Commons Reasons and Amendments
That this House do not insist on its Amendment 10B, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 10C.
10C: Because it would undermine the delivery of starter homes.
My Lords, I want to be clear once more that Amendment 10B would undermine our manifesto commitment to build 200,000 starter homes by 2020. The requirement for starter homes would become something entirely different and not what we promised to deliver in our manifesto.
Our manifesto commits to starter home delivery at least three times. Let me quote directly from it to show that the commitment could not be clearer:
“As the party of home ownership, we want to go further and faster—and this manifesto sets out our plan. At its heart, a clear objective to build affordable homes, including 200,000 Starter Homes which will be sold at a 20 per cent discount, and will be built exclusively for first time buyers under the age of 40”.
The electorate will expect us to deliver our commitment and we are determined to do so. The Government have listened to this House on a number of aspects of this policy, including allowing for a taper and repayment mechanism when the property is resold. But the Government cannot compromise on the starter homes requirement. It is fundamental to delivering 200,000 starter homes within this Parliament.
More than 85,000 young people from across the country have now registered on our starter homes register of interest. We want these young people to have a chance of home ownership. The starter home model will give them such a chance. It will provide an opportunity for them to own their own home and, unlike many other home ownership products, will enable them to move onwards and upwards over time.
Elected honourable Members in the other place have been clear in their overwhelming support for delivering our starter homes commitment. They recognise the importance of starter homes for the long-term health of their communities and are receiving inquiries from interested constituents asking us to get on with delivering them.
As the honourable Member for North Cornwall said in the other place,
“we in this country have a right to own our own home and this Government are delivering that through this Bill”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/5/16; col. 65.]
I am also in agreement with the honourable Member for South Ribble when she said:
“We need to get more houses built—and quickly … Developers and builders want certainty and speed”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/5/16; col. 80.]
We will give them certainty through the straightforward, nationally set starter homes requirement.
We remain committed to delivering shared ownership and other forms of affordable home ownership products to help those who aspire to home ownership but cannot afford discounted purchase. They form part of a diverse and thriving housing market.
Our prospectus invites housing associations and other providers to bid for £4.1 billion of funding to deliver 135,000 shared-ownership homes, and £200 million to deliver 10,000 Rent to Buy homes. Local authorities will also still be able to deliver these products on site alongside the starter homes requirement where it would be viable. We estimate that 50,000 to 70,000 affordable homes can still come forward alongside our starter home requirement during this Parliament.
But this Bill focuses on starter homes to ensure the scale of delivery that we need. We strongly believe that a nationally set requirement for starter homes is essential to meet our manifesto commitment and we are consulting on the details for its operation. The requirement will be put in place through affirmative regulations, so Parliament will have a further opportunity to scrutinise the details.
We intend to deliver our manifesto commitment and I must therefore invite the House not to insist on Amendment 10B. That amendment would fundamentally change the Government’s manifesto intention as proposed in the Bill and it is therefore our view that the Salisbury convention is engaged.
We have a clear manifesto mandate to deliver our starter homes policy and I therefore invite the House to support Motion A and reject Motion A1 if it is pressed. I beg to move.
Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)
Leave out from “House” to end and insert “do insist on its Amendment 10B as an amendment to Amendment 10A”.
My Lords, I declare my interests as chair of Peabody and president of the Local Government Association. I stand before you as a reluctant amender. As the Bill has moved towards its final stages, I have been very open to conversation and compromise. This has been possible on a wide range of difficult issues and was close to being achieved on the second amendment that I shall move later today.
However, on this part of the Bill—on housing—there remain two vital issues where I feel strongly that the debate needs to continue. The first, and the subject of Motion A1, is the so-called starter homes requirement. Under this, local authorities will not be able to give approval to individual planning applications unless they have included a specified number of starter homes. This figure is currently set to be 20%—one in five—of the houses approved.
The issues with this have been previously rehearsed, and there are three major concerns. First, it imposes a single, top-down requirement regardless of local circumstances. Secondly, it does so with a product that is still in design and is not tried and tested. Thirdly, the percentage proposed will squeeze out other kinds of affordable housing that are desperately needed. My amendment is not intended to be, nor is it, a wrecking amendment to the manifesto. It seeks only to give greater local flexibility where a need can be demonstrated and to allow other types of low-cost home ownership products to be counted within the starter homes requirement. It will be for individual local authorities to take a view on this within their overall duty to promote starter homes. There need be no delay in getting starter homes going.
Indeed, I think that local planning decisions will be quicker as a result of this flexibility. The low-cost home ownership delivered could quite reasonably count against the Government’s 200,000 target. They can, as new low-cost home ownership products, be targeted at the same group of people—young first-time buyers— whom the Government are seeking to help. From the point of view of the buyer, what matters is the opportunity to own their own home.
Before we lock ourselves into a rigid, inflexible, national solution that risks setting local authorities up to fail, I ask Ministers and this House, even at this very late stage, to consider a more localist, market-responsive approach. I beg to move.
My Lords, having sat through most of the proceedings on this Bill I recognise that it is probably the most controversial one from last year’s Queen’s Speech, and I quite understand the very strong feelings that have been aroused. I want to give three brief reasons why I think at this stage we should allow the Bill to go forward.
First, the Government have already made very substantial concessions on this Bill, principally in response to arguments put forward by Cross-Benchers and opposition Members in this House. There have been amendments on high-value assets, exceptions to secure tenancies, pay to stay, starter homes and rural exception sites. Where a case has been made that does not conflict with the manifesto, my noble friend has listened to the arguments and made the necessary changes. No one can accuse the Government of inflexibility.
Secondly, the vote in another place last night was by 80 to 100, without one single dissenting voice on the government Benches. Roughly two-thirds of English MPs rejected the amendments that came from this House. We should think carefully before we seek to second-guess them. Finally, the further Motion A1 seems to me to be against the spirit of the Joint Committee on Conventions. I quote:
“If the Commons have disagreed to Lords amendments on grounds of financial privilege, it is contrary to convention for the Lords to send back amendments in lieu which clearly invite the same response”.
I put it to noble Lords that Motion A1 does exactly that.
On reflection, it seems to me that this House has performed its traditional role of scrutinising, amending, revising and asking the other place to think again. We now risk moving to the more controversial territory of challenging the other place. In the debate yesterday, the Minister expressed surprise that your Lordships’ House,
“have chosen again to oppose one of our most important manifesto commitments”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/5/16; col. 458.]
He went on to describe one of the other amendments as a “wrecking amendment”. I urge the noble Lord who moved Motion A1 to reflect on the changes that have already been made to avoid the risk of pressing this further, and to think of the tenants of Peabody, some of whom have written to me, who want the statute book to include this measure so that they can exercise their right to buy.
My Lords, I will very briefly give strong support to what my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham said. This House has performed an extremely valuable role in a number of Bills during this Session, which comes to an end this week. This House has every reason to take quiet pride and satisfaction in, for instance, the Trade Union Bill. I concentrated my endeavours on that Bill, but I have sat in on a lot of debates at the various stages of this Bill, and listened to arguments persuasively put and to answers sympathetically given. There is no doubt that the Government have moved. Of course they have not moved as far as the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, would like, but in this life we very rarely get everything we like.
The noble Lord has had a very distinguished career in the Civil Service, finishing at its pinnacle. He was deservedly ennobled and sent to your Lordships’ House to contribute from his expertise and his wisdom. That he has certainly done. No one could begin to accuse him of not being an active Member of your Lordships’ House. But I beg and entreat him to recognise—as, with his distinguished Civil Service background, he must—that there are constitutional proprieties in our system. We are in danger of transgressing. We in this House very rightly passed various amendments. Last week the Government were defeated five times. That may not be unprecedented, but there are very few precedents where five amendments are passed for a second time and the Bill is sent back to the House of Commons.
The other place has deliberated. I am bound to say that I do not think that this is the most perfect Bill that has ever come before Parliament—far from it—but whether we agree with its deliberations or not, the other place has passed by substantial and significant majorities the amendments before us. The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, is seeking yet again to press them. Of course he has every right to do so, but I suggest to him very gently that he does not have every constitutional right to do so. The elected House, as we say so often in this House, is the superior House when it comes to political power. We should all recognise that. I believe that most of us, in all parts of the House, do.
We have been active on this Bill—the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, certainly has been most active—but I urge him not to press this today. The constitutional repercussions could be very considerable. We do not want—I certainly do not—to tempt any Prime Minister to send another long list of Peers to your Lordships’ House merely to big up the numbers. That is not what we should be about. We should be in the business not of provocation, but of scrutiny and examination. We have fulfilled our tasks in that respect. I believe that the time has now come for us to draw stumps. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, will find that there is some merit in my arguments and that he will feel able to desist.
My Lords, I was not going to intervene. I certainly do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, will do with his amendment. I want to follow up on the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, by saying that this is not a wise Bill. Some of us have been in this House for many years and have handled many Bills. The problem is that, in process terms—leaving aside the content—this is the worst Bill I have seen in 25 years. It is a skeleton Bill in which we do not know the detail; this will be carried out by regulations. I do not blame the Minister at all but we do not know—and the Minister does not know—what will be in the regulations because they will depend on consultation exercises. We do not know what these consultation exercises will say because they were started only two-thirds of the way through the parliamentary process.
Noble Lords all around this House have been trying to scrutinise properly and fairly, as we should, a Bill in which there are huge gaps. We do not know the costs, the statistics, the land requirements or the burdens on local authorities. We know none of this. Yet, we, who scrutinised the Bill, are being told that the Commons has overturned our amendments. In a very truncated debate last night, it barely touched half the issues that we had discussed, having read every word of it. The Commons really did not.
This leaves some of us, who respect the conventions of this House, in a very difficult position. This is a half-baked, half-scrutinised, quarter-digested Bill. We are being asked, in the name of constitutional propriety, to allow the Commons to have the final say on something that is, frankly, not fit for purpose. It should not have been introduced this year; it should have been deferred until next year, until all the detail was in place so that we could scrutinise and amend the Bill, as this House should do. Then, and in that context, we would respect the will of the Commons. The Commons is sending through on a conveyor belt a half-baked Bill that it has not scrutinised. It puts many of us who really value the scrutinising role of this House in a very difficult position. I am sure I speak for many noble Lords, including, perhaps, some on the Benches of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who share my concerns. We are being asked to scrutinise a Bill that is not fit for purpose.
My Lords, I endorse my noble friend’s remarks about the issues perfectly properly raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. From the Minister’s remarks, one might have thought that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, was going to utterly sabotage the Government’s proposals for starter homes. There is no evidence to support that as a potential outcome if his amendment were to be approved. It does not replace the principle that the Government seek to advance; it complements it. We seem to be invited to adopt the Government’s position on starter homes, failing which we are going to get some starter Peers. We have probably had a few of those in the last few years but that is not a matter that ought to weigh too heavily on us.
I think noble Lords on all sides of the House endorse the Government’s ideas for promoting home ownership, particularly—but not necessarily exclusively—among younger people. After all, this is the week in which we are talking about mortgages for people up to 85 years of age. There are people above the age of 40, who have been on the housing ladder for decades, for whom this Bill will do very little. Whereas, a slightly more relaxed approach of the kind that the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, is advocating, would assist them, without damaging the prospects of those aged 40 and under, for whom this part of the Bill seeks to provide some hope and action. I agree with that.
I sympathise with the noble Lord’s amendment. I regret that the Government do not appear willing to move towards something that would make a modest difference to the provision of housing for more people in a rather different way but not one which, in my judgment, would damage the Government’s intentions. It certainly would not contravene their manifesto commitment.
My Lords, I thank all those who have spoken so clearly on this group.
As I said in my opening speech, and have made completely clear throughout the passage of the Bill in this House, a nationally set starter homes requirement is essential to delivering our 200,000 starter homes commitment. The amendment would mean that the requirement for starter homes would become something entirely different. This is not what we promised to deliver in our manifesto.
The Minister for Housing and Planning last night set out on the Floor of the House in the other place that we need to get on with helping those people to fulfil their dreams and get on to the home ownership ladder. Some 86% of our population want to be given that chance to do so. I am in complete agreement with him, and with my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham for reiterating the point that he made last night. It is,
“beyond astonishing that the upper House should try to amend a measure that has received such a clear message of support from this elected Chamber, and in respect of which we have an election mandate to help young people”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/5/16; col. 459.]
Elected honourable Members have been clear in their overwhelming support for delivering our starter homes commitment, and, as my noble friends Lord Young of Cookham and Lord Cormack, said, Amendment 10B was rejected with a majority of 83.
This House has done its duty. It has scrutinised, and the Government have revised as far as they possibly can. It is time to stop and to recognise and respect the will of the electorate and the primacy of a manifesto mandate. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, said that the legislation had been rushed through and that the Commons had not scrutinised it properly. However, I understand from the Commons that timings were agreed, including by the Labour Whips. I have already made clear to the House that Amendment 10B would fundamentally change the Government’s manifesto intention as proposed in the Bill, and that we therefore consider the Salisbury convention to be engaged.
I once again reassure the House that the Government are completely committed to ensuring that a range of housing tenures come forward. These include shared ownership and other affordable home ownership products. However, we are legislating for starter homes alone as a new product, designed to address a specific gap in the market, and we have a clear manifesto mandate to do that.
I also reassure the House that the Government are consulting on setting the percentage requirement. These proposals include exemptions where a starter home requirement will not be expected. I would be happy to meet noble Lords to discuss this further before the resulting regulations are brought back to this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, said that the percentage requirement was set at 20%. Twenty per cent is currently a consultation proposal and is not yet fixed. However, we are consulting the sector on this and other aspects of the starter home regulations. The noble Lord also talked about current proposals being rigid and inflexible. We are consulting on how the starter homes requirement will apply. This includes setting out exceptions on the basis of viability and the types of housing being built, such as housing for older people.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, suggested that this was not a wrecking amendment. We promised the electorate that we would deliver 200,000 starter homes by 2020. This was our election mandate and this amendment would undermine delivering that.
I have listened carefully to the debate, and I hope our clear manifesto commitment for starter homes means that there is no need to divide your Lordships’ House. With these reassurances in mind, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment to my Motion.
My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions to this debate on starter homes. I entirely understand and respect the constitutional issues at stake here. This House is clearly a revising and improving Chamber and, ultimately, the other place will prevail. That is the democratic propriety, and that is as it should be. I also recognise the issues associated with how the conventions work. The 2006 report referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Young, was not taken up within the context of the Companion, and my amendment complies with the rules as set out in the Companion. I absolutely respect the views put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. He and I worked very productively on the Trade Union Bill and saw very substantial improvements.
The challenge is judging the impact of what is proposed and whether it will deliver more homes—which we desperately need in this country—or, indeed, the 200,000 starter homes the Government seek. Personally, I severely doubt whether it will deliver what is intended. Notwithstanding what the Minister has said, it is in many ways a rigid proposition. I also recognise that it is a manifesto commitment and that Ministers have expressed a concern that the amendment will undermine that. I am alert to the Minister’s assurances on the consultation and the flexibility that will be built in. At this point I will, therefore, reluctantly withdraw the motion.
Motion A1, as an amendment to Motion A, withdrawn.
Motion A agreed.
That this House do not insist on its Amendments 47B and 47C, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 47D.
47D: Because they would alter the financial arrangements made by the Commons, and the Commons do not offer any further Reason, trusting that this Reason may be deemed sufficient.
My Lords, I turn to another manifesto commitment—high value vacant local authority housing. I start by reminding your Lordships’ House what the manifesto said:
“We will fund the replacement of properties sold under the extended Right to Buy by requiring local authorities to manage their housing assets more efficiently, with the most expensive properties sold off and replaced as they fall vacant”.
The Bill delivers that manifesto commitment. It will increase housing supply through the delivery of affordable homes, and extend home ownership by funding the discounts for the ground-breaking voluntary right-to-buy agreement. Let me be clear: the manifesto says that the homes sold will be replaced with new homes. It does not say that there will be like-for-like replacement. We want to make sure that the new homes serve the needs of communities, today. We do not see a reason to commit ourselves to reproducing exactly the same type of home when communities have changed and the need for housing may be different. We want to retain flexibility in the legislation so that the Government, working with local places, can facilitate the development of the type of homes we need today.
Noble Lords have used their scrutiny role to great effect. The House has helped to improve the Bill in many ways. However, we cannot accept amending the Bill in a way that would prevent us delivering on our manifesto commitment. As the Minister for Housing and Planning explained in the Commons yesterday, the Government could not accept Lords Amendments 47B and 47C because they would significantly reduce the funding available for the voluntary right to buy. The other place has been clear that it does not agree with the fundamental changes that have been proposed to the agreements process. Twice it has emphatically rejected amendments from your Lordships’ House—by 288 votes to 172 last Tuesday, and then, yesterday, by 291 votes to 203. That shows their strength of feeling.
In addition, the House of Commons has, for a second time, offered a financial privilege reason for rejecting our amendments on this issue. I respect, and would defend, the right of this House to propose an amendment in lieu when the Commons has rejected our original amendment on grounds of financial privilege. However, I remind noble Lords that the Joint Committee on Conventions reported in 2006 that:
“If the Commons have disagreed to Lords Amendments on grounds of financial privilege, it is contrary to convention for the Lords to send back Amendments in lieu which clearly invite the same response”.
This House has already sent back one set of amendments in lieu which invited the same response of financial privilege—Amendments 47B and 47C, which were sent to the Commons last Wednesday. Motion B1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, invites the House to offer Amendment 47E in lieu. At first glance, that amendment also has major implications for how the voluntary right-to-buy commitment will be funded and therefore could invite the same response. I hope the House will be mindful of that convention as we debate and decide on the Motions before us today.
The Bill has always enabled the Secretary of State to enter into agreements with local authorities. We have made amendments which clarify our intentions concerning replacements. These will ensure that where a local authority has entered into an agreement, at least two new affordable homes will be provided for each home expected to be sold in London. A similar approach will now work outside London as well, with local authorities that choose to enter into an agreement being required to provide at least one new affordable home for each one expected to be sold. Let me be very clear: “affordable” includes a range of different types of housing, meaning homes that will be made available for people whose needs are not adequately served by the commercial housing market, from new homes for sub-market rent to home ownership products such as shared ownership and starter homes.
Receipts will be used to support the delivery of our manifesto commitments to support the delivery of right-to-buy discounts to housing association tenants and the delivery of additional homes. We will of course compensate local authorities for transaction costs and the debt associated with the housing. After that, we have been clear that receipts will be used to fund both right-to-buy discounts for housing association tenants and the delivery of new affordable housing. We are not intending to use them for any other purpose. I beg to move.
Motion B1 (as an amendment to Motion B)
At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 47E in lieu—
47E: Clause 72, page 31, line 42, at end insert—
“( ) The amount of any reduction agreed under subsection (1) must be sufficient to fund the provision of at least one new affordable home outside Greater London, and at least two new affordable homes in Greater London, for each old dwelling.
( ) Where the local housing authority can demonstrate, whether by reference to its local housing plan or otherwise, that there is a particular need in its area for social rented housing, the Secretary of State, as part of any agreement under subsection (1), must consider any application from the authority to fund the provision of a new dwelling to be let as social housing, in respect of each old dwelling.””
My Lords, Amendment 47E seeks to do two things. First, it seeks to put it beyond doubt that sufficient funding will be available to local authorities to deliver at least one new affordable home for each higher-value property sold; in London this will be at least two for one. Secondly, it gives a local authority the opportunity, where it can demonstrate a need for social rented housing in its area, to make the case for the Secretary of State to consider.
There are few parts of this Bill that have caused such concern at local level and, indeed, where the impacts are so serious. Even today, I have received an open letter from tenants setting out their serious concerns. Even at this very late stage, we still do not have the vital detail needed to properly assess the impact. This point is made very strongly in the recent Public Accounts Committee report.
Shelter has calculated that to deliver the estimated £4.5 billion of receipts identified by the Government, 23,500 vacant council properties a year will need to be sold. This equates to nearly a third of all stock that will become vacant. It follows that it is absolutely vital to be clear in the Bill how this replacement will be delivered in practice. A huge amount depends on getting this right.
Under Clause 72, the Secretary of State may enter into an agreement with a local authority to reduce the amount that it has to pay under the higher-value sales levy. The Bill now makes it clear that where such an agreement is entered into, the manifesto commitment of at least one-for-one replacement must be delivered. What is glaringly absent from the Bill, however, is that the local authority will be able to retain enough of the levy to pay for this replacement. So we have the ends but not the means in the Bill. The first part of my amendment seeks to put this point right: it seeks to align ends with means. It has been argued previously that this is unnecessary, since Ministers have given a commitment. If that is the case, it ought not to be controversial.
My concern about the Minister’s argument in the other place is that it raises precisely the issue of whether the funding will be adequate, because it suggests that to agree this amendment or something close to it would compromise the delivery of the right-to-buy policy. One way or another we need to be clear whether the funds will be there to deliver the policy in the Bill. Given the huge uncertainty about how the sums will add up, it is reasonable for this House to take the precaution of seeking clarity in the Bill that the funding will be there. What would be the purpose of reaching an agreement if it did not have the underpinning funding to support it?
The second part of my amendment has been significantly revised from the version that we previously debated. It simply seeks to give the opportunity to a local authority to make its case on grounds of need to replace a social rented home with another social rented home. It does not require a local authority to make a case if it decides that it already has sufficient social rented housing. If it wishes to go for a different mix of affordable housing, it can do so. Nothing in my amendment prevents the flexibility to which the Minister referred. It simply provides an opportunity.
Equally, my amendment does not require the Secretary of State to agree with those representations. It asks only that the Secretary of State consider the case on its merits. It therefore fits completely with the Government’s intention to do bespoke local deals. The discretion is there for the local authority to make its case. The power is there for the Secretary of State to say no if he is not persuaded by that case. It is hard to see how you could be more flexible and responsive than that.
I understand the reluctance that some in this House will have about pressing these issues again. I have thought long and hard about them. I would not put the amendment forward unless I thought it was of such vital importance. Unless we get this replacement policy right now, on funding and discretion, we shall inevitably see fewer genuinely affordable homes available. The consequences of that would be rising numbers of low-income families living in temporary accommodation. There are now some 54,000 homeless families with children living in temporary accommodation. That number is rising. Unless we get this right, it will carry on rising, and we shall have missed a major opportunity. I ask the House to support this amendment. I beg to move.
Before the noble Lord sits down, and given that his previous amendment was subject to a claim by the other place that it was financially privileged, will he explain why this amendment does not meet the same obstacle and why it is not inappropriate for him to press the matter?
My Lords, as I indicated, I have taken on board the comments made in the previous debate and revised my amendment significantly. In particular—and this is the crucial point—it does not seek to impose a requirement on the Secretary of State as regards social rented housing. It is clear beyond doubt, as perhaps the previous amendment was not, that this is a matter that the Secretary of State is asked to consider, but does not necessarily have to agree. It is therefore a choice for the Secretary of State and as such would not have financial implications. Secondly, the first leg of my amendment simply seeks to say that if you reach an agreement, it has to be funded. That is all it says.
My Lords, in speaking in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, I remind the House that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I support two principles: first, that councils should be able to keep sufficient funds to replace each home they have to sell; and secondly, that negotiations between central and local government must allow councils to take into account the housing needs in their area. If there is demand for social homes for rent, councils should be enabled by the Government to replace those higher-value homes sold with another home for rent. This is what the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, seeks to do, which seems to me entirely reasonable.
The Minister reminded us of what was said in the other place last night. The Minister in the Commons said that these proposals,
“would also significantly reduce the funding available for the voluntary right to buy”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/5/16; col. 461.]
This suggests that the Government are refusing to accept what, on the face of it, is a very reasonable amendment because the priority for the money released by the forced sale of higher-value council homes is not replacement council homes for rent. This amendment remains vital for that reason.
We now have one-for-one replacement in the Bill, although not like for like, and I acknowledge the Government’s limited movement on the former. However, certainty that the funding will be available for that one-for-one replacement is now needed, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, pointed out. Can the Minister make a clear statement that the funding will indeed be available for the replacement home, and that where that replacement home is a social home for rent, it will be funded from the sum realised by the sale of the higher-value council home before the residue goes to the Government to fund the voluntary right to buy?
When we last debated this matter a few days ago, the noble Lord, Lord Porter, quoted the Conservative Party’s manifesto and the accompanying press release. The press release said that sold council homes would be,
“replaced in the same area with normal affordable housing”.
I asked the Minister in that debate if a definition could be supplied of what a normal affordable home actually was. The press release went on:
“After funding replacement affordable housing on a one for one basis, the surplus proceeds will be used to fund the extension of right to buy”.
In other words, the Conservative Party made a commitment, in the press release accompanying its manifesto, that a replacement home would come first. There is a clear implication in the wording of that statement—
“After funding replacement affordable housing”—
that the home will be of the same type. That is what a lot of people believed to be the case. However, it becomes clearer that this is not the Government’s intention. Instead, a voluntary right to buy has to be funded first, and the resource available to supply a replacement council home will in practice be extremely limited.
The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, gave one or two facts and figures. A rising number of people are homeless and a large number of people are now living in temporary accommodation, a figure that also seems to be rising.
We have more than 1 million people on council waiting lists. It is anticipated that under the existing right to buy, by 2020, 66,000 council homes will have been sold to tenants. The Government’s introduction of a 1% rent reduction each year for the next four years for social housing will reduce the number of replacements that can be built, because the revenue stream matters in paying the bills. Finally, the forced sale of higher-value council homes will reduce the number of social rented homes available, unless the amendment is accepted.
In my view, what the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, has now proposed is entirely reasonable. I very much hope that the Minister will feel able to accept the amendment and the need for it, because in so doing, the Government would remove the all too transparent doubt that surrounds this debate.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for mentioning me. There was a little competition going on here as to who was going to get in next, and because he put my name in the frame, my noble friends have given way to me—so thank you.
I respectfully ask the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, to withdraw his amendment. He knows that I refused to work on it with him yesterday because I believe that the Minister has already given us the assurance that noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, require: that we will be able to replace those council homes sold. In fact, the Prime Minister was very specific: he expects us to do that if that is what we need in our areas.
Given that this is the first time that I have spoken at this stage, I should probably refer again to my entry in the register of interests, one of them being chairman of the Local Government Association, although I am sure that a few Members on the Benches opposite will smile, because it looks as though I will not be saying that too many times in future—it looks like that is passing; happy days.
From a council perspective, the danger of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, is that it will damage councils’ ability to replace their housing stock. At the moment, with the manifesto commitment, the Secretary of State will be compelled to allow us to do something; under the amendment, he will be invited to allow us to do something. Straightaway, that will weaken our position. I have complete and utter respect for the current Secretary of State, but who knows what a future Secretary of State may do? Even worse from a council perspective, when the Secretary of State works out what type of units will be replaced and who will be landlord, one factor will be value for money. We all know that when a council builds a house, it can do it for less real money than an RSL, but we also know that when the Treasury does its thing with smoke and mirrors around the public sector borrowing requirement, all of a sudden the council house becomes more expensive. If the amendment were to get through, one—unintended, I hope—consequence would be to allow a future Secretary of State to take resource from a local council and give it to an RSL. I vehemently hope that every elected Member opposite will resist the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, for the gracious way in which he withdrew the previous amendment. He must have been a formidable Sir Humphrey, but as such, he would know when the time came to say, “Yes, Minister”. He has moved the amendment with quiet passion and a most persuasive speech, but we have reached the stage where we really should not be gainsaying the elected House. I hope that, with all his wisdom and experience, he will recognise that.
I also hope that my noble friend, who has done the equivalent of running several marathons over the past few weeks and deserves the thanks of us all for her unflappable demeanour, will recognise that worry is shared in all parts of the House about what I would call the Henry VIII aspects of the Bill. They were referred to in a short but persuasive contribution by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. I would like to think that my noble friend will gather a few people around, including the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, to discuss the contents of some of the regulations that will undoubtedly need to be tabled and will be subject to affirmative resolution in your Lordships’ House. If people such as the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, can have an input, that can only be helpful and to the benefit of us all.
I know that my noble friend is not in a position, as was slightly mischievously suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, to accept the amendment tonight. Of course she is not. The amendment either goes back to the Commons yet again or we accept that constitutionally, we do not really have the authority to do so. There are always things that we would like to get better. There are things that we would like to test to the ultimate. I am told that my car could go at 120 miles an hour, but would I do that? I would be not only a criminal but an idiot to attempt it.
I believe that we have taken this as far as we can in your Lordships’ House. It is good that the arguments are being rehearsed; it would be good if there were proper input from the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, and others when the regulations come to be devised; but enough is enough, and I hope that we will not divide on this.
My Lords, I declare an interest as leader of a local authority and someone who has sat through a number of hours of proceedings on the Bill. Anyone who has read Hansard will know that my enthusiasm for aspects of it as it first appeared was perhaps a little way short of ecstasy, but it also contains some fundamental and important things that the Government promised in their manifesto and which people in this country want, such as starter homes, the right to buy and many others.
The House needs to find a balance, take part in a parliamentary dialogue and, ultimately, reach an accommodation. In that accommodation, I speak as someone who is elected, albeit as leader of a local authority. There is no doubt that the authority of election is substantial and different. It lies in the authority of the other Chamber and it does not lie in ours.
In the course of the past century, the House of Commons has not succeeded as a parliamentary Chamber capable of legislating as well as it should. That is a problem for the other place and one which the other place alone can resolve. It is because it has failed in that respect that your Lordships’ House has with great distinction developed this role as an advising and revising Chamber, which it has shown with exemplary quality and patience in the course of the Bill.
However, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, not to press this matter further. This House cannot—it is not constitutional for it and it is not capable of it—construe the view that the other place, the elected House, takes of its own financial privilege. That is a matter entirely for the House of Commons. It is not for us to debate and say, “They won’t think this ventures into their financial privilege; we can get away with something else”. This is a matter for the other place. Twice, the other place has said to this Chamber that the Commons disagrees because it is asserting financial privilege.
The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, is perfectly within his rights, and no one on this side or from the Government should ever say that a Member of your Lordships’ House is unable to propose an amendment in lieu when the other place has cited its privilege, but there comes a point when you have to say that batting back against the will of the elected House is not a profitable course to follow, either as a collective, as a House, or as an individual. I might give some gentle advice to the noble Lord: if I were seeking admission to the counsels of the Government, I would not necessarily keep shoving back the same thing time and again. I think there are perhaps better ways to proceed.
As the leader of a local authority, I have appreciated some of the many points that the noble Lord made. I wish, in some respects, that the Government had been able to listen on other points, but we are where we are. This is a much improved Bill; that has been acknowledged in the other place by Ministers who have welcomed the amendments that have been made. But now the time has come to accept the will of the elected House on this question. The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, has had a good run—from the “Today” studio before he even became a Member of this House, through this long Bill. With the greatest respect, it is now time for him to head to the pavilion on this matter.
My Lords, I will not detain the House very long. A passing comment by the noble Lord, Lord True, has caused me to ask the Minister a basic question about financial privilege. The Minister has made it very clear to your Lordships’ House, and even clearer today, that when a higher-value affordable home is sold off, a local authority, should it negotiate with the Secretary of State, will be able to replace it with another property—a one-for-one replacement, or two for one in London.
The Minister has also made it very clear today that, when that takes place, the transaction costs and the cost of building the new property will be made available from the sale figures of the higher-value affordable home. I hope the Minister will confirm that that is definitely the case. Indeed, it covers the first part of the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake. If that is the case, and the Minister has agreed that a new property to replace—not like for like but one for one—will be funded, I am at a loss to understand why the discussion about what the tenure of that property will be makes any difference to the amount of money that will then be left available to pay for the other aspects of government policy.
In the other place, the Minister, Mr Brandon Lewis, said that these proposals,
“would significantly reduce the funding available for the voluntary right to buy, again preventing this Government fulfilling their manifesto commitment. Let me be very clear: this is a wrecking amendment”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/5/16; col. 461.]
The noble Baroness the Minister has repeated those very words today. I am at a total loss to understand where the loss of money comes from, because she has acknowledged that the building of a new property will be funded. What the tenure is does not alter the building cost. I hope that the noble Baroness can give a very clear explanation of the statement made by the Minister in another place and repeated by her today.
My Lords, I do not wish to address any issues of policy in respect of the Bill or the merits or otherwise of the proposals contained in the Bill. Unlike my noble friend Lord True, I am not elected or standing for election, so perhaps my words to the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, will be a little less diplomatic than those of others. I do not know how much time Members of this House spend talking to people in the other place as we go about our work. I love this House and I think it does a fantastic job, but there is increasing irritation at the other end of the corridor about the activities of this House, and we should take account of that. There are proposals to reduce our powers, to which I am very strongly opposed. I believe that there are major issues concerning the use of secondary legislation and the provision of Henry VIII clauses, and no doubt we will address those in the next Parliament.
I have always very strongly supported the idea that the Cross Benches should have an important presence and role in this House. Traditionally, the Cross Benches have been composed of people with great expertise—the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, is a notable example—but they have always known where to draw the line and have respected the conventions of this House. We are in danger of crossing that line. I do not seek to argue whether the noble Lord’s view is correct or the Minister’s view is correct. What matters is that the other place has rejected this matter and has claimed financial privilege. As my noble friend Lord True has pointed out, the question of financial privilege is a matter for the elected House. We, in this House, have always respected the view that we do not put forward Motions in lieu where they have been rejected on the grounds of financial privilege in the past, and this is what we are in danger of doing this afternoon.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, will show the same degree of sensitivity in his position on the Cross Benches as he did on the previous amendment. I supported him in some respects—although I regret the way in which the Government finally came to the right conclusion on some aspects of the Trade Union Bill—but he is in danger of looking like a Member of the Opposition and not a Cross-Bench Member if he proceeds to push this amendment against the conventions that have applied. The Opposition may disagree. We know the position of the Liberal Democrats—having lost their democratic position in the other place, they have made it clear from the start that they wish to raise their standard here.
I urge Members of the House to think carefully, because this House has a great and important role, and it will be undermined if we behave in a way that causes extreme irritation to the other place, which, after all, has been elected to do a job on manifesto commitments with which we are concerned today. I give way to my noble friend.
I am grateful to my noble friend. I think the argument is stronger than he put in relation to financial privilege being claimed, because that has happened twice. The second time, which was last Wednesday, the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, believed that the amendment would not invoke financial privilege, but it did. In that sense, the House has perhaps inadvertently sent an amendment back in lieu once, in contradiction of the financial privilege argument. To do so twice seems a serious breach of the convention.
My noble friend is absolutely right. As he knows, I always pull my punches, but he is right to invite me to make the case even more strongly. Of course, when I intervened earlier and asked the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, if he would deal with the issue of financial privilege, he said that in his opinion his amendment did not breach that; but that is what he said the last time, and the House of Commons took a different view. He has made his argument, and my noble friend the Minister has shown enormous patience throughout the passage of this Bill, along with the rest of us who have been here to support her in the Division Lobbies. I hope that the noble Lord will accept, as my noble friend Lord Cormack said, that he has taken this matter as far as he can and that it is a matter for the elected Government and for the House of Commons to take things forward.
My Lords, last night the Commons spent all of 52 minutes debating the amendments passed by your Lordships’ House. In the course of the debate, the Minister, Brandon Lewis, asserted that this House had,
“chosen again to oppose one of”,
“most important manifesto commitments, namely the commitment to ensure that more homes are built: homes that we need, and homes that young people are crying out for”.
To borrow a phrase from a somewhat more famous Conservative, Winston Churchill, that is a “terminological inexactitude”. It is perhaps less personal than the assertion by a Conservative Back-Bencher that the manifesto commitment was,
“struck down and circumscribed by the unelected, unaccountable panjandrums in the House of Lords”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/5/16; cols. 458-59.]
I declare my interest, and perhaps others of your Lordships do so as well.
The Conservative manifesto commitment was to build 275,000 affordable homes by 2020 and all of—my words, not theirs—10,000 homes to rent at below market rents. Nothing in the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, conflicts with the manifesto commitment to build more homes. Part of the problem lies in the repeated use of the adjective “affordable”, and the failure of the Bill—and Ministers—to define the term other than in relation to starter homes, where the examples of affordability, reaching up to £450,000, are widely recognised as unrealistic. But the particular difficulty is the evident and extreme reluctance of the Government to acknowledge the need for affordable housing, which essentially means social housing, for rent, beyond identifying the massive programme of 2,000 houses a year at below market rents for the next five years.
The Government purport to address this issue by the provisions of the Bill which allow, but do not require, the Secretary of State to enter into agreements with councils to reduce the amounts they would have to pay to the Secretary of State, principally to fund the right to buy of housing association tenants. There is no requirement to do so, beyond the need in London, under an agreement for two-for-one replacement, and one-for-one elsewhere; but there is no requirement for the replacement to be by way of like-for-like tenure—only that replacements should be “affordable”. Moreover, as we have heard at some length during the passage of this Bill, the Government are unable to produce figures defining the meaning of “high value”, or the number of properties affected locally or nationally, or the likely rate of vacancies, or the cost of administering the scheme, or how they will judge how much to require councils to pay up-front annually, since the Bill envisages such payment will be required whether or not sales are effected. To misquote Marx—Groucho, not Karl—“A child of five could understand the impact of this policy. Bring me a child of five”, or perhaps, in these days, a special adviser.
Ministers constantly state that there are 16 million pieces of paper relevant to this issue and they are therefore unable to make any assessments. In that case, surely the answer is not to legislate before any real assessment of the impact is made, and not to rely on unamendable secondary legislation to ram through controversial and untested policies. That brings me to the claim that financial privilege prevents us from amending the Bill. The Government have already accepted some amendments with possible financial consequences, but the point is that financial privilege is not some God-given formula by which this House is prevented from amending legislation. We are not in the Moses Room with tablets of legislative stone; Governments can choose not to invoke or apply financial privilege, and we are entitled to invite them to do so. In any case, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, suggested, the amendment does not breach financial privilege.
The Motion moved by the noble Lord is a modest one. All that it seeks is that in calculating the financial adjustments to be made on the forced sale of high-value properties, councils should be able to retain sufficient money to provide two-for-one replacements in London, and one for one elsewhere, with the rider that the Secretary of State should consider allowing sufficient to be retained to permit that replacement by social housing for rent, when they can demonstrate need. It is not carte blanche—it is still a matter for the Minister to agree. It is the least that could reasonably be asked for. It is consistent with the manifesto pledge to build more homes, and it deserves the support of the House, and indeed of the Commons. In no way does it override a manifesto commitment, and if the noble Lord invites the House to ask the Commons to think again, the Opposition will support him.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken so eloquently on the amendment, particularly my noble friends who are such constitutional experts, far more so than me—my noble friends Lord Forsyth, Lord True and Lord Cormack. My noble friend Lord Cormack asked initially about the regulations and working with noble Lords. I hope that, whatever noble Lords think about the Bill, they will agree that I have taken the time whenever needed to engage with noble Lords from across the House to discuss any aspect of legislation or regulations that they might wish—and I fully intend to continue in that role.
Amendment 47E, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, in lieu of Amendment 47, is not acceptable to the Government. It would require that, when the Secretary of State enters into an agreement, sufficient funding must be provided to fully fund the cost of the new home. I hope that noble Lords will not misinterpret me when I say that the Government want more housing to be built, and I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that the arguments that this House recognised in relation to the last group apply just as strongly now. We have listened, and I have reassured this House strongly on how flexible agreements will be. It is now time to stop undermining our ability to proceed and to let us deliver our manifesto commitments.
We support the involvement of local authorities in delivering new homes. We value the creative partnerships across the sector to increase housing supply. But additional homes should not be funded simply through retained payments from the sale of high-value vacant housing. We have discussed that at length throughout the course of the Bill. There should be opportunities for local authorities to contribute their land, assets or funding, and to work in partnership with other providers in their area to build homes. We also want to ensure that value for money is secured, and ensure that the homes are delivered as cost effectively as possible.
In placing expectations on receipts, the amendment would prevent the Government from fulfilling their manifesto commitment, because it would significantly reduce the funding available for the voluntary right to buy. Since November last year, more than 29,000 housing association tenants have asked to be kept up to date with the right-to-buy scheme via our website. It is not right that we should deny these tenants their dream of home ownership.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, talked about numbers. Let us reflect a bit back to the Conservative-led coalition being the first Government to end a Parliament with more affordable homes than we started with. Labour oversaw the loss of 420,000, by contrast. This is about our manifesto commitment to extend the right to buy.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, talked about the financial privilege that the Government look to invoke. That is not true—it is a matter for the Commons Speaker on the advice of Commons clerks. It is not a political decision. I do not know a lot about the constitution, but I do know that.
The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, talked about increased homelessness. A key part of this policy is to release the value locked up in vacant higher-value housing assets in order to build more homes. We are committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society to have a decent place to live. Since 2010, we have invested more than £500 million to help local authorities prevent nearly 1 million households becoming homeless. Time spent in temporary accommodation ensures that no family is without a roof over their heads. We have made common-sense changes to the law to allow local authorities to offer accommodation in good-quality private sector accommodation, and households, on leaving temporary accommodation, now spend on average less time in temporary accommodation than they did in 2010.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked why we would not agree to the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, to enable homes to be built on a like-for-like basis. Our manifesto made it clear that we wanted to increase home ownership and drive up the supply of new homes. The receipts from the sale of high-value assets will enable us to deliver both of these commitments. The receipts will be used to give up to 1.3 million housing association tenants the right to the same level of right-to-buy discount as has been enjoyed by local authority tenants for decades.
But—and this is equally important—it will provide receipts that local authorities that enter into agreement with us will use to provide affordable homes. When they choose not to—and some will choose not to—the money will be returned to government to provide additional homes. As I have previously explained, the proceeds from right to buy will contribute to the funding that the housing association will use to provide an additional home for the one that is being sold, and an additional two homes in London.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, suggested that the policy would result in fewer social rented homes. I say again that we have a national housing crisis. We need more homes across different tenures and across the country. At the heart of this policy is the building of more homes, funded by part of the receipts from the sale of high-value council housing. The Secretary of State and a local authority can enter into an agreement for the local authority to retain part of its receipts to lead the delivery of more homes that meet housing need. In the case of London, where we know that there is an acute housing crisis, this agreement must result in the delivery of at least two more affordable homes for each high-value vacant dwelling that is taken into account under the determination.
I urge your Lordships’ House to respect the will of the other place, recognising that this is a manifesto commitment and that, as the House of Commons has offered a financial-privilege reason for rejecting our amendments, we should be wary of proposing an alternative that would invite the same response. I therefore urge noble Lords to accept the Commons reason and not support Amendment 47E.
I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. I have listened intently to all of them. One of the things that I have discovered as a Cross-Bencher is that—to put it bluntly—you are on your own. You have to make your own judgments based on the arguments and listen to the debate very carefully.
Let me explain my underpinning dilemma here. We have two manifesto commitments. The one that the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, spoke about is the commitment to fund the replacement of a property sold. The other, to which the Minister alluded, is the manifesto commitment to fund the extension of right to buy. As we all sit here now, we do not know whether those two commitments stand together. Quite extraordinarily, during the whole passage of the Bill we have still not been able to answer that question.
This leaves us with a real dilemma. I should say that before I was a Sir Humphrey, I was an accountant. I would not employ me as an accountant now, but that is what my past was, and one of the things that I like to see is the numbers adding up. We are now faced with a real dilemma in this situation about a proposal that simply does not enable two contradictory things to happen. So the judgment we have to make is where we place the positioning of the amendment in relation to that. It remains my very strong view that what I have put forward here simply seeks to say that if you reach an agreement on one-for-one replacement—not like-for-like but one-for-one—it is not unreasonable to say that the funding should be there. I am perfectly comfortable with a range of funding being brought in to do more, but at a core level it should do what it says on the tin: fund a replacement.
The second part of my amendment simply says: give consideration to social rented housing. It is hard to see how anyone could see that as objectionable in any part of this House or the other place. So, having agonised and listened through this debate very carefully, I have very reluctantly concluded that I would like to test the opinion of the House on this issue.
10 May 2016
Division on Motion B1
Motion B1 agreed.View Details
That this House do not insist on its disagreement with the Commons in their Amendment 97A in lieu of Lords Amendment 97 and do not insist on its Amendment 97B in lieu of that Lords Amendment, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 97C.
97C: Because Lords Amendment 97B would add complexity and unpredictability to the planning system.
My Lords, the Government place communities at the heart of the planning system. We have gone further than ever in giving communities the power to develop neighbourhood plans that set the planning policies for their area. The strength of feeling in this House on the issue of a neighbourhood right to appeal was made very clear. However, with more than 150 adopted neighbourhood plans in England, and more than 1,700 more at various stages of completion, the introduction of a right of appeal could have far-reaching consequences. As I have reiterated in these debates, we believe that a third-party right of appeal would add complexity to the planning system and slow down housing delivery.
We trust communities to shape future development through neighbourhood plans. We trust local planning authorities to take decisions for sustainable development and to listen to their communities. We cannot maintain a balanced planning system if every decision to approve a sustainable development is open to a lengthy and costly appeal.
The other place—the elected House—did not accept the Lords amendment on a neighbourhood right of appeal. It has rejected it twice without even a vote, so this is not the time to push any further. I hope that I can reassure noble Lords that they have been heard. The Minister for Planning and Housing has given an undertaking to the other place that he will look into this matter further.
I am obviously disappointed that your Lordships’ House did not previously support the Government’s amendment in lieu, which would have ensured that local planning authorities provided a very clear explanation of why the authority could justify recommending a decision that would conflict with a neighbourhood plan. However, we have the opportunity to return to this matter now. The Government’s amendment in lieu would require local planning authorities to set out in any report to a planning committee that recommends granting planning permission how any neighbourhood plan has been considered. They will also be required to identify in the report any conflict between their recommendation and the neighbourhood plan. This will ensure that the planning committee cannot fail to appreciate how the development accords with the neighbourhood plan and provides communities with the opportunity to raise any further concerns directly with their local councillors or to attend and request to speak at the planning committee. It also draws attention to the issues of conflict in case the community wishes to request call-in by the Secretary of State. Let me be very clear that communities can request that any application is considered for call-in before a decision letter is issued.
This added level of transparency and explanation will ensure that local planning authorities are absolutely clear about how they have balanced the neighbourhood plan against other material considerations that they are required to take into account. This amendment is a proportionate and appropriate response to ensuring that neighbourhood plans are given the respect and consideration they deserve. I beg to move.
Motion C1 (as an amendment to Motion C)
Leave out from “House” to end and insert “do insist on its disagreement with the Commons in their Amendment 97A, do not insist on its Amendment 97B, and do propose Amendment 97D in lieu of Amendment 97A—
97D: After Clause 140, insert the following new Clause—
“Neighbourhood right to be heard
(1) After section 75ZA of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (inserted by section 140 above) insert—
“75ZB Responsibilities of decision-makers in respect of neighbourhood development plans in the exercise of planning functions
(1) For the purposes of this section—
(a) an “emerging” neighbourhood development plan means a neighbourhood development plan that has been examined, is being examined, or is due to be examined, having met the public consultation requirements necessary to proceed to this stage, and
(b) a “neighbourhood planning body” means a town or parish council or neighbourhood forum, as defined in section 61F of the 1990 Act (authorisation to act in relation to neighbourhood areas).
(2) In considering whether to grant planning permission or permission in principle for development which affects land all or part of which is included within the area covered by a made or emerging neighbourhood development plan, the local planning authority or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State shall have special regard to the policies and proposals of that neighbourhood development plan.
(3) A planning authority must, before determining an application for planning permission or permission in principle, give any neighbourhood planning body whose made or emerging neighbourhood development plan includes all or part of the area of land to which the application relates, a period of 21 days, from the date of receipt of the application by the neighbourhood planning body, within which to make recommendations about the manner in which the application should be determined; and must take any such recommendations into account.
(4) Where a planning authority does not propose to refuse an application for planning permission or permission in principle where a neighbourhood planning body has recommended, under subsection (3), that permission be refused, the planning authority shall not grant planning permission until it has consulted the Secretary of State following the procedures set out in provisions 10 to 12 of the Town & Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2009.”””
My Lords, I very much welcome the comments made last night by the Minister in the other place, who said that he intends,
“to work with colleagues to ensure that neighbourhood plans enjoy the primacy that we intend them to have in planning law”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/5/16; col. 462.]
I wholeheartedly endorse and welcome that commitment. However, I have prepared what I believe to be a significant compromise on the proposal that was agreed by this House during our last debate as a means to do just that.
Our previous amendment included a right of appeal—a limited one, but a right of appeal nevertheless. I understand that the Government saw that as a third-party right of appeal, which they did not wish to agree to. Therefore the amendment before your Lordships today does not push a third-party right of appeal but proposes a right to be heard. The proposal makes it clear that local authorities should have special regard to the policies in neighbourhood plans. It proposes that planning authorities must consult with neighbourhood plans and take account of their views before decisions are taken and, crucially, it provides for a call-in decision. I heard what the Minister said about call-ins if neighbourhood plan groups wish to ask for a call-in before a local authority makes a decision, but, crucially, they do not have that right once local authorities have refused an application which is contrary to that within a neighbourhood plan. That is a major barrier to encouraging more local groups to get involved in neighbourhood planning, which this House—and the Government—has said on many occasions we want to achieve because we know that neighbourhood plans deliver more homes.
The Bill needs to do all it can to ensure that local people invest the time and the effort in putting together neighbourhood plans so that we get the housing we need through consensus. Giving this extra weight to neighbourhood plans by allowing for this right to be heard—not a right of appeal—will mean that their plans will not be ignored or easily overturned. That seems a key to encouraging more neighbourhood plans to come into being, which is what the Government and all noble Peers have made it quite clear we want to achieve. This is a compromise amendment, therefore, on that basis, I beg to move.
My Lords, first, I refer noble Lords to my declaration of interests and declare that I am a locally elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham.
We have discussed the neighbourhood right of appeal on a number of occasions in your Lordships’ House, and I was convinced that the limited right of appeal, which the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, has put forward on a number of occasions, was the right approach. However, despite that and numerous discussions, the Government have not been persuaded that this is the correct way forward. That is disappointing.
The government amendment agreed in the Commons makes some moves in the right direction but, as the noble Baroness told the House on 4 May, what is proposed here, set out on page 5 of the Marshalled List before us today, is what you would expect any good local planning authority or planning officer to do anyway. Therefore, I am under no illusion that what is before us from the Government is a particularly significant concession. As I said earlier, that is disappointing, and we should go a bit further.
When I look at this Bill, I often reflect back on the Localism Act. It appears that the government Benches are less keen on localism than they may have been a few years ago. In general, they talk about localism when they like what is going on, and when they do not like it, we have to do what they say. As I said, there is a bit of a hokey-cokey on localism from the government Benches. That is not the way to go, and it is disappointing. The noble Baroness has given us another possibility, and maybe we will have some good news from the Minister.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for her amendment and for the way she has worked with me throughout the passage of the Bill—she might think not to very great effect, but we have had extensive debates regarding a neighbourhood right to appeal, and I am pleased that we are able to return to this issue in quite a constructive manner. We all agree on the importance of neighbourhood plans and we wish to see the planning system working without unnecessary costs and delays. We also wish to see the planning system deliver sustainable development and the homes our communities need.
While I very much welcome the direction of travel of the amendment, which is focused on the call-in process, now is not the time to pursue the matter. This issue was not part of the original Bill and the other place has made clear its approval of the Government’s amendment in lieu. The Minister for Planning and Housing has made it very clear that he is willing to work with colleagues to return to this issue in due course. I hope that this is as encouraging to noble Lords as it was to certain Members of the other place—and particularly to organisations such as CPRE which have lobbied on this matter.
Although the Government cannot support this amendment, I understand the advantage of an approach that is based on the existing call-in system and the constructive manner in which it was laid. The Government are willing to look at this issue further, and I hope that provides the reassurance to the noble Baroness for her to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for those remarks. I am obviously disappointed that, at this late stage, after, as she knows, so many compromises have been brought forward from this side on this issue, the Government do not feel able to accept something that will deliver what they want to achieve—more homes—because it will bring about more neighbourhood planning. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for his comments and share his reflections that localism does not always mean what we would wish it to mean on the government Benches. On these Benches, we trust local people and want them to get engaged in the planning process, and we believe that that is the way to deliver more homes and the stable communities of the future.
I accept, however, that there is more than one way to achieve what we all want to achieve. In withdrawing this amendment, I hope that the Minister’s comments yesterday about working with colleagues applies not only to colleagues in the other place, but to colleagues in this House who feel so strongly that local communities need to be involved and that that will help us to deliver the sustainable homes that we need.
Motion C1 withdrawn.
Motion C agreed.
That this House do not insist on its Amendment 108 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 108C in lieu.
108C: Page 76, line 26, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Review of minimum energy performance requirements
After section 2B of the Building Act 1984 insert—
“Duty to review minimum energy performance requirements
2C Review of minimum energy performance requirements
The Secretary of State must carry out a review of any minimum energy performance requirements approved by the Secretary of State under building regulations in relation to dwellings in England.””
My Lords, this amendment would place a statutory duty on the Government to undertake a review of minimum energy performance standards for new homes in England. It should be noted that there was very strong support in the other place for this new amendment, with a vote of 292 in favour of rejection compared to 205 against.
We share a common goal of wanting new homes to be energy efficient and for their occupants to have low energy bills. That is why in the last Parliament we introduced tough but fair minimum standards that require homebuilders to deliver highly energy-efficient homes that reduce energy bills by £200 a year compared to homes built before 2010.
We have said throughout the various debates that putting a minimum energy performance for new homes in primary legislation, without the benefit of any evidence that it will work or consultation, has the potential to push some small builders out of the industry and make developing much-needed homes in some areas unviable.
The Home Builders Federation—the voice of the industry—completely agrees with us about these concerns. It said of Amendment 108 that,
“such a standard would add to the complexity and costs for all sizes of home builder but would hit smaller home builders hard”.
The HBF also draws attention to,
“the specific challenges entailed in delivering performance standards such as the ‘carbon compliance standard’ successfully at scale and the consequent risks to housing supply of not getting the answers right.”
We recognise, however, that costs of energy efficiency measures and the industry’s understanding of them can improve over time. That is why we propose placing a statutory duty on this Government to undertake a review of energy standards for new homes. It will seek evidence on the costs of energy measures and the impact on housing supply and the benefits in terms of fuel bill and carbon savings. It will identify what is cost-effective and feasible.
The HBF also fully endorses such a review and says:
“Given the wide range of technical and other challenges involved in this field, the risk to businesses and housing delivery in further changes to regulatory requirements and the importance of increasing housing supply, such a review would provide the opportunity for all relevant issues and considerations to be properly weighed in determining the way ahead. It is essential such issues are fully addressed”.
Prescribing an energy performance standard without up-to-date evidence and analysis risks slowing down or halting much-needed new homes and driving small homebuilders away from the industry. We should not take such a risk with homes and businesses. I beg to move.
Motion D1 (as an amendment to Motion D)
Leave out from “108” to end and insert “, do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment 108C, and do propose Amendment 108D in lieu—
108D: After Clause 143, insert the following new Clause—
“Carbon compliance standard for new homes
(1) The Secretary of State must within twelve months of the passing of this Act make regulations under section 1(1) of the Building Act 1984 (power to make building regulations) for the purpose of ensuring that all new homes in England built from 1 April 2018 achieve the carbon compliance standard.
(2) For the purpose of subsection (1), “carbon compliance standard” means an improvement on the target carbon dioxide emission rate, as set out in the Building Regulations 2006, of 44%.””
My Lords, we return again the to the issue of building the homes that we need, ensuring at the same time that we contribute fully to meeting our greenhouse gas emission targets and lowering fuel bills.
I am very disappointed to see that the Government and the other place did not feel able to accept the amendment that we proposed. In lieu, the Government are proposing a review. I remind noble Lords that the zero-carbon homes standards were agreed during the time of the coalition, with industry-wide support. Again, we ask why there is a need for a review. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, so powerfully asked last week: how many more homes will have to be built before this review and the implementation date and any action coming out of that review takes place? Given that we are looking to build a million new homes, how many more of those homes will have to be retrofitted—at great cost to individual home owners—because we have added a requirement for a review, when we know what we need to do now? There is no guarantee of action at the end of the review proposed by the Government. Indeed, the Government are obliged anyway to review the building regulations by June next year as a condition of the 2010 energy performance of buildings directive.
Finally, on that point, given that it was the Government and the Chancellor who scrapped the zero-carbon homes last year—the Government throughout the process of this debate have refused to engage on anything other than the viability issues around the housebuilding industry; again, the Minister chose to quote only from the housebuilding industry this evening—it gives this House little confidence that the review will look, alongside viability for housebuilders, equally at the need to ensure that we meet our greenhouse gas emission targets and lower the energy bills of people so that we can contribute to meeting our fuel-poverty targets. Given that a third of our greenhouse gas emissions in this country come from buildings and two-thirds come from homes, my contention is that this is too important to leave to a review.
I accept, however, that at this late stage there is a need to move to a compromise. Therefore that is again what I have done today. The amendment before your Lordships is a compromise. At the last stage we were proposing carbon standards of 60% for detached properties, 56% for attached properties and 44% for flats. This compromise would set the reductions at 44% in greenhouse gases on the basis of comparison with the building regulations in 2016. That is the level that the Government recommended during their time in coalition as the on-site zero-carbon standards, which would take effect from this year. It is those standards that a growing number of local authorities were setting as a condition of giving planning permission, until they were scrapped by the then Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, last year. I point out that, between 2007 and 2014, 79,000 homes in England and Wales were built to this standard. Further, Scotland has introduced this standard already, last October, and the volume of houses to this standard is growing. Therefore, the standard is proven to be both effective and achievable.
As I told the Minister, I trawled through the Conservative manifesto this morning to study exactly what their commitments were in this area. The Conservative manifesto made a clear commitment to the legally binding climate change targets and to tackling fuel poverty. It made a very clear commitment—some of us in this House may not have liked it—to offer no further public subsidy to wind farms. That was the Government’s priority; it was in the manifesto and this House can therefore understand it. However, while they made no commitments on rowing back on building standards, they made a commitment to deliver on the greenhouse gas targets and to tackle fuel poverty.
Throughout this debate, all sides of this House have challenged the Government endlessly to make quite clear, if they intend to meet their greenhouse gas targets and are not prepared to accept this amendment, how they will meet those targets. The Bill is an opportunity to provide us with the sustainable homes that we need. This compromise amendment would put us back on the right trajectory towards getting more zero-carbon homes. It would help deliver on our greenhouse gas targets, ensure that people’s fuel bills were lower and at the same time deliver the homes that we need. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendment. I, too, am sorry that the Government have not accepted the compromise that has been brought forward from our previous discussion.
The Government’s reason for rejecting the amendment is that it would increase burdens on housebuilders and threaten delivery of the large number of new homes that is proposed, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, pointed out, how can this be true if 79,000 homes have already been built to this standard? The Scottish Government have adopted this standard; it is lower than the standard that has been adopted in London; and it is already being adopted by an increasing number of local authorities in their local plans. All that evidence seems to fly in the face of the Government’s objection. I find it hard to accept that it is a burden that the housebuilding industry would not be able to cope with and that it would threaten the delivery of new homes; the evidence on that just does not stack up.
We are offered instead a review. As the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, said, the problem with a review—we have the evidence, but let us say that we agree a review—is that we do not have a clear date for completing it nor a clear set of actions that will arise from it, and a review would not add to what is required under Article 4 of the 2010 energy performance of buildings directive. I hope that the Minister will give us some tighter commitments on the nature of the review that the Government are proposing. When will it be completed? Who will take part in it? What actions will flow from it? How does it go beyond what is required in the 2010 directive?
I do not want to reiterate the arguments that we have had, but we have not heard any argument throughout the passage of this Bill that says that this is not the right thing to do. We know that it is the right thing to do to cut our greenhouse gas emissions and to help to resolve the issues of fuel poverty. All the arguments against it have been obstacles such as, “It’ll be too difficult. The industry won’t like it. It’s all going to need more analysis”—paralysis by analysis, as we often hear. We know that it is the right thing to do. We know that if we do not do it now, we will have to come back to those houses that have been built and retrofit them with improved carbon standards in the future. The Minister should give us as much hope as possible that the Government are really committed to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions through buildings as well as through other sources—in this case, through buildings—and she should go further than simply offering yet another review.
My Lords, I obviously bow to the zeal of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on these matters. I only say to him that this is a Bill about housing and planning, and that I had not seen it as a stage to have a great national debate about energy policy.
This amendment seems to be very little different—it is in minor details, with the 44% applying as a base rather than a higher base relating to detached and attached houses—from that which the other place considered and voted on. As my noble friend from the Front Bench has said, that decision from the other place was conclusive and I see no reason to expect that it would be different in this case.
Having been a long observer of this Bill, I have to say that the Benches opposite have had a fair number of concessions and have been heard on quite a few things. With their offer of a review, the Government have given a fair and good response—I am sure that my noble friend will be able to provide more details to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Krebs—and I hope that this House will not send back an amendment that is broadly the same as that which has already been rejected by the other place. I urge my noble friend to stand firm on the matter.
My Lords, I was surprised that the Government rejected the Lords amendment in the other place last night and am pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, has brought back another amendment to be considered today by your Lordships’ House.
Resistance to this measure is puzzling to say the least. Delivering zero-carbon homes is an important standard that we should strive to achieve. It helps reduce our carbon footprint and gives people living in the properties to be built cheaper fuel bills.
In previous debates, the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, have relied a number of times on the opposition of the Federation of Master Builders despite there being numerous organisations that support the measure. The noble Viscount said that he would write to me giving a list of other organisations that support the Government’s position. I have not had that letter yet; perhaps the Minister could tell me when I will get it, because it would be useful to see who these other organisations are. It is also important to remember, as the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, reminded us, that the zero-carbon homes standard was agreed by the coalition Government in the last Parliament.
As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said—the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, also mentioned it—we do not want in a few years’ time to be required to undertake expensive retrofit measures when we could have done the work during the initial construction at a fraction of the cost.
The Government’s claims as to the initial costs are just not convincing. At no point during our consideration of this part of the Bill have I felt that the Government made a convincing or compelling case for why this measure should not be supported. If the noble Baroness wishes to test the opinion of the House, we will support her.
My Lords, just to say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, I will chase my noble friend. I think he might have gone to get the letter, actually.
It is helpful that the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, has revised the carbon compliance standard in her new amendment, but we still do not know the risks it may pose to the viability of home building in some parts of the country, or the impact it may have on the home building industry, particularly some small builders. We need a clear understanding of what is technically possible, viable and cost effective to make any changes to energy performance standards for new homes. That is why we are introducing a statutory duty on this Government to undertake a full and comprehensive review of energy standards based on cost effectiveness and the impact on housing supply. We will report back to this House on the outcome of the review within the next 12 months.
The other place has given its considerable support to this review based on cost effectiveness, and it is supported by the Home Builders Federation—the main trade body that represents home builders of all sizes. The Housing Minister in the other place also pointed out the following yesterday:
“We said in our manifesto that we will meet our climate change commitments and that we will do so by cutting emissions ‘as cost-effectively as possible’. The electorate voted for that and the review will help to ensure that we can deliver it”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/5/16; col. 463.]
So before the other place considers any changes to energy performance standards, home builders and the electorate think that we first need to have an understanding of what is cost effective. Is it right that we should go against their views?
Finally, I remind the House that it is not prudent to set requirements such as this in primary legislation. If, in the light of consultation, any slight adjustment to requirements were needed, we would not be able to do so without further primary legislation. Therefore, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am deeply disappointed that the Government do not feel able to accept this amendment. While I heard what the Minister said, it is still not clear exactly how the Government will meet their binding climate change commitments if they will not accept the amendment. They talk about doing so in a cost-effective manner, but the trajectory of the roadmap is unclear if we do not propose a building standards target.
The Minister talks about the risks the amendment might pose to building homes, yet we know that local authorities up and down the country already insist on this standard as a condition for planning permission. We know that London is going further and that Scotland is taking this forward in an effective way. My contention, therefore, is that the Government have not been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that their measure will not stop us building the houses we need; it certainly will not help us to meet our greenhouse gas targets or our fuel poverty obligations.
Even if we accepted the case for a review, there is absolutely no commitment in what the Minister has said today to government action at the end of the review. Nothing might happen. It was the Chancellor who last year cancelled and scrapped the zero carbon aims, and it was the previous Secretary of State who cancelled the code for sustainable homes, and I am afraid that that does not give me enough comfort that there is a real and genuine commitment to act. Similarly, the Minister again talked about cost effectiveness. Yes, we need homes that are cost effective but we must at the same time meet our greenhouse gas targets and contribute to our fuel poverty obligations. It is those three things together, not just cost effectiveness.
This amendment is another compromise, and it should be accepted this time. It would make a significant contribution in delivering the homes we need, in meeting our greenhouse gas targets and in lowering fuel bills. I deeply regret that the Government will not accept it, and I wish to test the opinion of the House.
10 May 2016
Division on Amendment D1
Amendment D1 disagreed.View Details
Motion D agreed.
That this House do not insist on its Amendment 110 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 110C in lieu.
110C: Page 77, line 42, at end insert the following new Clause—
The Secretary of State must carry out a review of planning legislation, government planning policy and local planning policies concerning sustainable drainage in relation to the development of land in England.”
My Lords, the Government have recognised, here and in the other place, the depths of everyone’s concerns about managing the risk from flooding. My colleague the Minister of State for Housing and Planning said in the other place:
“The Government are committed to ensuring that developments are safe from flooding, and the delivery of sustainable drainage systems is part of our planning policy, which was strengthened just over a year ago. Our policy is still new, as I outlined in more detail last week, and I am willing to consider issues further as it matures. I am happy to review the effectiveness of current policy and legislation on sustainable drainage and to place that commitment on the face of the Bill”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/5/16; col. 463.]
This amendment, proposed by the other place, introduces an express duty on the Government to carry out a statutory review of the strengthened planning policy in respect of sustainable drainage systems.
As I have made clear, the National Planning Policy Framework includes strong planning policies aimed at assessing, avoiding and managing risk from flooding. These policies apply to all sources of flooding, including from surface water run-off and overloaded sewers. Our planning policy guidance makes it plain that local councils must consider the strict policy tests that protect people and property from flooding, and gives local councils a clear mandate to reject unacceptable planning applications. This includes consideration of whether sustainable drainage provision in a development is appropriate. This planning policy was strengthened just last year.
I am confident that we have a strong package of measures in place that will ensure development is safe from flooding. I am also confident that sustainable drainage is given a full role in this. However, it is very important that any judgment about how this planning policy is performing on the ground must be based on reliable, up-to-date evidence. For that reason, we believe that the correct approach is to review how effective the policy has been over a sensible period of time before putting in place any new requirements or changes. Any changes should be based on the evidence and recommendations from the review. Evidence offered to this House to date is at best anecdotal and cannot be a firm basis for legislation. I therefore ask that noble Lords accept that this is a sensible approach. I beg to move.
Motion E1 (as an amendment to Motion E)
Leave out from “110” to end and insert “, do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment 110C, and do propose Amendment 110D in lieu—
110D: After Clause 151, insert the following new Clause—
“Review of sustainable drainage
(1) The Secretary of State must—
(a) carry out a review of planning legislation, government planning policy and local planning policies concerning sustainable drainage in relation to the development of land in England,
(b) carry out a review of the proportion of new developments in England that include sustainable drainage systems that are constructed and maintained in accordance with the non-statutory technical standards for sustainable drainage systems, or any replacement standards as may be published by the Minister from time to time,
(c) prepare a report setting out the findings of the reviews and any action that the Secretary of State proposes to take in response to those findings, and
(d) lay the report before Parliament no later than 31 April 2017.
(2) In subsection (1) “development” includes both development that is major development (within the meaning given by article 2(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (S.I. 2015/595)) and development that is not.””
My Lords, this amendment and the previous debates concern ensuring that the homes that we want deliver sustainable drainage, with the benefit of protecting home owners from floods and wider amenity benefits to communities and to biodiversity. I am disappointed that the Government and the Commons did not feel able to accept amendments that this House voted for to end the automatic right to connect for housebuilders. However, I thank the Minister for what is being proposed now in terms of a concession on the review, which we believe will demonstrate all too clearly that the evidence on the ground that we have heard about in this Chamber on numerous occasions shows that SUDS are not being delivered.
However, the amendment we propose is to ensure that the review will be thorough. First, it would ensure that the review looks not just at policy but at actual developments; and that there is a robust sample size, taking into account the proportion of new developments and the type of SUDS being implemented. Secondly, it would ensure that the review is timely. The Climate Change Committee will report to Parliament next June. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, will want to say more about this. It will consider the penetration of sustainable urban drainage. It is therefore vital that any review undertaken can report so that the adaptation sub-committee has that information, can assess it and provide appropriate advice to Parliament by the time the report is published in June.
I hope that the Minister, in summing up, will be able to reassure the House that the review will indeed be thorough; that she will reassure the House that the Government accept the strength of feeling on this issue that the House has demonstrated on numerous occasions; and that we will be able to deliver the sustainable urban drainage systems that we all want to see. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should declare that I am the chairman of the Adaptation Sub-Committee, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, referred. Listening to what both she and the Minister said, I did not think there was too big a gap between their amendments. The Minister said that the review of policies would be robust and evidence-based. For me, part of the evidence base will be whether the policies are working on the ground. I hope that, when the Minister sums up, she will say that the review will also include looking at evidence of what is happening on the ground.
It is important to recognise that this is not just evidence from high flood risk areas. According to figures that I have been given from the insurance industry, 70% of claims for flood damage come from buildings outside high flood risk areas. This is because surface water flooding does not necessarily occur in the same place as coastal or fluvial flooding. If we could get confirmation on that point, it would be extremely reassuring both to me and to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter.
On the question of timing, as the noble Baroness has said, my committee will submit its statutory report to Parliament next summer on the Government’s progress in preparing for the impacts of climate change. This includes the impacts of flood risk, which are likely to increase in future. In writing our report, it would be helpful for us to have the output of this review available at some time in the spring of 2017. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I was surprised that the Government rejected this amendment when it went to the other place. Ensuring that we build homes and have sustainable drainage is a positive thing. When we discussed this matter the other day, the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, sought to remove the automatic right of connection to ensure that the drainage system would be considered and resolved early on and not left to the end. It was suggested that the amendment was unnecessary or unworkable. I am not convinced that either is the case.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, proposed Motion E. This goes some way in the right direction. It commits the Government to,
“carry out a review concerning sustainable drainage in relation to the development of land in England”.
That is to be welcomed, but I am aware that a review is a review and it commits the Government to nothing beyond that. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked some pertinent questions about timescales—when the review will come before Parliament and what action will come out of it. When the Minister responds to the debate, it would be useful if she could cover these points.
My Lords, I emphasise that we are committed to ensuring that developments are safe from flooding and that the delivery of SUDS—if I can call it that—forms part of our policy approach. Both the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, asked whether the review would be thorough, robust and look at evidence on the ground. The answer to all three is yes.
The Motion moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, would include a review of all development, the scope of which would be too broad. The amendment also refers to the non-statutory technical standards, which is for guidance only. I therefore cannot accept the amendment. I hope that noble Lords will accept that, while we join them in supporting the use of SUDS, it would not be appropriate to make changes at this point, until we have the evidence on which to base any changes.
My Lords, the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, talks about a date of 31 April 2017. There is nothing in the government amendment. Can the Minister give the House any idea of timescale?
My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said about his committee reporting back next summer, so I will work, as I hope I always do, with noble Lords constructively towards a suitable timescale, though I cannot give the commitment at this point.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for those remarks. They are indicative of the thoughtful and careful way in which she has handled negotiations on this difficult Bill. I am grateful for the time she has given to me and to other Members of this Chamber, particularly on this issue. I know it means so much to her and to other Members around this House. It will directly affect home owners who have already, in recent months, been so devastatingly affected by flooding. We have to ensure that houses we build in future do not lay them open to unnecessary flooding risks.
I am clearly disappointed that previous amendments which I think were reasonable were rejected but I accept the kind offer from the Government of a review. The Minister has given reassurances from the Dispatch Box around the thoroughness of the review and working towards a date to enable comments to come forward in a timely manner so that the House can hear from the Committee on Climate Change. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion E1, as an amendment to Motion E, withdrawn.
Motion E agreed.