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Citation, Commencement And Extent

Volume 890: debated on Monday 21 April 1975

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12 midnight.

Lords Amendment: No. 13, in page 9, line 10, at beginning insert:

"With the exception of this section, and section 11 of this Act so far as relating to paragraph 13 of Schedule 2A to this Act (which extend also to England and Wales).".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this we may discuss also Lords Amendment No. 18, after Schedule 2, in page 19, line 4, at end insert new Schedule 2A (Miscellaneous and Consequental Amendments), together with the Secretary of State's amendment thereto in line 768, at end insert:

'(in substitution for the words originally added by section 116 of this Act)'.

I am sorry that Lords Amendment No. 18, which introduces the new schedule, is so extensive but it is not quite so formidable as it appears.

Lords Amendment No. 13 is linked with the new schedule and is a minor consequential amendment to Clause 13 extending the scope of the Bill to England and Wales for the purpose of paragraph 17 of the new schedule, which refers back to the Housing Act 1974. By a rather circuitous route via Lords Amendment No. 13 and the new provisions in Schedule 2A we get back to the provision that the Bill remains Scottish. I hope that the House will not ask me to go into any further explanation of the point.

Lords Amendment No. 18 is much more substantial. It incorporates in the new Schedule 2A a number of additional provisions some of which are entirely new, some of which remedy defects in the 1974 Act and some of which are a redrafting of matters in the 1974 Act.

Perhaps it will be convenient if I explain not the existing provisions now incorporated in Schedule 2A but any new provisions incorporated therein. First, paragraph 3 of the new schedule amends the Housing (Scotland) Act 1969 so as to enable local authorities, the SSHA and new towns to increase the rent of their houses by sending their tenants a note of the increase without also having to terminate the tenancy by a notice of removal. This is a tidying-up operation.

Paragraphs 4 to 7 are consequential amendments relating to the matters dealt with in Lords Amendment No. 3 relating to tenants' co-operatives.

Paragraphs 9, 10 and 11 amend the Land Compensation (Scotland) Act 1973 to widen the scope of the home loss and disturbance payments which registered housing associations are required to make when they displace tenants to carry out redevelopment or improvement projects. There were deficiencies in the 1974 Act relating to housing associations which we are now putting right.

Paragraph 13 is again an amendment to the Housing Act 1974 to enable local authorities to make loans to self-build societies—another kind of housing association—which have not been registered by the Housing Corporation on or after 1st April 1975.

Paragraph 14 is a technical amendment. Paragraphs 15 to 18, which taken together extend over many pages and include the insertion of a new Schedule 10A into the Housing Act 1974, are nevertheless largely a redrafting of Sections 110 to 116 and Schedule 10 of the 1974 Act which were Great Britain provisions. The Housing Act 1974 was a mixture of English and Great Britain legislation.

The sections with which I am dealing are part of the Great Britain provision in the Housing Act 1974, and they are now being amended and redrafted so far as they relate to Scotland. They deal, despite their inordinate length, with two basic types of case. The first is where an authority is under a duty to demolish a building but the building has subsequently been listed as of special architectural or historic interest, which, as the House may imagine, causes a number of complicated difficulties, which the 1974 Act was intended to put right and which we are now redrafting in a clearer and better way.

The second case is where an authority changes its mind about houses which it had originally decided to demolish and decides instead to rehabitate them, which in certain circumstances we want to encourage. There would have to be complicated provisions for that because it is reversing a legal process which has been adopted to provide for demolition in the first place, so that it is necessary to put that into reverse gear, and it is very complicated. That is why the provisions are so lengthy. Basically, however, as I have said, they are simply a redrafting of provisions which are already in the Housing Act 1974. There is nothing particularly new about them and they certainly do not introduce any new principles.

I should like to put two minor questions to the Minister. He will see in Schedule 2A, paragraph 2, a provision, which appears to be new and not consequential, to give the Secretary of State the power

"to reduce, suspend or discontinue housing subsidies"
under the 1975 Act. We have heard in the Budget that housing subsidies are to be slashed substantially. I wonder whether the Minister can give any idea of when we are likely to hear about the housing subsidies which are being cut in Scotland.

Secondly, on the subject of rehabilitation orders, the Minister will be aware that in paragraph 4 (2) of the new Schedule there is provision for local authorities to take over property to demolish it and then find that they can rehabilitate it. Can the Minister say whether any guidance is given to local authorities on the question of offering the property back to the original owners and whether legal provision is made for this in this schedule?

Thirdly, paragraph 14(4) refers to the 21-day period for matters being referred to the Lands Tribunal for Scotland if a person who is entitled to compensation does not accept or disputes the amount offered in compensation. Can the Minister say whether the 21-day period also applies to cases where a person entitled to compensation cannot be traced?

The first point is not new. It is already included in the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman looks at page 12 of the Bill he will see that the power in Schedule 1 as it is drafted is a general power in relation to subsidies. It is of no particular significance in relation to the situation which the hon. Gentleman has not in any case expressed quite accurately. It is not new as far as the Lords amendments are concerned because it was in Schedule 1 to the Bill as it left this place. No doubt, before it left this place the eagle eye of the hon. Gentleman pored over it, and it seems to have been all right then. I dare say that now, two months later, it is still all right.

The hon. Gentleman referred to rehabilitation orders, I am not sure whether he was talking about them generally or whether he was referring to them in relation to one particular circumstance. There are a number of circumstances involved here, but if the hon. Gentleman will look at the Schedule which is provided for in the amendment he will see that the interests of the former owners of the property are fully taken into account. For example, on page 17, at line 530 and following, all the notices going to the previous owner or tenants are covered. There is full provision here, therefore, to ensure that former owners are not prejudiced in any way.

In other words, it is not possible for the local authority to behave in a cavalier fashion and simply change its mind without regard to the interests of former owners. Moreover, the original provisons relating to compulsory purchase or demolition are maintained, including the requirements as to notices and the protection of the interests of former owners. The normal processes in matters of this kind are fully preserved in the new provisions.

By leave of the House, may I speak again to remind the Minister of my third question, which he has, I think, inadvertently overlooked? Paragraph 14(4) of the new schedule refers to the 21 days for matters to be taken to the Lands Tribunal, and it covers the person who does not accept the statement of particulars in the notice and the person who disputes the amount of compensation. Does it apply also in cases where the person entitled to compensation cannot be traced? This can be important in respect of properties the owners of which cannot always be easily traced.

Again, there is nothing new here. I shall be happy to check this, but I imagine that the notice could not bite in relation to the 21 days if it was not served on the person with an interest in the property. Indeed, I do not think that subparagraph (4) makes sense unless there is a person on whom the notice has in fact been served.

No doubt there are complicated provisions somewhere in the compensation code to cover cases in which it is not possible to trace the owner, as there are, for example, in regard to compulsory purchase orders. So far as I am aware, these would apply here as they do in compensation cases generally. If the person is well known and the notice is served on him, or if there has been difficulty in tracing him but he has none the less had the notice served on him in the appropriate way, he has the normal 21 days to make representations or to dispute the amount of compensation.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.