Lord Udny-Lister debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities during the 2019 Parliament

Fri 24th Mar 2023
Fri 3rd Feb 2023
Fri 1st Apr 2022
Fri 4th Mar 2022

Teesworks Joint Venture

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Tuesday 30th January 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, I absolutely recognise the issues raised by the independent panel. It has clearly considered a number of specific issues, and the Secretary of State has written to the Tees Valley Mayor asking him to respond to the panel’s recommendations within six weeks. It is not right for me at this time to comment further on specific examples, but it is important that the combined authority shows progress. We will wait to see its own proposals before deciding on any further action. It is worth making sure that the report is taken in its full context and that we look at the full picture. Another quote from the report that may be useful is:

“There are many voices which articulate a positive view of the project, highlighting the work that has been done and the clear evidence of the achievements which have been made in regenerating an historic part of the UK’s industrial heritage, the final demise of which, in 2015/16 had devastating results for a community that had been badly affected by the changing global patterns of industrial production. A significant amount of regeneration of the area has occurred and new businesses are moving in bringing jobs and other collateral benefits for the local area”.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that the report also clearly shows that the site was costing the Government £20 million? I went to the site in my former role as chairman of the Homes and Communities Agency many years ago. The report shows that there are now 9,000 jobs on the site and nearly £1.5 billion-worth of business rates being created, yet there is an awful lot being said here in criticism of something that is actually showing real levelling up taking place.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My noble friend is absolutely right that the cost of not going ahead would not have been not nothing but an annual cost to the taxpayer with no benefit whatever—it was just keeping the site safe. I have just quoted the report’s recognition of the regeneration that has started at that site. Benefits to the area have begun to accrue in terms of jobs, potential business rates and wealth generation that we would not have seen if action had not been taken to reinvigorate the largest site, in Europe at least, in terms of the need for regeneration.

Elections: Voter ID

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Tuesday 13th June 2023

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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As I have said, we are undertaking a review. It is essential that, before we make claims such as we are hearing from the other side, we understand how the policy has operated in practice, what has gone wrong and where there are any areas for improvement in the future. Of course, where there are lessons to be learned, we will do so and we will change at the point of that evaluation. We are already gathering evidence as a Government. Also, the Electoral Commission is conducting extensive evaluation; we expect its initial findings later this month and a full report in September. I suggest that the whole House waits until we get that full evaluation before we start throwing stones.

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Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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The returning officers have a clear list of acceptable forms of photo identification that they use. They have been fully trained on those. As I have said, we will look at other methods of photo ID and get the evidence to say when something is particularly useful. ID is changing all the time, but we have to ensure that it is secure ID that is being used in a polling station.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence in London and, indeed, councillors have reported cases of voter fraud to the police in previous elections and been ignored. Can we have an assurance that there is going to be proper evaluation, particularly in some of the London boroughs where this evidence exists?

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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We have made it very clear in the legislation that will be doing a review, not only after this general election but after the next two to ensure that the voter identification system we are putting in place is right, is correct and is not disenfranchising any voters from electing.

Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Bill

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
3rd reading
Friday 24th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords across the House for their support for this important piece of legislation. I am very grateful to the Legislation Office and the Minister at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for all the help and support I have received on the Bill’s journey. I also record my thanks to Sir Christopher Chope for taking the Bill through the other place. As I stated at Second Reading, the purpose of this legislation is to bring fairness to park home residents. Through this short but important Bill, we are doing that. I therefore beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise very briefly to say that this is a sensible, practical Bill, and we have supported it all the way through its passage through the House. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Udny-Lister, for steering it so well through this House and Sir Christopher Chope for taking it through the other place.

Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Bill

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill now be read a second time. In doing so, I pay tribute to my honourable friend Sir Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, who had the wisdom and foresight to choose a Bill that the Government would support and skilfully steered it through the other place in record time. I also record my thanks to the officials who have facilitated its drafting.

This is a very short but effective Bill and I am very pleased that I have been asked to help secure its passage through the House. Its primary objective is to bring fairness to park home residents, most of whom live on low, fixed incomes. The Bill will also make a positive contribution towards addressing the cost of living crisis that many people in this country face, including, of course, park home residents.

Clause 1 amends Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to change the inflationary index used by site owners to increase pitch fees from the retail prices index, the RPI, to the lower consumer prices index, CPI. Mobile home residents pay their site owner a pitch fee for the right to occupy a pitch on the site. Pitch fees can be reviewed annually to allow site owners to recover increases in their costs for maintaining and repairing the site, due to inflation. There is a presumption in the Mobile Homes Act 1983 that any increase in pitch fees will be no more than the inflation index defined in the Act. The inflation index is currently defined as the RPI.

RPI is generally higher than other inflationary indices and is no longer used as a measure of inflation. It is not surprising, therefore, that mobile home residents, the majority of whom are elderly, have been concerned that their incomes, which generally increase by CPI, would not keep up with the rise in pitch fees. It therefore seems grossly unfair that this group, who are, as I have already said, mainly elderly and who need the most help, must face pitch fee increases that are higher than the increases in their incomes, and higher than the increases in costs faced by site owners. The Bill will change this by changing the inflationary index from RPI to the lower CPI. The change from RPI to CPI will also apply to permanent pitches on Gypsy and Traveller sites owned by local authorities. Occupiers of those pitches have agreements under the Mobile Homes Act 1983 and will therefore benefit from these important changes, as well as those on private sites.

Clause 2 sets out how the change to CPI will affect the calculation of new pitch fees. I thank and commend the Government for their determination in ensuring that the changes will apply not only to new agreements but to all existing agreements. Noble Lords will know that, save in very few and rare cases, legislation is not usually applied retrospectively. However, if that had been allowed to happen in this case, tens of thousands of residents would not benefit from this important change, at a time when they need it most.

In terms of how the change will affect the calculation of new pitch fees, site owners are required to serve a pitch fee review notice and a form at least 28 days before the review date, which is when the proposed increases take effect. For pitch fee notices issued between now and when the provisions of the Bill would come into effect, RPI would be used in the calculation of the proposed pitch fee. Pitch fee review notices served on or after the day on which the Act comes into force must use CPI in the calculation. If a site owner fails to or does not use the new pitch fee review form, which will be available before the changes come into force, the pitch fee review process will be invalid.

The Bill includes an important protection for residents: it prevents any differences in income for site owners from the change from RPI to CPI, whether real or anticipated, being passed on to residents through the pitch fee. Some owners, I am afraid, constantly find loopholes and unscrupulous methods financially to exploit vulnerable residents. Clause 2 prevents this. It provides that, where a dispute about pitch fees is being determined by the First-tier Tribunal, and the tribunal is satisfied that the site owner has included an amount to compensate them for the financial loss arising from the RPI to CPI change, it will be required to deem the relevant amount to be unreasonable and remove it from the pitch fee. If the Bill is passed, as I very much hope it will be, I count on the Government to make residents aware of this important protection to ensure that they can enforce their rights against unscrupulous site owners who attempt to pass on any unfair charges to them.

If I may add a request of my own to this worthy Bill, it is that the Government stay the course and build on what has been achieved over the last 10 years following the introduction of the Mobile Homes Act 2013, which the noble Lord, Lord Best, successfully steered through this House. In 2013, that Act gave local authorities substantial enforcement powers to tackle those site owners who fail to maintain their sites properly and put residents’ lives at risk. It also gave residents important new rights and reformed the process for selling homes, making site rules and reviewing pitch fees. Those changes have brought significant improvements to the sector.

In their response to the review conducted in 2017, the Government committed to improve the rights of residents and strengthen local authority enforcement powers further. They have made significant progress in implementing these commitments, in spite of the challenges they have faced recently with issues such as Brexit, Covid, et cetera. However, more can and should be done to improve fairness for residents in this small but important sector of the housing market.

I have no doubt that noble Lords present today, and residents in particular, would like to see other provisions included in the Bill. While I share these concerns, the aim of the Bill is to ensure that the many vulnerable park home residents on low incomes are supported at this critical time, when so many people are struggling with current costs. For the reasons I have set out, the Bill addresses only the specific issue of changing the inflationary index used in pitch fee reviews from RPI to the lower CPI. Including any other measures in the Bill at this stage would not only risk its successful passage through both Houses in this Session but leave residents in the unfair position they find themselves in for even longer. It is important that they receive the benefits of the change from RPI to CPI now, to help with the current cost of living pressures and provide them with the necessary additional support that they need. I beg to move.

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Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everybody who has spoken for their support, right across the House, and for getting this Bill to where it is today. I also add my thanks to Christopher Chope MP, who started this in the other place and got it through in record time. I hope that we can get it through in record time here. The quicker we can move from RPI to CPI, the better. There are provisions within the Bill to ensure, as I have already said, that it can be retrospectively applied in the way it is structured and the way in which the notices are processed. I commend the Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Local Government (Disqualification) Bill

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, in moving that the Bill do now pass, I thank noble Peers across the House for their support for this small but, I believe, important piece of legislation. I am grateful to the Legislation Office and the Minister at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for all the help and support I have received on the Bill’s journey. I also thank Sir Paul Beresford in the House of Commons, who took the Bill through there. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, we welcome this legislation. I pay tribute to Sir Paul Beresford for promoting it in the other place and to the noble Lord, Lord Udny-Lister, for sponsoring it here. It is a small but important piece of legislation and we very much welcome it.

Local Government (Disqualification) Bill

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, I am reminded of the fact that the strength of your Lordships’ House is when we can come together to improve legislation and close legislative loopholes in an attempt to strengthen our democracy and protect the citizens of our country.

In this Second Reading, together we have the opportunity to prevent sex offenders serving in local government. As someone who, like many noble Lords present, started their public service at the coalface of politics by serving as a local councillor—I did so for 35 years—I was surprised, in fact horrified, to learn that a loophole exists in our legislation that allows sex offenders to avoid disqualification from local office.

When we consider the role of local councillors in the community, we must think of the position of trust that they hold and the work that they do, often with the most vulnerable members of our society. I do not need to go into depth on this point, as the duties undertaken by our local representatives, while perhaps not celebrated enough, are well known to noble Lords present. However, I reiterate from my own experience as both a former councillor and a former council leader that, every day, councillors and those holding local office across the country work closely with children and vulnerable adults. We must therefore do everything we can to ensure that those who are convicted of a sexual offence are barred from the privilege of serving their local communities on a local authority.

The loophole that exists is found in the legislation that covers disqualification from office in local government. Noble Lords will be aware that, if someone is subject to a custodial sentence, they are automatically disqualified from their elected post. However, bizarrely, when a sex offender does not receive a custodial sentence but is still deemed to be that much of a threat that they are placed on the sex offenders list, there is nothing in law to prevent them taking up office in local government.

The fact that someone who has committed offences of the most grotesque nature can then be allowed to stand for election and occupy a position of trust and responsibility in their community is an outrageous flaw in our electoral law and something which I hope that noble Lords will help to correct with the passage of this Bill. In observing the proceedings and passage of the Bill through the other place, I was appalled to learn that due to this legislative loophole, individuals on the sex offender register have been able to retain their seat after refusing to resign. This is simply outrageous, as holders of office in local government should, as the majority of them are, be people who embody the values of public life and abide by the laws of this land. This loophole casts an unsavoury shadow of doubt over the security of the vulnerable, especially children, and we therefore have a duty to come together, not only to strengthen our law but to strengthen trust, integrity, and confidence, in our system of local government.

We have before us a relatively short yet slightly complex Bill, which seeks to remove the loophole I have just described. The Bill is not intended to reform the complexities of other areas of electoral law, nor should it be seen as an opportunity to bring about wider disqualification clauses. The Bill is about acting swiftly to safeguard the vulnerable. It will update the disqualification criteria for local government members, including councillors, mayors of combined authorities, the Mayor of London, and London Assembly members, who are subject to relevant notification requirements or orders due to their sexual misconduct, preventing them not only standing for office but remaining in office. If they have already been elected to serve, we are aiming to fix the current as well as the future.

In this country, our system of local government is deeply rooted in having strong local representation of people who are of good character, worthy of trust and beyond reproach. Through the Covid-19 pandemic, I witnessed first-hand a resurgence of the role and duties carried out by our local officeholders on the ground, and I can foresee the duties of our locally elected representatives only being extended in the future. Therefore, we must ensure that only those with integrity can stand to serve. Those holding office in local government today are tasked with making decisions on behalf of children and vulnerable adults. Therefore, it is obvious that those trusted to make decisions should be of irreputable character.

Our local representatives deserve our utmost respect. The vast majority work tirelessly to strengthen the country and are the very foundation of our democracy. However, sadly, there are rare occasions when the behaviour of some falls below the standards that the public expect, and when cracks appear in the foundations of our democracy, we in this place must strive to seal the gaps.

It should be noted that the Local Government Association, in its quest to ensure that the highest standards of integrity and conduct are present in public life, supports the objectives of the Bill. The Bill received cross-party support in the House of Commons and arrives in your Lordships’ House with the support of Her Majesty’s Government. I thank Sir Paul Beresford, who championed the Bill through the House of Commons, and the Government and opposition parties for their support so far. I further pay tribute to the officials who have combed through the complexity of our electoral legislation to help ensure that the Bill is sufficiently primed to close the loophole mentioned.

I hope your Lordships will look favourably on affording the Bill a safe passage through this House, so that together we can close a loophole and thus strengthen our democracy for the better. I beg to move.

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Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
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My Lords, I say thank you very much to the noble Baronesses, Lady Goudie and Lady Hayman, the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, and the Minister for their support for this Bill. In particular, I thank the LGA, which has been very supportive on its journey. I fully understand the arguments about why this should be widened to other groups, but an argument has been clearly made by the Minister about why that should be done by other mechanisms in another place. This will deal with the problem in local government and I urge you to support it. I also thank the Minister for his kind words.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.