A major Parliamentary legislative programme was spelled out in the Queen´s speech on Wednesday, with the monarch announcing plans by the new Conservative Government for more than 20 new bills. They cover a range of subjects from new powers for Scotland to extending free childcare. Here, Eastlondonlines examines the implications for the local area of three of the key bills in the Speech.
Legislation will be introduced to support home ownership and give housing association tenants the chance to own their own home.”
The Queen confirmed the extension of one of the Tory’s most controversial pre-election pledges: the Right to Buy scheme has been extended to 1.4 million families living in housing associations, provided they have paid rent for 3 years.
The national discount available on these homes is set at £77, 900 but could be as much as £102,700 in London. This represents up to a quarter of the value of the average property for first time buyers in the capital, which currently stands at £384,856.
Households on housing waiting list
With thousands on the council house waiting lists across ELL’s four boroughs, the policy has drawn criticism from the National Housing Federation who released the following statement in response to the announcement yesterday:
“An extension to the Right to Buy would mean that housing associations are working to keep pace with replacements rather than building homes for the millions stuck on waiting lists. At a time when we need to be increasing the overall amount of social housing, it is like trying to fill a bathtub with the plug taken out.
“What’s more, forcing housing associations to sell off their properties under the Right to Buy sets an extremely dangerous precedent of government interference in independent business.”
Addressing the London Assembly yesterday, Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson said: “To make this policy work it has to deliver more homes. It would be the height of insanity to use the proceeds of council homes sales in London to help build more homes outside, because it’s in London where we have a housing crisis.”
My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states. Alongside this, early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017.”
The long awaited announcement of the in/out EU referendum may be of concern to the capital’s businesses, many of which are located in Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets.
Deutsche Bank echoed previous concerns raised by HSBC when it announced earlier this week that it would consider moving its London offices out of the UK if the country decided to leave the EU.
Eastlondonlines went to Canary Wharf to gauge opinion on a potential ‘Brexit’ but most employees of the financial services were reluctant to express their views on camera.
According to the recent EU barometer by the British Chamber of Commerce both small and large businesses say a UK exit from the EU would have negative consequences.
Measures will be introduced to control immigration.”
Details on the new immigration bill were scant, but most of the proposals were covered at David Cameron’s policy launch last week.
The bill is to introduce new draconian measures to clamp down on illegal and irregular migrants, including the right to seize wages earned illegally and satellite tagging for foreign criminals.
Although the Coalition government pledged to reduce net migration to Britain to 100,000, recent figures showed that net migration surged to 318,000 in 2014 just below the previous peek in 2005. Data from the Greater London Authority also projects a rise in international net migration within ELL’s four boroughs.
The Home Office and a number of asylum services are based in Croydon. Steve Simmonds, Refugee and Migrants’ Rights Programme Director at Amnesty International told Eastlondonlines: “Lots of these measures will essentially drive those who are here irregularly further underground and more likely therefore at risk of being exploited.”
He added “It’s ironic that one of the last acts of this last government was the Modern Slavery Act and here we are producing an even more vulnerable class of people in our society who will be at more risk of enslavement and who will find it much harder to come forward to any form of authority because of measures such as this.”
Migrants’ Rights Network works with a number of local community groups across the city such as Hackney Migrant Centre and Lewisham Refugee Centre. Group Director Don Flynn told ELL: “With this new piece of legislation the government is revealing a gap in the understanding of what is driving migration to the UK today.
“Nothing in any of these pledges encourages the view that migration levels will come down as a consequence of the measures that will be adopted. Instead of taking a step back to review why the harsher measures in the old Immigration Act did not reduce net migration as they had hoped, the prime minister is launching headfirst into more of the same.”
As irregular migrants are not registered on official statistics until they have left the country, it is very difficult to estimate exactly how many reside in the UK at any time. Estimates put the total anywhere between 400 – 800,000 but this does not include children born in the UK to migrant parents.
Additional reporting by Kara Fox.