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Selective Licensing of Houses (Additional Conditions) (England) Order 2015

Volume 760: debated on Monday 23 March 2015

Motion to Consider

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Selective Licensing of Houses (Additional Conditions) (England) Order 2015.

Relevant documents: 26th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (Special attention drawn to the instrument), 30th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, I beg to move that the Committee should consider the Selective Licensing of Houses (Additional Conditions) (England) Order 2015. The purpose of this order is to extend the criteria for the selective licensing of privately rented housing.

The private rented sector is an important part of the housing market, providing flexibility and allowing people to move quickly. There are now 4.4 million households who rent in England. Selective licensing was introduced by the Housing Act 2004. It enables local authorities to designate all or part of their area as subject to selective licensing. The effect of doing so is that landlords of all privately rented accommodation in the designated area must obtain a licence from the local authority. Local authorities must consult persons likely to be affected by the designation, such as landlords, tenants and other residents, before introducing a licensing scheme. A licence typically costs between £100 and £200 per year per property and is normally valid for five years. A local authority can attach conditions to the licence, such as setting a limit on the number of people who can live in the property or conditions relating to the installation of safety devices.

At present, selective licensing can be introduced only on the grounds of low housing demand and/or anti-social behaviour. We published a discussion document last year which invited views on a range of issues, including selective licensing. Many of the respondents, particularly local authorities, made it clear that further criteria needed to be added to enable local authorities to target action where it is most needed, help drive up the quality of privately rented accommodation and ensure that landlords take responsibility for the actions of their tenants. The Government agree that the current criteria for selective licensing are not wide enough and do not give local authorities enough discretion to take account of local circumstances. Subject to parliamentary approval, this order will extend the criteria for selective licensing to cover areas where there are a high number of properties in the private rented sector and the area is experiencing poor property conditions, large amounts of inward migration, a high level of deprivation or high levels of crime. In addition, the local authority must be able to show that making a designation will, when combined with other measures taken in the area, lead to an improvement in conditions or a reduction in the problem that the designation was designed to tackle.

The Housing Act 2004 provides that before introducing a selective licensing scheme a local authority must seek approval to do so from the Secretary of State. However, in March 2010 the department issued a general approval which provides that, subject to the local authority ensuring that it has complied with the statutory requirements around designation and consultation, it does not have to seek approval from the Secretary of State before introducing a selective licensing scheme and can rely on the general approval instead.

The Government believe that licensing can play an important role, particularly when it is strictly focused on discrete areas with specific problems. However, the blanket licensing approach which has been adopted by some local authorities since the general approval was issued can have major drawbacks because it impacts on all landlords. Newham Council and Barking and Dagenham Council have already introduced blanket licensing schemes which cover their entire local authority areas. Three other local authorities—Croydon, Liverpool and Waltham Forest—are also planning to do so shortly.

There is a real risk that, left unchecked, blanket licensing could proliferate, putting additional burdens on reputable landlords who are already fully compliant with their obligations. The vast majority of landlords provide a good service, and the Government do not believe it is right to impose unnecessary additional costs on them or their tenants. Such an approach, without proper justification, is disproportionate and can unfairly penalise good landlords.

The impact is reduced investment by landlords in additional rented housing and unnecessary costs which tend to be passed on to tenants through higher rents. Our specially appointed private rented sector task force has estimated that the impact of widespread licensing in London would be an £8 million reduction in investment value on the 5,000 new build-to-rent homes that the mayor wants built each year.

To address this issue, it has been decided to amend the general approval at the same time as the criteria are extended. With effect from 1 April, and subject to the criteria being extended, local authorities will have to seek confirmation from the Secretary of State for any selective licensing scheme which would cover more than 20% of their geographical area or would affect more than 20% of privately rented homes in the local authority area. All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. This approach will help ensure that local authorities focus their activity on areas with the worst problems while helping to ensure that they do not adversely impact on good landlords.

In its report to both Houses, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments made two comments which I would like to address. The first was that the draft order contained errors in the preamble, specifically that it mistakenly cited subsections (1) and (6) of Section 250 of the Housing Act 2004 as enabling powers and did not refer to a draft of the order having been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. These drafting errors, which do not in any way affect the substance of the statutory instrument, will be corrected in the final version.

The second comment was that the proposed additional criteria were too broad and open-ended and could result in significant areas of the country being designated as subject to selective licensing. The committee therefore reported the draft order on the ground that it appears to make an unexpected use of the power in Section 80(7) of the Housing Act 2004. I would like to make the following points in response. First, local authority powers will not be open-ended. If this order is approved, we will publish guidance for local authorities which will set out how they should interpret the new criteria and the evidence base that they would need to develop to support any decision to designate an area. Secondly, widening the criteria will help local authorities target enforcement action in areas where it is most needed. This should help ensure that, overall, fewer properties are designated and that any schemes do not impact on good landlords or their tenants. Thirdly, local authorities will need to obtain confirmation from the Secretary of State of any selective licensing designation that would cover more than 20% of the authority’s geographic area or more than 20% of its privately rented stock. This requirement should help ensure that schemes are kept tightly focused and are only introduced where absolutely necessary.

I recognise that extending the criteria in this way, together with the introduction of a requirement for local authorities to obtain confirmation from the Secretary of State before introducing schemes above a certain threshold, are potentially major changes. Therefore, the Government have decided that they will undertake a review of the impact of these changes 18 months after their introduction. I am sure that that is well appreciated by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham.

The current criteria for selective licensing on the basis of low housing demand and/or anti-social behaviour are too restrictive. The Government have decided to address this by extending the criteria to cover poor property conditions, large amounts of inward migration, a high level of deprivation and high levels of crime, as I mentioned earlier. These changes will help ensure that local authorities have the right tools to target enforcement action where it is most needed. At the same time, we are amending the general approval so that in future the Secretary of State will need to confirm any licensing designation above a certain threshold. I commend this order to the Committee.

My Lords, I wish to raise a number of points about what is, in essence, an important initiative from the Government for improving conditions in the private rented sector. I declare interests as president of the Local Government Association and as chairman of the Council of the Property Ombudsman. I am grateful to Shelter and Crisis for their briefings, and am also drawing on some years of chairing the Private Rented Sector Policy Forum for representatives of both tenants and landlords.

The positive intention of this statutory instrument is to make it easier for local authorities to designate areas for selective licensing. Once designated, through the requirement for landlords to obtain a licence, the local authority can exercise some regulatory controls through advice and accreditation of landlords and a weeding out of those who are not “fit and proper persons”. With the extraordinary growth of the sector—which has increasingly meant replacing the purchase of properties by first-time buyers with purchase by buy-to-let landlords—it follows that some regulation of the PRS is needed.

Any of your Lordships who watched the recent “Panorama” programme about Britain’s acute housing problems will have witnessed the scenes of overcrowding, “beds in sheds”, high rents and abysmal conditions in parts of the private rented sector. Some intervention seems overdue to introduce proper standards and to weed out the exploitation to be found in what is obviously a minority of cases, but a minority that is truly terrible for the tenants involved and can ruin the credibility and reputation of the whole sector.

The problem has been that local authorities, even where existing powers should lead to intervention, have not had the resources to act. Selective licensing can buttress existing powers and, through the charging of a fee, can raise the money needed to pay for enforcement of the necessary measures. This statutory instrument helps councils wishing to go for selective licensing by sanctioning this regulatory route not just in places where there is low demand for housing and where anti-social behaviour is rife but where there are high levels of properties in poor condition or high levels of inward migration, social deprivation or crime.

I commend this policy of broadening the reach of selective licensing. However, at the same time, the Government are introducing a new restriction on the use of licensing: only in exceptional circumstances, it seems, where the Secretary of State permits it, will the local authority be able to use selective licensing to embrace more than a fifth of its area or more than a fifth of its rented properties. This would prevent the use of licensing to cover at least four-fifths of privately rented properties. The purpose of this restriction, as I understand it, is to save decent landlords the burden of form-filling and, in particular, of paying a licence fee, which could be £100 per property per annum. I want to explore whether this “one-fifth only” rule is sensible.

The CLG Select Committee did indeed find in 2013 that the process of licensing could be bureaucratic and tedious. It is hoped that a simplification of procedures is now to be expected. However, the committee also concluded that local authorities should be given more discretion over decisions on when and where licensing should be implemented.

My objections to the 20% limit are as follows. First, should it not be for councils themselves to decide on the extent of the licensing that they need? I am not sure how, in this age of devolution and localism, central government can decide which places—which streets—most need the extra protection that licensing can bring.

Secondly, councils that want to implement an authority-wide regime and not one covering just a fifth of their territory argue that unsatisfactory—indeed, unsavoury—landlords may be operating in any part of their area. The new restriction would deny councils the tools to sort out the rogues, wherever they are. After all, houses in multiple occupation—HMOs—are subject to licensing anywhere in a local authority’s area, not just in a specified one-fifth thereof.

Thirdly, economies of scale are important for a project such as this. If enforcement is to be effective, and it is not cheap, the more landlords involved the better. The Newham success story shows what can be done—I joined that borough’s enforcement team on one of its dawn raids recently at the invitation of the mayor, Sir Robin Wales—if licensing covers a whole borough, and therefore a large number of landlords. At £100 a property, significant resources can then be raised. If only a fifth of properties were to be involved, the cost to landlords would have to be much higher and/or the service would be much less effective. I note that Newham has completed well over 2,000 enforcement visits, taken dozens of landlords to court and refused licences for some notorious landlords with scores of properties, all because it has had the resources to do so.

Fourthly, I note that the DCLG’s impact assessment stresses the financial burden on landlords of this annual fee but, of course, other industries pay for their own regulation. Set against a rent of perhaps £15,000 a year in Newham, a £100 fee does not sound excessive. The suggestion that landlords will simply pass on the cost to tenants does not sound like good economic sense. It assumes that these landlords are not currently charging the maximum rent the market will bear and that they have the scope for increasing rents further. There seems to be no evidence that where councils are using selective licensing, rents have been raised accordingly. The local housing allowance would certainly not be increased for this purpose. Moreover, I presume that landlords are able to offset licence fees against tax, just like the costs of gas safety inspections or agents’ fees.

Fifthly and finally, the real impact is surely not the relatively modest annual fee but the effects of licensing on raising standards in the PRS. The fee is not money down the drain. It pays for a service, making the worst landlords fulfil their obligations. Not only do tenants benefit from the improved performance but other landlords benefit because licensing helps to drive out unfair competition from those who do not play by the rules. The Newham experience shows how the police, Home Office and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs can all be helped, thereby saving the taxpayer money under a number of other headings.

So I congratulate the Government on opening up more opportunities for selective licensing, strengthening the hand of local authorities to exercise greater regulatory influence over the private rented sector in their areas. However, I see the somewhat arbitrary restriction of licensing to just a fifth of areas or properties as a mistake that will unnecessarily undermine this opportunity to enhance the standards and reputation of the sector. A fallback power for the Secretary of State to intervene if a maverick local authority behaves in an eccentric way is understandable, but not a blanket blocking of local authority plans to improve tenants’ lives in this way. I am glad to hear that an impact assessment will take place in 18 months but, in the mean time, can the Minister reassure us that the Government will use their powers only to curb the autonomy of local government in extreme cases? The net effect of this statutory instrument is otherwise one good step forward but two steps back.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to this order. I particularly welcome the contribution that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Best, pretty much all of which we agree with.

The order itself is to be welcomed but we know that it comes attached to an administrative change to the general approval regime which will significantly curtail the opportunity to introduce selective licensing. From 1 April, local authorities will have to seek confirmation from the Secretary of State for a selective licensing scheme which covers more than 20% of their geographical area or will affect more than 20% of the privately rented homes in the local authority area. This is yet another centralising, controlling proposition from the Government, who continue to espouse the cause of localism but too often act in a contrary manner.

However, we support the arrangements for selective licensing; indeed, they were introduced under legislation of the previous Labour Government. The intent is to focus on those who show no interest in managing their properties properly, often letting to anti-social tenants who cause havoc for the local community. Licensing is a means of seeking to ensure that landlords are fit and proper persons. Can the Minister confirm that a local authority cannot simply designate an area on a whim? In particular, local authorities are currently required to consult those likely to be affected by designation and consider any representations made. Nor, if we are correct in our understanding, can the licence conditions be open-ended; they must relate to residential use of the property. Although authorities have a degree of discretion to set the precise conditions of the licence, they must include certain mandatory conditions, including the requirement to produce a “gas safe” certificate each year, keep electrical appliances and furniture in a safe condition, and keep smoke alarms in proper working order. Why on earth would the Government wish to weaken these requirements?

These matters need to be considered in the context of what is happening more generally in the private rented sector. One in five now lives in the PRS, including 1.5 million families with children, but we know that a third of the homes in the PRS do not meet decent home standards. We need to drive up standards by introducing a national register of landlords, which will make it easier for local authorities to introduce licensing schemes and ensure that tough sanctions are in place.

It is argued by the Government that selective licensing is not supposed to be a blanket arrangement, but does the Minister not accept that being more selective would be aided if there were a national register? From the information in the impact assessment, only a handful of local authorities have introduced authority-wide schemes to date—Newham, Barking and Dagenham, Enfield, Liverpool and Waltham Forest—although others are exploring the possibility. Can the Minister say specifically what problems have actually arisen in those boroughs? From the evidence we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Best, it seems that Newham, far from being a problem, has actually been a success and that progress is being made in tackling bad landlords. What evidence is there that landlords are not absorbing the cost of licensing?

It is suggested that borough-wide selective licensing can deter investors. RBS’s position is cited, but is not the whole rationale for licensing to improve areas, encourage better management of stock and tackle anti-social behaviour? Is it not the case that individual authorities are best placed to judge the impact on the extent of licensing in their areas? Why on earth would they wish to do something to impair the prospect of more investment in their housing? So far as the new thresholds are concerned, what analysis underpins the Government’s 20%/20% approach? What evidence backs up that requirement?

It is suggested that the Government will issue guidance—indeed, the Minister has confirmed that—advising local authorities to focus their efforts, in the first instance, on just the 10% most deprived local super output areas across the country. This would significantly reduce the number of PRS properties covered by a licensing scheme; one can see the tabulation at the end of the impact assessment. The Government’s emphasis seems to consider the landlord in priority to the tenants and the community.

I have one further point. Option 1 in the impact assessment sets out whether approval would be granted in schemes larger than 20%, and states that,

“local authorities must be able to demonstrate the scheme is enforceable and fully resourced”.

How will that judgment be made? Does this not mean that the most deprived areas, which are likely to have the greatest need for licensing, will struggle the most to resource that requirement? Where is the fairness in all that?

My Lords, while welcoming, in particular, the conditions set out in the draft order as being helpful to facilitate the successful operation of licensing schemes, I respectfully adopt the—critique is perhaps too strong a word—observations of the noble Lord, Lord Best, and my noble friend Lord McKenzie in relation to the matters to which they spoke.

I have had some experience of the selective licensing regime, as I campaigned strongly for one to be created in the ward that I represent. It has been pretty successful. When I tried to persuade the local authority to extend the scheme for another, discrete, part of the ward, at that time—I am going back four or five years—it was not feasible because the Government were concerned about the size. A size factor was required, although that is probably no longer the case.

I fear that the drafting of this order contains potential problems and I should like to address my remarks to those matters. For example, paragraph 3 requires that,

“the area contains a high proportion of properties in the private rented sector”.

What on earth does that mean? Have the Government produced any guidelines or guidance, preferably in conjunction with the Local Government Association—I declare an interest as an honorary vice-president of that organisation—about the proportions they are talking about?

One or two issues of that kind are contained in paragraph 4. For example, it refers to where,

“the local housing authority considers it would be appropriate for a significant number of the properties”.

What is a significant number? The local authorities could be in danger of challenge here unless there are, again, clear guidelines.

There is also the question of the character of, rather than the number of, properties. There could be a number of three or four-storey houses in an area alongside a number of semi-detached houses or whatever, and the number of properties might not tell the whole story of the number of people involved in the appropriate lettings. I am concerned about that aspect.

Paragraph 5 states:

“The second set of conditions are … that the area has recently experienced or is experiencing an influx of migration into it”.

I have two questions about that: what is meant by “recently” and what is meant by “migration”? Migration could take a number of forms. In common parlance it is people from overseas but in an area, to take an extreme example, an influx of people from Sunderland to Newcastle might be regarded as a somewhat questionable process of migration. I do not say that I share that view but there is a question about what is meant by migration in that context.

In paragraphs 6 and 7 there are references to “a high level”. In paragraph 6 the area must be,

“suffering from a high level of deprivation”,

and in paragraph 7(a),

“from high levels of crime”.

These are potentially justiciable issues and seem very vague. It would be helpful if the department—again, in conjunction with the LGA and possibly other consultees—were to consider guidelines in that respect.

There is a reference in paragraph 7(b) to criminal activity having an impact on other households and businesses in “the area”. Does that mean in the area of the licensing scheme or in the wider area? What happens in an area adjoining where there is a licensing scheme could well depend upon or be caused by the conditions in the licensing scheme area, although the impact might be outside. Would that be taken into account? It is not clear.

Finally, there is a significant issue which certainly affects Newcastle and many other places, and that is student accommodation. Large areas of my city and, I suspect, many others are now given over to student accommodation. That is often quite problematic. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is very problematic in some areas. I am not sure whether, as an issue, that is implicitly incorporated within these conditions or whether it becomes a discrete factor in itself. My preference would be for the latter, but is the Minister able to say whether, to adopt the present order’s words, a high proportion of student residences in an area would be a factor that could justify a licensing scheme? If not, I encourage the Minister to take a look at that issue because it impinges quite significantly on what had hitherto been ordinary residential areas. I am talking not about purpose-built student accommodation but about the conversion of existing family accommodation into student accommodation. Sometimes they are HMOs and can be controlled in that sense, but very often they are not. It seems to be an increasing problem that is likely to increase further. If at all possible, it should be brought within the framework of the scheme.

Having said that, in general, I welcome the proposals. They should assist, but some of the issues that I and others have raised need to be addressed if we are going to make the best use of the possibility of deploying the scheme in the way that the Government wish.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. They all speak from great experience of local government and I appreciate their constructive suggestions and questions. I shall seek to answer all of them, or at least most of them, as I work through my response.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, talked of the 20% reference point for the Secretary of State. I assure him that it is the Government’s view that this strikes a fair balance between ensuring that schemes are focused on areas where there is a problem and, as I said in my opening remarks, which he acknowledged, do not unfairly impact on good landlords and their tenants. I assure the noble Lord and the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, who raised a similar point about whether this is centralising the proposition if approval is required, that all applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If a local authority produces evidence in support of its proposition, we would expect that application to be approved.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, said that only in exceptional circumstances could licensing be used in more than 20% of properties. As I have already said, it will be considered on a case-by-case basis. There may be cases where licensing of more than 20% of the borough would be considered appropriate. Such applications would be submitted to the Secretary of State. There is sometimes a sense that just because it is submitted to the Secretary of State the answer will be no but it would be looked at on a case-by-case basis on the evidence submitted.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, was concerned that landlords may be inclined to pass on costs to tenants. In areas of high demand, it is highly likely that rents will go up. We feel that, given the scarcity of accommodation, tenants will have no choice but to accept higher charges. There is a concern we are looking to address.

The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said there was concern about introducing licensing on a whim. As noble Lords are aware, councils must consult tenants, residents and landlords over a 10-week period before introducing any such licensing.

My point was not to encourage councils to introduce licensing on a whim but to make the point that they cannot do so. They have to go through a process, which is why it should be left up to them.

I agree with the noble Lord. Perhaps I should rephrase what I said. I was not for a moment suggesting that he would ever do anything on a whim; he would do things only in a careful and considered fashion. I will not comment further: following the previous five SIs I think we are on to dangerous territory. The noble Lord makes a valid point and I think that we are on the same page here, although we are perhaps looking at the issue from different angles. My suggestion is that the check and balance approach that we have adopted does not mean that when councils make an application for more than 20% of the area it will be rejected, but consideration will of course be given to the application as submitted.

The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, also referred to the problems that have arisen and asked whether we were seeking to highlight any specific ones. The noble Lord, Lord Best, talked about his experience in Newham. Of course, the Newham scheme was introduced only in January 2013 and the other scheme that I alluded to in Barking and Dagenham was introduced only in September 20014. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, it is too early to make an assessment based on robust evidence, and that is why the Government are strongly inclined to ensure that we review this policy in 18 months’ time. As we move forward in this respect, both the contributions that have been made in this debate and the concerns that have been raised will, I am sure, be considered as part of that review.

The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, also raised the issue of guidance. I think that I made the point that we will shortly be publishing guidance for local authorities on the additional criteria, and perhaps some of the questions will be answered in that. More importantly, it will set out the information that local authorities will need to give if they want to apply to the Secretary of State to confirm a particular designation.

On the evidence base, of course various consultations were carried out. Various people also gave evidence to the CLG Select Committee and perhaps I may quote one. On deterring investment, Andrew Cunningham from Grainger said at the CLG Select Committee hearing in 2013 that,

“the introduction of licensing that Newham has done is for an organisation like ourselves a very heavy stick. There is no incentive for an organisation like Grainger to invest its relatively scarce resources into a borough like Newham. There is no incentive for a landlord like us to stay there”.

That has in part also been noteworthy for the Government but, again, I emphasise that we will be reviewing the implementation in 18 months’ time.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised a series of questions on definitions—for example, the definition of a high proportion of privately rented properties. It is estimated that nationally the private rented sector makes up about 19% of the total housing stock. Therefore, where an area contains a private rented sector higher than 19%, this may be taken broadly as an indication of a high proportion of properties in the private rented sector. However, we have been very careful not to specify a particular figure which would be considered to be too high a proportion for the private rented sector, because we recognise that there may be regional differences that influence what is considered to be a high proportion of properties in this sector. Therefore, our view is that it is really for local authorities to determine what should be defined as a high proportion.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, also asked about high levels of crime. Again, it is for local authorities to determine whether they consider their crime levels to be high in a particular area. However, he will know as well as I do that local authorities make assessments of low-and-high crime areas across each borough of a county, and they make determinations accordingly.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, also asked about migration, using the example of people from Sunderland going over to Newcastle. However, it could also be people from Newcastle going over to Sunderland. I do not know what that does for football supporters but I am sure that the rivalry will be sustained. Nevertheless, the term “migration” is also left undefined, so it would take on its ordinary meaning of referring to people moving into an area from neighbouring cities in different parts of the country, as the noble Lord himself suggested, or from overseas. It is worth saying that migration can have an important impact on the supply and demand of rented accommodation and may result in a shortage of available accommodation overall. A small number of rogue landlords are known to exploit such a scheme.

Although I fully accept that the noble Lord may have sought more precise definitions, the emphasis is that we seek to keep the definitions broad to allow local and, indeed, regional interpretation. We will provide further clarification in the guidance. The final sense that I would convey is one of understanding that these are new provisions and that it is important that we review the policy in practice. I am therefore pleased that the Government have committed to the 18-month review.

Will the Minister deal with the point that I raised about the impact assessment reference to local authorities having to demonstrate that a scheme is enforceable and fully resourced? Can he say little more about what is likely to be involved in those judgments, particularly about whether a scheme is enforceable?

I think it is as it says on the tin: can the scheme be practically applied? Each case that is presented will be among the evidence base supplied. My immediate response is: ultimately, is the scheme practical; can it work, in essence? I hope that with that response, the noble Lord and other noble Lords are assured, with the commitment that I give again that the 18-month review will attempt to address some of the concerns that have been raised. I have just received a note which states that the enforceable and practical element will also cover whether, for example, fees will cover the cost of any scheme.

My Lords, this is my last question of the noble Lord today—and probably the last thing that I will say for the duration of this Parliament, as he will be relieved to hear. I return to my question about student accommodation and whether the Government will take a particular look at that as an issue in the context of the whole area of selective licensing.

The noble Lord makes a valid point. In his question he also talked about crime, deprivation and migration. Areas with high numbers of students alone would not be covered; it would involve taking those other elements into account as well. However, I will reflect on his comments to see whether I can add anything more specific. I will hold him to the statement that this is the last question that he will raise not only today but in this Parliament.

Motion agreed.