High Streets

Jacob Young Excerpts
Tuesday 14th May 2024

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Written Statements
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Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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Today, we publish the response to the high street rental auction consultation that was launched last year. We sought views on matters relating to the delivery of high street rental auctions and, today, I am pleased to announce the findings. This is a significant step in responding to landlords, tenants, industry bodies and local authorities, clarifying the design of this important new power.

Among a number of topics, the consultation response outlines how minimum energy efficiency standards will operate in relation to a high street rental auction, and responds to questions raised on the new permitted development right which will be introduced. This is a significant milestone prior to the publication of guidance and the launch of high street rental auctions.

The high street is the beating heart of every town and city. A thriving high street is the centre of a community, a place for socialising, shopping and doing business. They are a snapshot of a place, signalling how well the regional economy is faring. However, our high streets are facing tough times, and when retail and hospitality businesses are under stress the blight of vacant buildings tends to follow. Empty properties lead to a vicious spiral of decline, where fewer shops lead to less visitors, and our once vibrant town centres dwindle.

The Government are working hard to revive the nation’s high streets. We designed high street rental auctions to allow all councils to level up economic growth in their communities and improve pride in place. High street rental auctions, which will apply to England only, are part of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 which will allow local authorities to require landlords to let their empty high street shops through an auction, achieving a rental lease of between one and five years for a suitable high street use. This permissive power will be further articulated in secondary legislation, with the powers coming into force this summer.

I will be writing to local authorities and sector stakeholders reminding them of the introduction of this new power and the significant role it will play in tackling vacancy.

I will place a copy of the consultation response in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS461]

Draft Combined Authorities (Finance) (Amendment) Regulations 2024

Jacob Young Excerpts
Monday 29th April 2024

(3 weeks, 2 days ago)

General Committees
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Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Combined Authorities (Finance) (Amendment) Regulations 2024.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Nokes. The draft regulations before us today will, if approved by Parliament, complete the legislative framework for the funding of new combined county authorities. In recent months, similar secondary legislation has been made to provide rules for the election and by-election of combined county authority Mayors, and for their overview, scrutiny and audit committees. Today’s statutory instrument is the last key building block in the architecture of legislation for combined county authorities as a category. The regulations will provide for Mayors of the new combined county authorities to set budgets for the costs of their functions, and raise a precept for these costs, subject to consideration and a vote by the combined county authority. They also provide for a mayoral fund.

As with preceding legislation, we are following the principle that provision for combined county authorities should be the same as that for combined authorities. The regulations do this by amending the Combined Authorities (Finance) Order 2017, to apply its measures to combined county authorities. The 2017 order provides for an effective process, aligned with the wider local government budgeting timetables, including robust arrangements for scrutiny and challenge of the Mayor’s spending proposals by the combined authority. The effect of that application to combined county authorities is essentially identical, and is as follows.

First, there is a requirement for combined county authority Mayors to submit by 1 February a draft budget to their combined county authority for consideration. Secondly, the combined county authority must recommend any amendments to the draft budget by 8 February, and the Mayor must consider these amendments and respond with a further proposal if they choose to do so. Ultimately, the constituent members of the combined county authority may impose amendments to the Mayor’s draft budget, if supported by a significant—usually two thirds—majority. In the absence of this majority, the Mayor’s proposals are deemed to be accepted by the combined county authority. The combined county authority must set a mayoral budget on the Mayor’s behalf, if the Mayor fails to submit a draft for consideration by 1 February.

The Mayor may fund mayoral functions through a precept. The standard local government finance regime applies so that precepts must be issued by 1 March. Mayoral costs are itemised separately on council tax bills. Where the Mayor exercises police and crime functions, those are also listed separately. To further aid transparency, the Mayor is required to maintain a fund in relation to the receipts and expenses of the Mayor’s functions, excluding police and crime commissioner functions, for which there is a separate police fund.

Before introducing the original 2017 order for combined authorities, the Government undertook informal consultation with officers of constituent councils of current and prospective combined authorities, including via a working group of senior finance officers. Our inquiries with finance officers of existing mayoral combined authorities during the development of these draft regulations found no operational difficulties with the existing set-up. The regulations therefore simply extend the application of the existing provision in line with the broader policy of parity between combined county authorities and combined authorities.

Liam Fox Portrait Sir Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con)
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This delegated legislation provides for a precept to be set. Can the Minister tell me what the mechanism is by which an upper limit for such a precept would be set, so that councils or Governments of a different colour would not necessarily be given a mechanism to fleece taxpayers?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I will come back to my right hon. Friend on that point, but I would say that Conservative Mayors charge zero mayoral precept, whether that is Ben Houchen in the Tees Valley or Andy Street in the West Midlands. Contrast that with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, for example.

Richard Bacon Portrait Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con)
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I would just like to pursue the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Sir Liam Fox). The issue is not what a particularly good Mayor from a good political party would do. These regulations relate to constitutional changes, which I know because the explanatory memorandum says so. It says that the combined county authorities have a slightly different constitutional structure from the combined authority model before, being designed to be better suited to non-urban areas—quite how, it does not say. Surely the issue is, regarding my right hon. Friend’s question, how are limits put upon the power to raise tax? If there are not any, can we be told, now, during this Committee?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I shall make sure that I give my hon. Friend the answer to his question by the end of this Committee. However, to conclude my speech, these regulations will apply the regime, which is already in place for combined authorities, to combined county authorities to support their Mayors to fund their functions through a precept, where they chose to do so. They prescribe a tried-and-tested budget-setting process that allows for effective challenge and robust and transparent scrutiny by the combined county authority. I commend them to the Committee.

--- Later in debate ---
Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton for expressing support for the regulations.

On the questions from my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset and my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk, there is no upper limit. The mayoral precept is not subject to the same referendum principles as council tax. As I said, however, mayoral budgets are subject to challenge and amendment by a significant majority on the combined authority or, in these cases, the combined county authority. I would suggest that local decision makers are best placed to determine what is right for their local area. As I outlined, it is made clear on council tax bills what the mayoral precept costs taxpayers, so taxpayers can hold the Mayor to account for charging an unwieldy mayoral precept in those circumstances.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con)
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Would my hon. Friend consider changing that in future, particularly for the new county devolution deals? Unlike most prior devolution deals, they have not been accompanied by any local government reform, so our council tax payers could be paying precepts for the town, the district, the county, the PCC and the new combined authority. Value for money is questionable in such a case.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I understand my right hon. Friend’s point. I am happy to take that away and look at whether something similar could be established for mayoral precepts. It is not currently the Government’s intention to do so, but he makes a valid point.

On the point made by the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton, combined county authorities are a direct result of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023. This statutory instrument is required by that Act. He asked why it has taken so long, but the Act was passed only at the back end of last year in direct response to the request of counties to have a devolution model that fitted them, so I would say that his frustration at the time that it has taken to get to this point is misplaced.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
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I do not particularly disagree, but I would ask for an acceptance that there is a natural tension in the devolution programme between the need to have devolution for a purpose, such as jobs, housing, the economy or transport, and the need to represent local identity. The Government have struggled in the past where there have been conflicting identities—for example, where counties with distinct identities have been forced to merge to create a combined county authority with a Mayor who did not fit. Part of the delay that we have seen comes from trying to get that through but it not working.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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As the hon. Gentleman says, we have been flexible in our approach. We have the traditional combined authority model that previous combined authorities have adopted. On Thursday, we will see a new Mayor for York and North Yorkshire elected using the traditional combined authority model, as well as a new Mayor for the East Midlands being elected using the new combined county authority model. We have listened, we have been flexible, and we have met local needs as and when they have arisen.

In conclusion, the regulations are essential to ensure a robust legislative framework for combined county authority mayoral finances for budget-setting, precepting and the mayoral fund. I commend them to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) for his leadership on this very important and worthwhile private Member’s Bill, and for his unwavering commitment and efforts to champion our high streets.

This has been a fantastic debate. We have learnt a lot about the heritage of different high streets: Thomas Brown Street, in the constituency of the hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon), was named in honour of the world war two hero who retrieved the enigma codes at sea; the 800-year-old high street in Basingstoke was the home of the author Jane Austen; the 126 years of Rowells in Stapleford; and the most famous high street in the world, Oxford Street, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken). We also heard about the towns fund in Broxtowe, which has given £21.1 million to Stapleford, and the transforming cities fund in North Tyneside, which has contributed towards its new transport hub and piazza. Sadly, we did not hear from the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) about the levelling-up fund, which has given £13.4 million to transform Ellesmere Port town centre.

As we heard in the debate, everyone here recognises that healthy and vibrant high streets are vital not only for local economies, but for the quality of life and pride of local communities. However, the challenges currently faced by our high streets are significant, whether from the lingering impact of covid-19 on footfall or the ever-present challenge of competition with online retailers. While some have been able to weather the storm, many have struggled. The Government are committed to working with local communities to help turn that around. The Bill will play an important role in that mission, alongside other Government interventions, as part of our broader strategy to help high streets reinvent themselves. They include injecting billions of pounds into high street regeneration and renewal, including the long-term plan for towns, which will invest £1.5 billion across 75 towns to give them the tools they need to build a better future for local people.

One of the towns selected as part of our long-term plan for towns is Canvey, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris). Canvey, like all the 75 towns in our long-term plan for towns, will receive £20 million over the next 10 years to invest in local people’s priorities. I take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend, who has for so long championed the people of Canvey Island. Without her advocacy and brilliant campaigning, we would not be able to give them that £20 million cash.

Our long-term plan for towns will sit alongside high street rental auctions, which will require landlords to rent out vacant commercial properties to willing tenants such as local businesses. That will help to create lively high streets with increased footfall. Of course, no high street is the same, with local areas best placed to find solutions to local problems, which is why strong local partnerships on the ground are key to successful regeneration. We want to support councils, local businesses and local communities to give them the resources and powers they need. I think of high streets in my own constituency, such as those in Redcar, Marske, Eston or Normanby.

Normanby is probably the smallest of the towns I have just mentioned. At the moment, it is beset with roadworks that are expected to continue for around three months. That is already having a huge impact on local businesses. It is important, obviously, that when local authorities plan such major roadworks, they give serious consideration to the damage they can do to local businesses. Mr Deputy Speaker, I cannot mention Normanby High Street without thinking of the late Kenny Surtees, who for as long I can remember had a card shop on that street. I think he would have had a few choice things to say to the local Teesside Gazette about how those roadworks are going.

The Government recognise that many local authorities have regeneration strategies already in place, but the Bill will make the designation of high streets and the creation of high street improvement plans a statutory requirement. That will ensure local authorities not only prioritise the health of their high streets, but use their available powers to drive forward improvements, such as section 215 powers, to require land to be cleaned up when it is detracting from the surroundings.

The Bill will require each local authority to designate at least one high street or network of streets in their area. Local authorities will be able to designate as many high streets as they want. However, the Government have committed to funding the costs of up to three high street designations. Any designation beyond that number would have to be funded by the local authority itself. Local authorities will then have to create plans for the designated high streets, which should be reviewed at least every five years. Local residents, businesses, community organisations and others, including Members of Parliament, will rightly have a real say on the action plans, and the local authority will be accountable for delivering them.

Accordingly, the Bill will require local authorities to consult on which high streets are chosen. Different areas will have different challenges, so the improvements we can expect to see will vary. The focus in one area might be on tackling antisocial behaviour—again, something we have heard about in the debate, and we have heard some fantastic examples of what police and crime commissioners are doing to tackle it—while in others it could be creating more green spaces to rest and socialise. What is crucial, however, is flexibility to ensure that local authorities have the agency to enact the best change for their area.

The Bill will also create a duty on local authorities to take into account high street improvement plans when exercising their planning functions. That will support the already strong protections for mixed-use high streets and the complementing tools available to authorities, such as changes to the use classes order in 2020 to create the commercial, business and service use class—class E.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank hon. Members for their suggestions for strengthening the Bill during its passage through the House. We worked with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South to make some small amendments in Committee so that the Bill is as effective as possible. Those changes included ensuring that local authorities can make as many high street designations as they wish, with the Government funding up to three of those designations. That will give local authorities with a large number of high streets the flexibility needed to designate more than three, if they desire. I note my hon. Friend’s point that Stoke-on-Trent is a city of six towns, so there will clearly be more than three high streets that the local authority might want to intervene in.

We have also updated the wording of the Bill to allow for the designation of a network of streets, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston, as the Government recognise that high streets are complex ecosystems that are not always limited to one street, but could be made up of a network of connecting streets.

Additionally, the Bill now sets out that local authorities must review their improvement plans at least once in every five-year period, with guidance to follow up on the circumstances in which local authorities should consider undertaking a review, such as where the area of the designated high street is expanded or reduced. That will ensure that plans remain meaningful and relevant. Following Royal Assent, we will issue guidance on developing the improvement plans.

The Government recognise that local authorities are best placed to know what their high street improvement plans should cover. Officials in my Department have already begun outreach with local authorities on the guidance and will continue to work with local authorities and other stakeholders as the guidance is developed. It is important that the plans are not left to gather dust but remain constantly relevant, as the hon. Gentleman reminded us. That is why the Bill requires local authorities to update their plans at least every five years, which we believe strikes the right balance between giving the plans enough time to have a meaningful effect and ensuring that they remain relevant to the reinvigoration of our high streets. We recognise that the measures should not come at the cost of overburdening councils that are already under pressure. As I have already mentioned, we will ensure that local authorities have the extra funding they need to be able to deliver the measures in the Bill effectively.

I am grateful that proposed new clause 1 was not moved on Report, as it would have removed all permitted development rights, not just those that change the use from commercial to residential lettings. I appreciate that that is a challenge in the constituency of the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper), and I note that the LGA has echoed her concerns. I will meet both of them as the Bill progresses to understand the issues further and see what can be done to mitigate them.

As already stated, the Bill forms one part of a broader strategy to help regenerate and level up our high streets. Part of the solution is funding, with the Government investing billions of pounds into helping high streets navigate the difficult environment they face. The latest of that funding is the £1.5 billion long-term plan for towns, which will power ambitious regeneration projects over the next decade.

However, it is not simply about funding. With the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, we gave local authorities new powers to reduce vacancies in their high streets through high street rental auctions. That will help to create lively high streets with increased footfall and activity that attracts people and businesses, increases pride in place and avoids the long-term presence of vacancies.

The development of strong partnerships, be it between national and local government, or between local businesses and communities, will be vital to the regeneration of our high streets. One such partnership is the high street accelerator programme, which I have the pleasure of leading and which will bring together businesses, residents and community organisations, with their local authority, to develop a long-term vision for revitalising town centres.

In addition, we have introduced significant planning flexibilities so that local decision makers can better manage the use of buildings in town centres and ensure that high streets remain places of commercial and social activity. That includes by converting class E properties; allowing a change of use without the need for individual planning applications; and using permitted development rights to introduce movable structures in pubs, cafés and restaurants, and to allow local authorities to hold outdoor markets. Permitted development also provides freedom to change more premises from commercial to residential use, so that much-needed new homes can be created in high streets and town centres, providing a mix of users, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster led on during her time as leader of Westminster City Council.

Alongside that, as I have mentioned, we are investing in our high streets across the country, with £15 billion of levelling-up funding since 2019 going to communities the length and breadth of the UK, including in Hyndburn and Haslingden, where my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) has secured more than £50 million for her area. She has undoubtedly been the best MP that her constituency has had. I was pleased to visit it recently to see the historic town hall and the plans for the market hall, where, before serving as the MP, she used to have a stall, if I recall correctly. She is a brilliant champion for her constituents and I am pleased that we are able to help support her area.

Another area we are supporting is Nuneaton, which is also significantly benefiting from Government funding. I know that is particularly welcomed by the Deputy Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones). It is receiving a town deal worth more than £23 million and future high streets funding of more than £13 million, thanks to his advocacy. As part of that funding, we will help to build Grayson Place, which is named after Nuneaton’s famous Larry Grayson. His famous phrase, “Shut that door!”, has a particular significance for me as the MP for Redcar. This is disputed by the Deputy Chief Whip, but the first time Larry Grayson said that was when he was doing a tour in Redcar and the wind from the seafront kept banging the door on Redcar pier—he said “Shut that door!” and so it became. I hope that the good people of Nuneaton will use their vote next week to back their fantastic Conservative council to finish the job and continue to improve their area.

Of course, I could not omit to mention Stoke-on-Trent, which has had not one, not two, but three successful bids for levelling-up funding, as well as a levelling-up partnership, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South is keen to see investment in Longton. Stoke-on-Trent has never had such a focus from any Government, and I credit him for all his campaigning as a great MP over the past seven years.

To conclude, this Government are fully committed to breathing new life into our high streets, whether that is through the long-term plan for towns, the high street rental auctions or this Bill. Like my hon. Friend, I appreciate just how much this matters to the communities that we represent. Again, I offer my gratitude to him for introducing this Bill, to the Members who have supported it throughout the entirety of its Commons stages, to the Clerks and to my fab team of officials, who have helped with the Bill. I also pay tribute to the many fantastic council officers, who are often unnamed and unknown but who work day in, day out to improve their communities. The Government are backing this Bill and backing our high streets to navigate this period of change and emerge stronger for it. I look forward to supporting the Bill from the sidelines as it progresses through the other place and eagerly anticipate its becoming law.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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If there is a Division later, perhaps after 10 minutes I should say, in Larry Grayson’s memory, “Lock that door!” I might give it a go. [Laughter.] With the leave of the House, I call Jack Brereton.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 30—Assessment of operation of possession process.

Government new clause 13— Sections 1 and 2: effect of superior leases.

Government new clause 14—Powers of Secretary of State in connection with Chapter 1.

Government new clause 16—Power of Welsh Ministers to extend protection to persons of other descriptions.

Government new clause 17—Power of Secretary of State to extend protection to persons of other descriptions: Wales.

Government new clause 18—Prohibition of discrimination relating to children or benefits status: Scotland.

Government new clause 19—Terms in standard securities relating to children or benefits status: Scotland.

Government new clause 20—Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status: Scotland.

Government new clause 21—Power of the Scottish Ministers to extend protection to persons of other descriptions.

Government new clause 22—Interpretation of Chapter 4A.

Government new clause 23—Power of Scottish Ministers to make consequential provision.

Government new clause 24—Power of Secretary of State to extend protection to persons of other descriptions: Scotland.

Government new clause 25—Landlord redress schemes: no Crown status.

Government new clause 26—Other amendments in connection with landlord redress schemes.

Government new clause 27—Commencement.

Government new clause 28—Application of Chapter 1 of Part 1.

Government new clause 29—Assured agricultural occupancies: opting out etc.

Government new clause 31—Local Commissioners’ investigation of complaints by persons who are not tenants.

Government new clause 32—Unlicensed HMOs and houses: offences.

Government new clause 33—Service of improvement notices on landlords and licensors.

Government new clause 34—Rent repayment orders: liability of directors etc.

Government new clause 35—Report on certain matters relating to tenancy reform.

Government new clause 36—Report on provision of residential tenancies.

New clause 1—Repeal of requirement for selective licensing

“Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004 (Selective licensing of other residential accommodation) is repealed.”

This new clause would remove the ability of local housing authorities to designate areas as subject to selective licensing.

New clause 2—Expanding the remit of rent repayment orders to company directors

“In section 249A of the Housing Act 2004, after subsection (1) insert—

‘(1A) If a local housing authority believes that a relevant housing offence has been committed by a body corporate, it may impose a financial penalty on—

(a) a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or

(b) a person purporting to act in such a capacity,

if it is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the offence was committed with the consent or connivance of that person, or that the offence was attributable to any neglect on the part of that person.’”

This new clause would enable local housing authorities to impose financial penalties on certain individuals when it believes a housing offence has been committed by a body corporate.

New clause 3—Evidence to consider when granting possession order for anti-social behaviour

“In section 9A of the 1988 Act, after subsection (2) insert—

‘(3) In considering evidence of conduct the court may consider evidence provided by way of hearsay and that evidence will be admissible without notice or permission of the court notwithstanding any rule of the court or the common law.’”

This new clause would enable courts to consider hearsay evidence during the course of proceedings for possession on the grounds of anti-social behaviour.

New clause 5—Review of changes to grounds for possession

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within two years of the date of Royal Assent to this Act, conduct and lay before Parliament a review of the grounds for possession in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988, as amended by this Act.

(2) The review must include—

(a) an assessment of the effectiveness of the new or amended grounds for possession set out in Schedule 1 of this Act in securing evictions from properties;

(b) an assessment of the impact on the security of tenure of tenants as a result of the use of the new or amended grounds for possession set out in Schedule 1 of this Act;

(c) a report on the use of enforcement action in relation to the new or amended grounds for possession set out in Schedule 1 of this Act;

(d) an assessment of the effectiveness of the grounds for possession listed in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 in securing evictions from properties that remain unamended by Schedule 1 of this Act.

(3) The review under subsection (1) must make such recommendations as, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, are necessary in the light of the findings of the review.”

This new clause would require the Government to publish a review of the impact of the amended grounds for possession within two years of the Act coming into force.

New clause 6—Requirement to state the amount of rent when advertising residential premises—

“(1) A landlord must not advertise or otherwise offer a tenancy of residential premises unless the amount of rent is stated in the advertisement or offer.

(2) A letting agent acting on behalf of a landlord must not advertise or otherwise offer a tenancy of residential premises unless the amount of rent is stated in the advertisement or offer.”

This new clause would require landlords or persons acting on their behalf to state the proposed rent payable in the advertisement for the premises.

New clause 7—Not inviting or encouraging bids for rent—

“(1) A landlord must not invite or encourage a prospective tenant or any other person to offer to pay an amount of rent for residential premises that exceeds the amount of rent stated as part of the advertisement or offer of the premises as required by section [requirement to state the amount of rent when advertising residential premises].

(2) A letting agent acting on behalf of a landlord must not invite or encourage a prospective tenant or any other person to offer to pay an amount of rent for residential premises that exceeds the amount of rent stated as part of the advertisement or offer of the premises as required by section [requirement to state the amount of rent when advertising residential premises].

(3) Subsection (1) does not prohibit a prospective tenant or other person from offering to pay an amount that exceeds the stated amount of rent.”

This new clause would prevent landlords or persons acting on their behalf from inviting or encouraging bids that exceed the amount stated as part of the advertisement or offer of the premises.

New clause 8—Limit on amount of rent that a residential landlord can request in advance—

“In Schedule 1 to the Tenant Fees Act 2019, after paragraph 1(8) insert—

‘(9) Where rent is payable in advance, the maximum that may be charged is equivalent to the amount specified in paragraph 2(3).’”

This new clause would ensure that the maximum amount of rent that could be lawfully requested by a residential landlord in advance of a tenancy commencing would be 5 weeks’ rent for tenancies of less than £50,000 per annum and to 6 weeks’ rent for tenancies over £50,000 per annum.

New clause 10—Extension of Awaab’s law to the private rented sector—

“(1) Section 10A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is amended as follows.

(2) Omit subsections (1)(b) and (6).

(3) In subsection (7), omit the definitions of ‘low-cost home ownership accommodation’ and ‘social housing.’”

This new clause would require private landlords to deal with hazards affecting their properties.

New clause 11—Ending blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits—

“The Secretary of State may, by regulation, specify behaviour which, for the purposes of Part 4, Equality Act 2010, shall be considered unlawful discrimination unless the contrary is shown.”

This new clause would ensure that blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits are presumed to be unlawful discrimination unless proved otherwise.

New clause 12—Discrimination relating to care-leaver status—

“(1) The provisions of this section apply to individuals who are—

(a) a relevant child as defined by section 23A of the Children’s Act 1989; or

(b) a former relevant child as defined by section 23C of the Children’s Act 1989.

(2) A relevant person must not, in relation to a dwelling that is to be let on a relevant tenancy—

(a) on the basis that the individual meets either of the criteria set out in subsection (1), prevent the person from—

(i) enquiring whether the dwelling is available for let,

(ii) accessing information about the dwelling,

(iii) viewing the dwelling in order to consider whether to seek to rent it,

(iv) entering into a tenancy of the dwelling, or

(b) apply a provision, criterion or practice in order to make care leavers less likely to enter into a tenancy of the dwelling than people who are not care leavers.

(3) Subsection (2) does not apply if the relevant person can show that the prospective landlord of the dwelling, or a person who would be a superior landlord in relation to the dwelling, is insured under a contract of insurance—

(a) to which section 33 does not apply, and

(b) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy from being a care-leaver,

and the conduct is a means of preventing the prospective landlord from breaching that term.

(4) Conduct does not breach the prohibition in subsection (2) if it consists only of—

(a) one or more of the following things done by a person who does nothing in relation to the dwelling that is not mentioned in this paragraph—

(i) publishing advertisements or disseminating information;

(ii) providing a means by which a prospective landlord can communicate directly with a prospective tenant;

(iii) providing a means by which a prospective tenant can communicate directly with a prospective landlord, or

(b) things of a description, or things done by a person of a description, specified for the purposes of this section in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”

New clause 37—Extension of rent repayment orders—

“(1) In Section 40(3) of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, at end of table insert—

8

Housing Act 1988

Section 16D, 16E

Duties on landlords and agents as regards information provision and prohibition on reletting

9

Renters (Reform) Act 2024

Sections 48

Landlord redress provisions

10

Renters (Reform) Act 2024

Section 69

Active landlord database entry”.



This new clause would ensure that rent repayment orders can be made to the landlord under the relevant tenancy in any instance where a financial penalty or offence is made relating to clauses 11, 12, 48 or 69 of the Bill.

New clause 38—Continuing ability of tenants to sublet—

“(1) In any lease of residential property which is not by virtue of this Act an assured tenancy—

(a) any provision which restricts subletting to assured shorthold tenancies shall be interpreted to refer to assured tenancies; and

(b) any provision which would make the grant of an assured tenancy a breach of that provision shall be void unless—

(i) that provision is an absolute prohibition against subletting; or

(ii) the lease has less than seven years unexpired.

(2) Any provision which requires the consent of a landlord or other person to the grant of a subtenancy shall be interpreted so that consent may not be refused on the grounds that the subtenancy is an assured tenancy or on the grounds of any statutory provision of that tenancy.”

This new clause seeks to ensure that persons who are tenants under a long lease can continue to sublet residential premises in circumstances where they were previously permitted to do so under the long lease on the basis that the sublease was an assured shorthold tenancy.

New clause 39—Payment of relocation payment to tenant—

“In the Housing Act 1988, after section 11 insert—

‘11A Payment of relocation payment in certain cases

(1) Where a landlord issues a notice of proceedings for possession of a dwelling-house on any of the grounds in Schedule 2 to this Act (except Ground 7A or Ground 14) within two years of the start of the tenancy, the landlord shall pay a relocation payment to the tenant.

(2) A relocation payment shall be an amount equivalent to—

(a) one month’s rent in the case of an order for possession on Ground 1 or Ground 1A;

(b) two months’ rent in the case of an order for possession on any other ground.

(3) The relocation payment shall be made no less than two weeks before the date specified in the notice of proceedings for possession.’”

This new clause would require landlords to pay a “relocation payment” to tenants when evicting them from their property within two years of the start of the tenancy, except on the grounds of crime and antisocial behaviour.

New clause 40—Guarantor to have no further liability following death of tenant—

“(1) Subject to subsection (3), a guarantee agreement relating to a relevant tenancy ceases to have effect upon the death of a relevant tenant.

(2) Upon the death of a relevant tenant the guarantor in respect of a relevant tenancy shall incur no further liability in relation to matters arising under the tenancy.

(3) Nothing in this section shall affect the liability of a guarantor in relation to matters which arose before the date of the death of the relevant tenant.

(4) In assessing any liability under subsection (3), account shall be taken of any tenancy deposit paid in respect of the tenancy.

(5) Where there is more than one relevant tenant, this section shall apply only upon the death of both or all of the tenants.

(6) In this section—

‘guarantor’ means a person who enters into a guarantee agreement in relation to a relevant tenancy;

‘guarantee agreement’ means a contractual promise (whether incorporated in or separate from the tenancy agreement) to indemnify or compensate a relevant person in respect of an obligation under the tenancy if the tenant fails to perform or comply with the obligation;

‘relevant tenancy’ has the same meaning as in section 36, and ‘relevant tenant’ is to be interpreted accordingly;

‘tenancy deposit’ has the same meaning as in section 212(8) of the Housing Act 2004.”

This new clause would mean that guarantors in relation to a tenancy have no liability for future matters arising from the tenancy after the tenant has died.

New clause 41—Prohibition of requirement for rent guarantors—

“(1) A relevant person may not, in relation to a dwelling that is to be let on a relevant tenancy—

(a) require the provision of a rental guarantor or an equivalent upfront payment;

(b) let the relevant tenancy on the basis of being offered a rental guarantor or an equivalent payment by a prospective tenant.

(2) For the purposes of this section, ‘relevant person’ and ‘relevant tenancy’ have the meanings given in section 36 of this Act.”

This new clause would prohibit landlords from requiring prospective tenants to provide rent guarantors or equivalent upfront payments, and prohibit them from prioritising prospective tenants who offer them over those who do not.

Government amendments 200 to 205 and 57.

Amendment 14, in clause 3, page 3, leave out lines 21 to 23 and insert—

“1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2ZA, 2ZB, 4A, 6, 6A

four months beginning with the date of service of the notice

5, 5A, 5B, 5C, 5D, 7, 9

two months beginning with the date of service of the notice”.



Government amendments 56, 58 and 59.

Amendment 15, page 3, line 33, at end insert—

“(4) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a review of the changes to grounds for possession made under this Act within two years of the date of Royal Assent.”

Government amendment 206.

Amendment 21, in clause 6, page 7, line 4, at end insert—

“13B Recovery of rent

(1) Any increased rent which is paid otherwise than in accordance with section 13 or section 13A is recoverable from the landlord by the tenant as a debt claim in the courts.

(2) The Secretary of State may, by regulations, provide for such claims to be recoverable by proceedings in the First-Tier Tribunal, rather than the courts.”

This amendment would ensure that in instances where a private landlord increases the rent without issuing a section 13 or section 13A notice the tenant can seek to recover costs through a debt claim in the court. It also provides the government with the power by regulation for such claims to be recoverable by tribunal.

Government amendment 207.

Amendment 261, in clause 7, page 8, line 2, at end insert—

“(c) in paragraph (c), at end insert—

‘and,

(d) that it was financed or part-financed by a means-tested grant’.”

This amendment will prevent rents from being increased by a tribunal as a consequence of improvements to properties that have been financed or part-financed by a means-tested grant.

Amendment 22, page 8, line 9, at end insert—

“(7A) After subsection (8) insert—

‘(8A) Where a notice under section 13(2) has been referred to the appropriate tribunal then, unless the landlord and the tenant otherwise agree, the rent determined by the appropriate tribunal (subject, in a case where subsection (5) above applies, to the addition of the appropriate amount in respect of rates) shall be the same or below the rent specified in the section 13 notice and the rent as determined by the tribunal shall only become payable once the decision of the tribunal has become final.

(8B) A decision becomes final only on the latest of—

(a) the determination of any appeal;

(b) if earlier, on the expiry of the time for bringing a subsequent appeal (if any); or

(c) by its being abandoned or otherwise ceasing to have effect.’”

This amendment would ensure that where a rent assessment is carried out by a tribunal, the rent subsequently determined by that tribunal cannot be higher than that originally requested by a landlord in a section 13 notice.

Amendment 13, page 8, line 20, at end insert—

“(c) no more than the rent proposed by the landlord in the notice served on the tenant under section 13 of the 1988 Act.”

This amendment would mean that the rent payable after a tribunal determination can be no higher than the rent initially proposed by the landlord in the notice served on the tenant.

Amendment 23, page 9, line 5, at end insert

“which must be no earlier than two months following the date of determination”.

This amendment would ensure that in cases of undue hardship tenants would have a minimum of two months from the date of determination before a new rent became payable.

Amendment 24, page 9, line 6, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

“(4A) A date specified under subsection (3)(b) must be no earlier than the date on which the determination becomes final, with a decision only becoming final on the latest of—

(a) the determination of any appeal;

(b) if earlier, on the expiry of the time for bringing a subsequent appeal (if any); or

(c) by its being abandoned or otherwise ceasing to have effect.”

This amendment would remove the requirement for a date determined by a court for rent to become payable in cases of undue hardship to not be later than the date of the determination.

Amendment 31, in clause 9, page 9, line 29, leave out “42nd” and insert “28th”.

This amendment would ensure a landlord gives or refuses consent in writing within 28 days of the request being made.

Amendment 32, page 9, line 30, at and insert—

“(d) the landlord may not review or withdraw consent once given.”

This amendment ensures that a tenant may keep a pet for the duration of their tenancy once consent has been given.

Government amendments 60, 208, 61, 209, 63, 210, 62 and 211.

Amendment 38, in clause 12, page 14, line 18, at end insert—

“(g) unreasonably refuse home adaptations for the purposes of a disabled person's access to or usage of the home.”

Amendment 11, page 14, line 21, after “dwelling-house” insert

“or the short-term let or holiday let”.

This amendment would clarify that a landlord cannot let a property as a short-term or holiday let for at least three months after taking ownership of the property for the purposes of them or their family occupying it.

Government amendment 64.

Amendment 1, page 14, line 26, after “dwelling-house” insert

“or the short-term let or holiday let”.

This amendment would clarify that a landlord cannot let a property as a short-term or holiday let for at least three months after taking ownership of the property for the purposes of them or their family occupying it.

Government amendment 65.

Amendment 2, page 14, line 28, after “dwelling-house” insert

“or the short-term let or holiday let”.

This amendment would clarify that a landlord cannot let a property as a short-term or holiday let for at least three months after taking ownership of the property for the purposes of them or their family occupying it.

Government amendments 66, 67 and 212.

Amendment 3, page 15, line 15, leave out “three” and insert “six”.

This amendment would increase the time which must elapse between a landlord taking ownership of a property for the purposes of them or their family occupying it and making the property available to rent from three months to six months.

Amendment 35, page 15, line 15, leave out “three” and insert “twelve”.

This amendment would extend the restricted period in relation to a tenancy in relation to which Ground 1 or 1A in Schedule 2 is relied on from three to twelve months.

Amendment 36, page 15, line 17, leave out subsection (b).

This amendment would ensure that the restricted period is as specified in (8)(a) in all circumstances.

Government amendments 68 to 75, 213, 214, 195, 215 to 217 and 76.

Amendment 6, in clause 17, page 25, line 18, after “given” insert

“not earlier than four months after a tenant first occupies the premises and”.

This amendment would mean that tenants cannot give notice to quit until they have resided in the property for at least four months.

Government amendments 77 to 80, 218 to 220 and 81 to 85.

Amendment 43, in clause 29, page 32, line 23, leave out “section 27 or 28” and insert

“sections 27, 28 or [Discrimination relating to care-leaver status]”.

Amendment 44, in clause 30, page 34, line 21, at end insert—

“(5) A term of a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) prohibiting the tenant from being—

(a) a relevant child as defined by section 23A of the Children’s Act 1989; or

(b) a former relevant child as defined by section 23C of the Children’s Act 1989.

(6) Subsection (5) does not apply if the landlord or a superior landlord is insured under a contract of insurance—

(a) to which section 33 does not apply, and

(b) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit the tenant from being a relevant or former relevant child.

and the provision in the tenancy is a means of preventing the insured from breaching that term.”

Amendment 45, in clause 31, page 35, line 12, at end insert—

“(4A) A term of a lease of premises that consist of or include a dwelling is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring a tenant under that or any inferior lease to prohibit a sub-tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from prohibiting the tenant from being—

(a) a relevant child as defined by section 23A of the Children’s Act 1989; or

(b) a former relevant child as defined by section 23C of the Children’s Act 1989.

(4B) Subsection (4A) does not apply if the landlord under the lease or a superior landlord is insured under a contract of insurance—

(a) to which section 33 does not apply, and

(b) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit a sub-tenant from being a relevant or former relevant child.

and the provision in the lease is a means of preventing the insured from breaching that term.”

Amendment 46, in clause 32, page 35, line 30, at end insert—

“(3) A term of a mortgage of premises that consist of or include a dwelling is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring a mortgagor to prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from being—

(a) a relevant child as defined by section 23A of the Children’s Act 1989; or

(b) a former relevant child as defined by section 23C of the Children’s Act 1989.”

Amendment 47, in clause 33, page 36, line 2, at end insert—

“(2A) A term of a contract of insurance to which this section applies is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from being—

(a) a relevant child as defined by section 23A of the Children’s Act 1989; or

(b) a former relevant child as defined by section 23C of the Children’s Act 1989.”

Government amendments 86 to 113, 115 and 116.

Government motion to transfer clause 40.

Government amendment 117 and 118.

Amendment 39, in clause 42, page 54, line 1, after “section 1” insert—

“(a) omit subsection (3);

(b) in subsection (3A) omit ‘the landlord of a residential occupier or an agent of the landlord’ and insert ‘a person’;

(c) after subsection (3B) insert—

‘(3BA) For the purposes of this subsection, services which are reasonably required for the occupation of the premises as a household include, but are not limited to—

(a) water,

(b) gas,

(c) electricity, and

(d) electronic communications networks and services’;

(d) omit subsection (3C);

(e)”.

This amendment would amend the offence of unlawful eviction and harassment of the occupier of a property under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 so that the offence can be committed by any person (not just the landlord of their agent), and define the services with which interference can constitute an offence.

Amendment 40, page 55, line 2, at end insert—

“(3A) In section 3A, after subsection (9) insert—

‘(10) In any proceedings under any of the relevant statutory provisions in this Act, it shall be for the accused to prove that the tenancy or licence is excluded by virtue of subsections (2) or (3) above.’

(3B) After section 4 insert—

‘4A Rebuttable presumption of landlord

(1) In any action under Part 1 of this Act (including where a Financial Penalty Notice (FPN) is issued) there is a rebuttable presumption that the person to whom the residential occupier pays rent or other payments in respect of occupation of a dwelling is the landlord of the property.’

(3C) After section 7 insert—

‘7A Notification by the police

(1) Where a constable has reasonable cause to believe that an offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 has occurred the constable must within 24 hours notify the authority named in section 6 as responsible for prosecution of offences in the area with the following information—

(a) the address where the alleged offence has happened;

(b) if known, the name of the landlord;

(c) if known, the name of the residential occupier;

(d) any facts known to the constable about the alleged offence.

(2) A police force has the power to assist an authority included in section 6 in the exercise of their functions under this Act.’”

This amendment would amend proceedings for offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, so that it must be proved that a tenancy is an excluded tenancy, that there is a rebuttable presumption that the person to whom a tenant paid their rent is the landlord, and that the police must inform the relevant local authority when they suspect offences under the 1977 Act to have been committed.

Government amendments 119 to 121.

Amendment 4, in clause 45, page 59, line 36, after “landlord” insert

“who is not otherwise a member of an independent redress scheme approved by the Secretary of State.”

This amendment would only require a residential landlord to be a member of the landlord redress scheme introduced by Clause 45 if they are not already a member of another independent redress scheme which has been approved by the Secretary of State.

Government amendments 122 to 134.

Amendment 27, in clause 53, page 67, line 18, at end insert—

“(ba) details, which may include copies, of all notices seeking possession served by the residential landlord in respect of each dwelling of which he is the landlord, and”.

This amendment would require the database to record details of notices of possession served by a landlord in respect of each dwelling of which they are the landlord.

Amendment 42, in clause 55, page 68, line 27, at end insert—

“(ba) require the provision of information about the accessibility of the dwelling,”.

Amendment 12, page 68, line 33, at end insert—

“(2A) Regulations under subsection (1) must require—

(a) the energy performance certificate relating to a registrable dwelling to be provided to the database operator; and

(b) details of the energy performance certificate to be recorded in a dwelling entry in the database.”

This amendment would require Energy Performance Certificates in relation to relevant dwellings to be provided to the database operator and details to be recorded in the database.

Government amendments 135 to 137.

Amendment 37, in clause 76, page 84, line 34, at end insert—

“(e) any accommodation which is provided by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to service individuals and families.”

This amendment would ensure that accommodation rented from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation by service individuals and families is subject to the Decent Homes Standard.

Amendment 7, page 85, line 26, leave out clause 78.

Amendment 41, in clause 78, page 86, line 4, after “(order),” insert—

“(a) in subsection (1), before ‘The First-tier Tribunal’ insert ‘Apart from offences for which subsection (1A) applies,’;

(b) after subsection (1) insert—

‘(1A) The First-tier Tribunal may make a rent repayment order if satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the landlord has committed an offence under section 1(2), (3) or (3A) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (whether or not the landlord has been convicted).’;

(c) at the end of subsection (3) insert—

‘(d) section 46A (where an order is made against more than one landlord or there has been a previous order)’;

(d)”.

This amendment would lower the level of proof required in proceedings for a Rent Repayment Order in the First-tier Tribunal to the balance of probabilities for offences under the 1977 Act.

Government amendments 196, 138 and 139, 197, 140 to 144, 221, 145 and 146, 222 and 147 to 151.

Amendment 8, in clause 116, page 111, line 19, leave out “subsection (2)” and insert “subsections (1A) and (2)”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 9.

Amendment 28, page 111, line 19, at end insert

“, save that section 2(b) comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed only to the extent that it repeals section 21 of the Housing Act 1988; such repeal will not affect the validity of any notices served under that provision on or before the day on which this Act is passed and the provisions of that section will continue to apply to any claims issued in respect of such a notice”.

This amendment would ensure that the abolition of section 21 evictions would come into force on Royal Assent, with saving provisions for any notices served before that date.

Amendment 9, page 111, line 19, at end insert—

“(1A) Prior to laying regulations under subsection (1) the Secretary of State must commission and publish a review into the operation of residential possession proceedings in the County Courts used by residential landlords and tenants and the enforcement of possession orders.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish a review of the operation of residential possession proceedings before determining the commencement date for the provisions of Chapter 1 of Part 1.

Government amendments 152 to 157.

Government new schedule 1—Amendments in connection with landlord redress schemes.

Government amendment 223.

Amendment 48, in schedule 1, page 114, line 10, leave out “6 months” and insert “one year”.

Amendment 255, page 114, line 10, leave out “6 months” and insert “2 years”.

Amendments 255 and 256 would prohibit evictions under grounds 1 and 1A within two years of the beginning of a tenancy.

Government amendment 224.

Amendment 49, page 115, line 8, leave out “6 months” and insert “one year”.

Amendment 256, page 115, line 8, leave out “6 months” and insert “2 years”.

Amendments 255 and 256 would prohibit evictions under grounds 1 and 1A within two years of the beginning of a tenancy.

Government amendment 225.

Amendment 33, page 115, line 32, leave out sub-paragraph (a) and insert—

“(a) the landlord who is seeking possession intends to—

(i) sell a freehold or leasehold interest in the dwelling-house or to grant a lease of the dwelling-house for a term certain of more than 21 years which is not terminable before the end of that term by notice given by or to the landlord;

(ii) re-let the dwelling house to another tenant pursuant to a Rent to Buy Agreement; or

(iii) retain and convert the home to rented housing on either an affordable or market rent basis;”.

This amendment covers the full scope of reasons that private registered providers of social housing may wish to use the new ground for possession 1B for to offer properties to another tenant.

Government amendment 158.

Amendment 34, page 116, line 12, leave out sub-paragraph (b) and insert—

“(b) allows the tenant to rent the dwelling house for a period stated in the agreement, which is not less than 5 years or, for dwelling houses in Greater London, 10 years from the beginning of the tenancy so as to enable the tenant to save for a deposit and, over time, purchase their first home.”

This amendment would ensure the wording for the definition of “Rent to Buy Agreement” at sub-paragraph (b) is an accurate reflection of the Rent to Buy product and is in line with the Capital Funding Guide.

Amendment 29, page 116, line 29, after “tenancy” insert

“(including any tenancy at will or other tenancy arising on expiry of a fixed-term lease)”.

This amendment would extend Ground 2ZA to apply in a situation where a tenancy at will may arise.

Government amendments 159 and 160.

Amendment 30, page 117, line 5, at end insert—

“(c) where the intermediate landlord serves notice under this Ground, the intermediate landlord shall be deemed to continue to hold sufficient interest in the dwelling-house to maintain a continuing right to possession until conclusion of any possession proceedings.”

This amendment would ensure that an intermediate landlord retains possession of the property and remains as the landlord of the occupying tenant until the conclusion of possession proceedings.

Government amendments 161, 163 and 164, and 226.

Amendment 5, page 118, line 4, after “HMO” insert

“or is occupied by one or two students”.

This amendment would mean that the ground for possession for student properties could also be used for properties occupied by just one or two students, which would not otherwise be considered as HMOs.

Government amendments 227 to 229.

Amendment 260, page 118, line 12, at end insert—

“(ca) the tenancy agreement was not signed earlier than March of the year in which the tenancy commenced.”

This amendment would end the pressure for joint tenancies to be signed too early in the academic year, committing students to accommodation before they are ready.

Government amendments 165 to 174, 230, 175 and 231 to 234.

Amendment 52, page 122, line 34, leave out “of an intention” and insert—

“that the landlord may intend”.

Amendment 53, page 122, line 35, at end insert—

“or the Court is of the opinion that it is just and equitable to dispose of the requirement to serve a written statement.”

Amendment 50, page 123, line 3, leave out lines 3 to 9.

Amendment 51, page 125, line 13, at end insert—

“Ground 6AA

A relevant social landlord granted a tenancy of the dwelling house to the tenant as temporary decant accommodation in order to demolish their original home in the context of re-development and the landlord seeking possession requires vacant possession of the dwelling house because—

(a) the landlord has served the tenant with notice that the new home is ready to move into, or

(b) the temporary use of the accommodation has otherwise come to an end.”

Amendment 16, page 125, leave out line 17.

This amendment would retain the existing 12-month period within which the landlord can initiate proceedings on this ground for possession.

Amendment 55, page 125, line 17, at end insert—

“(ab) At the end of the second unnumbered paragraph, insert—

‘This ground applies only where the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing.’”

Amendment 17, page 125, line 18, at end insert—

“(c) at the end of the last unnumbered paragraph insert—

‘This ground applies only where the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing.’”

This amendment would limit the use of Ground 7 of Schedule 2 of the 1988 Act to social rented housing.

Amendment 18, page 125, line 30, leave out paragraph 23.

This amendment would remove the new ground for possession for repeated rent arrears.

Amendment 19, page 125, line 30, leave out “After Ground 8” and insert “Before Ground 9”.

This amendment would move new Ground 8A from the list of mandatory grounds for possession (in Part I of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988) to the list of discretionary grounds for possession (in Part II of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988).

Amendment 257, page 126, line 12, at end insert—

“23A In Ground 12, after ‘performed’ insert ‘provided that failure to carry out this obligation could—

(a) be reasonably expected to have a material adverse effect on the safety, health, or lives of any residents in that property or adjoining property; or

(b) cause material damage to the property not contemplated in any form of property safety deposit scheme relating to the tenancy.’”

This amendment would amend Ground 12 (possession due to failure to carry out an obligation of the tenancy) so that a tenant cannot be evicted if the obligation does not pose serious risk to the wellbeing of the tenants or the property (such as putting a poster in a window or putting washing on display).

Amendment 20, page 126, line 14, leave out paragraph 24.

This amendment would maintain the existing definition of anti-social behaviour as being conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance, rather than being defined as behaviour “capable of causing” nuisance or annoyance.

Government amendments 235 and 236, 176 and 177, 237, 178 to 181, 238, 182 to 184, 245, 258, 246 and 247, 198 and 248 to 253.

Amendment 25, in schedule 2, page 128, line 29, leave out “omit subsection (5)” and insert

“for subsection (5) substitute—

(5) A person is also threatened with homelessness if—

(a) a valid notice has been given to the person under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 in respect of the only accommodation the person has that is available for the person’s occupation, and

(b) that notice will expire within 56 days.”

This amendment would maintain the homelessness prevention duty owed by local authorities to persons who have received a notice to vacate a property and would extend it to notices for possession issued under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988.

Government amendment 239.

Amendment 26, page 129, line 1, leave out “omit subsection (6)” and insert

“for subsection (6) substitute—

(6) But the authority may not give notice to the applicant under subsection (5) on the basis that the circumstances in subsection (8)(b) apply if a valid notice has been given to the applicant under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 that—

(a) will expire within 56 days or has expired, and

(b) is in respect of the only accommodation that is available for the applicant’s occupation.”

This amendment would ensure that the homelessness prevention duty owed by a local authority cannot end whilst a valid notice under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 has been issued in respect of the only accommodation available to that person.

Government amendments 240, 254, 259, 185, 241, 186, 242, 187, 199, 243, 188 to 192, 244 and 194.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I am delighted to bring the Renters (Reform) Bill back to the House on Report. I express my gratitude to Members across the House for their contributions on Second Reading and in Committee, and for their continued engagement throughout. I thank my predecessors, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), whose Parliamentary Private Secretary I had the privilege of being as he steered the White Paper, and my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), whose Whip I had the privilege of being as she steered the Bill on Second Reading. I have seen the Bill at every stage of its formation, and I can say to the House that the Bill we are discussing today would not have been possible without their hard work and dedication. I also pay tribute to the hon. Members for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) and for North Shropshire (Helen Morgan) for their constructive engagement and commitment to seeing the Bill delivered, so that its benefits can be realised.

The Bill will create a fairer private rented sector for both landlords and tenants, delivering on the Government’s 2019 manifesto commitment. The Bill brings in the most significant reforms for the sector in over 30 years. It will abolish section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and bring in new decency standards, giving England’s 11 million tenants more certainty of secure and healthy homes. It will mean that tenants will be supported to hold down jobs in their local area, children to stay in the same school, and households to put down roots in their communities. Alongside abolishing section 21, we are strengthening and expanding landlord possession grounds, including stronger protections against antisocial behaviour. Combined with our reforms to ensure a modern court system, that will ensure that landlords retain confidence in getting back their properties when they need to, safeguarding their investment.

The new private rented sector ombudsman will resolve tenants’ disputes and support landlords in handling complaints effectively. That will help to avoid disagreements escalating unnecessarily to the courts, saving both landlords and tenants time and money. Our new property portal will make landlords’ responsibilities clear in one place and support tenants to make more informed choices. We are also providing stronger protections for renters with pets, recognising the joy that pets can bring. However, the Bill must strike a balance between delivering that security for tenants and fairness to landlords.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
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This morning, the Secretary of State had the brass neck to suggest that to keep his promise to outlaw no-fault evictions before the next election it is now down to the House of Lords to get on with it. Will the Minister tell us which is more disingenuous: the five years we have been waiting for the Government to keep their promise, or the blatant concessions to the significant numbers of Conservative MPs who are landlords, who have been gifted what amounts to an indefinite delay to the ban on no-fault evictions?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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As I said, we introduced the White Paper in 2022. We published the Bill just last year in 2023, and we are taking it forward today to abolish section 21. She talks about Conservative Members. I can tell her—she will not read this in the newspapers—that I have been lobbied by Members on both sides of this House to ensure that the reforms work effectively. That is what the changes that we are making today on Report will do. They will bring balance to the Bill, delivering security for tenants and, as I said, fairness to landlords. The amendments will ensure that the new tenancy system works effectively.

Feryal Clark Portrait Feryal Clark (Enfield North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Since the Government promised to outlaw section 21 evictions in 2019, more than 2,000 people in Enfield have been subject to no-fault evictions, costing the council millions of pounds to rehouse them. The Minister talks about fairness to landlords, but does he recognise the cost to renters, and indeed to local authorities through temporary accommodation?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- Hansard - -

I absolutely accept that there is a cost. What I would say is that a system that does not work for landlords will not benefit tenants, and a system that does not benefit tenants will not benefit landlords in the long run either. We have to find a balance in the Bill. That is what our amendments will deliver. The amendments we introduced in Committee include expanding the range of factors that a judge must consider when evicting antisocial tenants, providing stronger protections for landlords and neighbourhoods against unacceptable behaviour. We also added a new ground for possession to protect the functioning of the student market and ensure that students’ landlords can continue to evict in line with the academic year.

Turning to housing quality, although the vast majority of landlords provide warm and decent homes, some fall short of that standard. It is unacceptable for any tenant to live in damp, cold or dangerous housing. For that reason, we introduced measures in Committee to apply and enforce a decent homes standard in the private rented sector for the first time. That new standard, which we are designing with landlord and tenant groups, will be set out in secondary legislation. We also introduced measures to outlaw deeply unfair blanket bans on renting to those with children or those in receipt of benefits in England and Wales. Those practices have no place in a fair and modern housing market.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)
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Will the Minister assure us that proper energy efficiency standards will be contained in the decent homes standard? Otherwise, tenants will still be living in damp and cold homes because they will be unable to afford to heat them.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I commit to working with the Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, and indeed with all Members of the House, to ensure that the decent homes standard provides for decent homes of the kind that he describes.

This is the first time we have applied the decent homes standard to the private rented sector, and we have to get it right. In order to target the minority of unscrupulous landlords, in Committee we also gave stronger powers to local councils, and we strengthened rent repayment orders. That will help to ensure effective and proportionate enforcement of the new system.

Let me turn to the Government amendments that we have tabled on Report. They respond to concerns from Members, constituents, and tenant and landlord groups, ensuring security for tenants while giving confidence to good landlords and supporting the private rented market. Several Members from across the House have played a direct role in helping us to ensure that the Bill works as effectively as possible for all those who live and work in the private rented sector. I of course include in that my hon. Friends the Members for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) and for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer) for their continued engagement and constructive dialogue on the measures in the Bill.

Karen Buck Portrait Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am listening to the Minister carefully. From his contribution, we would not think that there was any controversy at all about the position we have got to with the legislation. If everything is so wonderful, why have all the key housing charities and organisations in the field withdrawn their support for the Government?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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They have not withdrawn their support. I accept their disappointment with some of the amendments tabled on Report, but they have also endorsed some of them, including one that I know is very close to the hon. Lady’s heart in relation to expanding the homelessness prevention duty, which has the support of organisations such as Crisis, the homelessness charity. We will continue to work with everyone across the sector to ensure that the Bill is effective when it goes to the other place.

Turning to the amendments, I will address them thematically, starting with our tenancy reform measures. Government new clause 15 will ensure that a tenant’s notice to quit cannot expire within the first six months of the tenancy unless the landlord has agreed that it can expire sooner, thus increasing the amount of time a tenant must remain in a property at the start of the tenancy from two to six months. The change ensures that landlords are able to recover the costs of replacing tenants and will prevent tenants from using PRS properties as short-term or holiday lets.

Once the six-month initial period of commitment has ended, the tenancy will continue as a normal periodic tenancy, so after the six-month period tenants will need to give only two months’ notice. That ensures that tenants will retain the flexibility to end tenancies when their circumstances change or when a landlord does not fulfil their responsibilities. This measure strikes the right balance between providing landlords with the confidence they need to operate within the PRS and ensuring a fairer, simpler tenancy system.

In addition, the Government are exploring potential exemptions to the rule, such as the death of a tenant, domestic abuse or significant hazards within the property. Today I met the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance to reaffirm our intention on the exemption and make clear that victims of domestic violence will be better protected by these reforms.

Government amendments 239 and 240, which I have just mentioned to the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), will give tenants certainty that the homelessness prevention duty will be owed when a valid section 8 notice is served. I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) for his contributions on this topic, ensuring that his landmark Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 continues to be effective. The prevention duty will apply where the date specified in the notice is within 56 days and the duty may not be ended simply because the 56 days has passed. This means that households can continue to receive support while the threat of homelessness remains. Mindful that that will broaden the scope of the prevention duty, we will carry out a new burdens assessment and provide funding for local authorities for any additional costs.

Alongside expanding the homelessness prevention duty, let me take this opportunity to restate our position on another important issue. The statutory homelessness code of guidance, which local authorities must have regard to, states that authorities should not consider it reasonable for a homeless applicant to remain in the property until a court issues a bailiff warrant or writ to enforce a possession order. We have heard anecdotal evidence that some local authorities are encouraging tenants on a blanket basis to remain in a property until the bailiffs are at the door. That is wrong. Doing so creates further delays in possession, penalises landlords, who have a legal right to their property, can be stressful for the tenant and, in the long run, is not beneficial for them at all. The guidance is clear on the importance of early prevention: authorities should contact landlords at an early stage to understand the circumstances of an eviction and establish what steps can be taken to prevent homelessness.

The Government are also working to ensure that families can move out of temporary accommodation and into stable accommodation, as well as reducing the need for temporary accommodation by preventing homelessness before it occurs in the first place. That is why we are investing more than £1.2 billion in the homelessness prevention grant over the next three years, including a £129 million top-up for the homelessness prevention grant for 2024-25, as part of an unprecedented £2.4 billion to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

It is expected, furthermore, that the £1.2 billion local housing fund will enable councils in England to obtain better-quality temporary accommodation for those owed a homelessness duty, providing a lasting affordable asset. It is expected to provide around 7,000 homes by 2026, to ease local homelessness pressures, reduce spending on unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation and provide safe and sustainable housing for local communities.

Government amendments 64 to 75 extend the restrictions on re-letting and marketing a property following the use of the moving in and selling grounds to cover licences to occupy as well as tenancies. This will mean that landlords and people acting on their behalf, such as letting agents, will be prohibited from letting or marketing a property as a short-term or holiday let following the use of those grants. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) and the hon. Member for North Shropshire for raising this matter in Committee. The change closes a loophole in the no re-letting period and helps to ensure that the balance between long-term and shorter-term lets remains stable.

I turn now to Government amendments to the possession grant, starting with the student market—I know this is an issue close to the heart of my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Jane Hunt). As I have said, in Committee the Government introduced a new ground for evicting full-time students, to maintain a yearly churn of student housing. Since introducing that ground, we have heard concerns that the ground would not apply when students are living in smaller properties or in houses of multiple occupation on individual contracts.

Government amendments 226 to 228 expand the circumstances in which the student ground can be used. Landlords will be able to ensure that properties rented to students, whether they are living individually, in pairs or in larger shared housing, will be vacated in the summer, as long as all the tenants on the tenancy agreement are students. To protect tenants, we have strengthened the requirement for landlords to provide notice to the tenant at the outset of the tenancy that the ground may be used to evict them. Possession will not be possible using this ground unless written notice has been given by the landlord at the beginning of the tenancy.

Government amendment 158 will extend ground 1B to allow social landlords to re-let their property to a different tenant on rent-to-buy terms, protecting the supply of such properties. The grant will be available only after the sitting tenant’s discounted rent period has ended and they have been offered the chance to purchase the property. I thank the National Housing Federation for raising this issue.

Government amendments 175 and 184 insert a new possession ground 5H into schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988, which will allow private registered providers of social housing and charities to continue to operate schemes sometimes known as stepping-stone accommodation. We are keen to support those schemes, which help those who have struggled to access the private rented sector, and I am grateful to Centrepoint and the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, for drawing that point to my attention. I thank Andy Street for all he is doing to support such organisations.

Government amendments 198 and 199 and new clause 29 serve to replicate an existing mechanism that allows landlords of qualifying agricultural workers to provide assured shorthold tenancies rather than more secure assured agricultural occupancies. The amendment was the main ask of the Country Land and Business Association and is vital to maintaining the supply of homes for rural workers by protecting the status quo. It will ensure that opted-out agricultural occupancies under the old system will continue to be opted out when they transition to the new tenancy system.

Leaseholders have raised the issue that many leaseholder agreements restrict sub-letting on assured shorthold and fixed-term tenancies. Amendments including Government amendments 160 to 164 and new clause 13 will address that ask by ensuring that sub-leases made under those agreements can continue unabated under the new tenancy system and that new agreements can be made if they were previously permitted. We have drafted the provisions very carefully to ensure that superior landlords and leaseholders have corresponding rights and responsibilities, as they did under the previous system.

Government new clauses 18 to 24 extend to Scotland the provisions outlawing blanket bans on letting to tenants in receipt of benefits or with children, in consultation with the Scottish Government. They do so in a broadly similar way to those in England and Wales, with adjustments to align with the Scottish enforcement framework, demonstrating a cross-nation commitment to tackling discrimination in the private rented sector.

In part 2 of the Bill we have made technical amendments to our redress clauses, including ensuring that the PRS landlord ombudsman can co-operate with other dispute resolution services. The amendments will ensure that the ombudsman operates effectively. Although no final decision on the ombudsman provider has been made, our amendments would also allow the housing ombudsman service to effectively administer private landlord redress alongside social redress.

A key driver in having a single ombudsman to resolve private landlord-tenant disputes is making the service simple to use. I reiterate to hon. Members that the Government are absolutely committed to minimising costs and streamlining new requirements for landlords. Our ambition is that fees for the PRS landlord ombudsman will be low cost and will represent value for money for landlords, similar to those for the housing ombudsman, where membership costs for social landlords were just £5.75 per unit in 2023-24. I also reaffirm our commitment to aligning the ombudsman and property portal, with the ambition being that landlords will need to input their details only once in order to be compliant with both services.

Let me turn to enforcement of the new system. We introduced measures in Committee to ensure that all landlords involved in criminal rent-to-rent arrangements can be held to account, including superior landlords where they are aware of illegal activity. Government new clause 32 ensures that superior landlords are liable for the Housing Act 2004 offences of failing to hold the correct licence for a property. Government new clause 33 seeks to ensure that landlords and superior landlords can, where appropriate, be served with improvement notices requiring the removal of hazards. Those changes close loopholes, ensuring that local councils can continue to hold the correct landlord to account to ensure that their properties are safe and well managed.

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Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
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If the Government are putting all that money in and doing all this planning, why can the Minister still not give us a date for when it will happen?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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As I have just said, we have always been clear that we will abolish section 21 when we are confident that the county court system is ready. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a date today because I cannot say until we are confident that the county court system is ready, but as I have said, we are investing £1.2 million for HM Courts and Tribunals Service to deliver the new process. It is important for him to recognise that if the court system is not ready when we make this change—the biggest change in 30 years—it will not benefit tenants. It will not benefit landlords, but it will certainly not benefit tenants.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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I welcome new clause 30, because the reality is that county courts are already under very great pressure indeed. However, carrying out the assessment will itself bring a cost and, of course, Ministry of Justice budgets are already strained. What steps will be taken to support the Ministry of Justice and the Lord Chancellor with the cost of carrying out that important assessment?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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My hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. We have committed to making the assessment, so we will ensure that the relevant funding is in place. I have said that we have invested £1.2 million for HM Courts and Tribunals Service to deliver a new end-to-end online possession process, but I am pleased also to confirm to him today that we are investing a further £11 million this financial year to deliver a new digital system.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister has tried to blame the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee for this delay by saying that we noted that there was a problem in the courts, which would need to be ready to deal with the extra work caused by the abolition of section 21. However, the Government have had five years to sort the courts out and get them working properly. Surely that has been planned for right from the last election. On the Select Committee asking for improvements to the courts, I just point out that we asked for a specialist housing court—a bit like a small claims court—that could process things more quickly. We did not ask for that in our report last year; we asked for it in 2018, and the Government rejected it.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I think I have been quite clear that it is important that we see that the courts are ready for these reforms. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), is here on the Front Bench with me. He and the MOJ are working at pace to ensure that the courts are ready for the reforms we are introducing. The hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) asks about a specialist housing court. We do not believe that that is the best way to improve the court process for possession—a view shared by the judiciary who responded to our call for evidence.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien (Harborough) (Con)
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The Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), rightly said that this should have happened five years ago, but I gently say that in those five years we have had the coronavirus pandemic, which is the main thing that has slowed down the process of improving the courts. I strongly encourage the Minister not to rush into doing this prematurely, because it would benefit neither tenants nor landlords if he did.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I do not think that it will surprise you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to learn that I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, whom I thank for making those points.

Government new clause 30 will enable the Government to assess the effect that our new tenancy system is having on county courts before our reforms are rolled out more widely, giving us confidence that the sector is ready. I am happy to share with colleagues that we are exploring whether serious eviction cases, such as for antisocial behaviour, can be prioritised in court listings. We will consult on options following Royal Assent.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con)
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I recently met Rentstart, a homelessness organisation with a great track record of working with landlords and getting the homeless into rented accommodation. It is slightly concerned that the changes might undermine its relationship with landlords, which it uses to facilitate the finding of homes for many vulnerable constituents and other people who have come into the constituency. In relation to the assessment that new clause 30 would bring about, what reassurance can the Minister give such organisations?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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The assessment is there purely to determine the timeliness of possession proceedings. In addition, we must acknowledge that there are other barriers to possession, such as the role of local authorities and bailiffs in the process. I hope that that is what the assessment is able to draw out. On Rentstart in my right hon. Friend’s constituency, I do not believe that our reforms will affect its relationships with landlords, but I am more than happy to meet him and Rentstart to understand its concerns more clearly and see if we can do anything to address them.

Government new clause 35 requires the Government to arrange for a review of the new tenancy system, in particular the impact of removing fixed terms and the operation of grounds for possession. That review will be carried out by an independent person, who will produce a report of their findings. The new clause requires the Government to lay the report before Parliament within 18 months of the earliest date on which the new tenancy system is applied to existing tenancies. We recognise that removing fixed terms is a significant change for the sector, and the review will explicitly consider the impact of the change. It will also consider how comprehensive and fair the reformed grounds for possession are, as well as the extent to which they are operating effectively, so that all parties can have confidence in them.

As I have said, the new tenancy system is a huge change for the sector—the biggest in 30 years—and it is right that we commit in legislation to reviewing its impact and implementation, and that we consider whether changes are needed based on real-world evidence. That will ensure that the system works as well as possible for all parties in the long term.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have mentioned several times in debate, and in a useful meeting that I had with the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the hon. Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan), who is here, that there is a need to amend the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 at the same time, because there is a danger that frustrated rogue landlords will refer back to that legislation, which is very badly understood and not well enforced by the police and local authorities. Will the Minister say a few things about that?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I am more than happy to address those points before the end of the debate, but I think that I have written to the hon. Lady about them. If I have not, I will ensure that I do in order to be clear about the amendments she has tabled.

Government new clause 36 places a duty on the Secretary of State to produce an annual report to Parliament on the stock of residential tenancies in the private rented sector. That report will need to be provided in the five years after the Bill receives Royal Assent. Reports under that duty would cover, but not be limited to, an analysis of the number, location and size of private rented sector properties. The new clause ensures that regular analysis of such information is available for scrutiny and debate.

I am aware that several Members have raised concerns about the interaction between the property portal and the role of selective licensing. The two systems have separate, distinct purposes: the portal will gather data on private rented sector ownership and property standards in England, providing an information source for local authorities to have oversight of the whole private rented sector in their area. It will help landlords to understand their legal obligations and will give tenants the information they need to make informed choices. Meanwhile, selective licensing provides local housing authorities with the powers to license privately rented properties within a designated area to address specific local issues, including poor housing conditions and high levels of antisocial behaviour or crime. While there will be overlap with data gathered through the portal, the information required for licences in these areas will be specific to the issue being tackled and will support more intensive enforcement action in the areas that need it most.

We do not want to see selective licensing abolished, but we do want to ensure that our reforms are streamlined and that burdens are minimised for landlords and local authorities. That is why I am committing to a review of selective licensing and the licensing of houses in multiple occupation to consider how we can reduce burdens and make the system more effective for landlords, tenants and local authorities. I am keen to work closely with Members and the wider sector on this issue, and will provide further details in due course.

I have sat on many Bill Committees in this House, and have now been privileged to lead my first Bill Committee, facing the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich. He has been a great person to work with and has sought at every opportunity to make sure the Bill works and is effective. I said to him in Committee that we would listen to suggestions for how we can improve the Bill, and we are doing so today. For tenants, we are expanding the homelessness prevention grant and closing loopholes in the system; for landlords, we are introducing an initial six-month tenancy and giving them certainty that our reforms will work. The Bill delivers on our manifesto commitments: it gives tenants security and landlords fairness. Our amendments continue to strike that balance, and I commend them to the House.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Before I call the shadow Minister, I remind colleagues that if they wish to intervene on a speech, it is important that they have been in the Chamber since the beginning of the speech, just in case the important point they wish to raise has already been addressed. It is also important that they stay for the duration of the speech, in case other colleagues then refer to the important point that they have raised. I clarify that because we may have a longer speech from the shadow Minister, and people may wish to intervene, so I thought it would be helpful to remind colleagues of those rules.

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Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
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I think the reality is that local authorities are generally short of resources right through, as the Committee’s recent report on local authority funding—again, it was unanimously agreed—showed. Because of the demands of social care on local authority budgets, other services are often cut even more than the mainstream. We have previously looked at trading standards and consumer protection, which are an important element—the hon. Member is absolutely right—and I hope that they will be factored in when we have the new burdens discussions.

There are some things that the Minister could resolve fairly quickly. He referred to the important role that the ombudsman can play in resolving disputes. There is sometimes a bit of a conflict between whether someone goes to the ombudsman or to the courts—sometimes, the ombudsman will not deal with a case if it is in the courts. It would be helpful to clarify those issues. But why does he not just decide that the housing ombudsman, who currently deals with social housing issues, will also deal with private sector housing? He should make that decision. Again, if the ombudsman is to have that responsibility, it needs to gear up by starting to recruit more staff and getting in resources to be able to do it. It is a simple decision. He has not ruled it out, but he has not ruled it in. Can we not just do it? It seems obvious. Why set up another body, which would have to start from scratch, when the ombudsman has the skills to do it? Those skills are slightly different in some cases, but why not let it get on with that, and tell it now that it will have that job to do?

I have a couple of other points. The property portal is a really welcome development. We know that when someone is trying to track down a landlord—it is often a local authority, which wants to serve a notice on them—suddenly, the ownership of the property moves, and a different member of the family becomes an owner, or a different company is set up. To know who owns the property, information will have to be given to the property portal, along with all other information about the property. That is a really important step forward, as well as making sure that the portals are digitised so that the information can be kept up to date simply.

I welcome the Minister saying that selective licensing and the property portal are not the same thing, with the property portal to be there for all properties. Selective licensing—it is in the name—will be there for some properties. When there is a review of selective licensing and the relationship with the property portal, will the proposals come back to the House for consideration at some point? I want reassurance on that. Many of us support selective licensing, which we see operating against the worst landlords and the worst properties, and we hope that there will not be a diminution of those powers and responsibilities that would weaken what it can achieve.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I can certainly commit to working with the hon. Member and his Committee when we are at the point of making a decision on where we go after such a review. I completely agree that selective licensing has its role—it is not overtaken by the property portal—but we must ensure that the two work together.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is a helpful assurance, which I accept, and I think he has already given assurance of similar collaboration on the decent homes standard, which is appreciated.

Finally, I come specifically to some complicated amendments that I have tabled—I admit that they even confuse me on occasions—which are about the powers that social landlords have when they come to regenerate areas. The Committee has heard some pretty awful examples of poor properties in the social housing sector, and we have been critical. However, often it is not an individual property that is the problem, but properties in deck-access blocks built in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s. The property has reached the end of its life and people do not like living there: it might have damp or other problems, such as antisocial behaviour. The management costs are high and the cost of regeneration, making it fit for purpose and bringing it up to decent homes standards, is so great that it is not worth spending the money. In some cases demolition and rebuild is needed, and in others substantial regeneration and improvement is needed, and that means the tenants have to move out.

In those cases, social landlords need to be certain that they have the power to require tenants to move, because in a block of properties of 100 residents, 95 of them will probably be terribly enthusiastic about moving out, particularly if they are going to get a new or refurbished home, but the other five might dig their heels in and try to stick it out, holding up the whole scheme. The Minister believes that social landlords have the power to do that under existing legislation. I have tabled amendment 52 and the related amendments because the National Housing Federation is concerned that social landlords think they have powers, but they do not exist where the initial tenancy with their secure tenant was set up by a nomination from a local authority. It is a complicated legal issue, but an important one.

The NHF is also concerned that although someone can be moved on by a secure tenancy being taken away and another being given, where someone is being moved on not to secure tenancy—because it is a decant property, pending their home being refurbished—social landlords may not have the same powers. There are legal and technical complications in this area. I will not press my amendments, but I tabled them because the NHF is still concerned, even with the Minister’s assurance. Will he agree to meet me and the NHF to try to ensure that landlords have the powers to act in this way, which I think everyone will support them to do?
Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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The hon. Gentleman makes legitimate points, and I am more than happy to meet him and the National Housing Federation.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that response. On that collaborative point, I will end my contribution.

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It is not acceptable that, where tenants are committing antisocial behaviour, fellow tenants and neighbours are expected to wait over half a year before the problem is resolved.
Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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As I said in my opening speech, we are exploring expediting possession for serious antisocial behaviour claims. I am happy to work with my hon. Friend on how we go about that and ensure that it happens before these reforms are fully implemented.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will find in this part of my speech we will be agreeing vehemently, although the latter part of my speech might not be so agreeable. I am grateful to him for his intervention; I always welcome the opportunity to work with him.

Likewise, in the case of rent arrears, it cannot be acceptable to have a system that allows rent arrears to continue to build for seven months. The amendment would make good on the Government’s commitment that the justice system is fully prepared for the impact of the end of section 21. Again, I am grateful that the Government have decided to accept the point in principle and introduce proposed Government new clause 30, which mirrors my amendment 9, which was supported by so many colleagues. I therefore withdraw amendment 9.

Proposed new clause 1, the repeal of requirement for selective licensing, under my name, would remove the ability of local housing authorities to designate areas as subject to selective licensing. The Bill provides the Secretary of State with the power to develop a new property portal that all landlords would have to join to demonstrate to prospective tenants that the properties they rent meet all required standards. It would be effectively a national licensing scheme. As selective licensing deals only with management quality and not property standards, the changes in the Bill are likely to do more than selective licensing to improve properties.

Since councils will be able to use the portal to access information on all private rented properties and landlords operating in their area, and in view of plans for a decent homes standard for the sector, local selective licensing schemes will be made redundant. In Wales, the introduction of landlord registration led to the end of almost all selective licensing, so it is unlikely that local authorities would pursue costly and complex schemes in future. I take on board the Minister’s comments in his opening remarks.

Selective licensing is an additional cost to landlords, in addition to the property portal and redress scheme. Landlords should not have to be regulated twice and pay twice for much the same thing. Proposed new clause 1 would scrap selective licensing schemes for private rented housing when the property portal goes live. Having both would not enhance protections for tenants, but merely be a duplication. Scrapping them would remove an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and cost for landlords. I am grateful for the Minister’s opening remarks. I will take the Government at their word that the Dispatch Box commitment to conduct a review of selective licensing will take place at the earliest opportunity.

My new clause 3 would enable courts to consider hearsay evidence during the course of proceedings for possession on the grounds of antisocial behaviour. It is vital that, when section 21 ends, swift and effective action can be taken against tenants committing antisocial behaviour who cause misery for so many neighbours and fellow tenants. To support this, the Government have changed the wording of the discretionary ground to repossess a property due to tenant antisocial behaviour—ground 14. They clarify that any behaviour “capable” of causing “nuisance or annoyance” can lead to eviction. Previously, it was behaviour “likely” to cause a problem.

However, that is not the true problem. The current problem, which is not dealt with by the Bill, is that the main evidence of nuisance is provided by neighbours, as they are closest to the person involved. The changes to the definition of nuisance do not alter the fact that evidence of behaviour needs to be provided, and that will still come from neighbours. However, in so many instances, neighbours are reluctant to attend court and give evidence, in part because the slow speed of the court system means that they will be forced to live near the person that they have reported or helped to evict for several months afterwards.

A better solution would be to allow landlords to use evidence of problematic behaviour that is provided by neighbours complaining by text or email to the landlord or the letting agency. This evidence is not currently admissible, and the courts cannot give sufficient weight to it when deciding whether the tenant is committing antisocial behaviour. This amendment would allow for such evidence to be used by the courts.

In the negotiations and discussions that we had in the run-up to this debate, the Minister’s Department and his civil service team were extremely helpful in highlighting Civil Procedure Rule part 33.3 in relation to

“circumstances in which notice of intention to rely on hearsay evidence is not required.”

Again, the comments made by the Minister are welcome, although I hope his Department will follow this up with the Ministry of Justice. I therefore withdraw new clause 3.

Amendment 5 covers houses of multiple occupancy relating specifically to students. This would mean that the ground for possession for student properties could also be used for properties occupied by one or two students, which would not otherwise have been considered as HMOs.

Ending fixed-term tenancies will be problematic for the student housing market—it would be problematic for the whole Bill—which operates on a yearly cycle, from one academic year to another. Although the Government have recognised that by allowing fixed-term agreements to continue in purpose-built student accommodation, it will not apply, as I understand it, to traditional off-street private-rented housing, often rented to those in their second or third year of studies. This is a concern shared by many in the industry and, indeed, by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, which has noted:

“Currently, the proposal is to include this part of the PRS in the tenancy reform, but we conclude that abolishing fixed-term contracts could make lettings to students considerably less attractive to private landlords, as the student market mirrors the academic year and benefits greatly from 12-month fixed tenancies.”

I hope that I have quoted the Select Committee report accurately.

A Government amendment to the Bill made at Committee stage established a new ground for possession—ground 4A—to protect the student housing market. This is to be welcomed. It will ensure that landlords can guarantee that most student properties will be available for each academic year, but it will not protect all student housing. The new ground will cover only houses of multiple occupation; it will not apply to those properties occupied by one or two students. This oversight would be rectified by my proposed amendment. Again, I thank the Government for recognising this and introducing their own amendments 226 and 228, which have addressed that problem.

As I come to my concluding remarks—at last—I wish to make some comment on amendment 10, which has not been selected.

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Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I thank right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions to the debate and for their ongoing engagement throughout the Bill’s passage. I will respond to some of the issues raised during the debate, but I might not be able to respond to all of them in the time remaining.

I will start by addressing the points made by the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) and the amendments tabled by the Opposition. As I said in my opening speech, I thank him and others on the Labour Front Bench for their continued engagement and their support for the Bill. I believe that we share the ambition to see the Bill on the statute book as soon as possible.

New clause 10 would extend Awaab’s law to the private rented sector. The tragic and avoidable death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak is the most shocking reminder of the danger of damp and mould. I am clear that no tenant should have to live in dangerous housing conditions, but our approach to tackling this issue must reflect the differences between the social and private rented sectors. Awaab’s law was designed for social housing. Most social landlords manage large portfolios and have dedicated repair and maintenance teams, enabling them to tackle issues to specific timeframes. In contrast, the vast majority of private landlords own a small number of properties, with 82% of landlords having fewer than five properties and 43% owning just one.

The Bill takes a different and, I believe, more suitable approach to ensuring that private tenants have safe homes. It gives councils powers to immediately fine private landlords up to £5,000 if their properties are dangerously unsafe. It also introduces a decent homes standard for the first time and a new means of redress through the ombudsman. We will publish statutory guidance for councils on enforcement, and we will explore how this guidance can strengthen the onus on private landlords to deal promptly with tenant complaints about hazards, including for larger institutional private landlords that may have resources similar to those of social landlords. Amendment 28, which the hon. Gentleman spoke to, would remove section 21 immediately upon Royal Assent. This would mean there is no transition period, as is currently planned, leaving no time at all for landlords, letting agents, tenant groups and local authorities to adjust to the new system. There would be no time to conclude the necessary secondary legislation, leaving the statute book a confusing mess.

Importantly, without having the new possession grounds in place, amendment 28 would prevent landlords from regaining possession of their property even where they have a legitimate reason to do so, which the new grounds reflect. Landlords could not repossess to sell their property or to deal effectively with antisocial behaviour or repeat rent arrears. Most concerningly of all, temporary and supported accommodation would not have access to the critical new grounds, which would have an immediate impact by clogging up those sectors.

Although it might seem appealing and sound good to say, “Let’s just abolish it on Royal Assent,” amendment 28 would create chaos in the sector. It is far better for tenants and landlords alike if we ensure that the change happens in an orderly way. For those reasons, I ask the hon. Gentleman not to press his amendment.

Amendment 37, tabled by the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Helen Morgan) and given voice today by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson), seeks to bring accommodation provided by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation into scope of the decent homes standard. I make it clear that everyone deserves a safe and decent home, none more so than the heroes who serve in our armed forces. Although 96% of service family accommodation already meets the decent homes standard, bringing such accommodation within scope could provide a further safeguard to ensure that all service personnel and their families have a home of the quality they deserve. We therefore strongly agree with the intent of the amendment.

Service family accommodation has unique features, however, including a significant portion being located on secure military sites where there will be issues around security and access for inspections. This would create a challenge in applying and enforcing the decent homes standard. The Government intend to ensure that service accommodation meets the decent homes standard, while recognising that work is needed to determine the appropriate monitoring and reporting arrangements given the unique nature of this accommodation. My Department will therefore work closely with the Ministry of Defence to explore these challenges and how we can best ensure that there are strong safeguards for service personnel and their families that work effectively in practice.

I assure the hon. Members for Twickenham and for North Shropshire that we are seriously considering this issue, and that the Minister for Defence Procurement and I intend to meet the hon. Member for North Shropshire in the coming weeks to discuss these issues in more detail before the Bill is in Committee in the Lords. I therefore ask her not to press her amendment.

New clause 12 and amendments 43 to 47, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), seek to extend the core blanket ban provision in chapter 3 to care leavers. I am grateful to him for raising the important issue of care-experienced young people’s ability to rent a home in the private rented sector. The Government have already reserved a power in the Bill to extend blanket ban provisions to additional cohorts in future, should we find evidence that it is needed. This power could be used to extend the provisions to care-experienced people if evidence suggests that it would be effective.

Helping care leavers to make a successful transition from care to independence is a priority for this Government, and we recognise that care leavers can face significant barriers to securing and maintaining affordable housing, including providing a guarantor or rent in advance. We are already seeking to improve care leavers’ access to housing, as set out in the “stable homes, built on love” strategy, which sits alongside existing duties owed to care leavers by local councils as corporate parents.

Furthermore, we understand that at least 78 councils have passed motions granting care leavers the same protected characteristic status as other cohorts under the Equality Act 2010 in their local area. I am happy to continue working with my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham to hear the challenges that care-experienced people face and how we can make private rented accommodation more accessible to them.

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the measures to prohibit blanket bans on the basis that a child will live with or visit a person at a property include foster children and, in response to the hon. Member for Twickenham, kinship carers. Landlords and letting agents will not be able to discriminate against potential tenants on the basis that they foster children. No further legal provisions are needed to do this. More broadly, during this spending review we are investing over £36 million in a foster carer programme and a foster carer recruitment and retention programme. That is the largest ever investment in fostering in England. For that reason, I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his amendment.

New clause 39, proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke), effectively requires landlords to compensate tenants when using any possession grounds found in schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 within two years, other than ground 7A or ground 14. While I appreciate the intent behind my hon. Friend’s amendment, I do not agree that landlords should be made to pay compensation to tenants when they have a legitimate reason to evict. Landlords looking to move into or sell their property, or dealing with tenants in rent arrears, may find themselves to be in financial difficulty too, and the change proposed by the amendment could exacerbate that.

Amendment 257 seeks to tighten the breach of tenancy grounds, so that a tenant can be evicted if the tenancy breach impacts the wellbeing of other tenants or neighbours, or could cause material damage to the property beyond what would be covered by a tenancy deposit. As I have indicated to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover previously, I am sympathetic to the intention behind her amendment but it could have adverse consequences. For example, significant breaches of a tenancy agreement, such as subletting, may not lead to an eviction if they were proven to not have a material impact on other housemates or immediate neighbours.

I am also concerned about the impact on existing contracts, signed between landlord and tenant on the basis that this ground would be available. I assure my hon. Friend that ground 12 is discretionary, meaning that a judge will consider whether the ground has been met and whether the possession is reasonable in each case. We therefore think it is unlikely that a tenant would be evicted for minor breaches. I will seek to clarify in guidance when this ground ought to be used. I am happy to explore what more could be done in legislation to ensure tenants are not unfairly evicted for minor and unfair breaches to their tenancy agreement. For those reasons, I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw her amendment.

Turning to proposed new clause 40, the hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) set out a deeply moving and tragic case in her consistency. I am grateful to her for meeting me yesterday to discuss the case. New clause 40 would prevent guarantors being held liable for rent after a tenant’s death. The hon. Lady has campaigned on the issue for some time and I appreciate her work on it. By moving to a system of periodic tenancy, tenants and their estates will no longer be locked in after the first six months. In the event of a bereavement, the tenant’s representative would be able to serve two months’ notice to end the tenancy and end the guarantor’s liability. Attempts to hold a guarantor liable for rent past the end of the tenancy would be in breach of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 and a landlord could be fined for doing so. I am aware that our new six-month term may mean guarantors being held liable for longer. That is why we have committed to looking at an exemption where a tenant tragically dies, as I discussed with hon. Lady yesterday, so that a notice can be served in the usual way. For that reason, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.

Turning to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall), in his speech he acknowledged that the Government have accepted not one but almost all his amendments. I regret that he still feels opposed to the Bill overall, but I hope he will reconsider his position having listened to the debate and heard the significant changes we have made. He mentioned Margaret Thatcher’s reforms of the 1980s. Her reforms sought to smash a disastrous system of sitting tenants, where landlords were blocked from moving into or selling their homes, or were forced to let their properties below market rents. Our reforms build on her reforms. Landlords will still have a mandatory right to move into or sell their homes. Nothing in our Bill introduces rent caps, despite calls from Opposition parties and the Mayor of London.

Five years ago, the late James Brokenshire, as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, promised that we would abolish section 21 evictions. Eight months later, every English Member of this House stood on manifestos to abolish section 21. In 2022, we published the White Paper into how we would reform the tenancy system. In 2023, we brought forward this Bill, which gave the White Paper legislative form. And today, we have the opportunity to move forward a Bill that strikes the right balance between security for tenants and fairness for landlords.

For tenants, this Bill abolishes section 21 evictions and moves to a more flexible system of periodic tenancies for all. It applies a new decent homes standard to the private rented sector for the first time and outlaws blanket bans on tenants with children, or those on benefits. It gives renters a legal right to request a pet. It also expands the homelessness prevention duty to protect vulnerable tenants. Together, these changes will give tenants the opportunity to put down roots in their communities, their children in local schools and to live in a secure home.

For landlords, the Bill strengthens possession grounds, giving landlords certainty that they can get their property back. It provides stronger protections in cases of antisocial behaviour and repeated non-payment of rent, and protections for the student market and rural communities. Tenants will have to give two months’ notice to leave a tenancy instead of one, and we are making improvements to the court system to ensure that they can properly support the new system.

The new private rented sector ombudsman will also help prevent issues escalating to the courts, offering quicker and cheaper resolution to disputes. And the new property portal will provide a one-stop shop for landlords to understand requirements and to demonstrate compliance.

Above all, the Bill delivers for landlords and tenants, because it drives out the bad actors in the system. That is what we aim to do—to build a sector that gives tenants security and protections, and landlords fairness, not pitting one against the other, but working with both to drive out the bad actors.

This Bill is the culmination of years of work in a sector that has not seen meaningful change in three decades. I ask all Members to join me and back the Bill tonight.

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

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Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This Bill is an opportunity for us to improve the life chances of millions of private renters across the country, and I hope that we have also given reassurance to the millions of good landlords who endeavour to provide homes for those who rely on the private rented sector. When the Government set out their levelling-up missions in 2022—as the Levelling Up Minister, I feel this keenly—we made a clear commitment to halve the number of poor-quality homes by 2030 to

“Restore a sense of community, local pride and belonging especially in those places where it has been lost.”

When housing is secure and safe, it is the launch pad for rich and fulfilled lives and gives people

“a place they’re truly proud to call home”.

This Bill marks the biggest change to the sector in more than 30 years. Rightly, Members have pressed the Government to ensure that it strikes the right balance, improving the sector for all while ensuring that no party is unduly burdened either by cost or by process. I believe that the Bill now strikes that balance, and I am proud to have taken it through the House as my first Bill as a Minister. I should add that taking it over 24 hours before the beginning of the Committee stage was an added excitement that I shall not forget. Let me again pay tribute to my predecessors, my hon. Friends the Members for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) and for Redditch (Rachel Maclean).

At this point, I invite the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) to intervene, if she wishes to do so.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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I am grateful to the Minister. As he knows, I tried to intervene earlier during his summing-up speech. I merely wanted to pursue the point about rent tribunals that I made in my initial intervention. In the White Paper, the Government said that they were going to prevent tribunals from increasing rents beyond the amount that landlords initially asked for when they proposed a rent increase. Why have the Government gone back on that? Why do they now envisage a scenario in which someone could go to a tribunal and end up with a higher rent than the one against which they are appealing? That is surely a massive disincentive.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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Large rent increases should not be used as a back-door method of eviction, but it is crucial that landlords are able to increase rents in line with market levels to maintain investor confidence. We have listened to concerns, and we think it fair that the tribunal is not limited when determining that market rent. This means that, as the hon. Lady said, the tribunal has the freedom to make full and fair decisions, and can continue to determine the market rent of a property. I understand the hon. Lady’s concerns, but it is important that all our measures are proportionate and that we do not allow the tribunal to become overburdened by too many complaints. I therefore think that this is a necessary safeguard.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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The Minister is being very generous in giving way. I am not the only person to have said that it should not be possible for rents to rise in these circumstances; the Government’s own White Paper said it only a short time ago. I wish that the Minister would address the point about the disincentive. If a tenant knows that by going to a tribunal they could end up with a higher rent than the one against which they are appealing, surely that will be a massive disincentive.

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Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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Obviously, in a number of areas we have listened to the sector and moved on from the White Paper. The hon. Lady’s point is legitimate, but the reason the tribunal is able to set a rent that is above the landlord’s initial request, and to set a market rent, is that we want to ensure that it is not overburdened with repeat requests that challenge rent increases that are perfectly reasonable.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
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Surely the whole point of a tribunal is for the tribunal judge to set what he thinks is a fair market price. It might go up, it might go down or it might stay the same, but that is the whole point of a tribunal.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and that is why we have acted in this way.

We have heard from Members in all parts of the House, and I thank them all for their contributions during the Bill’s passage. They have worked collaboratively and diligently to ensure that this important legislation becomes law. I want to record my thanks to all my officials—I cannot name them all, but a few of them are Leah, Guy, Steph and Ross—as well as those in my private office team and the Clerks. I thank Members on both sides of the House, notably my hon. Friends the Members for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer) and for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall), for all their work, and of course I thank those in the Government Whips Office. Above all, I thank all the groups that I have had the pleasure of meeting as they represent the interests of both tenants and landlords across the wider sector.

I hope that our colleagues in the other place will take the collaborative approach that has been taken in this House, and will pass the Bill with the speed that it now deserves to give certainty and security to landlords and tenants throughout the country.

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Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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With the leave of the House, I would just like to confirm to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) that we do not intend to introduce any sort of rent controls.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jacob Young Excerpts
Monday 22nd April 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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1. What steps he is taking to reform the private rented sector.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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The Renters (Reform) Bill will have its Report stage on Wednesday 24 April. The Bill abolishes section 21 evictions, moves the sector to a system of periodic tenancies and introduces a private rented sector property portal and ombudsman, improving the system for responsible tenants and good-faith landlords.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
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Ministers first promised to end no-fault evictions five years ago. Since then, 85,000 households have been threatened with no-fault evictions, including a constant stream of residents in Putney. Does the Minister not agree that that was ample time to implement the necessary improvements and that the delay has caused immense suffering to people in the private rented sector?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I agree with the hon. Lady that we need to abolish section 21 evictions as soon as possible. When it comes to the Bill, we published the White Paper in 2022, we published the Bill in 2023 and we are bringing forward the Report stage on Wednesday.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Anum Qaisar Portrait Ms Anum Qaisar (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
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In 2019, the UK Government announced plans to outlaw no-fault eviction notices. However, just last week, the housing charity Shelter revealed that almost 1 million renters in England have been served no-fault eviction notices since that announcement. While the Government seem to be unable to get the rental reform agenda past their Conservative Back Benchers, the Scottish Parliament banned no-fault evictions back in 2017. Does the Minister agree that that is yet another example of the Scottish Parliament delivering for the people while Westminster dysfunction only lets them down?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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As I said to the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson), we are abolishing section 21 evictions. The Bill will return to the House on Wednesday.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)
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2. What recent estimate he has made of the additional cost to the public purse of councils delivering public services in coastal areas.

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Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)
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12. What assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of the community ownership fund on local communities.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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Community ownership can boost local connections and pride of place, and bolster resilience. So far, we have awarded about £103 million to 333 projects across the UK. We are working with an external evaluation partner on an evaluation of the fund. We are already seeing some great examples of COF projects making a real difference to their communities, such as Grow the Glens in Northern Ireland and East Boldre community stores in the south-east of England.

James Davies Portrait Dr Davies
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There have already been three worthy beneficiaries of the community ownership fund in my constituency: the village shop in Llandyrnog; the Salusbury Arms in Tremeirchion, which the Minister has visited; and Rhyl football club, which hopes to secure the future of its ground, Belle Vue. His Department has been very helpful throughout, but what further advice and guidance can be provided for applicants in future rounds?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I enjoyed visiting the Salusbury Arms with my hon. Friend and raising a glass to the community there. Ahead of round 4, we launched a brand-new expression of interest process, which provides interested applicants with an outcome within minutes. To support applicants at the fourth stage, we have also updated the prospectus and other guidance on gov.uk. We want to help as many communities as possible to benefit from the fund, spreading the benefits of levelling up nationwide.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes
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Does the Minister agree that the recent grant of £452,700 to the Owain Glyndŵr hotel in Corwen, in Clwyd South, is a wonderful example of the hugely beneficial impact of the community ownership fund on local communities? The grant will enable this much-loved hotel to play a central role in the town again, and to benefit from the reopening of Corwen station and the other projects in Corwen arising from my Clwyd South levelling-up fund.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting that exciting project, which seeks to secure the future of the Owain Glyndŵr hotel and develop it into a community social hub showcasing the life and history of the area. I agree that the project is a great example of what the community ownership fund seeks to do across our United Kingdom. The fund not only safeguards priceless and much-loved local assets, but supports ambition and builds opportunity in local areas. I will be visiting north Wales in the very near future and will test my diary to see whether it is possible to swing by and say, “Da iawn.”

John Cryer Portrait John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)
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The Minister mentioned pubs that have been rescued and secured for the community, but where historic local pubs, which were at one time hubs of the community, have been wrecked by absentee owners and therefore require capital investment, does he envisage the funding being used in that regard as well?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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The fund is open to community groups, charities, and town and parish councils. I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman that the pub to which he refers would be eligible, but I am more than happy to meet him following this session to get further details.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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Mr Speaker, I know you know that there could not possibly be a better project to receive funding from the Government than the Rhondda tunnel, which would connect Blaencwm and Blaengwynfi—I am very happy to dangle all the Ministers down the hole and into the tunnel, if they ever want to come and see it. I know the Secretary of State knows all about it, because I had two meetings with him about it several years ago. I have met lots of Ministers who have privately been very supportive and told me to apply for this, that or the other fund, but not a single penny has yet transpired. An official has recently told Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council that it should make a specific exemption for an application for money. Is that still a possibility, to ensure that the Rhondda tunnel comes to pass?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I do not think that the community ownership fund is the appropriate fund. As I have just said to the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer), the community ownership fund is open to charities, to community groups and to town and parish councils, but with regard to the hon. Gentleman’s tunnel project, I would be more than happy to meet him and identify what funding opportunities are available.

James Wild Portrait James Wild (North West Norfolk) (Con)
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7. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of the towns fund on local communities.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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As part of their town investment plan, places were required to consult extensively with local communities and to evidence how this feedback shaped their plan. The impact of the towns fund on local communities is also a crucial part of the towns fund impact evaluation, to be published in early 2026.

James Wild Portrait James Wild
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One success of the towns fund is the breadth of projects, which in King’s Lynn include Shakespeare’s St George’s guildhall, a new community library and adult skills centre and a school of nursing studies. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the very welcome extra £20 million through the long-term plan for towns that Lynn has just been awarded can be used to complement those schemes as well as to secure other investment into the area?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I thank my hon. Friend for his commitment to levelling up in King’s Lynn and across Norfolk. Our long-term plan for towns puts power back into the hands of local people. Each town must set up a new town board, comprised of local community representatives and the Members of Parliament for the respective area, who are responsible for developing the long-term plan for their area, underpinned by evidence of extensive community engagement. This plan can include the regeneration projects that my hon. Friend has mentioned, if that is considered a local priority. I look forward to working with him and to seeing the plans when they are finally brought forward.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I thank the Minister for his answers. He will recall that I asked some time ago about the Ards and North Down Council’s Whitespots project—a historical project for tourism that relates to the second world war and also to the history of mining in the area. The Minister said that when the Northern Ireland Assembly was up and running, he would be keen to ensure that the project could take place. Can he confirm that the moneys necessary for the project are there, and will he ensure that he, as Minister, does everything he can to make it happen?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks, but I can say that the £30 million that was set aside for Northern Ireland in round 3 of the levelling-up fund has been given to the Northern Ireland Executive as part of the Executive reformation fund. I was in Northern Ireland over the recess, where we were celebrating more than £435 million of levelling-up funding going to Northern Ireland since 2019.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)
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It is now approaching five years since the towns fund was launched, promising £3.6 billion of investment to level up the country. Most of it remains unspent, and the cross-party Public Accounts Committee has said that the Department for Levelling Up could not

“give any compelling examples of what had been delivered so far”.

That is a damning assessment of this five years of the fund, never mind after 14 years in power—so, Minister, why are this Government such a failure?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I think that is quite poor, Mr Speaker. The hon. Gentleman’s constituency has itself benefited from £11.1 million of UK shared prosperity funding and £13.4 million from the levelling up fund. Next to him I see the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), whose constituency has benefited from £24.4 million from the towns fund. Oldham is also the recipient of £10.8 million from the future high streets fund. We are levelling up right across the country, including in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

Helen Morgan Portrait Helen Morgan (North Shropshire) (LD)
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8. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the level of Government funding allocated to local authorities.

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Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Flick Drummond (Meon Valley) (Con)
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9. What the criteria are for allocation of round 4 of the community ownership fund.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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Our decision-making criteria for the community ownership fund can be found in the published explanatory note on gov.uk. Round 4 window 1 has now closed and will be assessed according to those criteria. Round 4 window 2 will open in the coming weeks.

Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Drummond
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I was delighted to hear that so many projects have received a large amount of money to take over community centres, heritage buildings, pubs and sporting facilities. The list also includes green spaces, so will the Minister confirm that if a community group wanted to buy part of a chalk stream that is for sale for the benefit of that community, that would be within the scope of the community ownership fund?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this matter. We have funded similar land purchases, but this will be dependent on the factors locally.

Paula Barker Portrait Paula Barker (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab)
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11. What progress he has made on ending rough sleeping.

New Build Homes Standards: North Yorkshire

Jacob Young Excerpts
Thursday 18th April 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) for securing this important debate. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety has asked me to offer him a meeting to discuss these matters in greater detail.

As a fellow Yorkshireman, born and bred, I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough shares my enormous pride in representing a constituency in God’s own country. I have huge respect for his tireless work over the years to promote the interests of the hard-working people and families of north Yorkshire. His constituency, like mine, is made up of strong communities that are proud of their past and aspirational for their future, which he and I know must be built on a bedrock of good-quality housing—safe, warm, decent, affordable homes that provide the solid foundation that people need to get on in life and unlock their potential.

Good homes hold the key to our plans to level up opportunity across Yorkshire and around the country, while helping our local economies to grow. That is why I am proud to support the Secretary of State and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety in delivering those homes through our long-term plan for housing, with 2.5 million new homes built in total since 2010, 180,000 of which are in Yorkshire and the Humber.

However, as my hon. Friend rightly said, the standard of some new builds, and the estates that they are part of, are simply not up to scratch. Like him, I have heard of cases where developers are moving on to new projects before the places that they are building are properly finished, leaving residents to deal with the extensive snagging or to live in limbo on unadopted roads, such as those in the estates that he mentioned. That is not fair, not right, and frankly not on.

While recognising that most new developments across the country are already of a decent standard, constructed by the many good building firms operating nationwide, we are clear that more needs to be done to address homebuyers’ concerns where standards have fallen short. We have been taking action to ensure that happens: reforming building control as part of the biggest changes to the construction sector in a generation; and strengthening warranties to give homebuyers greater protection.

My hon. Friend asked how my Department monitors quality in our work with the sector, and whether the new homes ombudsman will play a bigger role. I am pleased to tell him that quality is at the heart of our plans, from the future homes standards to our work to improve redress with the new homes ombudsman, which once launched will help to drive up quality across the industry. My hon. Friend also asked what happens if a developer is not registered with the new homes quality code. The new homes quality code is voluntary, but through the Building Safety Act 2022 we legislated so that we can bring forward a single code of conduct, which will be statutory. That was also recommended in the recent Competition and Markets Authority report, to which we will soon publish our response.

My hon. Friend asked about the shortage of relevant skills in the workforce and whether apprenticeships can help to address it. As a former apprentice, that subject is close to my heart, as I know it is to his. That is why I am delighted to tell him that we are already working to boost skills training across the industry by fully funding, for young people up to the age of 21, new apprenticeships working for small businesses, and that we have amended the apprenticeship levy so that small and medium-sized enterprises will have greater opportunities to develop the skills that the industry needs.

My hon. Friend requested an update on future homes and building standards, particularly in relation to energy efficiency. I can tell him that from next year, the future homes standard will ensure that all new homes produce, on average, upwards of 75% less carbon dioxide emissions than those built to the 2013 requirement. Through the work of our new Building Safety Regulator—introduced under the Building Safety Act 2022—we are improving construction standards across the industry.

Let me directly address some of the constituency matters that my hon. Friend raised. Local authorities can use section 106 planning obligations to secure a commitment from developers to provide appropriate facilities for new build projects such as those he mentioned, including play areas, roads and drainage. It is up to developers and local planning authorities to agree matters relating to the timing and funding of delivery, and it is right that local authorities retain such decisions.

In the meantime, we are working with the building industry to ensure that it takes this issue seriously. Ultimately, it is private developers, not the state, that hold the key to raising standards. Only by local and central Government working together with developers can we ensure that new homes being built in Yorkshire and across the country are safe, decent, warm and finished to a high standard, and that buyers in my hon. Friend’s constituency and elsewhere are treated fairly. We must all play our part to ensure that that happens.

Question put and agreed to.

Community Ownership Fund

Jacob Young Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2024

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Written Statements
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Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
- Hansard - -

I am delighted to announce the outcome of round 3 window 3 of the £150 million community ownership fund, which will see over £33.5 million awarded to 83 projects across the United Kingdom. This additional funding takes our funding total to around £103.1 million for 333 projects.

This investment will ensure that important parts of our social fabric, such as pubs, sports clubs, theatres, and post office buildings, can continue to play a central role in towns and villages across the UK.

The community ownership fund is helping to reduce geographical disparities across the United Kingdom. To this end, the funding provided in round 3 window 3 will see over £3.8 million awarded to projects in Scotland, over £3.1 million to Wales and over £2.8 million to Northern Ireland. This, so far, brings the total funding awarded across Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to over £32.1 million collectively, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having exceeded their minimum allocation across the duration of the fund.

The funding provided in round 3 window 3 will also see over £23.6 million awarded to projects in England. This brings the total funding awarded across English regions to over £70.9 million collectively.

The community ownership fund is already supporting 250 projects across the UK such as Keighley & Worth Valley Railway’s historic railway bridge, in Bradford, England; the Vale of Aeron pub, a favourite haunt of the poet Dylan Thomas in Ceredigion, Wales; the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh, one of Scotland’s most historic and significant theatres; and Glens digital hub in Causeway Coast and Glens, Northern Ireland, which has been transformed into a vibrant community digital hub. These projects are making a genuine difference to their communities.

With the additional investment awarded in this bidding window, I am delighted to be supporting many more small but mighty local assets across the United Kingdom, levelling up the places we love and cherish.

Round 4 will be the final round of the Community Ownership Fund. Recognising that there is limited funding available yet to be allocated to meet the high demand we have experienced, we will seek to hold two final bidding windows to allocate this funding. Round 4 window 1 will open today—25 March 2024—and close on 10 April 2024. Voluntary and community organisations, and parish, town and community councils can apply for up to £2 million in capital funding, to rescue treasured local institutions.

[HCWS379]

High Streets (Designation, Review and Improvement Plan) Bill

Jacob Young Excerpts
None Portrait The Chair
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Are all colleagues happy? Right. I call the Minister.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
- Hansard - -

Thank you, Sir Charles. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I am grateful for the leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South on this issue, and I am pleased to speak in the Committee on this important Bill.

As my hon. Friend laid out, the Bill will ensure that local authorities effectively use their powers to support high streets in their areas to perform well, and to drive improvements where that is not the case. This will be a valuable tool in enabling us to meet our ambition of creating thriving high streets and town centres. I am sure it will come as no surprise to my hon. Friend that I support all the amendments he has tabled. They are largely technical in nature, but they are important to ensure that the Bill has its intended effect of strengthening high streets across the country.

Clause 1 introduces a new duty on local authorities to designate high streets in their area, meaning that local authorities will need to carefully consider and identify streets of specific economic, social and cultural importance in their area that may require particular attention to ensure that they are performing well.

Amendments 1 and 3 to 8 will ensure that local authorities are able to designate a network of streets in their area, as well as a single street or part of a street, as a high street for the purposes of the Bill. That will ensure that high streets made up of a crossroads or a flow of streets are not overlooked or misrepresented. While technical in nature, the amendments are important to the Bill’s effectiveness and reflective of how people view their high street. They will mean that streets such as Nottingham Road, between Loughborough town centre and the station, could be brought into scope. In my constituency, they will mean that the High Street in Redcar can also include Station Road and Queen Street.

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Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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I thank the officials.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I would like to thank the officials.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, accordingly to be reported.

Draft North East Mayoral Combined Authority (Establishment and Functions) Order 2024

Jacob Young Excerpts
Tuesday 12th March 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

General Committees
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Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft North East Mayoral Combined Authority (Establishment and Functions) Order 2024.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. The draft order was laid before the House on 7 February 2024. If approved and made by Parliament, it will provide for the implementation of the devolution deal agreed on 28 December 2022 between the Government and seven councils across the north-east: Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland City. We have been working closely with those seven authorities, and on 2 February 2024—my birthday—they consented to the making of the order.

The institutions that are to be abolished by this order, which are the two existing combined authorities and the North of Tyne Mayor, consented to its making. The order also provides the foundation for the deeper devolution deal for the north-east, which was announced in the Budget on 6 March. It is a trailblazer deal, deepening and extending the devolution settlement in the north-east, providing new tools for the future Mayor and local leaders to drive regional economic growth. The order provides for the establishment on 7 May 2024 of the north-east mayoral combined authority, comprising as constituent councils the seven north-east councils. It simultaneously abolishes the existing North East and North of Tyne combined authorities, together with the office of the Mayor of the North of Tyne.

The order provides for a new Mayor for the whole of the north-east, to be elected by local government electors across the area of the seven constituent councils, with the first election to take place on 2 May 2024. That elected Mayor will take up office on 7 May with a four-year term, ending after the next mayoral election in May 2028. Thereafter, there will be elections every fourth year, which are to be held on the ordinary election day for that year, which is the first Thursday in May. Following the enactment of the Elections Act 2022, all those mayoral elections will use the first-past-the-post voting system.

The order provides for significant functions, as agreed in the devolution deal, to be conferred on to the new mayoral combined authority. They include functions on housing and regeneration; mayoral development corporations; transport; and skills and adult education. The mayoral combined authority will be the local transport authority for the whole of the north-east, and the Tyne and Wear passenger transport executive—or Nexus, which is currently an executive body of the two current combined authorities—will become an executive body of the new mayoral combined authority. In addition, several powers relating to the adult education budget will be devolved fully to the combined authority from the start of the academic year 2024-25 in August, following the north-east successfully passing a series of readiness conditions. Provision is made in the order for certain functions to be exercised individually by the Mayor, as agreed in the devolution deal. They include certain concurrent powers of Homes England on housing and regeneration, and certain transport powers. Provision is also made to enable the Mayor, if they choose, to issue a precept to fund mayoral functions.

The order also provides for the combined authority’s governance arrangements. Each constituent council is to nominate one of its members to be its constituent council member on the combined authority. In addition, each constituent council is to nominate two other members, each of whom may act as a substitute if its nominated member is unavailable. It is also open to the new mayoral combined authority to appoint associate members and invite nomination for non-constituent members under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023. The Mayor is to be the chair of the combined authority and is required to appoint one of the constituent council members to be the deputy Mayor. Whenever the deputy Mayor is required to act as the Mayor, one of the substitute members may act in their place for any proceedings.

Under schedule 5A to the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, the combined authority is required to have at least one overview and scrutiny committee and one audit committee. They are appointed by the combined authority and consist of an equal number of members from each of the constituent councils who are not also members of the combined authority. If approved by Parliament, the order is to be made under the 2009 Act, as amended by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. As required by that legislation, we have also laid a section 105B report, which provides details about the public authority functions that we are devolving to the new combined authority.

The statutory origin of this order is in a governance review and scheme that was adopted by the constituent councils and then informed by a public consultation, which they carried out in accordance with the requirements of the 2009 Act. As provided for by that Act, the seven councils of the north-east consulted on the proposals in their scheme. They promoted the consultation in a number of ways, including by producing communications toolkits so that key local partner organisations and other stakeholders could help to encourage local participation.

A total of 24 engagement events took place across the region, comprising 15 separate public consultation events across the north-east, together with nine regional stakeholder events aimed at specific sectors, including the voluntary and community sector and the business, transport and education sectors. Responses could be made online or directly by email or on paper. The public consultation ran from 26 January to 23 March 2023, and 3,235 people or organisations responded through a variety of platforms. As required by statute, the constituent councils provided the Secretary of State with a summary of the consultation responses on 23 June 2023. More than 60% of respondents supported the overall proposals for the establishment of, and governance arrangements for, a new mayoral combined authority and elected Mayor.

In laying the draft order before Parliament, the Secretary of State is satisfied that the statutory tests in the 2009 Act are met, namely: that no further consultation is necessary; that conferring the proposed powers would be likely to improve the exercise of statutory functions in the area and would be appropriate, having regard to the need to reflect the identities and interests of local communities and to secure effective and convenient local Government; and that, where the functions are local authority functions, they can be appropriately exercised by the combined authority.

Most importantly, agreeing this order opens a way to providing the very considerable funding for the area as set out in the devolution deal agreed in December 2022. That includes £48 million a year in investment funding for 30 years. In total, that will provide £1.4 billion to invest in the area to drive growth and take forward local priorities. There are significant funds for investment in transport, infrastructure and services, worth up to some £732 million over the next five years. There is an additional £17.4 million for building new homes on brownfield land, subject to sufficient eligible projects for funding being identified, and a further £20 million of capital funding to drive place-based economic regeneration. In addition, from August 2024, the core adult education budget will be devolved to the new combined authority, and the authority will plan to deliver UK shared prosperity funding from 2025-26, if that funding is continued and the geographies remain the same.

As I have mentioned, the order not only implements the devolution deal agreed in December 2022, but provides the foundation for implementing the deeper devolution deal that we announced in last week’s Budget, which includes £37 million of new funding to support the region’s growth ambitions, a growth zone with retained business rates and a number of innovative collaborations between the mayoral combined authority established by the order and the Government to drive growth in existing and future industrial strengths.

Those projects include, for example, creating a green superport, where the mayoral combined authority and the Government will work together to unlock the barriers to growth at the ports of Blyth, Tyne and Wear, at Newcastle international airport and at the International Advanced Manufacturing Park. This will harness the potential of the region’s existing offshore engineering and green manufacturing industries to help drive growth.

Under that further deal, the mayoral combined authority established by this order will also work in close partnership with the Government to support the delivery of quality public services for all the people of the north-east, including through joint work to tackle homelessness, improve homelessness prevention and develop new pilot employment programmes. All of this will help the Mayor and local leaders in the north-east to drive economic growth and development in the area with a more effective, strategic and unified approach than ever before.

Finally, I pay tribute to the local leaders and their councils, for all the work they have done, and continue to do, to address local priorities and to support business, industry and communities across the north-east.

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Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for his comments. I would point out to him, as I have done in previous debates, that under the last Labour Government the only area with a devolution deal in England was London. Under this Government, now more than 60% of England is covered by a devolution deal, and we are absolutely committed to expanding that further, which is what today’s order does.

Twenty years ago, the people of the north-east rightly rejected John Prescott’s idea for a north-east assembly. Labour’s version of devolution was top-down and even described by advocates as a talking shop with minimal powers. I remember the postcards during that referendum showing Middlesbrough’s town hall draped with the colours of the magpie with the phrase, “Don’t let the Toon run the Boro”. Today, in contrast, we are devolving with the consent of the people. It will not be a talking shop but a region with more powers and funding than ever before.

The north-east becomes the first region of the UK to be completely covered by mayoral devolution, with the powerful Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and a new Mayor covering the rest of the north-east. The north-east is home to landmarks recognised around the world, including Hadrian’s Wall, Durham cathedral and the Angel of the North. It bursts with skills and opportunities, with world-leading universities such as Durham University, the centres of educational excellence in Newcastle, and the pioneering education partnership between Sunderland and Northumberland. It is a trading region, with £12 billion of chemical exports each year. It has Nissan in Sunderland and the Port of Tyne, which handles most of the UK’s tea. Those in the north-east have given so much to the world and the UK, and we owe it to them to pass this order today.

Question put and agreed to.

Social Housing Occupancy

Jacob Young Excerpts
Tuesday 12th March 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure, Sir Gary, to serve under your chairmanship. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) for securing this important debate. She has worked tirelessly over the years to promote the interests of people and families living in social housing. I am also grateful to the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) for her invaluable contribution to this debate.

Like both hon. Members, I believe that everyone has the right to a decent, safe and warm home that meets their needs. This is a subject close to my heart: I was born and raised in Middlesbrough, where I saw from an early age the vital importance of decent homes for a good start in life, providing hard-working people with the solid foundation on which good, productive lives can be built and as the bedrock of strong local communities.

I also saw the consequences for people and families when homes were inadequate, poor quality and overcrowded, particularly for the poorest in our society, as the hon. Member for Bolton South East mentioned. That is why I am proud to support the Secretary of State and my ministerial colleagues at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as we work to reduce overcrowding by delivering not just more homes, but better homes in the right places across the country, including thousands of affordable homes and homes for social rent—good new homes that are at the heart of our long-term plan for housing and are the driving force behind our work to level up, boost economic growth and strengthen a sense of pride and belonging nationwide. We are making good progress.

Since 2010 the Government have delivered nearly 700,000 affordable homes, including 172,000 for social rent. In my constituency alone during that period, over 1,800 affordable homes have been built, hundreds of which are socially rented. In the constituency of the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green in the London borough of Haringey, more than 3,400 affordable homes have been delivered, including nearly 800 socially rented properties.

Looking to the future, our £11.5 billion affordable homes programme will deliver thousands more properties for rent and to buy over the coming years. We are investing in improving the supply of good quality housing in some of our poorest communities through our £1 billion brownfield and infrastructure investment fund, which will unlock around 65,000 new homes across the country. I saw that funding in action during my recent visit to Blackpool, where we are spending £90 million to bring housing in the town centre up to scratch, helping to improve the lives of hundreds of local people.

We recognise, however, that social housing is a finite resource. Councils are responsible for allocating their housing stock through local schemes and are best placed to manage demand. That is governed by a framework set by central Government, which ensures that reasonable preference is given to those living in overcrowded homes. We want to see local authorities making full use of all these measures to deliver more good quality social and affordable housing for the communities they serve.

We encourage housing authorities to consider innovative ways in which to make the best use of their stock, such as by supporting individuals living in larger homes to transfer to smaller properties to help reduce overcrowding. Many councils are already doing so.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister tell us whether the number of people in overcrowded social housing is going up?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- Hansard - -

I do not have that figure to hand, but I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman. I should say that I am not the Social Housing Minister; I am responding on behalf of Baroness Scott in this debate. But I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman gets an answer to his question.

We are also working to improve the quality of social housing nationwide, taking action through the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, which will deliver transformative change across the sector, rebalancing the relationships between landlords and tenants, and ensuring landlords are held to account for their performance. The Act is one of a wide range of measures we are taking to drive up standards across the sector, which include supporting a new regulatory regime to improve the quality and regulation of social housing; introducing new standards on competence and conduct for staff involved in the provision of housing management services; and the introduction of Awaab’s law.

I know the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green is particularly concerned about households that struggle with damp and mould. Awaab’s law, following the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in Rochdale in 2020, will now require landlords to address hazards, such as damp and mould, in social homes, within a fixed period. Collectively, those measures support our ambition to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030, as set out in the levelling-up White Paper.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the light of the specific case he just referenced, does the Minister regret the Lib Dem-Tory coalition decision to slash the Homes and Communities Agency’s funding by 83%, which prevented some of those home improvements happening for at least the five years of that Government?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- Hansard - -

I would say that we are acting, through legislation, in the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023. We introduced Awaab’s law as an amendment to that Act, to ensure that such issues are tackled in a timely manner, to prevent more tragic deaths such as Awaab Ishak’s.

Turning to local housing allowance, the Government recognise the cost of living pressures that tenants face, and that paying rent is likely to be a tenant’s biggest monthly expense, as the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green said. From April 2024, we are investing £1.2 billion, restoring local housing allowance rates to the thirtieth percentile of local market rents. That significant investment will mean 1.6 million low-income households will gain, on average, nearly £800 per year in additional help towards their rental costs in 2024-25.

Decisive action has been taken across the UK to support households through cost of living challenges, meaning that more than 8 million of the most vulnerable households will continue to be supported through winter by additional cost of living payments. Discretionary housing payments are also available to help meet shortfalls in housing costs. Cost of living payments are also available this year to households on means-tested benefits, those on disability benefits and pensioners, with the household support fund now extended by a further six months, to help cover the cost of essentials.

As this debate has shown, we all recognise that social housing is a precious resource, which is why it must be used wisely and fairly. The British public want to know that decent, hard-working people, who have contributed to this country and played by the rules, can secure a home in their local community. That is why we are taking action to ensure that those who abuse the housing system should not benefit at the expense of those who play by the rules, and that local housing authorities do not disproportionately allocate housing to those newly arrived in the country or local area, while local families are left on waiting lists.

In conclusion, we will ensure that all applicants and tenants of social housing can benefit from a system that rewards responsible behaviour and protects local households, while supporting the most vulnerable and those most in need. That system would provide good homes as the building blocks for strong communities to be proud of, and the launchpad for people and families to get on in life.

Question put and agreed to.