Homes Bill

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Mr. Foster: I thank the Minister for his response, disappointing though it was. However, he made some interesting points. I shall reflect on them, in particular on his strenuous use of the argument that if a local authority has no discretion in a matter, there is no need for a review process. The corollary of that is that if a local authority can exercise discretion in a matter, a review process is needed. I am, therefore, surprised that he has chosen to lump together, for example, amendment No. 75 and new clause 5, because local authorities have much discretion about the level of priority that is given to applications. One of the purposes of the Bill is to maintain within the legislation the range of circumstances that are covered in proposed new subsection (2A) in clause 27(3), which states that local authorities have the opportunity to consider

    ``(a) the financial resources available to a person to meet his housing costs;

    (b) any behaviour of a person (or of a member of his household) which affects his suitability to be a tenant;

    (c) any local connection (within the meaning of section 199) which exists between a person and the authority's district.''

Local authorities have much opportunity to exercise their discretion. For example, as the Minister will be aware, a quarter of local authorities that use rent reviews as a way of reducing a person's priority have no specific written guidance about the level of arrears that should be taken into account. The same is true for some of the other criteria to which I have referred.

Bearing in mind the time, I will take the matter away to reflect on the illogicality of the Minister's argument—a logic that leads him to say that amendment No. 75 is inappropriate, but, at the same time, to reject new clause 5.

Mr. Raynsford: Let me the hon. Gentleman in the nicest possible way that, as I understand it, new clause 5(5) covers eligibility rather than the actual process of allocation. That is a different issue and one on which he will perhaps reflect in the days ahead.

Mr. Foster: I am grateful to the Minister, but I hope that he will reflect on his interpretation of the amendment. I am encouraged if the Minister is indicating that his interpretation might be incorrect and that he might support me. To allow time for the Committee to reflect, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 1 February at fifteen minutes to Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Gale, Mr. Roger (Chairman)
Ainsworth, Mr. Robert
Brake, Mr.
Buck, Ms
Foster, Mr. Don
Hope, Mr.
Hughes, Mr. Kevin
Iddon, Dr.
King, Ms Oona
Loughton, Mr.
Love, Mr.
Raynsford, Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Turner, Mr. Neil
Waterson, Mr.

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