My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Housing and Regeneration Bill, have consented to place their Prerogative and Interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
Read a third time.
1: Clause 2, page 2, line 8, at end insert—
““good design” includes design which has due regard to the needs of elderly persons and disabled persons,”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, on Report the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, spoke to an amendment to include in the Bill a duty on the Homes and Communities Agency to be aware of accessible housing. There was support for this across the House. I certainly supported it, and it was obvious that the House was united on this important matter, so I am delighted to bring this amendment forward. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith—and, indeed, my noble friend Lord Howarth, who has played a sterling role in this—that accessibility is a subset of good design. We have tabled an amendment to make my understanding explicit in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Best, also added his support to the amendment and he certainly influenced me when he said:
“I had not quite appreciated that the Homes and Communities Agency may find itself under pressure, if not to renege on the progress we have made so far, not to make rapid progress to the final stages of incorporating all the lifetime home standards into new developments”.
He went on to say:
“Strengthening the arm of the Homes and Communities Agency to resist any diminution in the existing strength of feeling for greater accessibility would be of great significance”.—[Official Report, 7/7/08; col. 544.]
I agree with the noble Lord, particularly since, as we have observed many times in this House, we are living in a rapidly ageing society but one that has higher aspirations and is looking for better standards of living and accommodation. So I hope that by giving the HCA an object of contributing to the achievement of “good design”, and now making it explicit in the Bill that good design includes design that,
“has due regard to the needs of elderly persons and disabled persons”,
I am indeed strengthening its arm against any such pressure.
This amendment seeks to emphasise the imperative for the HCA to consider the needs of older people and disabled people when acting in support of its fourth object, which is to contribute to sustainable development and good design across all developments, whether residential, industrial or infrastructure projects. Although the amendment refers specifically only to the needs of older and disabled people, I am sure that by catering for the needs of these groups, everyone will benefit. We will be looking to the sorts of design that will enable, for example, young families to enjoy easier access with their buggies, and will aid those with short-term health conditions. The whole community will benefit. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his original amendment and I hope that he will accept that we have responded in a better way than simply adding the word “accessible” to the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am immensely grateful to the noble Baroness. We have argued this case gently for a long time. It affects a particular sector of the community that is never out of mind but is sometimes not sufficiently focused on. Over time this provision will bring relief to all sorts of families. As the noble Baroness said, one occasionally has temporary periods of incapacity after, say, major surgery or an accident. It is not just for the elderly, whom we are all becoming, and it will improve the utility of our homes across the whole spectrum of provision for the community. This is a generous concession by the Government for which, again, I am grateful.
My Lords, I, too, appreciate my noble friend’s willingness to table this amendment in response to the excellent earlier amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and supported so extensively across the House. After her early reservations in Committee, which were understandable enough, my noble friend has taken to embroidering Clause 2 with enthusiasm. I think that all of us who have been engaged in these debates greatly appreciated the latest of her letters, sent on 15 July. She is without a doubt my favourite correspondent. She brought us much good news about how the Government intend to ensure that good design genuinely is promoted by the Homes and Communities Agency and by the Government themselves in their broader strategy. She responded very constructively and helpfully to that tiresome but, I hope, pertinent list of questions that I put to her when welcoming the amendment to Clause 2(1)(d). In her letter she said that that amendment had strengthened the legislative framework, and this new amendment would strengthen it further. She also said:
“Having put the framework in place, we must now ensure that the policy is effectively implemented”.
She went on to say that she would be looking to local planning authorities to assist the Government and the HCA in this strategy, which brings us again to the question of skills. I am pleased to be informed by her about CABE’s programme to train officers of local planning authorities in the Building for Life methodology. It is also important that the Government, along with CABE, should pursue energetically making design review available in all the regions of the country—I understand that there are two regions where it is not yet available—and ensuring that it is of a high standard and works well.
This amendment, which addresses the needs of the elderly so usefully, encourages us to think that the Government will indeed achieve their targets of ensuring that publicly funded housing matches lifetime home standards by 2011, and that they are serious about the target to ensure that those standards are attained with new developments in the private housing market by 2013. However, that will undoubtedly be much more difficult. I was pleased that the Minister insisted, in her letter, that she would expect the HCA to use its leverage on the private and public sectors. How will the issue of minimum space standards, which some of the relevant agencies and professional bodies are examining, intertwine with the question of achieving lifetime home standards?
Will the Minister also comment on building regulations? In her letter, she mentioned that the current review of those is focused on reducing burdens and costs on businesses. That is, indeed, a good thing: we do not want businesses to be faced with any unnecessary burdens and costs, but in building homes we also need to be focused on the needs of those who will dwell in them. Will she confirm that that review is intended to ensure that building regulations themselves support good design?
Where the needs of disabled people are concerned, ensuring that new build matches the best design standards is one thing; ensuring that we are able to refurbish or adapt existing homes to make their design appropriate for disabled people is much more difficult. The Minister has told us how the requirement on local authorities to provide match funding of 40 per cent for disabled facilities grants has been relaxed, and expressed optimism that local authorities would none the less continue to prioritise adaptation of homes in their communities. She argued that they would, rationally, realise that they would be saving costs on social services budgets and other budgets. Yet we cannot always be entirely confident either that local authorities will act rationally and far-sightedly or that they will, by any means, have the resources to do all that a rational and far-sighted authority would want. Will she assure us again that she will be invigilating the attitude and progress made by local authorities on adapting homes for disabled people?
Disabled facilities grants are, of course, only part of the story, as the Minister’s letter reminded us. Will she ensure that an adequate share of the £1 billion in the regional housing pot is indeed made available for adaptations, and move to clarify the respective responsibilities for disabled facilities grants of housing associations and local authorities? I ask my litany of questions again only because it is extremely important—and I know that the Minister agrees with me here—that we push these good intentions through into a really worthwhile, practical reality. I have no doubt whatsoever that my noble friend is determined that we should.
My Lords, I add further thanks to the Minister for this important amendment. I hope that it means that the Homes and Communities Agency will be able to lend its support not just to hastening us towards the day when the lifetime home standards of accessibility and adaptability can be applied to all private homes as well as to housing association homes, but that that powerful HCA may be able to play its part in ensuring that building regulations are actually enforced as well as simply being amended to good effect. I greatly welcome and appreciate this amendment.
My Lords, I am glad that noble Lords think we have achieved so much of our shared objective. It is a credit to the House that we have continued on this issue, and I think we have got it right.
In response to the detailed questions from the noble Lord, I am afraid that our correspondence is not yet over. Space standards are a complex issue; he will understand that. The ebb and flow of space standards and regulation go back over many years, and that is not something I can address at the Dispatch Box. I will update him in a letter on how we are thinking about it with regard to all these other things.
We have to strike a balance between simplifying building regulations—making them easier to enforce, frankly—and updating them. With regard to lifetime homes we are working with a team—a BRAC review, in fact—on considering building regulations and how they might accommodate different changes. The noble Lord is quite right when he talks about our ambition that all housing should meet lifetime homes standards by 2013. That is assisted by the changes we have made in the Bill.
On the noble Lord’s specific questions about the disabled facilities grant, I think removing the 40:60 split is a positive move because it will give extra flexibility to local authorities to borrow across funding and policy boundaries. It is a mandatory grant. I have worked with local authorities; I go out sometimes with the DFG teams to see how these adaptations are being designed and implemented, and I know the seriousness with which those local authorities look at the need for DFG. They will make good use of that flexibility.
We will be vigilant in ensuring that we secure, in a tight spending round, a significant increase for the disabled facilities grant. In our ageing strategy we made it clear that we are investing £35 million in a handyman service to ensure that the rapid repairs service, which is offered for people with disabilities and elderly people particularly, reaches more people to a higher standard and is more effective. It is one of the best things we do to help keep people independent in their own homes. I assure the noble Lord of my commitment to that.
All that will be assisted by our debates. When it comes to the regional housing pot, we advise the regions that they must care for these particular priorities of vulnerable people.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
2: Clause 2, page 2, line 34, leave out “section” and insert “sections 19(4A) (financial assistance), 44 (local government involvement) and”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this group of amendments covers a number of different issues. I will start with Amendment No. 2 because I hope it will bring particular joy—I put it as highly as that—to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, who was anxious that, having achieved the serious ambition to flag up the partnership, the principle and the psychology of a relationship with local authorities, we should put it in a place in the Bill where everyone would see it. Unfortunately, because of the logic of the architecture, it is stuck at Clause 44. However, the creativity of my officials knows no bounds, and they came up with a linking mechanism: Amendment No. 2 amends Clause 2, which will draw attention to Clause 44—so it is right at the front of the Bill. Any reader of the Bill will understand that the clauses that are mentioned, including Clause 44, relate to the objects of the agency and give them added prominence.
The amendment also draws attention to new subsection (4)(a) to Clause 19, concerning financial assistance. We shall discuss that amendment in more depth shortly. A reference to that appears here, as a new subsection could modify the objects of the agency in certain limited circumstances relating to the provision of financial assistance.
Although there are more than five amendments here, they cover five separate issues that were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to which we have given further consideration. On the first set of issues, I still dispute the noble Baroness’s assertion that the Secretary of State’s powers to designate an area and confer planning functions upon it are now centre stage in the Government’s proposals for the HCA. We have had many debates about the relative prominence of the designation powers. They are no more central to our plans for the HCA than they were for English Partnerships, and the noble Baroness herself described them as being there in the background for that organisation. However, I have accepted her reasoning that any situation in which such powers are likely to be used will be capable of being analysed, broken down, defined and articulated, and their relative purpose and functions and the kinds of development could and would be spelt out in a designation order. I have tabled Amendments Nos. 3 to 9 to reflect that.
Amendments Nos. 3 to 7 restrict the ability of the Secretary of State to determine that the HCA should be the local planning authority for all permitted purposes under the Act, for all kinds of development, and in respect of all relevant functions. The amendments restrict the Secretary of State from making the blanket statement that all should apply.
It would still be open to the Secretary of State to provide that, for example, the HCA should be the local planning authority for all permitted purposes, but she could do so only by an explicit reference to each permitted purpose. The changes made at Report ensure that these are properly consulted on—that is in the Bill—and that the Secretary of State’s thinking is clear and understood for each case. I am content with that because the noble Baroness persuaded me—she is very persuasive—that this is a useful provision. It may make the act of designating an area somewhat more complex, but we have repeatedly said that this will be an exceptional occurrence. Much debate has focused on the ability to confer plan-making powers on the HCA. This amendment ensures that, should we ever propose to do so, full and fair consideration will be given to each of the powers transferred to the HCA.
As regards the second issue, Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 also respond to the noble Baroness’s concerns. Amendment No. 8 provides that where the HCA has powers and functions conferred on it in relation to permitted purposes and kinds of development, enactments relating to local planning authorities and functions will apply to it. The amendment will remove the power to disapply any enactment. Amendment No. 9 removes the ability of the Secretary of State to amend definitions of “planning related provisions” or “relevant functions” in relation to the HCA.
In respect of Amendments Nos. 8 and 9, on Report the noble Baroness argued that Sections 14(6) and 14(8) were a step too far in relation to recognising the unusual circumstances of the HCA becoming a planning authority. She stated that applying enactments and modifying them to reflect particular circumstances might be acceptable, but that disapplying them was of a different order and therefore excessive, and that any consequential amendments should be made by the appropriate primary legislative vehicle. On reflection, we think that making these amendments will be compatible with our overall premise that the HCA as a planning authority should not be especially advantaged or disadvantaged when exercising the role, so I am happy to bring them forward, and consider that they are proportionate.
As regards the third issue, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether sufficient parliamentary scrutiny would be afforded to any designation order by the negative resolution procedure. As noble Lords know, Clauses 13 and 14 in this Bill were initially modelled on the similar provisions in the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act. Section 170 of that Act stated that a designation order,
“shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament”.
Because of those origins, and in the interests of consistency, we felt it was appropriate that the same parliamentary procedure should be used to make any designation orders under the powers in this Bill. However, having thought about the exceptional nature of the case if there were to be a designation order, I believe she is right that we should justify each order on those rare occasions that we make them. Therefore, Amendments Nos. 16 and 19 require any order to be made by the affirmative procedure.
On the fourth issue, in Amendment No. 18 we have also sought to prevent any designation order from being treated as a hybrid instrument. The potential for hybridity arises from the fact that designating an area and conferring planning functions on the HCA, although of general interest, would have the potential to affect the interests of specific individuals and organisations. If a designation order were to be subject to the hybrid procedure, this could add significant delay to any designation. It is, for example, possible to petition against hybrid instruments. Accepted petitions are considered by a Select Committee. We did not want to make that additional complication. We also thought that delays would be unwarranted because we made explicit and extensive changes to the consultation procedures. Those requirements are now in the Bill. We hope that we have dealt with that.
Finally, on Amendment No. 21, the noble Baroness spotted that this important area had not been previously covered in our legislation. It was always our intention that the HCA, when exercising functions conferred in a designation order, would be under the same requirements as any local planning authority in giving access to papers and meetings. Yet that was not provided, hence the amendment. This means that, in the event of an HCA acting as a local planning authority, its meetings would be open to the public, in the same way as for the local planning authority normally.
I hope that the noble Baroness will feel she has made a significant difference to the Bill in these respects. I am pleased to move these amendments and think they improve the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that I do not like the powers going to the HCA but I know when I have got as far as I can reasonably go. I am grateful to her not just for bringing forward the amendments but also for her willingness to discuss the issues. When during the course of this Bill the noble Baroness offered meetings, she must have wondered when on earth she would get them into her diary. I daresay her private office’s collective hearts sunk each time she offered that facility to Members of your Lordships’ House. She has been extremely generous with her time and willingness to engage in debate. We are all grateful for that.
I can hardly object to most of these amendments. They are in language I used at the last stage, though I would never have spotted the hybridity point. My only comment, as the noble Baroness anticipated, is on the amendment to apply the arrangements for local government access to information and meetings. When I moved an amendment that was one or two lines rather than two pages I said I hoped it was a probing amendment. I am mildly shocked that it took a noble Lord on the Opposition Benches to point this out but never mind—that is what we are here for. We now have two pages making it perfectly clear that the HCA has got to live up to those standards. Again, let me express my thanks.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness. I congratulate her on her ingenuity in making the concession in such a way that she has not been forced to concede the point—if I can put it that way. She has maintained the architecture of the Bill which is apparently important to some but has generously allowed us to have the recognition we thought important that local government should be recognised from the start of the Bill.
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on adding better clarity and certainty to Clause 13 through her pressure for amendments. This whole section of the Bill is now much better than it was when it first arrived with us. I am most grateful.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 13 [Power of Secretary of State to make designation orders]:
3: Clause 13, page 5, line 21, leave out “for all permitted purposes or”
4: Clause 13, page 5, line 23, leave out “all kinds of development or”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 14 [Contents of designation orders]:
5: Clause 14, page 6, line 37, leave out “for all permitted purposes or”
6: Clause 14, page 6, line 38, leave out “all kinds of development or”
7: Clause 14, page 6, line 44, leave out “all relevant functions, or”
8: Clause 14, page 7, line 13, leave out paragraph (c)
9: Clause 14, page 7, line 32, leave out subsection (8)
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 19 [Financial assistance]:
10: Clause 19, page 10, line 35, at end insert—
“(4A) The objects of the HCA are not to be read as preventing the HCA from exercising functions in relation to financial assistance (whether under this section or otherwise) which—
(a) are transferred to the HCA from the Housing Corporation by virtue of this Act, or(b) would supersede functions of the Housing Corporation, in ways corresponding to those in which the Housing Corporation could have exercised its functions.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, these amendments, which are largely minor and technical, relate, in essence, to Schedule 5 to the Housing Act 1985. They will ensure that financial assistance to the HCA given under Clause 19 will not cause the right to buy to arise in respect of any property that it owns.
Amendment No. 25 is extremely minor. Paragraph 10(3) of Schedule 9 repeals Section 10(2)(e) of the Housing Associations Act 1985. That section deals with exceptions to the requirement on unregistered housing associations to obtain the Housing Corporation’s consent—or the consent of equivalent authorities in Scotland and Wales—to dispose of grant-aided land.
The amendments make it clear that in certain limited circumstances, the Homes and Communities Agency will not be prevented from exercising certain functions in relation to financial assistance that have either been inherited from the Housing Corporation or that would be superseding Housing Corporation functions.
Amendments Nos. 10 and 12 will ensure that the HCA deals with a limited but important set of circumstances relating to Welsh tenants of English registered social landlords. Certain elements of housing legislation follow the location of the registered landlord rather than the property and, with the objects of the HCA related firmly to England, there are a few places where this can cause cross-boundary difficulties.
As an example, Section 450A of the Housing Act 1985 provides that where a tenant of a registered social landlord has exercised the right to buy, they have a right to a loan in respect of service charges. Currently, this means that the Housing Corporation would have a duty to give a loan to a Welsh tenant of an RSL registered in England. Logically, the position after this Bill becomes an Act would be that the duty to provide a loan will pass to the HCA. However, the HCA’s objects are strictly limited to England and to the needs of people living in England. Giving such a loan might therefore require the agency to act outside of its objects.
These are rare occurrences—there have been only 20 or so loans in both England and Wales combined in the past 16 years—and we do not expect this provision to have any great effect. However, we do not want to remove rights that tenants currently enjoy, particularly in times when loans may be becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. These amendments will ensure that in some very rare cross-boundary cases, the HCA will be able to act to assist Welsh tenants of English RSLs.
I turn to perhaps the more important amendment in this group, Amendment No. 11. This is a direct response to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in Grand Committee and at Report about Clause 30, which relates to the HCA’s ability to provide community services. She rightly raised concerns about the ambiguity of some of the language in this clause. Our amendment will delete the “list” of activities that caused concern and replace it with a new clause, which gives a general power to the HCA to provide such services for communities as it considers appropriate or facilitate the provision of those services. This is largely based on an excellent suggestion put forward by the noble Baroness in an amendment at Report.
I now turn to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, which are minor and technical amendments to Schedule 11 and which deal with tolerated trespassers. They amend the definition of “commencement date” in paragraphs 14 and 25. The effect is to exclude from the definition the order-making powers in Part 2 of Schedule 11. These amendments are necessary to allow for the order-making powers to be exercised before the main tolerated trespasser provisions in Schedule 11 are brought into force.
There is one important instance where it will be necessary to do this. The main provisions in Part 2 restore tenancies on commencement to all tolerated trespassers where the landlord has not changed since they became tolerated. On Report, we introduced an order-making power that allows us to restore tenancies in the same way to those tolerated trespassers whose landlord has changed. This will be done by secondary legislation, rather than by the Bill, since we propose to consult on the issue before final decisions are made. However, our intention is that the secondary legislation would come into force at the same time as commencement of the tolerated trespasser provisions in the Bill. To do otherwise would leave a period when there was only one class of tolerated trespassers. The House will accept that this would be unsatisfactory and unfair. We therefore need to exercise the order-making power before the rest of the provisions come into force. This amendment ensures that we can do that.
Finally, I look in more detail at Amendments Nos. 22 and 25, which are very minor. Amendment No. 22 amends Schedule 5 to the Housing Act 1985. It ensures that financial assistance to a housing association given under Clause 19 of the Bill will not cause the right to buy to arise in respect of property it owns. Amendment No. 25 is an extremely minor amendment. Noble Lords may be aware that Schedule 9(10)(3) already provides for the repeal of Section 10(2)(e) of the Housing Associations Act 1985. This section of the Act deals with exceptions to the requirement for unregistered housing associations to obtain the Housing Corporation’s consent to dispose of grant-aided land. Amendment No. 25 merely adds the reference to Schedule 16, which lists all the repeals of existing legislation that are made by this Bill.
I hope that these amendments will find your Lordships’ favour, and in particular the favour of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who I think has much to be delighted with. I beg to move.
My Lords, the Minister writes—in officials’ language, I expect—a very long letter, in the middle of which he says that if noble Lords can find a different way of expressing it, the Government will be very interested to hear it. Well, I could not resist the challenge and I am grateful for this amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 30 [Community services]:
11: Clause 30, page 13, line 36, leave out from “may” to end of line 15 on page 14 and insert “provide such services for communities as it considers appropriate or facilitate the provision of such services”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 58 [Index of defined expressions: Part 1]:
12: Clause 58, page 28, line 28, column 2, after “2” insert “, 19(4A)”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 79 [English bodies]:
13: Clause 79, page 38, line 13, after “England,” insert—
“(ca) a community land trust which owns land in England,”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are an important move forward in defining community land trusts as English bodies in Part 2 of the Bill. I am sure that later generations of students of Hansard will be able to decipher what that means with ease. However, to assist them, I will take us through the story.
The Government have been clear from the outset that we are committed to helping the development of community land trusts that are well managed and financially robust. We have supported 14 pilot projects across the country through the Housing Corporation, which has also offered funding to community land trusts to deliver affordable housing for both sale and rent. In April, we also committed to consulting on how barriers to the development of community land trusts could be removed. At that stage, the intention was to consult on whether there should be a legal definition of “community land trusts”. However, in view of the concerns raised by Members of your Lordships’ House, and the support for taking advantage of this opportunity, we have brought forward this amendment to give a definition of community land trusts. It is accepted by the community land trust movement that a legal definition would bring clarity and certainty to stakeholders and partners about the nature of the CLT sector.
In drafting the amendment, we have worked closely with the community land trust movement. We have gone for a broad definition, which captures the aims and distinctive characteristics of the community land trust sector. In particular, we have tried to ensure that the definition is robust enough to ensure that community-led projects benefit the wider community in the community land trust’s area.
The definition does not of itself bring access to funding or support, nor does it set in stone government policy about how this sector can best develop or about the framework within which that should happen. As I said last week, we would have preferred to wait until after our planned consultation this year to give all stakeholders the opportunity to contribute to the debate, including on some of these wider issues.
However, in taking forward the CLT debate, we will want to consider some important questions, such as what the criteria for financial support might be and how to maximise the chances of the development of a viable and well managed sector. Another factor in the debate is that the regulator will need to consider the criteria for the registration of community land trusts. We will also wish to consider the role that the trusts might play in both the urban and rural contexts and how perpetuity of community benefit can be ensured for the benefit of future generations. There is still much work to be done.
We have a consensus that community land trusts offer potential for communities to put their weight and energy behind housing development. In Committee and on Report, we heard from noble Lords who were keen to keep the momentum of support moving along. I hope that we can draw a line under where we have got to at present and that noble Lords will continue to support the Government in their efforts to transform the innovative ideas and exciting prospects and opportunities of the community land trust movement into practical results. I look forward to support for the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise with deep gratitude to my noble friend Lady Andrews, and especially to her advisers, for having listened, reflected and produced an answer to the basic issue, which was the need for a definition. That gratitude is unalloyed; it is clear and I am very grateful indeed. The Minister has demonstrated over recent weeks that she listens carefully and that, when there is a proposition that needs her reflection and advice, she takes it away. Today, we have the product of that. I warmly congratulate her and her colleagues.
As with everything else, there is a “but”, an “if” and an “if only”. I understand that the amendments are as far as the department and the Minister can go. I echo the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who said some minutes ago that she knew how far she could go and that this was it. I accept the same; there is no question of muddying the water. We have gone as far as we can go.
However, there has been intense discussion, particularly about defining who should be members of the trust. Amendment No. 14 defines a local community as,
“the individuals who live or work, or want to live or work, in a specific area”.
There is no objection to that, but everyone understands that a community is more than individuals; a range of other bodies is part of the community. I want the Minister to reflect on that and, I hope, to say that she and her advisers share my understanding. When amendments refer to “members” and “individuals”, there may well be a legal reason for those words—I do not quibble with that—but how wide should the interpretation of those terms be? For instance, a community includes voluntary organisations, parish councils, local councils, civic society organisations, schools, local health service organisations, key local employers and local shops. I understand the difficulty in putting something in the Bill that is all-embracing, so I seek an understanding that, when a trust is established, the beneficiaries from the product of the trust’s work can include the examples that I have given. I simply want an understanding.
Perhaps I may help the Minister with the following illustration as a practical example. The local community land trust for one of the 14 national pilot projects supported by the Government is on the former Cashes Green Hospital site in David Drew’s constituency in Stroud, Gloucestershire. He is a personal friend and is sponsored by the Co-operative movement, in which I declare an interest. The CLT would like to encourage a local GP to provide health services to the village of Cashes Green by using some of its land to facilitate the provision of a health centre. Although it is part of the National Health Service, a GP practice is technically a privately run business owned by the doctors who are partners in the practice. Another local community land trust might want to provide premises for a local shop that is also run as a commercial enterprise. Such uses of a CLT’s assets benefit,
“individuals who live or work, or want to live or work, in a specified area”,
but that is an indirect, rather than a direct, benefit.
I am not nitpicking and I am not being too pedantic, but such provision would enormously put the icing on the cake of what we have achieved. The main benefit of a CLT, as the Minister knows, is,
“furthering the social, economic and environmental interests of a local community”,
through working with or benefiting organisations,
“by acquiring and managing land and other assets”.
It would be satisfactory if my noble friend were able to say—I am not putting words into his mouth—that his understanding is that the bodies that I have listed could be embraced by that definition.
I take this last opportunity to thank Members of all parties around the House. The Minister took on board the fact that this was not a party matter but a House matter, a housing matter and a community matter, which has been reflected in the Minister’s willingness to act. I am grateful for what has been achieved and, with the possibility of clarification, I am delighted with the amendments.
My Lords, the noble Lord is generous in his congratulations and I can tell that he is delighted with the progress that has been made. I am pleased about that. Like the noble Lord, I am a firm “co-operator” and I suppose that I should declare that interest. I see the establishment of community land trusts as an important part of that movement.
The noble Lord seeks some clarification. It comes down to this: how can the community land trust use its assets and make use of its profits and surplus and, in doing so, how can it benefit community organisations, even if such organisations have a private interest as well? Of course local people can be members of the community land trust, but that does not mean that only local people are eligible for membership. Others may become members, which will depend very much on how the community land trust defines its own rules of governance. These rules of governance can extend to cover local organisations—those listed by my noble friend would certainly be covered. As long as there is a benefit to those individuals who are members, I do not think that there will be a difficulty with the understanding that my noble friend has. That is certainly how we envisaged it working when we came back with this definition.
I hope that that helps my noble friend Lord Graham. It is certainly intended to. This will enable community land trusts to have that broader social community role that noble Lords have argued for in our debates. I hope that we can agree to the amendments.
My Lords, my noble friend has been enormously helpful. As I sat behind him listening, he clarified that the words in the Bill envisage that there will be more than individuals as members of the trust. The actions taken by the trust will be the members’ decisions. If the bodies that are members are locally based, they will be able to influence the decisions of the trust and to be beneficiaries of and subject to the trust. I am enormously grateful to my noble friend for that clarification. I do not want him to alter a word of what he said, so I shall sit down and be quiet.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
14: Clause 79, page 38, line 19, at end insert—
“(2) In subsection (1)(ca) “community land trust” means a body corporate which satisfies the conditions below.
(3) In those conditions “local community” means the individuals who live or work, or want to live or work, in a specified area.
(4) Condition 1 is that the body is established for the express purpose of furthering the social, economic and environmental interests of a local community by acquiring and managing land and other assets in order—
(a) to provide a benefit to the local community, and(b) to ensure that the assets are not sold or developed except in a manner which the trust’s members think benefits the local community.(5) Condition 2 is that the body is established under arrangements which are expressly designed to ensure that—
(a) any profits from its activities will be used to benefit the local community (otherwise than by being paid directly to members),(b) individuals who live or work in the specified area have the opportunity to become members of the trust (whether or not others can also become members), and(c) the members of the trust control it.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
15: After Clause 113, insert the following new Clause—
“Registration of local authorities
(1) The Secretary of State may by order—
(a) repeal section 113, or(b) amend it so as to permit the registration of specified classes of local authority.(2) The Secretary of State may by order require the regulator to register—
(a) a specified local authority, or(b) a specified class of local authority.(3) Registration under subsection (2)—
(a) takes effect in accordance with any provision of the order about timing or other procedural or incidental matters,(b) does not require an application for registration, and(c) may apply to a local authority whether or not it is eligible for registration by virtue of subsection (1).(4) If the Secretary of State thinks it necessary or desirable in connection with the registration of local authorities, the Secretary of State may by order—
(a) provide for a provision of this Part or any other enactment not to apply in relation to registered local authorities;(b) provide for a provision of this Part or any other enactment to apply with specified modifications in relation to registered local authorities;(c) amend a provision of this Part or any other enactment.(5) In this section—
(a) “local authority” means an authority or person to whom section 113 applies or has applied, and(b) “registered local authorities” means authorities or persons who are registered, registrable or to be registered as a result of an order under subsection (1) or (2) above. (6) Before making an order under this section the Secretary of State shall consult—
(a) any authority or person likely to be affected by it, and(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I agreed on Report that we should table an enabling power to allow us to deliver the provisions necessary to support cross-domain regulation through secondary legislation. We had a wide-ranging debate on this at every stage of the Bill, and given the widespread support across the House for doing it in this way, our offer was well received. I am very pleased about that.
As I pointed out in the debate, we need a broad power that is flexible enough to allow us to make the necessary changes to legislation. It would be extremely unfortunate, as I think everyone would agree, if we were to forgo the opportunity of a Bill in the next Session only to find that we had drafted an enabling power too tightly to allow us to proceed as we ideally would. We would very much regret that, and I believe that the House is happy with the breadth of the amendment.
That is why we seek to introduce a power that allows the Secretary of State to amend or modify as necessary or desirable Part 2 of this Bill or any other relevant legislation so as to enable the Tenant Services Authority to regulate local authorities. I have not sensed a significant degree of concern at taking this broad approach. I trust that the enthusiastic support is such that noble Lords certainly accept that it is fit for purpose.
In taking a broad power, our intention is that it would be used sensibly and only where there is a clear rationale for making a change in support of effective cross-domain regulation. I have already committed to offering a full public consultation on regulations made under the power, which is obviously right. The work of the Cole advisory panel has shown that much can be achieved from engaging in an open and inclusive process. Everyone around the House has paid tribute to the work of Professor Ian Cole. In our eagerness to consult in terms of ongoing dialogue and a more formal consultative process I hope that we will satisfy those noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, who had expressed a preference for super-affirmative procedures.
The enabling clause is fairly simple. In addition to allowing us to amend, modify or not apply any piece of legislation as required, it also allows for the registration of local authorities. It allows the Secretary of State to register, by order, a specified local authority or a class of authority. In so doing, the order may make provision about how the registration should operate; that is, the process on which we will consult as part of the wider regulations.
Having debated the complex nature of these regulations, it is something of an anti-climax to be discussing a clause which is rather simple in its description. We can now make a welcome shift to considering the substance rather than the process of delivering a cross-domain regulator, and to doing those things that will meet the social concerns recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Best; for example, creating a coherent culture to ensure that the benefits of the Bill reach every tenant, as defined.
This is the last group of amendments. Very kind things have been said about my ability to find time in my diary for meetings. It has been a great pleasure to work with noble Lords across the House and not just a necessity. I believe that we should have an open process and debate on this Bill. It was a good Bill when we introduced it, but it is much better now, which is to the huge credit of noble Lords who have taken part. It would be invidious to single out anyone, but I have been gratified to have the authority and support of my noble friends Lady Ford and Lady Dean on my side, as well as the assiduous nagging of my noble friends Lord Howarth, Lord Graham and Lady Whitaker. They have put in sterling work, as have my noble friends Lord Filkin and Lady Jones.
I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Best, who has been a real sheepdog on the Bill and has ensured that we have made the position of the tenant very clear. He has played an excellent role, as have noble Lords on both Front Benches. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has kept us up to the mark on the management of the Bill. On behalf of all noble Lords, I thank the Bill team for their extraordinary talent. They have been exceptional in their creativity as well as in their assiduous response to the will of this House, which was shown in the expert way in which they have come back with voluminous correspondence and the sensitive way in which they have interpreted what the House has wanted. With that, I hope that we can bless the Bill in its form. I beg to move.
My Lords, again I give deep thanks to the Minister for listening to the representations made and for bringing forward this important amendment. I also thank all colleagues on all Benches in supporting a potentially lonely Cross-Bencher who alone can do very little. I know that this amendment will be much appreciated by the organisations representing tenants and landlords, including the Local Government Association, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Federation of ALMOs, the Tenant Participation Advisory Service and the National Consumer Council. It means that council tenants can enjoy the same protections and support from the regulator as housing association tenants without the need for another Act of Parliament. It will prevent anomalies and complexities as tenants move between council housing and housing association homes. All will have a similar service. It will ensure that council tenants will not be treated as second-class citizens. It will also enable the new Tenant Services Authority to establish a coherent culture, as the noble Baroness has said, to recruit a board and to engage staff on the basis of certainty that 4 million, not 2 million, tenants will be covered without waiting for a new Bill.
If the Minister could give an idea of timetabling for consultation and action in taking forward the extension of the Tenant Services Authority’s role to cover council tenants, that would be appreciated. But that can await another day. I know that things will move forward as expeditiously as possible. I thank the Minister for this amendment, which I heartily support.
My Lords, when I was fairly new in this House, Lord Longford stood back to let me go through a Division Lobby first and then apologised and said, “I am sorry, we do not do things that way now, do we?”. I, too, should like to add my thanks.
I apologise for lowering the tone, but I have a question. Under the new clause proposed in Amendment No. 15, subsection (2) allows registration of,
“a specified local authority, or … a specified class of local authority”.
That puzzles me. I had not anticipated that it might be necessary to differentiate between authorities. I gave the noble Baroness almost no notice of this question and I do not know whether she is able to explain why that is necessary.
My Lords, I was grateful for the notice that I was given. We have yet to publish Professor Cole’s report, but, given that it has been circulated, I am not breaking any confidences in relating that it will recommend that only those local authorities which own stock should be subject to consultation. Specifying the local authorities gives us flexibility. The clause allows us to register such a class and gives us the ability to specify a particular authority. We will of course have to consult on this, along with the way in which we propose to handle registration of local authorities, when we bring forward draft regulations.
My Lords, if I am out of order, I apologise and I hope that the House will understand. I need to add my thanks, first, to everyone in the House who has taken part in this Bill. There is no question that the Bill will leave this House in a far better state than it arrived, which is the result of the work of so many people besides ourselves. I owe thanks to all those who have briefed us. They sometimes swamp us with information, but, as a consequence of that, we are much better informed when we study these Bills and are able to bring improvements forward.
I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, who has been remarkably resistant to change and yet remarkably flexible at the same time, which is quite an achievement. If I have one regret, I have one only. The Bill was 32 pages longer this morning than when it arrived here. As a result of this morning’s work, it is probably 35 pages longer. Those out in the field who have to study the Bill in order to work will have to dig even further and mine even longer shafts in order to receive the nuggets they need on which their work is based.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 319 [Orders and regulations]:
16: Clause 319, page 149, line 41, leave out “14(8)” and insert “13”
17: Clause 319, page 149, line 41, after “14(8)” insert “, (Registration of local authorities)”
18: Clause 319, page 150, line 10, at end insert—
“( ) If a draft of an instrument containing an order under section 13 would, apart from this subsection, be treated as a hybrid instrument for the purposes of the standing orders of either House of Parliament, it is to proceed in that House as if it were not a hybrid instrument.”
19: Clause 319, page 150, line 15, leave out “13 or”
20: Clause 319, page 150, line 15, leave out second “section” and insert “sections (Registration of local authorities) and”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Schedule 8 [Amendments of enactments: Part 1]:
21: Schedule 8, page 195, line 20, at end insert—
“Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70)The Local Government Act 1972 is amended as follows.
(1) Section 100J (application of Part 5A of the Act to new authorities, Common Council, etc.) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) after paragraph (f) insert—
“(g) the Homes and Communities Agency so far as it is exercising functions conferred on it in relation to a designated area by virtue of a designation order.”(3) After subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) In its application by virtue of subsection (1)(g) above in relation to the Homes and Communities Agency, a reference in this Part to the offices of the council (however expressed)—
(a) is to be treated as a reference to such premises located within the designated area as the Homes and Communities Agency considers appropriate, and(b) in the application of section 100A(6)(a) above to a case where the meeting is to be held at premises other than those mentioned in paragraph (a) above, includes a reference to those other premises.”(4) After subsection (3) insert—
“(3ZA) In its application by virtue of subsection (1)(g) above in relation to the Homes and Communities Agency, section 100E above shall have effect as if—
(a) in subsection (2), paragraph (c) was omitted, and(b) in subsection (3), for paragraphs (a) to (c) there were substituted—“(a) a committee established under paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 1 to the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 for the purpose of exercising functions conferred on the Homes and Communities Agency in relation to a designated area by virtue of a designation order; or(b) a sub-committee of such a committee established under paragraph 6(2) of that Schedule to that Act for that purpose.”(3ZB) In its application by virtue of subsection (1)(g) above in relation to the Homes and Communities Agency, section 100G(1) above shall have effect as if paragraph (a) was omitted.”
(5) After subsection (4A) insert—
“(4B) In this section “designated area” and “designation order” have the same meanings as in Part 1 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.”
In section 100K (interpretation and application of Part 5A) in the definition of “committee or sub-committee of a principal council” at the end insert “(and see section 100J(3ZA)(b) above)”.”
22: Schedule 8, page 199, line 29, at end insert—
“Housing Act 1985 (c. 68)In Schedule 5 to the Housing Act 1985 (exceptions to the right to buy) in paragraph 3, at the end insert “, or
section 19 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (financial assistance) which was a grant made on condition that the housing association provides social housing (and “provides social housing” has the same meaning as in Part 1 of that Act).””
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Schedule 11 [Possession orders relating to certain tenancies]:
23: Schedule 11, page 219, line 2, at end insert “for purposes other than the purposes of the Secretary of State or the Welsh Ministers making orders under Part 2 of this Schedule”
24: Schedule 11, page 223, line 29, at end insert “for purposes other than the purposes of the Secretary of State or the Welsh Ministers making orders under this Part of this Schedule”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Schedule 16 [Repeals and revocations]:
25: Schedule 16, page 250, line 42, column 2, at beginning insert—
“In section 10(2), paragraph (e) and the “or” before it.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.