Amendment 6

Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 6th September 2022.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock:

Moved by Baroness Hayman of Ullock

6: Clause 2, page 2, line 9, at end insert—“(4A) In making appointments to the Panel, the regulator must give consideration to appointing persons from different regions of the United Kingdom.”Member's explanatory statementThis amendment would ensure regional diversity on the Panel.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, I will introduce my three amendments in this group. First, Amendment 6 is supported by the National Housing Federation and the Local Government Association. It would amend Clause 2 to ensure that there is diverse regional representation among the members of the proposed advisory panel and that those members can then provide the regulator with information and advice on issues that may arise or vary at a regional level.

The LGA has further suggested that the Bill could also ensure diversity of councils on the panel in terms not just of region but of authority size, the quantity and quality of housing stock and social housing management arrangements. We agree with the LGA that it is vital that the membership of the panel comprises a diverse range of councils so that consumer issues right across the sector can be effectively represented. However, although we support the panel, we are disappointed that the proposals stop short of making it a permanent national representative body for tenants. Why has the decision been taken not to make this permanent? Do the Government intend to review this at some stage?

Improving tenant engagement and listening to what tenants say is clearly one of the most important lessons from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, so tenants need to be right at the heart of the advisory panel. This is why I have put forward Amendment 7, which says that the panel must be chaired by a tenant with responsibility for agenda setting. I hope that the Minister understands why it would make a huge difference to tenants’ trust and belief if the panel were to really give them a voice.

I thank the noble Lords who supported my Amendment 30: the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, and my noble friend Lord Whitty. It seeks to create a power for the Secretary of State to require managers of social housing to have appropriate qualifications and expertise. The fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 was a stark example of what underregulated and unprofessional management in social housing can lead to. Bringing some level of professionalisation into the housing sector has been argued for consistently and cogently by members of Grenfell United. I thank them for their continued work and persistence and for the time they gave to discuss their concerns in this area with me.

Grenfell United believes that a more professional housing sector is one of the main ways by which to create a fitting legacy for the 72 lives that were so needlessly lost on 14 June 2017. In the social housing White Paper, the Government said that they would

“Review professional training and development to ensure residents receive a high standard of customer service.”

But the Bill introduces no measures that would enable professional standards to be mandated in law. Poorly managed and maintained social housing can cause serious harm to renters’ health and well-being—yet there are no requirements to be properly qualified or to undergo professional development.

Ministers have described social housing as the first social service. Well-managed social housing, offering adequate levels of support to residents, takes pressure off health and social care service as well as early years and school support services. But, first and foremost, we believe that professional qualifications and development should be mandatory for senior managers working in social housing. Qualifications and training should aim to provide housing management staff with the skills and knowledge needed to do the job, as well as instilling the values and ethics needed to deliver a care-centred service for residents.

Having senior staff with the appropriate skills and qualifications would ensure that the teams of housing officers and other junior staff that they manage are professionally run, thereby delivering a quality service for all residents. This would balance the need for professionalisation, while not creating barriers to housing associations and councils finding enough staff. We do not intend this amendment to be prescriptive: it requires regulations to define what types of work would require a qualification.

The Minister will no doubt be aware that the Government are currently conducting a review into professional standards within the social housing sector. We believe that there should be legislative backing to ensure that its conclusions can be implemented and upheld effectively. It is also important that the review is published in time for its recommendations to be considered as part of the development of this legislation, so can the Minister confirm that it will be available during the progress of the Bill?

Since the fire at Grenfell Tower, survivors and thousands of tenants of social housing have demonstrated time and time again that they do not have trust in the regulator on its own. The Government rightly recognised the need for action and accountability following the fire and promised a new deal for social renters. This amendment would allow for the monitoring and enforcement of professional standards in the social housing sector, including clear government direction and accountability. Surely this is an area in which the Minister could agree with us, and perhaps we could work together to take some of these issues further forward.

Finally, I am aware that my noble friend Lord Whitty has Amendment 47 in this group. I assure him that we support what he is trying to achieve with it, and I look forward to hearing more detail from him.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I will add a brief footnote to the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who spoke to Amendment 30, to which I have added my name, as she said. As we have been reminded throughout the debate, Grenfell Tower was a tragic reminder of the need for professional management in social housing. Unlike private tenants, social tenants have few options to move to an alternative landlord if they do not get the service that they are entitled to.

During the passage of the Bill on social care, I urged the Government to do more to drive up professional qualifications in the social care sector so that it could compete more effectively with the health service in the recruitment of staff, develop a proper career structure with improved conditions of service and, as a crucial outcome, drive up the quality of care received by the customers. Much of that argument applies equally to social housing, where many of those employed will come across vulnerable families and where those managing social housing need the capacity that comes with relevant training to ensure that those families get the support that they need.

I am well aware of the counterargument that was deployed in the debate on social care and that may well be deployed against this amendment—namely, that there are many committed people working in the sector who have no professional qualifications but none the less provide a first-class service, and we do not want to lose them. We also do not want to introduce barriers to entry for a service that often finds it difficult to recruit. But I believe that the amendment addresses those objections by requiring those managing social housing to have appropriate professional qualifications or satisfy specified requirements. There is sufficient flexibility, not least in proposed subsection (3), which refers to a

“specified qualification or experience of a specified kind”.

Of course, the amendment only applies to those in a managing role, not others involved in the sector.

Now I believe that the Government are aware of this need to drive up standards and quality of management in the sector, as their White Paper said they would undertake to:

“Review professional training and development to ensure residents receive a high standard of customer service.”

I am sure that the Chartered Institute of Housing, which represents those employed in the sector, would help develop the appropriate modules of training, building on its existing expertise—as indeed would the National Housing Federation. However, at the moment, the Bill is simply silent on this issue, which is highly relevant to the regulation of social housing. As the noble Baroness said, the department has set up a working group to review professional standards, but that is no substitute for the clear statement of intent set out in the amendment. As the noble Baroness said, we need to know when that working group will publish its report.

So what I think we are hoping for from the Minister in response to this amendment is a clear restatement of the principle set out in the White Paper, coupled with some identifiable milestones so we can monitor progress towards that destination, and a commitment to a serious and sustained dialogue with the professional bodies concerned so that we get the details right. I look forward to my noble friend’s response.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Labour

My Lords, my name is attached to both Amendment 30, which was so ably moved by my noble friend on the Front Bench, and Amendment 47. I will not repeat everything my noble friend said, but I endorse all of it.

I will focus on the nature of the problems some tenants of social housing have encountered. In recent media exposés, we have seen serious problems in social housing—both local authority and housing association —of unaddressed conditions of damp, infestation and electrical faults. I will read an extract from a letter I received this morning from a tenant of social housing—I will not identify the landlord. The tenant says, “I have witnessed first hand terrible living conditions and treatment of tenants by my housing association. This includes illegal entry to properties, landlord harassment if a tenant makes an official complaint, poor repairs, failure to deal with severe anti-social behaviour from neighbours, lack of insulation, failure to decently carry out essential maintenance, poor fire safety and huge lies about cladding”.

That is not a unique experience; we have seen enough of it to indicate the decline of the management of social properties in too many areas of local authorities and housing associations. The reasons for this are not clear, but it has been partly about the structure of the industry and because local authorities have been under severe financial pressure, which has starved them of the ability to staff issues such as maintenance and support. Meanwhile, it is also true that some housing associations have become, through mergers et cetera, too large to relate effectively to their tenants and their problems.

When social housing was at its best—for example, in the era that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred to—local authorities and housing associations had substantial in-house expertise in their management and professional roles in areas such as architects, construction, maintenance and social support for tenants and their families. Much of that expertise has gone, due to pressures on local authority budgets and so forth. For example, the lack of construction expertise has put local authorities in the hands of developers when they propose major changes. In those days local authorities effectively had the whip hand in dealing with the building sector, because there was competition between a lot of local building companies—but they are now very much in the hands of the big housebuilders and developers. That changes the social responsibilities, and the result has been a failure of maintenance provision, toleration of damp and unhealthy conditions and, as other noble Lords have referred to, a general disdain for the views and knowledge of tenants. That is why I support Amendment 30.

We need to reprofessionalise the personnel who run local authority housing, and, in many cases, that applies to housing associations as well. That requires both clear qualifications for the management and professional jobs, and regular and effective inspections by the regulator. The Bill starts to introduce that, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, it needs substantial strengthening. Without a step change in the quality of housing staff in both sectors, social tenants will too often continue to get a raw deal and continue to be largely ignored if they express their concerns. As we know, this was tragically the initial and most substantial failure in the case of Grenfell, where the tenants had expressed over the years the problems which the building, and the refurbishment of the building, were likely to present. Let us, therefore, in this limited Bill provide for better staffing of local authorities and housing associations, and better regulation, inspection and enforcement of the quality of staffing—as is provided in Amendment 30.

I acknowledge that my second amendment, Amendment 47, deals with a very particular area relating to the situation in which local authorities or housing associations are proposing a major redevelopment or regeneration scheme—and in many cases those schemes may be felt to be necessary. However, when regeneration has the effect of changing dramatically either the physical nature of the housing or the balance of tenure of the estate, or both—as such big proposals do in many cases—it is important that there is effective consultation with the tenants and other residents. I would argue that this should include both tenants and leaseholders, but social landlords are dealt with in relation to tenants in this Bill.

In another context that I mentioned earlier, I referred to the preference of planning authorities and developers for demolition and for changing the whole nature of a council estate. I discussed this in terms of carbon content and environmental consequences. However, there are also social dimensions to what is normally the dominant developer preference, often by both the local authority or housing association and the planning process itself. Major regeneration plans need to be subject to the genuine support of existing residents, and a proper consultation needs proper rules.

There are cases where ballots are proposed—Amendment 47 deals with this—but the terms of the consultation need to be fair and clear. Ballots may be required for large-scale developments by government policy, by local authority planning policy, or by situations attached to a particular proposal. Alternatively, they may be voluntarily proposed as the best means of a social landlord consulting their tenants. By their nature, such ballots are normally, but not in all cases, binary: you either support the proposition coming from your landlord and the developer, or you do not. In a few cases, there are more options. Whether the conduct of those ballots is either binary or with options, it needs to be fair, and recent experience in both sectors has suggested that it has not been fair. The developer and the landlords use all their advantages to advocate their proposition. The way their proposals are defined and presented, and the timing and the description of what the alternative of no action would imply, are all aspects of the propaganda provided for residents and reflect the view of the landlord—who, in turn, is often dominated by the proposals of developers.

Amendment 47 covers agreement on the wording and presentation of the options in such ballots and the information provided for each option, including the status quo; if there is an organised opposition case, then there should be equivalence of information on each option, equal funding in those circumstances for both or all options, which is particularly important in any form of democracy, and the proper identification of all residents entitled to vote. Regrettably, where consultation ballots have been conducted, these basic rules of democracy have in many cases emphatically not been followed. The regulator needs the power to deal with these issues and I hope that Amendment 47 in some form, not necessarily the form in which I have put it here, will be part of its responsibilities.

Photo of Baroness Thornhill Baroness Thornhill Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Housing) 5:45 pm, 6th September 2022

My Lords, before turning to Amendment 30, to which I have added my name, I will make some brief general comments about the amendments and say that we strongly support Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, on regional reps. Normally, I am not a fan of what I would call tokenistic representation but I feel in this case that it is absolutely essential because the regional variation in housing is massive. We go so far as to feel that there should be regional panels for precisely this reason. We appreciate that that would be pushing it too far here, but we are the party of regionalism, after all.

With regard to the chairing of the panel, I understand the need to have the tenant’s voice at the heart of this, but our concern is that if it were prescriptive you may not get the best person for the job and that is who we would want for this crucial role. If we have a concern around the panel, to be blunt, it is its size and its remit. We fear that it will just be a talking shop.

Turning to Amendment 47, I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, about regeneration, but feel very strongly that a neutrally phrased question should also apply to ballots on stock transfer. I appreciate that stock transfer is an incredibly loaded political issue, but I genuinely believe that tenants should have—and can be denied—the right to change their landlord, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, said. That is especially the case sometimes when the landlord is the council. Instead, we believe that empowering tenants and giving them a stronger voice at all levels might be stronger in cases of both regeneration and stock transfer.

In many ways I am surprised that Amendment 30 is not part of the Bill. To a lay person, it would seem rather puzzling to imagine that any organisation would be able to do the scale of the job that the Bill is asking them to do without a range of suitably qualified senior managers. The challenge is huge and we want them to succeed—more so as many of the general concerns about the Bill, which, as we have said, enjoys wide, cross-party support, are around capability and capacity, whether of the Government centrally or within the sector. Do they, as a whole, have the skills and capacity to effectively deliver what the Bill proposes and what we all expect, not least what is expressed by all those who are part of Grenfell United, who fully support this amendment?

In my 30 years of being involved in local government, I feel that this is one area that has witnessed incredible changes in the housing sector, most notably in the demands placed on it. It was lovely to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, saying how proud her parents were of their council house and to go back to those days when councils and providers were managing well and coping, on the whole. Now they are stretched, on occasion to breaking point, and permanently under pressure.

During this time, Governments have rightly increased statutory responsibilities on councils and housing providers for higher and better standards to meet changing circumstances. As we know and has been evidenced today, providers have obviously been behind the curve and been caught napping.

Social housing is very scarce resource, which, due to the woeful lack of it, has to be rationed. I do not envy anybody in the job of rationing that scarce resource. It means that people turn up at their council at crisis point, which is very challenging to deal with. A day with a housing officer in my early days as a councillor was a real eye-opener.

I conjecture that the training and development of staff is not always the top priority for an organisation under pressure; ironically, it should be. A suitably qualified professional manager would ensure that this was a priority and not a case of “If we can find time for it” or “Turn up to the training if you can”. The attitude of other employees is also influenced by the tone set on training and development by their managers. They can respect their expertise, demonstrated through their qualifications, which, in turn, contributes to the overall culture of the organisation. It is surely at the heart of the Bill to change the culture of any failing organisation. This is why I find it hard to believe that there is no statutory footing for the greater professional management of this most valuable sector, in line with other statutory services, such as health professionals, teachers and social workers.

It is worth noting that, as social housing has become scarcer, it is those in greatest need who are now rightly housed as a priority. Indeed, the social housing Green Paper has, as someone mentioned, described the sector as the “first social service”. Attention to the most vulnerable in our society takes huge skill and expertise and needs to be well managed.

I note that the National Housing Federation has expressed concern about this amendment, citing existing problems with the retention and training of committed and skilled staff and the ever-present, not to be minimalised, financial strain on providers to fulfil the core requirements of the Bill. That is why we believe that this amendment is much needed for the Government to encourage, cajole and push all the relevant parties, including the federation and the LGA, to work together to address this worrying situation as it currently is. We believe it will completely undermine the whole purpose of the Bill if that is not given serious attention. The chair of a tenants’ advisory service recently said that we do not want to look back in five years and realise that we have been simply rearranging the deckchairs on the “Titanic”. I agree with her.

Photo of Baroness Sanderson of Welton Baroness Sanderson of Welton Conservative 6:00 pm, 6th September 2022

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 30 in this group, but I first apologise for not being able to speak at Second Reading. Secondly, I declare my interests, as set out in the register, as someone who works with both the Grenfell community and Theresa May, who I shall mention in a moment.

The Grenfell Tower fire exposed a host of social housing issues, but in terms of this amendment it is important to highlight one in particular: the stigma that existed then and exists now, and which will continue to exist unless we take practical steps to do something about it. As the Green Paper on social housing showed, and as Theresa May said as Prime Minister:

“Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority. On the outside, many people in society—including too many politicians—continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home … Our friends and neighbours who live in social housing are not second-rate citizens.”

But for that issue to be addressed, those friends and neighbours must not be treated like second-rate citizens, not just by those on the outside but those on the inside, whose job it is to manage their homes.

We know from the Grenfell Tower inquiry what happens when the job is not done properly, when there is poor management and maintenance, no care and no respect, and when repeated pleas fall on deaf ears and people begin to lose hope. We also know that this was not a one-off. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, alluded to, the work done by Daniel Hewitt of ITV News and Kwajo Tweneboa on social media has proved beyond doubt that this is a widespread and deep-rooted problem.

I am not sure how we can expect the sector to improve unless we take active steps to professionalise it. We need to encourage people into the profession, to instil a sense of pride in what can be a difficult but rewarding career, and we need to recognise the essential part that social housing managers play in creating a thriving community, alongside our teachers, nurses and social workers, all of whom we expect to be qualified. As one resident of Grenfell Tower who was here earlier said, “You wouldn’t send your child to a school where the teacher was unqualified.” A properly functioning social housing system is just as important to a child’s welfare as its education.

As has been mentioned, it was the Conservative manifesto of 1951 that stated that housing

“is the first of the social services”.

It went on to say that

“work, family life, health and education are all undermined by crowded houses.”

The argument then was about numbers, and it still is—but it is also about standards and acknowledging the modern-day complexity of these roles. By registering social housing managers and ensuring that they have relevant qualifications, we can begin to drive up standards. As Shelter has pointed out, it also means that it will be better equipped to support residents suffering from domestic abuse or racial harassment, or who may be caught up in youth violence or harassment by criminal gangs.

The Government have already recognised the need for improvement, and they have launched a review. I appreciate that they need time to respond to that review, but if the response is not going to be available as the legislation progresses, it would be a terrible irony if that became the reason to reject this amendment, which is measured and reasonable in scope. It is not asking for that training to be made mandatory now; it is merely asking that the Secretary of State be given the power to establish requirements for qualifications and training in regulations. That seems reasonable to me, and this is the right legislation in which to place this power. If we miss this opportunity, it could be years before there is another chance. The Grenfell community has waited long enough for the change we promised them.

Doing it now will also allow the Government to be fleet of foot—a rare occurrence—when the time comes for professionalisation, as it surely will. Awareness of the problems in social housing is growing all the time, and with it so will calls for professionalisation. Meanwhile, we should be aware that lawyers representing the bereaved and survivors at the Grenfell Tower inquiry will be proposing professionalisation in their submissions concerning future recommendations, which will be heard later this year.

Instigating this change does not need to involve the creation of a whole new body. As my noble friend Lord Young mentioned, the Chartered Institute of Housing has an existing framework of qualifications, professional registration and a code of ethics and values, and this could all take professionalisation forward. There may need to be some tweaking, of course, but the infrastructure is already there. To that end, will the Government consider this amendment as one which will bring meaningful and lasting change?

I have probably spoken for long enough, but I leave the last words to the Grenfell community. As I have said before in this place, and as is relevant again now, they want Grenfell to be remembered not for what happened on the night but for all the positive actions that have flowed as a result. They believe passionately that professionalisation can be one of the most important elements of the legacy they have fought so hard for, for many years. We owe it to them to give this proper consideration.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for tabling amendments relating to tenant engagement.

I begin with Amendment 6, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, which would require the regulator to consider appointing persons from different regions of the United Kingdom to the advisory panel. I hate to do this, but I point out that the Bill relates to the regulator of social housing in England alone. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to require representation on the advisory panel from the regions across the United Kingdom. That is a technicality that I should point out.

However, I understand that the aim of the amendment is to ensure that the panel is made up of a range of views. The social housing White Paper made it clear that the purpose of the panel was to provide independent and unbiased advice which would support the transformative change needed and build trust with tenants and social landlords across England. I am more than happy to put it on the record that I am clear that this means that the advisory panel has to be properly representative. I know that the regulator is fully committed to ensuring that that is the case. I am also sure that future Ministers will take a keen interest in ensuring that the advisory panel is delivering the broad representation we expect.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, asked whether councils will be on the advisory panel. The Bill specifies a number of groups that must be included on the advisory panel. That includes councils, and we would expect the regulator to seek diverse views, including among local authorities. She also asked whether the Government will review the temporary nature of the advisory panel. As previously mentioned, the new regulatory regime will be reviewed after a four-year regulatory cycle, and that includes the advisory panel and its effectiveness. However, the panel is not envisaged to be a temporary body; it will continue to offer advice to the regulator on the discharge of its functions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, said that she believes that prescribing factors that must be considered in deciding who makes up the panel is unnecessary and could tie the hands of the regulator. I agree—in fact, it might hamper the regulator’s ability to balance a range of factors to get the best range of views. The regulator already has several mechanisms for engaging with stakeholders, including a non-statutory advisory panel, which includes engagement with representatives from across regions within England. I hope that this reassures the noble Baroness that the Government are committed to ensuring that the panel is representative, including voices that reflect issues and views from across the country—that is, England.

Amendment 7 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, would require a social housing tenant to chair the advisory panel and to have responsibility for setting its agenda. I am sympathetic to what drives this amendment—empowering tenants and ensuring they have a voice, which is what the Bill is all about—but I do not agree that it is desirable for the legislation to specify how the panel should operate or who may lead or set the agenda in this way.

I should make it clear that the panel is intended to allow a collection of diverse voices to share their knowledge and opinions with the regulator. I would also expect the advisory panel, with the regulator, to shape how it works and what it considers. I do not believe that having a tenant set the agenda, as chairman of the panel, is necessary to ensure that the views of tenants are heard. The Government also want the panel to consider the full range of other regulatory issues that the regulator has to tackle. While consumer issues are rightly at the forefront of the Bill, we are determined that the importance of economic regulation should not be diminished. A requirement for a tenant to chair and set the agenda would not support what we are trying to achieve. As I have said, in practice I expect that all members of the advisory panel, along with the regulator, will shape its agenda and how it operates.

I now turn to the important Amendment 30, also in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, which relates to professionalisation of the social housing sector. It is supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and my noble friends Lord Young of Cookham and Lady Sanderson of Welton, and I will speak more about it in a bit. We know how important it is that social housing staff carry out their roles with a high degree of professionalism. That is why our social housing White Paper committed to review professional training and development in this sector, and to consider the appropriate qualifications and standards for social housing staff in different roles, including senior staff. To inform the review, we established a working group made up of resident groups, landlords, professional bodies and academics. We also commissioned independent research and undertook fact-finding visits to gather a wide range of evidence. We are now considering the most effective means of improving professionalism in the sector.

The noble Baroness’s amendment would allow the Secretary of State to set a requirement for persons engaged in the management of social housing to hold specified qualifications and undertake ongoing professional development, such as participation in or completion of a specified programme or course of training. We agree that these proposals have merit, and that tenants should have access to staff who listen and respond to their needs. That is why is it important that this matter be given proper consideration, which I can confirm very strongly is being given at this time. To answer the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, as I have said, we are working hard to fully assess the merits of different options to address this important issue and we will set out the Government’s preferred approach as soon as possible. I can assure the Committee that I will talk to the Minister personally, whoever that may be, to reflect the views of the Committee on this important issue.

I thank my noble friend Lady Sanderson of Welton not just for her input into this debate but for all the work she has done to support the Grenfell community since the fire. We all know that she has put in a lot of work, time and effort—thank you. This is probably not what the Committee wants to hear, but I will take this on personally and come back to Members who have shown interest before we get to Report with a new Minister.

I turn now to Amendment 47 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, which concerns the regulator’s powers to intervene if a ballot on issues such as regeneration and stock transfer is not being conducted reasonably, transparently or equitably. Ballots are an important way for landlords to involve tenants in the decisions they take. We expect consultations to be meaningful and genuinely seek to hear and act on the views of tenants. Guidance is readily available on resident engagement in regeneration, and statutory guidance on local housing authority stock transfers covers consultation requirements.

In addition, tenant involvement and empowerment is a core part of the regulator’s consumer standards. Where a registered provider is proposing a change in landlord or a significant change in management, the regulator expects registered providers to consult in a fair, timely, appropriate and effective manner. The Bill strengthens the regulator’s ability to intervene if a provider is systematically failing to consult fairly with tenants. Tenants will be at the heart of the new consumer regulation regime, and the views of social housing tenants and other sector stakeholders will play a crucial part in shaping it. Following these reassurances, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 6:15 pm, 6th September 2022

I thank noble Lords for their support, particularly for my Amendment 30, which is an important amendment on a subject the Government have talked about before: professionalisation of the service. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sanderson, for all the work she has done and for the speech she made. She talked about legacy and what the Grenfell Tower community wants to see from this. I shall repeat what I said in my speech, and to which she referred: Grenfell United believes that a more professional housing sector is one of the main ways in which to create a fitting legacy for the 72 lives that were lost. We need to keep that right at the heart of what we are trying to achieve.

I thank the Minister very much for her response. She referred to the review, which is clearly important and shows that the Government are looking seriously at professionalisation. I am pleased that she believes my amendment has merit—that is very important—and that proper consideration will be given to it. As we move through the Bill, this is one area on which we can make some genuine progress and she will have our support in doing so. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage.

Amendment 6 withdrawn.

Amendment 7 not moved.

Clause 2 agreed.

Clause 3: Collection of information