Last Friday MPs debated measures to protect tenants, especially from ‘revenge evictions’ – that is from evictions when a tenant complains, and the landlord throws them out.
It’s an important subject.
But the measures failed to go forward – they were talked out by two Tory MPs.
Fridays in Parliament are becoming a bit of a joke.
Which is completely unacceptable, since measures like this impact directly on people’s lives – in this case on one of the most important things in those lives, the quality and security of the place where they live.
This Bill certainly mattered. It addressed the basic rights of tenants and their protection.
As Labour’s Teresa Pearce said in the debate
‘I support the Bill because, in all contracts and business arrangements we enter into, we expect goods that are fit for purpose. We expect the product to do what it says and to get what we pay for. How come, therefore, that when a landlord enters into a contractual arrangement with a tenant and says, “I promise you a dwelling that’s fit for purpose and you’ll pay me to use it,” the law does not afford tenants those basic rights? How is it that if a landlord enters into a contract with a tenant and provides a substandard, unsafe property and the tenant challenges that product’s fitness, they can be thrown out on to the street in an act of revenge’.
In theory the bill was supported by the Coalition Government.
But, as Labour’s Andy Slaughter warned at the beginning of the debate, that ‘support’ is often more apparent than real.
‘What I hope we are not going to see today is ostensible support from the Government while Government Back Benchers talk out’ the Bill.
Two Tory MPs did just that – talked the bill out of time.
One of them was Philip Davies, MP for Shipley and himself a landlord, who driveled on for an hour.
And it’s not the first time Davies and his colleagues have done this.
As Andy Slaughter’s comment suggests, this is becoming an all too common experience. It is what can and has happened to so many bills presented on Fridays.
One exasperated parliamentary source put it bluntly
“Fridays in parliament are becoming a complete joke. They’re dominated by a right-wing clique of MPs who will filibuster anything which isn’t the Margaret Thatcher Day Bill“
So the right-wing Tories filibustered on, and the rights of tenants were left unprotected – left to another day, another Friday?
Philip Davies and his like are a pretty nasty bunch – using parliament’s own rules to defeat well-intentioned bills like this.
But in the end the only thing which will shut them up is for enough MPs to attend on Fridays.
Friday is a day many MPs, our own Greg Mulholland among them, spend in their constituencies. Which is understandable and defensible, but not when important legislation like this is before the house.
As Alex Sobel commented
‘This bill directly affected many of the people of Leeds NW- tenants with families, facing insecurity – students with little defence against unscrupulous landlords.
The fact that it did not pass on to its next stage is a disgrace. It’s the sort of thing which undermines people’s faith in politics.
I’d certainly have been there to vote last Friday. And I certainly hope this bill will find its way on to the statute book some way or other as soon as possible.
It’s too important for these sort of games.’
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