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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I too support the amendment. I use this opportunity to put two questions to the Minister. First, I seek the confirmation of the Minister as to the meaning of "available". In particular, does it retain its normal meaning as "available for occupation by a particular person", attaching the availability to the person concerned? I ask that question because later, in the context of Clause 181, the Minister has tabled an amendment to provide for satisfaction "that the accommodation was suitable for him"; in other words, it applies suitability to an individual. I wonder whether there is any difference here to which we should be alerted.

Secondly, I should like to ask the Minister about the timetable for regulations. I thank him for his long letter which comments on a number of issues. That letter arrived in the course of this afternoon. In it the Minister says that his department intends to consult the relevant interested bodies about the content of regulations to be made under Part VII and to have those regulations ready in time for commencement. Can the Minister confirm that actual regulations will be ready for commencement, not--as might be read

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into this--draft regulations? It is important that the regulations on suitability are in place by the time that these parts of the legislation are in force.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, flushed with the success of the previous amendment, I long to be helpful again to the noble Baroness. For the moment, my basket has run out of goodies, not because I disagree with the way in which the noble Baroness puts her case but because of the way in which the amendments may operate. The noble Baroness seeks to put beyond doubt that accommodation may be regarded as available to an applicant only if he is able to comply with the terms of the tenancy, in particular by being able to afford the rent. That may seem to be a perfectly reasonable proposition. Your Lordships will be aware that there was some discussion on the question of affordability at Committee stage when the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, proposed a similar amendment. There is already a degree of case law to support the proposition that someone is homeless if he cannot afford the rent of a property and that accommodation that may be offered in discharge of a duty is not suitable if the applicant cannot afford the rent. I refer to the answer that I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. One may be offered the Ritz but if one cannot afford it it is not much good. The noble Baroness feels that the matter is not beyond doubt and seeks to insert a provision to this effect on the face of the Bill.

In speaking to the amendment of the noble Baroness in Committee, my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish said that the proper place to set out what constituted affordability was in an order rather than on the face of the Bill. I believe that that is right. Circumstances and people's expectations as to what constitutes affordability are apt to change. It is important that we equip ourselves with powers which can adapt to changing attitudes and circumstances, even if that means, by the grace of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, secondary legislation. The noble Earl asked whether expensive accommodation was suitable. Accommodation is not suitable if a person has to find a large part of the rent himself and cannot afford it from his resources. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether availability attached to a person. I answer that by reminding the noble Baroness of the example that I gave earlier. A single parent with five children may be offered one bedroom and a kitchen. That may be available to someone but it is not available to her, nor is it suitable for her.

With regard to the regulations, we intend to make an order on affordability before the commencement of the Act, I hope by October, and we will consult on the regulations and the form that they will take beforehand. It will be the final order. It will not be the draft order.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I wonder whether there is as much difference between us as the Minister may think. Unless there was some slip of the tongue, what he said is that what counts as affordable would be conveyed in guidance. He did not

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say what counts as available but what counts as affordable would be conveyed in guidance. I absolutely agree. What counts as affordable should be conveyed in guidance but the question of affordability as part of the definition of being available or suitable should be on the face of the Bill.

I wonder if, with the leave of the House, the Minister can confirm that he did say what he meant to say, in which case he is actually supporting my argument that "affordable" should be part of the definition of the criteria of what is available or suitable, but that what counts as affordable in the light of the housing benefit situation and local reference rents should indeed be carried by guidance. In that case, there would be no difference between us. Therefore, I wonder whether the noble Lord did mean to say that what counts as affordable becomes part of the guidance or whether he meant to say what counts as available be part of the guidance. With the leave of the House, perhaps he could help me.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will try to help the noble Baroness, though of course with words such as "available", "suitable" and "affordable" it can become quite complicated. Perhaps I can set the noble Baroness's mind at rest. I always enjoy doing so, and I seem to be doing that quite well this afternoon. I can confirm to her that we intend to make use of the order-making powers in this part to address the issue of affordability. We will use those powers in order to place beyond doubt that accommodation is suitable for an applicant only if it is affordable. We intend to discuss the detail of our proposal for this order with the local authority associations and other interested parties in due course. I hope that the noble Baroness may rest her head quietly in contentment, not only with my answer but also with the fact that we shall discuss it with the local authority associations before the order is produced.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that answer. Our difficulty, of course, is that the case law has been somewhat opaque. I am simply concerned as to whether something which is quite so pivotal to the notion of accessibility--that is whether the rents are affordable--can be left to order-making powers. Obviously the Minister has said this on a previous occasion and we were not sufficiently persuaded, but we will consult and see whether his answer this afternoon still further allays our worries on the matter. With the leave of the House, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 33, as an amendment to Amendment to No. 32, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 32 agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 34:


Page 102, line 38, leave out subsections (3) and (4).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 167 [Whether it is reasonable to continue to occupy accommodation]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 35:


Page 103, line 5, leave out from ("that") to end of line 7 and insert ("this will lead to domestic violence against him, or against--
(a) a person who normally resides with him as a member of his family, or
(b) any other person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him as a member of his family.
For this purpose "domestic violence", in relation to a person, means violence from a person with whom he is associated, or threats of violence from such a person which are likely to be carried out.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 35 and speak also to Amendments Nos. 37 and 76. These three amendments work together to deliver a commitment which was made in another place to broaden the definition of domestic violence so as to embrace violence from partners who are no longer living with the victim.

Amendment No. 35 expands the wording of Clause 167 so that it will not be reasonable for a person to continue to occupy accommodation if it is probable that this will lead to domestic violence against him or against a member of his family who resides or might reside with him. Of course, as in the Civil Service, the male embraces the female and therefore that refers to her as well. It specifies that domestic violence is violence, or threatened violence from someone with whom he is "associated".

The definition of "associated" brings us to Amendment No. 37 which inserts a new clause after Clause 167 setting out the circumstances in which a person is "associated" for the purposes of Part VII of this Bill. It is a long and detailed list which some of your Lordships may recognise from the Family Law Bill. Indeed, that Bill was the source of this clause.

Amendment No. 76 is a small but significant consequential amendment. By extending those definitions and importing a definition of "associated person" into this part of the Bill, we are trying to tackle the situation whereby a person is subjected to violence or threats of it by a very wide but strictly defined group of people. Our main aim is to deal with actual or threatened violence on the basis of a person's relationship rather than on the basis of what might be described as a "residency-type qualification".

These are technical but important and significant amendments. I hope that your Lordships will agree to them. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, a few moments ago, in relation to Amendment No. 31, the Minister accepted the amendment to delete the words


    "as a member of his family".
It seems to me that the same point would apply to Amendment No. 35 where, again, we have the same words. In so far as the Minister suggested there had been some oversight and that Amendment No. 31 corrected this, it may well be that the same principle would apply here and the Minister would be happy, pleased or

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delighted to accept the particular proposition. Obviously I do not have an amendment tabled to that effect, but if that were the case and the Minister were to say so, then clearly we could see what would happen at the final stage of the Bill. As is clear, the point is very different from the categories covered in Amendment No. 37, as is clear. So I hope that the Minister will see his way to agreeing that there is a small defect in Amendment No. 35 which he will put right.


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