Third Reading

Part of Deregulation Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 4th March 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) 6:45 pm, 4th March 2015

When the noble Lord referred to the 15 and the seven, I thought, “I hope I have got my maths right”, so I am glad that we said that there were eight and seven. He is quite correct. I mentioned those authorities which did not want the review to happen and, subsequently, the seven which did not object. To clarify that point, I say that the noble Lord is quite right. I hope that I am being clear. I am being detailed in my response so, while I am not expecting it, I at least hope—and one should never give up on hope—that I shall carry the House in certain elements of what I am saying, and that there will nevertheless be clarity in covering the issues that have been raised.

My noble friend Lord Tope also raised council tax liability as a way of demonstrating residency. We believe that this provision distinguishes between private and business premises because it requires liability for council tax, which means that if a property was used as a residence, a hotel or a hostel, it would be liable for business rates. Combined with the 90-night limit, we believe that this provides an appropriate safeguard against short-term letting on an ongoing basis.

I welcome the interventions of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, as I do those of all noble Lords. I listened to him attentively. He raised the issue of insurance. It is of course a matter for landlords to enforce, and for tenants to abide by, the terms of the lease and any insurance policies. Our amendments relate to the need to apply for planning permission and do not affect issues under an existing lease or indeed an insurance policy.

I hope that I have addressed most, if not all, of the issues raised in the hour and 10 minutes that we have had on this group of amendments. This is an important area, and I assure the House again that the Government have listened to the concerns expressed during the passage of the Bill. We believe that what is in front of us today, and what we are proposing more generally, is a balanced approach, with the objective of updating a law that would work for the benefit of ordinary Londoners wishing to let their homes in a legal way.

I hope that noble Lords will accept the reassurances that I have given again today: we are proposing amendments to seek to prevent the loss of housing stock by allowing the short-term letting of homes for a maximum of 90 days without the need for planning permission. I stress again that there are safeguards in the Bill to check that the added freedom will apply only to those people who are providing their homes and paying council tax; and we are providing local authorities with the power to apply to the Secretary of State where exceptions may be and where local amenities need to be protected.

I believe that the Government have listened and present a balanced perspective on where we are today. If I may, I end with the words of the song:

“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

That I love London Town”.

I believe that what the Government have proposed does just that.