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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may say that I take his point entirely that having regard to views does not mean that you agree with them. However, the Minister may care to reflect aloud on the fact that this Bill flows from a White Paper on which the Government consulted. It provoked tens of thousands of reactions, almost all of which were against the Government's proposals for dealing with the question of homelessness. I agree that those were not in the sort of detail to which the noble Lord, Lord Carter, referred. But, as I say, there were tens of thousands of responses on the Government's approach to homelessness, to which we shall turn later, and other matters such as the right to buy. I hope that, from what the Government have said, they were in a position to write cogent, detailed replies to each of the respondents.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, we are moving to a different matter. The noble Baroness is saying, or implying, that if there are tens of thousands of responses, the Government should make their mind up with regard to those responses because they are copious in number. The noble Baroness knows very well that a lot of people respond to things because they feel strongly about them, but they do not necessarily respond when they are indifferent to them.

To suggest that, because you have tens of thousands of responses, you just brush them on one side is not the case. If somebody fires a bomb into your house, the foundations may shake but you may still be able to live there. When people say terrible things about what the Government are doing, of course they take note, but it does not necessarily mean that they have to participate in that view simply because a lot of people hold it.

My fear is that if you say "you must take note of this" that will imply a precedence over other cases, the implication being that in those cases where you are not obliged to take note you do exactly that--you do not take note--and that is not right.

Lord Carter: My Lords, that was a very good try by the noble Earl but was very unconvincing. If, in fact, it is self-evident, then why not say so? In the normal meaning of the English language "having regard to" does not mean "having to agree with". It means exactly what it says, "having regard to".

The noble Earl has not answered my point. In a Bill which the House will be considering later tonight, there is a requirement to consult. The noble Earl said that there was no explicit requirement to "have regard to" but there is. Subsection (4) states:

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The consultation to which the Government say they have a duty to have regard concerns the fixing of a period in each year during which no person shall take or wilfully kill or injure any deer of the sex and species named in the order--that is male and female deer. I am referring to the close season for deer. Are the government really saying that it is important to have consultation with regard to the close season or the open season in which you can kill deer, but that it is not important to have regard to the consultation affecting large numbers of rural tenants and rural landlords? We have had discussions about the importance of rural housing; are the Government really prepared to introduce a requirement for consultation concerning the close season for deer but not on the important matter of rural housing?

Lord Rippon of Hexham: My Lords, the up-shot of this debate is that it is the Deer (Scotland) legislation that should be amended.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Rippon for such a penetrating intervention. He is quite right.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, is perfectly fair. If I were in his position I would make such a contrast and preen my feathers for having been clever enough to have discovered it.

If we alter this particular part of the Bill, it will throw into question all the other parts in the Bill which also refer to consultation and which do not contain those words.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, shakes his head, but there are a number of occasions in the Bill where the Government are obliged to consult. If on this one particular occasion they are obliged to "have regard to" what is said, the implication is that on all the other occasions where they merely have to "consult" there is a difference and distinction between the two. It is much more important to get the equality right throughout the Bill rather than trying to compare it to some other Bill which may or may not be of such importance as the Housing Bill. For continuity and conformity it is much better to remain with the words as they are in the Bill, which I can assure noble Lords will mean that in the end the Government will take note of consultations.

Lord Carter: My Lords, if the noble Earl is so concerned he will have a chance in the other place to add the words "have regard to" where "consultation" appears elsewhere in the Bill.

It is clear that the noble Earl is not going to give way. The deer in Scotland will be a lot happier with his answers than the tenants and landlords of rural housing but, having said that, I do not intend to press the point. We have had a good discussion and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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3.45 p.m.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 12, line 29, at end insert (", unless the order is one to which subsection (6) applies in which case no such order shall be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 6 returns to a point we discussed on Report. We were not entirely happy with the answer that the noble Earl gave at that time. He will remember that there was a complex group of amendments which covered a number of areas affecting Clause 17. On reflection, we feel that it would have been better to have had a separate discussion about those matters, which is why we tabled the amendment I have just withdrawn and this one.

I will repeat, briefly, the points we made on Report. We entirely accept that the initial orders which designate the areas to be exempt from the right to buy should be laid under the negative procedure. That is a proper use of the negative procedure. But we believe that the changing of the designation--in other words, removing the exemption--should be by means of the affirmative procedure, and should be discussed by Parliament in an open debate.

The Minister will give me two replies, so I shall attempt to deal with them before he does. The first one will refer to parliamentary time. He will say that the affirmative procedure will use up parliamentary time. In Hansard on the 11th July 1996 the noble Lord said:

    "Once the rural exemptions are made, we do not intend continually to revisit them. For the great majority of settlements the exemptions are never likely to change".--[Official Report, col. 503; 11/7/96.]

In a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Shuttleworth, the chairman of the Royal Development Commission, Mr. David Curry made the point that:

    "As already explained, we have no intention of removing exemptions, except in special circumstances, but they cannot be immutable."
Obviously the change of designation will be a very rare event, so I hope that the noble Earl will not try the argument about the use of parliamentary time.

The second point, which did cause us some concern and about which we had an extremely interesting discussion, is the point of hybridity. The noble Earl said:

    "If we were to use a positive resolution, it could raise a curious spectre of hybridity".--[Official Report; col. 504; 11/7/96.]
I was not aware, until the noble Earl pointed it out, that hybridity procedures apply only to affirmative orders. It seems to be a curious lacuna in the procedure of the House that affirmative orders are the only ones where hybridity applies.

I have checked with legal advisers in the House and, if the Government are concerned about hybridity, there is a very easy way to resolve the problem. Since 1983 the Government have introduced large numbers of de-hybridising amendments--it sounds extremely painful, I must admit--to deal with the question of hybridity of affirmative orders. So the Government are experienced in this. I am told by the highest authority that all the Government have to do, if they accept this amendment, is introduce a de-hybridising amendment in

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the other place. It is a standard procedure, perfectly straightforward, and therefore the hybridity argument does not run because there is an answer which can be easily set in place in the other place and which has been done before.

The change of designation will affect social landlords, a large number of tenants and those landowners who have given the land in the first place. It is important that the Government, to use their own words, on the very rare occasions when they intend to change the designation, should bring forward an order under the affirmative procedure so that the change of designation can be discussed in both Houses.

We have said that the consultation procedure under subsection (6) is welcome. We are dealing with the property right of individuals and it is appropriate that such orders should be consciously approved by Parliament. That objective can be achieved by the words which we propose should be added to subsection (7). Orders of this kind will attract the affirmative resolution procedure whereby each House of Parliament has to approve the order before it can come into effect.

As I said, I have taken advice on the hybridity point. That does not apply. The argument about the use of parliamentary time does not apply either. I hope that, on behalf of the Government, the noble Earl will be able to accept the amendment. I beg to move.

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