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Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, perhaps I may just say how pleased I am that something is not in this report. I know that it was recommended to the Liaison Committee that, in order to make room for new committees, some of the existing work of the current committees should be cut back. In particular, I make reference to the work of the Select Committee on Science and Technology. As I understand it, there was a suggestion that it should have only one, and not two, inquiries a year.

I should very much like to support the decision of the Liaison Committee that the latter Select Committee should continue to undertake two inquiries a year. I say that because, long before I became a member of it, outside the House it was regarded as one of our most respected committees. At a time when we are discussing the reform of the House, it really would be very sad if the work of that committee were to be cut back. So: three cheers for the Liaison Committee!

Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, I welcome the proposal from the Liaison Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny of draft Bills. I have been suggesting for some time that it would be advisable to have a new Select Committee to look at all draft Bills. I see that the Liaison Committee is proposing ad hoc committees for each draft Bill in view of the variety of subject matters. I fully accept that that is a more satisfactory way of proceeding than my original proposal. However, I hope that there will be some continuity in the membership of these ad hoc committees and, in particular, of the chairmen. After all, it is a new procedure which is being developed. These ad hoc committees will have to work out ground rules for the best method of proceeding. I believe that some continuity of membership would be desirable. I hope that the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees will feel that that is a proposal which merits consideration.

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However, as far as concerns the principle, I believe that this proposal will greatly improve the efficiency of parliamentary scrutiny of Bills. The Bills will be considered in draft before they are set in concrete. It is that much easier at that stage to meet criticisms, and thereby eliminate weaknesses, than would be the case later on. Further, I believe that your Lordships' House is very well fitted to fulfil that role. There is knowledge and experience in this House of virtually every subject under the sun. Indeed, your Lordships' House will have more time to do this job than the departmental Select Committees in another place. They have been allocated the job there but they are already heavily loaded with their existing work. Therefore, it would be an extremely valuable new function for your Lordships' House. I also hope that, when taking evidence, the committees will not only take evidence from Ministers and the departments concerned, but that they will also involve outside interests who are knowledgeable of the subjects concerned.

As I said, I greatly welcome the proposal. I give great credit to the Government for introducing draft Bills. I believe it is generally accepted throughout the House that this is a good move. There is no doubt in my mind that this early scrutiny of Bills, before they are set in concrete, will eventually save time on the Floor of the House when the proper Bill is introduced, especially as regards the Committee and remaining stages. It will produce better Bills and, above all, it will lead to better parliamentary scrutiny of legislation.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, for his kind words about the work of the committee. I am sure that members of that committee will also be most grateful for what he said. Perhaps I should remind your Lordships that the Liaison Committee is sympathetic to the general point which the noble Lord makes. I certainly endorse all that he said about the reputation and excellent work of your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology.

However, the Select Committee on Committee Work of the House chaired by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, on which I had the privilege to serve with other noble Lords, reported in 1992. It recommended that there might well be occasions, because of the demands from your Lordships' House for committee work, when the Select Committee on Science and Technology should undertake only one inquiry a year. I would not want it to be thought--I am sure that the Liaison Committee is of this view--that that possibility has been ruled out. We must measure our work by the resources available. Nevertheless, as I have already indicated, the committee is very sympathetic to what the noble Lord has said about the splendid work done by that Select Committee.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, for his kind words about the recommendations made today by the Liaison Committee. It was characteristically kind of him to let me know before the House sat today that he was proposing to raise this point. As regards the noble Lord's point about continuity of membership, that is a matter for the Committee of Selection when the moment arises and

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then for your Lordships' House. However, I shall certainly ensure that the point he has made about continuity is borne in mind.

The Liaison Committee was most grateful to the noble Lord for the suggestion that he made back in the autumn of last year and which he renewed in time for us to consider it at the recent meeting of the committee. As the noble Lord has seen from the recommendations made this afternoon by the committee, it was very sympathetic to the points that he has made.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Local Government Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an instruction to the Grand Committee to whom the Bill has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 29,

Schedule 1,

Clauses 30 to 33,

Schedule 2,

Clauses 34 and 35.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Criminal Cases Review (Insanity) Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

European Parliamentary Elections (Gibraltar) Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Scottish Enterprise Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Scottish Parliamentary Constituencies Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Water Industry Bill

3.49 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Disconnection for non-payment of charges]:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Schedule to be inserted in the Water Industry Act 1991]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 12, line 23, leave out from ("applies") to end of line 25

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 1 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 with which it is grouped. I appreciate that it may seem a little odd to jump straight in with amendments to the first schedule to the Bill but that has occurred because there is such widespread acclaim for Clause 1, which will in future prevent disconnection for the non-payment of charges. Schedule 1 applies certain provisions in that regard.

Amendment No. 1 seeks to remove from the definition of "accommodation for the elderly" in paragraph 3(2) the words,

    "but which is not a dwelling within the meaning of paragraph 1 above or a house in multiple occupation". I believe that residential accommodation for the elderly could constitute a dwelling. If it is not, what is each unit of that accommodation? I ask the Minister whether any harm is done by the deletion that I seek? I am curious to understand the reason for the qualification. That is a short point.

Amendment No. 2 seeks to reduce the age in subparagraph (3) from 60 to 55 with regard to the definition of residential accommodation for elderly people. This is not a personal application on my part; it simply reflects the realisation--which appalled me--that sheltered accommodation and accommodation for elderly people, particularly in the private sector, tends to accept people of 55 and over. Therefore I believe it may be more appropriate to include the age limit which now appears to be increasingly applied, particularly by firms such as McCarthy and Stone.

The most serious amendment in this group is a probing amendment. I have no doubt that it should be couched in far more technical terms. Will the Minister confirm that premises used by local authorities to house homeless people will be included in the premises which are protected by this schedule? In another place on 10th February the Minister addressed amendments which listed various premises to be protected. He mentioned children's homes. He referred to premises providing personal care and said that,

    "very strong arguments have been made for protecting children's homes".--[Official Report, Commons, 10/2/99; col. 404.]

He mentioned the importance the Government quite rightly attach to protecting children. He added, also at col. 404,

    "I am erring on the side of caution, but there are no absolute guarantees that the relevant local authority would become aware immediately that a home had had its water supply disconnected ... On due reflection, we propose to extend protection to residential care homes".

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He said that it was right to provide added reassurance in this regard.

The Committee will be aware that concern has been expressed about the standards of some bed-and-breakfast accommodation which, simply for lack of more appropriate accommodation, sometimes has to be used by local authorities to carry out their duties to house people who are homeless. Many of the people who find themselves in such accommodation are families with children. In order to be entirely sure that the kind of protection the Government clearly want to see provided is provided, this amendment seeks to include that kind of accommodation in the schedule. I shall be happy to be assured that this kind of establishment is already covered by the provisions of the schedule. I beg to move.

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