Housing and Regeneration Bill

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Clause 63

Restriction of “registered social landlord” system to Wales
2 pm
Mr. Wright: I beg to move amendment No. 163, in clause 63, page 29, line 42, leave out subsection (7) and insert—
‘( ) The table sets out substitutions which have effect throughout the Part (except section 51 and Schedule 2); and where necessary in consequence of those substitutions, for words in the singular substitute appropriate corresponding words in the plural.
“the Relevant Authority”
“the Welsh Ministers”
“the Authority”
“the Welsh Ministers”
“the Relevant Authority’s”
“the Welsh Ministers’”’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 164.
Mr. Wright: We are now on the track of part 2, which will establish the office of tenants in terms of regulating social housing. I wanted to start with some grand rhetoric about how we are raising tenants’ services for social housing, but I thought better of it. I shall start with what I am best at, which is technical amendments.
The new regulator will cover England, not Wales. Clauses 63 to 65 amend the Housing Act 1996 so that the provisions in part 1 of that Act will apply only to Wales in future. This means that references to the Housing Corporation or the Secretary of State will be replaced with a specific reference to Welsh Ministers.
The amendments simply ensure that substitutions are made everywhere where they need to be. Amendment No. 163 amends subsection (7). The 1996 Act used the term “the relevant authority” for the Housing Corporation and Welsh Ministers. We are replacing that term with “Welsh Ministers.” The amendment ensures that where the 1996 Act uses the term “the authority” or “the relevant authorities” suitable substitutions are made. It also replaces singular pronouns and verb endings and ensures that the changes are not made in section 51 and schedule 2 of the 1996 Act, which cover the housing ombudsman. That is because the ombudsman does not cover Wales and these sections of the 1996 Act will still be relevant to England. We want to be sure that any reference to the relevant authority there is not substituted.
Amendment No. 164 amends clause 64, which substitutes “Welsh Ministers” for “Secretary of State” in a specified list of provisions of the 1996 Act. The amendment simply ensures that where that Act says the “Secretary of State makes”, it should say “Welsh Ministers make”. I hope that I have explained the technical amendments and that the Committee accepts them.
Lembit Öpik: To avoid a further stand part debate, I shall ask the Minister the same question that I asked about the interrelations between the powers of the Secretary of State for Wales—whoever that may be—and the Welsh Assembly. The specific question that I hope he can also write to me about is to what extent could the Secretary of State for Wales overrule decisions made by the Assembly Ministers in the event of a disagreement. Once again, I do not necessarily expect him to have the information now—I would be stunned if he did. If at some point in the next week or two, he could write to me, that would be helpful, and I will pass on the information to colleagues in the Assembly.
Mr. Wright: I hope the hon. Gentleman that is ready to be stunned. Since devolution took place in around 1998, housing has been a devolved matter. Any change to social housing regulation in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government, not the Secretary of State for Wales. I will clarify that and write to the hon. Gentleman and other members of the Committee to confirm that, but it is my strong belief at the moment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 63, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 64

References to Welsh Ministers
Amendment made: No. 164, in clause 64, page 30, line 4, at end insert—
‘( ) for “Secretary of State makes” substitute “Welsh Ministers make”,’.—[Mr. Wright.]
Clause 6 4 , as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 65 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 66

Dissolution of Housing Corporation
Mr. Wright: I beg to move amendment No. 165, in clause 66, page 31, leave out lines 14 to 18 and insert—
‘(2) The Secretary of State may by order’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendments Nos. 166 and 167.
Government new clause 34—Transfer schemes.
Government new clause 35—Interim arrangements.
Mr. Wright: These amendments and new clauses provide for the effective and smooth transition from the Housing Corporation to the new regulator, Oftenant, and the Homes and Communities Agency. Amendment No. 165 will amend subsection (2) to allow the Secretary of State to make orders either before or after the dissolution of the Housing Corporation. The existing subsection as currently drafted may only have allowed for a single order.
Government new clause 34 will replace subsection (4) and make provision that the Secretary of State may make one or more schemes for the transfer of the Housing Corporation’s properties, rights or liabilities to the regulator, the HCA or the Secretary of State.
Government new clause 35 will replace subsection (3) and enable the Secretary of State to require the Housing Corporation to provide staff, premises, facilities or other assistance—for example, by providing information to the HCA or the regulator. I suggest that that would ease the transition to the new regulator, which, depending on the passage of the Bill, we aim to have operational from April 2009. It is important that both the regulator and the HCA can pick up where the Housing Corporation leaves off in terms of regulatory interventions and grant payments. The amendments and new clauses will assist in that process, so I hope that the Committee will accept them.
Mr. Wright: No, there is no intention to have a big bang. We want to make sure that we have a seamless transition. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly suggests, the regulatory part of the Housing Corporation could move at a slightly different pace to that of the investment function. The clause will provide the flexibility to do that.
I anticipate, although I do not want to box anyone in, that all that will be done on the same day, but that might not be the case. I also want to point out to the Committee that we have recently appointed Kate Barker—a Housing Corporation board member and a member of the Monetary Policy Committee—to chair the Oftenant transition programme board. That group comprises staff from my Department, the corporation, the Audit Commission and elsewhere. It is working to ensure operational readiness for regulatory system, staff, accommodation and that sort of thing. As I said, I imagine that the two bodies will come into play at the same time, but the clause will provide flexibility in circumstances that might not happen.
Sir George Young: Can the Minister assure me that two regulators will not be in existence on the same day?
Mr. Wright: Yes, I can.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 166, in clause 66, page 31, line 21, leave out subsection (3).
No. 167, in clause 66, page 31, line 23, leave out subsection (4).—[Mr. Wright.]
Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): I rise only to ask a question that has puzzled me for some time. Why is the title of clause 66 “Dissolution of Housing Corporation”, as against “abolition”, which was used in titles relating to the Urban Regeneration Agency and the Commission for the New Towns in clauses 51 and 52? What is the significance of the different terminology?
Mr. Wright: As my right hon. Friend will know, I have not got a clue. I will endeavour to find out and to provide the information to him and the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 66 , as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 67

Basic principle
Sir George Young: I beg to move amendment No. 134, in clause 67, page 31, line 27, leave out from ‘means—’ to end of line 29 and insert
‘Housing that is in direct receipt of Government Capital Grant Funding.’.
Clause 67 defines social housing in broad terms, and clauses 68, 69 and 70 tighten up that definition. My amendment seeks to focus the definition of social housing more narrowly, and to do so in terms of the receipt of public funds. My concern is that the definition of social housing in clause 67 and the subsequent clauses is broader than the Housing Corporation’s current remit.
As I understand it, the Housing Corporation finances, regulates and facilitates the proper performance of housing associations. It also pays grants to unregistered bodies. So a registered housing association comes within the embrace of the Housing Corporation, and it is almost certainly in receipt of some public funds. The receipt of the public funds gives Parliament the right to supervise how that money is spent. Bodies that are in receipt of public funds are rightly exposed to greater scrutiny than the private landlords that we were talking about this morning.
My concern about clause 67 is that it goes wider than housing associations. For example, if someone decided to set up a charity, the purpose of which coincided broadly with what we see in clause 68—in other words, they wanted to provide homes at below market rate for people in housing need—they would be supervised by the Charity Commission. However, they would not come into contact with the Housing Corporation, because they might not be a registered housing association and so would not get any money. Under clause 67 and the subsequent clauses, that operation would fall under the new social housing regulator, but it would not have fallen within the embrace of the Housing Corporation.
Likewise, if a philanthropic company, such as Rowntree, had some land and wanted to make it available for exactly the purposes laid out in clause 67 and subsequent clauses, it could give the land for no cost at all to a company, which could then provide low-cost homes for below-market rent or, as laid out in clause 69, low-cost home ownership. At the moment, such a company would not be regulated by the Housing Corporation, but under clause 67, it would be. That could result in the emergence of our old friend the perverse consequence.
Organisations that might want to do exactly what the Minister and the Committee want—namely, provide more affordable homes—would be deterred because they would come within a regulatory framework under which they would not come at the moment. Places for People has briefed all members of the Committee. It states:
“The definition currently in the Bill could have the adverse effect of preventing this sort of product coming to the market.”
The sort of product that it has in mind is low-cost rental and low-cost home ownership. Therefore, is this a broader definition than the one that we have currently? Will it catch the well-meaning organisations that are not so regulated at the moment? If so, we have to ask why.
Mr. Raynsford: I rise to oppose the amendment, because I feel that it fails to understand the implications of the Cave review, which is for domain regulation, and would result in a number of very perverse consequences for the oversight of social housing. Cave’s proposal for a domain regulator obviously has a wider remit than the narrow remit that was accorded to the Housing Corporation. We know that it is intended that the provision of local authority housing and arm’s length management organisation housing should be brought within the domain in due course.
Clearly, the examples that the right hon. Gentleman cited are of philanthropic organisations, such as Rowntree. Incidentally, Rowntree’s housing association is registered, and I see no reason why a similar one should not be registered in future. However, if it were not registered, it would still be appropriate for it to be regulated, because it is in the interests of tenants that they should have broadly comparable protection.
The right hon. Gentleman will understand, however, that under the regulatory provision, there can be private providers, profit-making providers and non-for-profit providers, all of whom can provide housing that would come within the ambit of the regulator. On the first point—I will come to the second in a moment—I feel that the right hon. Gentleman’s proposal is not appropriate.
2.15 pm
Sir George Young: Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the philanthropic body that I described should come under the embrace of the social housing regulator, when some of the unscrupulous landlords that we talked about this morning would not?
Mr. Raynsford: Another interesting question is whether the entire rented sector should be regulated. That is a separate debate, but I take as my starting point the fact that we are to give effect to the Cave review recommendations, which propose that the whole social housing sector should be a domain subject to regulation. That is the first reason why I oppose the amendment.
My second reason for opposing the amendment is that it will have some very perverse consequences. Landlords are increasingly looking to subsidise social housing through housing for sale. London and Quadrant—one of the more innovative housing associations, which is based in my constituency and has a large number of properties all over the south of England—is involved in an extremely exciting new development at Stratford that overlooks the Olympic site. The profits from the sale of some of the units will subsidise other units that will be available for social renting—something that would otherwise not be possible.
Sir George Young: Does the right hon. Gentleman want to bring within the embrace of regulation organisations that fall outwith it at the moment?
Mr. Raynsford: No, it is not my wish to do that—other than for the providers of social housing. However, it is my wish to prevent those who are within the ambit now going outside it. I suspect that the amendment would make that possible, and Places for People could well end up—possibly, this is their ambition—as a large development company. The language that it uses in its publicity describes it as a development company, not a housing association, and it has certain elements that are entirely outwith the regulated sector.
I am not sure whether that is a sensible way forward. I see real benefit in the housing association movement being entrepreneurial and providing a range of products, including housing for sale, while being part of the same movement and subject to the same regulations. I would be rather opposed to changes that made it possible for some to opt out of the framework, simply because they did not receive money for a certain development.
I discussed the matter with chief executive of Places for People yesterday, and I made it clear that I have no sympathy for the amendment, so it will come as no surprise to him to hear that I oppose it. I hope that the Minister will take a similar view.
Lembit Öpik: I have more expansive comments to make about the clause, Mr. Gale, and I hope that you will permit me to do so in a clause stand part debate. I believe that that will make more sense. If I do so now, I will be going slightly wide of the amendment.
My concern relates to definitions. I have to thank Shelter for highlighting the issue, which relates to clauses 67 to 70, although I do not intend to make the same comments on clauses 68, 69 and 70. Shelter recommends that the definitions should be amended to put it beyond doubt that the Government intend social renting to retain its key characteristics of affordability and security, and even more importantly, that it is kept separate from low-cost home ownership. In other words, the social renting sector should not be confused with low-cost home ownership or any other kind of so-called affordable housing by coming under the same definition.
The new definition in the Bill seems to put those characteristics at risk and change the nature of social housing. The wording leaves the door open for a loss of security and affordability, not only for new entrants to social rented housing, but for those people already living in it. That might be an unintended consequence, or the Government might be consciously seeking to make that change. The difficulty is that it erodes current protections for residents in social rented housing. That seems a rather serious change.
Low-cost home ownership is a relatively new concept, and it was introduced on a very small scale in the 1980s and 1990s. Recently, there has been a more rapid rise in house prices. Home ownership becoming more desirable and more difficult has led to an increase in low-cost home ownership. The obvious problem is that private developers prefer to discharge their obligations to include affordable housing in their developments under section 106 by building low-cost houses, rather than rented houses. In Shelter’s submission to the comprehensive spending review in 2007, it pointed out that the situation is serious. Data on completions indicate a shift away from rented accommodation towards low-cost home ownership.
The present definition of social rented housing is very important. In the current climate, when social rented housing is desperately needed, it seems that the situation is militating away from that type of accommodation and towards low-cost housing. The Government have acknowledged some of the issues that relate to definitions in their planning policy statement of 2006, in which definitions that sought to clarify what social rented housing actually is were published for the first time. That leads me to the key point.
At a time when the Government are evidently committed to building specific target amounts of social rented housing, it seems counter-productive to introduce a new definition of social housing that could encompass low-cost home ownership, as well as low-cost rental. The easier it is for builders to construct premises intended for low-cost home ownership, the more likely they are to do that instead of constructing low-cost rented houses.
There is also a problem with rents. It is not currently clear how future rents in social rented housing will be set. For some time, a rent restructuring regime has specified maximum rents and annual rent increases in social rented housing. The definition of social rented housing under PPS3 refers specifically to controlled rent as a defining characteristic of social rented housing. The Bill seems to change that and discontinue the rent regime. I therefore ask the Minister whether that is the intention and a correct understanding of what the Bill will do.
The definitions of low-cost rental housing under the Bill appear to change the security of tenure guarantee. Clause 68(c), which we will come to—I will not make the speech again at that point—states that low-cost rental housing is to have
“rules for eligibility designed to ensure that it is occupied by people who cannot afford to buy or rent at market rate.”
By making reference to those who occupy social housing, rather than to those to whom social housing is being allocated, the Bill implies that assessments of eligibility could be ongoing for existing tenants and take place not just when the property is being allocated to a tenant. The implications of that are fairly clear.
My second explicit question to the Minister is whether that is a correct understanding of what the Bill does. He may want to comment on that issue when we discuss clause 68, but if he wants to do so now, that is fine. If that is a correct understanding of the Bill, will he consider making a modification to tighten up that definition?
I have one more question on the fundamental issue of definitions. Does the Minister understand that bringing rental housing and low-cost home ownership together will lead to the potential problems that have been described? Will he consider that between now and Report? The Housing Minister has made a point of saying on a number of occasions that there is no threat to the security of tenure, but it is curious to put that together with what will happen under the definition in clauses 67 to 70. To avoid doubt and confusion, I should be grateful if the Minister clarified what is intended. Does he share any of the concerns that Shelter and I harbour in regard to these definitions?
Grant Shapps: I know from conversations with the Minister before the Bill came to Committee that he was as concerned as I was that the definitions might cause confusion for all of the reasons that we have heard about. Clause 67 is the starting point for a series of clauses that goes up to clause 70 and deals with these definitions. This is the right place to tighten up the definitions, so that everybody is clear about the meaning of the descriptions in these clauses.
The Minister has written to you, Mr. Gale, and has been kind enough to copy me in, to point out that amendments have been tabled to address the issues raised by the definition of social housing. Although we are discussing clause 67, those amendments have direct relevance in clauses 68 and 69. I raised those issues with the Minister for Housing in the evidence session to seek reassurances that, by broadening the scope of the definition of social housing, we will not be playing tricks with claims about the amount of social housing that is being provided.
The Minister and his colleagues are sensitive to the accusation that they have built less social housing in every year of the past 10 years than in any of the years under Thatcher and Major. If we are to resolve the issue in a way that satisfies Shelter and other members of the Committee, we should adopt the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire that says simply that housing
“in direct receipt of Government Capital Grant Funding”
should be considered as the style of housing that we think of as social housing.
It seems to me that, in recent years, the definitions of social housing and affordable housing have been made much clearer by things such as PPS3 and the descriptions that we have been hearing about. Now is not the time to muddy those definitions. I appreciate that the Minister will almost certainly explain that amendments have been tabled to the clauses that we are about to debate—clause 68, in particular—to clarify some unnecessary muddying of the water and confusion. I ask the Minister to seriously consider, either now or on Report, accepting a much clearer definition that all hon. Members would be much happier with.
2.30 pm
Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush) (Lab): I wish to comment briefly on what was said by the last two speakers. A little bit of mischief is being made—but not very well. It was rather like watching incompetent magicians, who I always find more entertaining than real ones.
It is not that there was no substance in what was said by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, but it would have had a little more credibility if the Minister had not, as I understand it, already given assurances on security of tenure. Concerns about the subject were raised over the past year or two, but that ghost has now been laid to rest; at least, I hope it has. I would have a little more sympathy on rental targets if it were not for the fact that Liberal Democrat councils in London singularly failed to meet London plan targets in relation to rented housing.
Of course, London authorities have good targets, well set out by the Mayor—50 per cent. social housing, and within that a 35 per cent. and 15 per cent. split between rented housing and shared ownership or intermediate housing. We should all support that, and nationally I think that the Liberal Democrat party does, but it is honoured more in the breach than in the execution at local level. However, that is not why I want to speak. I want to make a brief point, probably as much on the amendment as what the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said—so I shall pretend that it is.
I mentioned on Tuesday, when we were debating clause 272, a concern that I and others have in relation not to the breadth but to the narrowness of the definition. I understand that the Minister does not intend the basic principle set out in clause 67 to apply to local authority and registered social landlord Gypsy and Traveller sites. I take the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich that it is the intention, in due course, for the regulator to cover local authority housing, and if the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham and me to clauses 109 to 111 are successful—I hope they will be—that will happen sooner rather than later. In any event, it will happen.
In my opinion, it is appropriate that the regulator should be given a remit for Gypsy and Traveller sites, whether RSL or local authority sites. In our debate on clause 272, we touched on the fact that often, and regrettably, the management of Gypsy and Traveller sites is not up to the standard even of much other social housing. As this part of the Bill is meant in part to improve the quality of management of social housing, it is entirely appropriate that the regulator should be given such a remit. The very fact that we need clause 272 to bring security of tenure on to an even keel is indicative of the fact that we have some way to go to ensure that Gypsy and Traveller sites are treated by local authorities in the same way as they treat other tenants.
The reason why I did not table an amendment is that it is not necessary, as clause 71 gives the Secretary of State the ability to widen that definition by regulation. Indeed, clause 71(2) specifically states that it may be done
“where the Secretary of State thinks the accommodation is of a kind, or is provided in circumstances, that serve the needs of a group whose needs are not adequately served by the commercial housing market.”
That is almost a definition of what local authority and RSL Gypsy and Traveller sites provide. I shall not press the point further now, except to say that I would like the Minister to indicate in his reply that he will consider the matter for subsequent regulation and that the Government will look at it if they believe that regulation should be extended in that way, as I believe it is a clear case.
Mr. Wright: Members have raised an awful lot of issues about the definition of social housing and I will respond with regard to the group of amendments that relate to clause 68. A number of things need to be mentioned. I will touch upon definition, security of tenure and other such issues when considering that group of amendments because they are incredibly important.
On the point made by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire about rent restructuring, I do not think that there is anything in the Bill that undermines rent restructuring. The Bill actually gives the regulator power to set standards, and I am looking forward to the debate on clause 173, which deals with that. It gives the regulator power to set standards on rents and gives Ministers power to direct, so in that respect, I do not think that there is an issue or that the measure undermines rent restructuring.
Lembit Öpik: Shelter’s concern is that the provision distinctly removes the security of tenure, albeit subtly. I will come back to that point in relation to clause 68. With regard to the rental point, I was persuaded, having looked at the Bill and spoken to Shelter, that the provisions would weaken the confidence tenants currently enjoy that rents will be reasonable. That might be a difference of opinion, so I will certainly have another look at the provisions and hope that the Minister will as well.
Mr. Wright: I am clear that the Bill maintains a clear distinction between rented housing and low-cost home ownership. This and subsequent clauses have a definite purpose—to regulate social housing to raise standards, and that important distinction remains.
With regard to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush about Gypsies and Travellers, I attended a meeting of the all-party group on Gypsy and Traveller law reform on Wednesday, at which the issue was raised. I hope that I reassured my hon. Friend when I was there, but I reiterate for the Committee that sites and accommodation provided by registered social landlords for Gypsies and Travellers—there are relatively few of them at the moment—come under the responsibility of the regulator. We will shortly have an interesting debate on cross-domain regulation. There is a little bit of work to be done with regard to local authority sites and Gypsy and Traveller accommodation, but his interpretation is exactly the same as mine, which is that that could be regulated under clause 71, and I hope that reassures him further.
I have a lot of time and respect for the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire, who moved the amendment, and my respect and admiration for him have grown since working with him on the Bill. However, I fundamentally disagree with the amendment. I do not think that its intention is clear and do not know what its full effect would be. That is partly because it would have an impact on the other aspects of the definition that we have touched on throughout our considerations, yet they have not been reflected in other amendments. In part, too, getting the definition of social housing right is not easy. I am a good example of that: I certainly do not seem to have got it right although I have tried to reassure hon. Members about that. It is true that any changes that are made have wide implications and there may be unintended perceptions, as I have experienced when attempting to define social housing.
However, one effect of the amendment is clear—because it says so on the face of the amendment: it would exclude from regulation new social housing that has not been in direct receipt of Government grant funding. Under the Housing Act 1996, the whole stock of a registered social landlord can be subject to regulation, no matter how it is funded. The amendment would change that position fundamentally. In particular, tenants of social rented housing funded by planning gain, by section 106 obligations, and without grant—my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich is right to note that we have been talking about a diversity of people coming to social housing—would not be protected by standards set by the regulator. Local authorities, when negotiating such planning gain agreements, would not be able to rely on regulations as they do now, and would seek to replicate some of those terms in what would probably be an unwieldy way.
Conversely, not all grant used to provide housing is for social housing. In future—we touched on this point a lot during our consideration of part 1—the Homes and Communities Agency will not only fund social housing but in some places may bring about market housing. I have said before that we would not want those market homes to be social housing under this definition and thus subject to regulation, nor would we want to require that their owners be registered providers. We had an interesting stand part debate on clause 35 on that point.
It all comes down to my fundamental concern, which is that the amendment defines social housing as the means by which it is achieved rather than by its characteristics. I stress to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire and the Committee that we want to amend the provision; we are about to discuss those amendments. We shall amend the wording used to define the characteristics to make clear what we mean by social housing. I believe strongly that this philosophical policy point—that social housing should be defined by means of its characteristics—is the right approach. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider what I have said.
Lembit Öpik: The Minister has, in a sense, answered my question. I was about to ask him whether it was accidental or intentional that the distinction between rented and low-cost home ownership is blurred. He says that he is happy to get rid of that definition. I cannot remember his exact words, but it is clear that he wants to blur the distinction. Is my understanding correct? Are the Government consciously blurring the distinction between rented accommodation and local-cost home ownership?
Mr. Wright: No. In response to an earlier question, I told the hon. Gentleman that the Bill provides a clear distinction. We have experienced difficulties with the definition. We want to define what needs to be regulated, but the difficulty is defining what is social housing. I am very clear that there is a large distinction between rented housing and low-cost home ownership. I hope that I have answered the hon. Gentleman.
In response to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire, I hope that I have made my position clear. I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
Sir George Young: Let me begin by saying exactly what the Minister said about me. As these proceedings go on, I develop my respect for him—but.
I draw two conclusions from what the hon. Gentleman said. He will be pleased with the first, which is that my amendment has too narrow a definition. The second is that his definition is too wide.
I accept what was said by the Minister and the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich—that because it would exclude section 106 and planning gain, the amendment defines social housing too narrowly. On that ground, it ought to be resisted. I also accept that housing associations that are currently regulated should not fall outwith regulation because of the definition. However, the definition in the clause will catch organisations that would not be caught at the moment.
What the Minister said convinced me that what I said at the beginning was right. As an example, I take a philanthropic organisation that is seriously considering entering that market and wants to provide homes at below market rent and homes to meet the needs set out in the clause. If it goes down that road without applying to anyone for money—no section 106 money, no grant—but then discovers that under clause 173 an outside body can come along and fix its rents, fix its allocation policy and fix its method of handling tenants’ complaints, it might draw back and say, “If I do not provide houses for people in need, and houses at below market rent, but go for full-cost houses and houses that I can let at market rents, I do not get any of this regulation.”
Faced with that scenario, will the Minister not concede that as currently defined it might pull against the thrust of the Bill, which is to provide more low-cost affordable homes? There is a risk of over-regulation and perverse consequences if he introduces the very broad definition that we see in clause 67.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 67 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
2.45 pm
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