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Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:30 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Hollis of Heigham Baroness Hollis of Heigham Labour 10:30 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I also support these amendments. I hope that the House will forgive me if I say that I have been in this House for 25 years and handled a number of Bills on both sides of the Benches, both for the Government and the Opposition. There are often cases where, as with the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, there was a real need for something that was essentially broad brush to get resolutions coming from below, and we accepted that.

However, leaving that aside, in process terms—I am not talking about content, and it is absolutely not the fault of the Minister and her colleagues on the Front Bench—this is the worst Bill I have come across in my fields in 25 years. That is because we have not had pre-legislative scrutiny or proper legislative scrutiny and, because the consultation exercises which should have been completed before the Bill started will not be completed until after the Bill has finished, we will not get post-legislative scrutiny. What does it mean to talk about this House of Lords being a place of scrutiny when we cannot scrutinise because so much of what we need to know will not only not be in primary legislation, but will also not be in statutory instruments which we will see draft copies of before the Bill is complete? Why is that? They are dependent on consultation exercises, which were only started in some cases half way through not the proceedings down the other end but the proceedings in this House. This is disgraceful. It is a shabby way to treat Parliament and all those affected by the Bill—and hundreds of thousands of council tenants will be affected by it, as well as many people who will seek to buy starter homes, and they still do not know the small print of how it will be. It is a shabby way to treat the public.

It is fairly obvious that the Bill was introduced a year too early. It should have been pulled fairly early by the current equivalent of LegCo. Ministers should have been sent away and told to come back to both Houses when the Bill’s policy intent was clear, so that stuff that is of major policy import, not matters of detail, is not carried by SIs—which we are told we cannot amend but only discuss; we might just as well go home and not bother for that purpose—instead of being in the Bill, where we can amend it, dispute and argue with the House of Commons and, ultimately, of course, accept that it has the final say. That has been denied to us.

We are moving on to Third Reading, and I cannot recall being so unhappy about the handling of the process of a Bill, and, as I said, I have been involved with quite a number of Bills. I am not talking about the Minister, who has been as accommodating, helpful and generous with her time as possible. We have failed to scrutinise the Bill. We have allowed ourselves to be committed to a process which we should have rejected as inadequate, because the Bill was not ready for parliamentary scrutiny. We have all allowed ourselves to collude in that failure of scrutiny, and I have to say that I am ashamed of it.