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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am very disappointed by that answer because it did not deal with the substance, whether substantial or substantive, of the matter. My point is that there is a planning procedure in place which is quite well known which provides alternative mechanisms for achieving greater stock: agreements with developers either to build housing or to make available some units of a total development to those who might otherwise not be able to afford either to rent or to buy. Tenure is not an issue in this amendment. That is one way of approaching, through planning, the problem of the shortage of stock when a local planning authority is making an agreement with a developer.

Frequently, a developer will be looking at a site which may not be suitable for the number of houses that he is prepared to negotiate around. It may be a particularly good site, perhaps a riverside site--and I have known that when I was chairing a planning authority some years ago--where the housing to be built was likely to achieve a very high price on the open market. The negotiations would go forward on the basis that while the developer may not be prepared to give up the good site for affordable housing, he would be prepared to make a contribution to the funds that the local planning authority/housing authority had available. Those funds then go into a pot in order to enable building elsewhere. That is a very important mechanism for minor but cumulatively important increases in stock.

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The draft guidance is saying no to commuted payments because of that. It seemed really important to address the issue as part of this Bill.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, with the leave of the House, the noble Baroness has made an important point. It is a point of detail which I should like to consider. I cannot give any guarantee but I should like to consider what we should do or whether it is right to do anything. Perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to write to her on this issue.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful for that and I shall certainly be happy to pursue the matter outside the Chamber if that were to be useful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 [Right of tenant to acquire dwelling: supplementary provisions]:

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 212:


Page 11, line 22, leave out ("may").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil, I move the amendment so that the Minister will have an opportunity to comment on it, if he so wishes. I gather that nine other amendments are grouped with this amendment. Perhaps it may be for the convenience of the House if the noble Lord, Lord Carter, speaks to Amendments Nos. 217, 218, 221 and 221C. I beg to move.

Lord Carter: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 212, 213, 215, 219 and 220 stood in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, in Committee and were moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley.

We covered the ground on them fairly thoroughly then so that there is no need to repeat that. In Committee we wondered about the definition which the noble Lord had used in his amendments. He is on to quite a good idea if the Government were so minded to accept the amendments, although I have a feeling that they will not. However, I shall be interested to see whether the Government have changed their minds since Committee stage.

This whole group of amendments concerns Clause 17. Our main concern is to ensure that the areas where right to buy for new tenants of social landlords would not apply should be properly defined and that there should be proper procedures for consultation before designation of areas. As noble Lords will know, in Committee we achieved a number of government undertakings on the record which we welcomed, and we thank the Government for that.

The Government propose to use the negative procedure to lay all the regulations listing the settlements where right to buy will not apply and we have undertakings by letter and in Hansard that once the areas are designated, the removal from designation will be a very rare event. If that is the case, it seems to us to be reasonable that such removal of the exemption, which we were told by the Government on a number of

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occasions in Committee would be very rare, should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and justified to Parliament. Our Amendments Nos. 221 and 221C deal with that aspect of the matter. I shall return to them later.

In order to head us off on the point, so to speak, the Government have tabled Amendment No. 217A which requires consultation only before the removal of the designation. Obviously we cannot oppose consultation--indeed, we welcome it--but, on its own, it is not enough. The Government can consult as much as they like, but there is no guarantee that they will take any notice of the consultation.

I turn now to Amendment No. 217A which is the consultation amendment tabled in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. It is, so to speak, the consultation olive branch as regards the change in designation. As I said, we welcome the amendment as far as it goes; but, unfortunately, it does not go far enough. We certainly support the amendment, but we also hope to persuade the Government to accept either Amendment No. 221 or, more particularly, Amendment No. 221C.

The effect of the Government's amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to consult with local housing authorities and registered social landlords before they make the subsequent orders which would cause rural areas previously designated as exempt to cease to be so. It places a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to carry out the consultations required before making amending orders. However, we believe that it is a weak duty to require the Secretary of State to consult and then completely ignore the representations that might be made to him by the consultees. We note that the amendment does not even oblige the Secretary of State to have regard to what the consultees say.

Staying with the point of consultation, I should point out that the situation is a little ironic. I am just trying to recall the number of Bills with which I have been involved where I have attempted to put a consultation amendment on the face of the legislation. Such attempts have always been resisted by the Government. However, on this occasion we are delighted that the Government have accepted the argument and, indeed, have tabled an amendment.

I move on now to our Amendments Nos. 221 and 221C which are tabled in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. In fact, Amendment No. 218 is a paving amendment to these amendments. Before the Minister replies and points it out, perhaps I may say that, on further reflection, we tend to consider the drafting of Amendment No. 221 as probably being flawed. It would only give the Government six months after Royal Assent to lay the regulations which would designate all the areas where the right to buy will not apply. We do not know what the timetable is in that respect. Therefore, we have left the amendment on the Marshalled List so that the Government can tell us whether they believe they will be able to lay all the regulations which designate such areas within six months, or whether in fact it will take longer.

The amendment that we hope the Government will accept is Amendment No. 221C. It simply says that once an area or a settlement has been designated using the

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negative procedure--with which we have agreed--then removal of that designation should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. In Committee, we were told endlessly that the removal of the designation would be a very rare occurrence; that is, according to the Government. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will not argue that we will be taking up parliamentary time by the use of that affirmative procedure.

As I said, the consultation proposed by the Government in Amendment No. 217A is all very fine and well--indeed, we believe that the Government should consult in any event--but it is not really enough. The outcome of such consultation resulting in the removal of those exemptions should be debated in both Houses. In conclusion, we welcome and support Amendment No. 217A and will be particularly interested to hear whether the Government will accept Amendment No. 221C which deals with the change to the affirmative resolution procedure.

7. p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may speak now rather than speak to each amendment as it is called. I believe that that will make the process quicker and simpler. We should all remember what the noble Lord said; namely, that the purpose of the amendments is to ensure the confidence of landowners to offer land for exempt rural housing developments. The encouraging aspect is that all parties accept that fact, especially the Government, as evidenced by their tabling of Amendment No. 217A. That amendment makes it a duty to consult before making an exempt area non-exempt.

Without wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth--which, of course, I am doing--there are snags to the Government's amendment. In particular, what happens if no agreement is reached? If that were to be the case, it would surely be in everyone's interest, especially the Government's, to have the matter discussed in the open by Parliament. Hence the need for our Amendment No. 221 which would require an affirmative order.

I shall be most interested to hear the reply of my noble friend the Minister as to whether he likes or dislikes our amendments. Perhaps I may remind my noble friend that such a change would not take up much parliamentary time because, as my noble friend Lord Mackay said in Committee:


    "For the great majority of settlements the exemptions are never likely to change".--[Official Report, 11/6/96; col. 1584.]
Like the noble Lord, Lord Carter, perhaps I may go further and apologise for the tabling of Amendment No. 221. I fully understand that that would have meant that all changes after six months would have to be dealt with by affirmative order. That is not what we desire. We are really only interested in the second amendment which was tabled yesterday. Indeed, I will understand if my noble friend Lord Ferrers feels that he needs to take a little time to consider the amendment. I believe that we have rather sprung the matter upon him. I very much regret that fact.

As regards Amendment No. 217, I am afraid that I failed to notice in Committee that my noble friend Lord Mackay did not give me a complete answer

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regarding what happens to the money when a house which was exempt becomes non-exempt and is sold. However, my noble friend also said in Committee (at col. 1584 of Hansard) that,


    "where they [the landowners] have donated land and the tenant subsequently buys, the benefit of their generosity is simply rolled over into replacement housing".
That is absolutely fine: but where? Will the replacement housing still be in the landowner's ownership, parish or district? I fear that I may well be far more parochial than my noble friend on the Front Bench as I would wish that money to replace something fairly locally.

Perhaps my noble friend would also care to look with care at the points made by my noble friend Lord Dundonald in Committee (at col. 1590 of Hansard). He pointed out that such houses will be undervalued when they are sold for various reasons, so that the money raised will not be enough to buy a replacement house. I hope that my noble friend will be able to be positive as regards the affirmative order.


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