HC Deb 26 October 1988 vol 139 cc401-3


That, at this day's sitting, the Lords Amendments to the Housing (Scotland) Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Maclean.]

Lords amendments again considered.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

At present and because of unforeseen consequences of amending the definition of housing associations for the purpose of part VI of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984, the SSHA, development corporations and co-operative housing associations are included within the scope of part VI of that Act. This means that, unintentionally, these bodies can have their rents determined and registered by the rent officer. Of course, this is nonsensical and has never happened. Having seen this mistake, we naturally want to correct it at the first available opportunity and have thus included clause 65 and an early commencement date—the day the Act is passed. That deals with amendment (a).

I cannot accept amendment (b) and can find no good reason why the provisions in clause 62 should not be commenced two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent.

Since the provisions in clause 62 were tabled by amendment on Report, they have been the subject of much debate in this House and in another place. I have listened with interest to what the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) has said but cannot accept the points that he makes.

In connection with amendment (c), despite misgivings expressed earlier in the House, the matter was not challenged in another place and I find it surprising that the hon. Member for East Lothian now returns to the provision in such an obscure way. I recommend that amendment (c) be rejected.

I shall now deal briefly with the amendment to Lords amendment No. 58 in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. Under the provisions of clause 63 some Exchequer subsidies are terminated on 1 April 1989. Because of a drafting error, the date of the consequential repeal of the existing powers is specified in paragraph (b) as being two months after the date of Royal Assent.

This error, if uncorrected, would leave a gap of about three months between the repeals and the coming into force of the new provisions on 1 April 1989. There would therefore be no legal right for a local authority to receive, or for the Government to pay, the grants and subsidies covered by these repealed provisions during that period. The amendment to Lords amendment No. 58 removes from paragraph (b) the references to existing provisions, leaving them to be repealed by a commencement order under subsection (2)(d) on 1 April 1989.

Lords Amendment No. 58 sets out on the face of the Bill commencement dates for certain of its provisions. An order will shortly be prepared setting out the commencement dates for the other provisions of the Bill. Hon. Members may find it helpful if I set our intentions out in broad terms. Scottish Homes will come into operation on 1 April 1989, but it will be necessary to bring some provisions relating to it in part I and the schedules into effect earlier, so that it can prepare itself for full-scale operation. The provisions relating to the private rented sector in part II and the related schedules will come into effect early in the new year. Finally, part III of the Bill relating to tenants' choice will come into effect on 1 April next year.

Mr. Adam Ingram (East Kilbride)

I should like to ask the Minister for some assurances on clause 67. Will he give us an assurance that there will be no disposal of land or houses on land within the Scottish new towns before the full consultation process has been gone through? I understand that Lords amendment No. 58 would take away one aspect of the process by which there would be discussion in the House. It appears that two months after the Bill becomes an Act clause 67 could be applied in full.

The House should be aware that within the last four weeks the Government have twice called off the consultation document on the wind-up of the new towns. They did so without any consultation with the district councils or even with the development corporation. They simply said that they wanted those documents produced and in the hands of the public, and then called off the consultations at the last moment.

People in the new towns are worried that, as a result of Lords amendment No. 58, shortly after the Bill becomes an Act, the Government will start disposing of land and, more importantly, the houses on that land. Will there be full consultation? Will that consultation paper, when it is produced, be subject to the full rigours of the normal consultation period, and will the Minister give his assurance that there will be no implementation of the intention to wind up the new towns until that process has been gone through?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The short answer to the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) is yes. I am sitting next to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is responsible for new towns, and I can say that the consultation document will be brought forward soon.

Mr. Home Robertson

I have received so much satisfaction from hearing the Minister explain that these amendments arise out of a cock-up by the Scottish Office that I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment (d) to the Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 59 and 60 agreed to. [Special entry.]

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