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Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 2:


Page 5, line 31, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. Clause 8 gives registered social landlords a power to dispose of land. Clause 9 provides that before disposing of land a registered social landlord must obtain the prior consent of the corporation. Clause 10 specifies certain categories of disposals by registered social landlords which do not require corporation consent.

At Committee stage the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, identified a possible difficulty over these clauses with regard to the power of registered social landlords to dispose of land under Part V of the Housing Act 1985 (the right to buy) and Clause 16 of this Bill (the right to acquire). We have looked again at these clauses and agree that there is some uncertainty over the wording. The amendments will clarify the position and I thank the noble Baroness for identifying this difficulty. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 9 [Consent required for disposal of land by registered social landlord]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 3:


Page 5, line 38, at end insert ("under section 8").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 10 [Lettings and other disposals not requiring consent of Corporation]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 4:


Page 6, line 37, at end insert--
("(3) Consent under section 9 is not required for a disposal under Part V of the Housing Act 1985 (the right to buy) or under the right conferred by section 16 below (the right to acquire).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 5:


Page 12, line 21, at end insert ("and have regard to the views of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 5 amends Clause 17 of the Bill. At Report stage, the Government introduced an amendment which we welcomed regarding the consultation which would be conducted with housing authorities, local authorities and with organisations representative of registered social landlords, if the Government decided to remove the designation from an area where the exemption from the right to buy had been granted.

We said at the time that we felt it was not sufficient just to consult. There should be some attempt to ensure that the Government have regard to the results of that consultation. The effect of this amendment would be to add to line 21 on page 12 where the subsection says,


    "the Secretary of State shall consult",
the words,


    "and have regard to the views of".
As I have said, we welcomed the government amendment on Report and the consultation amendment but we said then that we did not think it went far enough. When we discussed the matter at Report stage, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said:


    "Local interests will be warned of any proposed changes before an order is laid before Parliament".--[Official Report, 11/7/96; col. 502.]
He did not go on to say what would happen if, after the warning, the local authorities were consulted and were strongly opposed to the views of the Government. As the subsection is worded, the Government could ignore those views. We feel that there should be some means of requiring the Government at least to have regard to the views which they hear in the consultation, which we welcome.

We must point out that we do not doubt for a moment the good faith of the noble Earl and his colleagues. But Ministers change, departments change and, from time to time, there is even a change of government. Therefore, we feel that it is important to have this wording on the face of the Bill to ensure that the Government would at least have regard to the views of those they have consulted.

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There is a clear precedent for this in a Bill which is to come before the House tomorrow; namely, the Deer (Scotland) Bill. I am not referring to the Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill but to the Deer (Scotland) Bill which is to be considered on recommitment tomorrow. Subsection 5(2) of that Bill states:


    "Before making an order ... the Secretary of State may consult such persons or organisations as he thinks fit, or may direct the Commission to carry out such consultation on his behalf".
It then says in subsection (4):


    "Where the Secretary of State or the Commission have carried out consultation ... the Secretary of State shall have regard to the results of that consultation".

If having regard to the results of the consultation is acceptable in the Deer (Scotland) Bill on Thursday, it is perfectly fair to ask the Government why it is not acceptable in relation to the Housing Bill on Wednesday. There is a clear precedent here in the Government's own wording. Now there is that precedent, which I am sure the Government were seeking. They have used the phrase and have said in relation to the Deer (Scotland) Bill that they will have regard to the results of consultation. This is a very simple amendment which costs nothing. We are told continually that we have a listening government and that we are in the days of open government. Therefore, it is important to have those words on the face of the Bill.

Perhaps I may sum up by saying that there has been concern that the exemption granted to a rural area could be lifted by another Minister or ministerial order. If that were done in inappropriate circumstances, it would be damaging to the confidence of landowners who have made available their land on easy terms for the benefit of the local community.

As I said, we welcome the intention to carry out the consultations, but the duty on the Secretary of State under subsection (6) as worded is simply to consult with the parties concerned. He would not be obliged to have regard to their views. We feel that it is important to have a reminder on the face of the Bill that the Government should have regard to those views. As I say, there is a clear precedent in the wording of the Deer (Scotland) Bill which the House will discuss tomorrow. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I must remind your Lordships that the object of this amendment and, indeed, the next one, is to ensure the continued confidence of landowners in offering land for rural housing. As we all know, confidence is a fickle animal, hence the need for this supportive amendment.

I suspect that my noble friend Lord Ferrers will say that there is no need for the amendment and that any reasonable Secretary of State would always have regard to the results of consultation. That may or may not be so. However, I ask, if that is the case, why the words are in so many other Acts of Parliament, in particular that mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, but also in a number of environment Acts. Would not what I call the Renton rule apply in that, if you mention something specifically, it is assumed that if something is not mentioned it is excluded? In this case, because there is

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no specific mention that the Secretary of State should take note of the results of consultation, it is implied that he need not do so.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have my name to the amendment. I support strongly the notion, however it is expressed, that in consulting anybody the Secretary of State should have regard to the points which are made to him; in other words, listening as well as passively hearing.

I was comforted to hear the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, to the Bill where those words appear, because my concern is that if the words are written in they may in some way undermine other references to consultation both within this Bill and other legislation. It would be helpful to have a complete understanding applying to all legislation that consult means to consult and have regard to. I should be very happy if that were retrospective to the year 1600. However that is achieved, the need to have regard to views expressed is absolutely self-evident, and if it is not self-evident in the drafting, then it should be made evident.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that if you consult with somebody, it is self-evident that you must have regard to what they say. Although I understand the reasons which have been put forward so courteously by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, I understand too exactly what he is getting at. He infers that if you consult with someone you must have regard to what he says. Not only in my department but right across Whitehall, if you consult people of course you take note of what they say. It does not mean that you must agree with what they say. My fear is that, if this provision were included, it might imply that you should give preference to that sort of consultation or those people whom you have consulted as opposed to anyone else.

I find it very difficult to believe that either my noble friend Lord Stanley, for whom I have very great respect, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, or the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would think that consultations with people would be carried out and then precisely no regard would be had to what those people had said. Frankly, that would be a farce. The Government have been criticised for a number of things but I do not believe that they have been criticised for being farcical, particularly when they have gone to the point of saying, as a result of pressure from your Lordships, that the Secretary of State should consult housing authorities. It would be unnecessary to have those words on the face of the Bill.

To give the Secretary of State a duty to have regard to the views of those consulted in this particular case could cast doubt on his other duties to consult where no such additional duty is mentioned. It would simply imply that in those areas where it was not mentioned the Secretary of State would not be under an obligation to take account of any views put forward to him. Obviously, that is not what is intended.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, referred to the Deer (Scotland) Bill where there are duties to consult and there is an explicit duty to have regard to those

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views. I cite Clause 53(4) and Clause 51(5). I understand the reasoning of my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, but I feel that this amendment is unnecessary. We could not possibly consult and then take no notice of those consultations. The inference is that you consult and then throw the answers in the waste-paper basket. That is not practical and it does not happen like that.


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