Mr. Clifton-Brown: It will be clear to the people of the Cotswolds from what the Minister has said in so many words that the number of houses to be built in the Cotswolds and the homelessness policy will increasingly be determined at regional level.
Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Gentleman is trying everyone's patience. When he reads Hansard, he will see that I did not say what he claims. I have said repeatedly that the homelessness strategy will be the responsibility of the district council. Cotswold district council will therefore be responsible for its homelessness strategy. I am sure that it will want support and assistance from the social services provided by the county and from registered social landlords and the Housing Corporation.
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that there should be no attempt to achieve co-ordination between those bodies in the preparation of a regional strategic approach to investment by the Housing Corporation or that there should be no attempt to engage social services in that approach? If so, I disagree, but I think that, on reflection, he will realise that our proposals are sensible.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: The Minister cannot import to me what I might realise. His words are on the record and will be studied carefully.
Mr. Raynsford: I am much happier in the knowledge that my words are on the record and will be studied than the hon. Gentleman will be when people study his words on the record, because he appears to have a very faint grasp of the processes whereby housing is provided and homelessness is relieved. He is wrong to suggest that the number of homes that will be built in the Cotswolds district is determined by the regional body. That is simply not correct. I hope that he will reflect on what I have said.
I have responded to some of the points raised by the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon, but I have not yet dealt with the importance of proper liaison between housing authorities and social services authorities. In the previous debate, I mentioned that the consultation that followed last April's publication of the Green Paper revealed serious failures in that regard. That is why a stronger emphasis is necessary on the importance of close collaboration between both social services and housing authorities. The Bill provides the mechanism for that.
The right hon. Gentleman has a penchant for analysing words and questioning whether they are judiciously chosen. I have faith in the parliamentary counsel who designed the Bill. It has the merit of being comprehensible: it is written in a form of English that most people can find their way through. The concepts in clause 16 will commend themselves to most readers, who will recognise a sensible framework for defining the responsibilities of the local housing authority and ensuring co-operation with the social services authority.
Mr. Curry: I want to be clear. Social services authorities have been asked to co-operate much more closelysometimes to mergewith primary health organisations and with housing authorities. That is perfectly right and proper, but people must be able to recognise that the social services have a distinct function and cannot always define it in terms of what other bodies require of them. Consultation must be genuine and the capacity of social service organisations must be taken into account in the formulation of strategies.
Mr. Raynsford: I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, but if social services are to discharge their responsibilities and provide a proper service to homeless people, it is inevitable that they will have regard to the local homelessness strategies produced by district councils. Otherwise, it would be difficult to put an appropriate framework in place.
Mr. Curry: But those strategies are at the point of their devising and consultation with the strategic partners must take account of the capacity and advice of social services and must establish what form of co-operation is feasible at that stage. If it works well then, the problem that concerns me need not arise.
Mr. Raynsford: That is why we want to establish a framework to ensure consultation and the involvement of social services in preparing a strategy. It is up to the individual social services authority to set out what it believes are the parameters that limit its scope to meet the pressures placed on it. Each authority will also have to have regard to its statutory obligations, particularly to young people. The framework allows realistic discussion between social services and district councils before the strategy is put in place. When it is in place, the social services authority should, as it discharges its obligations, have regard to it.
I hope that all the loose ends of the clause, which we have covered exhaustively, have been tied up and that members of the Committee will agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The Chairman: We now come to clause 17 and I find myself in a peculiar position as Chairman in having to declare a non-pecuniary interest. Amendments Nos. 62 and 63 deal with welfare of animals provision in housing. From a former incarnation, I find myself the chairman of an organisation called Pathwayan acronym for pets and the homeless. It is perverse that I am in the Chair when this issue might be debated. My Clerk and Mr. Stevenson, not me, made the selection this morning. If any member of the Committee feels that it is improper for me to remain in the Chair while these matters are debated, I would be happy to defer them to the Floor of the House and Mr. Speaker. If the Committee is satisfied that I can maintain my impartiality during the debate, we can proceed. We shall see how circumstances develop at the time.
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