for her support in the matter.
The Bill will improve the supply of affordable housing and it will reduce delays and cut out waste when people are buying and selling homes. Other measures that the Bill will introduce deal with overcrowding. As the members of the Committee
I congratulate the Government on introducing a new clause dealing with overcrowding. On behalf of those involved, I thank the Government for their flexibility in that regard. Will my right hon. Friend look carefully at the consultation exercise and carry it
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out at the earliest opportunity? Will he ensure that when the Government change the overcrowding standard, they bring it up to 21st century expectations?
Keith Hill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his enthusiastic press release on the subject. Through the consultation process we are all determined to bring standards up to those that are merited in the 21st century and to alleviate a great deal of suffering.
Ms Buck: I congratulate my right hon. Friend and colleagues on the new clause, which will take us a step towards bringing the standards governing overcrowding into the 21st century, and on commissioning the research that has given us some useful information on the health and welfare implications of overcrowded households. May I stress again that there are 1.5 million children living in overcrowded accommodation in London and under the present ludicrous 19th century standards, 20,000 families living in statutorily overcrowded houses? We need to sweep away the existing provisions, and we must move fast to implement new standards that give those families an opportunity to bring their children up in decent conditions.
Keith Hill: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We all hope that we can move towards that desired objective through the new provisions of the Bill and the outcome of the consultation process, but we cannot get away from the factand I would not want to do sothat it is also an issue of resource and supply. We must work hard in that regard as well.
On overcrowding, as my hon. Friends have indicated, we have introduced amendments to allow the universal statutory overcrowding standards in part X of the Housing Act 1985 to be amended by secondary legislation. As they indicated, I intend to consult over the next few months about how those powers might be used.
On the licensing regime for houses in multiple occupation, the Government have tabled an amendment to add sex offences to the list that local authorities consider when they decide whether an applicant for a licence is a fit and proper person.
In Committee, the concern was raised that a licence condition on landlords to control the behaviour of their tenants and visitors to the property is too wide and unclear, and that landlords could use it to harass tenants. As a consequence, we have tabled an amendment that clarifies that a licence holder's obligation, if one is imposed in a licence, relates only to antisocial behaviour by a tenant or a visitor, and only to the extent that the landlord is reasonably able to fulfil it.
Concern was also expressed in Committee about the lack of clarity and detail in the Bill on how the proposed grants for non-registered social landlord provision will work in practice, and, in particular, about safeguards and accountability in the absence of a regulatory system similar to that that the relevant authorities exercise over RSLs. We tabled an amendment to provide for a regulation-making power, which allows the Secretary of State to set out conditions that the Housing
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Corporation must impose, matters that it must address and the effect it must achieve when a grant is given under new section 27A. In Committee, the perfectly understandable concern that a level playing field must exist between RSLs, non-RSLs and, above all, tenants was expressed, and we are determined to achieve such a situation.
Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West) (Lab): I welcome the Government's movement, particularly on HMOsthey listened, which is welcome. In opening the Third Reading debate, however, the Minister mentioned that the Bill's general aim is thriving, sustainable and inclusive communities, but that is unachievable if conflicts between residents, Travellers and Gypsies persist in our society, neighbourhoods and constituencies. The ODPM promised to review the matter during the course of the Housing Bill, and I urge the Minister promptly to bring forward the review and not to lose sight of the opportunity to address the matter as a housing and accommodation issue before the Bill completes its parliamentary stages.
Keith Hill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising his concern about provision for Gypsies and Travellers, which is shared by other Labour Members. His point offers a salutary reminder that that issue is not, as is often perceived, restricted to rural areas, but is an issue in urban areas too. I reassure him that the ODPM is undertaking much work on the issue, and we hope to introduce a series of announcements and proposals, some of which may be incorporated in the Bill.
In short and in total, the Housing Bill will directly contribute to the delivery of sustainable communities. On Second Reading, the Chairman of the ODPM Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett), observed that this is a good Housing Bill, but that it had the potential to be a great Housing Bill. I hope that it is on its way to becoming a great Housing Bill, and I commend it to the House.
Mr. Hayes: The right hon. Gentleman is a fair Minister, and he has the potential to become a very good Opposition spokesman, a position in which we hope that he will find himself sooner rather than later.
The consideration of the Bill in Committee and on Second Reading was good, and today's debate was largely positive and constructive. However, we cannot let this opportunity pass without saying that it is unacceptable not to consider 20 Government new clauses and amendments and a dozen other new clauses on Report.
Extremely cynically, the Government talked long on tenancy deposits so that we could not have a debate on warm homes, which would have been welcome on both sides of the Chamber. It is important that people outside this place know precisely what happened today. The new clause on warm homes was modest. It discussed what can reasonably and practically be done, and extending to 2016 the timetable to meet the Government's targets. Both Government and Opposition Members signed it, but it was not debated at the will of the Government, who cut short the Report stage.
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As I said, proceedings in Committee were conducted in good spirit, and as I also said, the Minister listened to the arguments advanced from both sides of the Committee. Many people outside this placeindustry representatives and people who are concerned about housingasked me for how long I expected us to debate the matter on the Floor of the House. Believing that the Minister would continue to show the good faith that he showed in Committee, I expected that we might get two days, in which time we could have covered all the aspects of the Bill that have gone unconsidered today.
It is unacceptable that social housing grants to private developers to build social housesa terribly important issue for the people who will rent those houses and RSLshas not been debated. It is not appropriate that accessible housing registers for disabled people, empty houses, mobile homes for Gypsies and Travellers and a range of other issues have not been debated. That is an indictment of the Government, and it is a matter that the Lords will consider with grave concern. I expect those issues to be fully explored there, because they have not been fully explored here.
I say that more in sorrow than in angermy concern is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber. The Minister and the Whip for this business, the hon. Member for Gillingham (Paul Clark), who is a delicate, sensitive and kindly soul, have not lived up to their reputations.
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