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Page 111, line 36, leave out from ("case,") to end of line 38 and insert ("their duty is to provide the applicant with such advice and assistance as the authority consider is reasonably required to enable him to secure such accommodation.
(3) The duty ceases if the applicant fails to take reasonable steps to secure such accommodation.
(4) In deciding what advice and assistance to provide under this section, and whether the applicant has taken reasonable steps, the authority shall have regard to all the circumstances including--
(a) the characteristics and personal circumstances of the applicant, and
(b) the state of the local housing market and the type of accommodation available.
(5) For the purposes of this section accommodation shall not be regarded as available for occupation by the applicant if it is available only with assistance beyond what the authority consider is reasonable in the circumstances.
(6) This section does not affect the duty of a local housing authority under section 176 (interim duty to accommodate in case of apparent priority need).").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 42. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 72, as an amendment to Amendment No. 71, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 71 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 73 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Clause 186 [Referral of case to another local housing authority]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 75:

Page 112, line 1, leave out ("shall") and insert ("need not").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 54. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8 Jul 1996 : Column 129

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 76:

Page 112, line 14, leave out from ("whom") to ("or") in line 16 and insert ("he is associated").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 35. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 112, leave out lines 20 to 22 and insert ("--
(a) the applicant was on a previous application made to that other authority placed (in pursuance of their functions under this Part) in accommodation in the district of the authority to whom his application is now made, and
(b) the previous application was within such period as may be prescribed of the present application.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, This amendment seeks only to clarify the current wording of subsection (4) of Clause 186. It does not seek to alter the substance of the clause. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 190 [Right to request review of decision]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 78:

Page 114, line 21, at end insert ("or
( ) any decision of a local housing authority as to the suitability of accommodation offered to him in discharge of their duty under any of the provisions mentioned in paragraphs (b) to (e).").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 79, 80, 81, 82, 83 and 83A.

The House will be aware that there was considerable discussion at Committee stage of the period in which an applicant could request a review of a decision on his homelessness application. We were treated to some eloquent expositions by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and other noble Lords on the circumstances in which applicants might be unable to lodge a request within 14 days.

Amendment No. 79 would extend the time in which an applicant may request a review to 21 days. I believe that this will provide ample time for people in the circumstances envisaged by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and by other noble Lords, to request a review. As my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish said during Committee, it is in the interests both of applicants and local authorities to ensure a swift resolution of a homelessness application. It is in no one's interest to encourage applicants to delay putting in their appeal.

Amendment No. 80 will allow an authority, should it choose to do so, to extend the period by informing the applicant in writing. That will enable authorities to make exception in any case where they consider that an applicant may have difficulty in meeting the deadline.

Amendments Nos. 81, 82 and 83 address concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, during Committee stage. They create an avenue of appeal to the county court for applicants who are dissatisfied with the results of an authority's own review.

8 Jul 1996 : Column 130

These amendments build on provisions already contained in the Bill to safeguard applicants' rights to a fair hearing. Clause 190 contains a new requirement for local authorities to establish a procedure for reviewing decisions that they have made as to the discharge of their duties. The review procedure in Clause 190 covers all the main areas in which the applicant has a substantive right.

Amendment No. 82 deals with the review procedure itself.

I am happy to go into the details of the other amendments. They mostly answer points raised by noble Lords opposite. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said in a moment of despair a short while ago that she was not going to get anything out of the Government, I hope that she realises that she has actually got something; and quite a bit. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I have a brief query. The amendment is welcome. It confines itself to 21 days. I wonder whether we could persuade the Government to come back with an amendment including the words "or with good cause" either at Third Reading or at some later date. That would cover the cases where somebody with a physical illness or disability who may be in hospital, or somebody with a mental illness or learning difficulty who may have a problem meeting the 21-day deadline, may not fully understand the import.

The situation must be carefully watched so as to ensure that it is not a source of abuse. But perhaps the Minister will accept that in a few cases there may be good reason for not meeting the 21-day deadline. Under those circumstances the local authority should be required to receive appeals beyond the 21 days. I would have no objection to it being done through the code of guidance. Perhaps the Minister can help us on that point.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I recognise something that is even more than crumbs of comfort: a genuine movement on the part of the Government. The noble Baroness is quite right. Mixing my metaphors, it would be a shame to spoil the crumb for a ha'p'orth of tar.

I tabled a manuscript amendment and perhaps I can explain it at this stage as it is an amendment to the Government's Amendment No. 83. Amendment No. 83A seeks to omit the word "may" and insert "shall"; in other words, to provide that the authority shall continue to secure accommodation during the period for an appeal if and until an appeal is brought. It is a simple but important point.

In tabling the amendment I suggest that the interim duty should continue until final determination of the matter. After all, it is the point of the right of appeal. It should not be argued--anticipating what the Government may say--that somebody may use the right of appeal to stay in accommodation. The matter is not at an end until the appeal procedure has been exhausted or the right to appeal has not been used. Perhaps the Minister can comment on that point.

Earl Russell: My Lords, in joining in the thanks, I should like to join with what the noble Baroness,

8 Jul 1996 : Column 131

Lady Hollis, said in regard to "good cause". On the CSA in 1991 I tabled an amendment almost equivalent to that suggested by the noble Baroness. It came up well past one in the morning and I did not move it. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack incorporated it in the Bill at the next stage as a government amendment. I have had many notable courtesies from the Government, but that one takes some beating.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am more than flattered that so many noble Lords should be grateful to me--they are right to be grateful because I have gone a long way to try to help them. But there may be a moral in what the noble Earl says; that is, if he does not move some of his amendments we may accept them without his argument; if he argues them they may become less attractive. However, I am grateful to the noble Earl for that kindness.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, rose to speak and asked if we could extend the time a little longer, I wondered whether she had ever sold a horse--she would do jolly well at it. First, we put in 14 days and the noble Baroness, at Committee stage, wanted 28 days. We then thought again about it and decided that 21 days would be a good compromise, but the noble Baroness comes back with, "What about a little bit more?".

We believe 21 days is actually right, but the noble Baroness should not get too excited. If the noble Baroness would like to address her mind to Amendment No. 80, she will see that it says,

    "or such longer period as the authority may in writing allow".
That covers her point, which is that it should be 21 days or longer, under those circumstances.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned her Amendment No. 83A. That seeks to change the power to provide accommodation into a duty. That would place a more onerous requirement on an authority than exists under the present legislation or than is provided for in Clause 176 when the authority carries out a review of its own. I do not believe that we want that. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that that might be going, to use a colloquialism, over the top. I am grateful to her for putting down that amendment and for making us look at the matter again, but the Bill is better without the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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