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The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are an important move forward in defining community land trusts as English bodies in Part 2 of the Bill. I am sure that later generations of students of Hansardwill be able to decipher what that means with ease. However, to assist them, I will take us through the story.
The Government have been clear from the outset that we are committed to helping the development of community land trusts that are well managed and financially robust. We have supported 14 pilot projects across the country through the Housing Corporation, which has also offered funding to community land trusts to deliver affordable housing for both sale and rent. In April, we also committed to consulting on how barriers to the development of community land trusts could be removed. At that stage, the intention was to consult on whether there should be a legal definition of community land trusts. However, in view of the concerns raised by Members of your Lordships House, and the support for taking advantage of this opportunity, we have brought forward this amendment to give a definition of community land trusts. It is accepted by the community land trust movement that a legal definition would bring clarity and certainty to stakeholders and partners about the nature of the CLT sector.
In drafting the amendment, we have worked closely with the community land trust movement. We have gone for a broad definition, which captures the aims and distinctive characteristics of the community land trust sector. In particular, we have tried to ensure that the definition is robust enough to ensure that community-led projects benefit the wider community in the community land trusts area.
The definition does not of itself bring access to funding or support, nor does it set in stone government policy about how this sector can best develop or about the framework within which that should happen. As I said last week, we would have preferred to wait until after our planned consultation this year to give all stakeholders the opportunity to contribute to the debate, including on some of these wider issues.
However, in taking forward the CLT debate, we will want to consider some important questions, such as what the criteria for financial support might be and how to maximise the chances of the development of a viable and well managed sector. Another factor in the debate is that the regulator will need to consider the criteria for the registration of community land trusts. We will also wish to consider the role that the trusts might play in both the urban and rural contexts and how perpetuity of community benefit can be ensured for the benefit of future generations. There is still much work to be done.
We have a consensus that community land trusts offer potential for communities to put their weight and energy behind housing development. In Committee
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Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I rise with deep gratitude to my noble friend Lady Andrews, and especially to her advisers, for having listened, reflected and produced an answer to the basic issue, which was the need for a definition. That gratitude is unalloyed; it is clear and I am very grateful indeed. The Minister has demonstrated over recent weeks that she listens carefully and that, when there is a proposition that needs her reflection and advice, she takes it away. Today, we have the product of that. I warmly congratulate her and her colleagues.
As with everything else, there is a but, an if and an if only. I understand that the amendments are as far as the department and the Minister can go. I echo the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who said some minutes ago that she knew how far she could go and that this was it. I accept the same; there is no question of muddying the water. We have gone as far as we can go.
There is no objection to that, but everyone understands that a community is more than individuals; a range of other bodies is part of the community. I want the Minister to reflect on that and, I hope, to say that she and her advisers share my understanding. When amendments refer to members and individuals, there may well be a legal reason for those wordsI do not quibble with thatbut how wide should the interpretation of those terms be? For instance, a community includes voluntary organisations, parish councils, local councils, civic society organisations, schools, local health service organisations, key local employers and local shops. I understand the difficulty in putting something in the Bill that is all-embracing, so I seek an understanding that, when a trust is established, the beneficiaries from the product of the trusts work can include the examples that I have given. I simply want an understanding.
Perhaps I may help the Minister with the following illustration as a practical example. The local community land trust for one of the 14 national pilot projects supported by the Government is on the former Cashes Green Hospital site in David Drews constituency in Stroud, Gloucestershire. He is a personal friend and is sponsored by the Co-operative movement, in which I declare an interest. The CLT would like to encourage a local GP to provide health services to the village of Cashes Green by using some of its land to facilitate the provision of a health centre. Although it is part of the National Health Service, a GP practice is technically a privately run business owned by the doctors who are partners in the practice. Another local community
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I take this last opportunity to thank Members of all parties around the House. The Minister took on board the fact that this was not a party matter but a House matter, a housing matter and a community matter, which has been reflected in the Ministers willingness to act. I am grateful for what has been achieved and, with the possibility of clarification, I am delighted with the amendments.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord is generous in his congratulations and I can tell that he is delighted with the progress that has been made. I am pleased about that. Like the noble Lord, I am a firm co-operator and I suppose that I should declare that interest. I see the establishment of community land trusts as an important part of that movement.
The noble Lord seeks some clarification. It comes down to this: how can the community land trust use its assets and make use of its profits and surplus and, in doing so, how can it benefit community organisations, even if such organisations have a private interest as well? Of course local people can be members of the community land trust, but that does not mean that only local people are eligible for membership. Others may become members, which will depend very much on how the community land trust defines its own rules of governance. These rules of governance can extend to cover local organisationsthose listed by my noble friend would certainly be covered. As long as there is a benefit to those individuals who are members, I do not think that there will be a difficulty with the understanding that my noble friend has. That is certainly how we envisaged it working when we came back with this definition.
I hope that that helps my noble friend Lord Graham. It is certainly intended to. This will enable community land trusts to have that broader social community role that noble Lords have argued for in our debates. I hope that we can agree to the amendments.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, my noble friend has been enormously helpful. As I sat behind him listening, he clarified that the words in the Bill envisage that there will be more than individuals as members of the trust. The actions taken by the trust will be the members decisions. If the bodies that are
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(4) Condition 1 is that the body is established for the express purpose of furthering the social, economic and environmental interests of a local community by acquiring and managing land and other assets in order
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I agreed on Report that we should table an enabling power to allow us to deliver the provisions necessary to support cross-domain regulation through secondary legislation. We had a wide-ranging debate on this at every stage of the Bill, and given the widespread support across the House for doing it in this way, our offer was well received. I am very pleased about that.
As I pointed out in the debate, we need a broad power that is flexible enough to allow us to make the necessary changes to legislation. It would be extremely unfortunate, as I think everyone would agree, if we were to forgo the opportunity of a Bill in the next Session only to find that we had drafted an enabling power too tightly to allow us to proceed as we ideally would. We would very much regret that, and I believe that the House is happy with the breadth of the amendment.
That is why we seek to introduce a power that allows the Secretary of State to amend or modify as necessary or desirable Part 2 of this Bill or any other relevant legislation so as to enable the Tenant Services Authority to regulate local authorities. I have not sensed a significant degree of concern at taking this broad approach. I trust that the enthusiastic support is such that noble Lords certainly accept that it is fit for purpose.
In taking a broad power, our intention is that it would be used sensibly and only where there is a clear rationale for making a change in support of effective cross-domain regulation. I have already committed to offering a full public consultation on regulations made under the power, which is obviously right. The work of the Cole advisory panel has shown that much can be achieved from engaging in an open and inclusive process. Everyone around the House has paid tribute to the work of Professor Ian Cole. In our eagerness to consult in terms of ongoing dialogue and a more formal consultative process I hope that we will satisfy those noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, who had expressed a preference for super-affirmative procedures.
The enabling clause is fairly simple. In addition to allowing us to amend, modify or not apply any piece of legislation as required, it also allows for the registration of local authorities. It allows the Secretary of State to register, by order, a specified local authority or a class of authority. In so doing, the order may make provision about how the registration should operate; that is, the process on which we will consult as part of the wider regulations.
Having debated the complex nature of these regulations, it is something of an anti-climax to be discussing a clause which is rather simple in its description. We can now make a welcome shift to considering the substance rather than the process of delivering a cross-domain regulator, and to doing those things that will meet the social concerns recognised by the noble Lord, Lord
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This is the last group of amendments. Very kind things have been said about my ability to find time in my diary for meetings. It has been a great pleasure to work with noble Lords across the House and not just a necessity. I believe that we should have an open process and debate on this Bill. It was a good Bill when we introduced it, but it is much better now, which is to the huge credit of noble Lords who have taken part. It would be invidious to single out anyone, but I have been gratified to have the authority and support of my noble friends Lady Ford and Lady Dean on my side, as well as the assiduous nagging of my noble friends Lord Howarth, Lord Graham and Lady Whitaker. They have put in sterling work, as have my noble friends Lord Filkin and Lady Jones.
I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Best, who has been a real sheepdog on the Bill and has ensured that we have made the position of the tenant very clear. He has played an excellent role, as have noble Lords on both Front Benches. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has kept us up to the mark on the management of the Bill. On behalf of all noble Lords, I thank the Bill team for their extraordinary talent. They have been exceptional in their creativity as well as in their assiduous response to the will of this House, which was shown in the expert way in which they have come back with voluminous correspondence and the sensitive way in which they have interpreted what the House has wanted. With that, I hope that we can bless the Bill in its form. I beg to move.
Lord Best: My Lords, again I give deep thanks to the Minister for listening to the representations made and for bringing forward this important amendment. I also thank all colleagues on all Benches in supporting a potentially lonely Cross-Bencher who alone can do very little. I know that this amendment will be much appreciated by the organisations representing tenants and landlords, including the Local Government Association, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Federation of ALMOs, the Tenant Participation Advisory Service and the National Consumer Council. It means that council tenants can enjoy the same protections and support from the regulator as housing association tenants without the need for another Act of Parliament. It will prevent anomalies and complexities as tenants move between council housing and housing association homes. All will have a similar service. It will ensure that council tenants will not be treated as second-class citizens. It will also enable the new Tenant Services Authority to establish a coherent culture, as the noble Baroness has said, to recruit a board and to engage staff on the basis of certainty that 4 million, not 2 million, tenants will be covered without waiting for a new Bill.
If the Minister could give an idea of timetabling for consultation and action in taking forward the extension of the Tenant Services Authoritys role to cover council tenants, that would be appreciated. But that can await another day. I know that things will move forward as expeditiously as possible. I thank the Minister for this amendment, which I heartily support.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, when I was fairly new in this House, Lord Longford stood back to let me go through a Division Lobby first and then apologised and said, I am sorry, we do not do things that way now, do we?. I, too, should like to add my thanks.
That puzzles me. I had not anticipated that it might be necessary to differentiate between authorities. I gave the noble Baroness almost no notice of this question and I do not know whether she is able to explain why that is necessary.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I was grateful for the notice that I was given. We have yet to publish Professor Coles report, but, given that it has been circulated, I am not breaking any confidences in relating that it will recommend that only those local authorities which own stock should be subject to consultation. Specifying the local authorities gives us flexibility. The clause allows us to register such a class and gives us the ability to specify a particular authority. We will of course have to consult on this, along with the way in which we propose to handle registration of local authorities, when we bring forward draft regulations.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, if I am out of order, I apologise and I hope that the House will understand. I need to add my thanks, first, to everyone in the House who has taken part in this Bill. There is no question that the Bill will leave this House in a far better state than it arrived, which is the result of the work of so many people besides ourselves. I owe thanks to all those who have briefed us. They sometimes swamp us with information, but, as a consequence of that, we are much better informed when we study these Bills and are able to bring improvements forward.
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