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The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked for examples of where NHB or CIL is or is not material. Take a scenario where NHB and CIL funds pooled by an authority will help fund a new parkway station on the local commuter route. In determining an application for a major housing development on a site within the catchment of the proposed station, it would be perfectly reasonable for the local planning authority to have regard to-as a material consideration-the fact that the development would generate revenues which would contribute to the new parkway station that would serve that development.

Of course, matters relating to NHB and CIL will not be material in relation to every development. Using the same example, what if the new development was particularly aimed at the retirement market? The development would, as with executive homes, result in NHB and CIL funds which would contribute to providing the station. This would still be a reasonable use of the funds. However, the provision of the station would not be material to the determination of this application, because it would not relate to the planning merits of the development proposed. Equally, the provision of this station would not be material to the determination of an application for a similar sized executive housing development which would be in the same local planning authority's area, but on a site far removed from the station, and whose occupants would not use that new facility-so it would not be relevant to the application. What I hope I am illustrating here is that local planning authorities will only be able to take matters relating to NHB and CIL into account where they fairly and reasonably relate to the planning issues that are relevant to the particular application they are considering.

These are, of course, only very simple examples. For most planning applications there will be a wide range of matters that might be material: local planning authorities will need to judge, with the law as their guide, which matters are material to the case in hand. They will then need to decide how to apportion weight between all of those matters that are material. Just because something is or is not material does not mean that it will always have a decisive bearing on the decision to be made.

Turning to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Greaves, ably moved by my noble friend Lady Hamwee, I thank the noble Lords most genuinely for this helpful suggestion. Despite its humble purpose, Clause 124 has clearly caused some to worry that it might in some way oblige decision-makers to give more weight to local finance considerations-but only where material-than to other material considerations, such as amenity or the environment. My noble friend's suggestion is without doubt intended to provide reassurance on this point and it fully reflects the Government's intention to leave the apportioning of

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weight to the discretion of the decision-maker. The Government are confident that the current clause achieves this on its own. However, there is merit in looking again at the wording to ensure that it does not inadvertently place local finance matters in any particular place in the pecking order of material considerations. My noble friend's suggestion will be of great assistance as we continue to reflect on whether this clause best reflects our intentions. In the light of this, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, before the noble Baroness does so, may I just draw out the Minister a bit on one example? A local development plan has provision for 5,000 houses but is strapped for cash. It sees the opportunity for a cash incentive-which is what the new homes bonus is-because it needs to use some resources elsewhere in its provision of services. It therefore grants planning permission for 8,000 units, motivated by that cash incentive. Would that, all other things being equal, be a non-material consideration? Would it put in jeopardy the approval, because of the difference between that and the development plan?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord poses a good question that will help to illustrate the situation. He describes a situation where the planning application is for more houses than are provided for in the local development plan. The extra money arising from the NHB and the CIL from those houses can be taken into consideration if it is used in relation to those extra houses. If the money is going to enhance a railway station that would support those extra houses, it can be taken into consideration, but if it is to support perhaps a swimming pool on the other side of town, it cannot be taken into consideration because it is not relevant to the application.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Parminter's opposition to the clause standing part reflects not just the concern of her organisation but the concern felt outside the House about the provision. Of course I will withdraw the amendment and I am grateful to the Minister for his agreement that the matter will be looked at again.

I shall comment on one or two of the points that he has made. On his example of the parkway station, the reaction around me was, "But that would enable development, and moreover it seems to be suggesting that economic growth is more important than the provision of extra housing". It may be an interesting example but it has not quite yet convinced us.

The Government put the clause in the Bill in order not to allow uncertainty to linger. However, guidance can be produced quite quickly. It can be issued on the day that the Act comes into force or it can precede it. Although I understand that the Government wanted to reassure people, there are other mechanisms for doing so.

The Minister said that it was important to provide clarity. I hope that I have helped at any rate to suggest that the clause does quite the opposite-instead of clarity it provides more confusion and concern. We will ensure that my noble friend Lord Greaves is aware of the praise for his amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.

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Amendment 166WA withdrawn.

Amendments 166X and 166Y not moved.

Clause 124 agreed.

Amendment 167 not moved.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I would like to speak to Amendments 168 and 169.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, the noble Lord is perfectly entitled to speak to an amendment that has not been moved because, as the clerks will tell one, an amendment belongs to the House. I have to say, though, that it is totally contrary to the spirit and conventions of this House that someone should seek to speak to an amendment that has not been moved. We cannot stop the noble Lord, but I hope that he will do so extremely briefly. I have a number of other amendments in exactly the same situation, and I do not intend to say anything about them at all.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Colwyn): If the noble Lord speaks to the amendment, he must move it.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I also would like to comment on this. The groupings list says that these amendments have already been debated. They were not debated; they were not moved. This is because we considered that these issues were so important that they required major discussion. I had an undertaking from the Government that we would get full debating time to discuss these issues. I know how important the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is; all the amendments are important. It is essential that we have adequate time to discuss them, which we do not have today. If we are going to have a proper debate about them, that is important, but the record should be set straight that the amendments have not already been debated. They were simply not discussed because they were not moved for the reasons that I have given.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Does the Committee wish to discuss Amendment 168?

4 pm

Earl Attlee: If the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, wants to weary the patience of the Committee, he is perfectly entitled to move Amendment 168.

Amendment 168

Moved by Lord Berkeley

168: After Clause 124, insert the following new Clause-

"Planning permission for subterranean development

After section 75 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, insert-

"75A Planning permission for subterranean development

(1) Any proposed development which extends below the ground level of an existing property shall be deemed to be "a subterranean development" and any person seeking to undertake a subterranean development must-

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(a) commission a "Subterranean Impact Study" by consultants approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the impact of the proposed subterranean development upon-

(i) subterranean ground conditions with particular reference to flowing and standing water; and

(ii) foundations, footings and structure of any adjacent buildings and other buildings within a radius of 100 metres of the proposed development;

(b) provide owners of any adjacent properties and of properties within a radius of 100 metres with a copy of the Subterranean Impact Study and enter into consultation with the respective owners during a period of not less than 90 days;

(c) submit a copy of the Subterranean Impact Study to the relevant planning authority, together with the results of the consultation with relevant adjacent and nearby property owners, before submitting any application for full planning approval for the proposed subterranean development from the relevant planning authority;

(d) seek the approval of the Secretary of State for the proposed subterranean development;

(e) provide an appropriate warranty or bond and security for expenses to a value to be determined by a specialist advisor.""

Lord Berkeley: I wish to move Amendment 168 very briefly and to speak to Amendment 169. As the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said, the amendments have not already been debated, in spite of what it says on the groupings list. Amendments 170CA, 170CB and 170CE are not on the groupings list and they have not been debated either, so I hope that they will be debated at some stage.

All I was going to say in moving the amendment-in fact, I was hoping to speak to it after another noble Lord had moved it-was that I supported it. I was also going to ask the Minister whether and how it would apply to underground workings such as cracking. Cracking is the extraction of gas from underneath the ground: one drills many thousands of feet underground and pumps in high pressure water and gas is then extracted. This is a common occurrence in the United States at the moment. A lot of gas is extracted but a lot of houses are subsiding and being damaged as a result. I believe that the same process is being planned or has started in the Blackpool area. I am looking for information from the Minister on that as well. Whether I get it now or whether he writes to me, I do not really mind. I beg to move.

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, as it is my amendment and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is, I believe, a former member or director of the piggy-back club, I assume that he is piggy-backing. My amendment is too big to be discussed here. I consulted my party and it has very kindly given me leave to introduce a Private Member's Bill which will cover all these areas. I would much appreciate it if the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, would co-operate with me. I should declare that I have lots of underground interests too.

Lord Berkeley: I am grateful for that remark and I look forward to further discussions with the noble Lord.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I think it is a bit unfair to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was going to weary the Committee. I say to noble Lords that if

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the issue is a big one and they have other routes for having a debate, why put down an amendment? When amendments go down, we all spend time trying to get our minds around what the issues are so that we can respond. It wastes our time as well.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: We had every intention of debating it and, as noble Lords will know, I complained about having to wait day after day in the hope of getting to this amendment. Yesterday it was quite clear that we were running out of time. This Bill is terribly important and it is important that we get to Report stage. It was because of the degree of importance that we decided to take action and seek an assurance from the Minister that we would be guaranteed sufficient time to debate it on Report. It will be debated then.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, just about everything that could be said has been said on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about gas extraction. I will have a letter written to him before the next stage so that he knows the situation.

Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 168 withdrawn.

Amendments 169 and 170 not moved.

Amendment 170A

Moved by Lord Reay

170A: After Clause 124, insert the following new Clause-

"Windfarms: appeal costs

Where an appeal is made against the decision of a local planning authority to reject a planning application for an onshore windfarm, and the matter is taken to a public inquiry, the costs incurred by the authority in contesting the appeal, as well as any reasonable costs incurred by any registered rule 6(6) party under the Town and Country Planning Appeals Rules 2000, shall be paid for by the appellant."

Lord Reay: My Lords, in moving my Amendment 170A, I should like to start by quoting what the Minister, Mr Greg Clark, said in another place at the Report stage of the Bill:

"There is also a case for looking at the fact that the costs of losing appeals can sometimes hang over local authorities. Sometimes the threat of losing an appeal dissuades a local authority from turning down an application that it might want to turn down. We should look at that".-[Official Report, Commons, 17/5/11; col. 274.]

My only quarrel with that statement is that it is not so much the threat of losing an appeal as the costs of fighting one, whatever the result, that can dissuade a local authority from turning down a planning application that it should turn down and/or might otherwise want to turn down. This is more true today than ever now that local authorities are having to make severe budget cuts.

Following my having taken up that point at Second Reading, my noble friend the Minister kindly wrote to

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me on the 20th of last month and ended her letter by saying that she hoped to be able to update me shortly with news on,

that is, deal with the concerns about appeal costs. I am hoping that she may be able to tell us today what that is.

I have singled out onshore wind farm applications because it is particularly scandalous that it is the subsidies that wind farm developers are promised that place them in a position to outbid local authorities and local action groups. Without those subsidies, the planning applications would never be made in the first place. Just to remind noble Lords, the subsidy takes the form of a promise to take on to the grid for 20 years all the electricity that the wind farm can produce at a price which is currently over twice the market rate. If for some reason the grid cannot accept the electricity, as we have seen happen recently and I am sure we will again, it will still pay for it at the subsidised rate. It is of course the consumer, including the consumer who is being pushed into fuel poverty, who is then charged on his electricity bills with these costs, and who thus pays for the subsidy.

This of course creates the very antithesis of a level playing field. The result is that this is an area where final planning decisions are emphatically not taken by local authorities or local communities. Localism does not rule. It is routine for developers to waste no time in appealing once the local authority has rejected, if it has had the courage to reject, their planning application. In the first place, the developers hope to intimidate the local authority with the threat of a protracted and expensive public inquiry into granting their planning applications. If, nevertheless, the local authority stands up to them, they hope to defeat the local authority at the public inquiry. As developers are invariably able to afford better legal and administrative representation than the local authority, and certainly than the local action groups, they are favourites to win.

The Government are complicit in this unjust process because they maintain the subsidies. The Government also apply immense pressure on the Planning Inspectorate through statements in every conceivable piece of legislation and guidance to help deliver, through its decisions at public inquiries, the Government's renewable energy targets. In many cases the inspector does give priority to local concerns or to landscape considerations, but it still seems to be the case that in a majority of cases he will give priority to government policy. So by means of the subsidies to renewable energy electricity generators and the pressure on the Planning Inspectorate to deliver the Government's renewable energy targets, the Government are doing everything in their power to thwart local opponents of onshore wind farm schemes. Yet they still claim to want to devolve decision-making powers in planning matters to local communities. How do they justify that blatant contradiction? I am afraid that it invites the charge of hypocrisy.

Yet it is still the case that the Government have signalled their recognition that the ability of developers to intimidate local planning authorities into granting planning permission because of the costs of going to appeal represents a problem, which is why I hope that

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my noble friend will say today what the Government propose to do about it. My amendment might result in developers thinking twice about taking local planning authority refusals to appeal. In doing so, it might give some encouragement to local authorities to stick to their guns with the result that more final decisions might be in accordance with the wishes of local communities. Perhaps naively I thought that that was meant to be the main purpose of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I trust that the Government will give no credence to this intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Reay. Government policy for encouraging the development of alternative energy-which is essential to our future-includes onshore wind farms. If he wishes to pursue his opposition to that policy, he should pursue it under energy Bills and the various regulations that are brought before this House under the energy Bills. He may well have done so. However, this is not the appropriate point to do it.

His amendment would do the opposite of what he is suggesting. It would discriminate against developers of wind farms as compared with any other developer, as well as cutting across what has been a cross-party consensual position in terms of encouraging alternative energy, including wind farms. In reality, the number of wind farms that have been rejected on planning grounds is at least equivalent to those that have gone forward and the number on which a decision has been challenged.

I do not want to use the same intemperate language as the noble Lord, Lord Reay, but, in practice, on wind farm applications, the nimbys have generally won. In this, at least, let us recognise that there is an overriding national consideration that this Government, the last Government and all parties in this House have accepted. This is not the point at which to further discriminate against wind farm developers.

Lord Marlesford: In case the House were to think that my noble friend was in a minority of one, I rise to support his amendment strongly. Frankly, the essence of the planning system is that planning decisions should be made on planning grounds. To attempt to distort those decisions is thoroughly undesirable and totally contrary to the whole basis of what was set up by the party of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, when it was in power in 1948. It was one of the great achievements of the Labour Government-the other being the health service. England would not be the country it is if it had not had that planning system.

My noble friend is talking particularly about wind farms, which is quite relevant because of the element of subsidy. However, very undesirable pressures have been put on planning authorities, for example, by supermarkets, which have proposed to build in quite inappropriate places and have threatened expensive public inquiries and local authorities with damages if they presume not to grant the application. My noble friend Lord Reay is absolutely on to the right idea. I strongly advise the Government to think very carefully before they distort the planning system in this sort of way.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I must intervene. I had not intended to do so because much the same ground will come up under some subsequent amendments to which

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I have put my name. However, I point out to my noble friend Lord Whitty, for whom I have great respect and who I regard as a particularly good personal friend, that there is an issue which comes up under a number of amendments.

What the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has said is very telling. I am very proud of what the post-war Labour Government contributed to civilised values in this country through their planning arrangements and commitment to the countryside. I regard that as one of the most precious assets in the history of our party and do not want to see it lightly cast aside. What worries me about the implications of this part of the Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has moved his amendment, and, indeed of subsequent parts, is that all the implicit accumulated evidence, which is becoming increasingly explicit, shows that instead of a prejudice in planning in favour of our rich inheritance of countryside, scenery and the rest, the balance is changing to making economic considerations the priority. We need to get that balance right but I do not want to see the mistakes of the first Industrial Revolution repeated. Our countryside was raped in the first Industrial Revolution, but it could all have been done in a much more civilised way. Do we never learn? The noble Lord, Lord Reay, is absolutely right to be vigilant on this issue.

4.15 pm

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, with respect, I find myself more in agreement with my noble friend Lord Whitty than with my noble friend Lord Judd. I am bound to say that that is unusual. My advice is that the normal arrangement is that parties bear their own costs in an appeal. I have heard nothing which suggests that we should disrupt that arrangement whether in respect of wind farms or anything else. If we go down that path, we shall have a two-tier system whereby in some circumstances people will bear their own costs whereas in others, because they happen to be wealthier, they will have different arrangements. That seems a rather odd proposition. However, I particularly wanted to-

Lord Marlesford: The noble Lord misunderstood me; of course, I am aware of that. The point is that the costs likely to fall on the local authority in a prolonged planning appeal have to be a consideration. In plenty of cases there has been a threat that if it is felt, or can be shown, that the local authority was wrong to deny the planning consent in the first instance, damages for the delay can be claimed by the applicant. That is the point I was making.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I understand that point but it seems to be being proposed that the outcome of an appeal is somehow prejudged, and that some will have satisfactory outcomes with which we are happy but others will not. I pick up the proposition that the planning inspectorate colludes to try to achieve government policy in respect of renewables. As I have said before, I was a Minister in CLG for a very short period. All Ministers get the opportunity-if that is the right word-to deal with inspectors' reports. Certainly, my experience of probably no more than half a dozen

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such reports is that they were very thorough and very balanced. Some recommended that an appeal should be accepted, others did not. My experience is that a professional approach was taken to the matter. I certainly did not detect any perceived pressure on the inspectorate to achieve one outcome rather than another, so it is rather unfortunate to suggest that the opposite is the case. I am very well aware that supermarkets push their luck through the planning system but they get knocked back. That seems to me to validate the process that we have.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Reay, and other noble Lords who have taken part in the discussion on this amendment. It is accepted practice that all parties to an appeal should normally meet their own costs, but cost awards may be made by the planning inspectorate if a party behaves unreasonably. There are no special circumstances that apply to onshore wind farm appeals compared with appeals against other forms of development, nor is it clear why there should be. This proposal to require appellants to pay all parties' costs for onshore wind farm appeals will treat wind farms differently from any other types of development. It would create pressure to extend the provision to other types of development. What will it achieve? Is it meant to encourage more proposals for wind farms to be refused, irrespective of their merits? Local planning authorities will already consider whether a proposed wind farm is acceptable in terms of their development plan and other considerations. These can include national planning policy and relevant planning issues raised by local communities.

I appreciate that wind farms can be controversial, but that in itself is not a reason to refuse them. Wind farm developers, like local communities, should expect a level playing field. Local planning authorities should be confident in refusing development that is clearly contrary to an up-to-date development plan, and defending their decision at appeal. It is our intention that local plans will become more prominent in decision- making, and there should be a presumption in favour of sustainable development at the heart of the planning system.

I have just been handed a note that the Minister is to revise the costs awards circular-circular 03/09-to make sure that it is clear that where a local planning authority refuses a development proposal on the grounds that it is contrary to an up-to-date development plan and there is no issue of conflict with national planning policy, there should be no grounds for an award of costs against the local planning authority.

I trust that with these remarks the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Reay: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his concluding remarks, although I am rather surprised that he should have received this as a last-minute piece of information from his officials considering that this amendment has been down for quite a considerable amount of time.

I am grateful for what he said; I would like to study the implications of it. I can understand that he does not wish to make any distinction between wind farm

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developments and any other form of planning application. That really relates to the issue of renewable development which the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said was no matter for this Bill. He might say that to some of his noble friends when they try and introduce an obligation to pay more attention to climate change and what should be done about it, because that is an example of exactly the same thing.

I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford for his support, and to the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I entirely agree with him: planning is a matter of getting the balance right. The party opposite is rightly proud of what the planning system has achieved in this country. It has preserved the countryside from, among other things, ribbon development and inappropriate high-rises. All of us are now proud of that consequence, and it is extremely important that we succeed in the future in maintaining the balance that is implied by that, and that we do not give overriding consideration to some overarching concern like renewable energy. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 170A withdrawn.

Amendment 170B

Moved by Lord Avebury

170B: After Clause 124, insert the following new Clause-

"Planning permission for sites for Gypsies and Travellers

In the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, after section 77 insert-

"77A Planning permission for sites for gypsies and travellers

(1) The Secretary of State may direct a local planning authority to grant planning permission for an application involving development which provides a site for the accommodation of a specified number of gypsies and travellers.

(2) In the East of England and South West regions, the specified number of gypsies and travellers under subsection (1) may not exceed any number specified for that local authority in the regional strategy.

(3) In the North West and South East regions, and in any other region where there is a report by the independent panel appointed by the Secretary of State under section 8 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, the specified number of gypsies and travellers under subsection (1) may not exceed the number for that local planning authority in the independent panel report.

(4) In any other region, the specified number of gypsies and travellers under subsection (1) may not exceed the number in the gypsy and traveller accommodation needs assessment conducted under section 225 of the Housing Act 2004.

(5) In this section "gypsies and travellers" has the meaning given by regulations made under section 225 of the Housing Act 2004.

(6) The reference to a regional strategy applies to the regional strategy in place at the abolition of regional strategies under section 94 of the Localism Act 2011.""

Lord Avebury:My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has just said that planning is a matter of getting the balance right. My amendment attempts to do that in the case of Gypsies and Travellers, the purpose being to ensure that caravan-dwelling Gypsies and Travellers have somewhere to live.

There are 18,300 who retain a strong cultural aversion to housing which is left over from the days when the whole Gypsy population was nomadic. Of these, some

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3,000 now live in unauthorised developments or encampments, so that almost one in five of the population is statutorily homeless. That proportion had begun to decline over the past three years as a result of circular 01/06 and the establishment of target figures for planning permissions for Gypsy sites in every district of England through a three-stage process. First, there were the Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessments, conducted by experts on behalf of local authorities; secondly, public inquiries on the results of those assessments; and, thirdly, a review at the regional level providing that a minimum of 15 pitches were to be provided in every district, regardless of assessed need, and reducing the number in some authorities which had more than a proportionate existing population of Gypsies, such as Basildon in Essex.

As your Lordships may have seen, 90 families are being evicted from the Dale Farm site in that borough, while other local authorities in the county have been avoiding planning for any Gypsy sites up till now. This is an emergency situation which could be solved only by allowing the families who are to be evicted to relocate on to publicly owned land in the neighbourhood where temporary planning permission could be sought pending a permanent solution. Otherwise, these 90 families will be thrown onto the roadside, with all the trauma and disruption that that would involve for them, especially the children.

I repeat the suggestion I made to my noble friend Lady Wilcox that some of the land that is to be transferred by the regional development agencies to the Homes and Communities Agency could be earmarked for Gypsy sites because, if by some miracle the amendment were to be accepted, having the right numbers in plans would be no guarantee that local authorities would be able or willing to identify the tiny amounts of land to satisfy the need. This would be a possible immediate solution to the Basildon problem. Amending the purposes for which RDA land is to be used would be a simple matter, if there was political will.

The previous system was intended to satisfy local residents that, much as they objected to having Gypsies and Travellers in their neighbourhood, the small number they were being asked to accept was reasonable and had been worked out carefully and methodically, with a view to eliminating the unauthorised encampments that are a legitimate cause of complaint-not only against the homeless Gypsies but against Governments motivated by cowardice and barely concealed hostility towards Gypsies and Travellers.

Just as the Bill makes an exception for major infrastructure projects, we believe that a different approach is necessary-albeit for different reasons-in the case of planning for Gypsy and Traveller sites. Left to their own devices, local authorities will never make adequate provision for the number of Gypsies and Travellers who still live in caravans, in spite of all the obstacles that they have to face-as proved by the experience of the past half century. I had understood that the coalition would concentrate on the matters that had been agreed between the two parties. Leaving aside the points on which there were differences, tearing up the whole strategy for dealing with Gypsies and Travellers was a denial of that promise.

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However, the numbers remain. Therefore, in the amendment we reinforce the numbers by requiring every local authority to grant planning permission for a specified number of pitches. In the case of the two regions where the numbers were in a completed regional strategy, those are the numbers. In the two regions where the penultimate stage had been reached, of a report by the independent panel, the numbers are those in the panel report; and in the remaining regions, we take the numbers that were in the GTAAs. We should have specified the minimum of 15 pitches for every local authority, but this can be added on Report if the Government agree to this amendment in principle.

Amendment 170C provides that the same numbers should be a "material consideration" in determining planning appeals in respect of Gypsy sites in the relevant authorities. That is not my preferred choice, but if we make no reference to the numbers at all, we already know what is going to happen. A report by the Irish Travellers Movement in Britain, a copy of which I sent to the Minister last week, details the responses of 100 local authorities in three different regions to inquiries about their pitch targets. In the east of England, the targets were 36 per cent below those in the regional strategy; in the south-west, the reduction was 32 per cent compared with the emerging regional strategy; and in the south-east, it was 82 per cent. Overall, there was a reduction of just over half in the plans, and there was widespread delay and uncertainty about how to proceed. This research confirms with a vengeance the fear, expressed by the CLG Select Committee in another place in its report of 28 February, that,

The committee quoted with approval the written evidence they had from six different sets of witnesses, all asserting that the planning vacuum would have an adverse effect on the provision of sites, and effectively saying that over the longer term the new framework, or rather the lack of any framework, would mean an increase in the number of unauthorised sites. It gives me a feeling of déjà vu, from the similarly predictable disaster of 1994, when the 1968 Act was repealed. I said then-several times-that repeal would have a disastrous effect on the provision of sites, and so it did.

I now say, without fear of reasoned contradiction, that without this amendment many local authorities will not grant permission for any sites whatever, as the Mayor of London, for example, has indicated. In his draft London Plan under the previous system, 524 extra pitches were to be provided. That was then reduced in March 2010, close to the election, to 236 and then in October he scrapped the numbers altogether, leaving the boroughs to decide their own strategies, if any. The replies from individual authorities to the ITMB survey showed that many had taken advantage of the new freedom to reduce targets but many more had just not bothered to adopt targets at all because of alleged shortcomings in the evidence base in the GTAAs, abandonment of the 15 minimum, what was locally acceptable or that they were waiting for the replacement of circular 01/06, which I believe is about to appear.

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4.30 pm

During this hiatus, since the Secretary of State's unlawful letter scrapping the previous Government's planning strategy, almost all the new Gypsy sites have been provided only as a result of successful appeals against the refusal of applications by the Gypsies themselves. As we have heard, that process is now to be stopped. The question now before us is not just whether this amendment should be passed, but whether this Committee will tell the Government that they have taken a wrong turn in their whole policy for Gypsies and Travellers, condemning yet another generation to exclusion and deprivation.

It pains me intensely to say this about the coalition, which I have otherwise supported through difficult times since the last election, but this is an issue I have fought over the past five decades and I am convinced that leaving the right to adequate housing for these communities in the hands of local authorities-at the mercy of the implacably hostile electorate-is a recipe for certain failure.

We are under investigation by the UN rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing for the treatment of the evictees on the Dale Farm site, but as I have already emphasised to her the question goes much further than that.

Over the decades we have been unwilling to take the action needed to ensure that Gypsies and Travellers have a lawful place to live, in breach of our obligations under Articles 11.1 and 2.2 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. The Government may not care about the few critics who argue this cause in Parliament, but if they want to avoid the humiliation of being pilloried before the UN Human Rights Council, this is their opportunity. I beg to move.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I have a deal of sympathy with the position of the noble Lord, but I am constrained by our Front Bench position. A proposition which gives more power to the Secretary of State to dictate is something we would draw back from. The noble Lord made some crucial points, however. We are already concerned about what the withdrawal of regional spatial strategies has done to strategic planning and affordable housing. Until the noble Lord spoke I had probably not focused sufficiently on its impact on Gypsy and Traveller families. It will be interesting to see if the duty for authorities to co-operate produces anything like a solution. I suspect that it will not.

The Government are focused on financial incentives as part of their approach to housing. I do not think the new homes bonus would bite directly but perhaps it is interesting to pursue whether financial incentives for local authorities would encourage them to do what they should be doing, which is to take and make available their share of provision for this disadvantaged section of our community.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, it would be impossible to respond to my noble friend's amendment without paying tribute to his lifetime's support to Gypsies, Travellers and those in housing need.

20 July 2011 : Column 1434

The previous Government's model of top-down pitch targets has not delivered. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of caravans on unauthorised developments increased from 728 to 2,395. That is the caravan count published by DCLG. Local authorities are best placed to assess the needs of their communities, including Travellers. Our proposed planning policy asks local authorities to set targets for Traveller sites that are underpinned by a strong evidence base. The policy set out clear consequences for those authorities which do not make available land to meet the need that they have identified. The duty to co-operate will ensure that local authorities continue to work together on strategic issues. It will require local planning authorities, county councils and other public bodies to engage constructively, actively, and on an ongoing basis in the planning process. Local authorities will be required to demonstrate compliance with the duty as part of the public examination of local plans. If an authority cannot demonstrate that it has complied with the duty, its plan will not pass the independent examination.

A policy-led approach is a more appropriate one through which to address provision of sites through the planning system. The national, regional and local need for accommodation for Travellers would be a relevant material consideration for the decision-maker in any event. The planning, compulsory purchase and town and country planning Acts require that planning decisions are made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Any consideration which relates to the use or development of land is capable of being a material consideration.

On Amendment 182, which is linked with Amendments 170B and 170C in the Marshalled List, the majority of new Traveller sites are small, private ones provided by Travellers themselves, not local authorities. That meets community aspirations on tenure, and their small size can aid integration with the settled community. A duty for local authorities to provide sites would therefore not be appropriate.

That was the finding of a recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report, entitled Assessing Local Authorities' Progress in Meeting the Accommodation Needs of Gypsy and Traveller Communities in England and Wales: 2010 Update. The DCLG-chaired, cross-government ministerial working group on Gypsy and Traveller inequality includes a work stream to encourage new development of small, private sites and better publicity of the success of existing small private sites. That work was included following consultation with members and representatives of the Travelling community, among whom there is a consensus that such site accommodation is preferable to public sites provision.

The planning system is therefore the key place to deliver the provision. The Government published our proposed new planning policy for Traveller sites on 13 April. It tells local authorities to use a robust evidence base of local need, to set targets for sites and identify land to meet those targets. The draft policy is out to consultation. When I got the notes, they said until 6 July, but it has been pushed on to 3 August, so if noble Lords want to give their views, they are welcome to do so and have until 3 August. Local authorities are subject to a statutory duty under

20 July 2011 : Column 1435

Section 225 of the Housing Act 2004 to carry out an assessment of the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers residing in or resorting to their district when they are undertaking a review of housing need in their district under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1985. All local authorities prepare Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments under that duty, and some, such as Somerset County Council, have begun undertaking new assessments of need for Travellers residing in or resorting to their areas.

Given my response, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for drawing attention to the duty to co-operate. However, I do not attach any great confidence to that when you consider what has happened in the Essex region. Basildon has a large number of Gypsies and Travellers, more than it would have been asked to provide for under the previous Government's system, and other local authorities within the county have done nothing whatever. Although this duty has been passed, there is no method for compelling the other local authorities to comply with it, so I do not consider it very effective.

I am most grateful to my noble friend for his reply and for the kind remarks that he made about the work that I have done over the past 47 years on behalf of Gypsies and Travellers. If I do not get anywhere with this Bill, it will be a major disappointment. We have been here before, in 1994, when the 1968 Act was torn up. For many years after that, hardly anything happened at all. We were beginning to make some progress under the previous legislation. My noble friend said that the figures between 2000 and 2010 show that there was an increase in the number of unauthorised encampments and developments. However, looking at the last three years, the number was beginning to decline as a result of circular 01/06 and the obligations that had been placed on local authorities to carry out a detailed assessment of the numbers of Gypsies and Travellers who should be accommodated because they were residing in or resorting to the area. That was followed by extensive public inquiries and the redistribution of the obligation between the local authorities in an area.

Now the Government have decided-the Minister reiterated this-that local authorities are to be required to set targets for Traveller sites. I am asking why they would bother to do that when they have already done it. They have consulted experts and arrived at figures that have been validated by these public inquiries. Therefore, I am afraid that I do not attach very much confidence to what my noble friend said. Although I will comply with his request to cut my remarks short on this occasion, I intend to return to this issue on Report. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 170B withdrawn.

Amendments 170C to 170CB not moved.

Amendment 170CC

Moved by Baroness Parminter

170CC: After Clause 124, insert the following new Clause-

"Community right of appeal

20 July 2011 : Column 1436

(1) The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 70 (determination of applications: general considerations)-

(a) in subsection (1)(a), after the first "subject to" insert "subsection (2A) and",

(b) after subsection (2) insert-

"(2A) Where the planning authority decides under this section to grant a permission for an application which falls within one of the categories, and meets any of the conditions specified in section 78(2A)-

(a) in case where no appeal is lodged against the decision, it shall make the grant as soon as may be specified in a development order after the expiration of the period for the lodging of an appeal;

(b) in case where an appeal or appeals is or are lodged against the decision, it shall not make the grant unless, as regards the appeal or, as may be appropriate, each of the appeals-

(i) are withdrawn, or

(ii) are dismissed by the Secretary of State."

(3) In section 78 (appeals to the Secretary of State against planning decisions and failure to take such decisions) after subsection (2) insert-

"(2A) Where a planning authority grants an application for planning permission, and-

(a) the authority has publicised the application as not according with the development plan in force in the area in which the land to which the application relates is situated; or

(b) the application is one in which the authority has an interest as defined in section 316;

certain persons as specified in subsection (2B) below may by notice appeal to the Secretary of State, provided any one of the conditions in subsection (2C) below are met.

(2B) Persons who may by notice appeal to the Secretary of State against the approval of planning permission in the circumstances specified in subsection (2A) above are-

(a) a ward councillor for the area;

(b) any parish council covering or adjoining the area of land to which the application relates; or

(c) any overview and scrutiny committee for the area.

(2C) The conditions are-

(a) section 61W(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 applies to the application;

(b) the application is accompanied by an environmental impact assessment;

(c) the planning officer has recommended refusal of planning permission."

(4) In section 78, after subsection (4D) insert-

"(4E) For appeals lodged under subsection (2A), a notice must be served no later than 28 days from the date of notification of the decision."

(5) Section 79 is amended as follows-

(a) in subsection (2), omit "either" and the words after "planning authority" and insert "or the applicant (where different from the appellant)";

(b) in subsection (6), after "the determination", insert "except for appeals as defined in section 78(2A) and where the appellant is as defined in section 79(2B)).""

Baroness Parminter: My Lords, Amendment 170CC introduces a community right of appeal, which delivers two things that this Government are committed to. The first is devolving powers to local communities. In this Bill, the Government are right to create greater opportunities for local neighbourhood planning. However,

20 July 2011 : Column 1437

if the Government accept the importance of local people having a direct say in the planning of their communities in their environment, how can it be right for local people to have no redress when a planning application is approved that drives a coach and horses through everything that has been agreed?

The second objective is enhancing the primacy of the local plan. The Minister in another place has made statements about the importance of enshrining the primacy of the local plan. On Report, he confirmed that the reforms were all geared towards making the plan prominent and indeed sovereign. Granting a limited community right of appeal, which was triggered where a decision to grant planning permission was not in line with the adopted local plan, would be a powerful support to that approach. To be clear, it is a limited right of appeal for the community that I am proposing. It is limited as to the conditions under which it can appeal, principally if it is not in line with the agreed local plan, although also if an authority grants an application in which it has a financial or other interest. It is also limited as to who can apply-that is, members of the local community through their elected representatives-and limited in time, with 28 days to lodge an appeal to minimise delay and uncertainty.

Critics have argued that granting a right of appeal to communities will slow down the planning process, but limiting the right of appeal minimises any delay. Recent government figures make it clear that the number of so-called departure applications are extremely small-8,000 out of more than 6 million planning applications in the past decade, or 0.15 per cent. It could also help to ensure that local councils put sufficient weight on policies in the democratically agreed plan and strengthen mandatory pre-application discussions for major developments introduced by the Bill. Indeed, in New Zealand, where such an appeal right exists, it acts as a powerful incentive on all parties to focus on pre-application discussions.

A limited third-party right of appeal was a manifesto commitment of both coalition parties. Introducing one would help to make a reality of the goals of this Government to build public faith in decision-making and encourage participation in the planning process. It would also help to make the local plan sovereign. I beg to move.

4.45 pm

Amendment 170CCA (to Amendment 170CC)

Moved by Lord Reay

170CCA: After Clause 124, leave out lines 45 and 46

Lord Reay: My Lords, the present appeal system is unbalanced. Developers have an untrammelled right of appeal against the refusal of any planning application by a local planning authority. The appeal goes to a planning inspector-usually at a public inquiry-who hears the case as if for the first time. He can reverse the local planning authority's decision on whatever grounds he chooses. Local communities, on the other hand, have no right of appeal. Once a planning permission is given by the local planning authority, that is the end of the story.

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Prior to the general election, that was a situation that both the parties now in government recognised was unfair and promised to redress. Open Source Planning, which set out Conservative planning policy, promised to make the system symmetrical both by allowing appeals against local planning decisions from local residents-the broad purpose of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter-and by limiting the grounds on which developers could appeal to, first, where the correct procedure had not been followed, whereby cases were to be dealt with by the Local Government Ombudsman, and, secondly, where the decision contravened the local plan. I believe that Liberal Democrat policies were similar.

Both those policies would have advanced the principle of localism; both have now been abandoned by the Government. The arguments they use are incoherent. In opposing the third-party right of appeal, the Minister said that he wanted fewer appeals to the Planning Inspectorate and more decided locally. In that case, why not limit the developer's right of appeal?

Planning policy has been captured by the Treasury, which seems to believe that any balance in planning policy threatens economic growth, and the Treasury is no doubt being cheered on by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, desperate to carpet the country with its useless wind farms.

I wholeheartedly support the amendment of my noble friend Lady Parminter, which seeks to reintroduce a community right of appeal. Such a right of appeal must clearly be circumscribed in some way and, as she explained, the amendment limits those entitled to appeal to local ward councillors and local parish councils.

However, there is one condition that my noble friend has introduced which I question, and I have tabled Amendment 170CCA to remove it-namely, that an appeal can go forward only if the planning officer recommends refusal. In other words, only in cases where the local authority had granted a planning application against the recommendation of the planning officer would the community right of appeal come into play. For the community, everything would hinge on what the planning officer recommended. If the planning officer recommended acceptance, and the local authority endorsed that recommendation, then the community would have no right of appeal.

That seems to me to give too much power to the planning officer. I do not see why it is the unelected planning officer who will in effect be able to decide whether there is any right of appeal against the decision of the local planning authority. If my amendment, and that of my noble friend to which mine is an amendment, were adopted, the effect would be that, whatever the recommendation of the planning officer, the community would have a right of appeal against decisions of the local planning authority. That seems to me to be more democratic.

Amendment 170CF, the other amendment in my name, seeks to deal with the developers' right of appeal. That was suggested to me by the CPRE. I do not feel committed to it in its present form; indeed, I can see that there are reasons why it might be preferable to have a simpler amendment that would require any

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appeal to be confined to where the original decision by the local planning authority had contravened the local plan. If the refusal of the local planning authority were in conformity with the local plan, the developer would have no right of appeal. That would put Conservative and perhaps also Liberal Democrat policy back to where it was before the election. It would also chime with what Ministers keep saying about their wish to make the local plan sovereign, as my noble friend has pointed out. Would the Minister be tempted by such an amendment?

On the other hand, if the Government were to persist in their refusal to allow a community right of appeal, and at the same time do nothing whatever to limit the current right of appeal of the developer, so allowing the present unlevel playing field to be maintained, they would have revealed their words about wishing to ensure that fewer decisions go to public inquiry to be much empty waffle. The intentions that they express to give primacy to local concerns would be exposed as insincere, sacrificed to the Treasury's false belief that this is the way to get economic growth going and to the lunacy of the Government's climate change fanatics.

Lord Judd: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, is nothing if not challenging intellectually. I find myself very much in support of some of the issues which he raises in his amendment, but I do not support one of them. On one point, I strongly disagree with him. The profession of the planning officer is a very honourable and demanding one, and with all the subjective pressures which operate in society-sometimes very crudely with very considerable amounts of money and innuendo about possibilities and non-possibilities-it is very important to have the objectivity of a professional in the middle who can look at the law and at the overall social challenges and get matters right. It seems to me that, if a person has put his profession on the line and made a particular recommendation, that is very important in deciding whether an appeal is appropriate. I am afraid that on that issue I strongly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Reay.

I certainly do not see my role in this House as helping to put the Conservative or Liberal Democrat policy back on course, but we have a responsibility to try to be objective and to see valid points that are made and, when they are made, to support them. In the middle of this, there are some very important and valid points. I referred to some of them in an intervention on a previous amendment. I am deeply concerned about the trend towards putting commercial economic interests above social, environmental and scenic issues. I strongly support anything that can be done to increase the well-being and dynamism of our economy-of course I want that-but my thinking does not totally coincide with that of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, as I also believe very strongly that wind power has a contribution to make. I put it to the noble Lord that if you have alternative energy, it will always be an aggregate of less dramatic quantities of energy than we have had from some of the methods with which we are familiar.

Therefore, I do not think it is an issue of being on the side of wind power or against it. I am very worried by those who turn anti-wind power positions into a kind of ideological cornerstone. The issue is where

20 July 2011 : Column 1440

you put the wind farms; and the issue is how you take into account the social challenges and social needs, so that you do not end up with the least articulate members of society becoming the waste bin for all projects because everyone else has been able to fight them off. There is a huge social planning job to be done, but planning will succeed only if it carries the sympathy and understanding of the population as a whole. There is of course a great deal to take seriously in the Government's position, about making democracy as meaningful and relevant as it possibly can be, and as near to the people as possible. Therefore, the position of the communities is crucially significant.

I believe that, if one looks at the Bill as a whole-not just on this issue, but on a lot of the issues that have been so painstakingly debated by colleagues in the course of the Bill-there is a very strange underlying paradox. The name of the Bill, and the cause of the Bill, is localism and enhancing local democracy; the effect of the Bill is an unprecedented concentration of central power. That has to be countered. It seems to me that from that standpoint the noble Lord is right. It is of course a great temptation to have increased authority for the Secretary of State at the centre, and all his civil servants working with him. If I was a civil servant with responsibilities in this area, I would get terribly vexed and frustrated at all this local democracy that was getting in the way of absolute logic; but if we are to have such increased authority at the centre, then it is very important that we make sure that there are firm rules about how that frustration is brought into play.

I think that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, does something helpful: it in a sense takes the whole theoretical purpose of the Bill, and says, "Right, if we really mean what we say here, we must have codes by which the Minister is operating in his decisions which override local wishes, and we must make sure that those are limited, and that they are clear, explicit, and understood". As for the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, she is absolutely right: it is a charade, a nonsense and a provocation to talk about a Localism Bill and then deny the community the right to appeal. Of course the community should have that right.

I conclude by making one point again-and I know that the Minister, who has not himself been participating in this debate, has been very good on this issue, and very sympathetic and understanding, as have some of his colleagues. If we talk about the importance of generating a vigorous economy, and giving priority to the measures that are necessary to make our economy strong, why do we want this? It is because we want a decent, civilised place in which to live. We want to have a society worth living in, and such a society needs a strong economy underpinning it. That is the whole point about the issue of balance: how do we ensure that we have strong policies, but at the same time that they are not so unduly, at the price of the quality of the wider dimensions of our society? That is why I repeatedly come back to the point of how previous generations ruined the countryside unnecessarily: we can now see with hindsight that it could all have been done much better. I think that the noble Lord is right, again, to be vigilant on these issues, although I profoundly

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disagree with him on some of his observations. I hope that the Government will take seriously what he and the noble Baroness have been arguing in their amendments.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we are fundamentally in listening mode on this issue. I would particularly like to listen to the Minister's explanation as to why his party seems to have reversed its view on third party rights of appeal. If that is not the case, then we would be interested to know. I would also be interested to hear his views on the comments of my noble friend Lord Judd and of the noble Lord, Lord Reay. Each of them in a different way raises concerns about the planning system being bent to issues of growth and commercial development and that balance going astray. The Minister will be aware, if he can think back that far, that right at the start of our deliberations we had debates about getting the issues of the purpose of planning in the Bill, definitions of sustainable development, and the embedding of sustainable development at NPPF level, at local development framework level and at neighbourhood level, as one way of trying to make sure that the concerns that are increasingly being raised could be dealt with effectively.

At the end of the day, that issue comes back to the NPPF-for as long we do not have that and cannot debate it, we are always going to be left with this uncertainty. I think it is an opportune moment to hear directly from the Government as to whether they accept that charge or whether they maintain that the more traditional approach to sustainable development and a balanced approach, as my noble friend Lord Judd enunciated, is still their position.

5 pm

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, as ever, we come back to this whole business of things being decided locally. I thank noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. This is my third appearance today and I am having, once again, to suggest that these amendments are not ones that the Government wish to support at this stage. Planning has got a key role to play in creating the conditions for economic recovery. We should not lightly agree to any measures that add uncertainty, cost and delay to recovery and growth. Development that is permitted after consultation with communities and consideration by the local planning authority should not have unnecessary hurdles placed in its way. A similar amendment seeking a community right of appeal was considered in the other House. In the relatively small number of cases where a decision is made that grants planning permission that is not in accordance with the development plan, it is only right that the locally elected planning authority should make that decision and not the Planning Inspectorate. The local planning authority is ultimately responsible for exercising its judgment in reaching a decision. Safeguards are already built in to the system of decision-making. Applicants will have invested considerable time, money and effort in preparing their proposals. They should expect the local planning authority's decision to be a corporate one and not subject to challenge by other members of the council.

20 July 2011 : Column 1442

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Reay, that the plan should be the starting point for the determination of a planning application. Legislation already provides for this. Local planning authorities should feel confident in defending planning decisions made in accordance with an up-to-date plan, if challenged at appeal. Where appeals are made, the Secretary of State must operate within the law. As a decision-maker, he is entitled to take other material considerations into account when reaching his decision. This is essential if we are to ensure that the planning system creates the conditions for economic recovery and sustainable development. Material considerations may change over time and should not be tightly defined, as this amendment seeks to do. The amendment on determination of appeals goes too far. It is unnecessary and will have a negative impact on growth and sustainable development. I hope the noble Lord appreciates why we do not therefore accept it.

The noble Lord put it to me that I might be tempted. Words have been spoken about why there may be changes in position-I am not aware whether there are any such changes, but I understand what has been said and accept it. All I would say is that at 5 pm on 20 July, I do not think I am in a position to say that we will accept this. However, the rest of July and August beckons and I do recommend that noble Lords use it well. If they believe that they have got concerns that can be drawn to the notice of the Government about ways that this Bill may be still further changed, I recommend that they use their endeavours. This is, as I have said before, Committee stage, but I trust that in the circumstances at the moment, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Reay: I will say one thing in reply to what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said about planning officers. I have no intention of denigrating planning officers. They do an invaluable job and can be highly impressive. However, their job on the whole is to advise the democratically elected planning authorities. The amendment would put them in quite a different position, unlike the position that they normally occupy. However, in view of what the Minister has said, I am happy, for the moment at least, to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 170CCA (to Amendment 170CC) withdrawn.

Baroness Parminter: I thank my noble friends for making powerful contributions in support of the case for a community right of appeal. I take some comfort from the words of the Front Bench and I will over the summer use all the endeavours that I have at my disposal, and those of my colleagues, to press the case for delivering what the Government want to achieve in terms of helping people to have a powerful say in local planning and decisions that affect their lives. In view of the time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 170CC withdrawn.

Amendment 170CD

Moved by Lord Best

170CD: After Clause 124, insert the following new Clause-

"Consideration of planning applications: design review panels

20 July 2011 : Column 1443

In section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (determination of applications for planning permissions: general considerations), after subsection (2) insert-

"(2A) Where an application has been made under subsection (1), the authority may submit it to a design review panel for consideration.

(2B) Where an application has been submitted to a design review panel, the panel may make recommendations to the authority regarding the quality of design in the application.

(2C) Where recommendations have been given, the authority shall, in dealing with the application, have regard to such recommendations so far as material to the application.

(2D) In subsection (2A) "design review panel" means an independent cross-professional panel appointed to examine and evaluate the design of the proposed development.""

Lord Best: My Lords, this amendment concerns design review panels and is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. It goes some way to answering concerns expressed by noble Lords yesterday about giving prominence to design, which can seem a subjective concept-the argument that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The amendment gives local authorities permissive powers to submit applications for planning permission to a local design review panel and then to have regard to the views of this independent, cross-professional panel. It accords with my self-imposed ordinance to avoid amendments that extend central government's powers over local authorities. It introduces not a duty but a permissive power.

An amendment proposed in the other place would have put an onus on developers to take their plans to such a panel. It was rejected by the Minister, Greg Clark, because it would have added to the regulatory burden on builders. My lighter-touch amendment avoids this hazard by putting the onus on local authorities, but without any compulsion on them-"may", not "must". Independent design review panels are working well in several areas and have proved their worth. Support is now available through a network of panels managed and facilitated by Design Council CABE, which advocates adoption of key principles, spreads good practice and works with the RIBA and the RTPI.

The amendment suggests that, with local authorities short-staffed and often struggling with their planning capacity, the time has come to extend the use of design review panels that so helpfully pull in expertise from outside the council to see that design is taken on board in local authority decisions. I beg to move.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, before speaking to Amendment 170CD, perhaps I may express my extreme disappointment with the usual channels at their arrangements, which effectively prevented me from carrying out the job of scrutinising legislation here and speaking to Amendments 170B, 170C and 182, to which I added my name, because I was moving an amendment tabled in my name alone in the Education Bill Committee in the Moses Room. I hope that there will be no repetition of such a ridiculous arrangement in September so that noble Lords can carry out the work for which they were appointed.

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I turn to Amendment 170CD. The noble Lord, Lord Best, explained clearly what it is about. I will add that the Housing Minister Greg Clark's awareness of the importance of good design is well known and appreciated. This new proposal is almost a tautologous requirement. One might say that there would not be much point in sending off an application to an independent panel and then paying no attention to its recommendations. This is the lightest of light touches. It is a gentle nudge in the direction of trying to make sure that, in the words of Greg Clark,

I hope the Minister will understand that. I am sure she will and that she will agree to accept the amendment.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: We had a canter round this yesterday-at least it seems like it was yesterday. We are very supportive of these amendments.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, we did indeed discuss this yesterday and we had a bit of discussion on the subjective nature of design decisions. I think we all agree that design is an enormously important part of planning, as indeed it is an important part of developing and ensuring how a community looks and what an area is like.

I have great admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Best, but I think this amendment is unnecessary. As he has already pointed out, planning authorities get independent expert advice from the Design Council, and local planning authorities are already able and indeed encouraged to submit applications to design review panels and to heed their impartial, expert advice. I am not sure that putting any more legislation forward on this will do anything. However, we will undertake to give encouragement to local authorities to make sure that they understand that design review panels are a good thing. So there really is no reason for this. We need to keep it out of legislation. I understand the purpose behind it but there are already proper ways of dealing with this. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Best: My Lords, I take some comfort from the Minister's undertaking to ensure that strong encouragement is given to local planning authorities to take on board the value of design review panels. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 170CD withdrawn.

Amendment 170CE

Tabled by Baroness Gardner of Parkes

170CE: After Clause 124, insert the following new Clause-

"Application of Party Wall etc. Act 1996 to subterranean development

After section 20 of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 insert-

"20A Application to subterranean development

The requirements of this Act apply to any subterranean development or proposed development.""

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, on the groupings list it says "already debated" after Amendment 170CE and I would like to make it clear

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that it was not debated. It was one of the amendments in a group which was not moved. We consider the subterranean issue so important that it will be debated on Report. Could that record be corrected, so that it is not listed as already debated?

Amendment 170CE not moved.

Amendment 170CF not moved.

Amendment 170CG

Moved by Lord Berkeley

170CG: After Clause 124, insert the following new Clause-

"Matters to which local authorities must have regard

(1) When considering planning applications for, in particular, warehouses, distribution sites, ports, airports and airfields, local authorities must have regard to the impact on-

(a) businesses,

(b) leisure facilities,

(c) the provision of emergency services,

(d) the environment, and

(e) the local economy.

(2) When considering planning applications which are expected to result in a significant increase in the use of local transport infrastructure, local authorities must have regard to-

(a) achieving the minimum disruption to local transport infrastructure,

(b) achieving efficient freight access to businesses,

(c) encouraging the use of sustainable transport,

(d) ensuring pedestrians, disabled people and cyclists are appropriately provided for, and

(e) possible alterations to the infrastructure to make use of future low-carbon transport.

(3) Local authorities must adopt planning policies to protect transport routes which may reasonably be believed to have a role in providing low-carbon transport in the future."

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, in general planning terms, this amendment seeks to establish how larger developments, which we discussed yesterday, fit into the local planning framework. Quite often, with big developments-ports, airfields, airports, warehouses, distribution centres or whatever, or even energy projects, that we have discussed at length-there are problems with the local facilities getting overloaded. It is very important that there is a link between the way that these big projects get permissions and what happens around them locally, which may or may not be subject to Section 106 agreements or other agreements.

Looking particularly at subsection (2) of this amendment, one can envisage a significant increase in the use of local transport and heavy goods vehicle transport. Therefore, it seems important to encourage sustainable transport here and also not to forget the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and disabled people and generally to encourage the use of low-carbon transport. It may be seen as an amendment to introduce something we have talked about before-general sustainable development. I hope that it is more than motherhood and apple pie and that the Minister, in responding, may say that it will all be in the national planning policy framework, which is now imminent, I believe. I will look on the website when I leave here and see if it

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is. It would be good to hear from the Minister whether these kinds of issues will be in the NPPF, or, if not, whether the Government look with favour on amendments such as this. I beg to move.

5.15 pm

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the noble Lord has introduced an interesting amendment which rustles between two responsibilities. If this were a very big application, such as those in the first part of the amendment-sites, ports, airfields-that would not be the responsibility of local authorities, that would be for the new planning inspectorates or commission. On the other applications, I think that that would happen already-it is all part and parcel of our planning considerations-and while we understand the concern about balancing the transport system in favour of sustainable transport, which the noble Lord mentioned, he should understand that is only part of what is included.

Many of these areas are already taken into account-I am trying to go back to my own limited experience from years ago-and most are things that the planning committee would be interested in, while the bigger applications will be dealt with by other means, although local authorities will, of course, be able to comment on them as they go along. I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Berkeley: I am very grateful to the Minister for that response. She is absolutely right that on big projects, these things should be taken into account in the whole, but I still have a concern about something falling between two stools, if that is the right analogy. Perhaps I can have a discussion with her between now and Report, or read Hansard. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 170CG withdrawn.

Amendments 170CH to 170CK not moved.

Clause 125 agreed.

Amendment 170CL

Moved by Lord Whitty

170CL: Before Clause 126, insert the following new Clause-

"Local housing strategy

(1) All Local Housing Authorities in England must draw up an analysis of housing supply and demand in their areas and this analysis should include all forms of tenure in their area and cover at least the following-

(a) trends in housing supply and demand in the owner occupied, private rented and social housing sectors,

(b) trends in housing prices and rents,

(c) new developments, new build and conversions,

(d) empty properties, and

(e) second homes, and

this analysis should be related to broad demographic and employment trends in their areas.

(2) On the basis of this analysis each Local Housing Authority in England should draw up a rolling ten year housing strategy for their area.

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(3) All measures required of local housing authorities in relation to social housing and homelessness as a result of Chapters 1 to 4 of this Part of the Act shall be required to be undertaken in consistency with the housing strategy required by subsection (2)."

Lord Whitty: My Lords, we now move on to the part of the Bill dealing with housing, social housing particularly, that probably has the most direct and immediate effect on millions of people around this country. Many of the issues we have been discussing so far are, of course, very important, but for most people they will seem somewhat esoteric. For the millions who are in social housing, wish they were in social housing or ought to be in social housing, the issues dealt with by the subsequent clauses in relation to changes in the provisions on tenure, the responsibilities on local authorities, changes in the obligations on local authorities in relation to homelessness and changes in housing revenue will all hit, in one way or another, positively or negatively, many of our fellow citizens. In addition to that, in the welfare Bill which we were supposed to discuss yesterday, there is a major change in the housing benefit provisions which will affect many of the same people.

This part of the Bill is very important for a lot of our fellow citizens. While I do not want to give the usual channels too hard a time, the fact that we are moving at this stage into this section of the Bill-and I suspect we are unlikely to allow all the amendments which are tabled in this section to be debated by 7 o'clock-is a matter of some regret to me. I hope there is still time for the usual channels to discuss that.

However, my attempt in this amendment is to set a background for the discussion on the social housing provisions. We did touch on this issue in part in discussions on planning under an amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross-who is not currently in her place--but I think it is more appropriate to discuss it here. If one just reads straight through this Bill, social housing is dealt with in isolation and in a very bureaucratic, contractual, legal and financial way. The reality is that social housing has to be seen against the background of the housing market as a whole, local authority by local authority.

I declare an interest. I have recently become chair, with a non-pecuniary interest, of a new organisation called Housing Voice, which deals with social housing. The provision of social housing is only one part of the issue. We need to look at the total supply and demand of housing, nationally and area by area, and to relate it to the demands and requirements of the population; the economic demands for employment within the area and travel to work from housing, and the effects of inward and outward migration, because our populations are changing dramatically. Every local authority, in its planning and social housing provisions, must recognise its responsibility to ensure that there is adequate housing for all those who need it, and that as far as possible, supply and demand are reasonably in balance. They must therefore provide housing, in whatever form of tenure, at a price or a rent which is affordable for most people. None of the housing market currently meets those propositions nationally, and in most parts of the country it does not do so locally either.

In the owner-occupied sector, successive Governments have had policies to increase the proportion of people

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in this type of housing, and some of that has been significantly successful. I do not wish to reverse that, but that fact is that nowadays, it is virtually impossible for young families to get into the owner-occupied market, both in our inner cities and in our rural areas. The latest information is that the average age for getting a first mortgage is 37, and in a few years' time it is likely to be well over 40. Those of us who were fortunate enough to get on to the homeowning ladder in our twenties do not recognise that picture. Unless one has some support from parents or elsewhere, one cannot get a mortgage if one is much younger than 40 these days. Even for those who do have this support, the deposit required rules it out for many people, and of course advances from building societies and banks in this area have largely reduced as a result of the housing crisis.

Housing for all our population, and particularly for young families, young couples and people who have to move away from their home area for work, is not now available. There are far too many people. The private rented sector is not much of an alternative: in our inner cities, particularly in London, the cost of private renting puts it out of reach for many people. Despite attempts by the previous Government to bring more housing into the private rented sector, particularly for key workers and so forth, the amount of private rented accommodation available, never mind its price, is also far too limited.

In the social housing area itself, we have a situation where there have been cutbacks in the amount provided and 4 million people in England alone are seeking to be included on housing lists. The provisions on social housing, which we shall come to later, need to take this into account. All this relates to the shortage of new housing coming on to the market, whether by new build, conversion or properties coming on to the market in other ways. Yet our society is moving in exactly the opposite direction. We have a degree of atomisation in the form of smaller households, as well as households forming and breaking up. People are living longer and moving around more to seek work or education. All this increases the demand for accommodation. The terrible truth is, though, that at the moment the rate of household formation is running at twice the rate of the provision of new housing. That is a completely unsustainable position nationally, and locally, as we know, conditions are even worse. There is massive overcrowding in many inner city areas, as well as homelessness, since people cannot find accommodation. Moreover, in many rural and suburban areas the housing situation is extremely difficult for young people.

This is an issue not just of social housing, but of the housing market as a whole. The previous Government attempted to do something about it by setting regional targets. By and large that did not work completely, although there were some successes. The present Government have abandoned those targets. In the context of this Bill at least, although I might argue the point elsewhere, I have no objection to that because the amendment is designed to recognise the localism of the issue and to place the responsibility clearly on local authorities to work out their own ambitions and decide the appropriate housing provision for their own populations. This clause therefore attempts to make it

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clear that it is their responsibility. They need to look at the local population and what is happening in their areas both economically and demographically, and assess the quantity and quality of the available housing for the various different groups. That is localism.

Some may object to the clause because it allegedly imposes an additional duty on local authorities, but in fact this duty is absolutely central to the local authority's ability to provide for the well-being of their communities. In one sense it states the obvious, but it also puts into context the clauses that follow it. If it is to work, local authorities will need to go through the processes outlined in the amendment. They will need to assess need, economic trends and likely future provision. No doubt there are better ways of drafting this provision, and I am certainly open to that, but somewhere in this Bill it is necessary to have a provision which sets out what local authorities must undertake. It is not prescriptive in terms of the methodology they use or the numbers they put into their assessments for future plans and strategies, nor is it presumptive in terms of the balance between different forms of housing and of tenure. But it does require local authorities to recognise these wider obligations.

If we do not have a provision such as this, which gives the wider context, it could be interpreted that all we are concerned about in this Bill is, in effect, increasing flexibility in the social housing market and reducing the constraints on it by raising rents and eroding security of tenure, excluding from our richer areas people who are paying their rent with housing benefit and, effectively, trying to squeeze out of the existing stock a greater use of social housing. However, even if all that was to work-by and large I am against most of it-it would not solve the problem of the housing shortage across the board. We need to look at our housing supply and new build so as to offer quality and choice to our population. In the absence of a policy from the top down-although I do not dispute that-we need one that is built up local authority by local authority. That should be seen in this Bill and more widely as a central responsibility of the local authority in conjunction with its community. This clause would set the context in which that operates, so I hope that the Government will give at least some consideration, if not to accepting the precise wording of the amendment, to accepting the intention behind it. I beg to move.

5.30 pm

Lord Shipley: My Lords, I rise in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. Given the range of the amendments that are about to be debated, having the context to them is very important in understanding the strategic problem around housing and homelessness. We have a rising number of households. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is absolutely right; we should be building somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 new homes a year to keep abreast of new household formation. We got half the figure-around 139,000-last year.

Meanwhile, the housing market is volatile. There is a rising number of mortgage repossessions. There is 1 million more people renting their homes now than

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were renting six years ago, largely because of the economic situation and the difficulty of getting a mortgage. There are now more people wanting to rent than there are vacancies. In some parts of the country, rents are rising much faster than inflation, reducing individual capacity to save. Disposable incomes are declining, which adds to the problem. While short tenancies might be acceptable for many single people, they are not at all good for families where continuity and security matter, or for neighbourhoods where continuity builds social cohesion.

There will be very great pressure on the rented sector over the next few years. It is crucial that we ensure the protection and rights of tenants rather than seeing everything from the perspective of supply. We are not building enough homes, which is a failure of successive Governments over many years. This situation must be addressed urgently. It is the context of my view that we need to have local housing strategies because each part of the country will be different. Unless we understand the problem that we are trying to solve, we will not have the evidence base, making housebuilding programmes, the modernisation of homes and so on more difficult to achieve in the right numbers.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his kind words from the Government Front Bench. They are much appreciated. The Opposition fully support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty. The proposal is strategic and practical. It sets up a context for the debate and other sections of the Bill. It provides both the Government and the local authority with valuable information for assisting the planning for housing need in the future. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to accept my noble friend's amendment. If not, I hope that she will feel able to take it away and look at it over summer, maybe in the terms referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, in the previous amendment.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. He was sharp, swift and brief-brilliant. We will have more of the noble Lord, if we might. On the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, I am once again going to say that we do not need it. While I admire the verve with which the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has presented his case, there are already statutory provisions.

Local authorities are already under statutory provisions to provide plans for the housing needs of their population and to discharge their housing functions in accordance with their strategic priories as detailed in their housing strategies. Section 13 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires local planning authorities to keep under review matters that are likely to affect the development of their area, including size, composition and distribution of the housing for their population. In addition, planning policy statement 3 and the associated guidance on strategic housing assessment make clear that local authority plans should be informed by a robust evidence base of housing need and demand in its area for market and affordable housing.

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Section 87 of the Local Government Act 2003 provides a power for the Secretary of State to require all local housing authorities to have a housing strategy, so the provision is there already. It is well understood that local authorities should be more than clear about the requirements in their area in this regard. The current guidance on local housing strategies in England stresses that the local housing strategy is the local housing authority's vision for housing in its area. It should set out objectives, targets and policies on how the authority intends to manage and deliver its strategic housing role, and provides an overarching framework against which the authority considers and formulates other policies on more specific housing issues. That is the strength of my argument in saying that we do not need the amendment. However, I understand the concern that lies behind it and behind the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. We are dramatically underhoused.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has drawn attention to the limited housebuilding that has occurred over a number of years. Last year we had one of the lowest housebuilding programmes since 1923. We are trying to boost housebuilding. We have introduced the new homes bonus and are trying to encourage building through various means such as shared ownership and buy now pay later schemes. There are all sorts of plans to increase housing but you cannot do it overnight; it takes time to develop. However, there is no misunderstanding on the part of this Government that housing and a housing strategy are needed. With the assurance that this amendment is not necessary for the reasons I have given, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and my noble friend Lord Kennedy for their support for the amendment. I also thank the Minister for at least appreciating what lies behind the amendment. I understand that bits and pieces of the requirement for a strategy are in various bits of existing legislation. However, the most coherent expression is to be found in the planning guidance. Indeed, I have sought to gather some of the themes of the planning guidance in one place and to give it statutory backing. The noble Baroness says that the amendment is not necessary. I may return to it but for the moment I accept that. As she rightly says, this is a long-term problem. It has arisen over a long time and will take a long time to resolve. Those of us who are veterans of the housing debate know that I was not particularly supportive of various aspects of the previous Government's policy in this regard. I have yet to be convinced that the new Government's policy is likely to deliver more housing, particularly affordable housing for the kind of people I have talked about.

There is a need for a strategic framework here. The Localism Bill, in so far as it redefines the decisions that are to be taken locally, is probably the right place for it. I will consider carefully what the noble Baroness has said. However, at some point in this whole housing policy debate and in the Localism Bill we will have to re-emphasise the fact that the national drivers-in so far as they worked-have largely gone, and that the real driving force in solving what is admittedly a long-term housing problem now rests with our local

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authorities. If I have at least got that message across and the Government follow it through, I will have achieved something. I have taken 20 minutes over this amendment, for which I apologise. I may return to it at Report, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 170CL withdrawn.

Clause 126 agreed.

Clause 127 : Allocation only to eligible and qualifying persons: England

Amendment 170CM

Moved by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

170CM: Clause 127, page 119, line 16, after "(4)" insert "and (7A)"

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, on behalf my noble friend Lord Patel of Bradford, I beg leave to move Amendment 170CM and speak to other amendments in the group.

The Opposition have considerable concerns with this section of the Bill as presently drafted, and we hope the Government will be disposed to accept a number of the amendments that have been tabled by noble Lords. Local authorities will no longer be required to maintain open lists for persons seeking housing assistance. Instead, they will be able to impose qualifying requirements for applicants. They will also be able to discharge their housing duty by securing an offer in the private rented sector. Existing tenants seeking a transfer will no longer be required to go through the local authority allocation scheme.

As currently drafted, the legislation could lead to existing tenants with reasonable preference in England being disqualified from seeking a transfer under Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996, the only route to which such tenants may transfer according to Clause 126 of the Bill. For example, if Mr A had been a tenant for two years, having moved to the area shortly prior to his tenancy starting, and a local housing authority then introduced a new local connection rule stating that applicants must prove local links to the area going back at least five years to qualify for housing, then Mr A could find himself trapped in unsuitable accommodation and unable to transfer or apply for other areas with similar long-term local connection requirements. This would be the case even if he were willing to downsize to a similar home and free up much-needed family accommodation for another household.

This amendment, adding a new subsection to new Section 160ZA, would ensure that whatever qualifying criteria local housing authorities apply to new applicants, existing tenants with reasonable preference would be deemed to be qualifying by default. Existing tenants without reasonable preference are being taken out of the allocation scheme under Clause 126 of the Bill so will be able to transfer without competing against households with more urgent needs, and would therefore already be protected from this potential trap. It should be noted that the amendment would lead to existing tenants qualifying for housing even if they were guilty of serious unacceptable behaviour. However, it would be straightforward for local housing authorities to

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design their transfer policies in a way that would prevent tenants with good behaviour losing out as a result of this important protection.

I move to other amendments in the group. Clauses 129 and 130 will enable local authorities to discharge their homelessness duty by placing people in the private rented sector without due regard for the wishes of homeless applicants. At Commons Third Reading the Minister, Andrew Stunell MP, said:

"I recognise that there are some concerns and I am prepared to consider further the need for additional protections for homeless households placed in the private rented sector".-[Official Report, Commons, 18/5/11; col. 408.]

Homeless households should continue to have a choice of whether a private rented sector tenancy is appropriate for them. If this choice were removed, vulnerable homeless households, who may most need the stability of a social home, are unlikely to be in a good position to advocate for themselves. This may result in local authorities discharging their duty into the private rented sector, whether or not this is the best option for the household concerned, particularly in areas of high housing demand. Amendments supported by Crisis were tabled in the Commons in Committee to introduce a two-stage discharge of the homelessness duty to the private rented sector, strengthening the duty to help homeless people not in priority need, to require local authorities to discharge the duty only to accredited landlords, and to ensure that any property a homeless household is placed in is affordable.

Despite the fact that large numbers of vulnerable households are being placed in private rented accommodation, often at a considerable cost to the taxpayer, there remains very little assurance of standards in the sector. A number of local authorities have raised concerns about the standard and suitability of some private rented sector accommodation. They feel that some form of protection should be put in place to ensure that the properties are of good enough quality to meet the needs of their clients. As homeless households are likely to be offered accommodation in the cheapest third of the private rented sector, there is a risk that they will be placed with private landlords who are wholly unsuitable to be letting homes to vulnerable people. In the past, this included landlords who have consistently breached housing legislation and undertaken other forms of unlawful practices.

Research by Shelter-the summary of its survey of environmental health officers-found that 47 per cent of respondents had encountered examples of landlords engaging in the harassment of illegal eviction, or both, of tenants, and 99 per cent of respondents had come across landlords who persistently refused to maintain their property in a safe condition. Moreover, 36 per cent of respondents said they frequently came across such cases. Private rented accommodation is often of poor quality; according to the English Housing Survey, 40 per cent of private tenants live in non-decent homes, compared with 23 per cent of social tenants and 29 per cent of owner occupiers.

As I said at the start of my remarks, the Opposition have considerable concerns about this part of the Bill as presently drafted. We hope that the Government will listen carefully to your Lordships' House and

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accept a number of the amendments, or indicate that they have heard the concerns, take them away, reflect on them over the summer and bring amendments back on Report.

5.45 pm

Lord Shipley: My Lords, I shall speak to a number of amendments standing in my name and those of my noble friends on these Benches, and I shall speak first to Amendments 170D and 171A. They would extend from two to five years the period in which the homeless duty on a local authority would recur, and provide for a household accepted as homeless to receive reasonable preference on the local authority's allocation scheme during the five years, arising from the household's need for stable housing. Without these amendments some very vulnerable people could face increased vulnerability.

The Government's housing White Paper last November confirmed their commitment to tackling homelessness and protecting the most vulnerable in society, and confirmed their belief that social housing should continue to be prioritised for the most vulnerable, given that this could be the only way that they would gain access to a secure home. These are people who may have been in care, had a mental illness or disability, been a member of the Armed Forces, or served a custodial sentence. Groups such as these need security and support to set up and manage a home successfully. It is difficult to see why an acceptance that such people are priority homeless should now be so constrained.

The impact of changes to local housing allowance means that households dependent on full or partial housing benefit will be pushed into the cheaper part of the private rented sector without any reasonable preference for a permanent and affordable home. I believe and would suggest that the Government should stick to their commitment in their housing White Paper that the existing reasonable preferences categories should remain unchanged to ensure that social housing is clearly focused on those who need it most. Local authority duties cannot simply be discharged by offering a single short-term contract with a private landlord.

Amendment 171ZA provides a framework for the exercise of the right of review that is presently enjoyed by applicants for social housing. The present statutory scheme for allocation of social housing and the re-cast scheme proposed in Clause 128 contain provisions enabling applicants to seek reviews of adverse decisions on their applications. The problem is that the current Act and the new clause are silent as to the procedure to be followed if an applicant exercises those rights. Our amendment suggests that a fair mechanism for resolving reviews would be as laid out, and essentially replicates the procedural rights enjoyed by homeless applicants who seek reviews of homelessness decisions under the Housing Act 1996. The amendment also reflects basic good practice that some local authorities have already incorporated into their local schemes. The need for structure to be applied to review procedures was recognised by the Government many years ago, and I understand that an ODPM letter to local authorities sent on 11 November 2002 promised further guidance. That guidance is still to arrive and the amendment in my name makes good that omission.

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Amendments 171D and 172A restore the requirement that a final offer of accommodation under the homelessness duty must be reasonable for the applicant to accept. In fact, these amendments to Clause 129 simply restore the law to its current position. At present, Section 193(7)(f) of the Housing Act 1996 provides that a housing authority shall not make a final offer of accommodation, including approving an offer of private sector accommodation, to a homeless applicant,

The requirement that it is reasonable to accept the offer has been removed by Clause 129(9) for no obvious reason and this amendment would restore that condition. A recent case in the Court of Appeal considered that while a flat may have qualified as suitable in terms of size and location, the council concerned should have gone on to consider the wider question of whether it was reasonable for the family to accept it, ruling that "suitability" and "reasonable to accept" are overlapping but different concepts.

This piece of legislation is very important where there are aspects of accommodation, or more likely the surrounding environment, that would not prevent the accommodation itself being objectively considered as suitable but would have a detrimental affect on the applicant. Examples could include the risks of racial harassment or violence by individuals unknown to the applicant, or a risk to the welfare of the applicant where the accommodation offered is in a neighbourhood associated with drug use or dealing and where the applicant is a recovering drug addict. It could include the perceived risk of harassment or violence by individuals known to the applicant, such as a violent ex-partner whose relatives, friends or associates live in the neighbourhood. I hope my amendment is seen as a sensible way forward-to restore the law simply to its current position. It is about making it clear in the Bill what process should be followed.

Amendment 173ZB would create a statutory duty on local authorities to record all approaches they receive from people in housing need, including those who apply for social housing, those who express an interest in applying, those who are considered to be homeless by the local authority and those who consider themselves to be homeless. Requiring local authorities to collect data on all housing or homelessness approaches that they receive would provide a clearer picture of the genuine level of housing need that exists in a local authority area. Such data are essential to inform the localised planning system and the local tenancy strategies introduced by the Localism Bill, particularly as restrictions on social housing waiting lists could reduce the extent to which these lists can provide an indication of housing need.

Amendment 173AA seeks to define the suitability of accommodation secured under homelessness duties; it should be affordable and take into account such matters as distance of the accommodation from employment opportunities, any disruption to the education of children and young persons, the risk to the applicant of isolation, the level of support available to the applicant in the district, such as

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closeness of families and friends, the availability of medical treatment where appropriate and any caring responsibilities of the applicant in relation to another person.

If local housing authorities are able to discharge their main duty with potentially one offer of private rented accommodation, it becomes much more important that this offer is suitable for the needs of the household. At Third Reading, the Minister, Andrew Stunell, said that he recognised there are some concerns and that he was prepared to consider further the need for additional protections for homeless households placed in the private sector. It is very welcome and I would be pleased to see the Government come forward with concrete proposals to deliver that objective.

It is a question of getting this on to the face of the Bill. At Second Reading, my noble friend the Minister stated that the accommodation crucially must be suitable, which covers a wide gamut of issues including affordability, size, condition, accessibility and location. We need that on the face of the Bill.

Amendment 173ZC is about a household being deemed to be in priority need but intentionally homeless. In this case, the authority must provide not only advice and assistance but suitable accommodation for a period that will give the householders a reasonable chance of finding accommodation for themselves. Amendments 173ZE and 173ZF are self-explanatory, I hope. They relate to extending the period to five years to enable reapplication after a private sector offer and enable people to maintain the right to an offer for a longer period.

Amendment 1738B relates to the Homelessness Code of Guidance 2006, which states at paragraph 8.32:

(a) the person is an assured shorthold tenant who has received proper notice in accordance with s21 of the Housing Act 1988;

(b) the housing authority is satisfied that the landlord intends to seek possession; and

(c) there would be no defence to an application for a possession order; then it is unlikely to be reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy the accommodation beyond the date given in the s21 notice".

There is a major issue here, because the Secretary of State plainly considers that, ordinarily, a tenant in such circumstances-that is, one who has been properly served by a Section 21 notice-should be accepted as homeless by the local housing authority. The problem is that local housing authorities rarely do so, but will accept an application only at the point of eviction, thus causing anxiety to the tenant and his or her family, which could be avoided, and needless incurring of costs.

I realise that I have tabled a number of amendments. I would be very happy for the Minister to consider us talking further about some of these issues over the summer, but they are all exceedingly important in protecting the rights of tenants.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I speak to Amendments 171 to 173, which are scattered among other amendments in the group. Amendment 171 is concerned with the allocation of housing. Mencap, of which I am president,

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hears stories on a daily basis from parents of learning-disabled offspring about how difficult it is to find a suitable home for their son or daughter. That is why many people with a learning disability continue to live with their parents, often into late adult life. Mencap's report some years ago, The Housing Timebomb, highlighted that about 29,000 adults with a learning disability still live with parents who are over 70.

Although the "reasonable preference" groups-which guide local authorities and their decisions as to who should be housed as a priority-highlight the people who need to move on medical and welfare grounds, including disability, people with a learning disability still struggle to be regarded as in urgent need of housing. At that point, living with parents puts them in the position of being in "settled accommodation" and therefore less of a priority in terms of both homelessness and medical reasons.

To resolve that problem, my amendment is aimed to change the "reasonable preference" categories so that anyone who has an assessed housing need in the context of a community care assessment should be included in the "reasonable preference" groups. That would make it clearer to local housing departments that housing need, in the context of someone with a learning disability, has to be seen in a broader sense than is currently the case, and help to improve this unhappy situation.

Amendments 172 and 173 concern the ways in which local authorities discharge the homelessness duty. The Bill proposes that people can be placed in the private rented sector without due regard to the wishes of the homeless applicants themselves. Currently, a homeless applicant can reject an offer by the local authority to move into private rented sector accommodation. My amendment would introduce appropriate safeguards so that if an individual were placed in private rented accommodation, their needs would be properly addressed.

There are many reasons why people may not consider accommodation offers in the private rented sector to be suitable, including insecurity of tenure and, of course, cost. If the provision is enacted, strict safeguards should be in place to ensure that the accommodation which disabled and older people are offered, and have to accept, is appropriate, affordable and provides some security of tenure. That is why Amendment 173 proposes to increase the minimum period of such a tenancy from just 12 months to 60. This will provide the security of tenure that is so important to many people with a learning disability and their parents.

I am also encouraged by the Government's comments during Report in the House of Commons, in which it was outlined that they would,

Ministers also said that they would be,

I look forward to hearing from the Minister whether the Government have had any further thoughts on this, including the possibility of introducing a national accreditation scheme.

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Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 171B, 171C and 173ZA. Amendments 171B and 171C propose a two-stage tenancy process. The Localism Bill effectively removes the right of qualifying homeless people to turn down an offer from the local authority of private rented accommodation; and I agree with the comments just made by the noble Lord, Lord Rix. A local authority will now be able to discharge its duty to the homeless by offering private rented accommodation on a "take it or leave it" basis with a minimum tenancy of 12 months.

The problem is that a private rented accommodation offer may not be suitable for a variety of reasons, yet if a homeless applicant refuses the offer, they can be deemed intentionally homeless and the local authority will no longer have a duty to house them. Given its obvious attraction to landlords, the 12-month tenancy is likely to become the norm, or at least commonplace. It may prevent homeless people from finding secure and stable accommodation and will almost certainly lead to recurring homelessness. Even if tenants do not become homeless again, the 12-month minimum prevents them putting down roots and stabilising their employment or their children's education.

The aim of these amendments is to improve the sustainability of private tenancies for homeless households by requiring households to be placed in a successful interim tenancy prior to the 12-month minimum tenancy that discharges the authority's duty. The amendments would not scrap the Bill's proposal to end the right of homeless people to refuse an offer of private rented accommodation, nor would they change the 12-month minimum. Amendment 171C would create a mandatory two-stage process. In the first stage, the homeless person would be placed in private rented accommodation for a short tenancy of between six and 12 months. At the end of that period, the landlord and tenant can agree a minimum 12-month tenancy, turning the Bill's original proposal into a second stage. In effect, this would extend the period of accommodation from a minimum of 12 months to at least 18 months. A local authority could only discharge its duties in this way if the applicant had previously been placed in an assured shorthold tenancy of between six and 12 months, the local authority was satisfied that the applicant could afford the rent, and the household's various support needs could be met.

This is a moderate amendment that does not undermine any of the major proposals contained in the Bill; rather, it seeks to make the Bill work better. It would encourage the tenant, landlord and authority to work together to ensure the success of the tenancy and encourage early intervention when any problems arose. In this way, the amendment builds on the work of private rented sector access schemes, which are supported by the Government. It would provide further support and assessment to the tenant from the local authority. Although local authorities will have to assess the support needs of all tenants, this should not create an undue burden since many tenants will have low-level support needs, and some will have none at all. Where tenants do need support to sustain a tenancy, it is already best practice to provide this, and such support can help avoid the cost of repeat homelessness. Although at the end of the second tenancy the tenant will have

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been settled for at least 18 months, it does not entail tenancies of over 12 months and should therefore appeal to landlords. This is because both landlords and tenants will have the option of not renewing after the interim tenancy. In other words, if a landlord accepts stage one, he or she is not obliged to move to stage two. By preventing repeat homelessness, this system can work better for tenants, landlords and local authorities.

I turn to Amendment 173ZA. The purpose of this amendment is to establish a statutory framework for housing option schemes and other measures for the prevention of homelessness. The amendment would do two things. It would oblige local authorities to provide the applicant with comprehensive advice and assistance in the course of their inquiry and to keep the applicant fully informed of his or her options. It would also restore the right of applicants to reject an offer of private rented accommodation without affecting the duties of the local authority. The amendment assumes a 12-month minimum tenancy for private rented accommodation, as set out in the Bill. I very much hope that the Government will carefully consider these suggestions.

Baroness Hollins: My Lords, I support Amendments 171, 172 and 173, as presented by my noble friend Lord Rix. I want to speak about the prioritisation of housing need for people with learning disabilities.

For many years, it has been government policy to support people with learning disabilities in living in their own homes. However, as my noble friend Lord Rix said, the majority still live with their parents well into their parents' later years. For the past 30 years, I have worked as a psychiatrist with people with learning disabilities and their families. Many of the parents have been caring for 30, 40 or even 50 years. Indeed, I myself am the parent of a man whose carer I have been for approaching 40 years. That is a long time.

The majority stay at home with their families until there is a crisis such as parental illness or death, effectively leaving the person with the learning disability homeless, or certainly vulnerable to homelessness, and leading to expensive unplanned residential care. This is instead of a carefully planned transition to a secure future which takes account of an individual's assessed needs. I think that parents who have provided care for those years should reasonably expect their sons and daughters to be given priority for accommodation of their own at an earlier stage, rather than be left with long-term anxiety-in many cases, daily anxiety-about what is going to happen when they are no longer there to care. For those reasons, I support these amendments.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 173ZZD, 173ZDA and 173ZD. Broadly speaking, these amendments are intended to improve notification of advice and assistance for persons who become homeless intentionally and are not in priority need. We heard my noble friend Lord Shipley talk eloquently about those deemed to be in priority need but intentionally homeless, and they have a priority need in their favour. However, many people are entitled to receive advice from the local

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authority about their options when they are homeless but, because they are not in this priority bracket, often they are not given the advice that they need. They are frequently the single homeless who go along to the local authority office, as I have seen during my 25 years in a local council. The local authority office does not really want to deal with them because they do not have a priority need, they are intentionally homeless and they are single. They are often pushed from pillar to post, sleeping rough and begging for places to sleep, and often they have a mental problem or a drug problem. In the minuscule amount of advice that the local authority gives, it seems to say that these people should go to the private rented sector and rent a room. The trouble is that those in the private rented sector do not envisage such people as their top choice for tenants. Such people fall between many stools in this situation.

All the amendments are trying to do is to encourage and insist that local authorities give real advice and assistance to what these people can do to get into a secure place, albeit for a short time, so that they can recover and then come into the normal tenant situation in the urban or rural areas where they live. I hope that the Government will consider this.

Lord Best: My Lords, a whole series of significant points have been made which I hope do not get lost. We have had a kind of teach-in on all the issues around homelessness, which I hope can be carried forward in different ways. I shall speak to Amendment 173A, which differs from Amendment 173AA only in containing a typing mistake which Amendment 137AA has rightly expunged. Therefore, I hope I can count the noble Lords who follow me as supporting the same amendment as mine.

The amendment also relates to the proposed ending of the obligation for local authorities to find a place for a homeless household, eventually, if not immediately, in the social sector; for example, in council or housing association accommodation. In future, local authorities would be able to discharge their duty by getting the household into a private landlord's property. Up to now, it has been assumed that the characteristics of social housing, security, which we shall discuss later, and relatively low rents alongside some social support from the landlord have been essential for those who have become homeless. However, some homeless people may not need anything more from their landlord than a roof over their heads for a year or so and some may be able to cope with higher rents in due course.

More realistically, in many areas there is simply no alternative to the private rented sector for some of the people who have nowhere else to go. Even if the nation embarked on a major programme of new social housebuilding, which, despite the good effects on the wider economy, is highly improbable while deficit reduction is the greatest priority, it would be many years before that sector could satisfactorily meet the pent-up demand for affordable decent homes. Even so, using the private rented sector in place of social housing as the long-term solution to the needs of homeless people-households sufficiently vulnerable that councils must accept responsibility

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for them-is not the same as using the PRS for temporary, emergency accommodation, let alone for short-term lettings to students or to more affluent single people who plan to buy later.

If the council's duty towards a homeless family is for that family to be satisfied, on a permanent basis, in a privately rented property, that offer needs to satisfy rather higher standards of suitability than for short-term lets. After all, if the household were nominated to a housing association, its housing arrangements would come under the extensive regulatory powers of a statutory regulator, the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords, now known as the Tenant Services Authority, which is to be part of the Homes and Communities Agency. That regulator sets standards on matters such as property condition, rent levels and the rights of tenants to be consulted and involved.

In considerable contrast, private landlords have no regulator, no FSA, Ofcom, Oftel or Ofgem. Many argue, as emerged from the 2009 report from Julie Rugg at York University, that some regulation of the PRS is badly needed. The Association of Residential Letting Agents is keen for amendments to go forward to regulate letting and managing agents. That would bring some 60 per cent of private lettings into a regulated system, but it is clear that the Government are not likely, at present, to be convinced of the case for regulation of this sector. This means protection for the most vulnerable of tenants-the homeless family or the homeless individual-will have to be addressed in a different way.

6.15 pm

Tenants in the social housing sector can take their complaints to the Housing Ombudsman-whose role we will be discussing later-if their expectations of high standards of management and maintenance are not fulfilled. There is no ombudsman for complaints against private landlords. I should declare an interest as chairman of the Property Ombudsman service, which hears complaints against estate agents, who must by law be part of a redress ombudsman scheme, and against managing and letting agents, who can voluntarily join an ombudsman scheme, but not complaints against private landlords. In the PRS, tenants must take their complaints all the way to the courts, with all the associated expense and hassle. If a long-term solution to a household's needs is to be found in the unregulated private rented sector and not in the regulated social housing sector, some basic requirements-much more basic than for housing associations, perhaps-would seem essential. Several enlightened local authorities have been working on accreditation schemes to raise standards and distinguish between quality landlords and rogue landlords. Amendment 173A should help that approach. It provides a framework to assess the suitability of the PRS accommodation. It does not add to the duties on local authorities but, rather, defines them more clearly.

I am encouraged by the new statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government, entitled "Proposed circumstances in which private rented sector accommodation used to end the main homelessness duty is to be regarded as 'suitable'". This statement

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helpfully pre-empts some of the aspects of suitability which my amendment, backed by Shelter and Crisis, seeks to address. Perhaps I could briefly spell out what the amendment aims to achieve, and how the DCLG statement assists.

First, the amendment requires that the accommodation should be affordable to the homeless household, since otherwise it will get into arrears and lose the home fairly quickly; a sensible definition of affordability follows. The DCLG statement also suggests that the accommodation must be affordable, but without spelling out what this means. Secondly, the amendment requires that the location should be properly considered in relation to the tenant's employment opportunities, their children's schooling, services the household needs, ongoing support, care, hospital treatment and so on, and proximity to people for whom the tenant has caring duties, always bearing in mind the age of those affected and similar factors. The DCLG is silent on this, but I guess that any reasonable person would regard it as very unfair if the offer of PRS accommodation took no account of the location of the property for that particular household. Thirdly, the amendment requires that the landlord, and the managing agent if there is one, should be a "fit and proper person", using the same test as that for ownership and management of houses in multiple occupation. I am pleased to see that the DCLG statement takes this point fully on board. Finally, the amendment requires that the standard of the property satisfies the very low-level test of health and safety-again, that used for houses in multiple occupation. This, too, is covered by the DCLG statement, which would outlaw properties if they were found to fail the test of a category 1 hazard to health or safety, although without the obligation on the local authority to carry out the housing health and safety rating assessment before placing a tenant in the property.

It is clear that the Government are thinking along the same lines as myself and the authors of this amendment. However, the response to date only takes us part-way down this road. I hope the Minister will be able to indicate that there is room for amendment to the DCLG statement.

Amendment 173A would not secure the advantages of the social housing sector for those tenants who have faced the traumas of homelessness and are placed within the private rented sector, but it could prevent any switch from the social to the private rented sector bringing with it a host of problems for these households, and for the local authorities, which would have the unenviable task of repeatedly picking up the pieces if the new arrangements were constantly to fail. I look forward to hearing the Minister's views.

Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, may I just add my support to this group of amendments, particularly those in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rix? Disabled people are feeling increasingly vulnerable, and targeted by the Government's legislative proposals. Social housing is yet another area in which their security is being undermined. Recent achievements in enabling independent living for disabled people are at risk, particularly for people with a learning disability. I hope the Government will reflect over the summer and try to meet some of these concerns.

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Lord Newton of Braintree: If nobody else wants to say anything, I do. However, I only want to say it once otherwise I suspect I will have the Chief Whip charging in here to tell me to shut up. I am prompted by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Best, but more particularly-although I am ashamed to say I did not hear the debate but noticed it on the screen while I was otherwise preoccupied-by the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and by what has just been said by the noble Baroness. I did on one occasion incur some possible unpopularity on my Benches by making the point that we have at least three-if not more-Bills on the go at the moment: the Welfare Reform Bill, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, and this one, all of which impact on various disadvantaged groups, including disabled people. It is far from clear that there has been a joined-up approach to these bits of legislation. I am signalling in these bits that relate to homelessness-but it also applies more generally to those parts we are about to come to on housing policy-that I would not want my noble friends to think that, because I am not talking in detail or going to talk endlessly, I do not have some concerns about all this, which might get ventilated further at Report stage, depending on what is said now. I hope that is brief and to the point enough and at least puts my stake in the ground on these issues.

Lord Cormack: I will be even briefer. Not for the first time today, I find myself entirely on the side of my noble friend Lord Newton. He has made some extremely valid points. I too listened to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, with interest, sympathy and very considerable concern. I believe that it is essential the Government take these points on board because I would like my noble friend the Minister-who is going to respond in a minute or two-to know that there are many of us on these Benches who may not be physically present at the moment but who share the concerns articulated by my noble friend Lord Newton.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I too have heard these speeches although I have not been present in the Chamber. I wanted to comment on Amendment 173A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best, relating to the suitability of accommodation. It would be terrific if we could do it. However, going back 40 years, when I had housing responsibility, we found that the only thing we could offer homeless people then was bed and breakfast. We ran out of central London bed-and-breakfast accommodation and people had to travel quite a lot further out. So although "suitable accommodation" is the ideal, I do not know how it can ever be realistically achieved. That is the worry about what the future might be for this.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, this is clearly a debate that needs a lot more time than we have got tonight. I have listened to some very moving and knowledgeable speeches on the amendments and I understand fully the points that people have been making. The trouble is the time constraints-the way these have been grouped in this large bunch makes it almost impossible for me to deal with all the many points that have been raised in the manner in which I would have wished to do so. As a result, I will probably be quite general in my

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comments, but if there are issues which I think need further application, and I have not dealt with them properly, I will look at those in Hansard and will try to make sure there is a response. I think my response will be dry-it is not meant to be and I do understand all the points that have been made. I know that my colleagues in the House of Commons have made some quite sympathetic statements and I am not going to undermine any of those. However, in the interests of time, at this stage, I am going to respond to the amendments briefly. I ask people to forgive me for not going into great detail on what they have said, since it is inevitable that I shall not be able to do so.

I shall start quickly with Amendments 171D, 172A, 173ZE, 173ZF, 171B, 171C and 173. We all understand that the people who face homelessness need suitable accommodation, but they do not always require social housing. Therefore, local authorities should have the flexibility to take case-by-case decisions. The changes in these amendments would undermine the intention of the proposed measures. This would be unfair to households on social housing waiting lists, who would have to wait longer to have their housing needs met. This is a balance that housing authorities have to make all the time. It would be unfair to the taxpayer who would have to fund expensive temporary accommodation that is often completely unsatisfactory, as noble Lords know. By housing people in social housing who might manage in the private rented sector, we would stop somebody who needs social housing, probably on a lifetime tenancy, from getting it.

Our reforms strike a sensible balance between the additional safeguards for homeless households offered in the private rented sector accommodation, ending the main duty, and fairness to other households in need. It is not practical to expect private landlords to be prepared to offer tenancies for an initial fixed term of more than 12 months to tenants they do not know, although it will be possible and very probable that local authorities will want and need to negotiate longer tenancies where they can, if 12 months does not prove to be sufficient time.

I turn to Amendments 172, 173A, 173AA, 171D and 172A, and apologise for not attributing them to the relevant noble Lords. Existing safeguards will apply before the duty can be brought to an end with a private rented sector offer. The authority must be satisfied that the accommodation is suitable for the applicant and his or her household. In considering suitability, authorities must by law consider whether a specific property is suitable for the applicant and their household's individual needs. This includes considering whether the accommodation is affordable for the applicant, as well as its size, condition, accessibility and location. A lot has to be taken into account before the offer is made. On affordability, the local authority must by law consider the applicant's financial resources and the total cost of accommodation in determining whether the accommodation is suitable.

Statutory guidance, to which local authorities must have regard by law, sets out the factors on location and standards that should be taken into account. It also states that housing authorities should consider that a property would not be affordable if a claimant's residual income after rent and associated costs would be less

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than the level of means-tested benefit. Tying down criteria in legislation would restrict the ability of the local authority to make decisions on what is reasonable affordability, balanced against the availability of properties.

I understand the concerns about the issue of physical standards. I have laid a Statement in the House Library confirming that we are prepared to use existing order-making powers and setting out the factors that could be included in such an order. In doing so, we will work closely with organisations such as Shelter and Crisis to make sure that that is all workable.

Amendments 173ZZD, 173ZBA, 173ZA, 173ZB, 173ZD 173ZC and 173AB would place specific requirements on local authorities to provide advice and assistance and to collect data. This is too bureaucratic and I will resist the amendments for that reason.

6.30 pm

Local authorities already have a discretionary power to provide emergency accommodation for households that are not in priority need and not intentionally homeless. We believe this strikes a reasonable balance between the need for some particularly vulnerable homeless households to be provided with emergency accommodation and the cost that this entails. We must be careful to avoid distorting legislation that balances protections for genuinely homeless people against rewarding those who have become homeless through their own behaviour.

The noble Lord, Lord Rix, drew attention to the issue of "reasonable preference" in a very moving speech. I understand about people with disability; I also understand the terrible difficulties carers have in trying to ensure that their offspring or their relatives are cared for. With regard to the reasonable preference category for medical and welfare, this includes people with a disability. This includes learning disability as well as physical disability. We are going to be issuing revised statutory guidance to make sure that that is absolutely clear. If the noble Lord wishes to discuss that or any other aspect further, I am only too happy to do so-when we have all had a holiday and if we can ever get away from this House tonight.

I have touched on Amendments 171D and 172A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, on the question of "reasonable to accept". I will briefly expand on that. The two concepts of "reasonable to accept the offer" and "suitability" were always meant to be treated separately. After all, they relate to two different things. "Reasonable to accept the offer" was only ever meant to refer to whether an applicant could reasonably be expected to accept an offer if they were under contractual or other obligations in respect of their existing accommodation, with regard to rent or a tenancy agreement, and they could bring those to an end before they were required to take up the offer. Over time the courts have interpreted the two terms in a way that overlap and they now consider questions of suitability under the heading of "reasonable to accept". The Bill provides an opportunity to clarify what is meant by "reasonable to accept the offer" but I assure the noble Lord that there will be no lessening of protection as a result.

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Turning to the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Palmer, local housing authorities already collect a wealth of statistical information on homelessness on a voluntary basis and the information is returned as a P1E. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, also raised physical management standards. Local authorities have a duty to take appropriate action if a property is found to contain a category 1 hazard under the housing health and safety rating system. This means that any property should be free from hazards that pose a significant risk to the occupant, such as electrical hazards, pests, damp and mould. So that is a requirement.

Following on from my honourable friend Andrew Stunell's comments in the Commons, I have laid a Statement in the House Library confirming that we are prepared to use existing order-making powers in setting out the factors that could be included in such an order. This includes consideration of protections against category 1 hazards and whether landlords are fit and proper people, which was a question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Best. If anybody has not had an opportunity to see those two Statements they are both there.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, also tabled Amendment 173AB. The homelessness legislation strikes a careful balance between offering protection for those who are homeless and restricting the burdens on local authorities to provide assistance to the majority of householders, most of whom, upon receipt of a Section 21 notice, will be able to secure their own accommodation without recourse to local authority resources.

Finally, on the right of complaint for private rented tenants, as now, applicants accepted as owed the new homelessness duty, if included in the private rented sector, have the right to ask for a review of suitability by the local authority and, if not satisfied, have the right of appeal to the county court.

I am conscious that I have not mentioned everybody and that I have probably not covered all the aspects I should, but over the next few weeks I will look at this, because I appreciate that it is an extremely important issue in the Bill. I hope that we will be able to do justice to it, if not now, then at the next stage. I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this debate and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham for her response. As I said at the start, the Opposition have considerable concerns about this section of the Bill as presently drafted. That has been reflected in the contributions we have had in the debate this afternoon from across the Chamber. I agree very much with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, about vulnerable people in need of housing and also his comments about the environment and the suitability of accommodation. The comments of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, in moving his amendment to change the "reasonable preference" category, were absolutely right and very welcome. I pay tribute to the work he has done on behalf of Mencap over many years. The noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, was absolutely right to highlight the problems of the 12-month tenancy. The noble Baroness, Lady

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Hollins, supporting the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, brought her professional expertise and her experience as a carer to the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, was able to share his experience of 25 years as a local councillor and the problems of people falling between the cracks. The noble Lord, Lord Best, was right when he said that we have enjoyed important contributions today from your Lordships. I agreed with his comments about the private rented sector and the need for regulation.

My noble friend Lady Wilkins was right in her comments and the noble Lords, Lord Newton of Braintree and Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, reflected the concerns felt right across the House today. I hope that the Government will take due note of that. The Opposition and, I am sure, many other noble Lords, will look carefully at what comes back from the Government and, if necessary, bring these issues back on Report. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 170CM withdrawn.

Amendment 170CN not moved.

Clause 127 agreed.

Clause 128 : Allocation schemes

Amendments 170D to 171ZA not moved.

Clause 128 agreed.

Clause 129 : Duties to homeless persons

Amendments 171A to 173 not moved.

Clause 129 agreed.

Clause 130 : Duties to homeless persons: further amendments

Amendments 173ZA to 173ZF not moved.

Clause 130 agreed.

Amendments 173A to 173AB not moved.

Amendment 173B

Moved by Lord Best

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