Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Friday, 19 October 2012 12:38 UK

MPs criticise owners of park home sites

Some owners of park home sites have been slammed as "criminal-minded" individuals during a debate in the House of Commons.

A number of MPs were critical of "unscrupulous" park owners during a second reading debate on the Mobile Homes Bill, on 19 October 2012.

Labour MP for Derbyshire North East, Natascha Engel, told MPs they were dealing with "a very clever and criminal-minded set of people" and urged parliament to ensure the legislation was drafted "as tightly as possible."

The Mobile Homes Bill is a private member's bill that is being sponsored by Conservative MP Peter Aldous.

The bill amends various laws related to mobile homes and aims to improve the rights of mobile home owners, an issue on which Mr Aldous has campaigned for some time.

Opening the debate, the Suffolk MP said that while there are many responsible owners, there were also some unscrupulous "gangsters".

He told MPs: "The problem that park home owners face is that in recent years many sites have been acquired by rogue operators who, in pursuit of obscene windfall profits, have exploited the piecemeal regulatory framework to make the lives of many elderly and vulnerable people a misery."

Ploys used included the deliberate miscalculation of pitch fee increases and utility charges, poor site maintenance and the abuse of the right to approve new buyers - blocking home owners' ability to sell their property.

The bill, which has government support, would reform the licensing regime, prevent sale blocking, and clarify the harassment law to make it an offence to tell lies to prevent a home being sold.

There are an estimated 1,800 park homes, or mobile accommodation, in the UK, many of them occupied by retirees who have sold their former home.

Conservative MP Eleanor Laing used her contribution to tell MPs that some site operators "deliberately use bullying tactics so that people are afraid" to speak out.

Liberal Democrat Annette Brooke said the proposed legislation was significant, dubbing the selection of the bill by Mr Aldous as a "wise and splendid choice".

Concluding the debate, Communities Minister Brandon Lewis said the government supported the bill and would look at a later date at whether to introduce a fit and proper persons test.

He told MPs: "New bureaucratic burdens on businesses must be a last resort, and we have heard that the majority are good site owners, but we must ensure that conditions in this sector do improve.

"That is why the bill focuses on making it simply unprofitable for unscrupulous owners to exploit residents but we accept the risk that some of the worst operators may still persist and it may be necessary to take powers later to directly remove them from the industry."

The bill was given an unopposed second reading and now goes for detailed consideration by a committee of MPs.

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