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Dr. Turner: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, which emphasises the problem of the definition of an extended family and where to set its limits. It is only right and proper that such sensitive issues are scrutinised by the House.
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) made an important point about minority communities. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) envisage that resolutions, whether affirmative or negative, would include, for example, a requirement on local authorities to ensure that the regulations are published in languages other than English so that minority communities can understand them?
Dr. Turner: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, which underlines a point that is likely to be overlooked in an ordinary statutory instrument Committee, operating by resolution through annulment. Nine times out of 10, such Committees are trying to break the four-minute meeting record. Instead of scrutinising,
We have talked about problems that are associated with definition. They could keep lawyers going for a long time, but I do not want to dwell on that. However, definition is vital; my hon. Friends' interventions have shown that admirably.
Mr. McCabe: I want to make the same point, but with specific reference to clause 3(4). I am worried about the way in which the regulations will operate. I am conscious that they may involve safety issues for local authority officers. There must be massive scope for misunderstanding, especially in the case of asylum seekers, who may be subject to pressure from unscrupulous landlords. I wonder whether my hon. Friend has given any thought to ensuring that local authority officers are safeguarded and that accurate, reliable information on which the law can operate is uncovered.
Dr. Turner: That underlines the need for positive resolution so that we have clear regulations that protect the interests of everyone involvedlandlords, tenants or local authority officers, who must enforce them.
We have shown the potential sensitivity and complexity of definition. The Government have agreed that relationships will be prescribed by positive resolution. Many of the same considerations about relationships apply to the other three major HMO clauses4, 5 and 6. Genuine questions could be asked about the registration level, which is controversial. There is fairly wide agreement in the House that three storeys or more and five or more tenants constitute a reasonable level at which to start mandatory registration.
I was considering the apparently reasonable definition about which many hon. Members agree. However, some hon. Members want the minimum number of tenants to be reduced. Student organisations are concerned about the condition of many student houses, which do not necessarily have three storeys, and which often consist of only four tenantsa two-storey family house might be let to students, for example. Those organisations want such houses to be covered by the Bill.
There is a considerable level of complexity involved in dealing with these regulations, and it needs the full and open scrutiny of Parliament. I therefore strongly support the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Chipping Campden
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) referred to the fact that the regulations would be accompanied by penalties. There will be criminal offences associated with this legislation for landlords and others who commit major transgressions of the regulations. Although we are not necessarily going to bang people up for doing wrong under the regulations, they may be subject to a considerable fine. We therefore need to be very clear about what measures they are being required to conform to, and that those measures are reasonable. The positive resolution procedure in the House is a transparent and fair way of achieving that.
Mr. McCabe: My hon. Friend has just told the House that there will be penalties for landlords "and others" who transgress. Which others would be subject to penalties, and what kind of penalties would they be?
Dr. Turner: That is slightly speculative. Clear responsibilities will be placed not only on landlords but on tenants. We all know that antisocial behaviour occurs mainly in rented accommodation but, I regret, sometimes in owner-occupied accommodation as well. That is a fact of life. We have all, unless we live in very plush suburban lands, experienced cases of it in our constituencies, and they are extremely hard to deal with.
Mr. Gardiner: Freeholders are often at arm's length in these situations, as they employ managing agents to manage the property on their behalf. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the penalties to which he has referred would apply also to the managers who have hands-on responsibility for the administration of the building and for the people living in it?
If my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) had been privy to the original Bill that we drafted, which set out to replace de novo section 11 of the Housing Act 1985, and which covered all these points of detail, he would know that this was a real issue that had to be addressed. It is an issue that the control provisions to be laid under regulations under the Bill will have to address. This emphasises the need for clear, transparent scrutiny.
Dr. Turner: I am not talking out my Bill. [Interruption.] I am trying to preserve it, contrary to the impression that the hon. Gentleman may have. Had there not been what can only be described as a wrecking amendment from his side of the Chamber, this Bill would now have been passed and we could have started discussing the Bill that all the Conservative Members are interested in. If Conservative Members want to know