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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. It is a difficult problem and I am happy to say that he has gone a long way towards meeting our objections and difficulties. In those circumstances, I am pleased to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 81 not moved]:

Clause 77 [Entitlement to home repair assistance]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 82:


Page 45, line 44, after ("elderly") insert (", disabled").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 82 and to speak to Amendments Nos. 83, 84, 85, 86 and 87.

I welcomed the opportunity to look further at the inclusion of disabled people within the eligibility criteria for home repair assistance given the considered views expressed by my noble friend Lord Swinfen and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, during Committee stage of the Bill.

As I sought to reassure noble Lords when this matter was raised in Committee, it has always been our intention that disabled people should be treated as a passported category in terms of eligibility for home repair assistance. It was our belief that the reference to "elderly and infirm" covered this intention. However, I accept the noble Lords' suggestion that it would be of benefit to clarify this for the purposes of the legislation. I believe that the amendments achieve that. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 83 to 86:


Page 45, line 45, after ("elderly") insert (", disabled").
Page 46, line 16, after ("elderly") insert (", disabled").
Page 46, line 27, after ("elderly") insert (", disabled").
Page 46, line 29, after ("elderly") insert (", disabled").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 78 [Assistance in respect of house-boats and mobile homes]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 87:


Page 46, line 39, after ("elderly") insert (", disabled").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

18 Apr 1996 : Column 886

Clause 80 [Index of defined expressions: Chapter III]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 88 and 89:


Page 47, line 44, at end insert--
("disabled person section (Disabled persons)(1) to (3)")

Page 48, line 8, at end insert--
("secure tenant section 99")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 83 [Appeals against deferred action notices]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 90:


Page 49, line 13, at end insert ("or section 85 of this Act").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when the Bill was in Committee, my noble friend Lord Ferrers mentioned the Government's firm intention to use the provision in Clause 85 of the Bill to give guidance to local authorities on the exercise of deferred action notices. This will complement the guidance on the existing fitness enforcement options of repair, closure and clearance that has been issued under Section 604A of the Housing Act 1985.

Where the grounds on which an appeal against a deferred action notice are that one of the other fitness enforcement options would be a more satisfactory course of action, it is only right that the county court should have regard not only to the guidance on those options but also to that on deferred action notices. Amendment No. 90 rectifies that omission. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 84 [Review of deferred action notices]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 91:


Page 49, line 43, leave out (" 83") and insert (" 83(1) to (5)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 92 to 94. These amendments relate to the review of a deferred action notice. Their purpose is twofold: to make clear that where an appeal against a decision to renew a deferred action is brought the original notice remains operative until the appeal is decided; and, where a local authority decides to take alternative enforcement action, that the deferred action notice remains operative until that action is taken. These are straightforward drafting clarifications. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 92 to 94:


Page 49, line 45, at end insert--
("( ) If an appeal is brought against the decision to renew a deferred action notice, the notice remains operative until any decision on the appeal, or any further appeal, quashing or varying the notice.").
Page 50, line 1, leave out ("decide to").
Page 50, line 3, at end insert ("on the relevant notice, order or declaration becoming operative").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

18 Apr 1996 : Column 887

Clause 86 [Unfitness for human habitation, &c.: power to improve enforcement procedures]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 95:


Page 50, line 12, leave out ("The Secretary of State may by order provide") and insert ("A local housing authority shall have regard to such guidance as may from time to time be given by the Secretary of State providing").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 96 to 99. Clause 86 refers to the power to improve enforcement procedures. Instead of providing for the Secretary of State to be able by order to provide certain matters, I am seeking that a local housing authority shall have regard to the Secretary of State's guidance.

The reason that I propose the amendment is that it seems to me that in fact enforcement will be made more difficult rather than easier with the addition of another step in the process. I am puzzled as to what Clause 86 achieves other than imposing extra bureaucracy. It allows the Secretary of State--it does not require him--to make an order, to make certain provisions. If the clause is necessary, I should have expected to see that the Secretary of State "shall" make an order dealing with those matters. If it is not necessary, then I should prefer the clause not to be there.

My amendment seeks to give local authorities the choice as to whether or not they make use of the Secretary of State's scheme. When I moved an amendment directed at the same point in Committee the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that he thought that a better approach would be to give local authorities flexibility as provided in Clause 86(6). But that is a limited provision and it provides that local housing authorities will not be precluded from taking immediate action where that is required, nor would anything require an authority to disclose information if that were against the public interest. In other words, I do not feel that that point in any way met the concern that I raised.

Having proposed that the matter shall be for guidance, I have chosen what seems to be appropriate wording to alter subsequent parts of the clause in the following amendments. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, yet again, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has bounced us with a set of starred amendments. She has spoken eloquently to them and I am glad to say that, this time, we have guessed right as to what the amendments are about. The noble Baroness has made a most interesting point and it is one to which we would like to give further and serious consideration. We will return to the noble Baroness on the matter before the next stage. Therefore, in view of that assurance, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have no intention of bouncing anyone. I am glad that the ball has not bounced all the way out of the playing field, to use current jargon. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

18 Apr 1996 : Column 888

[Amendments Nos. 96 to 99 not moved.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 100:


After Clause 88, insert the following new clause--

Power to prescribe forms

(". The Secretary of State may by regulations prescribe the form of and the particulars to be contained in--
(a) a deferred action notice, or a notice of an authority's decision to renew a deferred action notice, or
(b) a demand for payment of any charge under section 87 (power to charge for enforcement action).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment inserts a new clause which is similar in effect to that in Section 614 of the Housing Act 1985, which provides for the Secretary of State to prescribe forms. It is that provision under which prescribed forms regulations have been made for use by local authorities in respect of the existing fitness enforcement options of repair, closure and clearance. For those who like details, the statutory instrument in question is 1990 No. 1730.

Amendment No. 100 makes provision to do the same in respect of the new deferred action enforcement option and the charging for enforcement provision in Clause 87 of the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 90 [Index of defined expressions: Chapter IV]:


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