HL Deb 17 February 1975 vol 357 cc47-56

4.25 p.m.

Report stage resumed.

Clause 10 [Reserve power to limit rents]:

Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 7, 8, and 9: Page 8, line 36, leave out (" section ") and insert (" subsection ") Page 8, line 41, leave out ("section") and insert (" subsection ") Page 8, line 42, leave out (" section ") and insert (" subsection ")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I will move Amendments Nos 7, 8 and 9 together. These three Amendments are consequential on the Amendments made at Committee stage which inserted subsections (5) to (9) into Clause 10 and provided a different date of operation (two weeks after Royal Assent) for these provisions. The remainder of the clause comes into operation on Royal Assent. Consequently, the reference in subsection (4) of the clause to the coming into force of the section should be to the coming into force of that subsection—that is to say, on Royal Assent—and these Amendments produce that result.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 16 [Citation, etc.]:

Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 10: Page 14, line 24, leave out (" subsections (7) and (8)") and insert (" subsection (7)")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is merely a drafting Amendment to leave out an unncessary reference in subsection (9) to subsection (8). Subsection (8), which preserves the effect of the rent freeze in the public sector until 31st March 1975, comes into force on Royal Assent, and has no relevance to the commencement provisions in subsection (9). I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 11. It is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 14, leave out lines 33 and 34.— (Baroness Young.)

On Question Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Provisions Supplementary to section 9]:

Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 30, line 20, at end insert— (" . The power of the Lord Chancellor under section 106 of the Rent Act 1968 to make rules and give directions for the purpose of giving effect to certain provisions of that Act shall extend to the provisions of section 9 above.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a purely technical Amendment. It extends the order-making power for the Lord Chancellor to make procedural regulations. This power is contained in Section 106 of the Rent Act 1968. This Amendment extends it to cover the new jurisdiction conferred on the county couirt by Clause 9 of this Bill, which enables the court to determine the proportion of the cost of repairs to premises which contain a dwelling let on a controlled tenancy which is within the 12½ per cent. rent increase figure.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 14.

Amendment moved— Page 32, leave out lines 42 to 44.— (Baroness Young.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.29 p.m.

Lord MELCHETT moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 35, line 31, at end insert— (" . At the end of section 17 of that Act (loans and grants limited to registered housing associations) there shall be added the following subsection:— (5) Nothing in subsection (l)(b) above shall prevent a local authority, including a county council, from making loans under section 119(3)(a) of the Housing Act 1957 to an unregistered self-build society, as defined in section 12 above, for the purpose of enabling it to meet the whole or any part of any expenditure incurred or to be incurred by it in carrying out its objects." ")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this Amendment is to enable local authorities to make loans under Section 119(3)(a) of the Housing Act 1957 to self-build societies, who have not been registered by the Housing Corporation, on or after 1st April 1975. Under Section 17(1) of the Housing Act 1974, the making of certain loans and grants to housing associations is limited from 1st April 1975 to those associations registered with the Housing Corporation under Section 13 of that Act. Subsection (1)(b) of Section 17 provides that loans under Section 119(3)(a) of the Housing Act 1957, which enables local authorities to make grants or loans to housing associations, are restricted in this way. This Amendment removes that restriction in the case of self-build societies.

Although it was a basic principle to assist only registered housing associations, we recognise that self-build societies, who are housing associations by definition, should not be required to go through the complicated system of registration and deregistration. This is because the self-build societies are inevitably transient by nature, since on completion of the project the houses are transferred to individuals and the society wound up. But the Government wish to encourage an expansion of self-build activity alongside the development of registered housing associations. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

May I thank the noble Lord for that explanation and say that I think that is a most useful provision which I am happy to support.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.31 p.m.

Lord MELCHETT moved Amendment No. 16

Page 38, line 9, at end insert— . For section 114 of that Act (rehabilitation orders) there shall be substituted the following section: —

Rehabilitation orders

114.—(1) This section applies to any house comprised in a clearance area under Part III of the Housing Act 1957

  1. (a) which has been purchased by agreement or compulsorily at any time before 2nd December 1974 under section 43 of the Housing Act 1957, or
  2. 50
  3. (b) which is subject to a compulsory purchase order—
    1. (i) which was made under that section at any time before 2nd December 1974, and
    2. (ii) which, at any time before 2nd March 1975 has been confirmed in accordance with Schedule 3 to the Housing Act 1957; or
  4. (c) which has been included in the clearance area by virtue of section 49 of the Housing Act 1957.

(2) Where any house to which this section applies—

  1. (a) was included in the clearance area by reason of its being unfit for human habitation, and
  2. (b) in the opinion of the local authority is capable of being, and ought to be, improved to the full standard,

(3) In addition to applying to any house to which this section applies, a rehabilitation order may, if the local authority think fit, be made to apply to any other Part III land. (4) Schedule 10 to this Act and, subject to paragraph 9 of that Schedule, Schedule 4 to the Housing Act 1957 shall have effect in relation to rehabilitation orders. (5) On the effective date the local authority shall cease to be subject to any duty to demolish or secure the demolition of buildings on the land imposed by Part III of the Housing Act 1957.

(6) Where by virtue of subsection (5) above a local authority are freed from the duty to demolish or secure the demolition of a house which was included in a clearance area as being unfit for human habitation, the authority shall take such steps as are necessary—

  1. (a) to bring the house up to the full standard, or
  2. (b) where it is not vested in the authority, to ensure that it is brought up to that standard.

(7) A local authority may accept undertakings for the purpose of subsection (6)(b) above from the owner of a house, or any other person who has or will have an interest in a house, concerning works to be carried out to bring it up to the full standard and the time within which they are to be carried out. (8) In this section and in Schedule 10 below— effective date" means the date on which a rehabilitation order becomes operative; full standard" means the standard attained by a dwelling with respect to which the conditions mentioned in section 66(2) of this Act are fulfilled; local authority ", in relation to land means the authority who are the local authority for the purposes of Part III of the Housing Act 1957 in relation to that land; and Part III land" means—

  1. (a) land in the clearance area, except land subject to a clearance order which has been made and confirmed by virtue of section 44 of the Housing Act 1957, or
  2. (b) land surrounded by or adjoining that area for whose purchase under section 43(2) of the Housing Act 1957 a resolution has been passed (whether or not it has been so purchased), or
  3. (c) land to which the provisions of Part III of that Act apply by virtue of section 49;

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if I may be allowed to do so, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 17, 19 and 22 while moving Amendment No. 16. There has, in recent years, been growing criticism of the bulldozing of whole areas of substandard housing and an acceptance that schemes of wholesale comprehensive redevelopment were not necessarily the best method of dealing with such areas. The Housing Act 1974 introduced the new concept of housing action areas and gave local authorities increased powers for securing the improvement of substandard houses and making grants for this purpose.

Authorities who in the recent past had decided to clear areas of unfit houses may well have chosen, had the provisions of the 1974 Act been in force, to recondition rather than redevelop. But once an authority has initiated action under Part III of the Housing Act 1957 to clear houses there is under existing statutory provisions no turning back. To overcome this difficulty, the Government introduced in the Housing Act 1974 a power whereby authorities could change their minds and rehabilitate houses scheduled for demolition under slum clearance compulsory purchase orders. The relevant provisions were Section 114 and Schedule 10, which empowered authorities to make a rehabilitation order in respect of any houses in a compulsory purchase order confirmed before three months after the coming into operation of that Act. The rehabilitation order would, if confirmed by the Secretary of State, revoke the CPO in respect of any property not yet acquired, would release them from the duty to demolish any property already acquired, and would require them to achieve the rehabilitation of the unfit houses included in the rehabilitation order. No doubt some of your Lordships will remember that these provisions were introduced into the 1974 Bill by your Lordships at a very late stage in the Bill's proceedings. The provisions were welcomed by both sides of the House and did in fact honour a promise made to the Opposition by my honourable friend at an earlier stage to introduce such a provision. The fact that a provision has all-Party agreement does not, however, necessarily mean that it is easy to draft.

In the light of subsequent examination it is clear that there are certain ambiguities in the present provision that should be removed. The Government are seeking to take the opportunity presented by this Bill to remove these ambiguities and clarify the procedure by amending these rehabilitation order provisions. We have come to the conclusion that this can best be achieved by redrafting them. But I can assure your Lordships that the substance of these provisions remains unchanged.

I should perhaps specifically invite your Lordships' attention to paragraph 7(2) of the revised Schedule which relates to the serving of notices of the making of the rehabilitation order. These must now be served additionally on all persons with an interest in other property in any clearance area where the rehabilitation order contains properties in that area. Further, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has been given power to dispense with the service of notices in any particular case. It is unlikely that such dispensations will be given readily but one can envisage circumstances where the requirement to serve notices on any person who received notice of the making of the earlier compulsory purchase order would be unduly onerous and indeed unnecessary. For example, one could have a very large clearance area or compulsory purchase order covering several acres, and a rehabilitation order covering a single terrace of houses on the edge of the compulsory purchase order. It is quite clear that the properties on the far side of the compulsory purchase order some hundreds of yards distant from the terrace to be rehabilitated will in no way be affected by the proposed rehabilitation, and in such a case the authority should be relieved of the time and trouble of serving unnecessary notices.

The provision as it exists, as well as in its amended form, requires my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to prescribe certain forms. Because of the procedural difficulties to which I have referred, no forms have as yet been prescribed and therefore no local authorities have so far been able to make rehabilitation orders. These revised provisions, which, I repeat, incorporate only drafting; and procedural Amendments, will, I am told, enable the necessary forms to be prescribed, and allow local authorities to go ahead. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

I should like to thank the noble Lord for his explanation of this series of Amendments. Rehabilitation of areas rather than the redevelopment of them is something that we on this side of the Committee very much welcome. Not only is it very good housing policy to preserve houses which have been in existence for a very long period of time; but I am certain that the people living in these areas much prefer the familiar surroundings which they know rather than something in glass and concrete, and probably a tower block of flats. This is not the kind of housing in which most people want to bring up their families. I welcome this series of Amendments and take the opportunity of thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for writing me about them.


I very much welcome: these provisions. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that people nearly always prefer area rehabilitation rather than having to move some distance away and then taking a chance on getting back to the place they were brought up in. I had an instance recently on the outskirts of Manchester where it was proposed by the local authority at Chorton-cum-Hardy to demolish 111 dwellings. They had begun the procedure for setting in motion a public inquiry when the residents got together and, with the assistance of qualified architects, were able to show that of the 111 houses all but three were capable of rehabilitation. In the end, much to the delight and joy of everyone living in the area, the local authority withdrew the scheme. One hopes that by means of these Amendments the Government will have encouraged many other local authorities to take that attitude and to adopt rehabilitation rather than comprehensive redevelopment.

I put down a Question today about rehabilitation orders under the 1974 Act; but I withdrew it because the noble Baroness was good enough to point out to me that this matter would become clear when the Amendments under discussion were moved. But; there is one remaining point that I should like to ask the noble Lord to deal with. Buried within the lengthy Amendment No. 19, I see that there is still mention of the order being made in the prescribed form. As he probably knows, this was the difficulty which I was seeking to clarify in the Question I had put down about the 1974 Act. Due to the defects in the drafting of Schedule 10 to that Act, a particular local authority which had under consideration a scheme for rehabilitation was not able to proceed (although I gather it had not formally made any approach to the Department about this obstacle), because no order had been made by the Secretary of State setting out the form in which the proposed work should be submitted. Will this local authority (and any other in a similar position) be able to get on with such schemes without further delay, or will there be a long interval before—and this is mentioned in paragraph 6—the Secretary of State prescribes the form in which a rehabilitation order has to be made. If the noble Lord can assure me that that will be a simple matter—and that the local authorities will know shortly how to proceed with the schemes—that would be helpful.


My Lords, by leave of the House I think I can help the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in this matter. The Government are well aware of the need for urgency and to get the prescribed forms under way as quickly as we possibly can. They will of course have to be laid before the House, and it is the Government's hope that they will be laid before Easter. They will then be here for three weeks. We could say that once the prescribed forms had been laid local authorities would then be in a position to get on with the work. I can assure the noble Lord that we are well aware of the urgency, and that the forms will be laid before the House by Easter at the latest.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 17.

Amendment moved—

Page 38, line 9, at end insert— (" . In section 115 of that Act (compensation) for subsection (5)(b) there shall be substituted the following paragraph: — (b) the effective date of the rehabilitation order, as defined in section 114 above," "). —(Lord Melchett.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.42 p.m.

Lord MELCHETT moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 38, line 9, at end insert— (" . In section 119(3) of that Act (option mortgages) for the word "section" in the second place where it occurs, there shall be substituted the word "subsection ".")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government had originally envisaged bringing the whole of Section 119 of the Housing Act 1974 into force on a single day. In the event, this has not happened and there will need to be at least two commencement orders for the Section. Therefore, for the sake of clarity, this Amendment provides that the appointed day for the purpose of the transitional period for existing option mortgages under subsection (3) is the day on which subsection (3) comes into force. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I spoke to Amendment No. 19 with No. 16. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 38, line 11, at end insert— (" The following Schedule shall be substituted for Schedule 10 to that Act (rehabilitation orders):—

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