HC Deb 27 June 1990 vol 175 cc302-3
10. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many new tenancies he expects will be created by private landlords during 1990–91.

Mr. Michael Spicer

There are clear signs of increased activity in the residential letting market following the Housing Act 1988. I want to speed up this revival of the private rented sector.

Mr. Winnick

Why does the Minister not admit that recent legislation has totally failed to provide rented accommodation for people who desperately need it because they cannot afford to buy? There is no evidence whatever that such accommodation is being provided in the private market. Given the current crisis in the Housing Corporation, and as interest rates continue high, why do not Ministers allow local authorities to start building houses again and providing the accommodation that is so desperately needed? Why should those desperately in need of accommodation be penalised because of the selfishness and dogma of Tory Ministers?

Mr. Spicer

There are two problems facing the private rented sector—to that extent, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The first is that, for years, we have undermined the role and function and the self-confidence of the private landlord. The second is that there is a blight hanging over the private rented sector due to the pronouncements of the Labour party, particularly those to the effect that it would sequester private property and again involve itself in rent control and total tenure. If the hon. Gentleman has a problem, perhaps he should have a word with his own Front-Bench spokesmen and get them to remove that blight.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the anti-private-sector policies of Norwich city council and other Labour councils which preside over large council estates with increasing numbers of empty houses will serve only to increase the number of homeless people in my constituency and others?

Mr. Spicer

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. Housing authorities throughout the country, particularly Labour housing authorities, are sitting on 100,000 vacant council houses. Because of the points that I made in answer to the first question, there has been little incentive for potential private landlords to bring the 600,000 vacant properties on to the market. At the very least, as a priority, we must get our existing housing stock properly used.

Mr. Trimble

While one wishes to see a considerable increase in the supply of rental property, does the Minister consider that more needs to be done than just removing rent controls? Has he considered the experience in Northern Ireland, where there has been no rent control whatever on new-build properties since 1956, without producing any increase in supply? Does he agree that other measures are necessary to increase the supply of property?

Mr. Spicer

Yes, Sir. I am giving serious consideration to what other measures need to be introduced in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. For instance, it should be made easier for people, especially elderly people, to let property. I am having discussions about whether we could use housing associations on a contract basis to manage some properties for elderly landlords. There is also the question whether the law is moving swiftly enough. There are plans as from next April to make it much easier for landlords to have their contracts applied. That is extremely important. We are considering other measures to do exactly as the hon. Gentleman suggests and to make the private rented sector much more effective than it has been in the past.