Crisis | The Second Reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill: What’s all the fuss about?

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27 October 2016

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The Second Reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill: What’s all the fuss about?

by Helena Brice,  Public Affairs Officer

You may have noticed over the past couple of months that we here at Crisis have been getting increasingly excited about the ‘Second Reading’ of the Homelessness Reduction Bill on 28 October but you may not know why.

It involves some rather arcane parliamentary processes, but could have a huge impact on homelessness in England. So here’s an explainer:

What’s the problem?

In England if you don’t have dependent children or you can’t prove that you are particularly vulnerable then your local authority has no legal obligation to offer you meaningful help.

Just imagine. You’ve lost your home. You’ve worn out the welcome on the sofas of family or friends so, in desperation, you go to your council for help. You tell them that tonight you will literally be sleeping on a park bench if you don’t get help. But even then you are turned away, sent back out the door to sleep on the streets, cold, lonely and forgotten.

What does the Homelessness Reduction Bill do about that?

If passed, it will give councils a legal duty to give people meaningful support to resolve their homelessness. It will introduce measures to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. If it survives its passage through parliament it will undoubtedly be one of the most important developments for homelessness in 40 years.

You say ‘if passed’… does that mean it could fail?

Yes. This Friday 28 October the fate of the Homelessness Reduction Bill hangs in the balance. It is a Private Member’s Bill which was brought forwards by MP Bob Blackman. As such it can be easily blocked or ‘talked out’ as it receives its Second Reading in Parliament this Friday.

(We’ve seen this happen recently with the Turing Bill and the Revenge Evictions Bill, both of which were Private Members’ Bills that were talked out)

…so we find out if the bill lives or dies at this Second Reading you keep tweeting about?

For now. The Second Reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill. In order for a Bill to get past Second Reading the sponsor of the bill, in this case Bob Blackman, must secure the closure of the debate (which basically means getting MPs to stop talking).

For a closure motion to succeed in favour of the bill there must be at least 100 supportive MPs present. If there were 98 who supported and 2 who opposed, the Bill would fail. Hence we have been asking you to email your MPs asking them to turn up and support it. (and a huge thank you to the thousands of you that have done so).

However if no one opposes the bill the Chair puts the question on second reading (that is that people agree the bill passes its second reading), collects the ‘voices’ (essentially how many people say ‘Ayes’ and how many say ‘No’) and if it’s too close to call they call a division. For a division to pass in our favour the ‘Aye’ must be in the majority with more than 40 Members participating.

What if the bill fails?

We will have missed a precious opportunity to change the homelessness legislation and will be relying on the government’s good will to take it on and bring it forward as their own bill. In order for this to happen the government would have to announce it in the Queen’s speech (which didn’t happen this year round) or tag it on to another Bill, however no Bills have yet been put forward that it could be tagged on to.

And if it gets through?

If the bill gets through the Second Reading that is a massive hurdle overcome. But there is still a long way to go before it gets enshrined in the law. The bill then has to go through public bill committee, report stage, third reading and then the Lords.

Is there anything I can do to help?

Yes. Visit our No One Turned Away campaign page to find out how you can join the thousands of campaigners who have helped us to get the Homelessness Reduction Bill this far.

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