The right to decent living conditions

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, will be proposing a new law this month which seeks to improve the quality of rented housing. I say ‘new’ because despite two previous attempts the Tories have been doing their best to prevent its passage using some fairly arcane bits of parliamentary process.

The fact, as was pointed out at the time, that the Tories have worked so hard to stop a bill which only seeks to require landlords to provide homes ‘fit for human habitation’ seems rather odd to all those with warm blood flowing through their veins and can perhaps only be explained by the number of Tory MPs who are themselves landlords.

It has been a long slog to improve housing in this country and New Towns like Crawley formed part of the mid-Twentieth Century effort to enhance the living conditions of those coming from some pretty run-down inner-city areas. The last Labour Government’s Decent Homes programme managed to improve the standard of a million socially rented houses over ten years, Karen Buck’s bill seeks to do the same for the million properties in the private rented sector which are currently unfit for human habitation.

I have no doubt Tory opinions on the proposed law won’t have softened since its last outing, however their attempts at wrecking it may prove less successful this time around. It is extremely rare for a private members bill to make it onto the statute book without Government support, but then we live in a time when many otherwise impossible things in politics have suddenly become possible. Last time around the Tories had a majority, now we’re in a Hung Parliament and with a Conservative Party less united and more poorly disciplined than at any point since 1997. If individual Tory and DUP MPs are willing to examine their own conscience and form their own view, perhaps the importance of a law requiring homes to be fit for human habitation won’t seem like such an outrageous idea after all?

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