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The Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 was considered during seventeen sittings of the Public Bill Committee between 10 November and 10 December 2015. Report Stage and Third Reading are scheduled to take place on 5 January 2015.  Full background on the Bill, and its provisions as originally presented, can be found in Library Briefing Paper 7331, Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16.

The purpose of the Bill

On publication of the Bill, the Government said it would kick-start a “national crusade to get 1 million homes built by 2020” and transform “generation rent into generation buy.”  The supply-side measures in the Bill are primarily focused on speeding up the planning system with the aim of delivering more housing.  There is also a clear focus on home ownership, with measures to facilitate the building of Starter Homes; self/custom build housing; and the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants following a voluntary agreement with the National Housing Federation (NHF). Other measures in the Bill are aimed at tackling “rogue” landlords.

Government amendments  

A number of Government amendments to Part 2 of the Bill (Rogue landlords and letting agents in England) were agreed without Division, the most significant of which will make breach of a banning order a criminal offence. A number of technical Government amendments were made to parts 6 (Planning in England) and 7 of the Bill (compulsory purchase),  and a new clause and schedule were added to enable the Mayor of London or a combined authority to prepare a development plan document where a local authority had failed to make progress on such a document.

The Government added controversial new clauses to the Bill during the Committee’s final day of consideration to prevent local authorities in England from offering secure tenancies for life in most circumstances. Instead, they will be able to offer fixed term tenancies for a minimum of two years. Existing secure tenants will not lose their security of tenure. The Government also added new provisions to amend the rights of certain family members to succeed to secure, introductory and demoted tenancies. The Minister, Marcus Jones, said an impact assessment on these measures would be published before the Bill goes to the House of Lords. Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods, Shadow Housing Minister, criticised the decision to bring these clauses before the Committee on its last day of deliberations.

Government Ministers agreed to consider various points raised during the Bill’s consideration, including: the definition of affordable housing; the limits on financial penalties which will apply to private landlords in certain circumstances; and the question of legislating to introduce mandatory electrical checks in rented housing.

Opposition amendments

Opposition amendments were moved on most aspects of the Bill, none of which were successful although; as noted above, Government Ministers did agree to consider some of the points made and return to them on Report. Throughout the Bill’s consideration the Opposition made the point that detailed scrutiny was hampered by a lack of information, such as how high-value council housing will be defined in different areas and how much money the Government expects to raise from sales of this vacant high-value housing. The Opposition called for early sight of regulations in which many of the detailed provisions will be contained.

Housing and Planning Bill and English votes for English laws (EVEL)

On 22 October 2015, the House of Commons agreed to changes to its Standing Orders to allow members from England or England and Wales to give their consent to Government legislation that affected only England, or England and Wales and that was within devolved legislative competence (English votes for English laws – EVEL). 

Under the procedures, the Speaker is required to certify provisions in Government Bills that affect either England-only or England and Wales-only and are within devolved legislative competence.  The Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 was the first bill to have any provisions certified.  On 28 October 2015, the Speaker issued the following certificate:

The Speaker has certified, in respect of the Housing and Planning Bill [Bill 75], that Clauses 1 to 58, 60 to 70, 72 to 76, 78 to 84, 86 to 88 and 92 to 110 and Schedules 1 to 4 and 6 relate exclusively to England and are within devolved legislative competence; and that Clauses 59, 71, 85, 90, 91, 111 to 139 and Schedules 5 and 7 to 11 relate exclusively to England and Wales and are within devolved legislative competence (Standing Order No. 83J.)[1]

The Bill was amended in Public Bill Committee and has been reprinted as Bill 108.  It proceeds to Report Stage as before but once Report Stage is complete, it is reconsidered for certification by the Speaker.  He will have to certify any clause or schedule which passes the two tests (above), and any changes made in Committee and on Report to provisions that had previously been certified which remove certified material from the Bill, or change the countries within the UK affected and any new provisions that are certifiable.  Such certified provisions and changes would require consent by means of agreement to a Consent Motion in a Legislative Grand Committee (LGC).  The Speaker has announced that he would expect a brief suspension of the House following Report Stage to take decisions relating to certification.[2]

Members representing seats in England and England and Wales vote in LGCs on motions to accept and/or reject the certified provisions, or to accept some and reject others.  As the Speaker has already issued English and English and Welsh certificates, it seems likely that decisions of both the LGC (England and Wales) and the LGC (England) will be required.  The two LGCs are required take place successively: if consent motions are to be considered, the House will resolve into a LGC (England and Wales) to debate any consent motions and then, if necessary, vote on the consent motion(s) relating to England and Wales; then the House will resolve into the LGC (England) and, if necessary, vote on the consent motion(s) relating to England.  If the consent motions are agreed to, the Bill will proceed to Third Reading.

For more information on the EVEL procedures adopted on 22 October 2015 see the Library Briefing Paper English votes for English laws (CBP 7339).

[1]     Votes and Proceedings, 28 October 2015

[2]     HC Deb 26 October 2015 c23

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