HC Deb 19 July 1995 vol 263 c1650
4. Mrs. Anne Campbell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his reasons for deciding not to introduce a national licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation. [33374]

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Urban Regeneration (Mr. David Curry)

The rules that we are proposing will permit effective action to ensure safety where that is necessary without imposing universal rules that may not be necessary everywhere.

Mrs. Campbell

Will the Minister admit that three out of every four people who responded to the Government's consultation paper supported the case for a national licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation? By refusing to introduce such a scheme, are not the Government putting their ideological hostility towards regulation ahead of the proper concern for public safety and the need to save lives?

Mr. Curry

It is true that a large number of people wanted a licensing scheme, but they wanted different things—there was little agreement on the shape of the scheme that they wanted. We have decided to build on the powers that local authorities have rather than impose duties on them. There are parts of the country where there are relatively few problems, and it is not necessary to introduce a compulsory universal scheme. Where it is necessary to introduce a scheme, local authorities already have the relevant powers, and we shall give them enhanced powers.

Mrs. Lait

Can my hon. Friend assure me that he will advise local authorities that houses in multiple occupation are precisely that and that the term should not be applied to large houses that have been converted into a few flats with relatively few residents?

Mr. Curry

We shall exempt from the regulation places such as long-term leasehold blocks, houses with self-contained flats and university halls of residence. They will be caught by different regulations that achieve the same purpose.