The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been told off for failing to respond to parliamentary committees’ reports on time, as a group of MPs urged the Liaison Committee to carry out a formal review of government response times to select committee reports.
In a special report this week, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee said it is spending a “disproportionate amount of time and energy” chasing DLUHC for responses, and that the department had missed its deadline for responding to every one of its reports this parliamentary session.
So great was the MPs’ ire that they said the Liaison Committee should consider a review of departments’ response times to and correspondence about select committee reports.
“It would be useful for such a review to take into account our experiences with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities,” they said.
Not only has DLUHC has failed to respond to any of its seven reports this session within two months of publication – despite this being a “well-established convention” – it has taken an average of an extra 5.8 months to respond, the report said.
In one “extreme case”, DLUHC took 22 months to respond to the committee’s July 2021 report on permitted development rights.
“Moreover, the department has regularly failed to proactively inform us of delays to its responses to our reports or substantively explain why such delays have occurred,” the committee said.
DLUHC has continued to fall short despite the MPs’ efforts to “constructively engage with department ministers and officials through formal and informal avenues about when the department is likely to respond to our reports”, according to the special report.
“This takes up a disproportionate amount of time and energy which should be spent on delivering our priorities.”
The committee said it is still waiting, “despite our best efforts”, on a response to a report it published on 9 February on reforming the private rented sector.
It detailed a series of letters to and from DLUHC ministers, who first said they intended to publish a response alongside the introduction of the renters’ (reform) bill, which happened in May; then at the bill’s second reading; and then, in July, “as soon as possible”.
“The lack of any formal response to our report is a persistent and unnecessary obstacle to us being able to pursue holistic and constructive scrutiny of the bill and the government’s work in the related policy area,” the committee said.
The report called on cabinet secretary Simon Case to make an assessment of why the response to this particular report had been delayed for so long, and the steps being taken to rectify the situation.
“We expect the department to engage with our reports with the utmost seriousness and in a timely manner. The lack of timely responses to our reports significantly inhibits our constitutional role to scrutinise the work of the department as well as to inform the House, our key stakeholders and the public,” it added.
Committee chair Clive Betts MP said: “The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has previously been identified as a ‘repeat offender’ for its egregiously overdue responses. It is concerning and disappointing that the committee continues to spend excessive time and resources on chasing the department for updates and that this is frequently to no avail.”
“The committee has published reports on a range of important areas such as adult social care, social housing, and the private rented sector. The lack of timely responses to our reports significantly inhibits our constitutional role to scrutinise the work of the department. These issues matter greatly to the wider public.
"DLUHC should urgently get its house in order and respond swiftly to our Reforming the Private Rented Sector report, published seven months ago, and take steps to rectify these persistent delays”.