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Housing Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): On Friday the Government tabled amendments to the Housing Bill, which is currently being considered by the House in Committee. These amendments meet a number of the recommendations of the Park Homes Working Party and aim to deal with some of the key concerns about the existing legislation.

They amend the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to require a written statement of terms to be given to a prospective occupier 28 days before the agreement to station a park home on a site is entered into. At present Written statements may be given up to three months after the agreement has commenced.

In the event of the owner failing to produce the written statement in advance, any express terms contained in the agreement will not be enforceable at the suit of the owner. This is to encourage the site owner to produce the written statement in advance, and is not likely to hold up the process of a sale.

The amendments create a power by which the Secretary of State (in Wales the National Assembly for Wales) can add additional terms to be implied into the agreement, and repeal and vary those in the Mobile Homes Act 1983. This power might be used, for example, to give an occupier the right to quiet enjoyment of their home, whereas currently an occupier would have to go to court to have this term implied into their agreement.

Because existing agreements are of infinite duration, we need to be able to amend the statutory implied terms for existing agreements, where these are clearly inadequate. Provision has therefore been made for the first exercise of the power to have retrospective effect, i.e. to allow amendment of the implied terms operating as part of existing agreements. Future exercises of the power will be non-retrospective. Any order made under the power is subject to affirmative resolution by both Houses of Parliament, and the clause contains a consultation requirement for the Secretary of State to consult interested parties as to the proposed amendments. Representatives of both site owners and occupiers will therefore be consulted about the terms of any order to be made.

Site owners will in future have a time limit of 28 days for giving or withholding approval of a prospective purchaser. By the end of this time limit a decision must have been given in writing. If not, the occupier can apply to the court for an order giving approval to that purchaser, which if given would involve the site owner in costs.

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The age of a home is removed as a relevant criterion for ending an agreement. Currently a site owner may terminate an agreement on grounds of 'age and condition' of the unit. The amendment will remove the reference to age from the 1983 Act, as the age of a unit is irrelevant. The amendment will enable courts to consider the condition of the unit and to allow time for appropriate repairs (if reasonably practicable).

The amendments increase the protection of occupiers of park homes against harassment and illegal eviction by amending the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to mirror the wording in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, which governs the protection given to occupiers of conventional housing against eviction and harassment. The wording for the existing offence for a site owner doing "acts calculated to interfere with the peace or comfort" of the occupier which cause him to abandon his home, has been relaxed to "acts likely to interfere" with such peace or comfort, which is obviously an easier test to satisfy. A new offence has been introduced which does not require specific intent by a site owner or his agent to cause an occupier to abandon his home. This will increase the protection available to occupiers and the chances of successful prosecutions.

The remaining recommendations of the Working Party need further work to ensure that when fully implemented they will work effectively in practice. To that end, we have recently commissioned consultants to develop proposals on the implementation of the recommendations in relation to site licensing.


Supplementary Estimates

The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid): Subject to the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the Department of Health's element of the Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) will be increased by £262,454,000 from £65,583,213,000 to £65,845,667,000 and the Administration Cost Limit will decrease by £4,042,000 from £297,448,000 to £293,406,000. The overall DEL including the Food Standards Agency will increase by the same amount £262,454,000 from £65,722,240,000 to £65,984,694,000. The impact on resource and capital are set out in the following table.

£ million£ million£ million£ million
Department of Health
Resource DEL95.348 63,334.252 -310.127 63,024.125
Capital DEL 167.106 653.611 2,167.931 2,821.542
Total Department of Health DEL 262.454 63,987.863 1,857.804 65,845.667
Depreciation* 0.078 -352.570 -44.369 -396.939
Total Department of Health spending (after adjustment) 262.532 63,635.293 1,813.435 65,448.728
Food Standards Agency
Resources 0 136.368 0 136.368
Capital 0 2.659 0 2.659
Total Food Standard Agency DEL0 139.027 0 139.027
Depreciation* 0 -2.004 0 -2.004
Total Food Standards Agency spending (after adjustment) 0 137.023 0 137.023

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*Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since the capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The change in the DEL arises from the take up of end year flexibility £260,978,000 (£1,572,000 administration costs) for capital, revenue and administration budgets as set out in Table 6 of the Public Expenditure 2002–03 Provisional Outturn White Paper Cm 5884 published in July 2003. A net transfer from the Home Office of £1,980,000 (£50,000 administration costs) mainly for training costs at special hospitals, drugs misuse pilot projects and voluntary sector care projects helping to increase volunteers in intermediate care; from the Department of Trade and Industry £1,070,000 (£70,000 administration costs) for contributions towards the human genetics commission and to support development of genetics knowledge parks to increase understanding into a range of genetic based issues including research; from the Department for Work and Pensions £10,343,000 for the NHS low income scheme and a contribution to the care direct budget; to the Scotland Executive £88,000 for their share of the reimbursement from manufacturers 3M associated with the ending of a hip replacement programme; a net transfer to the Department for Education and Skills £12,544,000 (£-1,733,000 administration costs) mainly for capital projects, machinery of government changes and NHS diploma students offset by contributions towards teenage pregnancy, children's trusts and communications budgets; a net transfer from the DHSS Northern Ireland £735,000 for out of area treatments offset by a contribution to CJD care fund; to the National Assembly for Wales £20,000 (administration costs) for prison healthcare.

The administration cost limit has reduced by £4,042,000 from £297,448,000 to £293,406,000. In addition to the changes detailed above there is a decrease of £3,981,000 for transfers to programme budgets mainly for capitalisation of software developments.

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Supplementary Estimates

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy): Subject to Parliamentary approval of any necessary Supplementary Estimate, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) DEL will be increased by £28,325,000 from £1,180,916,000 to £1,209,241,000. The administration cost limit has been increased by £34,000 from £163,375,000 to £163,409,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:

Change New DEL Of which:Voted Non-voted
Resource 28,325 1,136,389 400,441 735,948
Capital 0 72,852 30,113 42,739
Depreciation* 10,956 22,209 27,467 49,676
Total 17,369 408,345 751,220 1,159,565

* Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The change in the resource element of the DEL arises from a change in the budgeting treatment for pension schemes (£25,000,000) and from the net effect of transfers to and from other Government Departments (£3,325,000). The increase in administration costs (£34,000) is also, as a net effect of transfers to and from other Government Departments.

General Consumer Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ian Pearson): The General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland 2002–03 annual report and accounts were deposited in the Library of the House today.

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