I entirely agree.
These new rules are quite complex and there will be a bureaucratic cost to councils, letting agents, landlords and therefore tenants. The rules trigger the new burdens doctrine, and I hope that this will be accounted for in the legislation. I still think that a simple rule allowing letting agents to impose a maximum fee of 100% or 150% of monthly rent might have solved this more straightforwardly, as long as there were additional safeguards for those receiving housing-related benefits and others.
As I said last week on housing and, before that, on the energy price cap, I am a critical friend and a supporter, rather than a member, of this Conservative Government. Although I accept the need to intervene at times to ensure that fairness is maintained in the market, we also have a strong commitment to providing more houses and making people’s lives easier. The focus needs to be the key objective of having new homes in which the private rented sector will have a role, rather than just the “ban and regulate” type of legislation. As my hon. Friend Alex Chalk has just said, let us remember that there are hard-working people in the sector. We should not draft legislation purely to punish those who behave unscrupulously at the expense of the far more numerous examples in the former category.
I would like to acknowledge the work of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, on which I sit. Over the past few months, it has held evidence sessions with stakeholders and done significant work to improve this Bill so as to avoid more costly and inefficient enforcement. Indeed, that work has been sufficient, notwithstanding my reservations, to secure my support in the Lobby, because there is a problem to be tackled, even if this proposal has some Jim Hacker in it as well as some King Solomon.