Brandon Lewis MP
Minister for Planning
Eland House, Bressenden Place.
February 4th 2014
We wanted to thank you for responding to the debate in Westminster Hall on the Deregulation Bill, and in particular the concerns that have been raised with us and with colleagues around the proposed deregulation of short-term letting in London.
You provided assurances in that debate that Government does not "seek to provide new opportunities for short-term letting on a permanent basis", that there would be no negative impact on London's housing stock, and that regulations will follow the passing of the Bill that will clarify for Londoners what is permissible and what is not within the confines of the law.
Those regulations, you explained, would allow for the exclusion of particular residential premises, and residential premises in particular areas, from any relaxation of section 25 of the 1973 powers under which local authorities are currently able to enforce against unlawful and commercial short-term letting.
We had previously noted with interest Lord Ahmad's commitments during the House of Lords Grand Committee debate last year that the Government would work with London authorities to ensure that any regulations that may follow the passing of the Deregulation Bill will strike the necessary balance between allowing additional flexibilities to home-owners and protecting against the type of short-term letting with which our constituents in Westminster and others around central London are sadly all too familiar.
However, with the House of Lords Report debate due to take place this week, we are told that there has still been no such engagement or liaison with Westminster City Council on the details of the regulations that are intended to follow this Bill. We therefore remain none the wiser as to which ‘particular residential premises' or ‘areas' the Minister has in mind for exclusion from any powers stemming from clause 33 of the Deregulation Bill.
Nor is it entirely clear how the parliamentary timetable will allow for the passage of this legislation as well as the drafting of subsequent regulations to set out the specific detail of changes to the 1973 powers, full and proper consultation with London's local authorities on those regulations, the consideration of those regulations by both Houses and then their passing into statute, all before Parliament is dissolved on 30th March. If work has already been done on the drafting of those regulations, clearly the earlier that local authorities could be sighted and have the chance to comment on them the better.
It is disappointing that your Department has still not published its response to the consultation on the Review of Property Conditions in the Private Sector, which covered the issue of short-term letting. That consultation ended in February and you have previously promised that the Government's response would be published before the end of 2014 (PQ response dated 14th October 2014) and most recently "in due course" (PQ response dated 12th January 2015).
The continued delays in publishing this response do nothing to provide any reassurance to us, in seeking to address the concerns of our residents, that we should simply wait until the Bill is passed and that everything will be fine and dealt with appropriately in the detail of the regulations.
We are aware that amendments continue to be tabled to clause 33 of the Deregulation Bill, and we would urge the Government to consider those amendments carefully and support their intention, which is simply to codify on the face of the Bill the very assurances and guarantees that Ministers say will follow in the draft regulations.
I would be grateful if you could provide some further clarification on the above matters at your earliest convenience, not least given the lack of time that remains in this parliamentary session for these issues to be properly considered and acted upon.
Karen Buck MP
Mark Field MP