Mr. Meacher: I am glad to endorse what my hon. Friend has rightly said, and to join him in supporting new clause 2. Local authorities that use their discretionary powers to extend the licensing of HMOs to properties not covered by mandatory national registration will need to report, and consult, on their local schemes after five years. We do not propose that the Secretary of State should have to approve every local authority scheme after five years, because that would create a sizeable bureaucratic logjam. However, it is right that, in the context of local housing policies, local variations should be subject to local consultation after a reasonable period. I am happy to go into more detail if hon. Members wish, but that is the basis of the provision.
In taking this opportunity to discuss Government amendment No. 10, I should point out that, according to the terms of amendment No. 9, regulations under clause 3 will involve the potentially time-consuming process of seeking the affirmative resolution of both Houses. The Bill prescribes a deadline of two months for its coming into force, and Government amendment No. 10 will extend that period by four months, to six months. The Bill prescribes a deadline of 12 months, after its coming into force for local authorities to have in place registration schemes. The amendment will therefore allow up to 18 months for the putting in place of regulations to define the HMOs that local authorities must register. That will follow a period of public consultation and debate in both Houses. On that basis, I commend both amendments to the House.
Mr. Sayeed: I had intended to confine the majority of my remarks on HMOs to the third group of amendments, but given what the Minister has just said about Government amendment No. 10, I shall mention some of them now.
We have no particular difficulty with new clause 2. We acknowledge that the Government have recognised, and sought to address, several of the worries that we expressed in Committee and the on Second Reading. However, my understanding was that all regulations subsequent to the Bill's enactment will be reviewed in Parliament by affirmative resolution, and that amendment No. 9, to which the Minister referred, will apply only to HMOs. I ask the Minister to confirm that it will apply to regulations that define a "prescribed relationship", and to regulations "prescribing descriptions of buildings". Why will regulations dealing with registration schemes after the Bill's enactment not be reviewed in Parliament by affirmative resolution? That would at least ensure that we can debate them. For the avoidance of doubt, I will also
I am slightly worried by the Minister's comments. I understand his point about time scales, but the fact is that, although the Bill was published some eight months ago, the Government decided to table amendments to it just 24 hours before today's debate. I fear that the explanation is that ill-thought out legislation, drafted by civil servants, has been pushed past Ministers without their understanding its implications. Unless we in this House can scrutinise new proposals, I fear that we will end up with thoroughly bad regulationsa point on which I shall expand later.
Although we support new clause 2, which addresses a number of questions that we raised on Second Reading and in Committee, we expect the Minister to explain why all regulations subsequent to the Bill's enactment will not be reviewed by Parliament through affirmative resolution.
Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): I congratulate the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) on introducing this Bill, and I am honoured to be a sponsor of it. I fear that it has been somewhat emasculated, but we are all adults, and we know the practicalities involved in getting legislation on to the statute book. However, having listened to and participated in the debates on new clause 2 in Committee, I say in support of the hon. Gentleman and the Minister that this constitutes a much better way to get the legislation on to the statute book. The original measure was seen by private landlords, at least, as far too inflexible and draconian, but the Bill before us strikes a better balance. I conclude by reiterating my support for new clause 2, and for Government amendment No. 10.
Mr. Meacher: The complaint raised by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) is unreasonable. He seems to want to extend the proposal in amendment No. 9 so that regulations under clause 3 are made by affirmative, rather than negative, resolution, but that would also extend the requirement to other regulations. If we went down that route, the Government would not only need to seek Parliament's affirmative approval for regulations defining properties classified as HMOs but regulations prescribing the form of registration, the model scheme and control provisions would also require debate in both Houses. That would involve significant parliamentary time.
Regulations prescribing the form of registration will seek to define the number of storeys of buildings covered by the definitiona significant aspect of that definition. However, the key point is that, in general, matters that are not envisaged as being subject to affirmative resolution are those that are not currently subject to parliamentary scrutiny. I believe that we have struck the right balance between an appropriate use of parliamentary time and ensuring that measures that are subject to parliamentary scrutiny are indeed so scrutinised. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are certainly not trying to pass legislation through this House without proper scrutiny.
Mr. Sayeed: The hon. Gentleman mentioned amendments that he had expected. Did he mean that he had expected that more regulations to be made subsequent to the passing of the Act would be considered by Parliament under the positive resolution procedure?
Dr. Turner: That was what I meant. I was as surprised as the hon. Gentleman to find only one amendment to clause 3 to that effect on the amendment paper when it was published yesterday, when it was of course too late to correct that by tabling further amendments. However, depending on Mr. Speaker's ruling, we may be able to return to that point later this morning. I hope that the House will endorse new clause 2.
'(1) After section 2 of the principal Act there is inserted
"2A Energy efficiency reports
(1) Where a target applies for the time being to an energy conservation authority in England and Wales, the authority shall prepare a report in accordance with this section.
(2) The report shall set out the energy conservation measures that the authority considers practicable, costeffective and likely to result in the target being met.
(3) An energy conservation authority in England and Wales shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, implement so as to meet the target any report which it has prepared in accordance with this section and published.
(4) In this section a target means a requirement to achieve an improvement (which may be expressed as a percentage) in the energy efficiency of residential accommodation in the authority's area within a specified time.
(5) A target applies to an authority at any time when
(a) the Secretary of State, after consulting the Local Government Association of England and Wales, has made a determination specifying the target and providing for it to apply to the authority or to authorities including the authority, and
(b) the target has been published in any manner the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(6) The Secretary of State may by a further determination made after consultation with the association and so published vary any previous determination and any target shall have effect accordingly.
(7) Subsections (3) to (7) of section 2 apply for the purposes of this section.
(8) On the application to an authority of a target under this section, this Act so far as it relates to reports under section 2 ceases to apply in relation to the authority".
(2) In sections 3 (functions of Secretary of State) and 5(1) (modification) of the principal Act, after each mention of "section 2" there is inserted "or 2A", and
(a) at the end of section 4(2) there is inserted "for the purposes of reports under section 2",