No Housing Bill, but opportunities aplenty

The Queen announces the Government’s legislative programme for the coming year

Whether you love or loathe the pomp and pageantry of the UK system of Government, it’s hard to deny that it makes a show out of an otherwise rather formulaic speech delivered word-for-word by an octogenarian.

Of course the Queen’s Speech, or State Opening of Parliament, is not just any old speech. This morning’s oratory explains what the Government in Westminster plans to use its time during the next parliamentary session to achieve  i.e. what bills will be brought forward.

This year only 15  bills were announced:

•             Banking Reform Bill

•             Children and Families Bill

•             Crime and Courts Bill

•             Croatia Accession Bill

•             Defamation Bill

•             Energy Bill

•             Electoral Registration and Administration Bill

•             Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

•             European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill

•             Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill

•             House of Lords Reform Bill

•             Justice and Security Bill

•             Pensions Bill

•             Public Service Pensions Bill

•             Small Donations Bill

In addition to four draft bills, which are far less likely to reach the statute book this term:

•             Draft Care and Support Bill

•             Draft Communication Data Bill

•             Draft Local Audit Bill

•             Draft Water Bill

It’s quite apparent that there is no primary housing legislation planned, though none was expected, however there are a few points worth monitoring from a landlord’s perspective.

(1)    Crime and Courts Bill:  

The main purpose of this bill is “to protect the public by enhancing the national response to serious, organised and complex crime” However, it is also intended to “help deliver a swifter, more open and effective court and tribunal system”.

No doubt the Government’s intention is to focus on improving the efficiency of handling criminal cases and the trailed reforms of the way in which magistrates sit. But there could be implications for landlords, and opportunities for the NLA to push for improvements to the way the Courts handle housing cases.

(2)    Enterprise and regulatory Reform Bill:

This bill is intended to “create the right conditions for economic recovery by strengthening the business environment, reducing regulatory burdens and improving business and consumer confidence.”

There should be little elaboration needed in this respect. This could represent a real opportunity to ensure that regulation within the PRS is appropriate and proportionate to the risks involved and does not create unnecessary burdens or barrier to investment.

(3)    Electoral Registration and Administration Bill:

This one requires a little imagination, or at least memory of past mistakes. It is intended to “reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the introduction of individual Electoral Registration and to modernise our electoral registration system, making it convenient for people to register to vote.”  Which is all very well, however previous attempts have also sought to impose a duty on landlords to register new tenants when they enter a property and update their records when they leave. Potentially setting a dangerous precedent in terms of the role played by residential landlords.

(4)    Draft Local Audit Bill:

Finally, a draft bill to “abolish the Audit Commission and set out the new regulatory framework for the audit of local public bodies.”

In an age of increasing localism, this could have real implications for the PRS. Currently there appears to be very little oversight of how local authorities regulate their local housing market – this is proving dangerous and destabilising. This bill, should it ever become a reality, could be an opportunity for landlords to influence the way that they can be held to account.

All in all this Queen’s speech may not be epic list of new legislation which characterised so many recent parliamentary programmes, but as you can see there should be plenty to keep us all busy for a while.

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