Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am not sure that the Minister has met the point at all. He has said simply that he prefers an alterative approach. What we are seeking to do is to keep things simple. We have a Government who are committed to legislating less but a Government who are legislating more. What we want is not to have too heavy a Whitehall hand on the way in which local authorities operate. That is the purpose of the amendment. The Minister is not willing to meet it. However, he has heard the argument. I am not sure there is any point in pursuing it any further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 67 [Persons eligible to participate in group repair scheme]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 62:


Page 40, line 6, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert--
("(1) A person is eligible to participate in a group repair scheme if at the date of the approval of the scheme--
(a) he has an owner's interest in a dwelling or other premises comprised in a building to which the scheme relates, and
(b) as respects the dwelling or other premises in which he has an owner's interest he either--
(i) is able to give possession of any part of the building to which scheme works are proposed to be carried out, or
(ii) has the consent of the occupier of that part to the carrying out of those works.
(2) A person eligible to participate in a group repair scheme may participate as an assisted participant--
(a) if the owner's interest which he has is an interest in a dwelling and he gives an owner-occupation certificate or a certificate of intended letting, or
(b) if the owner's interest which he has is an interest in a house in multiple occupation and he gives a certificate of future occupation.
This is subject to the exceptions specified in subsection (6) or by order under that subsection.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 64, 65, 66, 76 and 77. These amendments will enable property owners who do not qualify for assistance under a group repair scheme to participate as unassisted

18 Apr 1996 : Column 879

participants provided they can give possession of the part of the building to which the works relate or, if that part is occupied, they have the consent of the occupier.

As currently drafted, Clause 67 enables a person to qualify for assistance under a group repair scheme if, in the case of a dwelling, he gives an owner occupation certificate or a certificate of intended letting or, in the case of a house in multiple occupation, he gives a certificate of future occupation. However, a person who is unable to give such a certificate--for example, because he intends to sell his property in the near future--might still wish to participate in the scheme as an unassisted participant, but he would at present be precluded from doing so. In some cases this may prevent a viable scheme from being put together. These amendments will remove that restriction, allowing owners to join in and benefit from group repair works, even though they will have to meet the full costs themselves, provided they can give access to the property.

Amendment No. 64 makes it clear that in the case of houses in multiple occupation assistance will be available only if the property is occupied for residential purposes other than holiday occupation. Amendments Nos. 76 and 77 make changes to the definition in Clause 75 which are consequential. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 63:


Page 40, line 10, at end insert ("or
(c) who can subsequently reasonably be included in the scheme").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is also concerned with group repair schemes. It seeks to allow persons who are unable to join a group repair scheme at the time it was approved still to be eligible to participate in the scheme provided their properties are close to the approved scheme buildings and provided the additional works can be completed without unreasonable disruption to the building contract. What we are seeking to do is to add flexibility. We are seeking to ensure that we deal with a difficulty that arises when adjacent properties in external disrepair have to be excluded from the building to be approved because the owners are unwilling or unable to participate. It is really to stop too rigid a system so that it is possible quickly to allow late joiners to participate in a scheme that has already been approved. I am sure that it meets the spirit of what the Government have in mind. I hope that in practice the amendment will help to achieve that aim. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, this amendment would enable persons to join an approved group repair scheme without the need to obtain fresh scheme approval, if it were reasonable to include them. The aim is to reduce the administrative burden of seeking fresh approval where people change their minds and wish to take part in a scheme once it is under way. While I have some sympathy with this aim, there are obvious problems. For instance, the late inclusion of additional participants could upset the basis on which the original approval was

18 Apr 1996 : Column 880

given. Had they been included originally, for example, the scheme may not have been one which would have been approved.

That said, we are prepared to look again at this issue to see if there is scope in certain circumstances for allowing additional persons to participate in an approved scheme which would not necessitate new scheme approval. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, will appreciate that I am unable to give any assurances at this stage. However, on the basis that we are prepared to look again at this issue, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, on the basis that the Government are willing to look again at the issue, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment. I appreciate very much what the Minister has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 64, 65 and 66:


Page 41, line 1, after ("(b)") insert (""residential occupation" does not include occupation for a holiday, and").
Page 41, line 2, leave out ("are not eligible to") and insert ("may not").
Page 41, line 11, leave out subsection (7) and insert--
("(7) A person eligible to participate in a group repair scheme who is unable to participate as an assisted participant may participate as an unassisted participant.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 62. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 72 [Condition as to payment of balance of cost on disposal]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 67:


Page 43, line 7, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 73, 74, 75, 78 and 79. These amendments clarify the circumstances in which the conditions of participation in a group repair scheme cease to apply.

Under Clause 73, it is a condition of participation in a group repair scheme as an assisted participant that the property is occupied in accordance with the intention specified in the certificate of owner-occupation, certificate of intended letting or certificate of future occupation, as the case may be. If not, the owner may be required to pay the balance of the cost. Amendment No. 73 provides that this condition will cease to apply if the owner disposes of the property for reasons which are largely beyond his control, but will remain in force if the owner transfers the property to another member of their family or to certain other close associates. This is to deter people from avoiding the conditions of assistance by transferring the property between family members.

Amendment No. 75 makes clear that once the obligation to pay the balance of the cost of the works has arisen as a result of a breach of one of the grant conditions, and the amount demanded, if any, has been paid, the obligation is discharged. Amendments Nos. 67,

18 Apr 1996 : Column 881

74, 78 and 79 clarify the meaning of the terms "relevant disposal" and "exempt disposal" for the purposes of the group repair provisions by referring to the equivalent provisions for renovation grants in Clauses 56 and 57. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, in so far as I can understand all the detailed implications of what the Minister has said, I believe that we are talking about safeguards lest people get grants in a way that is not quite proper. I believe that those safeguards are desirable. It is a reasonable proposal on the part of the Minister.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 68:


Page 43, line 11, leave out ("repayment") and insert ("payment").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 69 to 72. During Committee stage on 26th March, my noble friend Lord Ferrers promised the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that we would look again at whether local authorities should be given greater discretion not to demand full payment of the balance of the cost of group repair works if the owner of a property disposes of it within the five-year protected period.

As my noble friend said, we recognise the concern among local authorities that the requirement to pay the balance of the cost might deter some people from joining a group repair scheme if they were uncertain as to whether they could meet the conditions. We want to encourage authorities to take a strategic approach to renewal. Amendments Nos. 68, 69, 71 and 72 will help to increase the flexibility of group repair by giving local authorities full discretion in determining the amount, if any, to be recovered from participants if the property is disposed of during the five-year protected period. We believe this goes further than Amendment No. 70, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, which would require authorities to specify the sort of cases in which they would exercise their discretion.

Although we would still expect authorities to demand payment where the owner can clearly afford it, they will be able to waive or abate payments where payment in full would cause hardship. If those who are considering whether to join a group repair scheme are made aware of the local authority's policy on this at the outset, it should help to give them the assurance that they need to join in the scheme.

We have thought it right in making this change to tighten the payment condition where property is disposed of under a will or on intestacy. As currently worded, the requirement in Clause 72 to pay the balance of the cost continues in force if the property vests under a will or on intestacy to a person who lived with the deceased before his death. However, we see no reason why the condition should not also continue in force if the property vests in some other person. That person will clearly be inheriting a valuable asset and, if he

18 Apr 1996 : Column 882

immediately sells it, should be in a position to pay the cost of the works. Amendment No. 72 achieves that. I beg to move.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page