HC Deb 29 October 1985 vol 84 cc952-4

10.2 pm

The Solicitor-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, leave out lines 27 to 30 and insert— '(e)"local authority" means a county, district or London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly, and in sections 45(2)(b), 50(2), 51(6), 80(1), 157(1), 171(2), 438, 441, 442, 443, 444(4), 452(2), 453(2), 573(1), paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 2, grounds 7 and 12 in Schedule 3, ground 5 in Schedule 4, paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 5, paragraph 5(1)(b) of Schedule 6 and Schedule 17 includes the Inner London Education Authority and a joint authority established by Part IV of the Local Government Act 1985.'. I hope that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak generally on the amendments not only to the Housing Bill but to the Housing Associations Bill, the Housing (Consequential Provisions) Bill and the Landlord and Tenant Bill. The amendments are essentially of two kinds-first to take account of the provisions of the Local Government Act 1985 and, secondly, minor drafting corrections and improvemennts.

The Local Governmet Act has altered the law concerning certain local authorities and, if these Bills are to represent the law as it now is, it is necessary for certain amendments to be made. They can be divided into three groups. First are the amendments to remove references to the Greater London council — references to county councils remain to cover shire counties— and to add references to the new bodies established by the Local Government Act — the new Inner London Education Authority, the joint bodies established by part IV and the residuary bodies.

The same drafting scheme is followed as in the Local Government Act. References to ILEA and to the joint bodies are inserted in the housing provisions, but the position of residuary bodies, whose duration is limited, is dealt with in schedule 13 to the Local Government Act, referring to the relevant housing functions. In consequence of the abolition of the strategic functions of the GLC, a certain amount of re-arrangement of the Housing Bill is required, principally the removal of schedule 1 and the incorporation of the surviving provisions elsewhere.

The number of amendments to the Housing (Consequential Provisions) Bill is accounted for by the fact that the abolition of the GLC makes it possible greatly to simplify the definition of "local housing authority" in outlying enactments.

The second group of amendments arising as a result of the Local Government Act are those that put back the commencement of the consolidation to 1 April 1986, when the Local Government Act comes into force. A paragraph is also to be inserted into schedule 3 to the Housing (Consequential Provisions) Bill to make it clear that what is consolidated is the law as it stands after the Local Government Act has come into force, although the Acts all come into force on the same day. It also makes it clear that references in the consolidation to things done by or in relation to the local authorities before 1 April 1986 continue to include things done by, or in relation to, councils abolished on that date.

The third group is of consequential amendments of housing provisions in various GLC Acts, which also apply to London borough councils. These amendments were not included earlier because of the pending Local Government Bill, but in the event they are purely consequential on the consolidation and are not affected by the Local Government Act.

The minor drafting corrections and improvements are largely to secure consistency of style and expression, to correct minor mistakes which have come to light and to deal with other small points, such as removing references to the Development Land Tax Act 1976 which has been repealed by the Finance Act.

On Second Reading on 21 October 1985 the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) drew attention to the work of the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, the value of which is recognised by the House. This Committee considers consolidation Bills after they have received their Second Reading in the other place. It then reports to both Houses. Any amendments suggested by the joint Committee are incorporated into the Bill in the other place before it comes to this House.

However, sometimes it is the case that while a Bill is in progress, other Acts change the law, or small drafting or technical matters come to light. In these cases the usual procedure is for the draftsman to submit amendments to the chairman of the Joint Committee as a matter of courtesy and to enable him to comment, should he wish to do so. While there may be no formal requirement, the practice is well established and enables both Houses to deal with such amendments with greater confidence.

In this case the draftsman followed the established practice and submitted all, bar one, of the amendments made to take account of the provisions of the Local Government Act and some of the drafting corrections and improvements. The chairman raised some small points, which the draftsman incorporated. However, due to the absence of the chairman, Lord Brightman, following illness, it was not possible to submit to him before the Committee stage, originally fixed for 24 October 1985, the rest of the amendments, nor those already submitted and commented upon.

The concern expressed about the House considering the amendments in these circumstances led to the agreement through the usual channels for the Committee stage to be put off until today. I entirely understand and accept the grounds for the concern of the hon. Member for Newcastle on Tyne, East. At a late hour I inadvertently expressed myself in a slightly unfortunate way about the problem of getting information to him about amendments. I entirely understand the view that he took about that, and I regret what I said on that occasion.

This has enabled the amendments, as tabled, to be submitted to the chairman over the weekend. I understand that he has seen them and that he is content. In those circumstances and, since they do not change the existing law and represent pure consolidation, I hope that the Committee can move on to consider them in the spirit of co-operation usual for consolidation measures. Before doing so, once again may I pay tribute to the work of the joint committee and to its chairman. It is apparent from what I have said that the committee plays a crucial part in these matters. I am sure that the House of Commons will wish to join me in expressing our gratitude. I commend the amendments to this Committee.

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

I fully accept the Solicitor-General's apology for the misunderstanding which occurred last week over the timing of the Opposition's receipt of the amendments. The House has rights. It is only proper that the Opposition and the Committee as a whole should be assured that we are agreeing to consolidation. I am now satisfied that we are agreeing to consolidation—indeed, very good consolidation. I endorse the thanks of the Solicitor-General to the Committee and its staff.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 and 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill. Clause 7 disagreed to.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 disagreed to.

Clauses 10 to 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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