Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Committee (1st Day)

Part of Housing and Planning Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 9th February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative 4:15 pm, 9th February 2016

My Lords, it is quite understandable why the Government have been—if I may put it like this —so loose in the wording, because they do not want to get themselves into a position where they cannot act when an offence of some notoriety takes place. I understand that. However, the big issue here for me is a very fundamental one about the freedom of people in this country. One needs to know that beforehand when one is doing something that will lead to one being punished. My concern here is that there is no certainty and that it might alter depending on who is the Minister responsible. In recent days, we have had an example of how different ways of looking at justice can proceed from Ministers of the same political party—if I may put it as delicately as that.

In those circumstances, it might be of advantage to have a list and to be a little tighter here, while still giving enough elbow room for the circumstances in which a rogue landlord might find some way to behave which we have not yet thought of. As a Member of Parliament for a very long time, my experience of rogue landlords was that they are infinite in their ability to discover mechanisms by which to penalise, harass and indeed destroy the lives of their tenants.

I am sympathetic to this amendment, and think it should contain some of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, but I hope also that we would be sympathetic to the Minister on this, because it is important that we should be able to move with the crime. We should not be so caught by the phraseology that we cannot deal with something which we have not thought of yet. With that proviso, I wonder whether my noble friend will look again at the way this is done, so that we can protect that essential freedom whereby I know in advance what will happen if I do something which I should not do, rather than not knowing in advance what will happen if I do something which I might find out someone else has decided I should not have done. I just do not think that is a very good basis for English law.