TORIES TALK AND PEOPLE DIE – IT DIDN’T NEED TO HAPPEN – HELP ME END FILIBUSTERING!
In 2015, Labour MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck put forward the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill. The proposed law was designed to do two things.
1. Make sure all privately rented homes are fit for human habitation – not just the most expensive.
There is already a legal requirement on private landlords who charge more than a certain level of rent to make sure that their properties are fit for human habitation. Buck’s bill tried to extend that obligation all private rented properties – regardless of how much landlords charge in rent.
2. Make sure that privately rented homes with “category 1 hazards” like dangerous boilers and faulty wiring cannot be signed off as fit for human habitation.
Under current law, (the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) landlords must consider several factors when deciding whether a property is fit for human habitation. These include “freedom from damp”, “water supply”, “drainage and sanitary conveniences” and “[structural] stability”.
Karen Buck’s bill sought to add another requirement to that list: that landlords must take action against so-called “category 1 hazards”.
Buck’s proposed law would put a legal duty on private landlords – not just local councils – to make sure there are no category 1 hazards in their rental properties.
SO WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO IT?
Well, most people are not familiar with Westminster Parliamentary procedure but in a nutshell, when an MP puts forward a bill for consideration in what is known as a Private Members Bill, the speaker’s office designates a specific amount of parliamentary time for the bill to be debated and voted on. If the debates and the votes are not complete in that time, the bill fails because parliament can waste no more time on it.
This process has one major downside which is called a “filibuster”. Any MP or group of MP’s who don’t agree with a bill can effectively destroy it and stop it from going to a vote, simply by talking and talking and talking. It is sometimes referred to as “talking out a bill” or “talking a bill to death”, an MP can effectively stand up in the Commons, read a telephone directory and keep talking until it runs out of time.
In the case of Karen Buck’s housing bill, it was talked out by Conservative MPs, including Philip Davies, who describes himself as both a landlord and tenant. That makes this particularly offensive because he has a vested interest in not being forced to create liveable standards for tenants. He himself said this dual status put him in the “unusual position of being able to see both sides of the argument”, but ultimately declared that the proposed legislation would put “huge burdens” on landlords and should be dropped. His lengthy filibuster meant that it was.
My attitude to Mr. Davies response is that if you cannot afford to make properties fit for habitation then you should not be a landlord and if you can afford it but simply do not want to, well! you’re an asshole!
The problem is that this legislation may very well have saved the lives of those killed at the Grenfell Tower who complained constantly about safety issues.
The problem is that this is filibustering happens all the time. Including the bill put forward referred to as the “Turing Bill” which would have pardoned those over the years charged as criminals for being Gay.
Filibustering is an undemocratic process which effectively allows a single MP to stop legislation from going through the Commons which will establish our fundamental rights under the law. That is why I am trying to end filibustering permanently.
It is my intent, to get as many signatures on a petition and to deliver that petition to every single MP in Westminster, the intention to bring forward primary legislation which will modify parliamentary procedure in such a way that each MP will be given a time limit in the debate and must stick to that limit, the process of filibustering being removed from parliamentary procedure permanently. I intend to deliver this petition by hand to Number 10 myself.
This is not without precedent. In the Scottish Parliament, the presiding officer gives specific time limits to MSP’s during debates and jumps on them when they go over. The practice needs to be ended permanently and I hope that you will sign the petition below and help me end it.
Now would this legislation have saved the lives of those killed in London? In all honesty I don’t know, we will probably never know. But the fact is that with such primary legislation in place it would have at least given them a chance!