20 Jun 2024

‘Labour will extend Awaab’s law to private renters’, says Angela Rayner


Housing policy, including help for renters and first time buyers, has become a key election battleground.

We asked Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner what she has to say, including on Awaab’s law – named after the 2-year-old boy who died as a result of prolonged exposure to mould in a social housing flat.

Angela Rayner: We see over a quarter of the private rental sector where the decent home standards are not being met. So by extending Awaab’s law to the private sector, it means that we will improve people’s health. Because we’ve seen far too many health hazards in the private rental sector, which is not fair on people who are paying high rents and are not getting habitable homes, which keep them healthy and safe.

Cathy Newman: Would you do this in the first 100 days? Is this a top priority?

Angela Rayner: It’s a top priority. There’s a lot of work that we need to do, but we’ll get motoring on it as quickly as we possibly can.

Cathy Newman: Let’s talk about how you’re going to build your way out of this problem, in part. You want 1.5 million homes over five years – 300,000 a year. That has never been done, not even in the 1970s. How do you think you’ll succeed where previous governments haven’t?

Angela Rayner: Because we’ve recognised some of the challenges and the problems. First of all, we know that we need to deal with the planning restrictions that we face. The Tories ripped up local housing targets. We want to reintroduce those. We want to use our mayoral models to get new towns up and running, and to really drive that housing planning that we need for the future.

Cathy Newman: Just to stick on this target – 300,000 a year. The average over the last decade has been 178,000 a year. Neither the Blair government nor the Brown government managed anywhere near what you’re looking for. Do you accept it’s a very tough target? You might not meet it?

Angela Rayner: It is a very ambitious target. But I think with the planning reforms, the support, working with the developers, with helping housing associations and local authorities through the affordable homes grant, I think by making those adjustments, we can make that target a reality.

Cathy Newman: Do you think you’ll hit that year in, year out?

Angela Rayner: I think in the first year you may not meet it, year in, year out, but within the five years of the next parliament, we will meet that 1.5 million homes target.

Cathy Newman: But if you don’t meet it in the first year, you’ll have to do even more than 300,000 in the second year and the years after.

Angela Rayner: To be fair, some of the issues or challenges we’re going to face are around planning reform and the affordable homes grant, and adapting that to make sure we can get that money out the door. That might not happen in the first month, but we’re certainly going to make sure that’s quickly available so that we can get those housing targets and we can get those homes built.

Cathy Newman: You yourself benefited from Right to Buy, which is blamed for a lot of the problems in shortage of social housing. The Lib Dems and the Greens both say they’ll scrap Right to Buy. Labour’s mayor, Andy Burnham, says that building new council housing while Right to Buy remains is like trying to fill a bath with the plug out. I wondered, given that you have benefited from that very policy, would you set him straight?

Angela Rayner: First of all, I benefited from the previous policy in 2007, with smaller discounts. In 2012, the discounts were much more reduced. We haven’t built council houses because we can’t build ‘like for like’ on the flow of how many council houses have been sold. So we said we would review Right to Buy to look at the discount rate.

Cathy Newman: But not review the whole policy. You’re in favour of Right to Buy, right?

Angela Rayner: We’re in favour of Right to Buy, but we’ll review the discounted rate so that the taxpayers are not losing out and we can build the social housing that we need. But it has to be reasonable and fair.

Cathy Newman: Let’s talk about fairness, because that’s at the heart of all this, isn’t it? Keir Starmer has repeatedly refused to rule out a change in council tax banding. So what I wanted to ask was whether you think it is fair that someone living in a house worth around £70,000 in Nottinghamshire pays more in council tax than a multi-millionaire in a mansion in Mayfair. Is that fair?

Angela Rayner: We’ve set out our tax proposals, and reforming council tax is not one of our priorities. It’s actually about how we build those homes for the future.

Cathy Newman: But is it fair? That’s what I’m asking you. Is that scenario that I set out fair?

Angela Rayner: That’s the system that we’ve got at the moment, and that’s the system that is going to continue, because I have no plans to change that.

Cathy Newman: It’s not your top priority, clearly, but at some point in a first term, that is something that could happen. You’re not ruling it out – rebanding council tax?

Angela Rayner: There’s a significant amount of work that we need to do. Unfortunately, the Tories promised renters reform. They didn’t do that. They promised to end no-fault evictions. They haven’t done that. We’ve got a renters programme that will make people better off with better protections.

Cathy Newman: You have talked about your extraordinary journey from poverty, as you say, to potentially deputy prime minister. I know you don’t want to look like you’re measuring up the curtains for Chequers, but do you pinch yourself and think, is this really going to happen to you?

Angela Rayner: The thing for me is about the prospect of being able to make the change. I’ve done nine years in opposition since I was elected. I relish the opportunity to prove to people why they elected me to say, ‘I’m going to change this, I’m going to build those houses we need. I’m going to make those secure jobs that people can live and raise their families on.’ We’ve got to have that change in the UK, and I’m very proud and looking forward to an opportunity to really show what we can do and what we can deliver.

Cathy Newman: You speak of being proud there. Your mum, who you often looked after when you were a teenager, is she proud?

Angela Rayner: She is, and my whole community is. It’s lovely to see the people who I grew up with, many of which I’m still in touch with today, who are incredibly proud. Because working class people, we just want to do a good job – we roll our sleeves up and we get on with it.

Cathy Newman: What does your mum say to you about the prospect of you being the most powerful woman in the country, potentially in just a few weeks?

Angela Rayner: Whenever I speak to my mum, she says ‘I saw you on the telly’, so I presume she’s just going to turn around and say ‘I saw you on the telly.’

Cathy Newman: She’ll be seeing you a bit more on the telly in a few weeks’ time.