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Lord Lucas: My Lords, again I find myself in some confusion. This time it is as a result of the confusion of others who have spoken. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, attributes effects to the amendment which we do not find in it and misses out on effects that we do find in it.

Most of the matters addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, belong more properly to the argument on Amendment No. 14. I would happily join in were it not for the continued absence of my noble friend Lord Swinfen. I do not wish to trouble the House twice with those arguments and if the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, will allow me, I will reserve them for the later amendment.

Clause 1 is an introductory clause and sets out in general terms the grants that are available under Chapter 1. The purposes for which grant may be given

18 Apr 1996 : Column 808

are described in more detail for each separate type of grant, together with the matters for which the local authority must have regard in considering an application. The purposes and matters to be taken into account in respect of a disabled facilities grant are described in Clauses 24 and 25 of the Bill.

Amendment No. 3 seeks to make disabled facilities grant mandatory, even where the dwelling is unfit for human habitation. Amendment No. 4 is consequential.

Clause 25 requires that a local housing authority, when proposing to approve an application for disabled facilities grant, should consider whether the dwelling is fit for human habitation. Where it is not, the authority has the power under subsection (5) of Clause 25 to treat the application as an application for a discretionary grant, even where it would otherwise be mandatory.

Clause 1 does not contain the power to give grant. It merely acts as an introduction in describing in general terms the purposes for which grant may be given. As a result, the noble Lord's amendment would be unlikely to be held by a court to override the detailed provisions to the contrary in Clause 25(5) on the same issue. We therefore believe that the amendment would in practice be ineffective.

To turn to the genuine concerns of the noble Lord in tabling this amendment, we have given considerable thought to the link between fitness standards and the needs of disabled people. We are aware that the present link, which exists under the 1989 Act, has deterred some disabled people from applying for grant for essential adaptations to their homes, because they wish to avoid the disturbance caused by major renovation works. We therefore considered that it should be left to the discretion of the local authority, which is aware of the condition and circumstances of both the applicant and of the dwelling, to consider whether the condition of the property is likely to be a threat to the health and safety of the occupant and, therefore, that the adaptations should not be carried out unless works are also undertaken to bring the property up to an acceptable standard.

We shall be issuing guidance to local authorities on the treatment of applications for disabled facilities grant involving works to a property that does not meet the fitness standards. I hope that on consideration the noble Lord will feel that that is sufficient to allow him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I thank those noble Lords who have taken part in the discussion on this amendment. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, in arguing ultimately against the amendment put up a pretty good case for the first amendment discussed this afternoon; namely, that all the grants should be mandatory and not just those for disabled persons living in unfit property.

Lord Finsberg: My Lords, I wish to make it clear that I supported my noble friend the Minister in opposing the idea.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I can see that, ultimately, the noble Lord did, but in the process of arriving at his

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conclusion I thought for one moment--just for one moment--that he was going to come out in favour of mandatory grants for all people. However, in the end, he went back to supporting the Minister.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made clear in reply to the point about Clause 24, Clause 24 has a different aim. Clause 24 seeks to adapt fit properties, or properties that are presumably fit, for use for disabled persons to enable them to go on living there. This amendment is quite different. The amendment says that if a disabled person is living in an unfit property it is right and proper that there should be a mandatory basis for providing grants to make that property fit for the disabled person to live in. That is surely a very wide point.

The Minister sought to meet the point a little by suggesting that guidance would subsequently be issued. I am not persuaded by that. Guidance would be helpful, but to have the proposition clearly stated on the face of the Bill is proper and sends out the right signal in terms of our concern for disabled people. I would much rather have the point on the face of the Bill than simply in guidance which the department will later issue without any parliamentary scrutiny. In the circumstances, I think it would be right, given the division of opinion, to seek the opinion of the House.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, before the noble Lord seeks the opinion of the House, he is indicating that even if a house were defective the grants would have to be made.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, what I am seeking to do is to establish the proposition that disabled persons should, above all others, not have to live in unfit property. If the House were to go along with that proposition, it might well be that subsequently other changes could be made. However, the general proposition should be on the face of the Bill. It is on that proposition that I seek the opinion of the House.

4.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 79; Not-Contents, 127.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Borrie, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Craigavon, V.
Darcy (de Knayth), B.
David, B.
Diamond, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Fisher of Rednal, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. [Teller.]
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kissin, L.
Lawrence, L.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Methuen, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Ogmore, L.
Peston, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Sainsbury, L.
Seear, B.
Serota, B.
Shepherd, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
White, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Winston, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Ampthill, L.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Blake, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Blyth, L.
Boardman, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Brentford, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clanwilliam, E.
Coleraine, L.
Coleridge, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Crathorne, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dacre of Glanton, L.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denman, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Eden of Winton, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Feldman, L.
Finsberg, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Goschen, V.
Granard, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harlech, L.
Harvington, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hothfield, L.
Inchcape, E.
Inglewood, L.
Kitchener, E.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Montrose, D.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Nelson, E.
Newall, L.
Norrie, L.
Northbourne, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Pender, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prentice, L.
Pym, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodney, L.
Romney, E.
St. Davids, V.
Savile, L.
Seccombe, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Tenby, V.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Westbury, L.
Wilcox, B.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

18 Apr 1996 : Column 811

4.54 p.m.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 5:


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