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Lord Swinfen: My Lords, before I do so, perhaps I may invite my noble friend the Minister to take a course in electrical maintenance from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, so as to ensure that no one would have to call an ambulance for him and thereby incur greater expense to the National Health Service. I am somewhat encouraged by what my noble friend said in his response to the amendment. I shall read what he said most carefully and give it all due consideration. I hope that I shall not feel the need to return to the matter at a later stage, but I must reserve the right to do so. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 8, line 21, at end insert--
("( ) Notwithstanding subsection (5)(a) above, where the applicant requests in writing that only part of the premises be made fit for human habitation, the authority may approve such an application.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is of course the case that normally when a renovation grant is made available the whole of the property to which it applies should be improved. However, there may be instances where it is sensible to say that it is necessary to renovate or improve only part of the property. That applies when a house or flat is occupied by an elderly person who uses only part of the property and does not want the

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disturbance of having the whole dwelling invaded by builders over a long period. It is possible that some elderly people would prefer not to have the whole property renovated rather than face the disruption, if it is not possible for them to have improved just the parts that they occupy.

I do not think that that would apply in many instances; indeed, I believe that it would be unusual. However, we all know that there are some circumstances where only part of a house is occupied by an elderly person. Surely it is his or her right to go on living there as long as possible. That may involve improving some of the dwelling without improving the whole building. I believe that the amendment is sensible. I know that a similar point was discussed in Committee but, because of the way in which the discussion took place, I do not believe that we focused as much on this point as we did on some other aspects covered in the group of amendments. As I said, it is a sensible move and one which would apply in a minority of cases. However, in those cases to which it would apply, the provision would make quite a difference to the circumstances of an elderly person living alone in a house or flat. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, as the noble Lord said, we touched on this matter in Committee. I am happy to revisit it because it is one upon which we look with some favour. However, we do not wish to take action on the amendment as it stands. The amendment raises the important question of application of the fitness standard to part of a property. As my noble friend Lord Ferrers explained in Committee, the major revision of the standard under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 introduced a more objective approach whereby fitness is determined by reference to each individual requirement in the standard and not a combination as previously. The fact that the decision as to fitness is now based on a property having to meet each individual requirement means that the standard can only sensibly be applied to a complete unit of accommodation.

However, the Government are not unsympathetic to the thought that, with the introduction of a new renovation grant system, it would be sensible to look again at the fitness standard requirements and the way that the standard is applied.

My noble friend Lord Ferrers gave an assurance in Committee that once the Bill is out of the way, and before the end of this year, the Government would set in train a review of the fitness standard and as part of that seek views from bodies such as the local authority associations and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. At that time my noble friend expressed the hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, would see the wisdom of looking at the issues raised by his amendment and the others he raised in Committee relating to fitness for human habitation as part of a proper review. The important point here is that much hangs on the fitness standard and changes to the requirements and the way the standard is applied should not be contemplated without the fullest consideration and consultation. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, will

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remember that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, warmly welcomed this approach. I hope this is still the case and that he will therefore feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I welcome the sympathetic attitude the Minister shows to what this amendment seeks to achieve. I understand what he says--and what was said at Committee stage--namely, that there will be a wide review. It is a pity that, having a major Bill on the subject, we cannot deal with it in the Bill and have to leave it until later. However, given that the Minister has conceded that there is a case for thinking about a measure of this kind, and that the Government will deal with it in the way he described, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16 [Common parts grants: certificate required to accompany application]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 9, line 38, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 16 I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 17. We have given some thought to the views expressed during the Committee consideration of this Bill about the likely need for a prior qualifying period for some types of grants. In Committee we confirmed that it was not envisaged that general powers as in Clause 17 applying to landlords' applications for common parts grants would be used in the foreseeable future.

Following our discussion in Committee we have considered fully the points made by noble Lords, particularly on the equivalent provision for grants for houses in multiple occupation. In the light of that discussion, we now believe that for the purposes of clarity it would be preferable to remove the clause from the Bill. Therefore, we have brought forward Amendments Nos. 27 and 29 in order to achieve this objective for HMO grants. In order to keep the provisions for grants to landlords consistent, Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 remove the provision for common parts grants. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I query the Government's view on this matter. It seems as though they hold a different view when it is a case of landlords and the grant applications they may make to the view they hold as regards householders; namely, individuals seeking home improvement grants for their homes. In the earlier discussion when we discussed the amendment which gave local authorities discretion to waive the qualifying period, we were told it was essential that the qualifying period be retained and that it be waived if the local authority saw fit. Effectively the Government were saying it was important that the qualifying period should exist as regards householders who applied for a home improvement grant.

I wonder why there seem to be different criteria as regards landlords. Why is it that householders should be subject to a qualifying period--effectively that means that the householder is expected to live in poor standard

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accommodation until he can obtain a grant after three years--but a landlord, who does not have to put up with the poor standards, can obtain a grant without being subject to the three-year qualifying period? There is a hint of double standards here. I hope the Government can explain to the House how they arrive at these apparently different criteria for judging landlords and householders.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the basic difference of course is that the landlord will not live in the property and should be encouraged to improve the property for the benefit of his tenants. But in general landlords are under a much stricter grant scheme anyway and are subject to a rather different grant scheme. As we said in Committee, this power was in the Bill but we could not envisage using it in the context of all the other restrictions and powers that we had. Therefore we have thought it sensible to remove a power from the Bill that we never thought of using on the principle of not adding things to the Bill which are there unnecessarily. It is in the nature of a tidying up exercise in terms of what we intend to use the Bill for. I can understand the points that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, makes, but I do not think they affect our resolve in this matter.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17 [Common parts grants: prior qualifying period]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 17:

Leave out Clause 17.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 20 [Disabled facilities grants: owner's and tenant's applications]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 12, line 38, after first ("tenant") insert (", introductory tenant").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 18 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 56, 57, 89, 109 and 110. Amendment No. 8 would add to the tenants described in subsection (5) of Clause 20 as eligible to apply for disabled facilities grant tenants occupying the dwelling under "an introductory tenancy". This is a new form of tenancy, introduced under Part V of the Housing Bill. Introductory tenancies may be operated only by local authorities or by housing action trusts.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Swinfen for raising the question of introductory tenants in Committee. We have given the matter further thought. While we consider that, in practice, it is possible that introductory tenants would be eligible to apply for disabled facilities grant in any event, we agree that an amendment specifically to add these tenants to the descriptions of tenants eligible to apply would put the matter beyond doubt. All the other amendments in the group are consequential. I beg to move.

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