My Lords, as this is the first time I have spoken during today’s Report stage consideration of the Housing and Planning Bill, I refer noble Lords to my declaration of interests and declare that I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham.
Perhaps I may also thank Members from all sides of the House for their kind remarks after I was taken ill as we entered the last day of Committee before Easter. I received emails, notes and cards, and noble Lords were very generous in their remarks about me and in wishing me a speedy recovery. I am also very grateful to my noble friend Lord Beecham and all other noble Lords from the Labour Benches who, at short notice—or no notice at all—came forward to assist the Front Bench efforts. I am truly grateful to everyone.
The Government will have seen that we have divided the House a number of times already this evening, and I think it is inevitable that we will continue to divide the House today and on future days on Report as we proceed with our consideration of the Bill. It is not just that we object or do not like parts of this Bill; it is the wholly inadequate and poor way the Bill has been brought forward with ill-thought-out, half-baked proposals, inadequate preparation and a general disregard for Parliament, local authorities, charities, campaigners, tenants and anyone else affected by these proposals. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, has done her very best in the circumstances, and we are very grateful to her and her colleagues for that. I thought it important to put that on the record again.
Amendments 14, 16, 17, 18, and 19 replace the word “companies” first, and subsequently “company”, with the words “bodies corporate” in the first instance and “body corporate” subsequently, so as to include bodies incorporated outside England and Wales. This widens the scope of the banning order, which is to be welcomed, and is in response to points made by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours in Committee, as the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park, mentioned in her remarks.
Amendment 20 raises the standard of proof to the criminal standard and we welcome that proposal. If someone is to be subject to a penalty, then being satisfied to the higher standard of proof seems sensible to me, and this amendment makes that crystal clear for everyone.
Amendment 21 will add a new sub-paragraph into paragraph 10 of Schedule 1, again clarifying that, under the appeals procedure, the appeal can have regard to matters that the local authority was unaware of. Amendment 29 provides for an appeal from the First-tier Tribunal to the Upper Tribunal, other than on a point of law. My noble friend Lord Beecham made that point in this regard in Committee, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, advised us all in letter of
Amendment 15 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, is one with a lot of appeal to us. It would stop the regulations coming into force until at least one year after the publication of the draft regulations to be made under the subsection. It would certainly leave us with a proper time for reflection. That can only be a good thing when we look at the Bill and consider how the Government have acted in their general handling of it so far. If the noble Baroness wishes to test the opinion of the House, I can assure her of the support of these Benches.