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Page 97, line 36, at end insert--
("( ) The provisions of this part do not apply where the local housing authority consider the welfare of a person within their area is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with settled accommodation.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is another attempt to skin the cat. It is a gentler attempt to skin it, if any skinning of a cat can be gentle. The amendment addresses the issue of exceptional circumstances. I hope that it may appeal to your Lordships as it is an attempt to define a little more precisely a matter which I accept is difficult to define. It constitutes, perhaps, a more lateral approach to the subject. This modest amendment would permit immediate rehousing of people who are not on the register, but only if not to do so would seriously jeopardise their welfare. The provision would be subject to Clause 152(5) which gives the Secretary of State powers to restrict or attach conditions to this paragraph. I say that with some hesitation as the views of these Benches on such powers for the Secretary of State are well known. I hope, however, that there may be a temptation to look favourably on the amendment.

The wording of the amendment borrows from that of the Children Act which provides at Section 20(3) that a local authority has to provide accommodation for a child in need who has reached the age of 16 and,

I wonder about the use of that infinitive, but never mind.

The amendment would enable local authorities to house a limited number of people--I believe that would include children in need as defined by the Children Act--without subjecting them to the requirements of Part VI.

The Government's consultation paper on housing allocations makes much of local discretion. The amendment is wholly consistent with the paper. It would allow flexibility within the constraints of the requirement for serious prejudice, but it would put on the face of the Bill certain exceptions. Regulations offer flexibility, but, by leaving matters to regulation, local authorities may well find it difficult to plan their provision and to develop the necessary partnerships that are required to provide assistance to certain vulnerable groups. I suggest that certain allocations should be dealt with in the manner proposed in this amendment.

On a previous amendment my noble friend gave some examples of people who might be seriously prejudiced without such an obligation. He referred to young people leaving care and those who require community care

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services. I would add--my noble friend may have referred to this--women fleeing situations of domestic violence. My noble friend referred to accommodation which is designed to be temporary--and which in the rather ugly phrase we have developed--is "likely to silt up". I am not suggesting that people who fall in the categories that I have mentioned will necessarily be caught by the wording of the amendment. That may be the case, but the criterion will be serious prejudice and not particular circumstances. I hope your Lordships may feel that this is an appropriate matter to be included on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I understand that the noble Baroness is keen to ensure that everything is as right as it should be. She said there was another way of skinning the cat. I wish she would leave the poor pussy alone because it would be much easier if she did. I think the provision is unnecessary because it seeks to achieve, outside the provisions of Part VI, the very things which Part VI is intended to provide. The fundamental purpose of the reforms in this Bill is to ensure that long-term social housing goes to households which have the greatest need. That is the whole principle behind the reforms. The arrangements are designed to give local authorities the direction which is needed to meet housing need, while giving them the ability to frame their allocation schemes in a way which best meets local circumstances. That is exactly what the allocation criteria in Clause 157 are designed to achieve.

I tried to explain earlier that the structures of Parts VI and VII of the Bill should, taken together, ensure that the needs of people who are owed a duty under the homelessness legislation are properly addressed, as are the needs of people seeking long-term housing. As I said on an earlier occasion to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, I direct her attention--I also direct the attention of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to this--to Clause 157(2) at page 100 of the Bill which states:

    "The scheme shall also be framed so as to secure that additional preference is given to households within paragraph (e) consisting of someone with a particular need for settled accommodation on medical or welfare grounds who cannot reasonably be expected to find settled accommodation for themselves in the foreseeable future".
That is an important criterion. It would require an authority to give additional preference to someone who has a need for long-term accommodation on medical or welfare grounds, if that person could not reasonably be expected to secure that accommodation for himself. That should meet most of the anxieties of the noble Baroness.

The noble Baroness said that there should be special provision for the welfare of young people. We propose to make regulations under Clause 152(4) which will allow authorities to accept referrals of certain groups, who may include young people, without applying the provisions of Part VI. We are still reflecting on the consultation on the subject which was undertaken in January this year. With those comments, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel that, on the whole, we are trying to meet the points which are of reasonable

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concern to her. It would be best if the Bill remained as it is without her amendment because, as I have said, we have catered for the anxieties of the noble Baroness.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I accept that the Government are trying to ensure that there are no holes. Certainly I am prepared to accept that for the purposes of this debate. My concern is to make sure that there are no holes. To that extent, I am going in the same direction as the Government. In accepting in debate that there may be exceptional circumstances to which a local housing authority should have regard, which so far, collectively, we have not been able to define within the Bill, the Government are accepting that there may still be holes to be plugged. That was why I felt it was important to move this amendment notwithstanding the previous debate.

Clause 157 with its provisions for giving reasonable preference is not quite the same as this amendment which states that Part VI is not to apply in the case of applicants who are likely seriously to be prejudiced in this matter.

However, I shall read what the Minister has said, together with the previous debate, and possibly come back to the matter at Third Reading. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 152 [Cases where provisions about allocation do not apply]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 98, line 10, at end insert--
("(ii) section 17(1) of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (property adjustment orders after overseas divorce, &c.), or
(iii) paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 (orders for financial relief against parents).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 6, 111, 121, 175, 176, 177, 208 and 209. I lay the blame for these amendments at the door of the noble Lord, Lord Meston, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. At Committee stage they taxed us with the necessity of ensuring that the various provisions for the transfer of property on matrimonial breakdown were properly reflected in housing legislation.

We resisted the temptation at Committee stage because we felt that there might be some added complexities to be dealt with. As noble Lords will appreciate from reading through the group of amendments, we were right. On behalf of her noble friend, I trust that the noble Baroness will agree that we have drafted the amendments well. If she feels that we have not, perhaps she will allow me to write to her.

5 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, it is a sensible suggestion. However, if my noble friend Lord Meston has any problems with the drafting, perhaps the noble Lord will write to him. It is sometimes difficult for Members of your Lordships' House to resist the temptation to become deeply involved in the detail of

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the drafting. Speaking for myself, the obligation is to draw drafting matters about which we have concern to the attention of the Government, heave a sigh of relief, and leave the matter to parliamentary draftsmen to do what they will with the issue. I am grateful to the noble Lord for coming back with this long series of amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 98, line 20, at end insert--
("(ii) section 17(1) of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (property adjustment orders after overseas divorce, &c.), or
(iii) paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 (orders for financial relief against parents).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have just spoken to Amendment No. 6. In moving the amendment, perhaps I may say that Amendment No. 7 was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, with Amendment No. 2.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 153 [Allocation only to qualifying persons]:

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