During the Commons debate on the Government’s bill to make social housing history a Labour MP proposed an amendment. This wanted new rules to force landlords to ensure houses were fit for human habitation. It was voted down by 312 votes to 219, with the Tories arguing it would result in ‘unnecessary regulation and costs to landlords’.
It’s been widely reported since that almost 30% of MPs are themselves landlords, renting out property with more than £10,000 rental income a year. While only 2% of the general population are landlords, among Tory MPs that figure rises to 39%.
Among Cornish MPs it’s 67%, as four out of the six make over £10,000 a year from property. Sheryll Murray, Sarah Newton and Derek Thomas declare property in Cornwall while George Eustice rents out a one bedroom flat in London.
So is there no conflict of interests here, as all four of these voted not to impose the onerous duty on landlords to provide houses fit for habitation? Or is there some other explanation? Let’s look at the MPs’ weekly propaganda pieces in the local press to see if any clarification is forthcoming. Oh, there isn’t. In fact no mention of the Housing Bill at all. Guess we’ll have to wait for that then.
Elsewhere excuses have been made. For example, it’s been claimed that rental income is one of the few ways left to boost MPs’ income, now more strapped then ever as MPs eke out an existence on the poverty line. Moreover, as local councils already have ‘strong and effective’ powers to deal with rogue landlords then the amendment was unnecessary. Are these the same local councils that have had their budgets slashed? Or are they those local councils that only exist in David Cameron’s Tellytubbyland?
These are lame excuses. In a rational world our representatives’ salary should be linked to the median wage. Full expenses should be provided for them to do their job – travel, office needs (although the employment of family members should be ended – note to Steve Double and Sheryll Murray) and the like. But second jobs and moonlighting should be banned. Being an MP is surely a full-time occupation.
Perhaps then elected representatives would start to put the interests of those who vote for them first rather than property owners, developers and speculators.