Committee (1st Day)

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

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 4:15 pm, 9th February 2016

Amendments C1 and 8ZA relate to the same issue, so I shall address them together. Amendment C1 would remove Clause 13(3) from the Bill and replace it with a provision listing the offences that constitute banning order offences, namely,

“unlawful eviction of a tenant; or … failure to comply with an improvement notice in relation to property conditions”,

and would require that regulations to amend the list be subject to affirmative resolutions.

Amendment 8ZA would amend Clause 22, and would require financial penalty guidance to be laid in draft before Parliament, and not brought into force without an affirmative procedure resolution of each House.

We propose to define banning order offences in secondary legislation, as this will give us the flexibility to amend the list of banning order offences in the light of experience, as my noble friend Lord Deben said. As he has also requested in terms of certainty, we are sympathetic to that and we will consider it further.

Clause 13(4) explains what matters may be taken into consideration when setting out in regulations what are banning order offences. Banning order offences are likely to include a serious offence, where an offender has been convicted in the Crown Court of an offence involving fraud, drugs, sexual assault or violence that is committed in, or in relation to, a property that is owned or managed by the offender, or which involves, or was perpetrated against, persons occupying such a property. A banning order offence also includes any serious offence involving violence against the tenant by the landlord or property agent, and serious breaches of housing legislation.

We are planning to publish the secondary regulations in draft and will consult on these in the autumn before they are laid before the House. These will all be existing offences that already have serious consequences for those who are convicted. We are introducing civil penalties as an alternative to prosecution, and these will be available for certain serious breaches of housing legislation. The guidance for local authorities will be procedural and will provide advice on when it may be appropriate to issue a civil penalty rather than prosecute, together with advice on what might be the appropriate level of penalties.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked about the right of appeal for civil penalties. The landlord will have a right to appeal against a civil penalty to a First-tier Tribunal and can either cancel or decrease the penalty. Several noble Lords have brought up the DPRRC and its recommendations on the delegated powers in the Bill, including those highlighted in these amendments. I can confirm to noble Lords that we will consider the committee’s recommendations and respond in Committee if possible, but certainly before Report. I hope that, with those comments, the noble Lord will feel content to withdraw the amendment.