The Opposition was defeated and the hand-wringers in the Liberal Democratic Party have done nothing yet. So the Localism Bill (see here and here and here) went through the House of Commons and now heads off to the House of Lords. There it will meet a few people who know a lot about housing, and it is time for them to take a firm stand.
There is encouragement from what a few LibDem MPs said during the second reading debate that a concerted attempt to remove or at least dilute some of the housing aspects of Bill could have some success.
- LibDem MP Annette Brooke said that she wanted “to put on record my concern about the two-year tenancies…… The Liberal Democrats want this issue to be revisited in the House of Lords. It is incredibly important to get it right….. as we pass this Bill to the other place, we do so with a lot of questions.”
- President of the LibDems Simon Hughes MP said he was “very supportive of the comments of my hon. Friend Annette Brooke, who expressed her concern not that the Government are not listening, but that they may need to go further in the House of Lords to accommodate the points made by those of us who for years have had a passionate concern for social housing and council housing.”
- And another LibDem Dan Rogerson set out a principle that shows what the debate is all about: “The key to social housing is longer-term tenure, which gives families, and particularly those with young children, confidence that they have a home for their family for the future. That is why we need to focus on the fact that social housing is meant to be not for short-term crisis accommodation but for family homes…… I should like a great deal of reassurance in that regard from those on the Treasury Bench before I join the Government in the Division Lobby” (for Third Reading).
So now is the time, if you know any members of the House of Lords, to get writing and lobbying to make sure that this nasty Bill doesn’t come back to the Commons without some substantial amendment.
Combining those that take the Labour Whip, concerned LibDem Peers and the many cross-benchers who take an interested in housing, there are enough votes to force the government into change.
Despite my many reservations about the House of Lords, forcing changes to the Bill would not be an undemocratic step. None of the Bill’s housing policies appeared in the Lib Dem Manifesto. Apart from housing mobility, none appeared in the Conservative Manifesto, which promised to “respect the tenures and rents of social housing tenants”. Apart from HRA reform and empty homes, none made it into the coalition agreement. This Bill is borne of thoroughly undemocratic practice: the British people were not told any of it at the Election and should not have to put up with it now.