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It has been suggested that the way to achieve that aim is to change the use class definition of a dwelling-house and to place use as an HMO outside the definitionthe placing of an HMO into the category of use changes that always need planning permission. That is, essentially, what has been done in Northern Ireland. That route is attractive, but the numbers entailed in the revised order in Northern Irelandmore than two unrelated people in a housesuggest that there might be difficulties in defining what
relationships trigger what definition, and whether a small HMO can in reality be said to lead to a real effect on land use as a result of the change in the nature of occupation.
In my view, it would be far simpler to bring the definitions in the Housing Act 2004 of numbers licensable, and what constitutes a family, into planning lawin this instance into the use class and schedules in the use class order derived from the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. My Bill would redefine an HMO as requiring planning permission for change of use if more than four people were to occupy the house, and to bring the Housing Act 2004 definition of a family into planning law. In that way, local authorities would have the ability, subject to all the proper safeguards and requirements of the planning process, to determine whether all but the smallest HMOs should receive the go-ahead. That might be backed up by guidance statements about density in local planning framework documents. Local authorities would also be able to cross-reference the houses coming before them for licensing purposes to check whether those houses should go through the planning process, and whether enforcement action should be taken. In truth, this Bill would be a modest amendment to existing planning law; indeed, it would amend existing orders following primary legislation.
The Bill is modest, but it could have a large effect on the weave of the local variety of housing provision in localities in towns and cities, so that the unplanned and often unanticipated swing of entire streets or neighbourhoods towards HMOs would become, over time, a thing of the past. I therefore commend the Bill to the Housebut in the uneasy knowledge that it is just possible that it may not complete its passage through the House, even if its progress is agreed today.
I therefore also commend the provisions in the Bill to Ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government, who by felicitous coincidence are sitting on the Treasury Bench this afternoon in anticipation of future business. I say to them that spending an afternoon Upstairs in Committee would make a real and substantial difference to the future mix and balance of communities, as I have described today.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Dr. Alan Whitehead, Mr. John Denham, Mr. Andy Reid, Dr. Roberta Blackman-Woods, Alan Simpson, Dr. Phyllis Starkey, Martin Salter, Sandra Gidley and Fiona Mactaggart.
Dr. Alan Whitehead accordingly presented a Bill to require planning approval for the change of use of housing to multiple occupation; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 19 October, and to be printed [Bill 109].
As amended in the Public Bill Committee, further considered.
(1) Part 1 of the Local Government Act 2000 (c. 22) (promotion of economic, social or environmental well-being etc) is amended as follows.
(2) In section 3(7) (limits on power to promote well-being) and section 4(5) (strategies for promoting well-being), for the National Assembly for Wales substitute the Welsh Ministers.
(3) In section 5 (power to amend or repeal enactments relating to power to promote well-being), for subsection (4) substitute
(4) In exercising the power under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must not make any provision which has effect in relation to Wales unless he has consulted the Welsh Ministers.
(4A) In exercising the power under subsection (1), the Secretary of State
(a) must not make any provision amending, repealing or disapplying any Measure or Act of the National Assembly for Wales without the consent of the National Assembly for Wales, and
(b) must not make any provision amending, revoking or disapplying subordinate legislation made by the Welsh Ministers (or the National Assembly for Wales established under the Government of Wales Act 1998) without the consent of the Welsh Ministers.
(4B) Subsection (4A) does not apply to the extent that the Secretary of State is making incidental or consequential provision.
(4) In subsection (5) of that section, for The National Assembly for Wales substitute The Welsh Ministers.
(5) In section 6 (power to modify enactments concerning plans etc)
(a) in subsection (1), at the end insert so far as that enactment has effect in relation to a local authority in England; and
(b) omit subsections (5) and (6).
(6) In section 7 (power to modify enactments concerning plans etc: Wales)
(i) for the National Assembly for Wales substitute the Welsh Ministers; and
(ii) for to which subsection (2) applies substitute (whenever passed or made) which requires a local authority to prepare, produce or publish any plan or strategy relating to any particular matter;
(c) in subsection (4), for the National Assembly for Wales considers substitute the Welsh Ministers consider; and
(7) At the end of that section insert
(8) An order under this section may not make a provision which, if it were a provision of a Measure of the National Assembly for Wales, would be outside the Assemblys legislative competence.
(9) For the purposes of subsection (8), section 94(4) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 has effect as if paragraph (a) (matters within legislative competence) were omitted.
(10) Subject to subsection (11), a statutory instrument which contains an order under this section is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of the National Assembly for Wales.
(11) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section which is made only for the purpose of amending an earlier such order
(a) so as to extend the earlier order, or any provision of the earlier order, to a particular authority or to authorities of a particular description, or
(b) so that the earlier order, or any provision of the earlier order, ceases to apply to a particular authority or to authorities of a particular description,
is to be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of the National Assembly for Wales..
(8) In section 9 (procedure for orders under section 5 or 6)
(a) in subsection (2), for the National Assembly for Wales substitute the Welsh Ministers; and
(b) in subsection (3)(d), for the National Assembly for Wales substitute the Welsh Ministers.. [Angela E. Smith.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Angela E. Smith): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments No. 56 and 58.
Angela E. Smith: New clause 1 amends part 1 of the Local Government Act 2000, which concerns the promotion of social, economic or environmental well-being. The amendments are needed as a consequence of power being given to the National Assembly for Wales in schedule 14 to the Bill, which will enable the Assembly to make an Assembly Measure in relation to community strategies prepared under the 2000 Act. The amendment to section 5 of the 2000 Act will prevent the Secretary of State from using, without consent, an order-making power to amend, repeal, revoke or disapply certain enactments that relate to Wales if she believes they will obstruct the well-being powers in the 2000 Act.
The Secretary of State will be able to amend an Assembly Measure only with the consent of the National Assembly, and Welsh subordinate legislation only with the consent of Welsh Ministers. Furthermore, the Secretary of State must not use the power under section 5(1) to make provision which has effect in Wales without first consulting Welsh Ministers. That reflects the formal separation of the National Assemblys legislative and executive functions under the Government of Wales Act 2006.
The amendment to section 6 of the 2000 Act will confine to England the Secretary of States power to amend, repeal, revoke or disapply any enactment that requires a local authority to prepare, produce or publish any plan or strategy. In doing so, the equivalent power in respect of Wales will be conferred on Welsh Ministers. The amendment will ensure consistency with the wider devolved responsibility for local government in Wales and with the powers that the Bill will confer
on the National Assembly. It will also remove any inadvertent need for the Assembly to seek the consent of the Secretary of State when making legislation that substantively affects only devolved matters.
As a result of the new clause, amendments Nos. 56 and 58 are needed to repeal sections 6(5), 6(6), 7(2) and 7(6) of the 2000 Act and to commence the amendments two months after the Bill is enacted. I commend the new clause and the amendments to the House.
Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): I welcome the Minister and thank her for that brief explanation of the amendments. When we asked her Department last week whether explanatory notes on the new clauses were available, we were told that they would not be available until the Bill reaches the House of Lords. I was therefore a little in the dark, but her clear explanation has helped me to some degree.
The amendments represent a perfectly proper devolutionary measure, which we welcome. That is a slight contrast with other elements of the Bill. As Ministers knowwe will discuss this when we reach some of the other clausesour main hesitation is that we are not sure that it is truly a devolutionary measure, despite the Governments protestations otherwise. In some areaswe will probably divide on some of themwe wish that there had been greater devolution than is proposed. However, in this instance, as in other parts of the Bill, the Minister is definitely doing the job, which is welcome.
It will be a matter of interest to see how the new relationship between the Government and the National Assembly for Wales works after the little stir of the mix in the Celtic firmament. The cosy relationships between Labour Administrations north of the border and west of Offas dyke will create an interesting but necessary tension as localism and devolution are properly explored between the Assembly and Parliament. Another necessary tension to be explored between localism and devolution is that of local authorities and Westminster, particularly as the mix has been well and truly stirred by the results of the last set of local elections. As I read them out last Thursday, I do not intend to do so again, but we all know the score in that respect.
In a desire to move on, without further ado I welcome the amendments and appreciate the Ministers explanation.
Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): I welcome the opportunity to agree with the Government and celebrate the outbreak of fraternity and sorority in Cardiff, although that was five minutes ago and it may be different now. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that the Government here will work with the Government in Cardiff, whatever their political complexion, in the spirit of openness, trust and progress.
Angela E. Smith: We may have had our first champagne moment, given that we all agreeand my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government says that he is buying.
Perhaps hon. Members misunderstand the new clauses intention. It has not been introduced in the spirit of party political advantageit is the right thing to do to
devolve power. The complexion of an authoritywhether the Welsh Assembly Government or local authorities, which later provisions coveris not relevant to the spirit of devolution that we are promoting today. I am grateful for the support of hon. Members of different parties.
The hon. Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) mentioned explanatory notes. Much of the content of the measure and the amendments that the Government are introducing today are responses to discussions in Committee. As we go through the Bill, hon. Members will note the Governments enormous effort to respond to our wide-ranging and positive debate. That has inevitably delayed some of the explanatory notes. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the delay is the result of the spirit of co-operation.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
In the Local Government Act 1992 (c. 19), after section 14 insert
14A Requests for single-member electoral areas
(1) A principal council which falls within subsection (3) may request the Electoral Commission
(a) to give the Boundary Committee for England a direction under section 13(3) relating to the councils area, and
(b) to direct that Committee (under section 13(6)) that their recommendations under section 13(3) must contain recommendations as to single-member electoral areas.
(2) In subsection (1) recommendations as to single-member electoral areas means a recommendation, as respects each electoral area in the councils area, as to whether the electoral area should return one councillor.
(3) A principal council falls within this subsection if
(a) it is not the case that each of the electoral areas in the councils area returns one councillor, and
(b) the council is subject to a scheme for whole-council elections.
(4) A council is subject to a scheme for whole-council elections if, in each year in which ordinary elections of councillors of the council are to be held, all the councillors are to be elected.
(5) If the Electoral Commission grant a request under this section
(a) they must notify the Boundary Committee for England of the request when they give the directions requested, and
(b) subject to subsection (6), where the Boundary Committee for England make recommendations under section 13(3) in response to those directions they must recommend that each electoral area in the councils area should return one councillor.
(6) Subsection (5)(b) does not require the Boundary Committee for England to make any recommendation that they consider would be inappropriate having regard to the matters which they are required by section 13(5)(a) to (c) to have regard to.
(7) If the Electoral Commission decide not to grant a request under this section they must notify the council that made the request of
14B Provision supplementary to section 14A
(1) Nothing in section 14A prevents the Electoral Commission
(a) from making a direction under section 13 where there has been no request under section 14A, or
(b) if they grant a request under section 14A, from making directions under section 13(6) in addition to the one requested.
(2) Nothing in section 14A prevents the Boundary Committee for England, when making a recommendation as to whether electoral areas should return one councillor, from making other recommendations under section 13(3).
(3) In section 14A(2) and (5) references to electoral areas are, in relation to a case where the Boundary Committee for England make recommendations for change to the number or boundaries of electoral areas in the councils area, to the recommended electoral areas.. [Angela E. Smith.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Angela E. Smith: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government new clause 5 Duty of local authority to provide Boundary Committee with information.
Government new clause 6 Consequential amendments.
Amendment No. 163, in clause 37, page 21, line 4, at end insert
(4) Subject to the provisions of subsection (3) the local authority may from time to time make proposals to adjust the number of councillors per ward and must hold a referendum in the ward or wards affected before taking any steps to implement them
(5) The local authority may not pass a resolution which makes the proposed change or changes unless the result of the referendum is to approve the proposals.
(6) If the result of the referendum is not to approve the proposals, the local authority must publish in one or more newspapers circulating in its area a notice which
(b) states that the referendum did not approve the proposals;
(c) summarises the authoritys existing arrangements; and
(d) states that the authority will be continuing to operate those arrangements..
Amendment No. 265, in clause 39, page 22, line 16, at end insert
(1A) An order under subsection (1) must be made at least a year before it is due to take effect..
Government new schedule 1 Elections: consequential amendments.
Angela E. Smith: New clause 4 would give councils greater flexibility about the arrangements of their wards or divisions. It gives councils the ability to initiate a move to single-member electoral areas by granting them a power to make requests about such provision in their area. It does that in a way that safeguards propriety and avoids any risks of perceived gerrymandering, unlike the amendments that Conservative Members have tabled. The new clause achieves those safeguards through maintaining the involvement of the independent Electoral Commission and the independent boundary committee.
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