Communities and Local Government - Minutes of EvidenceHC 177-ii

Back to Report

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Communities and Local Government Committee

on Monday 16 April 2012

Members present:

Mr Clive Betts (Chair)

Heidi Alexander

Bob Blackman

Stephen Gilbert

David Heyes

George Hollingbery

James Morris

Mark Pawsey

Heather Wheeler

________________

Examination of Witness

Witness: Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Minister for Housing and Local Government, Department for Communities and Local Government, gave evidence.

Q472 Chair: Good afternoon, Minister. Apologies for keeping you waiting; we were having a rather interesting discussion about relationships between central Government and local government. We will move on to something completely different now: our final evidence session in our inquiry into park homes. Thank you, Minister, for agreeing to come along to our final session and also for sending us copies of the consultation that you have announced and launched on this particular area.

How big a problem do you think there is with park homes at present? Obviously you think there is something of a problem, otherwise you wouldn’t be consulting about changing arrangements. Do you see the issues of potential criminality and unscrupulous site owners as being a major issue, or are there just one or two bad apples that need rooting out and everything else will be all right?

Grant Shapps: Over the now quite a lot of years that I have been involved in the housing portfolio, I have gone from thinking this was possibly a smallish problem with some rogues to being absolutely convinced, as I am today on launching this consultation, that it is quite a serious, big-without being the majority-and growing problem. It is of a very significant size and therefore absolutely requires and demands Government attention and time.

Q473 Chair: Have you been round personally to have a look at some park home sites and seen problems as well as some sites that are clearly providing very good facilities and accommodation for people, often of retirement age?

Grant Shapps: Yes. One of the interesting things is I think every Member of Parliament here thinks they are unique in having park homes. It turns out that almost all of us have park homes. In my own constituency, I have park homes very close to my own home. I go and see those sites; I have seen others around the country. It is very varied. I am cautious about talking about the size and scale of the problem, because although I know that there was a survey carried out-I think it was last year-where half the people who responded said they had problems, it is likely that, if you respond, you are responding because you have had a problem. But I do not mean to minimise that, because I think it is a growing problem. I think you have taken evidence that will strongly suggest that. In any case, the outrageousness of the problems that people have who are trying to sell their homes or otherwise abused on some of these sites is so unacceptable that Government is compelled to act.

Q474 Heather Wheeler: I find it interesting that we are all doing this at the same time. How would you encapsulate why the Government have come to do this right now? You know, because you have been MP for a while now, and your civil servants behind you know that the laws on this sort of thing have changed incrementally over the years. Did you think about having a root and branch change of everything?

Grant Shapps: I knew from having done the post for three years in opposition that this was a growing problem and I had been tracking the work of the previous Government on it, who also had a consultation and then timed out before anything much was done. But the one thing that was there for the taking straight away was the change to the tribunal and referring cases there rather than through the courts. Within days of coming into office, I knew that that was available as a step to take and said that we would do it. It took a while to get the statutory instruments through, but that has been in place since last April. I think that is working quite well. So I was certainly aware of this in opposition, and you cannot do this job without having lots of Members of Parliament come to see you about it, which has been the case, and my awareness of it has only grown day by day.

First of all, thanks to the Committee for bringing me in today because I knew that I had this consultation ready to issue. There is quite a process of Whitehall writearound in order to get agreement from all the different Departments to put out consultations like this, so it took a little longer than I would have hoped, but I am grateful for you letting me come in after the consultation is there, because it means I can talk about it in a lot more detail than would have been the case had we done this prerecess, for example. But to answer your question fully, yes, I have seen this come down the track and I think it is time we get these changes made as well.

Q475 Heather Wheeler: When do you expect new legislation might come in, if you feel it is needed?

Grant Shapps: I think we are going to need the help and support of Parliament to do this. I do think it is needed. The Committee will have noticed I have put quite a tight timetable on this consultation, largely because we have been discussing it for years. It has been the subject of previous consultations and your Select Committee investigation; there have been numerous debates in Westminster Hall and in Parliament about it; and questions have been asked at Prime Minister’s Questions. This is an issue that has been out there enough that we do not need to stretch out the consultation. But the other, much more straightforward reason for having a fast consultation is if somebody wished to take this up quickly, perhaps in a Private Member’s Bill, it would be rather nice to have all the thinking done in advance. From my point of view, I feel some pressure to make sure that we are ready to present the legislation. Legislative time is always at a premium in this place and whilst you can do some things through secondary legislation, like the changes to the tribunals and a couple of other technical things that we have done, a lot of this requires primary legislation.

Q476 Heidi Alexander: If the thinking was done and ready for it to be taken up as a Private Member’s Bill, why would you not be putting it forward as a Government Bill?

Grant Shapps: It is really just a question of timetabling and management. Governments have a lot to try to get through-rivals for reasons of importance in many different ways. Park homes is really interesting, because I think this is a huge issue and if you live in a park home and you are experiencing any level of abuse, it is your No. 1 issue. We govern for 65 million people; there are 85,000 park home owners. We have to legislate for things that affect a lot of people first, I guess you could say. But I am very keen to make sure that Government is absolutely behind it and I don’t rule out doing it in Government time; it is just there is a lot of competition.

Q477 George Hollingbery: We had various statements lined up about how sale blocking was the key issue that was bringing criminality into the area. We have now got your consultation. Can you outline for us the options in the consultation and why the Department believes that this will put a stop to that criminality?

Grant Shapps: Yes. I think sale blocking is probably the key issue for park home owners. It is completely unforgiveable and we absolutely have to stamp it out. You will have seen in the consultation I have outlined three different levels of severity. The first is where it is nothing to do with the site owner at all; they do not get a lookin and it is a fait accompli before they find out about it. That is at the most extreme level. There is the second option, where you reverse things from the current situation and say, rather than the person trying to sell going to tribunal to overturn an unfair decision about not allowing somebody else to purchase, it would fall on the shoulders of the site owner to go to the tribunal to prove. It flips the responsibility round the other way, so it is a middle option. Then we could do something that says you have to have a good reason to be withholding it-the weaker of the three options. I put them all out there for consultation to see what people say. If you are looking for what I think at this stage, I feel very strongly about this issue, so I am going to be reading the responses with great interest.

Q478 George Hollingbery: We took some evidence that there is confusion in the way things currently operate about whether or not a site owner has a right to interview. As a matter of interest, do they?

Grant Shapps: I do not think they have a right. It has never been tested in the highest courts, but I think the law is pretty clear that there is not a right, for example, to interview a prospective purchaser. Site owners, I think including some that you have seen, have in my view misinterpreted the law in that way, and I think it is one of the things that we can very helpfully clarify.

Q479 George Hollingbery: Very quickly on that first option you outlined, presumably somebody who bought a caravan from a resident but did not comply with the site rules would be in danger of losing their mobile home.

Grant Shapps: Right. By the way, each of the three options, as everything in life, has a sideeffect. I remember once asking a doctor to confirm that a particular prescription of drugs had no sideeffects. The doctor said, "Every drug has a sideeffect; it is just a question of how severe it is". I was really reminded of this thinking about these three different options, because it is the case that every single one of these options has a sideeffect. The sideeffect you have just described of the first, most extreme option of removing any ability for the site owner to intervene and the whole thing being a fait accompli is what then happens if, for example, the rules of the site have not been complied with-the most obvious thing being that you have to be 60 to live on the site and this person is 50. Then you have to get into the question of how you mitigate against that. Legal advice is one very obvious area, yet we know that legal advice is frequently not taken by people purchasing in this area, so you get into that whole situation as well. To answer the question, this is what I think the responses to the consultation will be helpful in clarifying, but there are certainly downsides with each of the proposals.

Q480 George Hollingbery: Finally, the Residential Property Tribunal has had new powers of recent times. Have you done any assessment of how they are doing with respect to these homes?

Grant Shapps: It has been a year and it is early days still, so we have not undertaken formal assessment. I was interested in reading some of the evidence that you have been taking and talking to site owners and others. It seems to me there is a level of satisfaction about it. I have not had any big problems brought to me over it yet, but I have felt that it is probably a bit too soon to carry out a fuller analysis, only because these things take time to bed down, for example. I know they were not taking cases on the very first day they opened.

Q481 George Hollingbery: Do you have any idea of the scale of the workload that they have?

Grant Shapps: I don’t really, no. It is something I can come back to the Committee on.1

Q482 George Hollingbery: The only reason I ask is because if the second option is chosen, we are going to put more pressure on them and clearly there will be a resourcing issue that the Department will have to address at some stage.

Grant Shapps: Yes, absolutely true.

Q483 Chair: Moving to the option where there was not any power to approve and effectively to block and this problem of people buying a home of a previous owner and not realising the particular requirements of the site that they might be in breach of, would there be a necessity to have a requirement that any prospective purchaser is given an uptodate set of conditions, including all the current implied conditions?

Grant Shapps: Yes, one of the things I thought about is having a set of required documents that the seller has to provide legally otherwise it becomes the seller’s issue. I have described this in the consultation. I touched before on a unique problem. Who buys and sells a house without a solicitor? Nobody would ever do that, but curiously it is quite a frequent occurrence in park homes. I think that has come about because people may have sold their main home and have some money, this is their last investment in their retirement and they are buying it for cash. The reason that you normally end up with a solicitor is because your mortgage company insists on it. So I think we need to do quite a lot on that front, and I really appeal to the different representative bodies to step up to the plate and be more proactive in advising people on this front. I am particularly wary that there are glossy adverts out there for people to buy park homes with "no solicitor required". This is a very dangerous state of affairs on what will be a very expensive purchase for somebody. So I think it all ties back into the same issue.

Q484 David Heyes: You know that the 2009 consultation that you mentioned earlier had at its heart an idea to introduce a test for site owners or licence holders to be fit and proper people. I don’t think you are going down that route. I wonder why you have come to the decision not to do that. Is it just that it is too difficult to devise a test?

Grant Shapps: I saw that in 2009, and it sounds like the most sensible thing to do.

Q485 David Heyes: It was very popular with the industry, I think.

Grant Shapps: Yes. It just sounds right; it has an appeal. But the more you look into it, the more you work out that the impracticalities of it make it a nonstarter. Let me give you a flavour of it. If you are a site owner and you are found to be not fit and proper, what is to stop you giving it to your brother, your brother in law or a different family member? What is to stop you putting it in a company? Is it then that you are a director of that company, or can you just be an officer or an employee of that company? Then is it okay or not okay? And so on and so forth; you can go in many different directions. But the main objection in the end is I don’t think it solves the fundamental problem. What is the fundamental problem? People are being abused on the site of their own home in these park homes, sale blocking being the primary approach to that abusive behaviour by site owners. If we are going to fix that, the thing we have to do is make it completely unprofitable to be a site owner. Sorry, "completely unprofitable" is going far too far; if we make it completely unprofitable, we will have another set of completely different problems. However, we have to make it impossible to be an exploitative siteowner. I do not think you do that through fit and proper; you do that through things like removing the ability to sale block and ensuring that if you do abuse those who are living in the site, the fines are so big that you are not tempted to do it again. That is why I propose lifting the fine for these abuses from £2,500, set in the 1960s, to unlimited. I think that will have a much bigger impact. So the more I looked at the fit and proper, the more I realised what we were inventing was something that sounds great, like a Dangerous Dogs Act, but does nothing in reality. That was my fear.

Q486 David Heyes: Interestingly, though, one piece of evidence about the fact that there are unfit and improper people in this game is the number of outstanding fines. The fine system as it has applied in the past, at a lower level, arguably has not been effective. It has been defied; people just refuse to pay.

Grant Shapps: I agree entirely. If you look at the fine scale-£2,500 maximum-even for some quite serious contraventions, not even on first offences, the fines are still in hundreds of pounds on many occasions. This is not going to dissuade anyone. Actually, to a site owner owning 35 sites or something, who cares? A £500 fine or what have you is probably cheaper than doing whatever work should have been done in the first place. It is just not sufficient. The scale of the fine, the difficulty of prosecution, the lack of involvement of local authorities-which is why I propose allowing local authorities to charge for site licensing-and sale blocking are the problems. If we can deal with all of that, we will deal with the need to introduce fit and proper, which as I say, apart from being a bit of goodsounding window dressing, will not resolve the problem. We would have to set up quite a big bureaucracy. There are 2,000 sites. We would need to decide who is fit and proper from the outset in order to set up this register. What do we do with those who are not fit and proper from day one? How do we deal with the issue of them just transferring it to other members of the family? I just don’t see how the system would ever practically operate.

Q487 Stephen Gilbert: If I could just stick with that for a second, Minister, is it therefore the Government’s assessment that the fit and proper person test as applied to HMOs is not working effectively?

Grant Shapps: I didn’t introduce fit and proper on HMOs, but it is a very different problem that they are trying to resolve with HMOs. A lot of people living in a home probably initially intended for fewer people, sharing facilities like kitchens and bathrooms, is one thing. People living in their own home-which is the case with park home owners-is something completely different. With HMOs, the legislation was not there primarily to try to drive bad landlords out of the market; it was to try to protect people from the kind of health and safety risks that you get in a home in multiple occupation because you have got lots of people sharing facilities. You are dealing with two different problems here. In fact, I think park homes is closer to leasehold legislation. The lack of similarities, plus the issues I was just explaining to David, are the reasons we haven’t gone down that route.

Q488 Stephen Gilbert: It strikes me from having had a look at the consultation that the tactic-if I can put it that way-that you are trying to employ, having recognised there is a problem with criminality in the sector, is to take the cap off the fines, effectively price the rogue park home owners out of business and rely on local authorities to expedite that through the site licensing regime. Is that broadly the right character?

Grant Shapps: Yes, plus some pretty big changes to things like sale blocking, which I think is the key issue. To paraphrase another way, I believe that, with the right choices made following the consultation, the right set of proposals properly carried through into law would stop what you might call the Mr Bigs of this industry from prospering.

Q489 Stephen Gilbert: The concern I have got is we had a couple of the Mr Bigs-if we can put it that way, Chair-here, some of whom had already had quite considerable fines levied against them by various local authorities in different parts of the country. From memory, over £100,000 was outstanding in terms of the fines that courts had issued, and yet they were still in practice. Not only were they still in practice; they were allowed under the current legislation, arguably because the fit and proper person test is not in place, to continue to expand and buy more sites. If they are not paying the fines that are being levied at the moment, what assessment have you made of how they will be encouraged to pay the fines in the future?

Grant Shapps: When I have studied the rogue end of this marketplace, what I have discovered is they have one essential trick that they use time and time again, and that is to drive people off the sites. Ideally what they want to do is not just block a sale, but then purchase the property back from somebody at a knockdown price and then ideally put a new one on there, sell it on the open market and make an absolute killing out of doing this. Contrary to what people think, these homes are not always cheap. They can be in prime locations; they can be in a seaside location. I have seen stories of park homes selling for £500,000-I think that may have been the top one. This is not necessarily an inexpensive purchase. They have this single game of intimidating and blocking. I have seen the rogues; I think you have too. That is what I am primarily designing these changes to drive out. When you deal with the sale blocking, it is very hard to see why you would remain trying to expand in a marketplace unless you are a good site owner, you have a really good product to offer and people want to come and be on your site.

You mention the scale of fines. I do not regard £100,000 worth of outstanding fines throughout an entire sector as being very large. Because each of those must have been made up of fines less than £2,500 and, as I described before, even for multiple abuses the fines are sometimes only a few hundred pounds, I do not think the scale of this is anywhere near where it needs to be. When fines could be £50,000 or £100,000 per incident, these people are going to have to listen.

Q490 Stephen Gilbert: You have semianswered my next question, if I can put it like that, Minister, but to pull you back to the question on the assessment the Department has taken for those rogue operators who are already accruing significant fines and not paying them, why are they more likely to pay them if the fines are even higher?

Grant Shapps: For a start, these are fines imposed by magistrates. There are overarching laws that govern these things, but the problem at the moment is that the scale of the fines makes them easy to ignore and then just pay. Even if it has got an 8% interest rate, you are still going to pay it a bit down the line and probably have saved a lot of money on the work that you were not doing or the sales that you have managed to block and the money you have made as a result. So I think the entire structure is inappropriate. On top of that is the activity-or sometimes the inactivity-of local authorities, sometimes through misunderstanding of the law and sometimes through lack of resources. Heaven knows it is pretty tight for councils out there, as we know from much of the other evidence that we have discussed on different investigations into financing. So to put an officer or two on the case of sorting out a park homes site, within which park home owners may not be raising the alarm quite as loudly as you might expect them to because they are elderly or feeling intimidated, is a problem as well. So I think the move to allow the local authorities to charge fees for inspection and licensing is key, because if you are a local authority and you know that the salary of this person is being paid for by these sites, then they might as well get round there and do their job in those sites. I think this is going to tighten up the application of site licensing a great deal.

Q491 Stephen Gilbert: Whilst I think we all accept that sale blocking is the principal economic driver for the unscrupulous practices that we see within the industry, it is not the only one. I think you mentioned it yourself: the point is to get off the site the people who are in the vans that you can rehouse people into or replace with a new van. You can either do that by blocking the sale or you can do it through intimidation. The Committee has had plenty of evidence of fairly awful intimidation that happens to residents in some cases. It strikes me that, whilst the sale blocking proposals in the consultation deal with part of that, the failure of the consultation to include even a question on the fit and proper person test means that some of those other, more pernicious, belowtheradar causes for people to leave their park homes or sell them at a knockdown price-intimidation and harassment, as we are dealing with vulnerable people-are potentially still a problem.

Grant Shapps: No, I think there are other measures that will deal with that. Before I address those, I went back and challenged officials three times on the fit and proper person test just to check that my initial thinking on it was still relevant, made sense and stacked up. Here is all you would do if you are Mr Big, you own the site and you are no longer fit and proper: you leave somebody else living on the site or nearby to manage it and the manager harasses them instead. It just does not solve the problem. That is why I came to the conclusion that we are not going to window dress this. Let’s do things that are going to change the reality for people. That includes other measures, not just the sale blocking things. Transparency is a really big aspect of this-and a lot of things that we are trying to do in Communities and Local Government-in particular the ability to see clearly what can and cannot be included in pitch fees, the utility bills and what makes up the pitch fee. One of the tricks at the moment is "some work needs to be done that is included within the pitch fee". That cannot be right and we are going to make sure it cannot be done. You are right that the sale blocking is only one aspect, but the consultation goes into lots of other things. I want to assure the Committee I have thought long and hard about the fit and proper. If I thought that it would have any impact at all, I would include it, even though it is probably regulatory and therefore difficult to justify. The difficulty is, if you start to sit down and imagine setting up this database, who do you want to run it? Are we going to have a quango? Is the Department going to run it? How is it going to operate? Who are you going to disqualify? What happens when you disqualify someone? If somebody with 35 sites was initially fit and proper and they are suddenly found no longer to be fit and proper, what happens to those sites? Do they come into local authority control? What does the local authority know about running these? You just end up in this huge mess and I don’t think it is the way to sort out this sector. But I do think the ways to sort it out are in the consultation.

Q492 Stephen Gilbert: I think the Minister quite ably articulated another 10 questions that could have gone on the 47 questions in the consultation. Some residents’ groups out there will think the absence of the Government at least consulting on the fit and proper person test is a mistake. You may well have accurately pre-empted some of the answers that would have come back and some of the complications that may have arisen from that, but at the moment the consultation is not even asking the question. We did take some evidence as a Committee that when you, for example, regulate those people who are able to supply credit to individuals, that takes into account not just the individual who is licensed but their associates as well, which may deal with the issue that you were talking about.

Two very quick final questions, though. Firstly, have you made any assessment of the likely impact for residents of some of the additional regulatory measures that come through in the consultation?

Grant Shapps: Let me be perfectly blunt about this: the consultation is designed to rebalance this in the direction of the park home owners, and that means that people who own the sites have nothing to fear. I make it clear they are in business and entitled to make a profit. If they are owning the sites properly, they are welcome. I know you have met some good park home site owners in the process. They have nothing to fear from this. But I want to make sure that it is the people who buy the properties and have been getting a raw deal until now who benefit from it. I do not perceive that the things in here will be bureaucratic or problematic for them. The changes, whichever level of the scale we go with, for example, on sale blocking, are to tip things in their favour. We have spent a lot of time meeting site owners and park home owners and weighing this all up. One of the reasons it has taken quite a while to bring this consultation together is because we have done a lot of the discussion in advance, rather than saying, "These are my ideas" and putting them down on paper. Frankly, it has taken longer than I would have liked to produce it, but it is as a direct result of having met all of the groups and many Members of Parliament multiple times, really trying to understand what drives this sector. I think we have ended with a set of proposals that would largely resolve these problems, critically without creating new bureaucracies for the park home owners. But I have not done that by simply accepting everything that park home owners and representative groups have said. For example, one of the things that some of them have said to me is, "Why do you not say that it is now compulsory to have somebody there at an interview when the prospective new park home owner is interviewed?" My answer is I do not want to do that, because it starts by assuming there should be an interview and I do not agree that there should necessarily be an interview. So it is not that I have just accepted everything from one side or the other; we have really thought through this set of ideas, and that is why the consultation has ended as it is today.

Q493 Stephen Gilbert: Whilst as a Government you tend to be regulationaverse, there are some additional measures that could impose costs on the industry. There will be some who are concerned that that might get translated into costs in terms of increased pitch fees for park home residents.

Grant Shapps: Yes. This is an unusual measure, as you say, in a Government that is against lots more regulation. There is a small additional regulatory cost shown in the impact assessment. You can imagine we have worked quite hard through Whitehall to demonstrate that this is therefore worthwhile, and I am very grateful for the support that Members from across the House have shown for park home residents, because I think without that it would be very difficult to demonstrate the need to do this. But I think it has been demonstrated and proven beyond doubt that there is a real issue there. I am sure your report will suggest the same. So I do think it is one of those cases where a small amount of regulation, for example charging for licensing by local authorities, is justified and justifiable. However, the impact assessment shows the amounts of money involved are relatively small, and so I don’t expect this to have a followthrough impact on site fees, for example, on the other end of it.

Q494 Heidi Alexander: From what I have heard you say, Minister, you are hoping that the current unscrupulous site owners that we do have some of in this country will change their practices as a result of changes to the law that you will bring in. Given the degree of harassment, intimidation and, I would argue, extortion that has happened on these sites, how likely do you think it is that these site owners are all of a sudden going to adhere to the new laws? What is the ultimate sanction if they don’t? Where ultimately is this going if they refuse to pay the fines? How do you give support and provide assistance to the people who are living on those sites?

Grant Shapps: For a start, I don’t see this as being a process that necessarily reforms people who have been outrageously bad site owners into suddenly being caring, sharing, loving types who can’t do enough for their park home owners. I don’t think that is likely to happen.

Heidi Alexander: No, I don’t.

Grant Shapps: I think a much more probable outcome is that we drive them out of the marketplace entirely. That is the outcome that I think will probably make more sense if they are those types. You are asking about the sanctions. We are talking about magistrates here imposing fines that are legally enforceable, so ultimately the sanctions are very strong. I think the problem is the scale of sanctions has been far too small-just pifflingly small. It has not mattered to them at all. Frankly, it was better to take a fine than do the work in many cases, because works can cost thousands of pounds and the fine was probably going to come out at a few hundred. So I don’t share the view that we are trying to reform people. If they want to be reformed and they are capable of being reformed, that is all well and good. I think we need to drive them out of the market entirely and just make it one of these things where, if you are the extortionate type who builds up their business off the backs of others rather than through making an honest profit, this is no longer the business for you and you might as well sell up.

Q495 James Morris: Your consultation envisages strengthening local authorities in some ways in terms of them being able to recover costs and charge a fee when they are performing their licensing function. I wanted to ask some practical questions about that. Would local authorities be able to charge all site owners, only site owners who are in breach of their conditions, or would this be a charging structure that would apply to all local taxpayers?

Grant Shapps: It would certainly be a direct charge rather than to all local taxpayers. In the interests of fairness, I imagine it would have to be a charge on all of the sites within an authority’s boundaries.

Q496 James Morris: In circumstances where a site licence was revoked for various reasons, what would be the practicalities in terms of who would then manage that site? Would local authorities have power to take over?

Grant Shapps: The way I envisage this working, as I have tried to describe in the consultation, is that you will have a local authority able to say, "We went into your site last week. We have discovered X, Y and Z. You now have so many days to fix it". If they don’t fix it, rather than having to take them to court, which is the current setup-and as we know, local authorities are not engaged enough so they may not take them to court, or, when they get to court, the fines would be so small that it doesn’t much bother them-the local authority says, "If you don’t do this, we are going to come and do it ourselves". If they come and do it themselves, this consultation will give them the power to charge the site owner for the work that they have done. The authority will be able to take direct action. In fact, that will be a required route through to the court; they will do this before they end up in court anyway. I think that will make the relationship much, much more direct. At the moment, most authorities are very handsoff; this is not their problem. Some just consider it to be a civil dispute, like it might be with your neighbour’s garden or something. This consultation and the impact of the changes in law that it envisages would bring the local authorities much more into this realm.

Q497 James Morris: Is this designed to give local authorities significantly more resources in order to be able to tackle the problem? Is that what you want to achieve by the proposed changes?

Grant Shapps: Certainly the licensing is designed to do exactly that. It is in common with licensing in other areas, where we think that, rather than just coming out of general council tax revenue, there should be a direct licence that directly links the officers whose job it is to look after these sites to it. They can then take direct action, like sorting out the unsafe whatever it is in the site itself and charging back to the site owner, with the threat that they have got a licence to revoke.

Q498 James Morris: The other thing the consultation talks about is local authorities being able to charge for advice they give. Do you envisage authorities charging home owners when helping with disputes?

Grant Shapps: I don’t think so, no. I think disputes can be resolved. I have seen where you have a council that understands what is going on on the site and takes a good proactive role. I know you have met people both from councils and the police-who we have yet to discuss-who are very good and very knowledgeable about park homes. So you have seen the really good end of it. I do not think it happens enough and I envisage that local authorities could be more proactively engaged in this. As I say, I think they tend to think of disputes between park home owners and the landlords as being a civil dispute, a bit like it would be in other cases, not realising that the land is owned by the park site owner, meaning that the relationship is really quite different. So a closer relationship there. But ultimately the tribunal is the place to go and settle the big disputes that require a third party.

Q499 James Morris: Do you envisage this enhanced role for local authorities as being selffunded? It is not going to require any other resources from central Government.

Grant Shapps: Yes, that is exactly it. Selffunded.

Q500 George Hollingbery: The record of local councils intervening where they can then charge on any costs incurred to an owner does not have a happy history. Historic assets: a brick and flint wall near me is falling over and there is endless petitioning for the local council to get involved and fix it. They never do. We know who the wall belongs to, but it never happens. It is the same in empty homes. There are all sorts of areas where that is not fantastically useful.

Grant Shapps: I am struggling off the top of my head to think of areas that are licensed where they don’t. Things like empty homes would not quite fall into the same category. What this consultation envisages is a direct linkage; you go round and charge your site owners for being there and this person is having part of their salary paid by it. If they are not involved in this, what are we even charging them for? I think this creates a more direct linkage. You are absolutely right that there will be some authorities who are better and worse than others, just in the same way as there are some authorities who really understand their park home sites at the moment and manage them, or try to get involved in the management, in a very positive way. This certainly draws them in much closer.

Q501 George Hollingbery: Just like the difficulties with the fit and proper person test, which I agree with, you are going to have to have a very tight link between who owns and the licence, because otherwise there are going to be companies hiding behind people and licences separated.

Grant Shapps: One of the things I propose is to make people jointly and severally liable in this regard, so it does not matter whether it is the company, the director, or even the company secretary. We are not going to have, "Sorry, that is a limited company you are suing. It is nothing to do with me; I am just Mr Big". That is not going to happen. I am very conscious of that point in drawing up the proposal here.

Q502 Chair: In terms of the cost from the local authority and the licence charges, when we were down in Bournemouth, one site owner who was arguing very strongly to keep the bad boys out of the business and wanted much higher fines for those who did transgress was saying, "Please don’t put additional costs on to us who do things properly because that’s unfair". Would there be an ability for local authorities to charge more in their licensing regime for those sites that cost them an awful lot more? We can see some do not quite get to the point of the authority coming in and doing the work, but will all along be very difficult and have things that they do not do properly and the local authority will have to spend a lot more time with them, for example.

Grant Shapps: Just like everything in law, it is governed by lots of different laws and you cannot just come up with a fee structure that has no basis apart from a hunch. So they will probably have to think about the size or scale, number of properties, or perhaps physical geography of the site and other factors. To give you a more comprehensive answer, I probably should write back to you with some thoughts on it.2 Exactly how the licensing fees will work may be one of the things that we are trying to tease out in the consultation as well. There will be plenty of examples in other arenas, but you cannot arbitrarily have a fee structure where the local authority decides it is going to charge Owner A differently from B; there has got to be some basis to it.

Q503 Heidi Alexander: Can I ask for your comments on a particular scenario? A site owner has his licence revoked. He then chooses to sell on the piece of land that the homes are on to somebody else and the local authority, going through this enhanced, robust licensing regime, decides that the person that he or she has sold the site to does not warrant getting a licence. This process could go on. What happens to the people living on the site in the interim? Can the local authority step in and manage the site?

Grant Shapps: It is a really good question, because it goes to the heart of the fit and proper problem. You have just described exactly the scenario that I cannot bring to a satisfactory end with fit and proper. My view of this is with site licensing, it is not for the local authority to make a judgment as to whether a fit and proper person has just purchased that site or not; the person has got to demonstrate it through their own deeds and actions. So if Mr Big sells it to Mr Large, the second owner has got to do something to demonstrate that there was a problem, otherwise that person has the licence. It is not for the local authority to start blocking sales any more than it is for a rogue owner to block the property sales. That is why I think licensing of the site by the local authority is the right way to go and fundamentally different from trying to license an individual in each case, for almost exactly the reason that you have very eloquently described.

Q504 Heidi Alexander: But ultimately an individual or a company would be running the site and so the licence has to be granted to an entity. I am just trying to work out whether, in your view, it would ever be appropriate or possible for a local authority to step in and manage the site.

Grant Shapps: I think there could be occasions where a local authority may end up saying, "We have had to revoke a licence. Who is going to run this?" I suspect that would be a local authority with experience, because there are local authorities who run their own sites. That is another caveat to all this; they cannot license themselves-or perhaps not very obviously. This will vary around the country. I do not want to go too far into trying to preempt that. This is a proper consultation in the proper sense that we are consulting to hear from local authorities and others about how this will work in practice, but I am fairly sure that this is a proper, robust way to do it. Local authorities already have lots of involvement in the sites; it is just that they are not charging directly at the moment. The big change here is to have them charge so that they feel the proper connection between the work they are doing.

Q505 Bob Blackman: One of the issues that the Committee has grappled with and I think the industry is probably grappling with is the various different financial models that apply for how you get the income and the expenditure that happens. Looking at pitch fees to start with, one of the issues here is that different owners charge different levels of pitch fees and it is not clear and transparent what is included within the pitch fee. The consultation document says clearly that there has got to be more transparency and what has got to be there. Why not go the whole hog and say, "The pitch fee is a service charge and this is exactly what is included in that service charge" so that every individual knows that that is what they are paying for and that is what they should be getting so they can hold the site owner to account?

Grant Shapps: I may not have described it in the best language in the consultation, because what you have described is really essentially what I imagine should happen. It should be a transparent process; you should be able to see all the charges, the utility bills and everything on there. None of us have anything against the site owner properly making their fair profit from it as well; it is their business, after all, and they need to get those profits to reinvest to look after the site. But all of that should be perfectly transparent. That is exactly where I am headed with it.

Q506 Bob Blackman: Do you envisage, for example, that site improvements would be included within the service charges?

Grant Shapps: I think we have to strip out this approach whereby some site improvement or oneoff ends up being included in the pitch fee. I think this is one of the unscrupulous activities that take place.

Q507 Bob Blackman: A responsible site owner who wants to invest in their site and provide better facilities would quite reasonably say, "Yes, but I have got to recover the costs from that somehow". So how would you see that coming in?

Grant Shapps: When you buy a product, you have a choice about whether you buy it or not and I think the same should apply here. I think this is probably closest to leasehold legislation, where there are wellestablished ways of consulting with and deciding with the leaseholders as to whether or not a particular upgrade should be undertaken. I have an extraordinary letter here from an owner who clearly has a very different view of the sector to the rest of us that goes to the heart of what you are saying here. The site owner wrote to me saying the law was wrong because he could not enter the resident’s home without their permission or remove homes from the site when he wanted to to put a new one on his own land-he thought that was outrageous. He even wanted to stop single residents moving their new partners into their home. So they thought that not only should they be able to enter somebody else’s home; they should have the right to say who else should live with them in that house. They clearly have a very different view of what it means to own the land than I think any of us.

Bob Blackman: A feudal baron.

Grant Shapps: Having read that and my reaction to it, you probably understand my approach to the point you are driving at as well.

Q508 Bob Blackman: Yes. One of the controversial areas is that a site owner can charge 10% for the sale of a home by one set of people to another. The consultation document is silent on that. Are you saying that that will just stay as is?

Grant Shapps: I mentioned we had done a lot of preconsultation before the consultation and that was one of the questions I kept asking people. There is a lot of history behind this. That percentage used to be above 20%; it came down to 15% and down to 10%. So it has come from a lot higher. When I talked to people across the sector, including the park home owners themselves, there was not a consensus on this. Some park home owners very strongly made the point to me that if you remove that sale commission, a park home site owner quite rightly ought to be able to make money in order to invest in their estate and so they are going to end up putting it onto the pitch fees. If they do that, the elderly lady who is living there, in what will be the last place that she lives, is going to have 15 years of higher pitch fees. So I think that balance might be getting it wrong. Having talked to a lot of people right across the sector, I think it is probably right to have a balance between the level of pitch fees and this oneoff commission on a sale. That is why I haven’t reopened that issue.

Q509 Bob Blackman: So you are not asking anyone for responses on that?

Grant Shapps: I am not, except to say that there are already voluntary arrangements in place where you can say, "We won’t have a commission, but we’ll have a slightly higher pitch fee" and some people prefer to go for that. I think again, the sector and the representative bodies might want to be stronger on providing advice on this in the future. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with the commission fee. Some people argue that it should just be like an estate agent at 2% or something, but this is not like an estate agent, because normally when you buy your home you are buying the land under it. Here, somebody else owns the land itself. So I concede that there is a difference and I am concerned that in, for example, scrapping or reducing that commission, we don’t end up stinging the current generation of park home owners with a much bigger site fee, which I think is what would happen.

Q510 Bob Blackman: The age profile of most people in park homes is more elderly; many are retired. As you said previously in an answer, many people have sold a home and then they have gone to live on a park home site for their last home, as it were. They are pensioners. Many of them will have their pensions uprated by CPI, yet owners are allowed to increase the pitch fees by RPI. Why do we not consolidate that and make it the same?

Grant Shapps: I know the old CPI/RPI argument goes round a lot. I had a look today; the difference is 0.3% right now. There is always an assumption that there is going to be a gap between RPI and CPI and it is always going to be the way round that it is at the moment. I do not think that is necessarily the case. Again, the vast amount of this consultation is on the side of park home owners, who I think are getting a really raw deal at the moment, but I do want to make sure that this is a sustainable business. Once we have driven the Mr Bigs out of the market and made an honest, decent business to be in for everyone, I still want them to be able to make enough money to make the business work. There are about 2,000 sites; there are 85,000 homes. No one knows how many people are living on them, because there is more than one person in a home. 130,000 people? 150,000 people? Who knows? For the whole model to be sustainable and a good quality way of life, you need sites that are profitable to run and therefore can be maintained well enough. I think RPI gives them the ability to do that.

It also fits in with other areas of housing where we use RPI as well. In social housing, for example, uprating, which was worked out under the previous administration, is done on an RPIplus basis. So it fits in with the housing story as well from that perspective.

Q511 Bob Blackman: Clearly we want site owners to be responsible and to do all the right things by homeowners, but of course there will be a few rotten apples who get fined, and they may be fined quite substantially under these changes. What is going to stop those irresponsible or bad site owners just passing those charges on to the very people they are inflicting the damage on in the first place, namely the people that live in these homes?

Grant Shapps: Transparency on these site fees and the increased role for the tribunal are key. To my mind, it will be absolutely unacceptable for the site fee to be made up of utilities, land area and your share of my fine for not looking after the place. That is never going to be an appropriate thing to happen.

Q512 Bob Blackman: Coming back, then, to the pitch fees, is there going to be a standard format in which that is going to be available to people? One of the issues that we have found as we have taken evidence is that some people get nothing at all in the way of a statement; some people just get a bill; some people have never received utility bills and then owners come along later and say, "You haven’t paid your utility bills; you are now in breach so we’re kicking you off the site". Unless we have got a standard format for this, then these bad rogue landlords will carry on.

Grant Shapps: Absolutely. I think that is a very valid point and something that will come out within the consultation. I will look forward to reading your Committee’s report as well. Noted and will be taken on board.

Q513 Chair: Just briefly on that, though, the relationship between the costs of running the site and what is charged in pitch fees breaks down to a degree, doesn’t it? If a new home is put on the site or an existing home is sold back to the site owner who then sells it on, the site owner then can negotiate a completely different pitch fee to that which might be paid on a very similar home next door. That is going to remain, isn’t it?

Grant Shapps: Yes. Just as you would have in any other area of housing law or any other law, if you have people come along at different times, you might well have a different starting point. That is absolutely true and not entirely undesirable, because, just in the same way as the reason why rent capping doesn’t work effectively and ends up constricting a market rather than expanding it-as we saw when rents were capped for several decades in this country-you don’t want to end up in a position where site owners are having to effectively let the asset of the land be rented out to owners on the site for less than the market value. In other words, things change over a period of time. So I think it would be undesirable to try to legislate for that too strongly; you would end up with some perverse consequences. But I think the package of measures-the transparency; the move to the tribunal and the other powers that they will have; the fines; and the licensing from local authorities-is quite comprehensive. I heard somebody earlier on-maybe it was just on Twitter-say, "This is much more comprehensive than I had imagined it was going to be" when they had read through the consultation document. We have tried to pin this from lots of different angles to make sure exactly what you have said does not become an abuse.

Q514 Mark Pawsey: Minister, I wonder if I could take you back to what you described earlier as the "no solicitor required" feature of park home ownership. I have to say in the evidence that we took as a Committee, one feature struck me and I am sure most of my colleagues. Here were people often spending very substantial sums of money; you yourself referred to the possibility of these things costing up to £500,000. This was going to be their home; it was where they were going to live for a number of years; and it was their biggest single asset. They had often found out about the sale through an estate agent’s window-it is amongst other property particulars-and they had even often bought them through the proceeds of sale of property. Yet because they had not taken any advice, people were unaware of the sale blocking power of the site owner; they were unaware of the 10% commission that they may have to pay if they came to sell; they were unaware that the pitch fee can be varied; and in many cases they were unaware that they were buying a depreciating asset. If we could ensure that people took proper advice before they became a park home owner, we might alleviate many of the problems. Another key point is that it is in the interest of the site owner that people do not take legal advice, hence the "no solicitor required" bit. In fact, in many cases we found that people bought their park home without getting any paperwork at all. How can we address that problem?

Grant Shapps: First of all the big picture changes are designed to do a lot. One of the reasons why it is in the interests of abusive park home site owners not to have the person take legal advice is that they do not find out about the 10% commission, the sale blocking and all these kinds of things associated with this industry. If we remove some of the problems with the industry by, for example, not giving the site owner, at the most extreme, any role in who buys the property, that resolves the reason why they are encouraging people not to take solicitors on in the first place. But I think it is wider than that. The representative bodies like the BH&HPA have to have a stronger role in all of this. Frankly, we can do more as a Government. I recently put up information leaflets on the DCLG website on this subject, including this aspect of legal advice, and they have been downloaded more than 2,000 times. Given that, as described before, park homes are a relatively small element of the 25 million homes in this country-there are 85,000 of them-2,000 downloads shows significant interest and concern. I think we can do more of that sort of thing as Government. The Select Committee is doing it. I do not think Parliament has ever been more alive to this issue across the House; it has grown and grown. In fact, I was reading in preparation for this consultation and for today about a very smallscale 2001 study when this was just starting to be recognised as a problem. Clearly there is a lot more recognition out there, and I think that is the way forward. Perhaps there is more that we can do with estate agents as well to be saying to them, "You wouldn’t normally have somebody purchase a house without a solicitor; why would you want them to in this case?" I think there may be a role there as well.

Q515 Mark Pawsey: I think the consultation envisages a model agreement that may be different to the agreement that people have at the moment-in many cases, as I say, an agreement that is not written down. On the implementation of the proposals that come forward following the consultation, how will we get the message across to park home owners that the relationship between them and the site owner has changed? How will we make sure that people can take advantage of the new model that we bring forward?

Grant Shapps: I think it is incumbent upon us all. I will certainly try to do my part. I have tweeted about today on several occasions, including about coming here but also about the consultation document itself. I know that many of the representative bodies will be picking up on everything that you’re doing and saying in this Committee and helping to spread the word around through their newsletters. The network has become quite good, unfortunately for bad reasons. I think that is all very helpful. I will certainly be happy to go away and undertake to think about ways that we might help spread the message further. I am struck by what you are saying about estate agents and that has clicked in my mind. Perhaps we will have a further thought about that, because I think that is key.

I cannot tell you how many times BBC Radio 4 You & Yours have had me on the programme about this. To get national broadcast time on an issue of concern like this, as I mentioned before, to 85,000 owners, is key and that helps to get the word out there. It is only 85,000 people in the homes, but there must be millions of other people who are hearing these broadcasts and they will become more aware of these issues. I think it is important we do not put people off living in park homes. I think this can be, at its best, an absolutely idyllic scenario and you will have met people who say that if you have gone to some of the good park homes. It is a shame that it is not now just a tiny minority of bad or rogue owners and therefore of park home owners who are having difficulties, but I fear it has become something where everybody knows somebody who is having a problem.

Q516 Mark Pawsey: Is it incumbent on us to communicate with lawyers as well, given that the proceeds of purchase have been derived from the sale of a property? We have got some evidence that somebody tried to take advice from a solicitor who was unable to advise them on the acquisition of a park home.

Grant Shapps: I never thought I would be doing the marketing for solicitors of all people.

Chair: Estate agents as well.

Grant Shapps: But there is clearly a new market that they should be tapping. You are absolutely right; this is no different from buying a home. It is actually more complicated than buying a home because of the land rental aspect of it. People need to have the proper advice. I will go away and have a think about that and perhaps you will come up with some thoughts in your Select Committee report as well. I am very open to doing what we can. I think the industry itself needs to be more proactive on this front as well, and I am sure that these discussions will have had some positive impact in raising awareness.

Q517 Heidi Alexander: We took some evidence from Cornwall County Council that they had used trading standards officers to successfully tackle some problems with one site owner. Do you see more of a proactive role for trading standards in tackling some of these problems?

Grant Shapps: I think that is right. If it has been successful, that suggests that there should be a stronger role for them. If this was something that we were coming along to that was governed by one law and you could say it was the 1960 law, then it would be quite straightforward, but it is not. As you know from your studies, it is governed by any number of different pieces of legislation, both direct and indirect, stretching back to the 1960s and the 1980s and crosscut with lots of other legislation, including things like trading standards. That has the disadvantage that reforming it has proved a complex matter-and I think we are finally there with something workable-but it also has the advantage that you can approach the regulation of it from lots of different angles as well. I think it is very encouraging that an authority would be prepared to use trading standards. I think whichever method works is the one to go with.

Q518 Heidi Alexander: What do you plan to do to encourage more local authorities to use trading standards legislation? What specific things are you thinking about?

Grant Shapps: It will depend in different local authority areas as to how they approach it. The sites are quite different, as you have probably found, from one part of the country to another. The relationship with the local authority, right up to the local authority being the landlords, can be very different. I would be fighting shy of giving them a central recommendation to go after trading standards as the only way to do it. But we have been issuing advice on this subject. You might have a look, for example, at these leaflets that we have been producing and that I mentioned before are being downloaded. We are working in more detail with the Local Government Association to determine whether they are using all of their powers. But I think inevitably the site licensing being chargeable will create a much greater interest from the local authorities. As a tribute to local authorities, my experience of them is they invariably want to comply in the best possible way with the legislation. I think they will therefore be looking for the solutions to this and if trading standards is presented as a solution in one place, then they will take it up in others. You would not expect me with localism to want to overprescribe exactly which method they use in each area, but it certainly sounds like a useful tool.

Q519 Heidi Alexander: Do you think the 2003 Enterprise Act should apply to park home sites?

Grant Shapps: I have been looking at that, because this is one of the comments that has come back to me already. There may be elements, but this is really a housing issue and therefore it falls under the various different housing Acts more than it does under consumer regulation Acts. So I think it is more likely that regulation goes down the housing route. I mentioned before it is closer to leasehold than anything else I have looked at, and I think that that is probably where people will look.

Q520 Heidi Alexander: So is that a "no"? Do you not think the Enterprise Act should apply to park home sites?

Grant Shapps: No, I don’t think it should.

Q521 Heidi Alexander: You said you weren’t sure about other areas of consumer protection legislation.

Grant Shapps: Well, consumer protection always applies, but what I am saying is this is closer to household, homeowner leasehold law than it is to consumer law.

Q522 Heidi Alexander: Are you planning to look at updating consumer protection law in respect of park home sites, or are you not considering that issue at all?

Grant Shapps: Well, I have considered it, but I haven’t gone into proposing it in this consultation, because, when I have looked at it, I have realised that we are much closer to housing legislation than we are to consumer legislation. Everyone has consumer rights, and those consumer rights are not excluded necessarily by them being park home owners, but no, I do not intend to use the 2003 Act as far as this consultation is concerned.

Q523 Bob Blackman: One of the things that we have discovered during the inquiry is that the performance of local authorities and the police in enforcing the existing legislation is mixed-patchy, you could say. What discussions have you had with Home Office colleagues about getting the existing powers properly implemented and policed?

Grant Shapps: I absolutely agree with the premise of your question; it is very mixed. I know you have met some of the best examples. You have possibly not met the worst, but you have probably heard about some of the worst. Some of the worst are where local authorities and police regard this as entirely a civil rather than a criminal matter, when something clearly criminal is taking place. My view from talking directly to the police, not through Home Office colleagues, is that the police have woken up to this and local authorities are much more alert to it, often led by what is happening here in Parliament and by proactive Members of Parliament saying this is not good enough. So I think the law is basically there, but we are going to strengthen it a great deal by what comes out of this consultation and the new laws that come into place. We have to send the message loud and clear that where it is criminal, it is criminal and you cannot just say, "This is a civil matter". When people are being intimidated, this is illegal; this is not just a civil matter. The police rightly have a part to play in that. There are some wider changes in public policy that are going to make a difference here. I am thinking in particular of elected police commissioners making a significant difference. If you happen to be in an area with a lot of park homes-and as we have discussed, virtually every one of us is-then I think the pressure on an elected police commissioner to make sure that the police are aware that this is an area of criminal concern or maybe an area of criminality will be all the greater, and that will be a good thing.

Q524 Bob Blackman: What about the role of trade associations? The evidence that we have received suggests that this is not a few rogue operators; this is quite extensive as a problem. The trade associations don’t seem to be taking a very proactive view. What do you think they should be doing?

Grant Shapps: I agree with your interpretation. Not only is it not now just a few, but the bad ones are expanding the fastest. That is why there is a sense of urgency to this as well. I think there is more that the trade associations can do. I describe my instinct being that they have been slightly behind the scale of the problem and, in fairness to them, probably so has Government over many years-or too slow to act, and so on. So I think there is much more that can be done and, rather than laying blame at anybody’s door, it is up to everyone to move this thing forward as quickly as possible.

Q472 Bob Blackman: Do you have a league table of the worst operators that there are? If so, can you share it with us? I am sure we would all like to see it, because we have seen some pretty horrible evidence.

Grant Shapps: I do have a league table. I think it should remain in my head, where it currently sits, but I do very much know and understand where these reforms need to target.

Q473 Bob Blackman: One of the issues from what we have been able to see is that there have been some people who have seen this market, where for all sorts of reasons people set up things in almost a charitable way to provide homes for people, as an ideal opportunity to exploit the position. That seems to be quite unscrupulous in the way that it is being implemented.

Grant Shapps: I am pretty sure I don’t need to mention names or locations; we all know of places that would head that particular league table if it were ever to be published. The goal of this is to drive those rogues out of the market.

Q474 Chair: Minister, in terms of moving forward, you made the point perfectly properly about the time it can take to get primary legislation through-to find a slot in the Government’s legislative programme and then the time to get it through the House and agreed. Are there measures that you might be able to take more quickly through secondary legislation? Increasing the powers of the tribunals to award compensation to homeowners, say, which could be done more quickly and effectively. In the end, what matters is driving these unscrupulous people out of the industry. You are never quite certain the measures you take will do that. Would you be minded when you finally agree on a programme of legislation to have a time period of, say, two or three years for a determined review to make sure that what has been implemented works and, if it does not, to review what more could be done?

Grant Shapps: I think that would be very sensible and always is in any legislation passed, so I would be very happy to see that happen and I am happy, in fact, to undertake to do it. In terms of timing and what can be implemented, we have had the tribunal stuff and about 6,000 properties were encompassed in some technical changes I made last year that were of some assistance, though they did not apply to all park homes. Some other things are happening anyway. For example, the removal of the limit on the fine is in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill going through the House right now-that has just passed through the Lords. So that has already happened. But looking through the bulk of the rest of the consultation, it requires for the most part primary legislation. One of the reasons is that curiously, when the stuff was legislated in the first place, secondary legislation was used much less. Things like doing easy uprating turned out not to be easy to do in terms of the fines, which was why I was pleased that we got it through in the Ministry of Justice Bill that is going through now. These things require primary legislation. Whereas nowadays primary legislation would provide for regulations to uprate these things over a period of time, it just has not been available to almost every element governing park homes, right down to the fact that the legislation that governs it suggests that these are moveable homes, which they are not. They are mobile homes according to the primary piece of legislation; in fact, they are stationary homes. We cannot easily do anything about it; I am not sure we are even going to bother to do anything about it when we have sorted out the main piece of legislation, because it will require lots of consequentials. But we will have a very good look at what can be done postconsultation; I will undertake to do that. I will certainly undertake to come back in two or three years’ time. I am more than happy to do that. Either way, I think it should be subject to review, as should all good legislation.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed for your evidence, Minister.


[1] Ev

[2] Ev

Prepared 19th June 2012