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31 Mar 2008 : Column 444

New clause 8— Subsidy arrangements: formula and exclusions—

‘(1) In section 80 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (c. 42) (calculation of Housing Revenue Account subsidy) after subsection (3) insert—

“(3A) In determining a formula for the purposes of this section for any year, the Secretary of State shall take into account—

(a) the resources required properly to manage, maintain and repair houses and other properties within their respective Housing Revenue Accounts,

(b) research into these matters, and

(c) the resources required to enable respective authorities to acquire, rehabilitate and build new housing to be held within their Housing Revenue Accounts that contributes to meeting the need for affordable housing within their respective areas.’.

New clause 9— Orders for possession—

‘Section 7 (orders for possession) of the Housing Act 1988 (c. 50) is amended as follows—

(1) In subsection (3), at the beginning of the subsection, add “Subject to subsection (3A)”.

(2) After subsection (3), add the following subsection—

“(3A) Ground 8 in Part 1 of Schedule 2 shall not be used in possession proceedings brought by registered providers of social housing, as defined in section [79] of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.”.

(3) In subsection (3), for “subsections (5A) and (6)” substitute “subsections (5A), (6) and (6A)”.

(4) In subsection (4), for “subsections (5A) and (6)” substitute “subsections (5A), (6) and (6A)”.

(5) After subsection (6), insert—

“(6A) If the court is satisfied—

(a) that Ground 8 in Part 1 of Schedule 2 to this Act is established; and

(b) that some rent is in arrears as a consequence of a delay or failure in the payment of relevant housing benefit, it shall not make an order for possession unless it considers it reasonable to do so.”.

(6) At end insert—

“(8) In subsection (6A) above—

(a) “relevant housing benefit” means—

(i) any rent allowance or rent rebate to which the tenant was entitled in respect of the rent under the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (S.I. 2006/213); or

(ii) any payment on account of any such entitlement awarded under Regulation 93 of those Regulations;

(b) references to delay or failure in the payment of relevant housing benefit do not include such delay or failure so far as referable to any wilful act or omission of the tenant.”’.

New clause 29— Sinking funds—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of the date on which this Act is passed, make regulations regarding the terms of leases granted by local authorities for residential properties.

(2) The regulations made under subsection (1) shall provide that all leases granted by local authorities for residential properties shall be deemed to include provision for tenants to make contributions to a sinking fund to be used to finance any proposed works in relation to tenants’ properties.

(3) Regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section shall be made by statutory instrument.

(4) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.’.

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New clause 31— Involvement of tenants in decisions on works—

‘(1) The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (c. 70) is amended as follows.

(2) In section 20ZA (consultation requirements: supplementary), for subsection (5) substitute—

“(5) Regulations under subsection (4) shall include provision—

(a) requiring the landlord to give reasons in prescribed circumstances for carrying out works;

(b) requiring the landlord to provide details of proposed works, including estimates of costs, to tenants or the recognised tenants’ association representing them;

(c) requiring the landlord to invite residential tenants or the recognised tenants’ association to propose the names of persons from whom the landlord should try to obtain other estimates;

(d) requiring the landlord to consult those tenants affected by the proposed works on—

(i) the specifications for any tenders issued in respect of the proposed works, and

(ii) all tenders received in respect of the proposed works;

(e) to enable tenants or the recognised tenants’ association to submit, within a specified period of time, a counter proposal in respect of proposed works, specifying alternative provision of the proposed works;

(f) requiring the landlord to—

(i) have regard to any observations made by tenants or the recognised tenants’ association in relation to the proposed works,

(ii) hold a ballot of the tenants directly affected by the proposed works on any counter-proposal that is supported by 25 per cent. or more of those tenants directly affected by the proposed works, and

(iii) adopt the counter-proposal if it is supported by a majority of tenants directly affected by the proposed works in the ballot;

(g) requiring the landlord to make available for inspection by the public at reasonable times and for a period of 10 years from initial publication—

(i) details of any proposed works and any responses to consultations on such works,

(ii) any counter-proposals that are supported by more than 25 per cent. of tenants directly affected by the proposed works, and

(iii) any requests to a residential property tribunal service for adjudication and details of the consequent decisions;

(h) in cases of dispute, for a leasehold valuation tribunal or other independent arbitration tribunal to make a determination in respect of proposed works or agreements upon application by a landlord, residential tenant or the recognised tenants association.”.

(3) In section 19 (limitation of service charges: reasonableness), after subsection (3) insert—

“(3A) If the relevant contribution of any residential tenant in any 12 months period exceeds £12,000, arrangements must be made by the landlord for such tenants to pay that contribution in monthly instalments not exceeding £250 for that period.”.’.

Amendment No. 5, page 113, line 14, in clause 280, leave out from ‘ballot’ to ‘or’ in line 15 and insert

‘in accordance with the code of practice set out in section (Consultation principles);’.

Amendment No. 145, page 114, line 7, in clause 281, at end add—

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‘(4) Section 105 of the Housing Act 1985 (consultation on matters of housing management) is amended as follows.

(5) In subsection (2), after paragraph (b) insert—

“(ba) a proposed measure or policy relating to the matters specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) about which the Secretary of State has published a consultation document to which the landlord authority intends to make a written response.”’.

Government amendments Nos. 31 to 41.

Amendment No. 14, page 122, line 38, in clause 290, after ‘the’, insert ‘earlier of—

(a) the’.

Government amendment No. 42.

Amendment No. 15, page 122, at end insert ‘; or

(b) the completion of the sale’.

Government amendments Nos. 43 to 50.

Government new schedule 2— ‘Possession orders relating to certain tenancies.

Government new schedule 3— ‘Service charges: provision of information and designated accounts.

Government amendments Nos. 51 to 59.

Mr. Wright: You rightly pulled me up, Mr. Speaker, on my inappropriate and somewhat hasty answer to the point the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) made earlier.

Let me set out my general approach to the consideration of the Bill. Hon. Members will be pleased to hear that I will be as brief as I can in setting out the pertinent points relating to Government amendments. I want to ensure that the Bill gets as much scrutiny as possible on the Floor of the House. I also want other hon. Members to have time to raise important points and discuss important amendments.

In answer to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, I have to say that I do not believe we are changing the fundamental nature and scope of the Bill. The Government amendments result from close—forensic, I may say—scrutiny in Committee in January. We agreed to bring forward a number of things—I will talk in a moment about the importance of tolerated trespassers—and have tabled a number of minor technical amendments relating to the Committee’s scrutiny and deliberations. I should also like to give the House notice of a significant series of amendments and a new clause—new clause 27—regarding the standards, the direction and the relationship between the Secretary of State, Oftenant and registered providers in the regulatory framework. Notwithstanding my point about being brief, I want to mention direction and standards at some length.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): I hope that you will bear with me, Mr. Speaker, while I make my final procedural point about the timing. The Minister must accept that we have a ludicrously short time in which to discuss an enormous number of amendments, as I am sure the spokesperson for the official Opposition agrees. Can the Minister therefore give us an assurance that, should we run out of time, he will not only meet us proactively to see what we can do to put things right in the Lords, but act informally to get feedback from all the many housing-associated organisations, which are extremely frustrated at not
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being able to provide us or him with sufficient feedback, given that we first saw the amendments only five days ago?

Mr. Wright: I reiterate the point that I have already made: we are not amending major parts of the Bill out of the blue. Many of the amendments are technical and complex, but the Bill has been through the Committee stage, which is important. I want to be as brief as possible, to give other right hon. and hon. Members time to speak, but let me first make the point again that the Bill has been through the Public Bill Committee stage. There was tremendously detailed clause-by-clause scrutiny, and I am satisfied that it is in a better state on Report, thanks to the deliberations of right hon. and hon. Members, than it was when it first started on 10 January.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): I am grateful to the Minister for generously giving way. New clause 11 refers to the “status of existing occupiers”. Can he explain exactly how those occupiers will be protected when tenants have voted to stay with the council, rather than going with a housing association? How will those occupiers ensure that the finances are in place for the council to continue to maintain their properties properly, achieve the decent homes standard and deliver additional social housing units where they are needed, in constituencies such as Mr. Speaker’s and mine?

Mr. Wright: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, which I will mention when I speak to Government new clause 11.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Just to be clear, so that we can save time later, can the Minister tell us how many Opposition amendments were accepted in Committee—so that we know whether the Bill was amended only where the Government wanted to amend it—and how many Opposition new clauses and amendments that are tabled for today are the Government willing to accept?

Mr. Wright: Those are two important questions. On the first, there was detailed—forensic, I would say—scrutiny of the Bill in the Public Bill Committee, thanks to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, who played a sterling role. Despite taking to the field late in the day, he did an excellent job. In conjunction with the detailed and, importantly, forensic scrutiny of the Bill, there was an element of consensus in certain key areas, too, such as sustainable development, with regard to the Homes and Communities Agency, on which the hon. Gentleman tabled an amendment. He has tabled another amendment today—off the top of my head, I think it is amendment No. 229—which will become irrelevant, because we are bringing forward something else.

In response to the distinct questions that the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) asked, I can say that we have shaped the Bill according to what we need to do and, taking a consensual approach, have brought forward measures on tolerated trespassers, sustainable development and, crucially, the regulatory framework for Oftenant, about
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which hon. Members in all parts of the House mentioned concerns, particularly the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young). It is important that we should debate that.

Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield) (Con): The Minister will know that we had a good debate in Committee on all 242 clauses but, to our amazement, another 137 clauses have been tabled for today’s debate, which will last about four hours. How he can define that as forensic scrutiny of the Bill, I have no idea. As we were given just three days to get our heads around the incredible number of amendments tabled by the Government—for procedural reasons, it was only a couple of hours ago that we found out what we would be facing today—I call on the Minister at least to acknowledge that that is not a satisfactory way to go about taking the Bill through Parliament.

4.30 pm

Mr. Wright: I take the point that the hon. Gentleman and others are making. I am proud of the Bill, so I am keen to make sure that it gets the scrutiny and deliberation that it deserves. I want to make sure that it receives sufficient attention. The hon. Members for North Southwark and Bermondsey and for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) mentioned the hard work done in the Public Bill Committee; the Bill received a good deal of forensic examination there.

The amendments that we are introducing today concern tolerated trespassers, the Homes and Communities Agency, sustainable development, and directions and standards—for the Secretary of State, Oftenant and registered providers—relating to the regulatory framework that I mentioned. We have listened and learned; we listened to stakeholders and to right hon. and hon. Members. I want to ensure that we discuss the Bill. I deliberately did not table a programme motion because I wanted to avoid debate about procedure. I want to get on with the debate and ensure real scrutiny of the Government amendments that I am introducing. I would like to get on with the job.

Simon Hughes: I am not trying to delay the Minister—he knows we think he is a good bloke—but he is beginning to emulate the Prime Minister, in that he did not answer the question. The question is straightforward: how many Opposition amendments and new clauses were accepted in Committee?

Lembit Öpik: None.

Simon Hughes: I have had a hint, but it would be helpful if the Minister could tell us the answer. Also, how many of the new clauses and amendments tabled today—there are 98 Opposition amendments and 18 Opposition new clauses—are the Government willing to accept? That is a simple question. Is it one, 10, 20, 30 or none?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I would not like the Minister to be led astray, so before he answers, let me say that that is not the matter before the House. I would be grateful if the Minister dealt with the issue that we are considering.

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Mr. Wright: I am grateful to you Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was anxious to answer the question that time, but I will treat your ruling with the seriousness that it deserves.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab) rose—

Mr. Wright: I will give way to my right hon. Friend, but first may I pay tribute to him on the Floor of the House? He did an amazing and sterling job in Committee, and made sure that the Bill is much better than it was when the Committee stage started, so I thank him for that.

Mr. Raynsford: I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for those kind remarks, and may I return the compliment by saying that I, for one, am extremely pleased that a significant number of Government amendments have been tabled today that build on issues raised by hon. Members in all parts of the House in Committee? The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) knows perfectly well that Opposition amendments are rarely accepted, because the way in which many of them are drafted makes it impractical to incorporate them in a Bill. He has been in the House long enough to know that the reality is that the key test is whether the Government respond positively to issues that have been raised, where there is a case for change, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on doing just that.

Mr. Wright: I am grateful for that contribution. My right hon. Friend makes the point well that we have been a listening Government when it comes to the Housing and Regeneration Bill. There were major concerns, particularly with regard to the regulatory framework. Accusations were made, and I hope to deal with that subject at length later in our proceedings—if I stop taking interventions, that is. The point was made that there are major concerns about the regulatory framework. There were accusations that the Secretary of State could policy-passport matters for registered providers, that there was no freedom as regards the corporate direction of the boards of registered social landlords, and that there could be micro-management on the part of the Secretary of State. We have listened and we have learned, and I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for helping to make that happen.

My hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Dr. Blackman-Woods), who is not in the Chamber, made an important point about sustainable development and the Homes and Communities Agency; we took that on board. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire mentioned tolerated trespassers. New clause 11 deals with that subject, and I shall say more about it at some point.

The essential fact, which I must state very firmly, is that we are not introducing measures that were not discussed in Committee. The level of debate has been appropriate to the magnitude and stature of the Bill.

Lembit Öpik rose—

Mr. Wright: I should like to move on, but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman first.

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