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Mobile Homes Bill

Volume 554: debated on Friday 30 November 2012

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

Clause 15

Commencement, transitional etc. provision, extent and short title

I beg to move amendment 1, page 28, line 30, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert—

‘(1) Clauses 1 to 7 shall come into force on 1 April 2014.

(2) Clauses 8,13 and 14 shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.

(2A) Clauses 9 to 12 and 15 shall come into force two months after Royal Assent.’.

This small amendment would improve the Bill, and it would ensure that what the Government want to happen will happen. A small part of the Bill—in fact, it is the heart of the Bill—affects the dubious actions of a few mobile home park owners in restricting the rights of individuals to sell their own plot. The Bill as it stands allows this to be dealt with through regulation by the Government. However, the Government sometimes do not get round to introducing regulations, and there would undoubtedly be a delay. The amendment would ensure that on this specific part of the Bill—clauses 9 to 12 and 15—the regulations would apply two months after it is enacted. That is all that it would do; everything else would stay exactly the same. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.

The Bill is a hugely important piece of legislation supported by Members in all parts of the House. It will, if enacted, enable residents of mobile home sites better to exercise their rights, such as the right to sell their home, and afford them better protection from poor conditions through a robust licensing scheme. The amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) is sensible and would bring the legislation into force at the earliest opportunity, which the Government are committed to doing. The provisions in clauses 1 to 7 are subject to the moratorium on new burdens on micro-businesses, and the amendment respects that. The Government are therefore pleased to support it.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Third Reading

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The purpose of the Bill is to update the law as it relates to park homes, which has become ineffective and outdated. As a result, a minority of rogue site owners have made the lives of some park home owners a misery by not maintaining their site properly and bullying residents and preventing them from exercising their legal rights, particularly when they wish to sell their homes. Members in all parts of the House have come together to right this wrong, and I believe that the challenge has been approached in the right way.

The Bill had the initial advantage of being based on evidence provided through the consultation undertaken by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the inquiry by the Communities and Local Government Committee, and the wide-ranging investigation by Consumer Focus. We then moved on to fully scrutinise the Bill on Second Reading and in Committee. In doing so, the issue arose that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) described, for which I thank him.

I believe that the Bill achieves its objective of providing an effective and up-to-date legal framework that ensures that the mobile homes sector runs properly and fairly: a framework that drives out unscrupulous and rogue site owners who have made many people’s lives a misery; a framework that gives local authorities the resources to oversee sites properly and provides them with effective licensing powers; a framework with proportionate sanctions and fines that will act as a deterrent to some of the practices that have taken place; and a system that safeguards the interests of responsible site owners and does not penalise them for the criminal acts of others.

The Bill provides hope and optimism for the park homes sector, but there is still work to be done.

There is a park homes site in Haslingden in my constituency and I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has brought the Bill forward. I support it wholeheartedly.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. A feature of the debate on the Bill has been the support from all parts of the House.

I thank my hon. Friend on behalf of the many people who have suffered in park homes over recent years, and whose suffering will be relieved because of the Bill. He has done them a tremendous service in getting the Bill to this stage.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her kind words. I echo them back to her for the sterling work that she has done and for her impassioned speech on Second Reading.

There is still work to be done to help park owners to obtain a better understanding of their agreements, rights and obligations. We must address the issue of fuel poverty, which affects many park home owners in a variety of forms. I discussed that matter yesterday evening with the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker).

I hope that the Bill will now move on to the other place, where the noble Lord Best will take the lead in its scrutiny. I conclude by thanking the right hon. and hon. Members, site owners, park home owners and their representatives, and officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government who have given me so much support in promoting the Bill. Time does not permit me to name them all. I commend the Bill to the House.

I will be brief because of the time.

All Members of this House matter, and private Members can make a difference. This is a classic example of a Member, the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), making a difference.

This noble Bill was born out of the bitter experiences of too many of the 160,000 residents of the 84,000 park homes. I am pleased to confirm the strong support of the Opposition for the Bill. The House is united in saying that park home owners must enjoy greater security and an end to second-class and sometimes shameful treatment. Reputable park home site owners deserve no longer to be undermined or have their reputation damaged by the rogues. Just as there is no place for rogue landlords, there must be no place for rogue site owners. We hope that there will be robust enforcement of the notion that to be a site owner, one needs to be a fit and proper person.

All Members who have been engaged in scrutinising the Bill have received hundreds of e-mails and letters from all over the country. The best way to conclude is to read a sentence from one of the e-mails that I received, which is from Sheila Austin of Ladycroft park:

“The first 10 years of me living in a Park Home were great with a good owner, overnight our lives changed when Sines bought the park and as a consequence the last 11 years have been a living hell.”

The Bill is determined to bring to an end that shameful treatment and we are happy to support it.

The Government fully support the Bill and will continue to do so as it moves to the other place. As a junior Minister who is trying to shepherd the Growth and Infrastructure Bill through the House, I am in awe of my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), who has achieved something to which I have not yet even come close by winning the support of Members on both sides of the House—we have sadly not managed to do that in respect of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. He has received warm words of support from both sides, including Opposition Front Benchers. That is down to his working hard, arguing passionately and highlighting clearly the benefits that the Mobile Homes Bill will bring to important and vulnerable people.

Although the measures in the Bill affect only a tiny part of the housing market—some 85,000 homes—they are hugely important to those residents, who, as I have said, are often older and more vulnerable. The measures will make a huge difference, ensuring that their health and safety is better protected, and that their rights as home owners are respected, particularly the right to sell the home to a person of their choice.

My hon. Friend is also to be congratulated on getting the balance right. The measures are carefully targeted at those operators who abuse their positions as owners. Decent site owners who run law-abiding businesses will not be adversely affected, and minimum burdens will be placed on them.

Further consideration will be given to the practical application of the measures in the Bill. The noble Lord Best will shepherd the Bill through the upper House—no one is more qualified or has a greater record of passionate commitment to the housing rights of the British people.

The Government will continue to work closely with key industry, resident and local authority partners on the development of the measures. I am happy to say that the Government will continue to support the Bill through every stage until it is on the statute book and the people living in mobile homes in our country can be sure that their proper rights are respected.

It was remiss of me not to thank the Government for accepting my small amendment. As most of my amendments are designed to help the Government, is that acceptance a sign of the future?

I have not yet had the great benefit of my hon. Friend’s help in any of my work, but I look forward to it and await with eager anticipation his contribution on Report and Third Reading of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. The House will agree that no debate, legislation or deliberation by the House is not improved by his contribution. We want a contribution from him in every debate we have for the rest of this year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney and I came into the House at the same time. His achievements as of today and the final passage of the Mobile Homes Bill, are far greater than mine or those of any member of the Government who was elected in 2010. I hope that he and his constituents are aware of that, but I am certain that residents of mobile homes throughout the country are aware of it. His name will be up in lights above those mobile home estates for many months to come. I therefore commend the Bill to the House and urge hon. Members on both sides of the House—present and absent—to vote for it in spirit and action.

I am grateful for the Minister’s kind words and have very little more to say.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.