Clause 51 - Meaning of “domestic PR property” and “non-domestic PR property”: Scotland

Energy Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 14th June 2011.

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Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change 6:30 pm, 14th June 2011

I beg to move amendment 151, in clause 51, page 34, line 22, leave out

‘or any regulations replacing those regulations’.

Photo of David Crausby David Crausby Labour, Bolton North East

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendments 155 to 165.

Government new clauses 34 and 35.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

I am sorry if I sound slightly perturbed. The arrival of the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Mr Swayne), at the back of the room put me off my pace. He has now retreated, I am glad to say.

The Government amendments to the Scottish private rented sector clauses largely mirror the changes to the English and Welsh provisions. There are, however, some key differences. First, Scottish Ministers intend to retain a power, rather than create a duty, to make regulations in the private rented sector. Secondly, the earliest date that Scottish Ministers could make regulations is 1 April 2015, in respect of the Bill’s domestic tenant and non-domestic provisions. Finally, Government amendments 160, 161 and 165 are minor technical amendments that replace “costs” with “expenses”—something that we are all familiar with—to provide consistency throughout the Bill. As this is a devolved area of policy, it is up to Scottish Ministers to decide if and how to legislate for energy efficiency in the private rented sector in Scotland.

Photo of Tom Greatrex Tom Greatrex Shadow Minister (Scotland) 6:45 pm, 14th June 2011

I do not rise to have a semantic discussion about the difference between costs and expenses in Scottish law, because that would be even more specialised than discussing the legislative consent motion process. However, given that I am the only Committee member with a Scottish constituency—and I do not wish to reprise our discussions on previous clauses, because by and large, this and the next set of provisions mirror them, as the Minister said—I want to put a couple of points on the record. As I understand this and the LCM process, we are effectively legislating for a devolved area—some Government Members may be surprised to hear that—given that the Scottish Parliament has effectively given its consent for us to do so through the LCM process. That interesting aspect of the West Lothian  question does not always arise, but we will no doubt have plenty of opportunities to discuss it in the next few years.

There are some differences, which the Minister alluded to. The similarities are that Government new clauses 34 and 35 effectively replace clauses 53 and 54. They are therefore equivalent to the provisions that we have discussed on clauses 40 and 41 for England and Wales, and the same points that were made stand in relation to Scotland. Notwithstanding that this is a matter for Scottish Ministers, we are, as I have said, legislating on a devolved area. Although a degree of detail will be included in future regulations on such matters, concerns remain about the shortcomings of Government new clauses 34 and 35. They are the same concerns that were expounded previously, and in particular, there were points about serving notices on landlords whose properties are not up to standard, and on the lack of clarity about what minimum standards of energy efficiency are. I wanted to place those points on the record on behalf of those Members who represent Scotland, but not on behalf of Scotland.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s points. Like him, I do not intend to rehearse arguments that we have already had in Committee. We drafted the clauses with the consent of the Scottish Executive, and we have had constructive engagement and a positive rapport at official and ministerial levels on this. I am pleased that the Scottish Executive have engaged with us in that way. This is a devolved matter. For their own reasons, they have opted for a slightly different approach, and it is not for me to gainsay them. Scottish Ministers are pursuing “may” regulation from 2015. The position in England and Wales is that we have “will” regulation from 2016 and 2018. We have added that extra element of certainty.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have ensured that Scottish officials have been kept well informed of relevant developments in the legislation and we remain in regular contact with them. There was an issue about social housing being excluded in Scotland. This is because by defining a private rented property in Scotland by using chapter 4 of part 1 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, social housing in Scotland is excluded. We do not believe that that will be a major prohibiting factor. I hope those brief words of explanation will satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

Amendment 151 agreed to.

Clause 51, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 52 to 54 disagreed to.