Huppert’s Law


Sunday, July 1st, 2012. 12:54am

On the morning of Thursday the 28th of June 2012 Cambridge MP Julian Huppert tweeted to say:

Exciting news – I have chance to present a 10-minute rule Bill to Parliament on the 10th. I need to decide topic by tuesday. Any ideas?

Wikipedia’s page on the Ten Minute Rule explains:

The Ten Minute Rule, also known as Standing Order No. 23, is a procedure in the British Parliament for the introduction of Private Member’s Bills in addition to the 20 per session normally permissible. It is one of the ways in which a bill may receive its first reading.

So our MP has a chance to propose a new law on our behalf; and we have a chance to tell him what we’d like.

Already via Twitter there have been a stream of suggestions, including:

  • The Law Society has an idea for a PMB to free up the assets of criminals to pay their legal aid costs. Can send a briefing. (Tweet)
  • Drug law reform bill…? or would that be wasted as a 10-minute bill? or, how about public interest corporation bill..? (Tweet)
  • Regularisation of the est. 120,000 undocumented migrant children in the UK + their parents. http://wp.me/pd8ov-al (Tweet)
  • Require 20mph limits as default for built-up roads except on roads where Traffic Authority makes a considered exception (Tweet)
  • Make your 10 Minute Bill about regulators. If FSA, Audit Commission, OFCOM etc fail, they must be punished properly (Tweet)
  • How about the option to chose X as a gender marker on passports? Would that be appropriate for such a bill? (Tweet)

My suggestions

Before this opportunity arose I spoke to Huppert about how he might use a private members bill if the chance to introduce one came up. I pitched to him my idea for updating the Housing Law to take into account the increase in shared housing, and people sharing houses for longer, and later in life. He didn’t reveal what was top of his list, but he said he had a few ideas in mind, and noted that once an MP gets an opportunity to put forward a private members bill they are extensively lobbied by all sorts of people from government departments to campaign groups.

Housing Act Amendment Bill 2012

(Tweet)
This bill should modernise the Housing Act to make useful, and applicable, to house sharers. Anyone can enter into any kind of contracts they like, though those contracts have to be fair. The law should primarily in my view deal with what’s clearly unfair, and provide for cases where there are no explicit contracts (or no enforceable contracts). I think the areas where the law needs to be updated include: Deposits, the deposit protection scheme is doesn’t really work when a deposit on a rented property was paid aeons ago and since then the deposit is “passed on” by tenants receiving their share back from an incoming new tenant; Asking someone to leave, it should be possible for sharers to “evict” someone on the basis that they are causing a substantive nuisance eg. through noise, if an established group of sharers makes a mistake selecting a new tenant who makes the property uninhabitable that shouldn’t result in the established tenants having to leave. The bill could also provide a default contract making it easy for sharers to recover money from one of their number who doesn’t pay their rent. The problem of excessive charges from landlords (or more usually agents) when tenants change over in shared houses could also be addressed. When a contract is not renewed and a statutory periodic assured shorthold tenancy comes into play (effectively the default position) there should also be a statutory default position enabling the changing of names on that rolling contract, preferably by simply notifying the landlord of the change, with no charge.

Ideally any such bill would be developed though consultation and committee hearings following its introduction. I think if the ball was started rolling we could get a new and more relevant legal position than we have now.

Abolition of Oaths Bill 2012

(Tweet)
To abolish oaths of allegiance to the monarch for MPs, the police, magistrates, and wherever else they’re found in government.

I think that in a democracy our elected representatives serve those they are elected to represent and not the hereditary monarch.

Those in public offices such as constables, magistrates, judges and many others should also be servants of the public at large and not of the monarch.

I don’t think democrats should be denied the opportunity to become members of parliament if they are not willing to damage their integrity and take an oath which is incompatible with their views. I don’t think filling parliament with people willing to saying something they don’t mean is a great idea. Similarly I think public offices should be open to all.

Police (Routinely Unarmed Response and Patrol) Bill 2012

(Tweet)
Parliament should take a view on if they want to see a country where police are routinely armed with TASER weapons.

I am concerned routine arming with TASER is becoming more common and our elected representatives in parliament have not taken a clear view on it. The current government hasn’t taken a view on it either.

I think it is important that there is some consistency to policing across the country, and this basic tenet is not one which should be left for local decisions; though protocols for deciding which officers are armed with which weapons and under what circumstances is something which, under national guidance, could be determined locally.

Education Act Amendment Bill

(Tweet)
Minimum standards for university disciplinary procedures should be legislated for. This is a matter for the state, and should not be left to universities, because universities control access to professions and control who is eligible to receive public research funding.
Minimum standards should cover procedure, for example providing people with details of any charges against them. Powers of academics acting alone should be limited and the extent of financial and other punishments should be capped. It should not be possible for universities to, for example, decide truth is not a defence to a charge of defamation.

It should be made clear who is responsible for enforcement of the Education Act, particularly in relation to Students’ Unions and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in Higher Education should accept, investigate and act on, complaints about systemic matters, not just complaints from, and relating to, individuals.

Police (Not Lying Without Justification) Bill 2012

(Tweet)

“Now I’ve spoken to you, I have to take your name and address”

“Because I’ve stopped you we must fill in this form. What’s your name?”

The police routinely lie to or mislead people about their rights, both as with the examples above about the information someone is required by law to provide the police with, and in more serious circumstances such as in relation to searching homes, cars, or phones and computers.

I think the police should be required to tell the truth unless there is a good justification for doing otherwise.

I think the best way to achieve this might be by extending the PACE Codes.

Individuals who are misled by the police should have the opportunity to correct and undo any actions taken as a result.

My view is this would create equity; currently a few people, primarily criminals and the well informed, know what their rights are, but others do not, and even those reasonably sure of their position may assume the police officer speaking to them knows the law and is being honest if what they are saying is at odds with their understanding.

I think such a bill would have the potential to increase trust in the police substantially and improve police – public relations.

Taxation (Simplification for Small Business) Bill 2012

(More)

  • Small businesses ought be able to opt to run their affairs through special approved bank accounts; by putting all transactions through such accounts, all tax affairs ought be dealt with automatically.
  • HMRC ought be required to make a web-based (not PDF) version of the basic Company Tax Return form CT600 available. (That’s my top specific suggestion, but the whole thing needs a shake-up)

Other Bills Cambridge Needs

There are other things which need doing for Cambridge needs bills in Parliament, but for which this probably isn’t the right mechanism:

  • “The Greater Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, North Essex and Peterborough (Structural Changes) Order 2012″ – A Bill to create a unitary authority for the greater Cambridge area.
  • “The Conservators of the River Cam Reform Bill 2012″

Procedure and Nonsense

Wikipedia’s Ten Minute Rule article states:

To qualify to introduce a bill under the Rule, the MP in question must be the first through the door to the Public Bill Office on the Tuesday or Wednesday morning fifteen working days (three weeks) prior to the date they wish to introduce their bill. Due to the popularity of the Rule and the difficulty in launching a Private Member’s Bill by other means, MPs have been known to sleep outside the Public Bill Office in order to guarantee a slot

Huppert might have been involved in such shenanigans but he hasn’t mentioned anything on Twitter, and I’d have thought that would be more likely if there was a specific bill he was seeking to introduce.

Ten minute rule bills are often taken after Prime Minister’s questions and before other business so they’re taken in House of Commons’ prime time. They’re a chance to raise the profile of an issue.

They’re not the most likely of private members bills to become law, due to timetabling and the fact they go to the back of the queue after private members’ bills arising from the ballot, another route to getting to introduce a bill.

Huppert doesn’t actually have to write his bill, most private members bills are not published (all we know as the public is they’re not published, but I’m pretty sure that means they’re not written!). He just has to come up with a snappy title. Technically someone could oppose his bill, and there could be a division (vote) following its introduction.

If there is no vote, or he wins the vote, Huppert will, I think, get to stand on the floor of the house, nod to the ghost of an ex-chandelier, proceed towards the speaker, nod again, and hand his bill to the clerk who will pompously read out the title. The speaker will ask Huppert when he would like a second reading of his bill. I think the best response to this question is:

Now

I suspect this wouldn’t go down well if the Speaker had an alternative date in mind which he’d already allocated (probably somewhere well into the future, on a day where there are far too many such bills on the order of business for them all to be reached). But Huppert like the rest of us only lives once, he shouldn’t be afraid of causing a bit of mischief on our behalf, in the interests of modernisation and democracy.

What Will He Go For?

I suspect Huppert’s bill will probably end up being either on civil liberties or cycling, though he has rather broad interests and responsibilities and it could well end up being on penguins or lighthouses.

I hope he doesn’t go with the idea I think he supports of introducing a presumption of liability against the driver of a motor vehicle involved in a collision with a cyclist or pedestrian. I know people complain it’s lazy shorthand to compare that idea with an erosion of “innocent until proven guilty”, and I understand the point, but that’s still what I think in effect it is. I think any decisions, be they on liability, or on guilt, should be based on the facts of the case and we shouldn’t start with a presumption in one direction or the other, as any alternative is in my view simply unjust.

If he uses the opportunity to oppose the government’s Draft Communications Data Bill I think that would be a good use of the opportunity which has come his way, which would gain the support of both his Cambridge constituents, and the wider constituency which has adopted him as a result of his being one of our few technically literate representatives in Parliament. On the subject of the communications data bill Huppert recently wrote:

My immediate concern is Clause 1. As written, it gives the Secretary of State far too broad a power. It allows data collection exercises that are perfectly reasonable – but would also allow pervasive black boxes that would monitor every online information flow; an idea which is clearly unacceptable. This must be tightened up urgently.

Huppert is a member of the Joint Commons/Lords committee to consider the bill and report in November though, so perhaps using his bill on this subject might not be as appropriate a route of influence as using his position on that committee.

21 comments/updates on “Huppert’s Law

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I could have gone on, I forgot to suggest fixing the Freedom of Information Act, for example introducing a time limit on internal reviews and public interest tests; but those are things hopefully the current post-legislative review of FOI might recommend.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    On the 4th of July Huppert tweeted a photo showing the text of his bill, highlighted by means of using papers to obscure other text on the sheet.

    The text, now also available in: Future Business Part A: Business for the period ending on Friday 13 July 2012 states:

    Ten minute Rule Motion: Dr Julian Huppert: Local Services (Planning): That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable local planning authorities to require the granting of planning permission prior to the demolition or change of use of premises or land used or formerly used as a public house or local independent shop, to enable local planning authorities to require the granting of planning permission if premises or land will be used for a supermarket; and for connected purposes.

    Firstly top marks to Huppert for selecting as a subject for his bill a series of matters which many in Cambridge care about.

    My view is that what we really need to do to address the concerns which underlie the bill is elect better councillors. Recently councillors in Cambridge have been, belatedly, responding to public concerns, I observed councillors reject plans to demolish the Queen Edith pub, and the conversion of the The ex-Royal Standard on Mill Road has also recently been refused.

    It appears likely that one outcome of the current local plan review in Cambridge will be stronger provisions relating to pubs.

    So one problem with Huppert’s Bill is it’s calling for something which is already in place. If you want to demolish any substantial building, or apply for change of use from a public house, you already need planning permission.

    I have commented previously on supermarket planning applications (Sainsbury, Tesco).

    While there is certainly a vocal anti-Tesco and anti-big supermarket lobby in Cambridge I think there is a huge range in people’s reasons for their opposition.

    The arguments which are formally used to oppose planning and licensing applications focus quite rightly in my view on things like safety and access matters which are planning considerations (whereas who owns and operates a business is not). Many however oppose the business practices of big supermarket companies, and some even claim to vehemently dislike their products and it is these reasons which are driving their objections.

    While there have been real problems with for example delivery arrangements for Tesco and Sainsburys on Mill Road those concerns have not in my view been the sole or even main drivers for the campaigns which have been run. I think there is a disconnect between the basis for campaigning and the basis on which councillors have been making decisions.

    The core question here is about the degree to which we want to, or need to, use our democratic system of running society to interfere with economics. Clearly there are times when interfering with free market economics is justified, but I think we need to be very careful about making such interventions and keep them to the minimum required. I think that a sustainable city is more likely to be created organically by individuals and companies operating in a free market than by excessive planning and control. Where we do decide to take planning action I think it ought be something not done in abstract by “the state” but by those with an interest in the city working through elected representatives, making the tweaks and nudges needed to keep Cambridge a great place to live, work and base businesses.

    I think the supermarket industry needs regulation, and we need to avoid monopolies; both at a national and local scale.

    I think it would be right to give councillors more powers in relation to controlling the where shops which will be expected to attract very large numbers of customers are located. For example there are a number of retail locations, and potential retail locations, around the city where I think strong arguments on traffic grounds can be made, against supermarkets being sited eg. in the ground floor of the Fire Station redevelopment or at the ex-petrol station site on Histon/Huntington roads; so for that reason a new “supermarket” classification in planning law is one I would support.

    Breaking down the current A1 retail class is something a London Assembly report from 2010 Cornered shops: London’s small shops and the planning system recommended, though they didn’t call for a “supermarket” class but for what they called “essential retail shops”: grocers, bakers, butchers, greengrocers and newsagents to have their own class.

    A supermarket class, applying to larger shops expected to draw more people, is to me the option which interferes with people’s property rights least, and is in my view a better use of planning law.

    The best way to get and keep useful independent shops, and pubs, is to use them. I also think the council could do more to increase provision of smaller units rented under favorable terms; investing in the city itself, rather than in banks and elsewhere.

    Properties change use over time depending on what it makes economic sense to do with them. There are many streets in Cambridge where shops have appeared and disappeared over time. I think its right for councillors to consider if changes of use are going to have an adverse impact on neighbours or the wider city, but I don’t think they should be considering how a business is owned and run. I don’t think an individual running a shop should generally be discriminated either in favour of, or against, when compared to a multi-national.


    There are a number of ex-pub sites around the city which are currently not being used. I think the city has created an uncertain, and risky, environment for those who might have been prepared to invest in those sites. While I think preserving a community facility is a valid consideration, the current uncertainty is putting off those who could have brought positive mixed developements to some of the sites. Some of the sites could have provided some housing, along perhaps with businesses offering the community with a service, not as a pub, but perhaps as a restaurant, or even a business centre, and in some cases perhaps useful public space; but as a city we’re sending out the signal that we’d rather have derelict buildings than the space being put to good use, by being too inflexible. We’re saying these sites must remain pubs, or nothing, and are actively putting off imaginative proposals for innovative new uses of these properties in the interests of the city and which are relevant to how the city’s residents currently live.

  3. Martin

    > companies operating in a free market

    If Tesco runs its Mill Road store at a loss, which I have heard some say is likely given that it is often not very full, and is almost certainly an expensive store to run (since otherwise Tesco wouldn’t have made strenuous efforts to make it bigger and have delivery arrangements that are easier for it – albeit at the public’s expense), does that constitute a free market?

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    P588 of Erskine May provides more information about the crazy traditions and reveals MPs carry a “dummy bill” when processing and bowing etc. it states:

    Method of presentation of bills upon order

    When the order of leave to bring in a bill has been made, or when a bill has been ordered to be brought in upon a resolution or resolutions, it is presented forthwith. The bill must be presented by one of the Members who have been ordered to prepare and bring it in.

    The Speaker asks, ‘Who will prepare and bring in the bill?’ Thereupon the Member in charge reads the names of the Members, concluding with his own name (see also p 545), and, having in his hand a dummy bill which he has previously obtained from the Public Bill Office, goes from his place to the Bar. The dummy bill sets out on a buff-coloured cardboard pro forma the short and long titles of the bill, together with the name of the Member or Members (not exceeding 12 in all) supporting the bill. On his or her name being called by the Speaker, the Member in charge proceeds to the Table, with the customary three bows, and hands the dummy bill to the Clerk of the House, who reads the short title aloud. This constitutes the first reading of the bill (see p 540). The Speaker then calls upon the Member to name a day for second reading in the manner described below.

    p545 adds:

    If a Member acts as teller against a motion for leave to introduce a bill, his name is not permitted to appear among the names on the back of the bill

    p546 notes that the Bill has to be printed if it is to get a second reading:

    If a bill has not been printed, the question for its second reading cannot be proposed. This rule, formerly applied as a matter of practice by the Speaker, is now reinforced by Standing Order No 14(9), under which an order appointing a day for the second reading of a private Member’s bill lapses at the rising of the House on the preceding sitting day if at that time the bill has not been printed and delivered to the Vote Office, and no further order for second reading of the bill may be made until it has been printed.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    Huppert’s Law is scheduled to get a second reading on the 26th of October 2012

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/calendar/?d=2012-10-26#cal29084

    It’s listed fourth. Can Parliament can get through the second readings of four bills in a day?

    Huppert’s Law now has it’s own webpage:

    http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/localservicesplanning.html

    The current status says:
    “This Bill is being prepared for publication.”

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Order of Business states:

    Note: If proceedings on the first Bill end before 2.30 pm, the second Bill and, possibly, subsequent Bills may be debated in the time remaining. After 2.30 pm, only those Bills which are unopposed may make further progress.

    At the time of writing it is 11.37 and MPs are still on the first Bill; making very long speeches, and Huppert’s is number three.

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    Huppert’s law did not get debated on the 26th of October.

    Someone objected; Huppert asked for his Bill to be rescheduled for consideration on Friday the 2nd of November.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    In the above article I suggest Huppert should have considered using his opportunity to create a law to legislation for minimum standards for university disciplinary procedures, including suggesting that extent of financial and other punishments should be capped

    On Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 The Cambridge Student ran an article drawing attention to the continued unlimited power to fine, charge and punish its students which the university maintains.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    The current future business part A states:

    Wednesday 16 January

    • Questions to the Secretary of State for Wales, and to the Prime Minister.
    • Ten minute Rule Motion: Dr Julian Huppert: Statutory Instruments Act 1946 (Amendment): That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Statutory Instruments Act 1946.

      This is normally used as a holding title.

    Looks like Huppert has another chance to bring in a new law. My suggestions remain as in the article above.

    According to Wikipedia:

    To qualify to introduce a bill under the Rule, the MP in question must be the first through the door to the Public Bill Office on the Tuesday or Wednesday morning fifteen working days (three weeks) prior to the date they wish to introduce their bill.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      There are loads of replies to Huppert’s tweets with suggestions, including:

      • Prohibiting the DWP from making teenage girls work in sex clubs or lose their benefits?
      • banning shops/companies from promoting Christmas putting decorations up playing festive music until the last week in November
      • Make politicians criminally culpable if they renege on pledges made in election campaigns :)
      • Cannabis legalisation
      • recording a person’s data into a database should be considered monitoring them + require judicial oversight
      • minimum quality standards for cycle infrastructure provision. But ain’t going to become law anyway is it?
      • Perhaps its just a hangover from the weekend, but how about removing restrictions on trading hours? https://www.
      • Equality Act 2010 to include protection for intersex and trans people not covered by existing limited definitions.
      • Every driving ban to require a re-test to regain license. No exemption from ban for exceptional hardship.
      • Can we give local council Planning Committees more power? The Planning Inspectors just seem to overturn everything!!
      • I’d like the The Treachery Act 1940 put back on the law books.
      • Make ministers personally accountable (ie with jail terms) when their departments break the law
    1. Hester

      I think part of the issue is you don’t want anything which just targets HMOs. Landlords already have an additional burden to bear to be licensed as a HMO – often unreasonably, in my opinion.

      For example, the landlord had to change the locks on our HMO so that you can always open the doors from the inside without a key – for safe exit in the case of fire. Which is a fine principle, and I’m glad he did it. But surely this is also an issue for say, families with children renting? Or any less emotive tenant. If the principle is to ensure than tenants are safe in the property, why the additional burden on those landlords who chose to rent as an HMO? It pushes up the cost passed on to the tenants of the HMO, and makes it less likely landlords will want to rent to sharers at all.

      The result is large 4-bed houses in Cambridge being let for single or professional couple. The result is people renting in one or two names, then sub-letting off tenancy. Such arrangements mean no protection under the deposit protection scheme, no protection under short-notice eviction or anything else you would get as the primary tenant but not a sub-letter. It means neighbours who have no idea who they are living next to, and landlords who don’t know who their tenants are. But many people have to share to afford to live in Cambridge.

    2. Richard Taylor Article author

      On the point about window locks when regulating house sharing was discussed by the City Council, Cllr Rosenstiel noted some people prefer deadlocks on security grounds.

      My own view is it’s important as much of the rental market as possible is open to house sharers and others alike, and regulation, and planning requirements, ought only kick in in relation to large specifically built or adapted properties. We must avoid a situation where house sharers can only choose from properties specifically approved by the state for house sharing.

      no protection under the deposit protection scheme, no protection under short-notice eviction or anything else you would get as the primary tenant but not a sub-letter. It means neighbours who have no idea who they are living next to, and landlords who don’t know who their tenants are

      Those are exactly the issues I raise in my original article above. When I’ve lived in a shared house the tenancy agreement only accurately reflected who lived in the property for a tiny proportion of the time (an arrangement that was with the landlord’s informal consent). That causes problems being able to prove where you live when that’s required for opening new accounts and things. Fees for new contracts when someone moves in/out was a key thing which made me consider renting via major letting agencies unaffordable and I opted for something from the more informal end of the spectrum.

      I think one risk of increased regulation is splitting the market more between the high end expensive options, and the more affordable arrangements; that’s got to be avoided.

      The other thing I think it’s very important to avoid is excessive state intrusion over who sleeps where in a house, and even who has people staying with them. I have experienced Cambridge City Council (wrongly and illegally in my view) changing the determination of who is liable for council tax based on who sleeps where in the house (something I’ve mentioned before, and have received permission from the council to appeal, though I don’t think an appeal is the best route to obtaining a policy change).

    3. Richard Taylor Article author

      While Huppert used his opportunity, in March 2014, to introduce a Bill to focus on the regulation of the private rental sector, in January 2013 he voted against many of the same ideas he is now proposing himself:

      Opposition Day — Regulation of the Private Rented Sector — 23 Jan 2013 at 18:51
      Julian Huppert MP, Cambridge voted against more regulation of the private rental sector, against clearer information on charges, and against the promotion of longer tenancies when tenants want them.

      Details on PublicWhip

      Huppert has written an article saying:

      Whilst 6-month or yearly contracts suit some for others they don’t and contracts should be flexible enough to reflect this. Families should feel secure enough to put down roots and make the house their home. And landlords can benefit from the normalisation of longer term contracts – after all stable rents and solid landlord-tenant relationships are surely a thing of dreams for landlords too!

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