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Lord Hylton: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may put to him that he is simply not comparing like with like when he attempts to equate the rural exemption

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to the right to buy with access to the register of a local authority, which forms the starting point for an individual to be housed by a local authority.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am sorry to disagree with the noble Lord. The underlying argument that leads people to come to conclusions in both those cases is the same. The rural communities wish a certain amount of protection for their own community where there is a limited amount of housing. That was true on the right to buy and housing association property. It can also be true as regards local authority social housing. I may be missing some point in my logic, but I do not see that the arguments are all that different.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is entirely correct; I believe that they are quite different.

As regards the amendment, I suspect that there is little difference between the Minister and these Benches on the fact that housing which is in such short supply for the reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, gave earlier should go to those in housing need. The difference between us may be that the Minister appears more concerned about goals, in particular those scored by England or Holland. We on this side are rather more worried that he is allowing local authorities to change the goalposts, hence this amendment.

The Minister stated that local authorities might wish to take into account such issues as behaviour, loyalty, living in the locality or age. I had thought that we had covered those elements. A waiting list is likely to involve a period of a year, two years or more for a family, and perhaps longer for a single person. By coming through the list those persons have identified themselves as residents of the community. The Minister accepted that on a previous amendment. The Minister also accepted that local authorities should not restrict by age. He said that he would cover that by regulation.

The Minister is right: we believe that severe anti-social behaviour on estates should not be tolerated. It is the Minister who is pressing for introductory tenancies. They would ensure that no local authority would have to continue to house a tenant whose behaviour was severely anti-social, that anti-social behaviour having become apparent in the first year.

The Minister's objections to the amendment are not well founded. He either agrees with us, or his points are covered by his own legislation through introductory tenancies.

Given the remainder of today's agenda, this is not a major issue. The Minister says that he is happy to cover these points through guidance. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 263C and 263D not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 263E:

Page 90, line 1, leave out subsection (4).

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The noble Baroness said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Russell, I beg to move Amendment No. 263D which deletes the subsection which provides that,

    "An authority's housing register shall contain such information about the persons on it as the Secretary of State may prescribe by regulations".

I have not discussed the amendment with my noble friend. I imagine that he believes it appropriate to probe the Minister about what the regulations will contain. It seems a wide power. We have already heard the Government's view that housing need is not to be the only criterion. Therefore, perhaps the Minister will say that the information will enable the authority to apply the criteria which the Government will share with the local authorities when the Government bring forward the regulations. It will be worth hearing what is in the Government's mind. Can the Minister tell the Committee when the regulations will be published? When might they be implemented? I have already commented today on my concern about not seeing the detail of the regulations. There is an additional concern that the Government propose to "wait and see" before getting on with the regulations. I am not entirely certain what it is they wait to see. Perhaps the Minster will assure the Committee as regards timing. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell: I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. The subsection is curious. It has the effect of preventing a joint tenancy for a husband and wife where one of the parties lived outside the area prior to marriage. I am sure that that is not the Government's intention. However, that is why we question the clause; that could be one interpretation. Newly married people often have difficulty in obtaining suitable housing. A subsection which debars them seems rather curious. In his response, perhaps the Minister will explain how the subsection would be used. We may need to consider how it can be redrafted to ensure that the scenario that I describe does not occur.

Baroness Hamwee: Having made that impassioned speech, and having asked a set of questions on the wrong clause, perhaps those arguments can be taken as read when we discuss Clause 145. The Minister may wish to answer the noble Lord. I shall not withdraw the amendment at this moment, given that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, has raised a point.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I was a little puzzled. I thought that I had lost my place in my notes. Some noble Lords may think that that is not an unusual event.

If I am right in thinking that we are discussing Clause 144--I must establish fundamental principles in these matters--it establishes who may qualify to be allocated housing. It requires local housing authorities to allocate housing only to persons who qualify.

The second subsection allows the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations classes of persons who are, or are not, qualifying persons; and we have discussed that. Subsection (5) allows allocation to two or more persons jointly, provided that one or more of them qualifies.

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I have not puzzled over the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, but I said that one or more may qualify. A man may qualify because he meets all the qualifications. If he marries a woman who does not qualify I imagine that a joint tenancy could be arranged. They fulfil the qualification that one or more can qualify. I hope that that helps the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare): I am in a muddle. I have called Amendment No. 263E, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, spoke. We now seem to be considering the question of whether Clause 144 should stand part of the Bill. Is that correct?

Lord Monkswell: Perhaps I may explain. My understanding is that we are debating Amendment No. 263E, which would delete subsection (4). The Minister referred to subsection (5), which appears to contradict subsection (4). The first subsection provides that two people may not have a joint tenancy if one is not eligible; the other subsection provides that two people can have a joint tenancy if one is eligible. The two subsections appear to be contradictory and perhaps the Minister needs to look again at the subsections.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I was trying to be helpful to the noble Lord. However, rather than try to resolve his dilemma--if it is a dilemma--between the two subsections while I am on my feet, I shall reconsider the provision to ascertain whether there is a contradiction. I believe that I have given the noble Lord the answer.

I now turn to the amendment. When considering it one must ascertain what the regulations are likely to accomplish. I remind the noble Baroness that the regulations made under the clause can work in two ways. In either case, they would limit local authorities' discretion as to who may appear on the housing register. They can either give prescribed groups the right to go on a housing register or they can ensure that other prescribed groups cannot appear on the register. We have been discussing that. Subsection (4) and this amendment relate to whether or not the latter group may be granted joint tenancies.

I have explained specifically the position in relation to husbands and wives. In the terms of subsection (5) the Government wish to encourage joint tenancies. They are an important part of efficient housing management. But subsection (4) is important because, without it, a prescribed person from abroad could be allocated social housing via another member of his household. That would open a back door into social housing. It would be at odds with the Government's policy in relation to persons from abroad who are in this country.

The point to which we return is the problem of people who have no long-term right of residence in this country and whether they can qualify for consideration for a council house. That is a little different from the wife from the next parish.

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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Is the Minister saying that an asylum seeker while waiting for his case to be determined, may marry a British citizen in this country whose ability to be here is not in dispute? If the wife is on a housing waiting list and the husband is a prohibited person, does it mean that he prohibits her from being housed? Alternatively, if she is eligible can she include him with her on the housing list?

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