THE most common complaint at my surgery comes from decent families living in
rented housing who feel that the welfare state not only works against them, but
penalises them to boot.
They work hard, pay their taxes and have brought their children up well.
These families, who are sometimes desperate to move home, find that they
never get a look in when houses in decent areas come up for reallocation.
I am introducing a new Bill tomorrow which is a direct response to these
The aim of the Bill is to begin what will be a Herculean effort to change the
welfare state so that it ceases to penalise decent citizens in the way it now
It will make two main changes. First, those tenants who have always paid
their rents, and ensured that their children have not been a nuisance to
neighbours, will become the priority group for any decent housing that comes up.
Other people, with other deserving needs, will have to take second place.
By being able to move, these tenants will release their own houses, and so
the stock for reallocation will not diminish. Homeless families, for example,
will be able to draw from this pool.
The Bill proposes a second change which will increase the pressure on chaotic
neighbours. It will give housing association tenants the same protection that
buyers of private properties now have.
If an owner-occupier sells their house and does not disclose beforehand to
the buyer that they live next door or near to a neighbour from Hell, and that
the council and police have been involved in trying to sort matters out, the
seller can be sued for mis-selling. Housing association tenants have no such
My Bill will create equality here. Housing associations will no longer be
able to move a chaotic neighbour from one area - due to quite understandable
pressure from decent neighbours - and plonk them down into another community of
decent law abiding citizens. They will have to tell the new neighbours what they
are doing, and the new neighbours will have a right to object.
Likewise, housing associations will no longer be able to fill properties next
door to neighbours from Hell without informing the potential tenants of what the
real score is. Such tenants will have the right to refuse the property and for
that refusal not to be counted against them with respect to the number of
housing offers to which they are entitled.
This of course does not deal directly with neighbours from Hell. But it will
put pressure on them. The areas into which they can inflict their chaos will
become more limited.
But at some point we will have to have the courage to ghettoise these
families, possibly in isolated areas, until they learn how to behave properly. I
suggested once to Tony Blair that he release money to build indestructible units
under our motorway in Birkenhead to house anti-social families away from
All the then Prime Minister did in response was to laugh nervously. At some
stage the laughing has to stop.