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We have to strike a balance between simplifying building regulations—making them easier to enforce, frankly—and updating them. With regard to lifetime homes we are working with a team—a BRAC review, in fact—on considering building regulations and how they might accommodate different changes. The noble Lord is quite right when he talks about our ambition that all housing should meet lifetime homes standards by 2013. That is assisted by the changes we have made in the Bill.

On the noble Lord’s specific questions about the disabled facilities grant, I think removing the 40:60 split is a positive move because it will give extra flexibility to local authorities to borrow across funding and policy boundaries. It is a mandatory grant. I have worked with local authorities; I go out sometimes with the DFG teams to see how these adaptations are being designed and implemented, and I know the seriousness with which those local authorities look at the need for DFG. They will make good use of that flexibility.

We will be vigilant in ensuring that we secure, in a tight spending round, a significant increase for the disabled facilities grant. In our ageing strategy we

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made it clear that we are investing £35 million in a handyman service to ensure that the rapid repairs service, which is offered for people with disabilities and elderly people particularly, reaches more people to a higher standard and is more effective. It is one of the best things we do to help keep people independent in their own homes. I assure the noble Lord of my commitment to that.

All that will be assisted by our debates. When it comes to the regional housing pot, we advise the regions that they must care for these particular priorities of vulnerable people.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 2:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this group of amendments covers a number of different issues. I will start with Amendment No. 2 because I hope it will bring particular joy—I put it as highly as that—to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, who was anxious that, having achieved the serious ambition to flag up the partnership, the principle and the psychology of a relationship with local authorities, we should put it in a place in the Bill where everyone would see it. Unfortunately, because of the logic of the architecture, it is stuck at Clause 44. However, the creativity of my officials knows no bounds, and they came up with a linking mechanism: Amendment No. 2 amends Clause 2, which will draw attention to Clause 44—so it is right at the front of the Bill. Any reader of the Bill will understand that the clauses that are mentioned, including Clause 44, relate to the objects of the agency and give them added prominence.

The amendment also draws attention to new subsection (4)(a) to Clause 19, concerning financial assistance. We shall discuss that amendment in more depth shortly. A reference to that appears here, as a new subsection could modify the objects of the agency in certain limited circumstances relating to the provision of financial assistance.

Although there are more than five amendments here, they cover five separate issues that were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to which we have given further consideration. On the first set of issues, I still dispute the noble Baroness’s assertion that the Secretary of State’s powers to designate an area and confer planning functions upon it are now centre stage in the Government’s proposals for the HCA. We have had many debates about the relative prominence of the designation powers. They are no more central to our plans for the HCA than they were for English Partnerships, and the noble Baroness herself described them as being there in the background for that organisation. However, I have accepted her reasoning that any situation in which such powers are likely to be used will be capable of being analysed, broken down, defined and articulated, and their relative purpose and functions and the kinds of development could and would be spelt out in a designation order. I have tabled Amendments Nos. 3 to 9 to reflect that.



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Amendments Nos. 3 to 7 restrict the ability of the Secretary of State to determine that the HCA should be the local planning authority for all permitted purposes under the Act, for all kinds of development, and in respect of all relevant functions. The amendments restrict the Secretary of State from making the blanket statement that all should apply.

It would still be open to the Secretary of State to provide that, for example, the HCA should be the local planning authority for all permitted purposes, but she could do so only by an explicit reference to each permitted purpose. The changes made at Report ensure that these are properly consulted on—that is in the Bill—and that the Secretary of State’s thinking is clear and understood for each case. I am content with that because the noble Baroness persuaded me—she is very persuasive—that this is a useful provision. It may make the act of designating an area somewhat more complex, but we have repeatedly said that this will be an exceptional occurrence. Much debate has focused on the ability to confer plan-making powers on the HCA. This amendment ensures that, should we ever propose to do so, full and fair consideration will be given to each of the powers transferred to the HCA.

As regards the second issue, Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 also respond to the noble Baroness’s concerns. Amendment No. 8 provides that where the HCA has powers and functions conferred on it in relation to permitted purposes and kinds of development, enactments relating to local planning authorities and functions will apply to it. The amendment will remove the power to disapply any enactment. Amendment No. 9 removes the ability of the Secretary of State to amend definitions of “planning related provisions” or “relevant functions” in relation to the HCA.

In respect of Amendments Nos. 8 and 9, on Report the noble Baroness argued that Sections 14(6) and 14(8) were a step too far in relation to recognising the unusual circumstances of the HCA becoming a planning authority. She stated that applying enactments and modifying them to reflect particular circumstances might be acceptable, but that disapplying them was of a different order and therefore excessive, and that any consequential amendments should be made by the appropriate primary legislative vehicle. On reflection, we think that making these amendments will be compatible with our overall premise that the HCA as a planning authority should not be especially advantaged or disadvantaged when exercising the role, so I am happy to bring them forward, and consider that they are proportionate.

As regards the third issue, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether sufficient parliamentary scrutiny would be afforded to any designation order by the negative resolution procedure. As noble Lords know, Clauses 13 and 14 in this Bill were initially modelled on the similar provisions in the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act. Section 170 of that Act stated that a designation order,



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Because of those origins, and in the interests of consistency, we felt it was appropriate that the same parliamentary procedure should be used to make any designation orders under the powers in this Bill. However, having thought about the exceptional nature of the case if there were to be a designation order, I believe she is right that we should justify each order on those rare occasions that we make them. Therefore, Amendments Nos. 16 and 19 require any order to be made by the affirmative procedure.

On the fourth issue, in Amendment No. 18 we have also sought to prevent any designation order from being treated as a hybrid instrument. The potential for hybridity arises from the fact that designating an area and conferring planning functions on the HCA, although of general interest, would have the potential to affect the interests of specific individuals and organisations. If a designation order were to be subject to the hybrid procedure, this could add significant delay to any designation. It is, for example, possible to petition against hybrid instruments. Accepted petitions are considered by a Select Committee. We did not want to make that additional complication. We also thought that delays would be unwarranted because we made explicit and extensive changes to the consultation procedures. Those requirements are now in the Bill. We hope that we have dealt with that.

Finally, on Amendment No. 21, the noble Baroness spotted that this important area had not been previously covered in our legislation. It was always our intention that the HCA, when exercising functions conferred in a designation order, would be under the same requirements as any local planning authority in giving access to papers and meetings. Yet that was not provided, hence the amendment. This means that, in the event of an HCA acting as a local planning authority, its meetings would be open to the public, in the same way as for the local planning authority normally.

I hope that the noble Baroness will feel she has made a significant difference to the Bill in these respects. I am pleased to move these amendments and think they improve the Bill. I beg to move.

Noon

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that I do not like the powers going to the HCA but I know when I have got as far as I can reasonably go. I am grateful to her not just for bringing forward the amendments but also for her willingness to discuss the issues. When during the course of this Bill the noble Baroness offered meetings, she must have wondered when on earth she would get them into her diary. I daresay her private office’s collective hearts sunk each time she offered that facility to Members of your Lordships’ House. She has been extremely generous with her time and willingness to engage in debate. We are all grateful for that.

I can hardly object to most of these amendments. They are in language I used at the last stage, though I would never have spotted the hybridity point. My only comment, as the noble Baroness anticipated, is on the amendment to apply the arrangements for local government access to information and meetings. When I moved an amendment that was one or two lines

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rather than two pages I said I hoped it was a probing amendment. I am mildly shocked that it took a noble Lord on the Opposition Benches to point this out but never mind—that is what we are here for. We now have two pages making it perfectly clear that the HCA has got to live up to those standards. Again, let me express my thanks.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness. I congratulate her on her ingenuity in making the concession in such a way that she has not been forced to concede the point—if I can put it that way. She has maintained the architecture of the Bill which is apparently important to some but has generously allowed us to have the recognition we thought important that local government should be recognised from the start of the Bill.

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on adding better clarity and certainty to Clause 13 through her pressure for amendments. This whole section of the Bill is now much better than it was when it first arrived with us. I am most grateful.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 13 [Power of Secretary of State to make designation orders]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendments Nos. 3 and 4:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 14 [Contents of designation orders]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendments Nos. 5 to 9:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 19 [Financial assistance]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 10:

(a) are transferred to the HCA from the Housing Corporation by virtue of this Act, or(b) would supersede functions of the Housing Corporation, in ways corresponding to those in which the Housing Corporation could have exercised its functions.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these amendments, which are largely minor and technical, relate, in essence, to Schedule 5 to the Housing Act 1985. They will ensure that financial assistance to the HCA given under Clause 19 will not cause the right to buy to arise in respect of any property that it owns.



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Amendment No. 25 is extremely minor. Paragraph 10(3) of Schedule 9 repeals Section 10(2)(e) of the Housing Associations Act 1985. That section deals with exceptions to the requirement on unregistered housing associations to obtain the Housing Corporation’s consent—or the consent of equivalent authorities in Scotland and Wales—to dispose of grant-aided land.

The amendments make it clear that in certain limited circumstances, the Homes and Communities Agency will not be prevented from exercising certain functions in relation to financial assistance that have either been inherited from the Housing Corporation or that would be superseding Housing Corporation functions.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 12 will ensure that the HCA deals with a limited but important set of circumstances relating to Welsh tenants of English registered social landlords. Certain elements of housing legislation follow the location of the registered landlord rather than the property and, with the objects of the HCA related firmly to England, there are a few places where this can cause cross-boundary difficulties.

As an example, Section 450A of the Housing Act 1985 provides that where a tenant of a registered social landlord has exercised the right to buy, they have a right to a loan in respect of service charges. Currently, this means that the Housing Corporation would have a duty to give a loan to a Welsh tenant of an RSL registered in England. Logically, the position after this Bill becomes an Act would be that the duty to provide a loan will pass to the HCA. However, the HCA’s objects are strictly limited to England and to the needs of people living in England. Giving such a loan might therefore require the agency to act outside of its objects.

These are rare occurrences—there have been only 20 or so loans in both England and Wales combined in the past 16 years—and we do not expect this provision to have any great effect. However, we do not want to remove rights that tenants currently enjoy, particularly in times when loans may be becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. These amendments will ensure that in some very rare cross-boundary cases, the HCA will be able to act to assist Welsh tenants of English RSLs.

I turn to perhaps the more important amendment in this group, Amendment No. 11. This is a direct response to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in Grand Committee and at Report about Clause 30, which relates to the HCA’s ability to provide community services. She rightly raised concerns about the ambiguity of some of the language in this clause. Our amendment will delete the “list” of activities that caused concern and replace it with a new clause, which gives a general power to the HCA to provide such services for communities as it considers appropriate or facilitate the provision of those services. This is largely based on an excellent suggestion put forward by the noble Baroness in an amendment at Report.

I now turn to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, which are minor and technical amendments to Schedule 11 and which deal with tolerated trespassers. They amend the definition of “commencement date” in paragraphs 14 and 25. The effect is to exclude from the definition the order-making powers in Part 2 of Schedule 11. These amendments are necessary to allow for the order-making powers to be exercised before the main tolerated trespasser provisions in Schedule 11 are brought into force.



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There is one important instance where it will be necessary to do this. The main provisions in Part 2 restore tenancies on commencement to all tolerated trespassers where the landlord has not changed since they became tolerated. On Report, we introduced an order-making power that allows us to restore tenancies in the same way to those tolerated trespassers whose landlord has changed. This will be done by secondary legislation, rather than by the Bill, since we propose to consult on the issue before final decisions are made. However, our intention is that the secondary legislation would come into force at the same time as commencement of the tolerated trespasser provisions in the Bill. To do otherwise would leave a period when there was only one class of tolerated trespassers. The House will accept that this would be unsatisfactory and unfair. We therefore need to exercise the order-making power before the rest of the provisions come into force. This amendment ensures that we can do that.

Finally, I look in more detail at Amendments Nos. 22 and 25, which are very minor. Amendment No. 22 amends Schedule 5 to the Housing Act 1985. It ensures that financial assistance to a housing association given under Clause 19 of the Bill will not cause the right to buy to arise in respect of property it owns. Amendment No. 25 is an extremely minor amendment. Noble Lords may be aware that Schedule 9(10)(3) already provides for the repeal of Section 10(2)(e) of the Housing Associations Act 1985. This section of the Act deals with exceptions to the requirement for unregistered housing associations to obtain the Housing Corporation’s consent to dispose of grant-aided land. Amendment No. 25 merely adds the reference to Schedule 16, which lists all the repeals of existing legislation that are made by this Bill.

I hope that these amendments will find your Lordships’ favour, and in particular the favour of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who I think has much to be delighted with. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the Minister writes—in officials’ language, I expect—a very long letter, in the middle of which he says that if noble Lords can find a different way of expressing it, the Government will be very interested to hear it. Well, I could not resist the challenge and I am grateful for this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30 [Community services]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 11:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 58 [Index of defined expressions: Part 1]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 12:

On Question, amendment agreed to.



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