18 May 2011 : Column 364

Points of Order

1.45 pm

Liz Kendall (Leicester West) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you had any indication that the Prime Minister will return to the House and correct the record in relation to the role of Mr Mark Britnell under the previous Government? Mr Britnell was chief executive of an NHS hospital and then a civil servant in the Department of Health, not an adviser to the Labour Government, as the Prime Minister claimed earlier today.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. Mr Britnell is known to me, but I think the hon. Lady is seeking to continue the debate and argument. She may earn her spurs on her side by doing so, but it is not a point of order on which I can rule.

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice in relation to a procedural matter. Would it be in order for the Health and Social Care Bill to be recommitted to a further Public Bill Committee, in light of the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments last night, when he said that it would be in order to remove one third of the 299 clauses in the Bill—those that relate to the new economic regulator, Monitor?

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is correct in supposing that it would be procedurally possible for the Bill to be recommitted to a Public Bill Committee, but the handling of the Bill is the Government’s responsibility; it is not mine.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have just heard a lengthy statement from the Secretary of State for Defence about the replacement of the Trident nuclear missile system. I was not aware of any remarks by the right hon. Gentleman about when Parliament would debate that, when there would be a vote on it, and when Parliament could fully consider it, as a great deal of money appears to be committed to the project.

Mr Speaker: I hope the hon. Gentleman will not take it amiss if I say that I think he has given the House advance notice of his intention to be present in the Chamber tomorrow for business questions, for that will present an excellent opportunity for him to make his request.

18 May 2011 : Column 365

Road Safety

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

1.48 pm

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to make provision requiring the fitting of equipment to heavy goods vehicles to eliminate driver blind spots; to make other provisions relating to the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and other road users; and for connected purposes.

The Bill is about saving the lives of vulnerable road users, particularly cyclists but also pedestrians and others. The particular vulnerability that it deals with is caused by blind spots on heavy goods vehicles. It is a problem that is particularly acute in city traffic, especially at junctions. The problem is likely to increase as cycling becomes ever more popular as a means of getting to work in urban areas and for leisure, and as lorries get bigger.

A daughter of a constituent of mine lost her life in a collision with a tipper truck. Eilidh Cairns was cycling from her home in Kentish Town to her work in Chiswick. She had cycled this route daily for three years and she was an experienced cyclist. She was caught up under the wheels of the lorry, probably because its front bumper made contact with her rear wheel. The coroner described it as a

“terrible, terrible tragedy that unfortunately is not an uncommon occurrence here in London where a cyclist and a large vehicle come into contact with each other, and invariably the cyclist will suffer very serious or fatal injuries… It’s a huge problem that I think the Government, cyclists and safer cycling groups are going to be grappling with for quite a considerable time”.

The purpose of the Bill is to encourage the Government to grapple with that problem in order to safe lives, and using mirrors or technical means to eliminate drivers’ blind spots on HGVs is a vital weapon in doing so.

After her death, Eilidh’s family and friends set up the “See me, Save me” campaign, which has gained massive support. It shares a name with a motorcycling safety campaign that similarly seeks to secure greater road safety. In the European Parliament, my colleague Fiona Hall MEP tabled a written declaration on the issue and well over half of all MEPs—more than 400—have put their names to it. This means that the Commission must produce proposals to deal with the issue, probably by revising an existing directive so that newly registered HGVs will have effective means of eliminating blind spots, emergency braking and lane departure warning systems.

Here at home, the Transport Secretary last week published a road safety consultation document with a short section on vehicle technology. It stressed a preference for voluntary compliance rather than regulation. On some issues I would share that preference, but on this issue I think regulation is needed, first because the problem remains so serious, and secondly to ensure that hauliers who want to invest in good technology do not feel that they will be undercut by those who are unwilling to do so.

In fact, the costs to a haulage business of involvement in a fatal accident are substantial, including the loss of a driver’s services for a long period, the disrupting

18 May 2011 : Column 366

insurance, legal and other costs, and potentially compensation costs. The cost to the economy is massive. According to the Department for Transport, fatal accidents cost on average more than £1,750,000. The cost of better mirrors and technical additions would be very small in comparison to the huge cost of a new HGV. Fitting such technology to older vehicles could at least be achieved on a gradual basis, at a cost of around £700 on present estimates.

Clearly it is best for these measures to be introduced across Europe, because HGVs travel all over the continent and our roads see numerous haulage vehicles from other European countries. For British hauliers, it would be much better if their competitors from continental Europe were subject to the same requirements as they are. Although the Bill would give our Transport Secretary powers to make regulations for the fitting of equipment to vehicles, its underlying purpose is to demonstrate that Parliament wants to see the British Government actively involved in securing Europe-wide regulations and not holding back. I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), who has responsibility for roads, has been present throughout my speech to hear this case.

Other safety provisions could be incorporated in the Bill, and it will be drafted in such a way as to allow this. The details of its provisions can be examined carefully if the House allows it to be brought in and gives it a fair wind. I have found very ready support across the House for the Bill; the list of sponsors was filled up to the limit within an hour or so of it becoming known to the House and many more hon. and right hon. Members would have liked to add their names. The all-party group on cycling has been particularly supportive of the campaign, as have a number of newspapers—The Independent, the Evening Standard and the Newcastle Journal have all given it substantial coverage.

Coroners’ verdicts often refer to the deaths of cyclists in the circumstances I have described as accidental deaths, which is much resented by many of the families involved. They feel very strongly that “accident” implies something that was beyond control or prevention. It also seems to preclude culpability where a driver has ignored the fact that he cannot see an area of road on to which his vehicle is encroaching. RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, is pressing for the word “accident” not to be used in future for road crashes or collisions. The case that we are putting today is that many collisions that lead to the deaths of cyclists and other vulnerable road users could be prevented. We should not miss the opportunity to call for practical measures to save lives.

Question put and agreed to.


That Sir Alan Beith, Dr Julian Huppert, Mr James Arbuthnot, Meg Munn, Naomi Long, Sir Peter Bottomley, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Corbyn, Tom Brake, Mr Don Foster, Fabian Hamilton and Natascha Engel present the Bill.

Sir Alan Beith accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 9 September, and to be printed (Bill 191).

18 May 2011 : Column 367

Localism Bill

[2nd Allocated Day]

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee.

[Relevant documents: The Second Report from the Communities and Local Government Committee, Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum?, HC 517; Written evidence submitted to the Communities and Local Government Committee on the General Power of Competence, HC 931; The Thir d Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Sustainable Development in the Localism Bill, HC 799. ]

New Clause 21


‘Schedule [Transfers and transfer schemes: tax provisions] (provision about tax in connection with certain transfers and transfer schemes) has effect.’.—(Robert Neill.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

1.56 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new schedule 2—‘Transfers and transfer schemes: tax provisions.

Government new clause 20—Authority may be required to carry on commercial activities through a taxable body.

Amendment 351, in clause 158, page 138, line 45, at end insert—

‘London Housing and Regeneration Board

“333ZDA London Housing and Regeneration Board

(1) The Authority must establish a London Housing and Regeneration Board within six months of the Localism Act 2011 being passed.

(2) The London Housing and Regeneration Board is to consist of such numbers (being not less than six) as the Authority may from time to time appoint.

(3) The Authority must appoint one of the members as the person with the function of chairing the London Housing and Regeneration Board.

(4) In appointing a person to be a member, the Authority—

(a) must have regard to the desirability of appointing a person who has experience of, and shown some capacity in, a matter relevant to the exercise of the functions set out in this Chapter,

(b) must be satisfied that the person will have no financial or other interest likely to affect prejudicially the exercise of the person’s functions as a member, and

(c) must ensure that at least 50 per cent. of the number of members on the Board are appointed representatives of London boroughs.

(5) In exercising its housing and regeneration functions and powers subsequent to the enactment of this Chapter the Authority must consult and obtain agreement from the London Housing and Regeneration Board.”’.

Government amendments 205 to 210 and 212.

18 May 2011 : Column 368

Amendment 352, in clause 168, page 148, line 7, at end insert—

‘(e) a majority of those London borough councils whose borough contains any part of the designated development area agree to the designation.’.

Government amendments 213 to 215, 218 to 220, 223, 253 to 255 and 265.

Robert Neill: We are dealing with part 7 of the Bill, which relates to governance in Greater London, and part 3, which relates largely to business rate matters and, I am delighted to say, has not proven controversial. I hope that part 7 will not detain us terribly long either, as a good degree of consensus was achieved in Committee and there are just one or two matters that it is necessary to debate further.

I will start with new clause 21, the lead provision in the group, and the majority of associated matters. With the exception of only two topics that I will come to in a moment, the rest of the group comprises a large number of technical amendments relating to two tax issues. Although the new clause is the first new clause listed on the amendment paper, it is not really the natural starting point, so perhaps I will be forgiven if I leapfrog over it to new clause 20, which will amend the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and require the Greater London authority to undertake certain specified activities for a commercial purpose through a taxable body. It relates to the transfer of a large number of functions of the Housing Corporation in London to the Mayor, to the movement of the London Development Agency into the GLA’s main body, and to the establishment of mayoral development corporations in London. All of those potentially involve commercial activity, so we have to get the tax treatment right.

Mr Speaker: Order. It might be helpful if I interrupt to make the point to the House that, although that is indeed the lead new clause, the order in which representatives on the Treasury Bench deal with matters is entirely a matter for them. Members can come in on such matters within the grouping as they think fit.

Robert Neill: I am grateful, Mr Speaker.

I will encapsulate the technicalities as swiftly as I can, but it suffices to say that these amendments are necessary to ensure that those commercial activities that are undertaken by the GLA are done so within a taxable environment. As a local authority, it would normally have tax-exempt status, but some of those activities are not of a local authority nature but more of a commercial nature and so have to be properly taxable. There is a long-established tax principle in that regard to ensure a level playing field between the public and private sectors in relation to commercial activities. That is particularly important in this case because the GLA will inherit, as a consequence of our devolution measures, a significant portfolio of land interests, some of which operate on a commercial basis and are subject to corporation tax and capital gains tax. It is not a new state of affairs. Section 157 of the 1999 Act made like provision in relation to the activities of Transport for London. That is the background to what we are doing.

In a nutshell, the list of specified commercial activities, which will be set out in a detailed order, will be worked up by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the

18 May 2011 : Column 369

GLA during the passage of the Bill, but essentially the activities of the London Development Agency and Homes and Communities Agency will be transferred to the Mayor. That is how new clause 20 kicks off the whole proposition.

New clause 21 introduces new schedule 2, which will neutralise certain tax consequences—the other side of the coin—that might otherwise arise from the transfer of various property, rights and liabilities from the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords, the Homes and Communities Agency and the London Development Agency to other public bodies. There is a measure to enable the Treasury to make similar tax provisions for future mayoral development corporations. As we know, one is proposed, and we will come to that in a moment, but the provision will technically permit others to be set up and, therefore, embrace properly, within a legal framework, all those related activities.

Essentially, every Government new clause and amendment with which we are concerned relates to that process. The Opposition have tabled a couple of amendments, which I can deal with conveniently either now or in due course once they have been spoken to, but suffice it to say that the only Government amendments that do not form part of the tax treatment provisions are amendments 212 and 213. They relate to the mayoral development corporation, which is proposed for establishment, and I hope that we can find some common ground, because in Committee there was a discussion and Members generally accepted as desirable both the idea that the Mayor of London should have the power to establish a mayoral development corporation, and the current Mayor’s intention to establish such a corporation broadly relating to the Olympic park in east London.

The provision is more widely cast than that, for good reasons, and it will permit the establishment of other mayoral development corporations. None is envisaged by the current Mayor and I am not conscious of any envisaged by potential Mayors, either, but it would be on the books for the future.

The question that arose, and which the Government seek to address with the proposed changes, was what are the appropriate means of holding the Mayor to account for mayoral development corporation proposals. If a future Mayor—I am sure that it would not be the current Mayor—were to come up with a proposal for a mayoral development corporation which was thought objectionable, by what means would a control or brake be put on that process?

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the anecdotal evidence from the Thames Gateway is that the level of accountability and the funding streams were often indistinct, that there was an insufficient level of democratic accountability through boroughs outside London, London boroughs and the mayoralty, and that the proposed changes before us seek to rectify that situation?

Robert Neill: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is a history to the incremental growth of the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation,

18 May 2011 : Column 370

which did not prove satisfactory, and as he knows the Government are looking at the matter in a different context.

We seek to introduce proper accountability to the London mayoral development corporation. There was a debate about whether it would be appropriate to give the boroughs a veto, and that possibility has foreshadowed an Opposition amendment. The Government have reflected on the matter, and we take the view that it probably is appropriate and sensible to include a check and balance in the system, but we conclude that, because the Mayor of London is a strategic authority and charged with the economic development policy and oversight for London, the check and balance should not be through any one London borough or group of London boroughs, as they have their own important role, are in any event the statutory consultees on these matters and would have the opportunity to put their views forward anyway.

It is more appropriate if the check and balance mirrors other checks and balances in the GLA’s governance scheme, so that the London assembly, which is democratically elected and represents all Londoners, is able to veto a proposal for a mayoral development corporation by a two-thirds qualified majority vote.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): I am grateful to the Government for accepting the approach that I outlined in Committee in response to an amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford). Will my hon. Friend confirm that, because of the two-thirds majority to which he refers and the GLA’s electoral system, one merit of the proposal is that it will effectively ensure the need for cross-party consensus behind any MDC designation?

Robert Neill: My hon. Friend is entirely right, and I am grateful to him for raising the suggestion in Committee, because it fits neatly with an established pattern of working in the GLA. As he rightly observes, the proposal will require any Mayor to achieve a measure of cross-party consensus. The system is established in relation to the Mayor’s budget and the various strategies that he is entitled to bring forward, and it is logical to include such an important issue in the same regime. Not only is there an electoral system in the GLA which requires cross-party consensus for a two-thirds majority, but the assembly is seized of certain powers not unlike our powers in this place to call for people and papers, so it can summon people and, therefore, carry out robust scrutiny.

Importantly, the assembly is also elected on a basis that includes constituency representatives and those elected through a list system, so any London borough that might be affected or concerned by a proposed mayoral development corporation has its constituency assembly representative at City hall who is able to stand up, ask questions and challenge on their behalf. I hope that that meets the Opposition’s point, and that their amendment will not be necessary.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): I doubt it, because having representatives from borough councils on the assembly is not a strong enough measure; they may not comprise the majority. There is still the view in London borough councils, which we will hear more of when we come to our amendments, that they

18 May 2011 : Column 371

should have a veto. The designation of a mayoral development corporation in an area is a very powerful measure. I heard the Minister say that he did not believe the current Mayor had any extra MDCs in mind, but he could do, and the power is cast quite widely.

Robert Neill: I am disappointed in the hon. Lady’s response, because I thought that we had got a good deal of the way down the track to meet what were sensible concerns. There is a difference between recognising that the establishment of a mayoral development corporation is part of the outworking of London-wide policy, in which the Mayor will have to have regard to the strategic economic and developmental interests of the whole city, which may be different from the individual interests of a single local authority, and recognising that the assembly is the body that this House has already charged with holding the Mayor to account for the way in which he exercises those powers.

There is a difficulty with giving a veto to an individual London borough, because the borough’s interests are very properly not required to be strategic in the same way as those of the Mayor and of the assembly. Often they are, in fairness, and I do not mean to diminish the importance of the London boroughs. As the hon. Lady knows, I spent 16 years as a London borough councillor before spending eight years on the London assembly. That may indicate precocious sadness on my part, but that is a different matter. Both bodies fulfil very important functions, but they are different functions, and, if we are rightly going to put a check and balance on the Mayor’s exercise of his strategic role, we must do so through the assembly—the elected strategic check and balance. The boroughs have an important role in this because the Mayor is required to consult them, among other bodies, and they therefore have a powerful tool in being able to raise their concerns and to lobby their borough elected representative on the assembly to ensure that their case and their voice is heard.

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): Our colleagues on the London assembly are supportive of the Government’s amendments and new clauses, as are my London colleagues and other colleagues in this place. Let me seek clarification on one thing; I hope that I might catch the Speaker’s eye later to speak on the substance of it. If the Mayor were to set up development corporations in London, would there be any changes in the planning processes in those areas that took democratic control away from the elected councillors? That was controversial under the old urban development corporations set up by the Conservative Government when Lord Heseltine was the relevant Secretary of State.

Robert Neill: Yes, the corporations could act in that way. They do not have to, because we have not been as specific as was the case in the past with the old-style development corporations as to exactly what they have to include. The likelihood, it is fair to say, is that they would, because part of the objective of a development corporation generally is to bring the development function and the planning function for a particular area together to speed up development. In practice—I hope that this will reassure my right hon. Friend—the east London MDC that was proposed for the Olympic park area has been involved an iterative process, with a degree of

18 May 2011 : Column 372

discussion between the Mayor and the five London boroughs affected. There has been some negotiation, which is probably a mature thing to have in the current circumstances. The upshot is that we now have a proposal to which the Mayor and the London boroughs are satisfied they can sign up. The boroughs accept that they cede some planning power for a period, but now do so by agreement with the Mayor. I think the same process can be achieved in other cases.

Mr Stewart Jackson: Setting aside the sui generis nature of London governance, does my hon. Friend agree that the level of direct accountability of these Government proposals is greater than that which existed hitherto in, for instance, West Northamptonshire Development Corporation, North Northants Development Company and most of, if not all of, the housing market renewal areas? This is indeed an improvement in terms of direct accountability for regeneration policy.

Robert Neill: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, for two reasons. First, the power to set up the corporation is devolved, and a directly elected regional figure, in the shape of the Mayor, takes that decision. Secondly, there is the veto, which did not exist in relation to the other, earlier-style development corporations. There is therefore a significantly enhanced degree of accountability.

Simon Hughes: I heard what the Minister said about the discussions that have been going on in east London between the Mayor and the local authorities. If, for example, the current Mayor or any future Mayor had the further idea that there should be mayoral development corporations south of the river, would that, of necessity, require him to have the agreement of the local authority or authorities in question if they had a different view, given that there could be a conflict? Co-operation is fine, but a difference of view that means that the local authority’s views are disregarded is not so fine.

Robert Neill: In theory, a Mayor could seek to disregard a local authority’s views, but in practice we reckon that the new clause makes that unachievable. There are two reasons for that. First, the Mayor will have to consult the local authorities, which will have registered their objection. As with any public law decision, he has to behave in a way that is rational and reasonable within the terms of the Associated Provincial Picture Houses v. Wednesbury Corporation case. Secondly, because of the electoral arrangements in London, the local authority would be well placed to ensure that a blocking majority was created in the assembly to prevent the policy from going through. There is a theoretical possibility that the Mayor would be able to create the sort of rogue corporation that one might be concerned about, but in reality it is pretty much inconceivable.

Mr Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): The Minister knows that it is not just a theoretical possibility. The Bill states very clearly that if the Mayor applies to the Secretary of State for a mayoral development corporation and has gone through the processes of consultation, if that proposal then comes before the Secretary of State, he must, under the terms of the Bill, create that mayoral development corporation. When I put these points to the Minister in earlier debates in this Chamber on Second Reading and in Committee, I said

18 May 2011 : Column 373

the real danger was that a Mayor who had considerable support in the assembly, as can happen following an election, would be in a strong position to railroad through his proposal against the opposition of the local borough. That remains the case, and I hope that the Minister will accept that.

2.15 pm

Robert Neill: I am sorry, but the right hon. Gentleman has been consistently wrong on this point. If he will forgive my saying so, I know that he is offended when somebody comes up with an idea in London governance which is not his own. With respect to him, as he has considerable experience in this field, his solution to the risk, which I do accept, that a Mayor might seek to set up a rogue or an unacceptable development corporation was, in effect, to give the Secretary of State the veto—in other words, instead of saying, as the Bill does, that the Secretary of State “must” approve the proposal, that he “may” approve a policy, and that the veto would rest with a Minister. That was a highly centralising means of resolving the problem. Instead, the Government have trusted the elected representatives of London and said that the assembly, through qualified majority voting, may exercise the veto. That is much more consistent with the localist thrust of the Bill, and I would have thought it was closer to what the right hon. Gentleman, who after all introduced devolution in London, would himself wish to see.

Mr Raynsford rose

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con) rose

Robert Neill: I give way first to my hon. Friend and then to the right hon. Gentleman.

Andrea Leadsom: As my hon. Friend knows, West Northamptonshire Development Corporation has been hated by local residents for the simple reason that it was forced on them to try to implement a central Government housing policy that has not been successful and that we hope to eliminate within the next couple of years.

Robert Neill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for sharing her experience of that body, which is a matter of great concern to her and to others. We have endeavoured to learn from past experience and past failings in the way in which we construct our arrangement, and we have therefore put a democratic veto into our proposals.

Mr Raynsford: I want to correct the Minister’s assertion that I was wrong in my interpretation of the Bill. I repeat the point that was put to him by the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes): if the Mayor decides to proceed with a proposal for a mayoral development corporation, the Secretary of State has to give effect to it if it is not blocked by the assembly. We have had debates about the proper mechanisms for blocking such a proposal. However, as the Minister must concede because it is in the Bill, if those mechanisms do not work, the Secretary of State has no discretion and has to give effect to the Mayor’s requirement to bring into effect such a development corporation irrespective of whether

18 May 2011 : Column 374

the individual borough is opposed to it. Will he now please concede that I was not wrong on that point, because that is what the Bill says?

Robert Neill: I will give the right hon. Gentleman this: he is right on textual analysis but remains wrong on policy, because his solution is a centralist one that would give the Secretary of State a veto. The whole point of what we are doing, in improving the Bill from its original state, is that we do not allow the Secretary of State to veto a decision taken by elected representatives in London; rather, we allow the assembly, which is the established body for keeping the Mayor of London in check, to exercise the veto. In policy terms, that is preferable.

I am disappointed that the Opposition object to this. As I recall only too well, in 1999 they made great play of having devolved power to London by establishing the Greater London authority. I now accept that that was the right thing to do. We are following the logic of that by enabling Londoners to take the decision as to what is the best shape and size of an important regeneration tool for London. They do that with the Mayor making the proposal and the assembly having the ability, if necessary, to veto it, and the boroughs being able to be consulted and to exercise influence through their elected members of the assembly. I am sorry that the Opposition seem to want to start a bit of a war where none need exist, because there is consensus among all parties in the assembly that it is desirable to go down this route.

Barbara Keeley: I think I am right in reporting the Minister as saying that a principle of the Localism Bill is to trust local representatives. I hope that Ministers will bear that in mind as they take the Bill through its final stages in the House, because I want to question them about why that does not carry through to the imposition of shadow mayors, although I know that that is outside the scope of this debate. If we are to be true to the principle of trusting elected representatives, which the Minister has just stated, we must not impose on them.

Various people have intervened in this debate. It would help if we moved on to considering the amendments fairly soon, because we will be able to take the arguments in the round if we do that.

Mr Speaker: Order. That is in the hands of the Chair. At this stage, the hon. Gentleman will continue his remarks.

Robert Neill: I am grateful, Mr Speaker. I am anxious to deal with as many of the issues raised by hon. Members as possible, because this debate is time-limited, and for good reason. I hope that I have dealt, in large measure, with why it is appropriate to adopt the Government amendments, and why that is preferable to placing a veto in the hands of the boroughs, which would create a potential conflict of interest, or the earlier Opposition proposition of leaving a veto with central Government, which would be entirely contrary to the spirit of the Bill.

I will cover one final topic before I finish, if I may. Another proposal in the group, which I anticipate will be put, is amendment 351, tabled by the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), the next-door

18 May 2011 : Column 375

neighbour of part of my constituency. The amendment relates to the London housing and regeneration board. It is important that the Bill transfers housing powers and responsibilities from central Government agencies, in the form of the Homes and Communities Agency, to the Mayor. That has been welcomed across the piece politically in London. It is envisaged that the London housing board will be the vehicle within which that work is carried out.

As I read it, and I will happily be corrected if I am wrong, the amendment would prescribe in statute a requirement that the GLA should have a London housing and regeneration board. I cannot go that far because although it is no doubt a sensible thing to have, certainly at the moment, and is something that works well enough with the involvement of the Mayor’s office and the boroughs, we do not think it is consistent with the spirit of localism for us to prescribe, in one particular area, the manner in which the GLA should carry out its activities. Interestingly, that again seems to be a little bit of potential centralism creeping in through the back door. I would prefer to give the Mayor and the boroughs flexibility in determining how to take those issues forward.

I hope that I have dealt with all the topics in what has perhaps been a livelier debate than might have been anticipated when we started to talk about tax clauses, which I note have not featured in the controversy at all, perhaps not surprisingly.

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to the two amendments in my name, although it feels rather strange to be doing so when we have already had much of the debate. I will speak to amendment 351, which relates to the establishment of a London housing and regeneration board, and seeks to guarantee that at least 50% of the membership of such a board would be made up of representatives from the local authority. I will also speak to amendment 352, which we have already debated at some length, and which relates to the process that has to be gone through to establish a mayoral development corporation. Under the amendment, the agreement of any council that is affected would be required before an MDC could be established. I am conscious that there is much to debate this afternoon, so I will limit my remarks.

I will move on to why I tabled the amendments. I should say at the outset that the amendments have been promoted and supported by London Councils, which, as hon. Members know, is the cross-party organisation that represents London boroughs. We can debate the localist merits of the Bill as a whole, but the provisions on London are distinctly regionalist. Whereas in other parts of the country there is the abolition of regional spatial strategies, we still have the London plan. The Bill proposes the winding up of the London Development Agency and the London part of the Homes and Communities Agency, with their powers being transferred to the London Mayor. Due to the Government’s understandable desire to ensure that the regeneration legacy of the Olympics takes effect, there are proposals in the Bill to enable the Mayor to set up a mayoral development corporation. However, as drafted, the Bill suggests that there could be an MDC anywhere in London, and not just at the Olympics site. My amendments would act as a brake on the concentrating powers that the Bill puts into the hands of the Mayor of London.

18 May 2011 : Column 376

They would give councils and councillors a voice, and they would give people in London the same say as people elsewhere in the country.

Amendment 352 would make it a requirement that a local authority in a proposed MDC area must agree to its establishment. If more that one local authority is affected, all must agree. The Bill as drafted gives complete power to the Mayor and the Secretary of State. Under Government amendment 213, the support of two thirds of the assembly will be needed for a proposal to move forward. That is not a sufficient assurance. There could be a situation in London in which local people are completely against the setting up of an MDC, councillors and the local authority in the area are completely against the setting up of an MDC, and the GLA constituency member is completely against the setting up of an MDC, and yet if the Mayor wants it to happen, it will happen. I ask hon. Members, what is localist about that?

We had some fun in Committee. On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford) talked about the prospect of a new Mayor of London—perhaps Ken Livingstone in a year’s time—choosing to establish a mayoral development corporation in Bromley. I will not repeat those comments.

Mr Raynsford: Why not?

Heidi Alexander: I will not repeat them because I am under strict instructions to keep the debate moving as quickly as I can.

Mr Stewart Jackson: I am interested in the hon. Lady’s views and I am listening to her with great attention. Does she not feel that her proposals are a recipe for institutionalised impasse? Having served on such benign bodies as the London Ecology Committee, the London Waste Regulation Authority and the London fire and civil defence authority, I know that it is almost impossible to get all the boroughs to agree. Therefore, if one borough has a de facto veto, there would never be any major progress on housing and regeneration across Greater London.

Heidi Alexander: That is quite a negative view of politics in London. I do not think that my proposal would lead to institutionalised impasse. The proposals on the ability to set up an MDC in any area are incredibly important. The things that an MDC could do, such as granting planning permission for different developments, compulsorily purchasing land and agreeing plans for an area, are significant matters for people who live in the neighbourhood. Local councils and councillors would also have views on those matters. I would hope that all parts of London government could come together and agree whether an MDC was an appropriate vehicle in a local area. I therefore question whether retaining the powers with the Mayor and the Secretary of State in the Bill is true localism. That was my reason for tabling amendment 352.

As the Minister said, amendment 351 to clause 158 proposes the establishment of a new London housing and regeneration board. With the winding up of the London Development Agency and the London part of the Homes and Communities Agency, many powers will be transferred to the Mayor of London. We also see in

18 May 2011 : Column 377

chapter 3 of part 6 that provision is made for the devolution of local authority housing finance. That will mean an enhanced role for local authorities in providing, commissioning and funding affordable housing in London.

2.30 pm

I believe it is vital that local authorities and the London Mayor work together to ensure a joint focus on the delivery of much-needed new affordable homes. My amendment would establish a board within six months of the Bill coming into law, and as I said earlier, at least 50% of members of that board would be local authority representatives. That would be a good way of achieving the joint working that London so desperately needs.

The Minister said that the amendment was unnecessarily prescriptive and asked why we should legislate to set up such a board in London. I cannot let that pass, because in other parts of the Bill, that idea has not prevented the Government from being incredibly prescriptive, whether about arrangements to establish a neighbourhood forum or the process for nominating land as a community asset. The Bill is hugely prescriptive in many ways, and I suggest that on a matter as important as regeneration and the provision of affordable housing, perhaps we could have a bit more prescription to ensure that we achieve what we all want in London.

The provision of new homes in London at a rent that people can afford is one of the most pressing challenges in the capital. It is difficult, because we do not see huge amounts of land lying around in London and it cannot easily be bought cheaply. Also, the Government have brought forward a huge programme of swingeing cuts to capital budgets for house building. We have seen the proposals for the affordable rent model, and there are many important questions to ask about how workable it is in London, particularly in funding the building of three and four-bedroom family homes. Perhaps they can be built, but whether anyone living in London can afford to live in them is another thing altogether.

There are important issues to deal with in the provision of new affordable housing in London, and we have to find a way of getting the Mayor of London, the Greater London authority, the local authorities and local communities to work together to achieve that aim. That is the only way in which progress will be made. It is not about one part of London government blaming another; it is about genuine partnership. I am not making a party political point—yes, politics will come into the discussions that take place between the Mayor and London boroughs, but sometimes the arguments will be between politicians of the same party. I want us to raise the issue above party politics and give it the importance that it deserves.

I urge Members to listen carefully to the rest of the debate and to ask themselves the following questions. Does part 7 of the Bill represent a new era in localism? Does it devolve decisions to the lowest possible level? Does it give more power to London residents and citizens? I do not think that it does, and if Government Members agree with me, I suggest that they join me in the Lobby when we vote on my amendments later, because I intend to press them.

Gavin Barwell: I will restrict myself to commenting on mayoral development corporations. There is an irony

18 May 2011 : Column 378

in the positions that the parties are taking today. It is rather strange for Conservative Members to be defending city-wide government and for Labour Members to be making the case for the boroughs. Incidentally, I say in passing that I always find it slightly grating when people refer to London as a region. It is a city, and I consider myself as living not in a region but in the world’s greatest city.

Having started on that note of disagreement, I wish to say that on Second Reading and in Committee the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford) correctly diagnosed a problem with the Bill. There was a danger that a future Mayor would designate a mayoral development corporation despite widespread cross-party opposition in all parts of the affected area. There would be nothing that the Secretary of State could do but accept that designation. He was absolutely right about that, and we had a good debate about it in Committee.

As my hon. Friend the Minister said, the problem with the solution that the right hon. Gentleman proposed at that point was that it would have centralised the decision back with the Government. I made the suggestion, which I am grateful to the Government for adopting, that we should go with the grain of the existing arrangements, for which the right hon. Gentleman was probably responsible, and use the London assembly to hold the Mayor in check.

The hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), who made a very good contribution throughout the Committee stage, has proposed an alternative solution. The problem is that, if just one local authority were involved, that local authority would essentially be given a veto. There might be good public policy reasons for the Mayor wanting to pursue a development corporation solution in a particular area. I therefore believe that the Government have adopted the right model in the Bill. I suppose I would say that, having proposed it in Committee, but I hope that Ministers will consider a couple of minor tweaks that could be made. If they are persuaded, perhaps that can happen in another place. I shall come to those tweaks in a moment.

My hon. Friend the Minister will know that many of the people who serve on the London assembly are themselves councillors in the local authorities concerned. In Croydon and Sutton, our London assembly member, Steve O’Connell, is a Croydon councillor. In the neighbouring GLA constituency of Merton and Wandsworth, Richard Tracey is a local councillor.

Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con) indicated assent .

Gavin Barwell: My hon. Friend, who is a former member of the assembly, knows that many members are in that position.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) referred to urban development corporations. I see that he is in heavy conversation at the moment, but he talked about the lack of democratic accountability in those corporations in the 1980s. It is important to make the point that in this case, the designation of a development corporation would be made not by central Government but by the Mayor of London, who is democratically elected.

18 May 2011 : Column 379

I am conscious of the time and know that other Members wish to speak, so I end with two points that Ministers might wish to consider. Schedule 21 deals with the detailed arrangements for mayoral development corporations. Paragraph 1 is about the membership of them, and perhaps the Government could consider a requirement that the people whom the Mayor appointed to them, or at least some of them, should have a connection with the local area covered. That is not mentioned in the schedule. It sets out the need for people to have experience and to have shown some capacity in the relevant functions of the corporation, and for them to have no financial interest. Those are both good and sensible provisions, but there may well be a case for ensuring that at least some members have a local connection with the area and perhaps a relationship with the local authority.

Paragraph 6 of schedule 21 is about committees established by mayoral development corporations. Sub-paragraph (3) states:

“A committee or sub-committee may, with the agreement of the Mayor, include persons who are not members of the MDC, but a majority of the members of a committee or sub-committee must be members of the MDC.”

I, and I suspect other Members, have received representations from both the Mayor and the assembly stating that they would be happy with a much more relaxed rule that gave MDCs more freedom to appoint a greater proportion of people who were not members of its board. Those people may well be members of the local authority or have connections with the area. Given that we have not yet achieved complete consensus on this matter, the Government could look at some of the details of schedule 21, to see whether we can address some of those concerns.

In conclusion, it is greatly to Ministers’ credit that they listened to the debate in Committee and came back with a solution, which I think is a good one that improves the Bill. If they went away and looked at a couple of details on schedule 21, it might be possible to address some of the concerns that hon. Members have raised in this debate.

Simon Hughes: I shall make a brief contribution to what is an important debate for London, which I am happy to take part in once again.

I agree with the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) that the two biggest issues that affect my constituents and hers, and that fall directly or indirectly within the remit of local government, are jobs and housing. Most people are most concerned about those two issues most of the time. I am afraid that I come to this debate with long experience in this place. When I was first elected, Lady Thatcher’s Government had just set up urban development corporations throughout the country, of which the London Docklands Development Corporation was one. Indeed, that was the backdrop to my by-election, because my predecessor, Bob Mellish, was appointed as vice-chairman of the LDDC. That was not uncontroversial in Bermondsey, because people in general, and particularly those in the Labour party, did not think that a quango should be given the powers over Southwark, Newham and Tower Hamlets that the LDDC was given, so appointing a Labour MP to the LDDC was not consistent with Labour party policy.

18 May 2011 : Column 380

That handover of powers to the UDCs was very controversial, because it meant that planning decisions were taken by a group of unelected people. It was possible to influence the people who took the decisions, but never possible to hold them directly accountable. I used to go to planning committee meetings following lots of community activity—they were not always in Southwark: sometimes, for major planning schemes in the Surrey docks or along the riverside, meetings were held at the LDDC in the Isle of Dogs or elsewhere—but communities often felt alienated afterwards. The legacy is the feeling of remoteness when decisions are not taken by locally elected representatives.

I am not saying that the local community comes away feeling deliriously happy after every local council planning committee meeting. I have seen enough local planning committees in Southwark over the years make controversial planning decisions—under Labour, Liberal Democrat and Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition administrations. However, at the end of the day, the public at least know that they can kick those people out at the next election if they want to do so. My premise, therefore, is that the starting point should always be accountable decision making, particularly on planning matters, and particularly on the big planning matters that “urban development” by definition implies. This is not about whether someone can have a bedroom in the mansard roof of a flat or house, or whether someone’s garage can be an extra bedroom; this is about schemes for industrial sites and other things on that scale.

Mr Stewart Jackson: I hasten to say that I do not know as much about the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency as he does, but surely the history of the LDDC is that the political administrations in, for instance, Tower Hamlets and Newham, which happened to be Labour-run at the time, were viscerally hostile to central Government, and refused to undertake any realistic action on regeneration or to face up to post-industrial decline in their boroughs. Central Government was therefore forced to step in to provide a template for regeneration and housing.

Simon Hughes: I shall not help the House to hold a seminar on London in the ’70s and ’80s, which would actually be very interesting. The hon. Gentleman is nevertheless right. Local authorities did not get on with development. There were frozen developments, including one in the Royal Docks and some in my constituency, after the closure of the London docks in the upper pool in places like Bermondsey, and their move down to Tilbury. That is why the Government intervened, and I understand why they did so. It was necessary to get something moving. Whatever else we say about it, the LDDC certainly did that. Its legacy has, in general terms, been very benign. The regeneration has been hugely successful. Southwark is as prosperous as it is, and the business rates that are collected in Southwark are as high as they are, because of the regeneration along the riverside from London bridge down to the end of my constituency at the other side of the Greenland dock, on the border with Deptford.

2.45 pm

To pursue the housing and jobs theme, it is clear that there are huge opportunities for employment-regenerative activities in inner-London boroughs if the conditions—

18 May 2011 : Column 381

meaning rate relief, sites and so on—are right. I visited the Tower Bridge Business Centre in my constituency just the other day, which is on the site of the old Peek Frean’s factory in Bermondsey. That hugely successful, privately owned enterprise provides a nursery and units of various sizes for people as they grow their businesses. It is one of a set of businesses run by the same company around Greater London, where it does all its business. It has very innovative ideas. There is no shortage of individuals, small firms and others that want to come in to take over the spaces that were previously occupied by larger businesses. The large wholesale warehouses and distribution centres, for example, are not in London any more, and we no longer need storage centres because we store on micro-files rather than in paper files.

The opportunity for London to continue as a place of employment still exists, and not just in the financial industries of the City. London has fantastic creative industries, small engineering enterprises and so on, and we must make the most of these opportunities.

There is a huge need to ensure that we continue to build homes at prices that our constituents can afford. The other day, I met some representatives of the G15 group of London housing associations, which owns the largest number of properties in London; it is known to all London Members. The G15 is concerned about how the financial picture and envelope will permit them to develop. I undertook to the G15 that I would seek to convene a meeting in June to try to sort out what appears at the moment to be a set of policies that is not yet fully connected. Invited are the Housing and Local Government Minister, who has agreed to attend; Lord Freud, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; colleagues from throughout London from all parties; the Mayor, who has shown an interest; local councillors representing the 33 local authorities;, and the housing world. How do we deliver more affordable homes, particularly the larger homes with three or four bedrooms for families, and deliver on the Government’s general approach to welfare without making it impossible for people to stay in the sorts of homes that we want them to be in? I hope we can join up that remaining part of the policy, and I welcome the advice of the hon. Member for Lewisham East, who has experience of the matter. I will work with her colleagues and Conservative colleagues, and I am sure that we can make further progress. I also welcome the fact that the Mayor is taking a direct interest.

The proposals in this group are about further transfers of power to the Mayor. As a veteran of both the legislation to the abolish the Greater London council, which I opposed, and the legislation to set up the Greater London authority, which I supported, I believe that more powers should be given to London government from central Government. Indeed, the difficulties that the Government have run into on other policies—for example, on the NHS—could have been less had they accepted our advice. I and my hon. Friends argued and voted for amendments on transferring strategic health powers to London government, for example, because it is better to get rid of unaccountable quangos and regional bodies and to replace them with accountable regional bodies.

Mr Raynsford: I was a little surprised when the right hon. Gentleman said that he supported the restoration of the GLA. My recollection is that he and the Liberal

18 May 2011 : Column 382

Democrats voted against the creation of a Mayor of London. He might have supported the concept of an assembly, but the Liberal Democrats did not support the GLA architecture as it exists.

Simon Hughes: The right hon. Gentleman is of course correct. He knows that as well as anybody, because it was his plan that the Government were delivering on. Liberal Democrats wanted devolution to London, but we were not sold on that model, which is why we still—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. May I just say that we need to get back to dealing with the new clause? We are having a history lesson in the Chamber. As interesting as that is, other people are waiting to speak. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman now wishes to address the new clause.

Simon Hughes: I stand rebuked, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was tempted by the right hon. Gentleman, but I will not be any more. I will make a few more comments, and then sit down.

The next issue is how exactly the transfer of powers back to London will work. It is certainly right that, as the Bill proposes, we get rid of the London function of the Homes and Communities Agency, which is a quango, and transfer it to a democratically elected Mayor answerable to the 25 elected members of the London assembly. That is a good thing. It is also certainly right that the Government abolish the Government office for London. There is no need for a Government office for London as well as a Mayor, a London assembly and a Greater London authority. All those policies are heading in the right direction.

We now need to solve the further dilemma of how we strike the right balance between London-wide decisions, which are perfectly proper, and the interests of the boroughs. I understand that there is still some unresolved tension in that regard. My colleagues on the London assembly and across London think that, on balance, the Government are heading in the right direction, so today, although obviously the hon. Member for Lewisham East is entitled to make her case, we cannot support her. However, I do not want her to take that to mean that there are not further conversations to be had. Obviously the Bill will go to the House of Lords, and there will be opportunities to look at these things afresh.

I am hopeful that today’s debate will flag up the need to ensure—I am happy to have further conversations with colleagues about this—that the new architecture is the right architecture. I heard clearly what the Minister said about the Mayor’s power being subject to the two-thirds support of the London assembly, and I agree that that amounts to a requirement for a cross-party endorsement or cross-party veto. That will be a welcome control mechanism. I do not criticise the fact that the representatives, particularly the constituency representatives, should be able to speak for their constituencies, including for the borough councils within those constituencies, which is one of their jobs.

Heidi Alexander: What does the right hon. Gentleman make of what I see as something of a conundrum in the Bill? If a neighbourhood forum in his constituency came up with a neighbourhood plan, it could be completely overridden by the establishment of a mayoral development corporation, over which his community, councillors and local authority will have had no say.

18 May 2011 : Column 383

Simon Hughes: They will have had a say, because, as the hon. Lady will know, the Bill contains a requirement for formal consultation with a list of people, including every local authority and others.

The Government are trying to take power from the centre and hand it down to the regions, including London, and then further down, not just to local authorities but to neighbourhoods. Southwark has eight community councils, which is very welcome. That is what the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), who has responsibility for planning, asks us to support. However, that does not mean that there should not be overarching responsibilities on a London-wide basis.

I say to the hon. Member for Lewisham East that there is certainly a wish to continue arguing for a London-wide responsibility for housing strategy, and we need to work out the best way of delivering that. Boroughs will do their own thing to develop as much as they can, but we will clearly need a London-wide policy to meet the needs of the homeless, asylum seekers and refugees, for instance, who do not immediately and naturally become the responsibility of a particular borough, because they do not have a fixed link with that borough. I and my London colleagues are keen to work with her and her London colleagues and the Minister and his colleagues to try to ensure that at the end of the deliberations we put in place the best possible structure, providing appropriate responsibilities at the level of boroughs and the Mayor and the London assembly, and as far as possible allowing for democratic accountability for all policies, particularly housing and regeneration.

Gavin Barwell: I tried to address in my speech the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making, but he was in discussion with a colleague at the time. If paragraph 6 of schedule 11 was amended, it would give the Mayor more flexibility to put people from neighbourhood planning groups or local authority representatives on to the MDC planning committee. That may be one way of squaring this circle.

Simon Hughes: At the moment, of course, the legislation provides for how the Mayor chooses the people to be on the development corporations. That could be looked at again. I do not think that my colleagues would object to there being nominees either from the local authorities in the areas in question—whether from more than one or a single local authority—or from the community councils and elsewhere. I think the hon. Gentleman’s idea, which we need to consider, is a good one.

There needs to be good democracy in London whereby people can be held to account for the decisions they make. The fact that the London Development Agency is going is helpful, because it means that the Mayor will be responsible for London’s economic regeneration as a whole. That is what mayors of big cities should do. Whether people support mayors in big cities is a separate debate, but if we have them, that is what they should do. The Mayor should be held to account by the assembly, so I hope that we can say to the Minister that he is on the right track, but that he should remain alert to the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Lewisham East and her Front-Bench colleagues. If we can get it,

18 May 2011 : Column 384

we need to aim for consensus by the time the Bill completes its passage through the House of Lords and Parliament.

Mr Stewart Jackson: I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes). It goes without saying that I support the Government amendments. The Bill will disturb the equilibrium that we established in 1998 and the settled view of London governance. The right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford) piloted the legislation on this matter through Parliament. I had the pleasure—generally speaking—of serving with him in the last Parliament on several Bill Committees, but in some respects he is resiling from earlier commitments. His proposals opposing the Government amendments and the views expressed ably and articulately by the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) seek effectively to undermine the authority and autonomy of the boroughs. They would set up an institutionalised conflict between the boroughs and the Greater London authority, with the Mayor quite possibly acting as the de facto referee and invigilator. That is a serious concern.

On the hon. Lady’s amendment 351, we should acknowledge the consensus in the House on the need for more affordable housing, better-quality housing and aesthetically pleasing housing, and above all for regeneration to consolidate London’s position as the pre-eminent city in Europe. However, looking at what was delivered in the dozen or so years of the regional development agencies, when we had a centralised policy, and an over-prescriptive and—one may even say—draconian approach to housing targets, I am not convinced that instituting a pan-London borough body would achieve the key objectives that we all seek.

I mentioned earlier, albeit perhaps in a slightly irreverent way, that for eight years while I was a London borough councillor, I served on bodies that were largely non-political. To get agreement on waste transfer and ecology centres was difficult enough, so making value judgments as between different boroughs and in effect resiling from a strategic overview of what is good for a whole city or region probably would not work. Incidentally, I have to disabuse my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell) of one notion. Peterborough is, in fact, the greatest city in the world, but we might have to beg to differ on that. However, with all due respect to the hon. Member for Lewisham East, while my heart agrees with her, my head says that her proposals probably would not work or deliver what we wish.

Let me briefly address the Government amendments and the points made by the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) and the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich. As the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark said, we would be returning to something like the situation that prevailed with the London Docklands Development Corporation, with the Secretary of State required to make the value judgment that neither the boroughs nor the GLA could sort something out, and therefore to impose a regeneration body. We have moved on from that. We now have a more mature and nuanced political culture. Once we establish the bona fides of London governance through the GLA and the Mayor, with the proviso that there will effectively be a two-thirds veto for the directly elected individuals, who will debate

18 May 2011 : Column 385

among themselves and with their boroughs, it would seem invidious to undermine that by putting so much potential power—again, effectively in the form of a veto—in the hands of the Mayor.

3 pm

On that basis, I would urge Ministers—and in particular the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill)—to reject the Opposition’s views and to make the case strongly. What we have is the best consensual way forward to ensure that we get what we all want, which is better quality housing in London and for the economic engine driving the south-east and the wider country to be a success. That is why I support the Government amendments.

Barbara Keeley: I want to speak briefly in support of the amendments so ably presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander). There was much consensus on this part of the Bill, unlike on others. There was much consultation with the Mayor, the Greater London assembly and London councils. To me, this part of the Bill shows the value of early and thorough consultation. Perhaps there is a lesson for us there.

As my hon. Friend has argued, the powers of a mayoral development corporation would be great. The power of the Mayor to establish new mayoral development corporations anywhere across the Greater London area is cast widely, as we discussed extensively in Committee. Amendment 352 quite rightly seeks to ensure that where a Mayor seeks to establish a further mayoral development corporation, the majority of the borough councils affected by such a designation would have to agree to it. The Opposition do not believe that this would create any form of impasse. However, it is important that a borough council with only a small representation in the assembly—one that could therefore in no way seek to achieve a two-thirds majority through its assembly representation—should be able to come to agreement with either one or all the other boroughs if another development corporation was designated. We agree with my hon. Friend’s amendment 352 and will support it in a Division.

Robert Neill: This has been an interesting and worthwhile debate, although I accept that there has been an element of déjà vu for some of us. I say that as someone who served on the old Greater London council and who found its abolition quite painless, partly because at the same time I was serving on the fire authority, the waste regulation authority, the waste disposal authority and the borough council. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) is quite right that we created a somewhat convoluted architecture thereafter, which is why it is right to restore as much decision making as we can to London. That is why I am grateful for his support for the general thrust of where we are going.

I understand the point that the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) made about the importance of employment and housing. She is absolutely right about that. I also accept the need to take all the agencies in London along with any such proposal, but I cannot accept her proposition that we cannot trust London’s politicians to come to a mature decision on the best way forward.

18 May 2011 : Column 386

A powerful point about the history of London was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell), and it was also reinforced by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough. They all have long experience in London government. Their point was that there are some details that can be looked at, but it is important to recognise that the relationship between the Mayor and the assembly has matured, even in the short time that the assembly has been in existence. Indeed, the relationship between the Mayor and the boroughs has matured regardless of party, under Mayors of both principal parties, as it happens. We should not underestimate the brokerage and leverage role that exists in the system, in addition to a purely legalistic role.

If I may be permitted to mention one bit of history, something that we learned from the previous GLC is that it was not simply the disagreements of Ken Livingstone with the Government of the day that undermined the GLC. Rather, the GLC was undermined by the tension between the two tiers and the risk, on occasion, of impasse —impasse that arose regardless of the party controlling the GLC and the London boroughs at the time. That is my concern. Giving boroughs an absolute veto in the way suggested by amendment 352 risks recreating the tensions of the old GLC days, rather than sticking with the more collaborative working that we currently have.

The proposal put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark also referred, is a sensible one. We can consider the details and discuss them sensibly to find a way to take it forward. We have learned from the rather remote model of operation of the earlier development corporations, and we want to embed that learning in how we go forward in future.

Even at this late stage, I hope that the Opposition will think about the necessity of pressing their amendment 352 to a vote. However, if they really insist, I would ask the House to reject it.

Question put and agreed to .

New clause 21 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill .

New Schedule 2

‘Transfers and transfer schemes: tax provisions

Part 1

Transfer under paragraph 60 of Schedule16

1 (1) For the purposes of any enactment about income tax or corporation tax, the Office and the HCA are to be treated as the same person.

(2) In particular, the transfer effected by paragraph 60 of Schedule 16 is to be disregarded for those purposes.

(3) Accordingly, that transfer is not to be regarded for the purposes of Part 8 of the Corporation Tax Act 2009 (gains and losses from intangible fixed assets) as involving any realisation of an asset by the Office or acquisition of an asset by the HCA.

(4) In this paragraph—

“enactment” includes an enactment contained in an instrument made under an Act,

“the HCA” means the Homes and Communities Agency, and

“the Office” means the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords.

18 May 2011 : Column 387

Part 2

Certain transfers under scheme under section161 or162

Interpretation of Part 2 of Schedule

2 In this Part of this Schedule—

“CTA 2009” means the Corporation Tax Act 2009,

“public body” means—

(a) a person which is a public body for the purposes of section 66 of the Finance Act 2003 (stamp duty land tax: transfers involving public bodies), or(b) a person prescribed for the purposes of this Part of this Schedule by order made by the Treasury,

“relevant transfer” means—

(a) a transfer, in accordance with a transfer scheme under section161, to a taxable public body of property, rights or liabilities of the Homes and Communities Agency, or(b) a transfer, in accordance with a transfer scheme under section162, to a taxable public body,

“taxable public body” means a public body which is within the charge to corporation tax,

“transferee”, in relation to a transfer in accordance with a transfer scheme under section161 or162, means the person to whom the transfer is made, and


(a) means the Homes and Communities Agency in relation to a transfer, in accordance with a transfer scheme under section161, of property, rights or liabilities of that Agency, and(b) means the London Development Agency in relation to a transfer in accordance with a transfer scheme under section162.

Computation of profits and losses in respect of transfer of a trade

3 (1) This paragraph applies where a taxable public body (“the predecessor”) is carrying on a trade or part of a trade and, as a result of a transfer scheme under section 161 or 162—

(a) the predecessor ceases to carry on that trade or part of a trade, and

(b) another taxable public body (“the successor”) begins to carry on that trade or part.

(2) For the purposes of calculating, in relation to the time when the scheme comes into force and subsequent times, the relevant trading profits or losses of the predecessor and the successor—

(a) the trade or part is to be treated as having been a separate trade at the time of its commencement and as having been carried on by the successor at all times since its commencement as a separate trade, and

(b) the trade carried on by the successor after the time when the scheme comes into force is to be treated as the same trade as that which the successor is treated, by virtue of paragraph (a), as having carried on as a separate trade before that time.

(3) If a trade or part of a trade is to be treated under this paragraph as a separate trade, such apportionments of receipts, expenses, assets and liabilities are to be made for the purposes of computing relevant trading profits or losses as may be just and reasonable.

(4) This paragraph is subject to the other provisions of this Part of this Schedule.

(5) In this paragraph “relevant trading profits or losses” means profits or losses under Part 3 of CTA 2009 in respect of the trade or part of a trade in question.

Transfers of trading stock

4 (1) This paragraph applies if—

(a) under a relevant transfer, trading stock of the transferor is transferred to the transferee,

18 May 2011 : Column 388

(b) immediately after the transfer takes effect, the stock is to be treated as trading stock of the transferee, and

(c) paragraph 3 does not apply in relation to the transfer.

(2) Sub-paragraphs (3) and (4) have effect in calculating for any corporation tax purpose both—

(a) the profits of the trade in relation to which the stock is trading stock immediately before the transfer takes effect (“the transferor’s trade”), and

(b) the profits of the trade in relation to which it is to be treated as trading stock (“the transferee’s trade”).

(3) The stock is to be treated as having been—

(a) disposed of by the transferor in the course of the transferor’s trade,

(b) acquired by the transferee in the course of the transferee’s trade, and

(c) subject to that, disposed of and acquired when the transfer takes effect.

(4) The stock is to be valued as if the disposal and acquisition had been for a consideration which in relation to the transferor would have resulted in neither a profit nor a loss being brought into account in respect of the disposal in the accounting period of the transferor which ends with, or is current at, the time when the transfer takes effect.

(5) In this paragraph “trading stock” has the meaning given by section 163 of CTA 2009.

Continuity in relation to loan relationships

5 (1) For the purposes of the application of Part 5 of CTA 2009 (loan relationships) in relation to a relevant transfer of rights and liabilities under a loan relationship to which immediately before the transfer takes effect the transferor is a party for the purposes of a trade it carries on, the transferee and the transferor are to be treated as if at the time of the transfer they were members of the same group.

(2) For the purposes of the application of Part 5 of CTA 2009 in relation to a transfer that—

(a) is to a public body,

(b) is in accordance with a transfer scheme under section 161 or 162, and

(c) is of rights and liabilities under a loan relationship to which immediately before the transfer takes effect the HCA or LDA is a party otherwise than for the purposes of a trade it carries on,

the HCA or LDA, and the person to whom the transfer is made, are to be treated as if at the time of the transfer they were members of the same group.

(3) In this paragraph any reference to being members of the same group is to be read in accordance with section 170 of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992.

(4) In this paragraph—

“the HCA” means the Homes and Communities Agency, and

“the LDA” means the London Development Agency.

Chargeable gains: disposal on transfer to be treated as no gain/no loss disposal

6 (1) For the purposes of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992, a disposal constituted by a transfer within sub-paragraph (2) is to be treated in relation to the transferor and transferee as made for a consideration such that no gain or loss accrues to the transferor.

(2) A transfer is within this sub-paragraph if—

(a) it is a transfer in accordance with a transfer scheme under section 161 of property, rights or liabilities of the Homes and Communities Agency and the transferee is a public body, or

(b) it is in accordance with a transfer scheme under section 162 and the transferee is a public body.

18 May 2011 : Column 389

(3) In section 288(3A) of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 (meaning of the “no gain/no loss provisions”) at the end insert—

“(m) paragraph 6(1) of Schedule [Transfers and transfer schemes: tax provisions] to the Localism Act 2011.”

Stamp duty

7 Stamp duty is not chargeable on a transfer scheme under section162 if the transferee is a public body.

Modifications of transfer schemes

8 (1) This paragraph applies if—

(a) a company delivers a company tax return,

(b) subsequently an agreement is made modifying a transfer scheme under section 161 or 162, and

(c) as a result of that, the return is incorrect.

(2) The return may be amended under paragraph 15 of Schedule 18 to the Finance Act 1998 so as to remedy the error, ignoring any time limit which would otherwise prevent that happening.

(3) An amendment may not be made in reliance on sub-paragraph (2) more than 12 months after the end of the accounting period of the company during which the agreement is made.

(4) Sub-paragraphs (5) and (6) apply if the company does not amend the return so as to remedy the error before the end of that 12 month period.

(5) A discovery assessment or a discovery determination may be made in relation to the error, ignoring any time limit which would otherwise prevent that happening.

(6) Such an assessment or determination may not be made in reliance on sub-paragraph (5) more than 24 months after the end of the accounting period mentioned in sub-paragraph (3).

(7) Expressions used in this paragraph and in Schedule 18 to the Finance Act 1998 have in this paragraph the meaning they have in that Schedule.’.

Part 3

Transfers under scheme under section171(1) or (4) or187(1)

9 (1) In this paragraph “transfer scheme” means a transfer scheme under section 171(1) or (4) or 187(1).

(2) The Treasury may by regulations make provision for varying the way in which a relevant tax has effect from time to time in relation to—

(a) any property, rights or liabilities transferred in accordance with a transfer scheme, or

(b) anything done for the purposes of, or in relation to, or in consequence of, the transfer of any property, rights or liabilities in accordance with a transfer scheme.

(3) The provision that may be made under sub-paragraph (2)(a) includes, in particular, provision for—

(a) a tax provision not to apply, or to apply with modifications, in relation to any property, rights or liabilities transferred;

(b) any property, rights or liabilities transferred to be treated in a specified way for the purposes of a tax provision;

(c) the Secretary of State or Mayor of London to be required or permitted, with the consent of the Treasury, to determine, or to specify the method for determining, anything which needs to be determined for the purposes of any tax provision so far as relating to any property, rights or liabilities transferred.

(4) The provision that may be made under sub-paragraph (2)(b) includes, in particular, provision for—

(a) a tax provision not to apply, or to apply with modifications, in relation to anything done for the purposes of, or in relation to, or in consequence of, the transfer;

(b) anything done for the purposes of, or in relation to, or in consequence of, the transfer to have or not to have a specified consequence or to be treated in a specified way;

18 May 2011 : Column 390

(c) the Secretary of State or Mayor of London to be required or permitted, with the consent of the Treasury, to determine, or to specify the method for determining, anything which needs to be determined for the purposes of any tax provision so far as relating to anything done for the purposes of, in relation to, or in consequence of, the transfer.

(5) In this paragraph—

“relevant tax” means corporation tax, income tax, capital gains tax, stamp duty, stamp duty land tax or stamp duty reserve tax, and

“tax provision” means a provision of an enactment about a relevant tax.

(6) In sub-paragraph (5) “enactment” includes an enactment contained in an instrument made under an Act.’.—(Robert Neill.)

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 20

Authority may be required to carry on commercial activities through a taxable body

‘(1) The Greater London Authority Act 1999 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 34 insert—

“34A Restriction on exercise of certain powers except through a taxable body

(1) The Authority may carry on specified activities for a commercial purpose only if it does so—

(a) through a company that is a subsidiary of the Authority, or

(b) in pursuance of an authorisation under section 38(1), through—

(i) a body that is specified in section 38(2) and is within the charge to corporation tax, or

(ii) a company that is a subsidiary of a body specified in section 38(2).

(2) Subsection (3) applies if—

(a) the Authority carries on a specified activity for a commercial purpose otherwise than as permitted by subsection (1), and

(b) the activity is actually carried on by a body (whether the Authority or another) that, disregarding this section, is in respect of the carrying-on of the activity exempt from corporation tax and income tax.

(3) The body mentioned in subsection (2)(b) is to be treated in respect of the carrying-on of the activity as not being a local authority for the purposes of—

(a) section 984 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 (exemption of local authorities from corporation tax),

(b) section 838 of the Income Tax Act 2007 (exemption of local authorities from income tax), and

(c) section 271 of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 (exemption of local authorities from capital gains tax).

(4) In this section—

“company” means—

(a) a company within the meaning given by section 1(1) of the Companies Act 2006, or(b) a society registered or deemed to be registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 1965 or the Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969, and

“specified activity” means an activity specified in an order made by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury.”

18 May 2011 : Column 391

(3) In section 420(8) (orders subject to annulment) after the entry for section 25 insert—

“section 34A;”.’.—(Robert Neill.)

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Clause 161

Transfer of property of Homes and Communities Agency etc

Amendments made: 205, page 143, line 31, at end insert—

‘(ba) a company that is a subsidiary of the Greater London Authority,’.

Amendment 206, page 143, line 38, at end insert—

‘“company” means—

(a) a company within the meaning given by section 1(1) of the Companies Act 2006, or(b) a society registered or deemed to be registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 1965 or the Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969;’.

Amendment 207, page 143, line 42, at end insert—

‘“subsidiary” has the meaning given by section 1159 of the Companies Act 2006.’.—(Robert Neill.)

Clause 162

Abolition of London Development Agency and transfer of its property etc

Amendments made: 208, page 144, line 8, at end insert—

‘(ba) a company that is a subsidiary of the Greater London Authority,’.

Amendment 209, page 144, line 17, at end insert—

‘“company” means—

(a) a company within the meaning given by section 1(1) of the Companies Act 2006, or(b) a society registered or deemed to be registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 1965 or the Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969;’.

Amendment 210, page 144, line 21, at end insert—

‘“subsidiary” has the meaning given by section 1159 of the Companies Act 2006.’.—(Robert Neill.)

Clause 168

Designation of Mayoral development areas

Amendments made: 212, page 148, line 1, leave out from ‘has’ to end of line.

(e) the Mayor has laid before the London Assembly, in accordance with standing orders of the Greater London Authority, a document stating that the Mayor is proposing to designate the area, and

(f) the consideration period for the document has expired without the London Assembly having rejected the proposal.’.—(Robert Neill.)

Amendment proposed: 352, page 148, line 7, at end insert—

‘(e) a majority of those London borough councils whose borough contains any part of the designated development area agree to the designation.’.—(Heidi Alexander .)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House proceeded to a Division.

18 May 2011 : Column 392

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided:

Ayes 222, Noes 310.

Division No. 280]

[3.7 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Anderson, Mr David

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goggins, rh Paul

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacShane, rh Mr Denis

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKinnell, Catherine

Meale, Mr Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Mitchell, Austin

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Paisley, Ian

Pearce, Teresa

Phillipson, Bridget

Qureshi, Yasmin

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruddock, rh Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Phil Wilson and

Lyn Brown


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Michael Fabricant and

Mr Philip Dunne

Question accordingly negatived.

18 May 2011 : Column 393

18 May 2011 : Column 394

18 May 2011 : Column 395

18 May 2011 : Column 396

Amendment made: 213, page 148, line 22, at end insert—

‘(4A) For the purposes of subsection (3)(f)—

(a) the “consideration period” for a document is the 21 days beginning with the day the document is laid before the London Assembly in accordance with standing orders of the Greater London Authority, and

(b) the London Assembly rejects a proposal if it resolves to do so on a motion—

(i) considered at a meeting of the Assembly throughout which members of the public are entitled to be present, and

(ii) agreed to by at least two thirds of the Assembly members voting.’.—(Greg Clark.)

Clause 171

Transfers of property etc to a Mayoral development corporation

Amendments made: 214, page 150, line 12, at end insert

‘, or

(c) a company that is a subsidiary of the Greater London Authority.’.

Amendment 215, page 150, line 23, at end insert—

‘(8A) In subsection (4)(c)—

“company” means—

(a) a company within the meaning given by section 1(1) of the Companies Act 2006, or

(b) a society registered or deemed to be registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 1965 or the Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969, and “subsidiary” has the meaning given by section 1159 of the Companies Act 2006.’.—(Greg Clark.)

Clause 173

Functions in relation to Town and Country Planning

Amendment made: 216, page 151, line 41, leave out from ‘has’ to end of line.

Clause 185

Powers in relation to discretionary relief from non-domestic rates

Amendment made: 217, page 157, line 28, leave out from ‘has’ to end of line.

Clause 187

Transfers of property, rights and liabilities

Amendments made: 218, page 158, line 26, at end insert—

‘“company” means—

(a) a company within the meaning given by section 1(1) of the Companies Act 2006, or

(b) a society registered or deemed to be registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 1965 or the Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969;’.

Amendment 219, page 158, line 31, at end insert—

‘(ba) a company that is a subsidiary of the Greater London Authority,’.

Amendment 220, page 158, line 34, at end insert—

‘“subsidiary” has the meaning given by section 1159 of the Companies Act 2006.’.—(Greg Clark.)

18 May 2011 : Column 397

New Clause 19

Capital receipts from disposal of housing land

In section 11 of the Local Government Act 2003 (use of capital receipts by a local authority) after subsection (5) insert—

“(6) The Secretary of State and a local authority in England may enter into an agreement with the effect that a requirement imposed under subsection (2)(b) does not apply to, or is modified in its application to, capital receipts of the authority that are specified or described in the agreement.”’.—(Andrew Stunell.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Andrew Stunell): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 3—Disestablishment of an arm’s length management organisation—

‘Schedule [Disestablishment of an arm’s length management organisation] has effect.’.

New clause 24—Landlord notification of succession of tenancy

‘In Schedule 2, Part 3, Ground 16, sub-paragraph (b) of the Housing Act 1985, after “date”, insert “on which the landlord was notified”’.

New clause 25—Recovery of a tenancy granted on ineligible grounds

‘In section 167(8) of the Housing Act 1996, after “scheme”, insert “and any allocation which is not in accordance with the allocation scheme shall be void and shall not give rise to a tenancy”’.

New clause 26—Housing co-operatives

‘(1) Schedule 14 of the Housing Act 2004 is amended as follows.

(2) In paragraph 6 insert new sub-paragraph—

“(3) This paragraph does apply to any building which is owned by a fully mutual co-operative housing association as defined by section 1(2) of the Housing Associations Act 1985, the management of which is undertaken by general meeting.”.’.

Amendment 273, in clause 123, page 108, line 11, after ‘1985)’, insert

‘or who have been owed such duties at any time within the previous five years’.

Amendment 360, in clause 124, page 110, line 37, Clause 124, leave out ‘two’ and insert ‘five’.

Amendment 270, page 110, line 39, at end insert—

‘(7A) In subsection (7AC) at end, insert—

“(d) In so far as reasonably practicable, the private rented sector offer must be within the local housing authority’s district.”’.

Amendment 269, in clause 125, page 111, line 33, at end insert—

‘(2A) Omit section 190 and replace with—

“190 Duties to persons becoming homeless intentionally or who are not in priority need.

(1) This section applies where the local housing authority is satisfied that an applicant is homeless and is eligible for assistance but are also satisfied that he became homeless intentionally.

(2) The local authority must—

(a) secure that accommodation is available for his occupation for such period as it considers will give him a reasonable opportunity of securing accommodation for his occupation, and

18 May 2011 : Column 398

(b) provide him with (or secure that he is provided with) advice and assistance in any attempts he may make to secure that accommodation becomes available for his occupation.

(3) The applicant’s housing needs shall be assessed before advice and assistance is provided under subsection (2)(b).

(4) The advice and assistance provided under subsection (2)(b) must include information about the likely availability in the authority’s district of types of accommodation appropriate to the applicant’s housing needs (including, in particular, the location and sources of such types of accommodation).”.

(2B) Omit section 192.’.

Amendment 274, page 111, line 39, leave out ‘two’ and insert ‘five’.

Amendment 275, page 112, line 12, leave out ‘two’ and insert ‘five’.

Amendment 276, page 112, line 34, leave out subsection (6).

Amendment 361, in clause 126, page 113, line 15, at end insert—

‘(1A) In preparing its tenancy strategy a local authority must ensure that to the greatest extent possible, tenancies granted in its area provide security of tenure so as to support and develop stable and confident communities.’.

Amendment 363, page 114, line 19, leave out clause 128.

Amendment 13, page 114, line 36, leave out clause 130.

Amendment 271, in clause 130, page 115, line 7, at end insert—

‘(2A) Subsection (2) shall not apply to a secure tenancy if immediately before the tenancy was granted the person who became the tenant under the tenancy, or in the case of joint tenants, one or more of them was—

(a) a secure tenant of the same or another dwelling-house, or

(b) an assured tenant of a private registered provider of social housing or a registered social

landlord (otherwise than under an assured shorthold tenancy) in respect of the same or

another dwelling-house.’.

Amendment 272, page 116, line 33, leave out from beginning to end of line 30 on page 117 and insert—

‘sections 83 to 85A of the Housing Act 1985 shall apply equally to Flexible Tenancies and references to secure tenancies in those sections shall be read accordingly.’.

Amendment 362, page 116, line 33, after ‘Subject’, insert

‘to the discretion of the court, in circumstances where the tenant has made representations against the granting of possession, not to make an order if it considers that order disproportionate, and subject’.

Amendment 14, page 118, line 19, leave out clause 131.

Amendment 277, in clause 134, page 121, line 36 at end insert—

‘(c) or P is another member of the tenant’s family and has resided with the tenant

throughout the period of 12 months ending with the tenant’s death.’.

Government amendments 191 to 203.

Amendment 364, page 128, line 35, leave out clause 148.

Government amendment 204

Amendment 278, page 130, line 18 leave out clause 153.

18 May 2011 : Column 399

New clause 23—Litter deposited from motor vehicles

‘In Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (litter etc) in section 87 (offence of leaving litter) after subsection (7) insert—

“(8) Where litter is deposited from a motor vehicle, the person in charge of the vehicle shall, for the purposes of subsection (1) above, be treated as having deposited the litter whether or not he gave any instructions for this to be done.

(9) The registered keeper of a vehicle shall, for the purposes of subsection (8) above, be deemed to be the person in charge of the vehicle unless within twenty one days of receipt of the summons for an offence prosecuted by virtue of subsection (8) above the registered keeper provides in writing to the prosecutor notification of such identifying details as are available to him of any other person he claims to have been the person in charge of the vehicle at the relevant time.

(10) For the purposes of subsection (8) above a constable or an authorised officer of a principal litter authority may by notice in writing served on him, require any person to furnish such information specified in the notice as may reasonably be required to ascertain the person in charge of the vehicle at the relevant time, in such form and within such period, being not less than fourteen days following service of the notice, as is so specified.

(11) It is an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse to fail to comply with any requirement imposed under subsection (10) above.”’.

New clause 33—Street litter notices

‘(1) In Part 4 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (litter etc.) in section 93(2) after “unoccupied” insert “or where there is multiple occupancy”.

(2) In Part 4 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (litter etc.) in section 94(1)(a) omit “commercial or retail premises” and insert “premium other than dwellings”.

New clause 38—Protection of businesses and non-domestic users of buildings from complaints

‘(1) The Environmental Protection Act 1990 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 80(2) insert—

2AA (1) Except that a local authority must not issue an abatement notice to a business, place of worship or other non-domestic user of land for a statutory nuisance falling within section 79(1)(g) if the following conditions are met.

(2) The first condition is that the relevant premises was already in use for the same purpose at the time when the complainant became a local resident, and that such use resulted in a similar noise, and a similar level of noise, at that time.

(3) The second condition is that use of the relevant premises complies with the planning permission for that land and other legislation in force.”.’.

New schedule 1—‘Disestablishment of an arm’s length management organisation

1 This Schedule applies to the disestablishment of an arm’s length management organisation (ALMO) by a local authority as a result of which responsibility for the management for housing previously managed by the ALMO is transferred to the local authority.

2 (1) The Secretary of State shall not entertain an application for his or her consent to the disestablishment of an ALMO and a transfer of management to which this Schedule applies unless the authority certify either—

(a) that the requirements of paragraph 3 as to consultation have been complied with, or

(b) that the requirements of that paragraph as to consultation have been complied with except in relation to tenants expected to have vacated the dwelling-house in question before the transfer;

and the certificate shall be accompanied by a copy of the notices given by the authority in accordance with that paragraph.

18 May 2011 : Column 400

(2) Where the certificate is in the latter form, the Secretary of State shall not determine the application until the authority certify as regards the tenants originally consulted—

(a) that they have vacated the dwelling-house in question, or

(b) that the requirements of paragraph 3 as to consultation have been complied with;

and a certificate under sub-sub-paragraph (b) shall be accompanied by a copy of the notices given by the authority in accordance with paragraph 3.

Requirements as to consultation

3 (1) The requirements as to consultation referred to above are as follows.

(2) The authority shall serve notice in writing on each tenant informing him or her of—

(a) such details of their proposal as the authority consider appropriate, but including the identity of the person to whom the transfer is to be made;

(b) the likely consequences of the transfer for the tenant, and

(c) the effect of the provisions of this Schedule and informing the tenant that he or she may, within such reasonable period as may be specified in the notice, make representations to the authority.

(3) The authority shall consider any representations made to them within that period and shall serve a further written notice on the tenant informing him or her—

(a) of any significant changes in their proposal, and

(b) that the tenant may within such period as is specified (which must be at least 28 days after the service of the notice) communicate to the Secretary of State his or her objection to the proposal,

and informing him or her of the effect of paragraph 4.

(4) When a notice has been served under sub-paragraph (3) the authority shall arrange a ballot of the tenants in accordance with sub-paragraph (5) to establish whether or not the tenants wish the transfer to proceed.

(5) The authority shall—

(a) make arrangements for such person as they consider appropriate to conduct the ballot in such manner as that person considers appropriate; or

(b) conduct the ballot themselves.

(6) After the ballot has been held the authority shall serve a notice on each tenant (whether or not he or she voted in the ballot) informing the tenant—

(a) of the ballot result; and

(b) if the authority intend to proceed with the transfer, that the tenant may within 28 days after the service of the notice make representations to the Secretary of State or (as the case may be) the Welsh Ministers.

Consent to be withheld if majority of tenants are opposed

4 (1) The Secretary of State shall not give his or her consent if the result of a ballot arranged under paragraph 3(4) shows that a majority of the tenants of the dwelling-houses to which the application relates who voted in the ballot do not wish the transfer to proceed; but this does not affect his or her general discretion to refuse consent on grounds relating to whether a transfer has the support of the tenants or on any other ground.

(2) In making this decision the Secretary of State may have regard to any information available to him or her; and the local authority shall give him or her such information as to the representations made to them by tenants and others; and other relevant matters, as he or she may require.’.

Government amendments 221, 222, 224 to 252, 256, 257, 259 to 262, 267 and 268.

Andrew Stunell: The Bill brings forward a package of reforms to social housing. Taken together, they strengthen localism, giving greater flexibility to local authorities

18 May 2011 : Column 401

and to social landlords in providing the needed housing and the right basic safeguards for tenants. The provisions will allow landlords to make better use of resources, allocating existing homes more sensibly, making sure that support is better focused and providing the right basic safeguards for tenants.

The Bill’s provisions include: giving back to local authorities the freedom to determine who should qualify to go on the housing waiting list; new flexible tenancies in addition to, rather than replacing, secure and assured tenancies for council and registered social landlord tenants; flexibility to meet the homelessness duty with an offer of accommodation in the private rented sector; and, perhaps most popular of all, replacing the unpopular housing revenue account subsidy with a devolved system of self-financing.

New clause 19 relates to that, ensuring that the Secretary of State may continue to enter into agreements with local authorities to determine that specified new homes be exempt from the requirement that most of the receipts from any sale under the right to buy should be surrendered to central Government. This will help remove obstacles to local authorities investing their own resources in new homes. To be clear, new clause 19 preserves an existing relaxation in the rule that requires 75% of receipts to be paid to the Treasury in certain circumstances.

The Government are also taking the opportunity at this stage to make technical improvements with regard to flexible tenure and succession, which I would like briefly to outline. Amendments 202 and 203 exclude shared ownership leases from the landlord repairing obligation, in line with established practice and policy.

Amendments 191 to 201 are needed to rectify drafting errors in clauses 134 and 135, which deal with succession rights. They clarify the original intention that where there has not already been a succession, someone who is not a spouse or partner can succeed where there is an express term in the tenancy agreement to allow it.

The Opposition have tabled a number of amendments. Proposals for social housing reform proved to be one of the more contentious areas of the Bill in Committee, with strongly held views often reflecting points of principle. That is reflected in Opposition amendments 13 and 14 as well as in amendments 271 and 272, which would remove flexible tenure in the one case or, frankly, make it unworkable in the other. There have been some misunderstandings over points of detail, so it would be good for me to address them.

Simon Hughes: Before my hon. Friend deals with that, will he put it on the record that nothing in the Bill changes the status of any person who is a tenant in a local authority home or a housing association social home in England in respect of security of tenure? Will he also confirm that nothing in the Bill will require any local authority or any social landlord to change that policy in future—in other words, that the Bill is enabling, not prescriptive, in that respect?

Andrew Stunell: My right hon. Friend is right on both counts.

Let me begin by saying that, as I ended up summing up a two-hour debate in 16 seconds yesterday, I hope the House will forgive me if I do my summing up at the start of today’s debate.

18 May 2011 : Column 402

There are some concerns that I think any sensible observer of the social housing market understands and shares. The current market does not work as well as it could. The right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), the shadow Secretary of State, made that point herself when her party was in government, and the facts speak for themselves. There are about 5 million people on the social housing waiting list, and a quarter of a million overcrowded households already in social housing. At the same time, there are 400,000 homes in the social housing sector in which more than one bedroom is under-occupied.

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): Will the Minister make it clear what the disparity between overcrowded and under-occupied properties actually means? Is it not the case that overcrowded accommodation is overwhelmingly concentrated in London and the south-east, while under-occupied property is almost wholly concentrated in the north of England? How does the Minister expect those two types of stock to be matched under his proposals?

3.30 pm

Andrew Stunell: I have news for the hon. Lady. As one who represents a constituency outside London, I can tell her that I see both problems. In the last two months, I have been contacted by a family with three teenagers living in a two-bedroom house who have little chance of being allocated a larger house in the near future. Meanwhile, many older people, widowed, are under-occupying large three-bedroom houses. I appreciate that, as is often the case, London presents a special set of problems, but I do not want the hon. Lady to get away with the mythology that this particular problem does not affect every constituency. People visit the surgeries of all Members to discuss it. I hope that the hon. Lady is not seeking to sweep that under the carpet.

Ms Buck: The Minister may wish to respond to a statistical point anecdotally, and of course it is true that there are individual examples of both problems in almost every constituency and part of the country. However, will he confirm for the record that it is statistically the case that the bulk of under-occupation is concentrated in the north of England while most overcrowding is concentrated in London and the south-east? Nothing that we have seen so far in the Bill explains the mechanics of how it will deal with the problems of overcrowding in the south-east and under-occupation in the north without the need for large numbers of people to be moved.

Andrew Stunell rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I am sure that the Minister wants to answer that question briefly, but I think that any further interventions should relate directly to the new clauses and amendments.

Andrew Stunell: Thank you for your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would have been tempted to talk about our housing investment programme and the impact that our affordable rents policy can have on the securing of new affordable accommodation, particularly in areas with high rental values, of which London and the south-east is an outstanding example, but as you—

18 May 2011 : Column 403

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. I think the Minister is pushing his luck. As he knows, he will be summing up the Third Reading debate as well. I think that if he sticks to the new clauses and amendments from now on, everyone will be happy.

Andrew Stunell: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The housing measures in the Bill will provide greater discretion for social housing landlords and their professional staff. They will relax the rigid rules set by central Government in the past, and together they will allow landlords to exercise greater discretion, adapt the services they offer to local needs, and manage a valuable public resource more effectively in the best interests of local people.

I recognise that flexible tenure and the proposals to deal with homelessness have caused the most concern to date. Let me repeat what I said in Committee. In the vast majority of cases in which a social landlord offers a flexible tenancy, we will expect that tenancy to be for at least five years. It will often be appropriate to provide longer—in some instances, lifetime—tenancies. If an elderly lady is offered sheltered accommodation or a bungalow, any sensible landlord will doubtless provide a lifetime tenancy. However, if that family in my constituency with three teenagers in a two-bedroom house are finally allocated a three-bedroom house, it surely makes sense to give them a 10-year tenancy, subject to renewal. After 10 years, when the children are in their twenties and have probably left home and the family’s circumstances have changed, they will have had time enough to decide whether that is the accommodation they want.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab) rose—

Andrew Stunell: I will give way, but then I must make some progress.

Alison Seabeck: Does the Minister not accept that the situation he describes will end up involving an amazingly complex series of different tenures and rents, which will be a nightmare for housing providers to manage, and that it will clearly lead to the system stagnating at times and being hugely unfair?

Andrew Stunell: Of course I do not accept that. A housing provider who decides that this is too complex can choose not to take it up. As has been said, we are offering social landlords an additional way to let tenancies, and they can choose whether or not to take it up. They can base that decision on any sensible factor, including their administrative convenience. We propose that five years should be the minimum term in normal circumstances. We would expect it to be appropriate to offer less than five years only in very exceptional cases, and we have stated in the Bill a two-year lower limit.

Mr Raynsford: The Minister has said he would like the five-year limit to be the normal minimum, with shorter terms only in very exceptional circumstances. Will he therefore tell us why the Bill does not state that, and why he is proposing to vote against the Opposition amendment proposing that five years should be the normal minimum term?

Andrew Stunell: Yes of course I will, although I will take just a few minutes to reach that point in my remarks.