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Housing and Regeneration Bill [Ways and Means]

Volume 474: debated on Monday 31 March 2008

I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Housing and Regeneration Bill, it is expedient to authorise—

(1) provision about the fiscal consequences of transfer schemes, and

(2) consequential amendment of fiscal legislation.

The Bill abolishes three existing bodies—the Commission for New Towns, the Urban Regeneration Agency and the Housing Corporation—and transfers their responsibilities, liabilities and assets to two new bodies: the Homes and Communities Agency and the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords, or Oftenant. The two new bodies will operate only in England. Any existing functions and assets of the CNT in Wales will be transferred to Welsh Ministers.

Clauses 53 and 67 and schedule 6, which we will discuss later, provide for schemes under which properties, rights and liabilities can be transferred. In any statutory reorganisation, a tax charge might arise on the transfer of assets and liabilities between the predecessor and successor bodies unless specific provision is made to the contrary. It is general Government policy that such transfers should be tax-neutral—the transfers should not give rise to a gain or a loss. The new bodies should be entitled to any tax reliefs and allowances that applied to their predecessors immediately before the change. The Government amendments make such provisions and ensure that the reorganisation of statutory functions can take place without unwanted tax consequences.

The Government amendments also ensure continuity of trade, so that the Homes and Communities Agency and Oftenant are afforded the tax treatments that are currently provided to the Urban Regeneration Agency and the Housing Corporation. The ways and means motion authorises the relevant provision.

I do not disagree with the motion, but it is ironic that time is allocated for that one item but not so much for the rest of the Bill. How can we decide, given that we have not considered the detail of the Bill, some of which has a direct impact on what the Under-Secretary asks us to approve now? I seek reassurance from him that he is confident that we can get through all the amendments, because the Government are making massive changes to the content of the Bill and asking us to give financial approval before we have gone through it. Does he agree that approving the motion means, in a sense, putting the cart before the horse?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, but I take issue with him on several matters. First, we are not fundamentally changing the nature and scope of the Bill, which is designed to improve the supply and quality of housing, linked with regeneration and community investment in England. It is also designed to ensure improved services for tenants.

Let me set out my approach to the rest of our deliberations today. I intend to be as brief as possible—

Order. The Under-Secretary can do that when we move on to the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.