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(3ZB) Subsection 1 shall not require the landlord or licensor of the dwelling house to carry out works—

(a) which would contravene any statutory obligation or restriction; or

(b) which require the consent of a superior landlord, provided that such consent has been refused and the landlord or licensor has no right of action on the basis that such refusal of consent is unreasonable.

(3ZC) Any provision of or relating to a tenancy or licence is void insofar as it purports—

(a) to exclude or limit the obligations of the landlord or licensor under this section; or

(b) to permit any forfeiture or impose on the tenant or licensee any penalty or disadvantage in the event of his seeking to enforce the obligation under subsection (1).

(3ZD) Regulations may make provision for the exclusion of certain classes of letting from subsection (1).

(3ZE) In this section “house” has the same meaning as “dwelling house” and includes—

(a) a part of a house, and

(b) any yard, garden, outhouses and appurtenances belonging to the house or usually enjoyed with it.”

(5) In section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, after “waste water”, insert—

(6) Regulations may make provision for guidance as to the operation of the matters set out in section 10 which are relevant to the assessment of fitness for human habitation.

(7) This section shall come into force—

(a) in England at the end of the period of three months from the date on which this Act receives Royal Assent and shall apply to all tenancies licences and agreements for letting made on or after that date; and

(b) in Wales on a date to be appointed by the Welsh Ministers.””

This new Clause would place a duty on landlords to ensure that their properties are fit for habitation when let and remain fit during the course of the tenancy.

New clause 53—Requirement to carry out electrical safety checks—

‘(1) A landlord of a rental property shall ensure that there is maintained in a safe condition—

(a) any electrical installation; and

(b) any electrical appliances supplied by the landlord so as to prevent the risk of injury to any person in lawful occupation or relevant premises.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), a landlord shall—

(a) ensure that the electrical installation and any electrical appliances supplied by the landlord are checked for safety within 12 months of initial leasing and thereafter at intervals of not more than 5 years since they were last checked for safety (whether such check was made pursuant to this Act or not);

(b) in the case of a lease commencing after the coming into force of this Act, ensure that the electrical installation and each electrical appliance to which the duty extends has been checked for safety within a period of 12 months before the lease commences or has been or is so checked within 12 months after the electrical installation or electrical appliance has been installed, whichever is later; and

(c) ensure that a record in respect of any electrical installation or electrical appliance so checked is made and retained for a period of 6 years from the date of that check and which shall include the following information—

(i) the date on which the electrical installation or electrical appliance was checked;

(ii) the address of the premises at which the electrical installation or electrical appliance is installed;

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(iii) the name and address of the landlord of the premises (or, where appropriate, his agent) at which the electrical installation or electrical appliance is installed;

(iv) a description of and the location of the electrical installation or electrical appliance checked;

(v) any defect identified;

(vi) any remedial action taken;

(vii) the name and signature of the individual carrying out the check; and

(viii) the registration number with which that individual’s firm is registered with a Part P competent persons scheme approved by the Department for Communities and Local Government and certified as being competent in periodic inspection and testing.

(3) Every landlord shall ensure that any work in relation to a relevant electrical installation or electrical appliance carried out pursuant to subsection (1) or (2) above is carried out by a firm registered with a Part P competent persons scheme approved for the time being by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

(4) The record referred to in (2)(c), or a copy thereof, shall be made available upon request and upon reasonable notice for the inspection of any person in lawful occupation of relevant premises who may be affected by the use or operation of any electrical installation or electrical appliance to which the record relates.

(5) Notwithstanding subsection (4), every landlord shall ensure that—

(a) a copy of the record made pursuant to the requirements of (3)(c) is given to each existing tenant of premises to which the record relates within 28 days of the date of the check; and

(b) a copy of the last record made in respect of each electrical installation or electrical appliance is given to any new tenant of premises to which the record relates before that tenant occupies those premises save that, in respect of a tenant whose right to occupy those premises is for a period not exceeding 28 days, a copy of the record may instead be prominently displayed within those premises.

(6) A landlord who fails to comply with this section commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.”

The new clause would introduce a requirement for landlords to undertake electrical safety checks.

New clause 54—Description of HMOs

‘(1) The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) England Order 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) Clause 3, subsection (2), leave out paragraph (a).

(3) Clause 3, leave out subsection (3).’

The new clause would remove the three storeys condition from the conditions HMOs must satisfy in order to be of a description prescribed by article 3(1) of the Housing Act 2004.

Amendment 154, in clause 91, page 38, leave out lines 6 and 7.

This amendment would retain sections 225 and 226 of the Housing Act 2004 regarding accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers.

Amendment 99, in clause 92, page 38, line 24, at end insert—

“(c) has a current entry on the Database of Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents as set out in Part 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2015”.

The amendment would deny those with an entry on the Database of Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents from being granted a licence for a HMO.

Amendment 67, in clause 93, page 39, line 25, leave out “as an alternative” and insert “in addition”.

The amendment would allow for a financial penalty as an addition rather than as an alternative to prosecution.

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Government amendments 27 to 30.

New clause 47—Duty of Care—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall by 31 December 2016 introduce via regulation a statutory Duty of Care to be placed upon acquiring authorities.

(2) The Duty of Care established under subsection (1) must include, but need not be confined to specifications regarding the treatment by acquiring authorities towards those losing land or property to compulsory purchase.”

This new clause would place a Duty of Care upon acquiring authorities to ensure that those losing land or property to compulsory purchase are treated fairly, as well as introducing a clear set of guidelines by which authorities would have to adhere to and could be judged against.

Amendment 79, in clause 141, page 70, line 44, at end insert—

‘(6) If an acquiring authority fails to make an advance payment of compensation and the landowner has fulfilled all of the requirements to facilitate a payment, the acquiring authority will not be able to take possession of the relevant land without the written permission of the landowner or until an advance payment has been made.”

This amendment would require compensation to be paid in advance of entry to allow for the purchase of replacement land or another business asset. The failure to provide compensation in advance would prohibit the acquiring authority to take possession of the land in question without the written permission of the landowner.

Amendment 76, in clause 142, page 71, line 15, at end insert—

‘(1A) The rate of interest on compensation due to be paid in advance of entry, but paid late, shall be set at 8% above the Bank of England base rate.

(1B) Interest on compensation that is paid after entry, but was not due in advance of entry, shall be paid at 4% above the Bank of England base rate.”

This amendment would set the interest rate on compensation that was due before entry, but not paid on time, at 8% above the base rate, in line with the interest rate on late commercial payments. Any compensation which is paid after entry but was not quantifiable at the time of entry would attract an interest rate of 4% above the base rate, in line with commercial lending rates.

Amendment 77, page 71, leave out lines 24 to 32.

This amendment is consequential to amendment 76.

Mr Jones: First, I shall respond to the point raised by the Chairman of the Select Committee. I know he has discussed it with the Minister for Housing and Planning previously, and the Minister has just told me that he will undertake to write to him to clear up the confusion that he has.

Mr Betts rose

Mr Jones: I will give way later in my comments. This is the final group before we send this Bill to the other place. A small number of landlords and property agents do not manage their lettings or properties properly, sometimes exploiting their tenants and the public purse through renting out overcrowded accommodation. New clause 62 deals with the contravention of an overcrowding notice under section 139 of the Housing Act 2004. The maximum fine currently allowed is set at level four, which is £2,500. The amendment, which affects premises in England only, would remove the restriction on the fine that may be imposed. The landlords and property agents who let overcrowded properties will therefore face the same penalties as those who let out substandard and unsafe properties.

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Amendments 27 to 30 revise schedule 6 of the Bill to increase the maximum amount of civil penalty that can be imposed as an alternative to prosecution for the following offences: failure to comply with an improvement notice; failure to obtain a licence for a licensable house of multiple occupation or to comply with HMO licence conditions; and failure to obtain a licence for a property subject to selective licensing, or to comply with licensed conditions. The maximum penalty for those offences will now stand at £30,000. The amendments also increase the civil penalty to £30,000 for contravening an overcrowding notice. Once again, that is in line with the civil penalties for other housing offences under the Housing Act 2004.

In addition, the offence of failing to comply with management regulations in respect of a house in multiple occupation has also been added to the list of offences that can attract civil penalties as well as an alternative to prosecution.

We have listened to the debate that has taken place as the Bill has progressed through the House. In Committee, Members expressed concern that £5,000 was not much of a disincentive for a rogue landlord to continue to operate as they could easily recoup that sum in a relatively short period of time through unlawfully continuing to rent out properties, and we absolutely agree with that. A potential fine of up to £30,000 will significantly negate any economic advantage a rogue landlord might seek to achieve through breaching a banning order. The amendments tabled during this part of our debate will help to create a fairer housing market and to see unscrupulous landlords driven from the sector.

Teresa Pearce (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab): I rise to speak to new clauses 52 to 54 and amendments 154, 99 and 67.

New clause 52 follows on from the private Member’s Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), which sought a similar aim, and from the discussions in Committee. It seeks to put into legislation a duty on all private sector landlords to ensure that, when they let their properties, they are fit for human habitation.

The majority of landlords let property that is, and remains, in a decent standard. Many go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted out quickly and efficiently, which makes it even more distressing when we see reports of homes that are unfit for human habitation being let at often obscene prices. A quarter of a million properties in the private rented sector are estimated to have a category 1 hazard. According to a major report by Shelter, following a YouGov survey, 61% of tenants were found to have experienced mould, damp, leaking roofs or windows, electrical hazards, animal infestations or a gas leak in the previous 12 months.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): I am sure that the hon. Lady will reflect the frustrations of colleagues across the House when it comes to dealing with category 1 hazards. The fact is that local authorities already have significant powers to tackle such problems. Before we give these new powers to local authorities, will she tell us what more can be done to encourage authorities to exercise the powers that they already have to tackle problems in properties?

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Teresa Pearce: That matter was raised earlier. At the moment, the private rented sector is massively increasing, yet resources are not. I agree that many local councils have the powers, but they have depleted members of staff able to inspect properties. We need to show that we take this matter very seriously. Councils should ensure that they have properly staffed departments. I know that they will then come back and say that they do not have the funds, and that is another issue. The fact that there are not the funds does not mean that we should not make tackling the matter an aim of this House.

For more than 100 years, Parliament has legislated for standards in the private rented sector. The Housing of the Working Classes Act 1885 and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 both placed on landlords regulations to ensure safety in their properties. Indeed, the 1985 Act placed a statutory duty on landlords, covering issues such as damp, mould and infestation, yet those duties applied only to those fulfilling a particular limited rent criterion that is now well outdated. Last updated in 1957, those duties now apply only to properties where the annual rent is less than £80. This new clause seeks to remove those limits, which will allow the previous legislation to fulfil its purpose and to place a duty on landlords to provide a safe and secure environment.

I am sure that all Members will have received casework from constituents living in poor conditions. Indeed, in my own constituency, it is one of the biggest issues. The office phones ring off the hook with calls about mould and its impact on health and the inaction of some landlords in rectifying the situation. Where else in modern day life could someone get away with such behaviour? It is a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that did not work, did not do what it said it would, or was unsafe, I would take it back and get a refund. If I purchased food from a shop that was unsafe to eat not only would I get a refund but there is a high possibility of the shopkeeper being prosecuted. If I rent the only available property for me from a landlord and it is unsafe to live in, I can either put up or shut up. In a market where demand outstrips supply, renters lack basic consumer power to bargain for better conditions.

Shelter notes that one in eight renters have not asked for repairs to be carried out, or challenged a rent increase in the past year because they fear eviction. By introducing a new minimum that all properties must meet, we can drive up standards across the private rented sector. As there is no current legislation in place to force landlords to ensure that their property is safe to live in, a third of private rented homes fail to meet the Government’s decent homes standard. Failure to legislate in this area will see the quality of accommodation in the ever-growing private rented sector fall drastically behind other tenure types.

Many Members in this place will have horror stories of poor living conditions from their own casework. Just this week a family wrote to me about thick mould covering their walls, a broken heating system, a leaking toilet and a sewage problem, and about the impact those problems had on their health. Their five-year-old son has had a cough his entire life, and he has just finished a course of steroids and yet another course of antibiotics, and their daughter suffers from constant migraines, but the landlord refuses to do anything about the problems. The environmental teams often lack resources to carry out proactive inspections and enforcement work.

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Although it is true that the majority of properties are safe and fit to live in, it is unacceptable that, in 2016, we still have people—our neighbours and our constituents —up and down the country living in properties unfit for human habitation. This clause would change the lives of many tenants and provide a more robust, secure and safe private rented sector, which surely we all desire.

New clause 53 is about safety and would introduce a requirement for landlords to undertake electrical safety checks. Many organisations from across the sector support the measure, such as the Local Government Association, the London fire brigade, Shelter, the Association of Residential Letting Agents, British Gas, Crisis and the Fire Officers Association. They have all given their support in the past to measures that will see the introduction of mandatory electrical safety checks.

It is estimated that electricity causes more than 20,000 house fires each year, leading to about 350 serious injuries and 70 deaths across the UK. Carbon monoxide, gas leaks and other fires and explosions cause fewer deaths and injuries, with 300 injuries and 18 deaths—these risks remain serious and it is right that we should continue to monitor them, but that shows what is at stake as regards electrical fires in the home.

Although landlords have a duty to keep electrical installations in proper working order and to ensure that any electrical appliances they supply are safe, poorly maintained installations in the sector remain and there is no explicit requirement for landlords to prove to a tenant that a property is electrically safe. Houses in multiple occupation are inspected every five years, so if someone is in an HMO or a bed and breakfast they are safer than if they are in the more general private rented sector.

In an HMO where a landlord lets to six unrelated people, an inspection is needed, yet there will be houses let to six people, who might not be related to each other, but that are not HMOs, and there is no legislation for them. Many good landlords run electrical safety checks and ensure that all appliances are tested at the beginning and end of a tenancy, but there is growing consensus across the UK that introducing mandatory electrical safety checks is a worthy cause. We have seen movement on this issue in Scotland, where the Scottish Government have introduced provisions. In Northern Ireland, a review is being run of the private rented sector in which mandatory fire safety checks are one of the issues, and in Wales we have growing cross-party support for them.

Electrical Safety First ran a survey of MPs in England back in September, and there was overwhelming support for such a provision. In Committee, the Minister intimated that he felt warmly towards the suggestion so I would be grateful if at some point he let us know how far those conversations have gone and whether there will be some movement in future.

3.30 pm

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a very strong case for the Government to take electrical safety checks more seriously. May I suggest, given the pressure on housing and the increasing number of buy-to-lets, HMOs and Airbnbs, and the different ways in which people are renting property, that this is an issue that will not go away? In fact, it could get worse. As my hon. Friend says, most

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decent landlords are already carrying out these checks and this is very much about encouraging those who do not to follow good practice.

Teresa Pearce: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and that is exactly right. Across the private rented sector, many good landlords do all the things we would wish of them. It is for the minority that we need to legislate. As I mentioned, the Minister said in Committee that the Government were considering this and I know that there have been conversations with the sector, so I would be pleased to hear how far they have gone and whether something will be introduced in future.

New clause 54 would remove the three-storey condition for HMOs. That would require mandatory HMO licences for all buildings that meet all the other requirements of an HMO but are not three storeys high. HMOs come in a variety of forms and the current definition does not fit the actuality on the ground.

I know that the Government are consulting on extending mandatory licensing of HMOs and I shall be interested to hear where the Minister thinks that consultation might go. HMOs make up one of the main forms of private sector housing for students, young professionals and single people on low incomes and the three-storey threshold means that many actual HMOs do not require a licence. Indeed, down my road there is a bungalow—it clearly does not have three storeys—that has over the previous year had as many as 10 unrelated people living in it. Clearly, it would be classed as an HMO in any other regard apart from the fact that it is not three storeys high.

Private rented housing is an important part of the housing sector and with the reduction of housing benefit for the under-35s allowing only shared occupancy, more and more properties are in effect HMOs apart from the fact that they do not meet the three-storey provision. The new clause and wider Government consultation provide an opportunity to evaluate the purpose of HMO licensing simply to provide for a more robust, secure and safe private rented sector through the licensing of houses in multiple occupancy that operate with shared facilities.

Amendment 154 would lead to the retention of sections 225 and 226 of the Housing Act 2004, under which every local authority must, when carrying out a review under section 8 of the Housing Act 1985, carry out an assessment of the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers who reside in the area, and provide for the Secretary of State to issue guidance on how local housing authorities can meet those needs. Clearly there has been and continues to be a need to recognise the differing housing needs of Gypsies and Travellers. Anyone with an understanding of the community will appreciate that they have different housing needs and the Government’s impact assessment for the Bill recognises a perception of differential treatment of Gypsies and Travellers. In Committee there was a great deal of written and oral evidence of the devastating impact that the withdrawal of sections 225 and 226 could have on Gypsy and Traveller communities. This amendment would retain those sections.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation noted that the former Commission for Racial Equality concluded in 2006 that Gypsies and Irish Travellers were the most

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excluded groups in Britain. Concern was expressed that the existing provisions weakened the understanding of those groups’ specific accommodation needs. As the Department for Communities and Local Government’s “Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessments: guidance” of 2007 states:

“In the past, the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers . . . have not routinely formed part of the process by which local authorities assess people’s housing needs. The consequences of this have been that the current and projected accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers have often not been well understood.”

If the requirement specifically to assess their accommodation needs is removed, there will be an even higher rate of homelessness, even fewer sites to meet their assessed need will be delivered, and even less land will be allocated in local plans to meet their need.

As a result of the shortage of authorised sites, Gypsies and Travellers will have no alternative but to camp in an unauthorised manner, which impacts not only on their community but on the settled communities around them. Without authorised sites they will have difficulty accessing running water, toilets, refuse collection, schools and employment opportunities. Local authorities already spend millions of pounds each year on unauthorised encampments in legal costs, evictions, blocking off land from encampments and clear-up costs, so this is a lose-lose situation. Where Gypsies and Travellers’ needs are not assessed or met, local communities are impacted upon as a consequence. The Community Law Partnership is concerned that as a result of the clause Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs will be buried within general housing need. CLP highlights the fact that this community consists of traditionally hard to reach groups, and calls for focused guidance for local authorities to assess their needs.

Gypsies and Travellers already experience some of the poorest social outcomes of any group in our society, and accommodation is a key determinant of those wider inequalities. We have seen written evidence from the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, the main representative body for travelling show people, which shared extreme concern about these clauses and the impact on its work. I would be grateful if the Minister outlined the impact on travelling show people and provided reassurance to the guild and show people that the clauses will not affect them.

The policy in this area is different across the nations. The Welsh Government are taking a different approach, introducing a statutory duty on local authorities to facilitate site provision. Why does the Minister think Gypsies and Travellers should face such a postcode lottery? We believe the amendment is necessary to continue support for Traveller and Gypsy communities, which are some of the most excluded groups in Britain.

There are legal concerns, too. The public sector equality duty recognises Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers as ethnic minorities, and the European Court of Human Rights has held that the UK has an obligation to facilitate the traditional way of life of Gypsies and Travellers. Will the Minister clarify whether the removal of the clause would go against that?

Our amendment would retain sections 225 and 226 of the Housing Act 2004, which would ensure that the housing needs of Gypsies and Travellers were assessed by local authorities. This would make sure that safe sites could continue to be identified and would avoid

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the lose-lose situation set out in the Bill, where an under-represented group faces the prospect of its housing needs being swallowed up within the general housing need. As the clause stands, it would lead to many unintended consequences—a shortage of authorised sites for Gypsies and Travellers, a rise in unauthorised sites, worse safety standards, and greater pressure on local authorities and on local communities. I hope the Government will consider the amendment.

Amendment 99 to clause 92 would ensure that those with an entry on the database of rogue landlords and letting agents would not be granted a licence to run an HMO. Although those subject to a banning order would not be able to receive an HMO licence as they would be in breach of the banning order, there may be others on the rogue landlord and letting agents database who could still apply and receive an HMO licence. As the House is aware, a local housing authority may include other persons on the database, rather than applying for a banning order in a case where a person’s offences are slightly less serious and the local authority considers that monitoring the person is more appropriate than seeking a banning order. This amendment seeks assurance that those people would not be considered for an HMO licence. It would have the added bonus of ensuring that the local housing authority checked with the rogue landlords and letting agents database to ensure that the application was allowed and that nobody subject to a banning order could slip through. If in future the database of rogue landlords and letting agents were expanded, that would provide further protection for tenants against such landlords.

As was mentioned in earlier debates, including in Committee, we support measures to tackle rogue landlords to ensure security and safety for tenants in the sector and to penalise criminal landlords. However, we would like this further measure to be added, to ensure that in no circumstances can rogue landlords be granted an HMO licence. The amendment would help drive up standards across the sector and protect tenants in HMOs from rogue landlords.

Amendment 67 relates to clause 93, which would change the Housing Act 2004

“to allow financial penalties to be imposed as an alternative to prosecution for certain offences.”

Our amendment would ensure that financial penalties could be sought “in addition” to prosecution rather than as an alternative. Although we support the measures that tackle rogue landlords, we believe that the Bill could go further to penalise criminal landlords, to make it harder for them to get away with housing-related offences and deter them from committing the crimes and from returning to the sector, as well as providing an adequate punishment for their offence.

At present, the Bill would allow for a financial penalty to be sought instead of a criminal prosecution in cases ranging from failure to comply with improvement notices to letting an unlicensed HMO, among other offences. Clearly there will be cases in which a financial penalty is more appropriate, just as a prosecution route will be in others. However, there may well be further situations where both routes would be appropriate. Our amendment would allow that to happen.

The amendment would also help in situations where the impact of the offence was unclear. A local authority may deem a financial penalty appropriate, but for repeat

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offenders, or if the impact of the original offence escalates, it may also wish to use an additional prosecution route. Making provision for both routes will allow greater flexibility: local authorities could choose to fine, prosecute or do both. The amendment would increase the options available to local authorities. In that way, we hope to ensure further security and safety for tenants in the sector and to help drive up standards.

If the Government do not agree to it, we will divide the House on new clause 52. Amendments 79, 76 and 77, tabled by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), among others, seek to test the House’s will on the compulsory purchase order provisions. We believe that those amendments would water down those provisions, so the Opposition would oppose them in a vote.

Mrs Main: I rise to speak in favour of new clause 42. It is a contradictory situation, but in very high-value areas such as St Albans people often want to live in mobile home parks because that is the most affordable route to securing their own home. There are many mobile home sites in my constituency, as well as some of the highest house prices and lowest affordability in the country.

I was pleased when the coalition Government sought to tackle some of the abuses of rogue site owners, but the issue of people being able to sell their own mobile home freely without being shackled with enormous costs really needs tackling. New clause 42 probes that issue and I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views.

Residents at Newlands Park, a mobile home park in my constituency, have told me that when a home becomes available it is often so difficult to sell that the site owner ends up buying it. Gradually, more and more park homes are becoming the property of the site owner, who then rents them out for very high rents. On many sites in the United Kingdom not only is the cost of selling mobile homes hugely disproportionate to the value of the units, but restrictions are placed on those selling them. For example, in Newlands Park there is an insistence that the site owner should vet the potential new buyer of the mobile home. There are also restrictions on how and when advertisements for selling the mobile home can be displayed, and on the associated wording. As a result, mobile home or park home sites that are poorly run, or run by landlords imposing onerous demands, can start to become controlled by the site owner. This Bill—or, if not this one, perhaps another relating to the Mobile Homes Act 2013—could provide a tool to try to restrict the control that unscrupulous owners may choose to try to exercise over those who wish to divest themselves of a park home site.

3.45 pm

Park home sites are often owned by elderly, divorced or single people, or people on very low incomes, who are not always very savvy or able to defend themselves legally should they find themselves put in a difficult position. Putting new clause 42 into law would show the willingness of the Government to support these owners. It might also be a shot across the bows of the unscrupulous site owners who seek to make life so difficult and expensive for park home owners who are selling homes, often as a result of an elderly person having died. In the end, they give up and sell it to the site owner, and he or

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she—he, in this case—builds up a lucrative property empire, in effect removing the ability of other people on low incomes to buy them in an affordable manner.

The drift of the new clause is very welcome. I hope that the Minister can indicate whether greater protections are going to be given to people who live on park home sites. If it is not going to happen now, I would like to know that it is coming down the road at some point in future, because park home owners have been one of the most disadvantaged, grey areas within housing, and it is time that they had a much stronger champion. This Government, in coalition, acted last time, and I hope that this time they will take it a step further and strengthen the protections for park home owners.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), who, apart from her other duties in this place, very ably leads the all-party parliamentary group on Bangladesh, on which I am pleased to be one of her vice-chairs.

I want to speak on new clauses 3 and 4, which stand in my name. I express my appreciation to Mr Glenn McKee in the Public Bill Office for his expert assistance in drafting them. I thank the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership for its encouragement in making sure that we have new clause 3 on leasehold reform. Poplar and Limehouse has the second highest number of leasehold properties in the country, so this is a matter of great constituency significance. In relation to new clause 4 on tenants’ rights, 50% of the properties are social-rented, so that is also a big issue locally.

I am pleased that the Government have recognised the scale of the leasehold reform issue. The hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) has led on the issue, having campaigned on leasehold reform for many years. I am pleased to support him, backed up by the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, which is organised by Martin Boyd and Sebastian O’Kelly. The hon. Gentleman and I have arranged a number of open forums here at Westminster for parties interested in leasehold reform. They have been attended by professional bodies, individual leaseholders and others who have raised these matters with the civil service and with Government. I am grateful to the Minister for affording us a number of opportunities to meet him and civil servants at DCLG to explore these issues and try to identify a way forward.

One of the major successes that we have had in the past 12 months is that although the Government initially estimated that there were between 2 million and 2.25 million leaseholders, it has now been recognised that there are now at least 4.5 million. That demonstrates that this is a bigger problem than perhaps the Government thought it was before. Of course, that does not take into account the nearly 2 million leaseholders of former council properties who exercised right to buy or who subsequently bought those properties, so we are talking about nearly 6 million households, which means that a significant number of our citizens are affected by leasehold regulation.

The issue affects my constituents, among whom are not only very wealthy professionals who live in smart and very expensive properties in Canary Wharf, but a number of pensioners in the east end who exercised right to buy and who own former council properties. They clearly do not have access to the resources, assets

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or finances available to some of my constituents. The issue also affects retirement homes. Leaseholders are represented in every strata of society, from the poorest right the way to the richest, so nobody is excluded from being exposed to the vulnerability of living in a leasehold property.

I use the word “vulnerable” because the lack of protection and the informal dispute resolution procedure, which is abused by unscrupulous freeholders who employ high-powered barristers, affects ordinary leaseholders, whether they be professionals, rich or poor. I see that Conservative Members are smiling because they are either vulnerable leaseholders or freeholders. I will not say that they are unscrupulous, because that certainly does not apply to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), who I know, as a fellow West Ham United supporter, would never be unscrupulous when it comes to his properties. There are major anomalies and weaknesses in leasehold regulation, including the amount paid in service charges, as well as insurance, ground rent and forfeiture charges, all of which mean that leaseholders are vulnerable to unscrupulous freeholders. Sadly, there are too many such freeholders, even though they are in the minority.

It is appropriate to recognise that the sector has been attempting to improve its performance and raise its game with a new voluntary code. Significant progress has been made, but leasehold reform should be on the Government’s radar, especially given that leasehold has been increasingly used over many years. Six major statutes, a number of statutory instruments and dozens of sections of other Acts of Parliament have dealt with the issue. Previous Conservative Administrations—notably in 1985, 1987 and 1993—and Labour’s Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 all tried to address that which is recognised collectively as an area that needs attention, but we have signally failed to protect leaseholders. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response.

New clause 3 proposes to abolish leasehold by 2020. I hope—I am sure that other colleagues do, too—that it will galvanise the Government into asking why nothing has happened in respect of commonhold. I understand that the Government have been having key discussions on moving responsibility for commonhold legislation, which still falls under the Ministry of Justice, to the Department for Communities and Local Government and the housing department. It would make sense to place such responsibility for housing in that Department. At the end of the previous Administration, with the general election approaching, all three main political parties supported moving that responsibility to DCLG, but there has been no movement. I would be grateful to hear the Minister’s response.

New clause 4 is far less complex, but I am disappointed that there has been no movement on the issue, because it is very much one of localism and community empowerment. One of the few existing protections for leaseholders—it is, however, very difficult to implement—is the right to sack property management companies responsible for the upkeep of residents’ homes. There is provision within legislation for ballots to take place, and a simple majority allows residents to look for a new property management company to manage their properties. However, as I have said, it can very seldom be used.

In recent decades, many thousands of tenants in my constituency have voted in stock transfer ballots to move responsibility for their homes from the council to

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housing associations. That was one of the mechanisms that the Labour Government between 1997 and 2010 used to deal with the 2 million homes we inherited that were perceived as being below the decency threshold. That led to upgrades of nearly 1.5 million of those properties by 2010, including new kitchens and bathrooms, double glazing, new security and all the rest of it.

Most such schemes were successful. However, in a small minority of transfers, the offer provided by the housing associations when seeking the support of local tenants was not delivered. There is no provision for those tenants to express their disappointment and to sack their registered social landlord. This is a basic element of consumer protection. For any product that one buys on the open market, there are protections in consumer law—the ability to return the product, and to seek a refund, redress or compensation—but for a home, and a council tenant who has voted to move to a new registered social landlord, there is nowhere else to go once they have been transferred. A leaseholder at least has such a provision, even though it is rarely used.

With my new clause 4, I am trying to introduce an provision—with, I suggest, a five-yearly review—to give council tenants an opportunity to say to the housing association or their registered social landlord that is supposed to deliver the services for which tenants are paying, “You are not doing a good enough job. If you don’t up your game, we will have a ballot in five years’ time. We can then sack you and move to a new housing association, go back to the council or set up a tenant management organisation.” That would basically give tenants the right to hold their housing association to account.

The current protections are to complain to the Housing Ombudsman Service, the Homes and Communities Agency or the regulator. It is very difficult to go to such lengths, however, and the regulator is very reluctant to transfer ownership and responsibility from one housing association to another. New clause 4 suggests that tenants should have the right, when the registered social landlord or housing association is not delivering, to say, “You’re not doing a good enough job. We want somebody else to manage our property.”

On new clauses 3 and 4, one of which is very complex and the other relatively straightforward, I am very disappointed that the Government have not seen it to be in their interest to introduce such provisions. I am sure that there will be some interest in them when the Bill makes progress in the other place. I will be very interested to hear the Minister’s response to the points I have made in supporting my new clauses.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): It is always a particular pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick). As a fellow officer of the all-party group for the advancement of West Ham United—happily, they are doing rather well at the moment—it is always a pleasure to speak after him and to recognise his very real commitment and expertise in housing, particularly in the area of leasehold.

I ought to refer to my entries in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. One of them includes being a leaseholder in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

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My experience of stock transfer has been rather more positive, but his serious and important points need to be addressed. For any London MP, dealing with leaseholders is particularly important, because leasehold is such a critical part of the capital’s housing stock.

I was reminded of some of the remarks made to me in the past by my good friend, who has now left the House, Jacqui Lait, the former Member for Parliament for Beckenham. As many hon. Members will recall that she was a very doughty and active advocate of leasehold reform and of improvement in that area of the law. It is time that we paid tribute to her for her work.

I will turn to new clause 47 and amendments 79, 76 and 77 on compulsory purchase, which stand in my name. My smile at the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse related not so much to being a leaseholder, but to his reference to high-powered barristers. It never quite seemed like that in the Bow county court—that is all I can say.

4 pm

Compulsory purchase is a complex but important area of law and one where Ministers are engaged in the need for reform. The simple truth is that our compulsory purchase law has evolved piecemeal since about 1840, when the initial legislation and case law started. It has grown up incrementally, it is not coherent and lags well behind the rest of the planning system in terms of being updated. The Law Commission has recognised that and continues to work on it. I hope that we will revisit this matter in the course of this Parliament. Frankly, we need to get a grip of compulsory purchase law and have wholesale reform. That is not possible in the context of this Bill, but I welcome the improvements that it does make on compulsory purchase and land compensation, which are good steps forward. I will suggest some other steps forward.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) thinks that these are negative proposals. I do not see them that way and will try to persuade her of that, although I suspect I will not succeed, given that she comes from Charlton territory. For all that, let me at least try.

I will set out the essence of what I am trying to do. There are three aspects of the new clause and amendments. First, they are about fairness of treatment to landowners whose land is acquired compulsorily. People assume that this somehow relates to landed estates and the aristocracy, but that is not the case at all. Many people whose land is acquired compulsorily are small businesses or smallholders in one way or another. They are small people who sometimes struggle to finance the running of their businesses. It can happen in an urban area. We can think of compulsory purchase orders that have been made in relation to infrastructure projects in London and elsewhere. Fair treatment for the landowner is as important as fair treatment for the public or other authority that acquires the land.

Secondly, we must ensure that there is prompt payment. I think all of us would agree that, whatever the circumstances, the payment of compensation should be done swiftly and at a fair rate of interest. The rate of interest is the third aspect of my amendments. We are still deficient in this. The Government have made an important step forward in the Bill in increasing the rate of interest. I welcome that, as do bodies such as the

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Country Land and Business Association, which represents landowners and businesses in rural areas, but I am pressing Ministers to go further.

Let me explain why these changes are needed. First, there is the question of a duty of care. Duties of care are often written into statute in relation to a number of issues. The acquisition of land can bring fundamental change to the future of a business in an area and to families. Frequently, we are talking about family businesses that may be acquired or have part of their land acquired compulsorily. There is nothing wrong with compulsory acquisition. It is sometimes necessary for the greater good, but the fair treatment of those people is important.

New clause 47 would place a duty of care on acquiring authorities to ensure that those who lose land or property through compulsory purchase are treated fairly. It would also introduce a clear set of guidelines by which the authority would have to adhere and against which it could be judged objectively. The Minister might say that we do not need primary legislation for that. We can talk about that in due course, but the issue needs to be flagged up because there is concern among many practitioners.

I am grateful for the support not only of Mr McKee in the Table Office, who was rightly referred to earlier, but of people in the Compulsory Purchase Association—practitioners in the legal field—who highlighted the concern about consistency and suggested the possible means of having a transparent mechanism for determining a fair rate of compensation. At the moment, there is a bit of a horse-trading process. A proper set of guidelines on conduct would give people a benchmark against which to judge whether the acquiring authority was behaving in a fair and reasonable fashion.

The state gives considerable power to acquiring authorities in compulsory purchase. I do not object to that, but the corollary is that it should be exercised in a sensible, professional and genuinely fair fashion. Most of the time it is, but there are occasions when it is not, and that is what we are seeking to address. If that measure might be achieved through means other than primary legislation, I hope that we can take that forward in the constructive way that the Housing and Planning Minister spoke about when discussing the other compulsory purchase amendment that I tabled on Report. I hope the Minister will concede that we need to address this issue.

Amendments 76, 77 and 79 are tabled in my name, but it is not right to characterise them as weakening the power of compulsory purchase. Compulsory purchase requires fairness for both sides, and we are seeking first to ensure prompt payment, and secondly to ensure that payment comes at a fair rate of interest for those who will be paid. Amendment 79 deals with advance payment. Often, if land is compulsorily acquired, whether that land is a farm or a rural business—the principle is the same—people find it difficult to secure funding to take their business forward. If part of their holding is severed and part of the business is, in effect, taken away, that may interrupt and disturb their existing financial arrangements with their bank. They may have to go back to the bank because they have mortgaged or borrowed against X number of acres, and suddenly that figure is reduced and the bank will inevitably want to reconsider its arrangements. In order to give comfort to the bank,

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it is important that people receive prompt compensation and at a fair rate for what has been taken. That is what we are seeking to address.

At the moment, even though it is possible to sort out the acquisition and compensation sum, there are frequently long delays after the authority has taken possession of the land. Once the acquiring authority has taken possession of land under compulsory purchase, it is no longer available for use as part of the business. The land has gone from the landowner, but they might not receive compensation for many months and they will have to make bridging arrangements with their banks in the interim.

Jake Berry: Before coming to Parliament I was involved in a case in which the bank required an immediate repayment of a loan facility because of the reduction in its security, and the business had to close because it did not have immediate access to funds. My hon. Friend’s reasonable amendment suggests that payment should be made promptly to ensure that in such a situation there is a possibility of the business continuing. I would have thought that would be welcome.

Robert Neill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend who I know has professional experience and expertise in this matter. Of all the amendments and new clauses in my name, I urge the Minister most strongly to pay urgent attention to this provision. As my hon. Friend said, this issue is the one thing that puts people out of business, and that cannot be in anybody’s interest, and I urge the Minister to look swiftly and urgently at the matter. Perhaps it does not require primary legislation, but it needs to be addressed. My hon. Friend is right—established firms have folded from time to time when the bank required a redemption, and people may need to increase their exposure and put up the family home, for example, to provide that security, which cannot be just under such circumstances. My hon. Friend effectively encapsulates the point of the amendment.

Finally, failing to pay advance compensation runs contrary to virtually all other commercial transactions, and it is an outlier that often puts people who have been compulsorily required to sell in a disadvantageous position compared with public bodies. It makes it really difficult for any landowner or businessperson to run their business efficiently against that backdrop, as they do not have the financial security they would otherwise have. That is the purpose of the amendment and I hope it will be looked on favourably by the Government. I am not fussed about the route. Achieving outcome and fairness is the most important thing. Amendment 77 is consequential to that amendment; they hang together.

On amendment 76, it is important not only to have prompt payment but a realistic level of compensation. That can be assessed through the current system, but there is the question of interest on late payment. The coalition Government and the current Government have rightly emphasised the importance of prompt payment to businesses, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills set up codes to encourage prompt payment. The importance of prompt payment weighs particularly heavily on small and medium-sized enterprises, because they are more exposed than most to the need for external bank financing. They are not likely to be able to draw down on capital.

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I recognise and welcome the Government’s increase—to 4% as I recall—in the rate paid. That is an important and valuable step forward, but, for exactly the same reasons that have already been referred to, I urge them to go further. When a compulsory purchase goes through, very often landholders find it difficult to secure the funding to move forward. In particular, it is important to have a realistic rate of interest. Even with the current proposed changes, the rate will lag behind what is effectively the market rate.

The nature of compulsory purchase means that the majority of compensation due is meant to be paid before entry. When it is, all well and good. When it is not, there ought to be some compensation for those held up by late payment. By and large, the Government have now proposed introducing an interest rate of 2% above the base rate on late payments. That is a step forward, but still well below the commercial rate. On compensation due before entry but not paid on time, the amendments seek an interest rate of 8% above the base rate. That is in line with the rate of interest charged on the late payment of commercial transactions. The truth is that that would be no burden on acquiring authorities. All they have to do is pay on time. If they pay on time, they will not attract the punitive rate of interest. It is a spur to good behaviour by acquiring authorities. An 8% rate would be closer to the market rate than the 4% rate currently available.

We suggest that any compensation on a quantifiable amount should be at 8%, which would put it line with interest on a judgment debt after a finding by a court or tribunal. Other payments, which are not always quantifiable immediately but become apparent, should attract an interest rate of 4% above the base rate. That would be in line with commercial lending rates. We are therefore simply saying to acquiring authorities, “Behave like any other commercial body would.” I say to those on the Opposition Front Bench that that would not undermine the compulsory purchase regime, but ensure fairness and efficiency from an acquiring authority. Those that are efficient would have nothing to fear: if they just pay up promptly they will not have to pay the rate. If they do not, why should a landowner who has been compulsorily acquired against be in a worse position than if the land had been acquired as a result of a commercial negotiation or a judgment of a court not under the compulsory purchase regime?

That is the point of the amendments. They may sound technical, but they are actually quite important to a lot of rural businesses. I can say that there is little constituency interest for me—I think we have one farm in Bromley and Chislehurst—but this is an important issue for many businesses in rural areas.

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): It is a delight to follow my colleague from the all-party group on London, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), given his expertise on housing and planning. I want to talk about conditions in the private rented sector and to express my agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) on leasehold reform.

4.15 pm

I am not an expert on housing and planning, but I have just opened my 1,000th constituency case since 8 May—there is an awful lot of work to be done—and

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60% of those who have come to see me, written to me, phoned me or emailed me have talked about housing. Whereas 20 years ago the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green would have been dealing mainly with local authorities, housing associations and homeowners, many more cases now relate to the private rented sector. For that reason, it is a pleasure to speak today. As we know from our debate on the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), the condition of many homes in the private rented sector leaves something to be desired. Instead of 10% or 15%, up to 45% of the population of an average London borough are in the private rented sector, which is why we need to be much more ambitious when it comes to the quality of homes.

We know that fewer and fewer people can afford to own their own home and that the level of homeownership is at an all-time low. The Government’s policy is to try and assist people, but, when I last looked, only one household in my constituency, which has 80,000 electors, had been helped by the Government’s Help to Buy incentive scheme, which indicates how difficult it is for people to get on the housing ladder. It is important, therefore, that while people save up, in the hope of one day owning a home, we ensure high-quality private rented homes.

Most landlords are very good and want to look after their tenants and follow best practice, but unfortunately, owing to the high demand for privately rented homes and because people want to live near where they work, standards sometimes drop and people are afraid to raise issues of poor quality with their landlord for fear of being evicted. We have heard stories of people queueing up with baked goods—cakes, biscuits and so on—for landlords and saying, “Please can I be your tenant?”, such is the demand for properties. There is, therefore, no great incentive on landlords to provide high-quality homes. Instead of having to fix the plumbing, they are getting cakes. We are ambitious for our communities, however, and want to ensure the provision of high-quality homes. We need to ring-fence funding for local authorities to ensure quality in the privately rented sector. Local authorities, given their duty to prevent homelessness, should have an eye to this anyway, but they rightly complain of a lack of funding, so we should ring-fence funding for high-quality homes, particularly as up to 40% of families live in the private rented sector.

My particular bugbear is where housing benefit either wholly or partly pays the rent. That is state-sponsored squalor. It is not fair that the state subsidises landlords where conditions are not good. It is one thing for people paying out of their own pockets to think, “Maybe I won’t demand better conditions”, but, where the state subsidises landlords, we must demand much better quality homes.

Jake Berry: Will the hon. Lady join me in hoping that, where a tenant also receives housing benefit, the landlord will offer a longer lease? Up to 45% of people in London boroughs rent in the private sector, but the assured shorthold tenancy is not fit for purpose for families. Will she join me in encouraging the Government to take forward their very good proposal to encourage landlords to offer family-friendly tenancies with longer lease terms, especially where tenants receives housing benefit?

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Catherine West: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that excellent point, which is something I have campaigned on for a long time. Now that the private rented sector is the new normal, we need to move towards tenancies of three or four years. People do not have to accept three or four years, but six months as the norm is simply unacceptable, particularly when we know that in places such as Finsbury Park, people need an income of £75,000 to rent a three-bedroomed place for the family. Finsbury Park is not Chelsea, but now that such a high income is required, we need to do much more to deal with the problem of short-term leases and lack of security. The length of tenancy is a crucial issue. I am sure we will get another bite at the cherry when it comes to tabling an amendment to deal with that. Unfortunately, such an amendment was not accepted in Committee, but we will continue to campaign for it. The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) was quite right to mention it.

In the olden days, we used to talk about the decent homes standard, which included things such as kitchens and bathrooms, heating, security, windows and so on. We should have exactly the same thing in mind when we talk about conditions in the private rented sector. We all know about the long-term health impact of living in a cold home. Now and, funnily enough, in many places, our social homes have better conditions—on account of the decent homes standards I mentioned, which were introduced under the Labour Government up to 2010—and many tenants live in quite acceptable accommodation.

Private tenants, however, who are now paying more, are living in colder homes, which we know leads to a greater chance of getting respiratory illnesses. In London, we should not be seeing the increased number of tuberculosis cases that we are seeing. Tuberculosis is aggravated by overcrowded and cold accommodation. Problems such as these are a regular feature of our constituency surgeries, and we should be ambitious about seeing the end of something like tuberculosis.

Another issue is the number of days that children miss at school because of illness, and this applies whether we are talking about primary school, secondary school when pupils are doing their GCSEs or even university years. Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders and other respiratory problems are holding our youngsters back; and we must not forget the healthcare of our older folk.

When we are reflecting on what we want our local authorities to look at, I hope that we can include high-quality heating systems. I would be surprised to find any social sector homes left in the borough of Haringey that did not have a proper heating system. However, I have been into homes in the private rented sector where tenants are still switching on low-quality heating systems.

That brings me to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse about the importance of having electricity checks. Every local authority knows about CORGI—Council for Registered Gas Installers—and it seems to me basic common sense that we need something similar to that for electricity. It will need a new name, but we need something for electricity standards—names on a postcard to the Deputy Speaker if anyone can think of one today. The CORGI standard is the reason why we do not have as many accidents caused by problems with gas. People have campaigned on gas standards for the last 20 years and

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we now have that protection put into rules and regulations through statute. When checks are carried out for gas, we could do the same thing for electrics. It is such a basic point; we must make this part of what we do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse and others mentioned leaseholder issues. With 4.5 million people living in leasehold properties, it has become, like the private rented sector, the new normal. A third of all residents living in social homes in some of our London boroughs are leaseholders, so we need to look further at providing some form of regulation to deal with service charges and ground charges, and to control the interaction between the freeholders and the leaseholders. A number of leaseholders have come to me with specific questions in circumstances where it is plain that the freeholder is not being a good landlord. We need to deal with that, and we need some kind of cap on what can be charged where the freeholder is a private entity and leaseholders are at their mercy when it comes to repairs, unreasonably high bills and general lack of rights. Being a Member of Parliament with just one caseworker in a constituency where there are thousands of unhappy leaseholders is not good. [Laughter.] Everyone is laughing because they know what the situation is like for leaseholders.

There are a number of other steps that need to be taken, and I think that we may need more time to consider them. Some of them are very specific. In the case of both the private rented sector and leaseholders, we are no longer talking about small groups; we are talking about more and more people who cannot afford to buy into the property market and get on to the housing ladder. Notwithstanding all the announcements by politicians wearing hard hats and wonderful fluorescent jackets, we know that supply is a desperate problem which will not be fixed overnight. What we can do is improve the conditions of leaseholders, and, first and foremost, ensure that the private rented sector is at the forefront of our minds.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): I want to say a few words about new clause 42. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) for her support, and I entirely agree with what she said earlier.

The Minister will be pleased to know that I do not intend to press the new clause to a vote. However, I seek a reassurance from him that the issue will be properly reviewed in 2017—as has been proposed by Ministers previously—and that, if necessary, the Government will seek to amend the law if that is required.

Given that the Bill concerns housing, there have of course been discussions about home ownership, whether freehold or leasehold, and about tenancies, whether in the private or the social housing sector. There are also different types of housing: detached houses, terraced houses and flats. However, we should not forget the mobile park home. A surprising number of people own such accommodation in constituencies all over the country, and certainly in mine. Under the current law, a site owner can charge a commission of up to 10% on the sale price, which I think many people—including politicians and, especially, mobile park home owners—consider to be grossly unfair and, indeed, outdated. I acknowledge that the commission was reduced from 15% to 10%, so there was an acceptance that it was an issue, but that was back in 1983. I think that we live in a very different world now, and that the 10% commission should be reviewed.

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Mrs Main: There are other exorbitant charges. For instance, mobile owners buy their fuel through site owners, who can rack up charges all over the place. This is just another opportunity to milk some rather poorer members of the community.

John Stevenson: That is an interesting point. Although I have concentrated on just one aspect of mobile homes, I think that the 2017 review should consider the issue holistically, across the board, rather than focusing on one or two specific issues.

My new clause would reduce the maximum commission to 5%. I accept that there are counter-arguments. Site owners suggest that the commission forms part of their investment calculations or business models, and can make their businesses viable. They also suggest that a reduction in the commission could result in increased pitch fees or service charges. The Select Committee considered the issue during the last Parliament, and concluded that the commission should remain at 10%. I would ask, however, whether it is right for site owners to benefit from an increase in value when they have not actually done anything. I do not believe that it is.

There are a number of possible solutions. We could gradually reduce the percentage—by, say, 1% a year over five years—to allow site owners to adjust their business models. The commission could be charged only on the difference between the original purchase price and the subsequent sale price. Alternatively, there could be a straight reduction from 10% to 5%, as my new clause suggests. I accept that there could potentially be an increase in pitch fees, but arguably that would reflect the true costs of running a site. Site owners cannot guarantee that they will receive income from any sales because they do not know when those sales will occur.

The new clause is intended to achieve three things. It is intended to highlight the issue in the House, and to remind Ministers that there are different forms of home ownership and this is one of them. Most important of all, however, I seek confirmation from the Minister that the Government will properly and comprehensively review the issue of mobile park homes in 2017, as previously promised.

4.30 pm

Sir Peter Bottomley: May I pick up the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) on the need for fair outcomes, and may I tie that to the excellent speech by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), with whom I co-operate on leasehold issues? His new clause 3 talks about commonhold. The Act on that of about 13 years ago did not work. I ask the Government to make sure that by the time this Bill gets considered in the House of Lords, they will put in the simple changes that will make commonhold accessible, before we even get to the point made in the hon. Gentleman’s amendment, which is to transfer all long leaseholds to commonhold.

Barry Gardiner: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that had commonhold been part of the conditions for developers, with all new build having to be sold as commonhold in 2002, that would have effected the step-change many of us wanted to see at the time?

Sir Peter Bottomley: Yes. I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that.

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Each Member of this House has on average 9,000 leasehold residential properties in their constituency; that is 15,000 constituents. In London, over half the homes owned are leasehold. Over half the homes in the Government drive for more property will be leasehold. They should be commonhold.

The scandals attached to this situation are set out in my contribution to the Queen’s Speech debate in June 2014, when I listed the kind of things that the Tchenguiz interest got involved in, when the old Peverel and Cirrus call button scandal was going on. I make this warning to those who are accumulating bunches of freeholds because they think they are going to get an extraordinary return from charges other than simple ground rent: do not expect that to be left alone by Parliament or the courts. I hope that by the time this Bill gets into the House of Lords, the Law Commission proposals on event fees can be put into legislation, rather than having to wait two or three years for another Bill to come by, and I make this point: any kind of unfair clause should be declared ineffective by the property chambers, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court because for too long bad freeholders, sometimes with incompetent managing agents, have exploited leaseholders, whether previously from council homes or in the private sector.

I say to McCarthy and Stone, who have come back and may go for a flotation this year, “You try to explain why it is that so many retirement properties that come on to the second-hand market do so at a far lower value than when they were first sold.” Solicitors should warn their clients about the problem. We can solve the problem so that McCarthy and Stone, and our constituents, can have a better future.

Jake Berry: I want to speak briefly to new clause 3 proposed by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick). I have some concerns about it and I guess that it was tabled to probe this issue, which is extremely important and on which I think the Government should look to act.

Long leases in the residential sector have been one of the most established forms of tenure in our country for literally hundreds of years. I can remember when I was training as a property lawyer and looked at the leases of the Grosvenor Estate, for which 999 years was the average lease term. I remember thinking, “I’ll be long dead before anyone has to consider this returning to the freeholder.” I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests: I own some properties on long leaseholds.

It is important to note that although there are problems with long leaseholds and that form of tenure, a lot of them tend to be London-related. In my constituency, leasehold is often a way of protecting areas by stopping inappropriate development, such as the clauses in leases that prevent the development of gardens without the landlord’s or freeholder’s consent. They are an important form of tenure and one that the new clause would abolish by 2020, which probably illustrates its probing nature.

Long leaseholds have advantages, particularly in the area of estate management, where I have personal experience of them. In my professional life, I have set up many estates to be run for the benefit of tenants. They have involved important cost-sharing measures relating

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to matters such as estate roads and the maintenance of the outside of buildings. It is important that we preserve such measures in any changes that we make to this historic and important form of tenure. That said, the spirit of the proposal seems to relate to estates with service charges and rent charges, and to ask what more the Government can do to ensure that the interests of tenants are protected. This is an important area and I hope that the Government will explore it in more detail in the months and years to come.

A particular issue with leasehold properties occurs when the management company no longer exists. This is a big issue on housing estates. I can think of one in Irwell Vale in my constituency—unfortunately, it was severely flooded on Boxing day—in which the road attached to the estate has been passed to a freehold company. Despite the tenants and other residents of the estate being more than prepared to contribute to the maintenance of the road, it can no longer be maintained. The Government should certainly look into the circumstances in which tenants want to take on the management of an estate. There should be specific provisions for when some freeholders have exercised their rights under leasehold enfranchisement legislation and taken away the landlord’s interest but some leaseholders are still involved. This is a complicated area of the law, but these are not issues that can be resolved by the proposals in new clause 3. I will not support the new clause, but it would be worth while for the Government to introduce some proposals in this important area.

I was working in a law firm when the then Labour Government introduced their proposals on commonhold, and I remember there being lots of seminars on the subject to teach us how they were going to affect property law. It never really happened, however. No one really embraced commonhold. In my view, that was not because we did not tie it to a compunction for a development to offer commonhold, but because it sought to solve problems that often did not exist. A much better route for dealing with problems relating to long leaseholds would be to give the tenants real rights and powers against the freeholder, rather than creating an entire new form of tenure.

Barry Gardiner: I recall the situation that the hon. Gentleman describes, because I was sponsoring the whole drive for leasehold reform at that stage, along with the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley). The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) talks about giving tenants rights against the freeholder, but in some situations a head leaseholder might be putting through vicious surcharges that are completely uncalled for and charging rack rates for administering the issuing of legal letters. I do not really feel that his suggestion would present a solution, but I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) for tabling his new clause. It is vital that the Government take this issue seriously. There has always been cross-party consensus that something needs to be done, and it is high time that the Government took action.

Jake Berry: I would like to disagree with the hon. Gentleman at length, but time will not allow me to do so. Leasehold tenure solves problems that cannot be solved by commonhold, including problems relating to

12 Jan 2016 : Column 784

the flying freehold, which can be dealt with only by a lease. I do not believe that commonhold is the answer to that problem. Whatever the answer is, however, if we were to create a new form of tenure, of which we expected commonhold to become a part, we would have to ensure that mortgage companies were happy with it. In my career, I have seen lots of properties with a market value of zero because they were unmortgageable owing to problems with flying freeholds.

Finally, I want to comment on the proposals on the electrical safety certificate set out in new clause 53, tabled by Labour Members. It is a good idea for the Government to find ways of ensuring that landlords prioritise electrical safety, but I do not agree with the proposals in the new clause. Subsection 2(b) seems to propose that a landlord would have to provide a certificate every 12 months. That is too onerous and a longer period should be proposed.

It is important that landlords take electrical safety very seriously, but we should also be looking at ways in which we can get owner-occupiers to take it more seriously. We lived in the house I was brought up in for 35 years and when we put the light on to go into the cellar it would flicker on and off. We had had no electrical work done for 35 years, yet my parents were amazed when the people who bought the house from them, when they eventually moved, said that it needed rewiring. Anything that can encourage people to look at what is in place in their own home, not just rented properties, would be advisable. I do not think it is necessary to have primary legislation to deal with this, because I know from properties I let that estate agents often insist that landlords provide an electrical safety certificate. If they do not insist on it, often the insurance company will insist on an up-to-date electrical safety certificate for a proper buy-to-let commercial insurance policy. I am not sure that we need primary legislation, but I would encourage people to look at this.

Finally, I reiterate my call on the Government to push forward with the excellent family-friendly tenancy, which is sat there waiting for Ministers to embrace it to ensure that families are protected. All the other provisions in this Bill relating to the private rented sector would be so much more welcome if people could have more security of tenure in private rented leases.

Mr Marcus Jones: Given the time available, I will move straight on to dealing with the proposals. On the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), I recognise the comments that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) made about the benefits of commonhold tenure, but there are important differences between it and leasehold. For example, a different statutory framework of rights and protections is in place, and my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) eloquently explained his experience of some of the challenges in that area. That is partly why commonhold is, and was intended to be, a voluntary alternative to long leasehold ownership, and we believe it should remain so, without forcing commonhold on those who may not wish it. Notwithstanding that, I hear what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I know that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West have discussed this matter with the Minister for Housing and Planning. He will keep it under review and will continue the dialogue with them.

12 Jan 2016 : Column 785

I understand the arguments put forward in new clause 4, but I do not believe it to be necessary. It would conflict with last week’s deregulatory clauses. Housing association tenants already have a number of ways to scrutinise their landlords and hold them to account, in addition to the Homes and Communities Agency’s regulatory standards. They may, for example, refer complaints to the housing ombudsman, who may also, along with tenants, raise specific concerns with the regulator, who has the power to initiate a statutory inquiry. That can lead to interventions in housing association management structures or to forced mergers or takeovers where the boards are not fit for purpose.

Barry Gardiner: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: I need to make progress because I have not got long. I am glad to say that the regulator rarely needs to use such powers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) tabled new clause 42, and I can understand why he has raised this issue, as has my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), and why mobile home owners object to a 10% commission on the sale of a home. Commission is one of the legitimate income streams for park home businesses. If the commission was reduced or abolished, there would need to be a compensatory increase in pitch fees to cover the shortfall in income, a move which many park home residents would not support. Following its inquiry into the park homes sector in 2012, the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government held an inquiry into the park homes sector just before legislation was passed, recommending that the right of site owners to receive up to 10% commission from the sale of a home should remain in place. The coalition Government agreed with the finding of the Select Committee, and this Government’s view remains unchanged. That said, the Mobile Homes Act 2013 introduced substantial changes to the sector and it is important that the new measures are given time to have an impact. We will therefore review the effectiveness of the legislation in 2017. I can reassure colleagues that a working group is already in place, and I am sure that they will await its recommendations with bated breath and anticipation.

4.45 pm

On the amendments tabled by the Opposition Front Bench, new clause 52 will result in unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords, which will deter further investment and push up rents for tenants. Of course we believe that all homes should be of a decent standard, and that all tenants should have a safe place in which to live regardless of tenure, but local authorities already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality and unsafe accommodation, and we expect them to use them.

The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) will know that we debated the provisions in new clause 53 extensively in Committee. I confirmed then that the Government would carry out the necessary research to understand what, if any, legislative changes and amendments for such requirements in the private rented sector should be introduced. On that basis, the amendment was withdrawn. To update her, let me say that officials are now undertaking research and have spoken already to Shelter and Electrical Safety First. Given the time, I do not want to cover any further ground on that new clause in this debate.

12 Jan 2016 : Column 786

I understand where the hon. Lady is coming from with regard to new clause 54. Local housing authorities have the power to apply additional licensing schemes to cover smaller HMOs. We issued a technical discussion paper recently seeking views on whether mandatory licences should be extended to smaller HMOs. We hope to publish a response to that in the spring, and I do not want to pre-empt that by amending the Bill at this point.

Similarly on amendment 99, a local authority is already required to have regard to a range of factors when deciding whether to grant a licence. They include whether the applicant has contravened any provision of the law relating to housing or of landlord and tenant law. That would include all offences leading to inclusion in the database.

With regard to new clause 47, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) for bringing such matters to the attention of the House. I know that he has raised them on a number of occasions, and that he has had discussions with my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning, who I know is considering what he has said extremely carefully, and will, I understand, meet him and the Country Land and Business Association.

Robert Neill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his response, and will of course not press my amendment. I hope that we can now go forward with some constructive discussions.

Mr Jones: In the same spirit let me say that I am extremely glad to hear that. I am sure that the Minister for Housing and Planning will continue to work with my hon. Friend, as he has undertaken to do.

In bringing this stage of the Bill to a close, I wish to say that it has been a pleasure to support my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning in helping the House to scrutinise the Bill and the amendments that we have tabled to improve it. I trust that the House will look favourably on the remaining Government amendments, and that Members who have spoken to other amendments will not push them to a Division.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 62 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 52

Implied term of fitness for human habitation in residential lettings

‘(1) Section 8 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (c.70) is amended as follows.

(2) Leave out subsection (3) and insert—

“(3) Subject to subsection (7), this section applies to any tenancy or licence under which a dwelling house is let wholly or mainly for human habitation.”

(3) Leave out subsections (4) to (6).

(4) After subsection (3), insert—

“(3ZA) Subsection 1 does not apply where the condition of the dwelling-house or common parts is due to—

(a) a breach by the tenant of the duty to use the dwelling-house in a tenant-like manner, or often express term of the tenancy to the same effect; or

12 Jan 2016 : Column 787

(b) damage by fire, flood, tempest or other natural cause or inevitable accident.

(3ZB) Subsection 1 shall not require the landlord or licensor of the dwelling house to carry out works—

(a) which would contravene any statutory obligation or restriction; or

(b) which require the consent of a superior landlord, provided that such consent has been refused and the landlord or licensor has no right of action on the basis that such refusal of consent is unreasonable.

(3ZC) Any provision of or relating to a tenancy or licence is void insofar as it purports—

(a) to exclude or limit the obligations of the landlord or licensor under this section; or

(b) to permit any forfeiture or impose on the tenant or licensee any penalty or disadvantage in the event of his seeking to enforce the obligation under subsection (1).

(3ZD) Regulations may make provision for the exclusion of certain classes of letting from subsection (1).

(3ZE) In this section “house” has the same meaning as “dwelling house” and includes—

(a) a part of a house, and

(b) any yard, garden, outhouses and appurtenances belonging to the house or usually enjoyed with it.”

(5) In section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, after “waste water”, insert—

(6) Regulations may make provision for guidance as to the operation of the matters set out in section 10 which are relevant to the assessment of fitness for human habitation.

(7) This section shall come into force—

(a) in England at the end of the period of three months from the date on which this Act receives Royal Assent and shall apply to all tenancies licences and agreements for letting made on or after that date; and

(b) in Wales on a date to be appointed by the Welsh Ministers.”’—(Teresa Pearce.)

This new Clause would place a duty on landlords to ensure that their properties are fit for habitation when let and remain fit during the course of the tenancy.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The House divided:

Ayes 219, Noes 312.

Division No. 162]


4.49 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brake, rh Tom

Brown, Lyn

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burgon, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Cox, Jo

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Farron, Tim

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gardiner, Barry

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harpham, Harry

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

Lynch, Holly

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McKinnell, Catherine

McMahon, Jim

Miliband, rh Edward

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mulholland, Greg

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Saville Roberts, Liz

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

West, Catherine

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Dame Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Judith Cummins


Sue Hayman


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Sir Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Cameron, rh Mr David

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Elliott, Tom

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kinahan, Danny

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pincher, Christopher

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Sarah Newton


Simon Kirby

Question accordingly negatived.

12 Jan 2016 : Column 788

12 Jan 2016 : Column 789

12 Jan 2016 : Column 790

12 Jan 2016 : Column 791

5.3 pm

More than four hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, 5 January).

The Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Schedule 6

Financial penalty as alternative to prosecution under Housing Act 2004

Amendments made: 27, page 103, line 30, leave out paragraphs 2 to 5 and insert—

“2 In section 30 (offence of failing to comply with improvement notice), after subsection (6) insert—

(7) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(8) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

3 In section 72 (offences in relation to licensing of HMOs), after subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(7B) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

12 Jan 2016 : Column 792

4 In section 95 (offences in relation to licensing of houses under Part 3), after subsection (6) insert—

“(6A) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(6B) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5 In section 139 (overcrowding notices), after subsection (9) insert—

“(10) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(11) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5A In section 234 (management regulations in respect of HMOs), after subsection (5) insert—

“(6) See also section 249A (financial penalties as alternative to prosecution for certain housing offences in England).

(7) If a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty on a person under section 249A in respect of conduct amounting to an offence under this section the person may not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the conduct.”

5B After section 249 insert—“

Financial penalties as an alternative to prosecution

249A Financial penalties for certain housing offences in England

‘(1) The local housing authority may impose a financial penalty on a person if satisfied that the person’s conduct amounts to a relevant housing offence in respect of premises in England.

(2) In this section “relevant housing offence” means an offence under—

(a) section 30 (failure to comply with improvement notice),

(b) section 72 (licensing of HMOs),

(c) section 95 (licensing of houses under Part 3),

(d) section 139(7) (failure to comply with overcrowding notice), or

(e) section 234 (management regulations in respect of HMOs).

(3) Only one financial penalty under this section may be imposed on a person in respect of the same conduct.

(4) The amount of a financial penalty imposed under this section is to be determined by the local housing authority, but must not be more than £30,000.

(5) The local housing authority may not impose a financial penalty in respect of any conduct amounting to a relevant housing offence if—

(a) the person has been convicted of the offence in respect of that conduct, or

(b) criminal proceedings for the offence have been instituted against the person in respect of the conduct and the proceedings have not been concluded.

(6) Schedule 13A deals with—

(a) the procedure for imposing financial penalties,

(b) appeals against financial penalties,

(c) enforcement of financial penalties, and

(d) guidance in respect of financial penalties.

(7) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about how local housing authorities are to deal with financial penalties recovered.

12 Jan 2016 : Column 793

(8) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend the amount specified in subsection (4) to reflect changes in the value of money.

(9) For the purposes of this section a person’s conduct includes a failure to act.””

This amendment has two substantive effects as well as making certain drafting changes. The substantive effects are that: (1) an offence under section 234 of the Housing Act 2004 is added to the list of offences in respect of which a financial penalty may be imposed; (2) the maximum financial penalties available are increased.

Amendment 28, page 107, line 2, leave out “2A” and insert “13A”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

Amendment 29, page 107, line 6, leave out “30A, 72A, 95A or 144A” and insert “249A”

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

Amendment 30, page 109, line 13, leave out “30A, 72A, 95A or 144A” and insert “249A” —(Mr Marcus Jones.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 27.

Mr Speaker: Consideration completed. I will now suspend the House for about five minutes in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung two minutes before the House resumes. Following my certification, the Government will be tabling the appropriate consent motions, copies of which will be available shortly in the Vote Office and will be distributed by Doorkeepers.

5.4 pm

Sitting suspended.

5.11 pm

On resuming—

Mr Speaker: I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order, and that I have made no change to the provisional certificate issued yesterday evening. Copies of my final certificate will be made available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website.

Under Standing Order No. 83M, consent motions are therefore required for the Bill to proceed. Copies of the motions are available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website, and they have been made available to Members in the Chamber. Does the Minister intend to move the consent motions?

Brandon Lewis: Yes.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Thank goodness.

Mr Speaker: I am always happy to hear the Minister’s voice, but a nod suffices for the purpose.

Under Standing Order No. 83M(4), the House must forthwith resolve itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) and thereafter into the Legislative Grand Committee (England).

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) (Standing Order No. 83M).

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[Mrs Eleanor Laing in the Chair]

5.13 pm

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mrs Eleanor Laing): There will now be a joint debate on the consent motion for England and Wales and the consent motion for England. I remind hon. Members that, although all Members may speak in the debate, if there are Divisions, only Members representing constituencies in England and Wales may vote on the consent motion for England and Wales, and only Members representing constituencies in England may vote on the consent motion for England.

I call the Minister to move the consent motion for England and Wales, and I remind the Minister that, under Standing Order No. 83M(4), on moving the consent motion for England and Wales, he must also inform the Committee of the terms of the consent motion for England.

Brandon Lewis: I beg to move,

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and Wales and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 97, 98 and 120 to 150 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 7 and 10 to 15 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England and Wales

Amendments 180 and 181 made in Committee to Clause 71 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 76 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108);

Amendments 127 and 128 made in Committee to Clause 85 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75), which is Clause 92 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108).

The First Deputy Chairman: With this we shall consider the consent motion to be moved in the Legislative Grand Committee (England):

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and certified amendments made by the House to the Bill:

Clauses and schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 1 to 63, 65 to 77, 79 to 81, 83 to 85, 87 to 95 and 99 to 119 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

Schedules 1 to 6, 8 and 9 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) including any amendments made on Report;

New Clauses NC6, NC7, NC29 to NC31, NC35, NC37, NC43 to NC46, NC59, NC60 and NC62 on Report;

New Schedules NS1, NS4 and NS5 on Report;

Amendments certified under Standing Order No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England

The omission in Committee of Clauses 35 and 36 of the Bill as introduced (Bill 75);

Amendment 4 on Report, resulting in Clause 78 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 111 on Report, resulting in Clause 64 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill;

Amendment 129 on Report, resulting in Clause 86 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 108) being left out of the Bill.

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Brandon Lewis: The importance of what we are doing in the Chamber today is shown by the fact that so many of my hon. Friends are here to see us delivering on a manifesto pledge. I am just sorry that Labour Members do not think it is so important to do what is right for our country and its constitution.

As you have outlined, Mrs Laing, I am also required under Standing Orders to inform the Committee that I intend to move a further consent motion relating to England at the end of this debate. I will, however, address both consent motions now.

I draw the Committee’s attention to my written ministerial statement of 7 January, which informed the House that I had placed in the Library my Department’s analysis on the application of Standing Order No. 83L in respect of Government amendments tabled on Report.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): Since so many of the clauses in the Bill have been designated as applying exclusively to England or, indeed, to England and Wales, will the Minister help the House—particularly Members who are excluded from the vote on the consent motion, if there is one—by stating what evidence he has that not a single person from Northern Ireland is a landlord in England and Wales and therefore that there is no particular Northern Ireland interest in the Bill?

Brandon Lewis: I will come on to that specific point in a few moments. I would, however, point out that the hon. Lady and other hon. Members were able to speak on Second Reading and on Report both last Tuesday—through to the early hours—and this afternoon, and that we touched on that very point.

I want to thank Mr Speaker for his careful consideration and certification of the Bill. I also pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House and of members of the Procedure Committee for getting us to this historic inaugural Legislative Grand Committee. I want to put on the record my thanks to the Clerks of the House for their, as ever, excellent service and advice to Mr Speaker and to my Department.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Many Conservative Members welcome some modest justice for England at last. We welcome the fact that at a time when Scotland is being given so many powers of self-government, we now have a small voice and a vote. May I encourage the Minister to go further and make sure that we have justice over money and over law making for England in order to have a happy Union?

Brandon Lewis: As ever, my right hon. Friend tempts me to go just a little beyond the Housing and Planning Bill, but I understand his point.

As we all know, the history of this House goes before us, so it is quite rare to see a true first. I am very proud to be the first Minister to stand at the Dispatch Box to address the very first Legislative Grand Committees for England and Wales and for England only.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House noted when he opened the debate on Standing Order No. 83L back in October, the process we will now follow has created

“fairer Parliaments and fairer Assemblies”,

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giving, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) has just mentioned,

“the English a strong voice on English matters without…excluding MPs from other parts of the United Kingdom from participation in this House.” —[Official Report, 22 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 1175.]

The purpose of the Legislative Grand Committee is to allow English and Welsh MPs either to consent to or to veto the clauses of and the amendments made to the Bill. I will not detail the territorial extent of each clause and amendment, but I again draw right hon. and hon. Members’ attention to my written ministerial statement of 7 January.

When we discussed the principle of English votes for English laws in the House, we heard fears that it would or could create a class system within the Chamber. As the first Minister to lead a Bill through this process, I am happy to report that that has not been my experience. The debates in the Public Bill Committee and on Report clearly demonstrate that the majority of Members of Parliament support the measures in the Bill. For example, although we did not have the pleasure of their company in the Public Bill Committee, the hon. Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) and for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) ensured that constituents in Scotland were represented during our debate both on Second Reading and on Report. As well as the hon. Lady’s questions about the territorial extent of our new duty on public sector organisations to dispose of land, we have also discussed the implications of landlords or housing associations who may have properties in the devolved Administrations, as well as in England.

My Department is responsible for local authorities, communities and housing associations in England. In many ways, we are the Department for England. It is therefore fitting that the majority of the clauses in Mr Speaker’s certification before this very first Committee relate to England only. However, thanks to Members on both sides of the Chamber, I am satisfied that the House has considered the Bill’s implications for the whole of our United Kingdom.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): My hon. Friend has pointed out that the Bill relates to England only. May I put it on the record that it is absolutely right that only English MPs should vote for it? As one of those who will be excluded, I applaud the English MPs who have decided that their constituents should not have their legislation affected by people coming from Wales, Scotland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Brandon Lewis: My hon. Friend makes a good point that relates to the consent motion on English-only matters. Obviously, some parts of the Bill cover Wales as well and we will deal with those separately this afternoon.

My noble Friend Baroness Williams of Trafford will continue to ensure that any cross border issues are carefully considered in the other place.

This is an historic Bill in many ways. It will put homeownership within the grasp of generations that have only dreamed for many years that it could be possible. It will deliver a planning system that is the envy of the world. It will get Britain building again. By being the first Bill to go through this procedure, it goes further. I am proud of the steps that this elected Government are taking through this legislation to deliver our manifesto commitments.

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Clive Efford: Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the removal of secure tenancies from council tenants was not in the Conservative manifesto and that the Government have no mandate to introduce that abolition? Council tenants were not warned by the Conservatives that they would impose this on them.

Brandon Lewis: We had that debate in Committee and earlier today on Report. The hon. Gentleman should look carefully at the Bill because it does deliver our manifesto commitments. It will deliver homeownership to a whole new generation of people by bringing forward starter homes and it will extend homeownership to 1.3 million people who have been locked out of it. His party has fought to prevent both proposals at every opportunity, and disgracefully so.

Clive Efford rose

Brandon Lewis: I will not take any more interventions on the Bill. This is about English votes for English laws.

I am proud of the steps the Government have taken to bring fairness to the devolution settlement. In that spirit, I ask this inaugural Legislative Grand Committee to consent to the certified clauses and schedules of the Housing and Planning Bill and the certified amendments made by the House to the Bill.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mrs Eleanor Laing): I call John Healey.

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): No, I do not want to speak.

The First Deputy Chairman: I do not call John Healey. I beg the right hon. Gentleman’s pardon. I call Pete Wishart.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I am grateful, Mrs Laing.

So, this is what an English Parliament looks like. It looks pretty much like the unitary UK Parliament to me. This is a remarkable day. It is worth noting how significant and historic this is. For the first time in the history of this House and this Parliament, Members of Parliament will be banned from participating in Divisions of this House, based on nationality and the geographic location of their constituencies.

Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire) (Con): The hon. Gentleman’s constituents in Perth and North Perthshire, who may well have voted for him, surely see this as a very fair motion to safeguard the United Kingdom by having a fair devolution settlement.

Pete Wishart: The hon. Gentleman tempts me. I will say a couple of things to him. First, I was elected on the same basis as him. My constituents expect me to participate in all debates and all legislation in this House. I am now denied that opportunity. Secondly, if he thinks that going down such a route as this, whereby Scottish Members of Parliament are banned from voting on certain issues that are considered English only, will save his Union, he has another think coming. Nothing has infuriated the Scottish people more than the measures on English votes for English laws.

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John Redwood rose

Pete Wishart: How can I resist the right hon. Gentleman?

John Redwood: If the hon. Gentleman is such a passionate believer in us settling everything together, why am I not even allowed to express a view, let alone vote, on local government, health and education in his constituency?

Pete Wishart: The right hon. Gentleman just does not understand, so I will try to explain it to him patiently once again. We live in the United Kingdom. There is asymmetric devolution within the United Kingdom. We have a Parliament in Scotland that determines and decides the very issues—[Interruption.]

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The hon. Gentleman is a Member of this House and has a right to be heard. He will be heard.

Pete Wishart: I did not know whether I was a Member of this House or an international observer, but I will take the initial one as your favour—thank you, Mrs Laing.

Let me say to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) that we have a Parliament in Scotland that determines and decides on these matters—he is right; we do that in Scotland. We do those things in this House too, but what he wants, and what has been created today, is a quasi-English Parliament within the confines of the unitary Parliament of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. That is the nub of the issue, and that is why this first meeting today is so significant and remarkable.

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): May I remind the hon. Gentleman that what we have before us is a consent mechanism for Members from England, or England and Wales, to agree to measures that apply only to us? On Third Reading, if the hon. Gentleman fundamentally disagrees with something in the Bill, he will have a vote to vote against it.

Pete Wishart: Let me tell the hon. Gentleman what it feels like to us. What it feels like to me, and to my right hon. and hon. Friends, is that we are on the wrong side of a banishment and a bar that denies us our right as legitimately elected Members of Parliament from participating fully in the House today. That is what is being done; that is the key point, which people still fail to grasp. What has been done with this Legislative Grand Committee is the creation of two types of Member of Parliament of this House. That is the issue that we object to and find so difficult.

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): While Conservative Members find their handkerchiefs to mop their tears, will the hon. Gentleman say why, if he and his party feel so passionately about this Bill, there were no votes from SNP Members on Second Reading or Report?

Pete Wishart: We have no great interest in this Bill. [Interruption.] I do not know why that comes as a surprise to the hon. Gentleman. Let me say it again, in case he missed it: we have no great interest in this Bill. He is right to say that we did not vote on Second Reading or any of the proceedings that we were allowed to

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participate in, because we respect the right of English Members of Parliament to determine issues on that basis—of course that is their right.

Simon Hoare rose

Pete Wishart: I am not giving way again—I am answering the hon. Gentleman’s point.

That is why we took no interest and stayed away on those Divisions. However, the creation of this Legislative Grand Committee—again, I am astounded that Conservative Members do not understand this—has created two classes of Members of Parliament of this House. One class is able to participate in every Division in this House, as we are about to see, while other Members of Parliament, such as my hon. Friends on the Benches behind me, are not able to participate in all parts of the legislation. That is what hon. Members have done.

Several hon. Members rose

Pete Wishart: Far too many Members wish to intervene, so I will say no to them all.

Even if I wanted a say in this Bill, I would be barred from doing so. I am not allowed to vote on this. I am not even allowed to call a Division, and if I attempted to do so, you would quite rightly rule me out of order, Mrs Laing, according to the standards of the House. If I were to vote in the Division I have no idea what would happen. I presume that the Serjeant at Arms would come chasing after me with his little sword, telling me that I cannot participate in this vote, and he would chase me out. That is what he should do; that is what his job would be.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con) rose

Pete Wishart: I will give way to the hon. Lady, because I like her.

5.30 pm

Dr Wollaston: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He will know I have a great deal of respect for him. He talks about how this feels for him and his colleagues. How it feels for my constituents in south Devon is that an historic injustice has been righted. I put it to him that they feel they have been under-represented, and that we care about our constituents in this House, not ourselves.

Pete Wishart: Here is something for the hon. Lady, for whom I have a great deal of respect, to consider: how about if we all retain equality in the House of Commons? How about we retain the same rights and privileges, just like we did just a few short weeks ago? The hon. Lady and all her hon. Friends obviously feel very strongly about this. I understand the passion of English Members of Parliament on this issue. How about they create a Parliament? How about designing a Parliament in their own image, where they can look after these issues like we do in the Scottish Parliament? Why do not they not have a Parliament, one that does not necessarily sit in this House but in one of the other great cities throughout the United Kingdom, where democracy could be seen in action? How about that as a

12 Jan 2016 : Column 800

solution? We could then come back together to this House as equal Members and consider the great reserved issues of foreign affairs, defence and international relations. That is how most other nations do it. It is called federalism and it seems to work quite adequately in most other nations.

What Conservative Members have done today is create this absolute mess—a bourach guddle. Nobody even understands how it works! We have just rung the Division bells to suspend proceedings, so that the Speaker can scurry off and consult the Clerks to decide whether it is necessary to recertify certain pieces of proposed legislation. This is what has happened to the business of this great Parliament. This is what we have resorted to today.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con) rose

Pete Wishart: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, who I also like very much.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I think he has actually got it fundamentally wrong. Two tiers of Members of Parliament have not been created by the mechanism that has been used. By using Standing Orders, which can be changed by all Members of Parliament, and by this being a Grand Committee—we see where the Mace is—and not the House sitting in full session, the rights of every individual Member remain intact. That is crucially important.

Pete Wishart: In all candour, I have to say that that is not what it feels like on this side of the House. If a Division is called, the hon. Gentleman will be able to vote and express his view as a legitimately elected Member of Parliament. My hon. Friends and I, as equally legitimate Members of Parliament recently elected at the general election, will not be allowed to vote. We will be banned. We will be barred. We will be effectively banished from that process.

Mrs Main: Does the hon. Gentleman really expect taxpayers to pay for another Parliament just because his feelings are somehow being assaulted? I do not how he could explain that extra layer of bureaucracy and cost to the British taxpayer, but maybe spending other people’s money is how they like to do things in Scotland.

Pete Wishart: I do not know whether I am grateful or not to the hon. Lady for her intervention. I think she is saying that she wants great dollops of cake so she can spend her time eating it and having a singularly English Parliament. Let us just use the House of Commons to accommodate that. The thing that has been created here is a quasi-English Parliament, but his Parliament belongs to me as much as to her. It belongs to the Scottish people as much as to the English people. What has happened today with the Legislative Grand Committee is that she will be able to represent her constituents in all Divisions, but my hon. Friends and I will not.