Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for drawing attention to a point which she feels is uncertain. If I made it uncertain for her, I am sorry. The reason for the uncertainty is that I gave the

8 Jul 1996 : Column 35

example of somebody living in a poor house, who had his house burnt down but, had that not happened he would have been almost at the top of the list. He is then moved temporarily into a bigger house and, as a result, it might be thought that he goes down to the bottom of the list. That is a matter which local authorities will have to decide. The point is perfectly clear.

This is where we do not want to be confused about homelessness. I shall take the noble Baroness through the steps relatively carefully. A person comes to a local authority and says "I haven't got a house". He is made homeless unintentionally as opposed to a failure to pay the rent. It is then the duty of the local authority to see that that person is housed. If he turns up at nine o'clock at night, he might be sent into a bedsitting room or whatever it may be. The next day the local authority will see the person and ask why he is homeless. The reasons for the homelessness or the reasons for the person being in that position will be discussed.

The allocation of points will depend very much on that which is contained in Clause 157 which, as I said when speaking to the first amendment, is really a matter of trying to find the cause of homelessness. It may be that the cause of homelessness is that the wife has walked out or it may be that the house has burnt down. But long-term housing is determined by Clause 157(2) which refers to giving reasonable preference to people occupying insanitary or overcrowded housing, people occupying housing accommodation which is temporary or occupied on insecure terms, families with dependent children, households consisting of or including someone who is expecting a child, and so forth. That is what determines the right of people to long-term housing. The fact that they have been given short-term housing does not put them at an advantage or at a disadvantage over whether they obtain long-term housing.

I hope that that has made the point relatively clear. The points systems will take account of the level of security of tenure which a person has.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I hope that the Minister will correct me if I have misunderstood him, but I think the Minister said that he used the words local authorities will have to decide. In other words, there is an element of discretion as to the basis upon which the local authorities will determine the points system: either the conditions of homelessness from which the people concerned emerged, or the quality of temporary accommodation which they now occupy. I think that is what the Minister said. If I have misunderstood that, I would be very grateful to be corrected.

He went on to say that temporary accommodation, being insecure, would obviously come into the reasonable preference. But studying my own local authority's points system, insecure accommodation carries only, for example, 10 points whereas medical need may carry 100 points, and shared facilities may carry 100 points. So simply saying that because they are insecure gives them reasonable preference will not

8 Jul 1996 : Column 36

give them enough points certainly to bring them back up to the level at which they entered the situation of temporary housing because insecure accommodation as such, in the typical local authority points system, does not carry very many points.

I repeat, as I understand it, people may go down the "snake" by going into temporary housing but that is for the local authority to determine. Is that correct? I apologise to your Lordships but it is such a pivotal point that it would be very helpful for all of us to have clarification of that. I am happy to move on and ask the Minister to come back at some appropriate stage because without this clarification, local authorities will not know how they are allocating their points scheme. I am in the Minister's hands. I am very happy to continue or to give way to him if the House will permit.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall try to clarify the point with which the noble Baroness is concerned. If she looks at Clause 157(2) one of the priorities to which preference will have to be given is contained in paragraph (b):


    "people occupying housing accommodation which is temporary or occupied on insecure terms".
Therefore in the case which I gave of a person's house which is in a scruffy order being burnt down and that person being put into temporary accommodation because of that, his points allocation would not drop. But I think this is an important point. I would like to write to the noble Baroness because I would not like to mislead her.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, again I thank the Minister for that and therefore I shall now wind up this debate. I am very glad that we have had the opportunity of this exchange. Perhaps it is our fault that we did not seek to have this clarified earlier but I had assumed that people continue to carry their points with them into whatever temporary housing they went. Something that the Minister said alarmed me and suggested a "snake" possibility in which case there are, to change my animal metaphor, elephant traps that we had not even anticipated for local authorities in seeking to manage this legislation. I would be glad if the Minister could write to me as speedily as possible. That would then allow us the opportunity to revisit this issue, if necessary, on Third Reading.

Apart from that, I have very little to say, for which I am sure your Lordships will be duly grateful. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said that she could not define "exceptional". The noble Earl, Lord Russell, went on to give several instances of that which illustrated the point very well for us over and beyond the situation in which the person is six weeks' away from being housed.

The Minister assures us that this point is well covered already in the Bill. I have to say we do not believe that it is. We would not be moving this amendment if it were. He accepts the principle that local authorities do have the right to exercise their discretion in these exceptional circumstances. He

8 Jul 1996 : Column 37

believes it is already in the Bill but we do not see it clearly in the Bill--in other words we are now simply talking about drafting. For the avoidance of doubt, I should like to seek to persuade your Lordships that this phrase, from which the Minister does not dissent, should actually be in the Bill so that it is clear.

If that were clear and in the Bill, our advisers would not be asking us to press the amendment. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House. I do not do that because there is a difference of substance between us and the Minister but there is a difference in relation to how transparent are the Minister's words. He believes that what we want is already there but we cannot see those words in the clause. That is why I wish to press the amendment. There is no disagreement between us as regards the issue but merely about the transparency of what the Government say is the case. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister may agree to include the words:


    "For the avoidance of doubt".
However, if he is not prepared to do so, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

4.40 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 81; Not-Contents, 147.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Avebury, L.
Barnett, L.
Berkeley, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carlisle, Bp.
Carlisle, E.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
David, B.
Desai, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Gregson, L.
Halsbury, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooson, L.
Hughes, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lockwood, B.
Longford, E.
McGregor of Durris, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Mayhew, L.
Methuen, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Palmer, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.]
Sainsbury, L.
Seear, B.
Serota, B.
Shepherd, L.
Stallard, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tonypandy, V.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wharton, B.
White, B.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.

NOT-CONTENTS

Aberdare, L.
Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Aldington, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Biddulph, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Blyth, L.
Boardman, L.
Bowness, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brigstocke, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Bruntisfield, L.
Burnham, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, 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.
Clitheroe, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L.
Courtown, E.
Cox, B.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Crathorne, L.
Cuckney, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Digby, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Ellenborough, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Erne, E.
Erroll, E.
Ferrers, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gainford, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Goschen, V.
Gowrie, E.
Gray of Contin, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Headfort, M.
Henley, L.
Hogg, B.
Holderness, L.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Inglewood, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Kimball, L.
Kintore, E.
Knutsford, V.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Macleod of Borve, B.
Marlesford, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monk Bretton, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Nelson, E.
Newall, L.
Noel-Buxton, L.
Norfolk, D.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Pender, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Pym, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rees, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Rennell, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Romney, E.
St. Davids, V.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinton, E.
Teviot, L.
Teynham, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Tollemache, L.
Torrington, V.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Waterford, M.
Wedgwood, L.
Whitelaw, V.
Wilcox, B.
Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

8 Jul 1996 : Column 39

4.50 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 4:


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page