Schedule 5 - Application of Chapter 1 of Part 1 to existing tenancies: transitional provision

Part of Renters (Reform) Bill – in the House of Commons am 6:26 pm ar 24 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Ceidwadwyr, Christchurch 6:26, 24 Ebrill 2024

It is a great tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister that he has got the Bill into a form that is far better than it was on Second Reading, and that it is so much improved that there will not be a Division on Third Reading. That does not mean that everybody on the Conservative Benches is satisfied with all of the content of the Bill, although it is significantly improved.

I recall the enthusiasm with which those on the Conservative Benches greeted the Third Reading of the Housing Act 1988, which is being substantially amended by tonight’s proceedings. That Act introduced a fundamental supply-side reform and was at the heart of the Thatcher revolution, which transformed the private rented sector from one in which nobody wanted to engage. The sector was shrinking, and young barristers like me were making a living by trying to defend the interests of landlords who had haplessly found themselves on the wrong end of the legislation.

We have moved a long way since then, and one of the essential elements of the 1988 Act was the shorthold, which was a privately arranged agreement between a landlord and a tenant. For a period, the tenant would be able to have exclusive possession of a property that was rented by the landlord. During that period, neither the landlord nor the tenant would be able to renege on the agreement. The rent would remain the same, and the landlord would not be able to say that they needed to get repossession of the property for any reason at all.

It seems to me that the shorthold principle is still missing from the Bill. There was an amendment that would have brought back something like a shorthold provision to provide privity of contract between a landlord and a tenant who wish to enter into an agreement on a property, in the same way that one can agree to rent somebody’s car or caravan. The principle of privity of contract, which is fundamental to conservative beliefs, was enshrined in an amendment that was deemed to be a wrecking amendment. I hope that that amendment, which was signed by more than 50 colleagues, will be resurrected in the other place, where the rules are different, that the principles enunciated in it will be taken forward and that the Bill will be further improved in the other place.

We need to ensure that we support conservative legislation that is designed to increase the size of the rented sector rather than shrink it. I fear that the inevitable consequence of this—we have already seen a bit of this in Scotland—will be that, because the Bill will reduce the supply of private rented accommodation, the cost of that accommodation will go up faster than the rate of inflation. The sort of people who have been campaigning in the alliance to which Matthew Pennycook was referring, will then say, “Stop there! We must have rent controls and price controls over rents”, because one set of regulations creates another set of regulations. Then we will be back to where we were in 1977.

That consequence is likely to flow from what we are approving tonight, and I just hope that it will be amended in their lordships’ House so that the supply-side reforms, which are so fundamental to the 1988 legislation, can be carried forward and we can give fresh confidence to people who are thinking about entering the private rented market, and fresh confidence to those already in it so that they do not withdraw from it as they are doing at the moment in increasing numbers. It does not help constituents who are trying to get rented accommodation if that accommodation continues to escalate in price.

I hope that, if there is to be a response to this short debate, we will be able to have a guarantee that under no Conservative Government will we ever have any system of rent controls. I hope that the Government will be able to assure us that, as a consequence of this legislation, we will be able to increase the size of the private rented sector rather than diminish it further.

I want to conclude by congratulating my hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall on having waged his campaign, although it was not a one-man campaign because a large cohort of people behind the scenes supported of his amendments. As a result of those amendments, the Bill has been improved significantly. One of his amendments was not selected, and that is still, in my view, unfinished business, but we should not shirk from congratulating him on having carried this campaign forward so effectively and successfully.

When the Bill comes back from the other place—maybe in another year and a half since it was first presented—we might be on the other side of a general election. Some of us might think it would be better if we did not have the Bill on the statute book by the time of the general election, but that is another story. I will not go into that now. Whenever the Bill comes back, I hope that it will be in an improved form and that even more of my hon. Friend’s amendments, which are well supported on the Government Benches, will be included in the text of the legislation.