HC Deb 20 May 2002 vol 386 cc18-20
10. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South)

What assessment he has made of the impact of single room rent restrictions on the accommodation situation in seaside and coastal towns. [55497]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Malcolm Wicks)

We introduced improvements to the single room rent provisions last July. They now strike a more effective balance between ensuring that young people have access to accommodation while making sure that the benefit system does not provide them with better housing than young people who are in work.

We also plan to commission a joint study with the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to examine the impact of these changes later this year.

Mr. Marsden

Grateful though I am to my hon. Friend for that reply, does he appreciate that the present restrictions bear down particularly hard on young people in seaside and coastal towns who are looking for work? Streetlife, a charity in my constituency, said that it had about 30 landlords who would take young people presenting as homeless before the rent restriction was introduced. Since its introduction, the number has declined to zero. I ask my hon. Friend, in whom I have great faith, to speed up the review that is taking place over the summer and, notwithstanding that, to put some oomph into his officials, who have been remarkably complacent about the issue in recent years.

Malcolm Wicks

I can assure my hon. Friend that our officials have plenty of oomph—those who work on behalf of the House and the public are very energised people. We have changed the system for single room rent. It used to be limited to the average cost of a non-self-contained room with a shared toilet and kitchen. It now allows someone to have exclusive use of a bedroom, with shared use of a toilet, bathroom, kitchen and living room. I looked up the evidence, and about 71 per cent. of all single adults under 25 without children who live in the privately rented sector have accommodation of that kind. I am confident that we are striking the right balance but, of course, we keep all such matters closely under review.