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Mr. Hendry: Does my hon. Friend share my disappointment at our not having the result of the ministerial review of the RSU before we conclude our discussions on the Bill? Is it not likely that the report is already sitting on Ministers' desks, given that the Minister has said that it will be published in the autumn, which does not leave all that many days or weeks? Would not it have been rather more helpful for our deliberations on the Bill if we had been able to read and take account of it in advance?

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Yes. I am going to be quite critical here. It is somewhat typical of this Government to ignore the democratic voice of Parliament and announce a policy some little while after we have had a debate here. It would have been helpful, even if she had not finally made up her mind, if the Minister had at least given us some parameters of her thinking. If she had said, "I'm fairly certain that the rough sleepers unit is going to continue", we would all have understood where the Government were coming from, and if she had said, "We're looking closely at whether it should be devolved to local authorities" or regional assemblies, or the Mayor—or whatever—we would have had some sympathy with that, but to respond to a serious proposal from the Opposition without giving us any pointers as to where the consultation is leading is somewhat unhelpful.

If the Minister would like to intervene and give us some pointers, I would be only too delighted to give way. The fact that she does not want to intervene tells me that she does not want to give us any information. That is why we have to be critical.

I took on board very carefully the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury. It is always interesting to find out something new about one's colleagues. I was especially interested to hear that he had run a hostel. This House benefits greatly from such specialist experience and knowledge gained outside. I noted in particular his comments about young people who are homeless as a result of violent or sexual abuse in the home. That is very important. Again, as with so many aspects of the problem of rough sleeping, it is the local authority that has the resources and the contacts to deal with the problems.

I sincerely believe that, in time, as the rough sleepers unit starts to deal with fewer people, we should move on and think of how best to deal with the problems.

Everyone would recognise that, as is often the case with amendments and new clauses tabled by individual hon. Members, the wording of new clauses 2 and 3 may not

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have been perfect, but the sentiment behind them has found accord throughout the House. No one could deny that the local authority of my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight faces a significant problem because of the three prisons that it contains. Rather towards the end of the debate, the Government helpfully informed us that they are introducing secondary legislation to deal with institutionalised offenders requiring advice on homelessness and temporary housing.

I assume that today's announcement is what was trailed in the Green Paper, "The Way Forward for Housing", as long ago as December 2000. I see the Minister nodding. If that is not what was trailed in the document and more such regulations are to be introduced, perhaps she could intervene now and make that clear.

Ms Keeble: I have made it clear.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I assume that there will not be more regulation on that subject, then, apart from the order that has been announced today.

It is helpful that we have been told that people with an institutionalised background will be considered under the order, especially on the grounds of vulnerability, as will other groups named in the order. However, the Minister's inability to answer my question about how vulnerability will be determined is not helpful. That seems a key part of the order, and if the Minister cannot tell us how it will operate, that makes things difficult.

If the Government have not yet decided what will happen, may I suggest that a partnership approach should be taken? As I said in my intervention on the Minister, the prison authorities would have to be involved, because they would know about the detailed behaviour of the prisoner while he was in prison. The probation officer is also likely to be involved, because that person will have supervised the prisoner's early release. The local authority should be involved, too, because it is likely to have to give advice and provide temporary housing if the prisoner asks for it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight must speak for himself, but I suspect that if such a partnership approach were adopted, it would allay his fears considerably.

Mr. Andrew Turner indicated assent.

Ms Keeble: The hon. Member for Cotswold was a party to the previous discussions. In conjunction with the Bill, an order to extend the categories of homeless households is being introduced and is being consulted on now. That is not a new announcement; the order was discussed repeatedly while we were debating the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear that in mind.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: That is indeed helpful, but, as I say, we would like to know a little more detail about how the order will operate. I do not wish to be churlish: the Minister has been helpful, my hon. Friend's amendment has been worth while, and I hope that the debate will reassure him and his local authority.

I do not pretend that the wording of new clause 3 is perfect. As I understand it, its import would be to ensure that people with a local connection or background should not always be bypassed in the queue by other groups that

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the Government deem to be a housing priority, especially under the order. I hope that the Minister will consider that subject carefully, because I am not sure that it is covered in the Bill. My hon. Friend was therefore right to table his new clause to probe and encourage the debate that we have had this evening.

We have not had any of the answers that we want about the rough sleepers unit, which will be the subject of a debate on another occasion, but we have probed the Government as far and as hard as we can today, and we have had some useful debates and answers on new clauses 2 and 3. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 4

Accommodation during reviews of homelessness decisions


' After section 202 of the 1996 Act (right to request review of decision) there is inserted—

"202A Section 202: reviews

(1) This section applies where an applicant has the right to request a review of a decision by an authority or authorities under section 202.
(2) If the applicant is dissatisfied with a decision by the authority—
(a) not to exercise their power to continue to secure that accommodation is available for the applicant's occupation pending a review under section 188;
(b) in a case where the authority have secured that accommodation is available for the applicant's occupation under section 190(2)(a), to cease to secure that accommodation is so available before the time available to the applicant to bring an appeal under section 204 of the Act has expired (or, if sooner, the day on which an appeal is brought by the applicant);
(c) not to exercise their power to secure that accommodation is available for the applicant's occupation pending a review, under section 200(5) or;
(d) to exercise their power under either section 188 or section 200(5) for a limited time ending before the time available to the applicant to bring an appeal under section 204 of the Act has expired (or, if sooner, the day on which an appeal is brought by the applicant), or, in either case, to cease exercising their power before that time,
he may appeal to the county court against the decision.
(3) An appeal under this section may not be brought after the time available to the applicant to bring an appeal under section 204 of the Act has expired (or, if sooner, after the date on which an appeal is brought).
(4) On an appeal under this section the court—
(a) may order the authority to secure that accommodation is available for the applicant's occupation until the time available to the applicant to bring an appeal under section 204 of the Act has expired (or such earlier time as the court may specify); and
(b) shall confirm or quash the decision appealed against,
and in considering whether to confirm or quash the decision the court shall apply the principles applied by the High Court on an application for judicial review.
(5) If the court quashes the decision it may order the authority to exercise any of the powers mentioned in subsection (2) above in the applicant's case for such period as may be specified in the order.

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(6) An order under subsection (5)—
(a) may only be made if the court is satisfied that failure to exercise the power in accordance with the order would substantially prejudice the applicant's ability to pursue the review against the authority's decision in his case;
(b) may not specify any period ending after the time available to the applicant to bring an appeal under section 204 of the Act has expired.".'.—[Mr. Don Foster.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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