Housing and Regeneration Bill
Lembit Öpik: That was a predictable and reasonable answer. It is evident to me that Government amendment No. 230 is becoming increasingly important in relation to this group of amendments. When we debate clause 174, will the Minister tell us how amendment No. 230 will impact on the restructuring, dissolution and accounts of profit-making registered providers? The inference on this and previous clauses to which I have moved amendments is that non-profit registered providers will be under a greater onus to conform to the clauses than profit-making registered providers. It would be helpful if the Minister were to clarify that matter when we discuss Government amendment No. 230.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 150 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Company: conversion into industrial and provident society
Mr. Wright: I beg to move Government amendment No. 217, in clause 151, page 61, line 27, after is a insert registered.
This amendment will ensure the consistency of the terminology that refers to registered companies with other provisions in the Bill. I hope that hon. Members will accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 151, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 152 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Industrial and provident society: restructuring
Mr. Wright: I beg to move Government amendment No. 218, in clause 153, page 62, line 12, leave out dissolution and insert resolution.
This is merely a correction to align terminology within the clause. The matters for which the regulators consent is required under the clause are amalgamations, transfers of engagement and conversions into companies, and not dissolutions of industrial and provident societies. On that basis, it is a minor and technical amendment, and I hope that hon. Members will accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 153, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 154 to 161 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Requirement of consent
Lembit Öpik: I beg to move amendment No. 93, in clause 162, page 64, line 32, leave out subsection (1).
No. 94, in clause 162, page 64, line 34, leave out profit-making.
No. 95, in clause 163, page 65, line 4, leave out non-profit.
No. 96, in clause 165, page 65, line 38, after disposal, insert of social housing.
Lembit Öpik: Amendment No. 93 is a probing amendment to challenge the inclusion of subsection (1), which states:
Any disposal of land by a non-profit registered provider requires the regulators consent unless it falls within an exception.
Do the Government intend any such disposal by non-profit registered organisations to go through the register? Is there any risk of that being overt regulation?
Amendments Nos. 94 and 95 relate to the discussion that we have already had about a level playing field for non-profit-making registered providers, and there is no need for the Minister to repeat the arguments. We are quite clear about where the Government stand, and we are comfortable with it.
Amendment No. 96 is even more interesting, because it would insert of social housing in the title of clause 165, making it read Disposal of social housing without consent. We are perennially concerned about the disbandment and reduction of social housing, and we felt that it would be useful to highlight social housings status. Much of our debate has been about protecting such interests, and I wonder what the Minister thinks about our proposal to raise the status of social housing in the context of clause 165.
Mr. Wright: The amendments would require non-profit and profit-making providers of social housing to seek consent from the regulator for the disposal only of social housing, not of other land. The requirement to seek consent to dispose of land has been a fundamental part of the system of social housing regulation since at least 1974. It has allowed central Government and others to invest in RSLs in the full confidence that they cannot dispose of their homes and other assets without the consent of the Housing Corporation, which is right and proper.
Under the new investment and regulatory regime that the Bill establishes, as we have said on several occasions this morning, the system will be preserved for non-profit providers such as current RSLs, but profit-making providers will have to seek consent for disposal of social housing only. The purpose is to ensure that a for-profit organisation, which we hope to help to build the required numbers of social housing in order to maintain their quality, may own only a small amount of social housing among a wider stock of the property, including perhaps property for sale on the open market and other pieces of land. I know where the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire is coming from with the amendments, but it would not be appropriate for the regulator to have any control over those other assets. On that basis, I do not agree with the amendment, and I hope that he will withdraw it.
Lembit Öpik: I think that I understand the Ministers position, and I am grateful for his response, but to be honest, I should like to discuss the issue further with the housing organisations that have been so helpful in advising me. Therefore, to make it possible for me to return to the issue on Report, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: No. 219, in clause 162, page 64, line 35, at end insert
( ) The regulator shall not consent to a disposal by a non-profit registered provider which it thinks is being made with a view to enabling the provider to distribute assets to members..[Mr. Wright.]
Clause 162, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Amendments made: No. 220, in clause 163, page 65, line 9, leave out or paragraph.
No. 221, in clause 163, page 65, line 10, after 12(1)(h) insert and 12ZA to 12B.[Mr. Wright.]
Clause 163, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 164 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Disposal without consent
Mr. Wright: I beg to move amendment No. 222, in clause 165, page 66, line 2, after provider insert
if either of the following cases applies.
( ) Case 1 applies where the disposal is of land other than a dwelling.
( ) Case 2 applies where the disposal is.
This is a technical amendment to ensure that the new legislation replicates the effects of the Housing Act 1996 in relation to disposals that are made without the regulators consent. In general, if the regulators consent is required for a disposal, and consent is not given, any attempt at disposal is void. The current regime, however, provides for two exceptions that we intend to replicate in the new regime. The first, which is set out in clause 165(2), covers an ordinary individual home buyer who purchases a single dwelling from a registered provider that the latter reasonably believes is for use as their main home. I suggest that such disposals are not void because it would place an excessive burden on the home buyer to establish whether the required consent had been given before buying the dwelling.
The second exception, added by amendment No. 222, is for the disposal of land other than a dwelling, such as an office building. That will reserve the most serious consequences of a disposal without consentthe disposal therefore being voidfor disposals of homes. That aims to protect the social housing stock, while placing the minimum possible burdens on third parties doing business with registered providers. I hope that that is self-explanatory and that the Committee will accept that amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 165, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
( ) net proceeds of sale of property in respect of which a grant was made under section 22 of this Act in respect of discounts given by a registered provider on disposals of dwellings to tenants,.
Mr. Wright: These are technical amendments tying up the accounting requirements in relations to the disposals proceeds fund and the HCAs new powers to make grant payments. The Bill will make no change to the right of certain RSL tenants to acquire their homes, provided for under the Housing Act 1996. When a tenant exercises their right to acquire, the RSL is required to sell the home to the tenant at a discount, which is currently of between £9,000 and £16,000. The Housing Corporation then has a statutory duty to reimburse the RSL for that discount. The RSL is required to account for both the disposal proceeds and any grant received in respect of discount in a separate disposals proceeds fund, which can be spent only on purposes determined by the Housing Corporation. That ensures that when a home is sold under right to acquire, the proceeds are invested in new homes for social rent.
This Bill replicates those provisions in their entirety for registered providers and makes no substantive changes. The amendments simply make technical changes to ensure that the system continues under the new funding arrangements of the HCA. Amendments Nos. 223 to 226, therefore, add references to the funding powers of the HCA in clause 22, under which the agency will pay grants to RSLs for discounts in respect of disposals.
Amendments Nos. 227 and 228 make technical changes to ensure that requirements to account separately for disposals proceeds are met by for-profit providers. The Bill refers to the regulators powers to make directions in relation to accounts under clause 123. However, clause 123 applies only to non-profit providers. The amendments, therefore, make it clear that the regulators direction-making powers under clause 123 and the sanctions under clauses 132 and 133 also apply to profit-making providers in relation to the disposals proceeds fund.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 224, in clause 166, page 66, line 16, leave out that Act and insert the 1996 Act.
No. 225, in clause 166, page 66, line 16, at end insert
( ) grant received under section 22 of this Act in respect of discounts given by a registered provider on disposals of dwellings to tenants,.
No. 226, in clause 166, page 66, line 17, leave out either of those sections, and insert section 20 or 21 of the 1996 Act,
( ) repayments of discount in respect of which grant was received under section 22 of this Act in respect of discounts given by a registered provider on disposals of dwellings to tenants,.
No. 227, in clause 166, page 66, line 24, leave out under section 123.
No. 228, in clause 166, page 66, line 25, at end insert
( ) Subsections (4) to (6) of section 123 apply to a direction under this section as to a direction under that section.
( ) Sections 132 and 133 apply in relation to a direction under this section as in relation to a direction under section 123..[Mr. Wright.]
Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Wright: As I have mentioned, the clause requires registered providers to operate a disposals proceeds fund, as is currently required under the 1996 Act. The new clause will put in place the final part of the system by giving the regulator the power to determine the purposes on which disposals proceeds can be spent. It also allows the regulator to require the registered provider to pay sums to the HCA, if the provider has not used them as required by the regulator in a specified period. The agency would then be able to re-invent the proceeds, for example, in more social housing stock. On that basis, I beg to move that new clause 43 be read a second time.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 166, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 167 to 171 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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