Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Monkswell: My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I raise one issue with him which he has not touched on? I did not intervene earlier because the case for these amendments had been made so eloquently and the initial response from the Minister suggested that all the points that had been raised by the amendments would be accommodated.

But the noble Earl has not touched on one particular aspect of the amendments which is quite important. Amendment No. 70 refers to meeting,


Those of us who are keenly interested in this Bill are very indebted to the noble Earl for the letter that he sent us today in which he makes reference to affordability raised by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, at Committee stage. In that letter the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, identified the fact that 80 per cent. of applicants for assistance receive housing benefit and that the normal limits of affordability regarding housing benefit would therefore apply. However, we are left with 20 per cent. who would not come under the general aegis of housing benefit, and the noble Earl has not said anything about the suitability of accommodation in terms of its affordability.

We must bear in mind that, because of the problems of negative equity and repossessions, significant numbers of people are now becoming homeless and are seeking support and help with their housing who would not normally be on council house waiting lists. Therefore, can the noble Earl say something about affordability in the context of the suitability of the accommodation? I hope that the Government will be able to give us some assurance on that matter. If not, I think that the text of Amendment No. 70, to which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, spoke so eloquently should perhaps be pressed.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord is relatively simple in that a house cannot be suitable for a person if he cannot afford to live in it. Therefore, "suitability" covers "affordability". The Ritz might be a suitable place in which to live, but if a person

8 Jul 1996 : Column 60

cannot afford that it would be quite inappropriate to send him to the Ritz. As I have said, I think that "suitability" covers "affordability".

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, before my noble friend finally sits down, I wonder whether he could clarify the phrase "unsatisfactory housing conditions". I got the impression that my noble friend was referring to more than just the physical structure of a building and its cleanliness, heating and draught-proofing. I have always understood that "unsatisfactory housing conditions" means poor quality housing and housing that should be condemned. I was referring to the "usability" of a house for a disabled person. It would be useful if my noble friend could clarify that point for me.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the phrase "poor quality housing" must cover a number of things and must relate to the person concerned. That phrase would apply if the rain was coming in and if the sewers stank. A property would also be "poor quality housing" if it comprised one bedroom and a bathroom but the occupant was a single mother with five children. That would be considered "unsuitable". Equally, a property would be unsuitable if it was at the top of a block of flats without a lift and was offered to someone in a wheelchair. That would obviously be improper. The phrase covers more than just the physical condition of the housing, but that is an important element of it.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for going just a little further on that point, which needed clarification. On the whole, my noble friend has answered all my concerns, but I should like to read what he has said and to reserve my position as to whether to return to this on Third Reading. However, given what has been said I doubt whether that will be necessary.

Referring to the first version of the amendment, I know that this was not due to my handwriting (because the amendment was handed in in typewritten form) but I like to think that everyone is "desirable" to someone. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 20 to 23 not moved.]

6.15 p.m.

Schedule 14 [Allocation of housing accommodation: consequential amendments]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 24:


Page 179, line 34, at end insert--

("Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 (c. )

.--(1) Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 (entitlement to housing accommodation and assistance) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) (entitlement to housing accommodation)--
(a) for "housing authority" substitute "local housing authority within the meaning of the Housing Act 1985", and
(b) for "the accommodation Part" substitute "Part II of that Act".

8 Jul 1996 : Column 61


(3) After subsection (4) insert--
"(5) This section does not apply in relation to any allocation of housing accommodation to which Part VI of the Housing Act 1996 (allocation of housing accommodation) applies.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 24, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 251, 253, 254, 255 and 261.

As I have already said on a number of occasions, the Government are taking steps to ensure that persons who are subject to immigration control and have been given leave to remain on the basis that they will not have recourse to public funds do not have access to local authority housing.

The Government's wider policy aim of excluding such persons from entitlement to any tenancy of, or licence to occupy, council accommodation is achieved by the provisions of Clause 9(1) of the Asylum and Immigration Bill, which has been considered thoroughly both in another place and by your Lordships.

It is important that that provision should continue to apply when the Housing Bill comes into force. The purpose of this group of amendments is to bring that about. However, there would be one exception to the exclusion from entitlement to local authority accommodation of persons subject to immigration control with no recourse to public funds.

Those noble Lords who attended the House during consideration of the Asylum and Immigration Bill at Report stage will recall that Clause 9 of that Bill was amended at the request of a number of noble Lords--including some of my noble friends, but more particularly the noble Earl, Lord Russell--to enable provision to be made by order to allow local housing authorities to lease accommodation to a college or university for sub-letting to its overseas students. Subject to the accommodation being surplus to the authority's general housing needs, such leasing would be allowed regardless of whether the students being accommodated were, or were not, persons entitled to be allocated a council tenancy.

The amendments would ensure that the broader provision on exclusions in Clause 9(1) of the Asylum and Immigration Bill continues to apply in England and Wales. This is important since the housing register is not the only route by which a housing authority may make its accommodation available.

Where an authority has hard-to-let accommodation which is not desired by those on its register it may consider making this available en bloc to other organisations seeking modest accommodation. This could include organisations in the voluntary sector looking for accommodation for persons who have no claim to public housing.

The amendments would also ensure that the "leasing" provision, if I may call it that, remains in force, allowing local housing authorities to continue to lease to colleges and universities accommodation which is surplus to their requirements.

The amendments will ensure that persons subject to immigration control who are in this country on the understanding that they will not have recourse to public funds do not have access to publicly subsidised local authority housing. At the same time, they will allow an

8 Jul 1996 : Column 62

order to be made enabling housing authorities to lease surplus accommodation to colleges and universities which want to provide affordable accommodation for their overseas students. From our previous debates, I am sure that your Lordships will welcome the amendments. I beg to move.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister warmly for this leasing concession to universities, which he originally announced when we were considering the Asylum and Immigration Bill and which he has now carried through in this Bill. I shall not say any more about the rest--and I am sure that the noble Lord is far too experienced to take that silence for consent.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 164 [Index of defined expressions: Part VI]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 25:


Page 102, line 13, after ("tenancy") insert ("and introductory tenant").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 25, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 181, 183, 184, 256 and 257.

These amendments tidy up the definition of an "introductory tenancy" and a "secure tenancy" used in Parts V and VI of the Bill and included in the general definitions in Clause 211. They will ensure that, in line with the Housing Act 1985, where a tenant has been granted a licence to occupy a local authority house or flat, rather than a tenancy, the provisions will apply to the licence as if it were a tenancy. The amendments are for the avoidance of doubt and I commend them to the House. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page