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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for responding to the concerns which we raised in Committee. Indeed, in certain respects he has gone rather further than my amendment, Amendment No. 70, would have required. Detailed consideration of this point must await a further stage and will no doubt take place in another place. However, we on these Benches are happy with the government amendments and, when it comes to it, I shall not be moving Amendment No. 70.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 69:


Page 43, leave out lines 13 and 14.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendments Nos. 69, 70, 71 and 72 with Amendment No. 68. I spoke to Amendments Nos. 73, 74 and 75 with Amendment No. 67. I spoke to Amendments Nos. 76 and 77 with Amendment No. 62, and to Amendments Nos. 78 and 79 with Amendment No. 67. I beg to move all those amendments, Amendments Nos. 69 to 79, en bloc.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 70 not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lyell): My Lords, we now come to Amendment No. 71.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I apologise for having attempted to move Amendment No. 70 which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and I am glad to have been prevented from doing that. Perhaps I may now beg leave to move Amendments Nos. 71 to 79 inclusively, to which I have already spoken.

The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, if it is with the agreement of the House, we can take Amendments Nos. 71 to 79 together.

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 71 and 72:


Page 43, leave out lines 16 to 28.
Page 43, line 35, leave out from ("intestacy)") to end of line 37.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 73 [Conditions as to occupation]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 73:


Page 44, line 18, leave out subsection (6) and insert--
("(6) Any condition under this section shall cease to be in force with respect to any premises if there is a relevant disposal of the premises which is an exempt disposal other than a disposal within section 57(1)(a) (disposal to associates of person making disposal).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 74 and 75:


After Clause 73, insert the following new clause--

Meaning of relevant disposal and exempt disposal

(". Sections 56 and 57 (meaning of "relevant disposal" and "exempt disposal") apply for the purposes of this Chapter.").

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Insert the following new Clause--
Payment of balance of cost, &c: cessation of conditions

(".--(1) If at any time while a condition of participation under section 72 or 73 remains in force--
(a) the assisted participant pays the balance of the cost to the local housing authority,
(b) a mortgagee of the interest of the assisted participant in the premises being a mortgagee entitled to exercise a power of sale, makes such a payment,
(c) the authority determine not to demand payment on the breach of a condition of participation, or
(d) the authority demand payment in whole or in part on the breach of a condition of participation and that demand is satisfied,
that condition and any other conditions of participation shall cease to be in force with respect to the premises of that assisted participant.
(2) An amount paid by a mortgagee under subsection (1)(b) above shall be treated as part of the sums secured by the mortgage and may be discharged accordingly.
(3) The purposes authorised for the application of capital money by--
(a) section 73 of the Settled Land Act 1925,
(b) that section as applied by section 28 of the Law of Property Act 1925 in relation to trusts for sale, and
(c) section 26 of the Universities and College Estates Act 1925,
include the making of payments under this section.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 75 [Index of defined expressions: Chapter II]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 76 to 79:


Page 44, line 33, column 2, leave out (" 67") and insert (" 67(2) and (6)").
Page 44, line 42, at end insert--
("eligible to participate section 67(1)")

Page 44, line 42, at end insert--
("exempt disposal section (Meaning of relevant disposal and exempt disposal) (and section 57)")

Page 45, line 11, at end insert--
("relevant disposal section (Meaning of relevant disposal and exempt disposal) (and section 56)")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

9.30 p.m.

Clause 76 [Home repair assistance]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 80:


Page 45, leave out lines 25 and 26 and insert ("in any period of three years in respect of any one dwelling").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak also to Amendment No. 81. The purpose of the amendment is to remove the limit on any one application, provided that the limit is not exceeded in any three-year period. The amendment was, I have to confess, tabled in Committee but not moved.

As it stands, the Bill proposes replacing the existing minor works assistance grant with a home repair grant. Like the minor works assistance grant, that will be available to owner-occupiers and private tenants who

18 Apr 1996 : Column 884

fall into a priority group, are on low income benefit, or are elderly, or disabled or who require minor repairs or adaptations to enable them to remain in their own home. It will also, as I understand it, be available for insulation works, replacing lead pipes, and Radon-associated works.

The MWA grant--if I may use that acronym--is discretionary. It is proposed that the home repair grant will be too. Minor works assistance grant has been useful and much appreciated. The problem I put forward is that the level of grant does not cover certain works. The cost of work to enable people to stay put will depend upon the condition of the property, local costs in the area and the frailty, mobility or otherwise of the applicant.

Home improvement agencies have in the past expressed concern that the grant of about £1,000 was too low. The figure was set, I think, in April 1991 and has not been increased since. There is a proposal to increase that to £2,000 for any one year and £4,000 for any three years. That is welcome, but there are concerns about works which may exceed £2,000.

Furthermore, the proposal to limit the grant to payments of £2,000 in any one year may prevent it from being applied when works are required when they are most needed. In addition, assisting with community care, which is a question which has exercised your Lordships' House on many occasions, seems to be left out of the considerations in this new measure.

It is proposed that the HRG limit should be £4,000 in any three years, but if that is proposed it seems unreasonable that it should not be payable at the time it is most needed. That is, after all, the point of the exercise. The amendment would retain the overall limit of £4,000 in any three years but there would be no limit to the amount available in any one year. We believe that that is right. The removal of the one-year limit will, of course, remove an arbitrary time limit on the grant, and that could militate against advantageous effects. I hope that the Minister is seized of these problems, and, unlike on previous amendments, will be able to respond with due consideration. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the amendments address the limit for home repair assistance. Each application for home repair assistance will be subject to a proposed limit of £2,000. That is a limit per application, not per year. One can receive two grants in the same year; one can use up one's £4,000 limit in the same year. We would have concerns were authorities giving grants above this limit as a matter of routine, as we believe the limit accurately reflects the extent of works deemed suitable for this type of passported assistance.

There is also a further limit of £4,000 per dwelling over a three-year period. Should the full £4,000 of assistance be given in response to one application as would be possible under Amendment No. 80 and would be possible by having two coming together, no further assistance could be given until the three-year period had expired. In our opinion, this would leave the applicant vulnerable should the need for further works arise. We have set the structure of the grant so that such a situation is discouraged.

18 Apr 1996 : Column 885

Turning toward Amendment No. 81, it is our belief that the flexibility already offered by this clause is the best option for this type of passported assistance. I do not believe that it is either necessary or helpful to be tied to a particular cost index derived from the construction industry. The grant limits we propose are considered adequate for the works we intend to be assisted through home repair assistance. When we feel this is no longer the case, there is a provision within the Bill for the limits to be increased. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.


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