'Time is against us' - Homelessness Bill could fall at final hurdle
Ahead of the Homelessness Reduction Bill's final stages in the House of Commons, Bob Blackman MP calls for MPs to pass the first 'substantial change' in England's homelessness legislation in forty years.
Today, the Homelessness Reduction Bill will receive its Report Stage and, all being well, Third Reading in the House of Commons.
I am told this Bill is the largest and most costly Private Member’s Bill to go through Parliament, with £48 million already committed by the Government to help councils fulfil their new duties, with further funding to be announced following amendments being put at Report Stage to correct issues identified during its Committee Stage. It also makes history as the first Bill of its kind to be backed by an entire Select Committee and to have received an extra layer of pre-legislative scrutiny leading to a Select Committee Report to give it the best chance of success, due in no small part to the work put in by Clive Betts, the Chair of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee.
It went through its Second Reading with support from all sides of the House. Unfortunately, Report Stage is proving to be a less consensual process with the Labour Party tabling three amendments which, due to the short amount of time available to get the Bill through, will put it in danger of being timed out today. Homelessness charities, landlord groups and local government bodies have all been closely involved throughout the Bill’s progression and it’s important to note that these amendments are not supported by any of them. I am therefore hopeful that we are able to make progress fast enough to overcome this challenge and prevent this important piece of legislation from being lost.
Private Member’s Bills are by nature far more difficult to get through Parliament, largely due to the very limited amount of time available to them. The Homelessness Reduction Bill has taken seven Committee Stage sessions, a total of 14 hours of close scrutiny, to get to this point. Colleagues have been immensely supportive throughout the process, but now time is against us as it has yet to go through the House of Lords.
There is a lot at stake. The Homelessness Reduction Bill is not a panacea and will not solve the issue but it will go some way towards changing the culture of councils away from crisis reaction and shift the balance towards prevention work. Wales has already enacted similar legislation and this has resulted in a 69 per cent decrease in the number of households becoming homeless in the first year alone, because it is far more effective to work to prevent homelessness from occurring than to tell people to wait until they have already hit the point of crisis before they are eligible for assistance.
It has forty years since homelessness legislation has seen any substantial change in England. I believe the time is right for this Bill and I hope to see it pass today.
Bob Blackman is the Conservative MP for Harrow East and is a Member of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee.
Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy and Communications at Homeless Link, commented on the Homelessness Reduction Bill saying: "While Homeless Link has been a strong supporter of the Bill, we have argued that it needs additional resources to ensure effective implementation." Read the full response here.