Expert opinion: Queen’s Speech is not be-all and end-all of new PRS laws

Yesterday saw the Queen’s Speech for the new Parliament – the first majority Conservative government speech since the era of John Major.

The Queen’s Speech is always closely watched as it sets out the main themes of the government for the session of Parliament that will follow. Naturally it is even more closely watched after an election as the Government will put flesh on promises made during the election.

The first thing to say is that this will not be the be-all and end-all of new legislation to follow.

There is a ballot afterwards for Private Members’ Bills and one or more of these may be picked up by the Government and become law. There is also a Budget to follow in July and this may also create changes that will affect the sector.

Additionally, the Queen’s Speech says little about secondary legislation and regulations, which might be passed during the course of other Parliamentary business. Finally, a Queen’s Speech is provisional and in no way commits the Government to bring in these Bills or prevent it bringing forward other legislation.

We know that the plan to get rid of the Human Rights Act did not feature in detail and the Queen only mentioned proposals on a British Bill of Rights.

This would have probably made little difference to the private residential sector although social landlords may well have been pleased to see a reduction in interference with their ability to deal with tenants. This means that for now the main interest in human rights terms in the private tenancy field will be on the Supreme Court appeal in MacDonald v MacDonald which may give clarity as to what extent, if at all, they apply in private tenancy matters.

We knew in advance that there was to be a Housing Bill. This was primarily expected to set out the new proposal for tenants of housing associations to buy their properties. The speech added little more to that.

However, this Bill will be one to watch as such a Bill may also have other provisions inserted into it which may affect the private rented sector.

Immigration got a very brief mention indeed.

However, David Cameron already indicated what will be happening in his speech last week. It is clear that the Right to Rent scheme will be rolled out fairly rapidly, and there was an oblique reference to a mandatory licensing scheme for landlords.

This is of great concern, but until more details are available it is not clear whether this is a new licensing scheme as is about to be introduced in Wales or something smaller such as a widening of current HMO licensing provisions.

A reduction in regulation on small businesses was mentioned. Despite several reports encouraging a change of view toward private landlords there has been resistance, and not just by the Government, toward treating landlords as businesses.

It may be that the new approach could encompass changes to this as well.

The widening of devolved powers will be of interest.

This may well allow for devolved governments to take more radical steps in relation to tenancies although these will take time. It will also mean that there will be an increased disparity between England, Wales and Scotland.

Interestingly, the Queen said that rules would be introduced to prevent MPs from Scotland or Wales voting on issues that did not have any effect on their areas.

This will of course neutralise any SNP vote and input to the vast majority of landlord and tenant matters.

It is worth noting that there is a great deal here.

It seems unlikely that all of this can be achieved in the current session, especially if there is resistance. No doubt this has motivated the reduction in status of a change to the Human Rights Act to prevent the entire session being tied up by argument about this. However, other items may also disappear.


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