Clause 12 - Anti-social behaviour: landlords'

Anti-social Behaviour Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:45 pm ar 13 Mai 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 2:45, 13 Mai 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 96, in

clause 12, page 8, line 41, at end insert—

'(1A) Each Local Housing Authority must, not later than three months after the commencement of section 12 of the AntiSocial Behaviour Act 2003, publish guidance concerning antisocial behaviour in social housing in its area and procedures for dealing with it.'.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Llafur, Normanton

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 134, in

clause 12, page 9, line 1, after 'prepare', insert 'after consultation with tenants'.

Amendment No. 135, in

clause 12, page 9, line 3, after 'for', insert

'resolving disputes, reducing the level of antisocial behaviour and'.

Amendment No. 213, in

clause 12, page 9, line 4, at end insert—

'(c) procedures for preventing occurrences of antisocial behaviour;

(d) procedures for providing support and rehabilitation services to those who have engaged in antisocial behaviour.'.

Amendment No. 214, in

clause 12, page 9, line 4, at end insert—

'(2A) In formulating the policy and procedures under subsection (2), the landlord must have regard to—

(a) the homelessness strategy of each local housing authority in whose district the landlord owns housing accommodation;

(b) the crime and disorder strategy of each local housing authority in whose district the landlord owns housing accommodation;

(c) the duties and powers under the Children Act 1989 (c.41) of each local authority in whose district the landlord owns housing accommodation.'.

Amendment No. 97, in

clause 12, page 9, line 7, at end insert

'and prepared in accordance with the guidance issued under subsection (1A).'.

Amendment No. 136, in

clause 12, page 9, line 15, at end insert—

'(c) must be sent to all tenants.'.

Amendment No. 98, in

clause 12, page 9, line 18, at end insert

'who is or may become a tenant of that landlord or to any person'.

Amendment No. 137, in

clause 12, page 9, line 19, at end insert—

'( ) In preparing and reviewing antisocial behaviour policies and procedures the landlord shall consult such public or local authorities,

voluntary organisations or other persons as they consider appropriate.'.

Amendment No. 192, in

clause 12, page 9, leave out lines 20 to 25.

Amendment No. 235, in

clause 12, page 9, line 25, at end insert—

'( ) The landlord must also—

(a) record the number and nature of complaints made about antisocial behaviour; and

(b) monitor action taken to resolve the complaints.'.

Amendment No. 215, in

clause 12, page 9, line 28, at end insert—

'(10) ''Homelessness strategy'' has the same meaning as in the Homelessness Act 2002 (c.7).

(11) ''Crime and disorder strategy'' has the same meaning as in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37).'.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Obviously this is what the Minister came for, and over the next few hours we will be considering the section of the Bill dealing with housing and antisocial behaviour by tenants.

The first group contains four amendments that I tabled with my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath, and one that we tabled jointly with the Liberal Democrats. The remaining amendments were tabled by the Liberal Democrats, so I will not address those in detail.

The main issue is one of consistency in the application of the legislation. I believe it to be necessary—others may take a different view—to put into statute a measure to deal with antisocial behaviour by tenants, and I am therefore not opposed to the principle of what the Government are trying to do. However, I also believe that such measures should be applied consistently.

It has been argued that such legislation is not necessary, or that existing legislation is adequate to deal with antisocial behaviour. Many hon. Members will have heard quoted the example of Manchester, where the housing authorities are able to use existing legislation to deal satisfactorily with antisocial behaviour. I do not, however, oppose the principle of introducing legislation, despite its controversial nature. Our amendments are designed to introduce into the Bill an element of consistency and reasonableness, which I believe to be lacking.

Amendments Nos. 96 and 97 relate to the matter of consistency. The clause requires all social landlords to publish a policy on antisocial behaviour. A vast number of commentators have argued that requiring landlords to publish a policy does not in itself achieve anything. It does not impose a duty on them to do anything about it, but simply to publish a policy. However, I accept that publishing a policy would be a significant step forward. It does not impose any obligation to enforce that policy and, clearly, if it is not enforced, it will quickly come into disrepute. However, there needs to be some consistency within a locality.

In many local authority areas there are registered social landlords, housing associations and local

authority landlords, and sometimes they share the ownership of developments. Several housing associations may have adjoining properties, and they need a consistent approach to the problem of tenants' antisocial behaviour. However, nothing in the clause will encourage consistency.

Amendment No. 96 would require each housing authority to publish guidance on antisocial behaviour in social housing in its area and guidance on procedures for dealing with it. Amendment No. 97 would require the landlords, in preparing their policy, to have regard to the guidance issued by the housing authority, and that is a clear step forward.

There are already proposals that the Secretary of State should be involved in the case of local authorities and housing action trusts, and RSLs would have to comply with guidance from the relevant authority. That is an attempt to address the matter, but it introduces a degree of inconsistency because there will be different sets of guidance. I do not know why the Secretary of State has to be involved, but the guidance in any local authority area should be consistent. The obligation should be on the local authority to produce the guidance, so that however many RSLs are within the area they must have regard to it. Why do the Government want to do it differently?

Amendment No. 98 would require all tenants to be given a copy of the policy and procedures. The Minister may argue that that is covered in the clause, but it is not. It is important to amend clause 12 to ensure that the landlord is obliged to provide all tenants, not just those who request it, with a copy of the policy and procedures, not just out of courtesy but because tenants could not claim ignorance if they were later accused of transgressing the policy and procedures.

As I said, amendment No. 192 is a probing amendment. Some guidance is necessary, but subsection (7) will lead to confusion and it should be dealt with as described in amendments Nos. 96 and 97.

We are more than happy about the joint amendment No. 235, which relates to the important matter of monitoring and recording complaints. If a landlord is to go to court to seek a demoted tenancy he will need such information. It is therefore logical that the Bill should include the obligation to record the number and nature of complaints and the action taken to deal with them in order to justify a subsequent claim for a demoted tenancy.

Those are my reasons for tabling the amendments. It would be absurd for tenants in adjoining properties under different landlords to be covered by different procedures. The amendments address the issue of consistency in the application of the measure in a local housing authority area. If there is a better way of achieving that aim, so be it; I am always open to be persuaded.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow 3:00, 13 Mai 2003

I welcome the Minister to his first active engagement with the Committee.

The Liberal Democrats tabled a series of amendments, a joint amendment has been discussed,

and I shall deal briefly with the Conservative amendments in a moment.

Amendment No. 134 would ensure that tenants were consulted before the landlord adopted the procedures, which is sensible because involving tenants in drawing up the procedures may give them a greater sense of ownership of them and a feeling that they are more relevant. The tenants may want more stringent procedures than those that their housing association or council propose. Housing associations and councils often have tenant groups that can act as consultation groups. Such a requirement may not be needed in the Bill, but it is at least best practice, and I would welcome the Minister's confirmation of that.

Amendment No. 135 is designed to ensure that the landlord takes a more proactive approach when dealing with antisocial behaviour, rather than dealing only with its consequences. It would place on landlords the obligation to help to resolve disputes and to reduce antisocial behaviour to a reasonable level, as outlined in their policy, not just to deal with its occurrence.

Amendment No. 213 would add two new paragraphs, (c) and (d), to subsection (2). It would ensure the inclusion of prevention, support and rehabilitation in the antisocial behaviour policies and procedures that social landlords are required to publish under the clause. It would also ensure that behavioural problems are tackled more effectively, and that tenancies are sustained through the provision of appropriate support, rehabilitation and resettlement services. I thank Shelter for providing much of the information for the amendment. Proactive and imaginative schemes for dealing with antisocial tenants have been very successful in certain parts of the country. This is a chance for councils or housing associations to work effectively with the tenants, and we do not want it to be missed by rushing through to the next stage of a demoted tenancy. That is the thrust of the amendment.

Amendment No. 136 is similar to Conservative amendment No. 98, but would go down a different route by inserting a new paragraph (c) into subsection (6), so that a copy of a landlord's policy and procedure would have to be sent to all tenants. There are various ways of expressing that. The Minister may say that this is best practice and that it will be included in the guidance. I hope that he will at least say that it is best practice. I would have liked it to be included in the Bill.

Amendment No. 137 would insert a new paragraph at the end of subsection (6) and encourage landlords, when reviewing their antisocial behaviour policies, to consult other authorities and organisations with experience in this field, so that they are not merely writing those off their own bat. There would also be consultation with the public. After all, the thrust of the Bill is to protect the public from antisocial behaviour, so one hopes that they will have some say in the drafting of the guidance. Again, whether the amendment's wording is right remains to be seen,

but it would ensure that there was greater consultation with regard to antisocial behaviour.

Amendments Nos. 214 and 215 also have the support of Shelter. They would ensure that there was a consistent multi-agency approach to tackling antisocial behaviour, with adherence to the work of relevant agencies and strategies across each local authority. Amendment No. 214 would make the landlord have regard to the homelessness strategy of the local housing authority, to the crime and disorder strategy and to the duties and powers under the Children Act 1989. Amendment No. 215 would support amendment No. 214. Some of that may be expected to happen anyway, but we should like to hear from the Minister precisely how the Government would ensure that it happened. As I said, those strong amendments were tabled with a lot of help from Shelter.

Amendment No. 235 is the joint amendment. We heard about it from the Conservative spokesman. It would simply ensure that the landlord also recorded occurrences of antisocial behaviour. That makes a lot of sense; if a case went to court, such information would be helpful in a number of instances.

It might seem as if many of these amendments would impose extra duties on, for instance, housing associations, but we have consulted associations as to whether they would be onerous, and many of them carry out most of these duties already. The amendments would ensure that we bring some of the other bodies up to the standard of the best associations, or councils if there is still council housing. As I said, the duties are clearly not too onerous, because many associations are fulfilling all of them already.

We support Conservative amendments Nos. 96 and 97. The Conservatives have done the Committee a service by proposing that the local authority publish guidance, which could be taken into account, as we have heard, to establish a level playing field. Amendment No. 98 is broadly the same as our amendment No. 136; it just deals with the issue differently. I, too, am interested to hear from the Minister why the Secretary of State needs so many powers.

Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac Llafur, Cleethorpes

I shall speak briefly. Mine may be a somewhat technical query about the amendments and the clause. It relates to leasehold property. My hon. Friend the Minister has been consulting various people about the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, and knows of my interest in that issue. More than 20,000 properties in north-east Lincolnshire, mainly in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, are leasehold houses. One thing that became evident from the discussions on that Bill was that, in law, those homeowners—they have mortgages—are classified as tenants, and the freeholder is regarded as the landlord.

I want to know how the provision would impact on homeowners in my area. As I said, it is a fairly technical point, and the Minister may want to write to me about how the amendments and the clause would affect my local residents. I have come across unscrupulous behaviour by freeholders with regard

to forfeiture of leases, and I do not want the clause to give unscrupulous freeholders more reason to use forfeiture proceedings to seize a person's home, sell it and take all the profits regardless of the fact that someone else has paid all the mortgage on the property.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 3:15, 13 Mai 2003

I appreciate and understand the concern articulated by Opposition Members and by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac). We must understand that the search for consistency, which is right and proper, should be within a national framework. That is why we believe that it is appropriate that the guidance is dictated from the centre.

We must also remember two points. First, the existing reporting mechanisms for local housing authority tenants and organisations and for RSLs are distinct, and I shall return to that point in a moment. Secondly, we need as far as possible to allow the autonomy necessary for quick, local, flexible responses to specific circumstances in a given locality. That, in a nutshell, is why I have some difficulties with amendment No. 96.

As the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire said, the amendment would place a requirement on local housing authorities to publish guidance on antisocial behaviour in social housing in its area and the procedures for dealing with it. It would also require the policies and procedures that social landlords have a duty to publish under clause 12 to follow that guidance. Although the hon. Gentleman said that the intention of the amendment is to ensure strategic guidance and consistency in the way that antisocial behaviour is tackled, like many later amendments, it would not achieve that. However, existing clauses will do so, for reasons that I shall come to.

There are several problems with the amendment, not least the fact that it confuses the local authority's strategic role with its landlord responsibilities. Imposing an extra duty would result in some duplication. As I hinted, it would confuse the lines of accountability for registered social landlords. The activities of RSLs, including their action to take on housing-related antisocial behaviour, are regulated by the Housing Corporation, and any formal or binding guidance to RSLs must be issued by the corporation. The local housing authority would have to issue guidance to itself, which is an unnecessary duplication of work, and as I have said, it would remove or lessen the autonomy of RSLs to decide the best ways of dealing with antisocial behaviour depending on the circumstances within wider strategic guidance.

I understand where hon. Members are coming from, but I do not agree with how they get there or that the amendments would improve on the provisions already in the Bill.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I half follow the logic of the Minister's argument, but will he elaborate on how he believes that subsection (7) will improve consistency. Under the Bill, the Secretary of State will set guidance for housing authorities and housing action trusts and the

Housing Corporation will set it for registered social landlords. The Bill builds in an inconsistency, and I do not entirely follow his argument about why my proposition, which would at least create total consistency within the area of a local authority, would produce any more problems than having two different ''authorities'' issuing guidance.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

The point at which the hon. Gentleman and I part is in seeking strategic consistency. We agree that there should be a strategic framework in which to deal with antisocial behaviour in social housing. The chase is for that consistency at a local authority level; surely we want consistency at national level. Subsection (7) merely reflects existing the accountability lines. Happily for me I am no lawyer, and I cannot begin to think about the unpicking of legislation that will be necessary in respect of the Housing Corporation, its relations with RSLs, how the two will relate to local authorities and how they all relate to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The amendment would create an unnecessary layer on top of existing levels of accountability. It must be right to have a strategic oversight at national level and to preserve a degree of autonomy at local level for housing authorities or RSLs.

Although I agree with the hunt for consistency, it must be at a wider level than the hon. Gentleman's amendment suggested. It follows, too—recent experience has shown it to be the case—that there is a strong argument that the guidance issued by the Housing Corporation to RSLs on how to manage antisocial behaviour in the context of the legislation should have to consider, materially and relevantly, the guidance issued by the First Secretary of State, the Deputy Prime Minister, to HATs and local housing authorities. Although from the Bill it appears that there is plenty of scope for the two to be entirely distinct and to go off at random and in different directions, if I had anything to do with it I would ensure that the guidance issued by the Department and by the Housing Corporation is the same. However, I emphasise that we want the strategic guidance at national level so that we know roughly how the housing authorities, HATs and RSLs are being guided in dealing with antisocial behaviour. It is at local level that further autonomy is needed.

Photo of Liz Blackman Liz Blackman Llafur, Erewash

It would be a way forward if there were a requirement to have regard to the Secretary of State's guidance, as that would strengthen consistency. Strategic guidance also spreads best practice.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I endorse what my hon. Friend says. We would need to reflect equally the local authorities' input and responsibilities, rather than those of the local housing authorities, in a range of other local partnerships, not least crime and disorder partnerships and others in the local domain, such as homelessness strategies. I shall return to such matters shortly.

Amendments Nos. 136 and 98 would require landlords to provide each tenant, and anyone who may become a tenant, with a copy of the policies and procedures. The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire was ahead of me in anticipating my response, which is that the proposal is unnecessarily

prescriptive and may put a provision in the Bill that in economic terms is not necessary and in terms of efficacy is not the most appropriate way to disseminate the necessary information.

The policies are not relevant simply to tenants: landlords may take out injunctions to protect leaseholders, lodgers, visitors to the locality and a landlord's staff. It would not be feasible or cost-effective to identify anyone who may benefit from knowing about the policies and provide them with a copy. The existing provision enables anyone, whatever their link with the landlord, to obtain a copy, and that is preferable.

I do not mean to be churlish, but amendment No. 134 is completely unnecessary, like many proposals that come from the Liberal Democrats. Local authority landlords already have a statutory duty to consult their tenants on any matter to do with housing management. The Housing Corporation also requires RSLs to consult tenants on housing management issues. Wide concerns about consultation on various matters, including antisocial behaviour, are already taken into account in existing measures.

Amendment No. 137 would have little practical effect and might even increase landlords' work loads unnecessarily. Nothing is stopping landlords consulting any body or person whom they want to consult when preparing their policies and procedures. In any case, the amendment would not require landlords who did not consider it appropriate to consult anyone else. It simply states, ''as they consider appropriate.'' It is betwixt and between: either they do not have to do it and it produces unnecessary burdens, or they should do it, in which case the amendment should be worded entirely differently.

I suspect that the guidance, when issued, will exhort local housing authorities, HATs and RSLs to use the broadest policy context when drawing up their specific local guidance. It is entirely unnecessary to say about such an important dimension of housing policy and antisocial behaviour that because it is not in the Bill, RSLs, HATs or local housing authorities need have no regard to crime and disorder partnerships, existing homelessness strategies and all the other elements. We need to see all these elements in the wider context of what is going on at local authority level, county level and in housing generally, as we did with the limited elements of previous clauses. The fact that they are not in the Bill does not mean that we are prescribing that RSLs, HATs or local housing authorities should have no regard for those wider, very germane and relevant policies.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I, too, welcome the Minister to the Committee. I want to ask a question that I have asked in debates on other legislation: is he convinced that all housing associations of any size participate sufficiently in local crime and disorder partnerships? I understand that there is no requirement for them to participate, and I have sought such a requirement because I am sure that some housing associations do not participate fully. Will the Minister at least confirm that there

should be some recognition of those points in the guidance?

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I happily concede that it may well be appropriate for there to be an exhortation in the guidance for housing authorities to be more fully involved in crime and disorder partnerships, and in best practice and the wider issues, as the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) said. It may also be appropriate for them to be involved in the wider context of local strategic partnerships and to some extent in whatever reasonable bodies follow thereafter, and we may want to include that in the guidance.

As the hon. Member for Ludlow said, best practice among many RSLs in particular means getting as fully involved in their localities as they can. That is right and proper, and I am sure that those elements will be reflected in the guidance to the extent that it is germane to the execution of an efficient and effective antisocial behaviour strategy.

As I said, amendment No. 135 would add little to the clause, and confuses matters as it mixes up procedure and policy, which is not useful. The intention may be to ensure that some statement of strategic matters appears in the landlords' published statements on antisocial behaviour. The clause currently does not set out details about what the word ''policy'' should cover, as it should be left to the individual landlord in the light of their unique circumstances.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Llafur, Gedling

A concern arising from the amendments and from different clauses in different parts of the Bill is that it is one thing for a policy to be written down and another to ensure that that policy is enforced and is worth the paper that it is written on. This is a crucial clause: it has an impact on many of our communities, and if we do not get it right, we will have failed the people in those communities. The fundamental question is how we ensure that the improved and increased powers will be used and that policies will be enforced, so that something is done to tackle the problem that some of our tenants face.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 3:30, 13 Mai 2003

That is an entirely fair point that will be dealt in part in guidance and in part by existing mechanisms. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that when RSLs have to draw up antisocial behaviour policies and procedures, they will be included in their audited accounts, which go directly back to the Housing Corporation. The process of going back to the Secretary of State in this instance, and to me in the case of housing action trusts, which are being wound down, is not dissimilar. There are mechanisms through which they will be brought to book.

My hon. Friend is entirely right. We could have the most eloquently or powerfully drafted policy, but if it does not have the teeth to bite on our streets and estates it is worthless. That is why I said that I understand and take to heart the real concerns that hon. Members have expressed. However, we feel that the strategic consistency that we all seek should be at national level, which is why the guidance will be so important. There should also be a degree of local autonomy, because no one will know better how to

implement and interpret measures to deal with antisocial behaviour than those close to the streets and estates.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Let me just finish one small point as it wraps up four amendments and then I will happily give way. Amendments Nos. 213 to 215 and 235 would place unnecessary additional requirements on landlords when producing policies and procedures. Such matters are more appropriately found in guidance. I am mindful that it may appear even at this stage that we are talking about guidance in the form of a small local Yellow Pages, but these are important matters that are better swept up in that framework than on the face of the Bill.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Does the Minister agree that a strategic approach would mean adopting a staged approach in the use of preventive measures? Should there not be something in the Bill to say that there are many other supportive measures that should be used, without being too specific, before the extreme measures are taken?

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

In part the hon. Lady answered her own question when she said, ''without being too specific''. The purpose of legislation is to be as specific as possible, at least in a strategic sense. As legislators generally, rather than in a partisan fashion, we should resist shopping lists that try to include every possible notion in a policy statement or the procedures to enforce them. We know that there are local variations. There may be manifestations of antisocial behaviour in Dorset that are entirely distinct from those on the Essex coast, in Surrey Heath or in Cambridgeshire.

I take the hon. Lady's point entirely, but I do not think that it is appropriate to put it on the face of the Bill that all those elements, preventive or otherwise, should be included as part of the policy. It is far more appropriate to provide in guidance some notional checklist of what should be in the process. That is not to detract from what she says, but we feel that those elements will be more appropriately dealt with in that fashion, because if we take the approach she suggests, as night follows day, things will be left out and the legislation will then be subject to judicial review or other challenge because something has not been included. We do not want to become mired in the courts or judicial review when the people on the streets and estates in all our constituencies want something done. That is a lengthy response, but it is a serious point.

During the course of our deliberations this afternoon, I will endeavour to find out from the people who do not exist in this Room because we do not acknowledge them what shape the guidance will take, because that will be useful to the Committee now and subsequently. The balance between what is in the Bill and what is in the guidance is always a matter of debate, but I hope that people will accept that the way forward is to seek strategic consistency on antisocial behaviour policies and procedures at national level, while leaving scope for as great a degree of local autonomy as possible so that people can react within our framework to their local circumstances.

The import and direction of most of the amendments under consideration differ from that approach, albeit for laudable reasons, and the debate has explored some of the areas they highlight. However, in the spirit of co-operation that I am desperately trying to pursue, I ask that the amendments be either resisted or withdrawn.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for the care with which he replied to the many points that the hon. Member for Ludlow and I raised. In relation to my amendments Nos. 96 and 97, I am not entirely convinced that we need that strategic consistency. I believe that there are local variations that might justify distinctions in policy in different parts of the country, and that such areas should be entrusted to local authorities rather than to centralised decision making. That is part of the devolution of power that I would like to see.

Nevertheless, I understand where the Minister is coming from and fully accept his commitment that he will do his best to ensure that the guidance from the Secretary of State is as similar as possible to that issued by the Housing Corporation. I also understand, as a non-lawyer, that we do not want to start unpicking the law on channels of accountability. For those reasons, I am loth to pursue the issue further, but before I commit myself to that position, I look at the hon. Member for Ludlow in case he wishes to intervene.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. The Minister has indicated that the majority of the issues raised by our amendments will be dealt with in guidance, and that the Government share our intent.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I am grateful, not least because my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes is sitting behind me. The only point that I missed out was her point about leaseholders. I will, as invited, explore the matter further in writing with my hon. Friend and the Committee. I could not enjoy the rest of the Committee while she was sitting there—

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I should not dream of intervening in the relationships between the Minister and his Back Benchers, although I think that there would have been an opportunity for the hon. Lady to raise the matter under a later group of amendments, when I intend to raise a similar issue. However, no one should accuse me of not being generous even to the Liberals in allowing the hon. Member for Ludlow to make his comments. I also appreciate the Minister's reply, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.