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Lord Williams of Elvel: The noble Lord is quite right. We have basic political differences on this matter. I said that a number of urban local authorities had indicated that the limit would inhibit transfers. The noble Lord has adduced no evidence to support the particular limit that has been chosen. I am sure that the Committee accept that there is here a basic political difference. The only way to resolve such a difference is to test the opinion of the Committee. I beg to move.

6 Jun 1996 : Column 1393

5.34 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 15) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 53; Not-Contents, 105.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Avebury, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Bristol, Bp.
Broadbridge, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carter, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
David, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Foot, L.
Freyberg, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L. [Teller.]
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Halsbury, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Hayman, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hylton, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Oxford, Bp.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Russell, E.
Sandwich, E.
Shaughnessy, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Wallace of Coslany, L.
White, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.


Aberdare, L.
Addison, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Berners, B.
Bethell, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clanwilliam, E.
Coleraine, L.
Colwyn, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Denham, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Digby, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Ellenborough, L.
Elton, L.
Feldman, L.
Forbes, L.
Gainsborough, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gisborough, L.
Goschen, V.
Gowrie, E.
Gridley, L.
Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Hemphill, L.
Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hooper, B.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Ilchester, E.
Inglewood, L.
Ironside, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
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.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Monk Bretton, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mountgarret, V.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Nelson, E.
Newall, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rees, L.
Rennell, L.
Renton, L.
Romney, E.
Saint Albans, D.
Seccombe, B.
Shuttleworth, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinfen, L.
Swinton, E.
Teviot, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6 Jun 1996 : Column 1394

5.42 p.m.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Registration]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 3, line 16, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 17 and 19 in my name. Amendment No. 18, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is grouped with these amendments. The list of groupings attaches Amendment No. 25 to this group, but it might be more convenient to debate it with the next group of amendments to which it more appropriately belongs.

My amendments are probing amendments, and the questions that I shall ask, are, I hope, straightforward. Clause 3 deals with registration of social landlords and provides that the Housing Corporation may register social landlords which are eligible. My first amendment to change the word "may" to "shall" is to enable me to ask the Government what scope for discretion they feel the Housing Corporation should appropriately have.

My second amendment provides that a social landlord which is eligible is registered if it applies for registration; in other words, the matter is not automatic.

Clause 3(2) refers to an application but the first part of the clause does not seem to require it. My third amendment (Amendment No. 19) is to ask the Minister to explain the reason for what is a dual set of registrations. Clause 3(3) provides for notice of registration as a social landlord to be given to the various registers upon which the particular social landlords are registered as a result of their own constitution as a company, charity, and so on. Is that to provide the investigator with a clue--a track--as between the different registers? I ask the question having partly in mind the scope for confusion that may arise if the bodies are required to register in different places, and there are different requirements for registration for each of them. Perhaps the Minister will explain why it is necessary to make that cross reference. I beg to move.

6 Jun 1996 : Column 1395

5.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: Apart from the amendments to which the noble Baroness has spoken, there is also Amendment No. 18 in the group standing in my name. I shall be interested to hear the Government's response to the questions which she has put. The question I put--again mine is a probing amendment--is on what basis and how shall the corporation determine a fee for registration?

I understand that there is a general duty on the corporation to be reasonable, but social landlords may wish to have some indication as to what they may be charged for registration. The words "if any" imply that, as the Bill is drafted, the corporation may not wish to charge a fee. Is that the case? If it is not the case, under what circumstances might the corporation determine to charge a fee? In that case, what sort of fee and on what sort of scale will the corporation so determine? Will that be publicised in a manner which will allow those who wish to be registered to be properly cognisant of what they have to pay in order to get on the register?

Lord Lucas: I shall deal first with Amendment No. 16. The noble Baroness asks, quite reasonably, what sort of discretion are we giving to the corporation here. The answer is we are giving it a wide and unspecified discretion in order that it shall be able to refuse to register, effectively, landlords which it does not consider viable or suitable. Of course it has to exercise those powers reasonably. That is the control on it. There can be all manner of reasons why a company might not be suitable for registration.

Registration opens up a number of privileges, including the receipt of large quantities of taxpayers' money. It is right that the corporation can take action to keep companies which are in a dodgy financial position, or are in other ways deemed unsuitable, off the register. I do not believe that I can be much more specific than that in telling the noble Baroness how it will be exercised, except of course to re-emphasise that it will be exercised reasonably.

Amendment No. 17 adds the words "and which applies for registration" to that same sentence. I had, I am afraid, read that in conjunction with Amendment No. 16, and thought that the two just went together. The noble Baroness has described it separately. As she described it separately, it seemed to me to have some sense, but I should like to take it away to consider whether it should be included; otherwise, as the noble Baroness suggests, it will open the way for the Housing Corporation to register all sorts of people who did not wish to be registered. They might find that inconvenient.

Amendment No. 19 would remove the requirement for notification. That is required principally because in various parts of Schedule 1 we require the registrars not to take particular action unless permission has been received from the Housing Corporation, such as registering an amendment to the articles of association. Unless there is a mechanism for informing the registrar that those are companies or charities where those rules apply, which is what the subsection provides, the registrars could not carry out the duties we place upon them later in the Bill.

6 Jun 1996 : Column 1396

Amendment No. 18 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, deals with the introduction of a charge for registration with the corporation. The basic reason for this is to give the corporation protection which it does not need at the moment but may eventually need against frivolous applications. This is a question which the noble Lord raised on the housing grants Bill, when he proposed to purchase the mansion of my noble friend Lord Ferrers. He wished to protect local authorities against such frivolous applications.

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