The whole purpose of parliamentary select committees was supposed to be to help inform policy-making. Instead, they have sunk to becoming rather vulgar kangaroo courts used by wannabe barristers of the backbenchers to boost their egos. It took about five minutes at today’s session of the Commons Home Affairs Committee to establish that neither G4S nor Jomast (the landlord which provides properties in Middlesbrough for the housing of asylum-seekers) have a policy of deliberately painting front doors red in order to help identify the occupants as asylum-seekers. Only 59 per cent of properties in the town occupied by asylum-seekers are red, it turns out. Moreover, the doors have been painted red for 20 years – long before they were used to house asylum-seekers.
That didn’t stop MPs, between playing with their smartphones, from spending another hour and a half subjecting two men from G4S and Stuart Monk, the owner of Jomast, to a hostile and pointless inquisition. Chuka Umunna, for example, set out on a path of trying to get Monk to admit that the houses he had bought for his property portfolio were at a price below the UK average – as if that were a big scandal. Of course they are cheap houses. Does Umunna really think that asylum-seekers should be housed in grand terraces in Chelsea at public expense – funded by taxpayers who in many cases are struggling to afford a decent home themselves?
A home in Middlesbrough might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but is there not just a possibility that a landlord who buys up cheap and decayed properties, brings them up to a decent standard and then rents them out for the housing of asylum-seekers is doing a public service? Not, apparently, to a bunch of MPs on the make.
MPs, of course, have proved partial to a bit of property investment themselves – making huge profits on London homes bought with the help of their allowances. Maybe the inquisitors of the Home Affairs committee are cross that the rules have been changed so that they can no longer charge their mortgages to the taxpayer.