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Baroness Maddock: My Lords, does the Minister share my disappointment that the Government have not found time to put that commitmentmade not only in the 1997 Labour Party manifesto but in the 2001 manifesto and the Government's housing Green Paperinto practice? The Minister has outlined the dreadful conditions in houses in multiple occupation and stated that such housing accommodates some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Given the Government's commitments on health spending and eradicating fuel poverty, is it not extraordinary that they have not found time to include the issue in their legislative programme?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, although I accept the noble Baroness's comments about the 1997 manifesto, people tend to forget that we are still in the first parliamentary Session after the most recent general election. The department is working on this legislationit is not on the back burnerbecause some 2 million people live in houses of multiple
Lord Rooker: My Lords, as we envisage that a five-year licence for a dwelling in multiple occupation will cost about £100, I will have no argument about licence fees forcing landlords to price students out of property. There is, however, an argument about the definition of property in multiple occupation. We therefore intend to license the properties at greatest riskthose of three storeys or more and accommodating five people or more. Although regulation would cover much student accommodation, such houses are very unsafe places to live. On average, every week in this country three people in dwellings of multiple occupation die because of fire.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is estimated that there are around half a million HMOs, and it is essentially a private sector problem because that sector is unregulated. There are multiple-occupied properties in the public sector, in local authorities and housing associations, but those sectors are regulated and action can be taken against them. Local authorities already have the ability to license such properties, but, unfortunately, most choose not to do so.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am glad to hear that the department is actively working on legislation; it is a great comfort to us. I wonder whether my noble friendwho will be driving forward this legislation with his usual vigourcan give us a slightly clearer idea of when it will appear. Will it be 2003, 2004 or 2005?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, it may appear more quickly than some people think, but I do not know the contents of the Queen's Speech. It is currently being decided whether the legislation should appear first as a draft Bill or a full Bill. As I said, however, we are actively working on it. We have already consulted on it, and there is no secret about the proposals. I accept that the matter requires urgency.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that houses in multiple occupation constitute a very valuable part of the rented market? Does he also recognise that the number of such properties is decreasing very substantially as they are
Lord Rooker: My Lords, if regulation encourages a reduction in the number of unsafe dwellings, we should applaud it. The objective is not to remove such houses from the private rented market, but to make them safe places to live. Safety is at the root of the issue. I hope that landlords will not try to argue that, because we have to get the numbers up, we need to have more unsafe accommodation. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is not seeking to make that argumentwhich would be wholly unsatisfactory, particularly in view of the statistics I cited on the number of people killed. I accept that HMOs are a valuable part of the private-rented market, but I do not think that anyone can defend unsafe properties.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that many houses in multiple occupation are in a poor state of disrepair and that that applies particularly to energy? I refer to poor insulation and poor energy efficiency. Will that issue have particular attention paid to it in the forthcoming legislation?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, it will. I do not want to criticise all homes in multiple occupation but it is certainly the case that at least a fifth of them are not fit for human habitation under the present criteria. The safety of such properties and, of course, the capability of landlords properly to manage their properties will form part and parcel of the legislation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, NHS managers are not being pressed falsely to claim that they are meeting targets. NHS managers must act with integrity and the new managerial code of conduct will hold them to account for their professional behaviour.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the survey shows clearly that NHS managers areand certainly feelunder considerable pressure to fiddle performance figures. Does not the new code just divert the blame from where it should lie; namely, on ministerial micro-management and the failure to give real managerial freedom to NHS staff?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No, my Lords. The survey was highly selective. Two-thirds of those asked to respond did not do so. As regards micro-management, if I had followed the advice offered by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, over the past four years, as expressed in his countless Questions, debates and amendments moved to Bills, the NHS would indeed have been submerged by hundreds of targets.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the amount of fiddling of target figures in the NHS that is found out is just the tip of the iceberg? Does he therefore agree that the Government's NHS Plan targets are now not worth the paper they are written on?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not agree with that at all. I have made clear that we expect NHS managers to operate with integrity. I believe that the great majority of NHS managers do so. As regards the NHS Plan, I believe that the Government have made a great deal of progress. I refer to success in reducing waiting lists, making progress with regard to targets to build 100 new hospitals, speeding up access to GP clinics, increasing the number of training places for doctors and nurses, and increasing retention and recruitment among nurses. There is abundant evidence of real progress with the NHS Plan.
Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: My Lords, has the Minister considered in the light of each performance target whether they create perverse incentives? Is there any process for doing away with those targets which have that effecta process which I understand is now increasingly widely adopted in the private sector?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I understand that the noble Baroness wishes to see a culture in which there is trust between the Government, the Department of Health and people working in the NHS. I very much echo that sentiment. Indeed, I believe that the new managerial code of conduct will help that process. However, it is absolutely right that tough targets are set for the NHS. We are in the middle of turning the service round and delivering a first-class service to the public. We have to set targets to ensure that the NHS uses its extra resources as wisely as possible.
The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, we have serious concerns about human rights in Iran which we and our EU partners address through dialogue, UN resolutions and practical projects. We use a wide range of independent sources to assess the situation. But we do not rely on the often inaccurate reports of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which undertakes fundraising and propaganda activities on behalf of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, a terrorist organisation proscribed in the United Kingdom.
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