Committee (1st Day)

Part of Housing and Planning Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of The Earl of Lytton The Earl of Lytton Crossbench 5:00 pm, 9th February 2016

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, has raised a very important matter, and it is appropriate that it should be grouped with government Amendments 3 and 4. As the noble Lord, Lord Deben, mentioned earlier, there is no limit to the amount of roguishness that can come about. As to the question of identifying who is the perpetrator, who the owner and who the person in control—is it a company and or an individual?—these are murky waters, particularly with patterns of complex ownership, possibly involving ownerships of non-domestic individuals or companies, and so it goes on. It begs the question, in terms of Amendments 3 and 4, as to what the person faced with the sanctions envisaged here will do under the government amendments in particular. What is the nuclear option? What are the choices before the case is even heard, let alone when it is actually heard? What happens when a conviction occurs and is subject to an appeal?

This leaves potentially malevolent folk, if that is what they are—we assume that the ones who are rogues are malevolent folk and are appropriately labelled as such—still with the considerable ability to make mischief and make life a misery. Whether that is spitefulness, simply being manipulative, or whatever, I see great problems. That is one of the reasons why I am concerned for local government being handed this issue on a plate. There may be very uncertain outcomes that are extremely costly to unpick. Bearing in mind what I said a few minutes ago, I am not in favour of short-changing due process. There must be due process. I do not think we can tackle roguishness that borders on, or may actually be, criminality, other than by proper due process. We cannot have the rule of law being circumvented to catch these people; we have to play this by the rule book. That is the only way in which not to discourage the willing horses while at the same time squeezing out the malevolent types.

I see, as the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, sees, some serious structural difficulties in dealing with this in practice. We have in this Committee the skills set to unpick this and to consider the complications and ramifications.