§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (Lord Kirkhill)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill which I have pleasure in presenting to your Lordships is comparatively short. But it represents a vital step forward towards implementing the Government's new housing strategy.
We have not had the opportunity of debating in this House the key document which sets out that strategy, the Green Paper Scottish Housing (Cmnd. 6852). This document—produced at the same time as a corresponding Green Paper for England and Wales—sets the essential background to the Bill, particularly in relation to the provisions for reform of the system of subsidies for public sector housing authorities in Scotland.
The Green Paper was the outcome of the most comprehensive review undertaken in recent times by any Government of housing policies and finance. The Green Paper describes the main features of Scottish housing at the present time, assesses and evaluates our achievements as well as our problems and proposes a number of changes in the context of a strategy which is as paragraph 4.25 of the Green Paper says:wide ranging and coherent and has many inter-related components".Above all, it is a strategy which inter-links the public and private sectors of housing.
Your Lordships will be aware that housing and housing needs do not stand still and we have had to get ahead with some major changes, notably in introducing a new system of housing plans. These will be the new vehicle of policy and programme planning to meet assessed housing needs in different parts of the country. Housing plans have been introduced for the first time for 1978–79 and they are designed to be complementary with housing support grant in directing both capital and current resources more effectively to meet needs in the different parts of the country.
The main parts of the Bill deal with the determination of total housing support 1063 grant for local authorities and its distribution; similar new grants for the Scottish Special Housing Association and the New Town Development Corporations; financial aid to voluntary organisations which have a contribution to make to housing, whether through training for management, housing advice or research; amendments designed to strengthen the existing code for the repair and improvement of older houses; the increase from 75 per cent. to 90 per cent. of Government subsidy towards the costs of rent rebates and allowances; arrangements for relieving local authorities of the financial burden of reimbursing to the Department of Health and Social Security the rent rebate elements of assistance paid to people on supplementary benefit; and a general reserve power to enable the Government if required to restrict exceptionally high increases in rent for local authority houses.
This is an important package of legislative provision for improvement of Scotland's housing situation. But the major feature of the Bill relates to those clauses dealing with housing support grant which creates the framework for our radical reform of the system of subsidies for housing authorities. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities requested urgent action to reform the present subsidy system nearly two years ago and the Government have worked together with the Convention to bring forward proposals for a new system which were outlined briefly in the Green Paper (Chapter 6). We have subsequently worked through carefully with the Convention various working details of a new system and we hope to complete our consultations with them very shortly.
It is fair to ask: Why do we need to alter the present system of subsidies which relates to the 1972 Act? The present subsidies are complex and give differing encouragement to different forms of housing activity and they are due to be reduced drastically in 1982–83. The drop in subsidy entitlement which would occur in that year would amount to over £100 million as a result of the phasing out of housing expenditure subsidy. The new housing support grant is designed to secure greater fairness of distribution, so that authorities have to face up to more 1064 consistent expenditure burdens; greater flexibility in meeting local and specialised needs for housing; and a reduction in detailed Government oversight of projects.
The new grant will be paid annually to local authorities following approval of an order laid before Parliament each year: that order will be accompanied by an explanatory report. The housing support grant procedure is a radical departure for housing subsidies, but we think that, involving as it does the closest collaboration with local authorities, it should result in a far more effective and lasting form of support for the necessary expenditure of housing authorities. It will enable grant to be based logically on the difference between authorities' expenditure on meeting housing needs and their reasonable local income from rents and rate fund contributions.
Estimates of aggregate expenditure will take into account interest rates and other economic factors which affect expenditure for the grant year and estimates of aggregate local income will be related to the broad principles set out in the Green Paper, that over a period of years local contributions to housing costs for Scotland as a whole should keep broadly in line with the rise in the general level of earnings. The distribution of grant will be worked out in consultation with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and allow for adjustment to reflect changing circumstances or anomalies.
The new arrangements will mean a redistribution of grant and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is obliged under the Bill to make transitional arrangements to moderate the effect of this redistribution in the first few years of the new system. The Government intend that the effect of redistribution should be limited in any year to the equivalent of 1p in the pound on the rates (according to new rateable values).
This Bill is a vital part of the action which the Government are taking to implement their Green Paper strategy. It does not deal with the full range of issues, but in its reform of the system of support for local authorities it is at the core of a new approach to housing which relates much more closely to the range of people's housing needs and the effective direction of resources to meet these needs. I 1065 therefore commend the Bill to your Lordships. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Kirkhill.)
§ 3.55 p.m.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, we thank the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, for explaining the purposes of the Bill so carefully and clearly. The housing subsidy system in Scotland is now due for review and what the Government are proposing is the logical next step. It is an attempt to rationalise many of the subsidies into a single one and to simplify the whole process. I suggest that the House accepts these proposals, but I want to make two cautionary comments later.
1 noted the noble Lord said that the Bill did not attempt to cover the full range of issues raised in the earlier Green Paper, and I regret that it is modest in content. In particular, there is an omission that there is nothing to enable, or make easier, home ownership in what is at present the public sector in Scotland, although the Bill is dealing mostly with the public sector. While the Government were about it, arrangements to encourage the selling of houses in the public sector to willing buyers with preference being given to tenants in circumstances where no harm can be done to anybody else, including applicants on a housing list, would have been very welcome. I would remind your Lordships that tenants are likely to remain in council houses for years or the rest of their lives and, while they do so, those houses are not available to anyone else.
Such a move would have probably been the most important step that could be taken in Scotland at present in public sector housing. The amount of home ownership in Scotland is small in comparison with the rest of the country. It is about 33 per cent. in Scotland, whereas it is about 55 per cent over the whole of Britain. Indeed, Scotland is unfortunately at the bottom of the league for the whole of Europe in the percentage of home ownership.
I declare a general interest, my Lords, in homeownership as I am the chairman of the Scottish board of a building society. I am glad to say that there are at least 1066 two noble Lords on the Benches opposite who have in the past been on the board of the same building society. We are not divided in our support on both sides of the House for home ownership, and I think it is now generally accepted politically, except where the Far Left is concerned. But there is a difficulty and, I think, a difference between us about the application in the public sector. I am not suggesting that home ownership should be forced upon anyone; but the noble Lord will know that there is a large and growing demand for home ownership in Scotland where there is so low a proportion of it at present, especially among young people.
I should like to say in passing that the example that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Campsie, set during the years when he was chairman of the new town corporation of East Kilbride in successfully selling a huge proportion of houses in that first Scottish new town, has shown how popular the move was and how the offers were taken up. Some individual houses have been sold in Scotland with the permission of Labour Governments. I can remember some in my area in the 1960s. Then, suddenly, in the late 1960s a doctrinal edict seemed to have been issued to stop it. We had a curious situation where identical houses in the same street in a town near me produced the effect where two or three had already been sold with the permission of the Secretary of State and then, a few weeks later, when the other requests were made, they were refused because these applications had come just after this edict had been issued. I hope that the Government can now relax on this subject.
The present Government have accepted a good deal that is sensible in housing and housing finance—and I include this Bill in that—and are thus taking much of the doctrinaire side of politics out of housing, which is very welcome. They should give more thought to, and look more kindly upon, home ownership. The circumstances of each house and of each group of houses should be considered; I am not suggesting mass approvals. This would relieve local councils and officials of many of the minor tasks of maintenance and management, and the new owners would voluntarily carry out those tasks with reduced cost to the public purse.
1067 I fully recognise the aims of the new housing support grant which this Bill would being forward. One of them is to reduce the need for detailed scrutiny by officials from the Scottish Office. Another is that the local authorities would be able to use the grant for whatever housing purposes are most necessary and appropriate in their own areas. It is no longer just a matter of how many new houses can be built in Scotland as a whole. I remember in the past that the measure of success appeared to be the numbers of new houses—sometimes simply boxes without amenities—that could be built each year in Scotland. Numbers were certainly necessary in the years after the war when there was a shortage, but I am glad the Government acknowledge that other factors now must be taken into account. As the noble Lord knows, it is some years since I was myself enumerating these factors and he used some of the same words today.
Of course new houses are needed, but they are needed in particular areas and not just anywhere in Scotland. Also, different kinds of houses are required: for example, flats in tower blocks that were built in the 1960s are not to everyone's liking as a home. Then there are housing estates without proper amenities that have been built and have not been welcome, either. Above all, we must make better use of the existing stock of houses in Scotland, and we must make sure that they are kept in good repair and prevented from falling into decay. Improvements to the older houses can be made where they are needed.
The housing support grant appears to take into account that kind of assessment of the housing position in Scotland, together with the new provisions for special repair grants that are included in the Bill; and I commend these proposals to your Lordships' House. They mean that in future the main housing subsidies in Scotland will consist of this housing support grant and the rent rebate grant. Of course tile latter applies in the private sector as well, and I must record some gratification that it has been working successfully, because I introduced that system into Scotland in the 1972 Act. When that Act entered into force no family in Scotland, in the public or the private sector, needed to pay a rent more 1068 than they could afford. The Government, through the rent rebate subsidy, can exercise some control in the light of inflation and earnings by raising the levels of eligibility
There are two points I should like to make as matters of caution concerning the new housing support grant. First, under the Bill Parliament will have very little control in future over the way in which the amounts for housing subsidies are decided and distributed. As the noble Lord told us, once a year an order will come before another place and the Members of another place can only accept or reject that order; they cannot change it. No one, in particular in another place, is disposed to vote against an order which is bringing forward many millions of pounds of money in subsidy form. Therefore I suggest that the Government ought to bring in this order annually, with plenty of time to spare, and that there should be a new approach so that the Government would be prepared to withdraw the order and resubmit it, duly changed, if a valid point has been made and accepted at that stage. It should not be a matter of losing face or Parliamentary time to withdraw an order if, in discussion, it is found that it can be improved, particularly as regards the distribution formula. Certainly no Parliamentary time will be lost in future because the procedure under this Bill—and I am sure it will be welcome in another place as well as here—will mean that less Parliamentary time will be spent on scrutinising housing subsidies in connection with future Bills. It also means that when an order goes before another place time will be of great importance.
The determination of the amount and the distribution formula will be worked out between the Government and a single body outside Parliament: the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. I am sure that there will be genuine attempts to meet the needs and situations of different areas in Scotland, but it could be that one or two areas will have special problems that do not arise elsewhere. Local authorities concerned may feel that the formula which is being arrived at does less than justice to their circumstances, and so I suggest there must still be an effective Parliamentary system for making a change, if the need for it is seen and accepted late in the proceedings.
1069 My second point is that there are apprehensions now among some local authorities in Scotland—those who have been active and efficient in housing in the past—that they will suffer in comparison with other local authorities whom they feel have been laggards. Where certain needs still exist in certain areas, those needs could have been satisfied in past years if a local council had done more and run its housing revenue account more respectably. That could be an argument that some of the former group of local authorities might put forward. I suggest, therefore, that when present needs are being considered, while the orders and the formula are being worked out, what has happened in the past should also be taken into consideration. That will be a great step towards getting the new system accepted and above suspicion for all local authorities, particularly those with good records in housing. It will encourage all local authorities in Scotland to be paragons in future, and that must be in the Government's interest.
As regards the particular provisions in the Bill, my honourable friends examined them in great detail in the Scottish Standing Committee and also in debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. As a result, a considerable number of Amendments and additions were made to the Bill, which has been much improved since it was first introduced. The principles in the Bill are to be commended but the test will be how those principles are put into practice. I wish all those engaged in the negotiations on the first housing grant order the wisdom of Solomon; it looks as though they will need it!
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Lord TANLAW
My Lords, I should like to add my voice of welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill. At the same time I should like also to add, if it is correct, a word of congratulation to the author or authors of the Green Paper, the consultative document. It is one of the few Government papers which appear to be written as though it was intended to be read, unlike some others, which are long and turgid tracts of departmental prose which seem primarily designed to be as uninformative as possible. That criticism cannot be made of this Green Paper 1070 or indeed of the strategy as laid out by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill.
I should like to refer to one particular section of the Green Paper which I believe exposes a new line of thinking, or at least a new principle, which I should like the noble Lord to confirm. Perhaps I may read from section 2.19:The type of house which people require is partly a matter of family circumstances and partly one of personal preference.I detect here a major change in thinking front the Government, or rather the Government Department concerned; that is, that the householder is allowed some rights as regards deciding on the kind of house he is going to live in, whereas previously those of us who have applied for planning permission for even the smallest type of alteration have often wondered whether or not we are capable of deciding these decisions for ourselves, or are forced to have the type of house which a departmental member or a Government subsection paper decides we should live in. I hope that this principle will be taken right through, including, when this Bill is implemented. I know that it is very convenient, for administrative purposes, for us to live like peas in a pod, and at times we are inclined to get the impression that this is what the Government want us to do; but this new step forward increases my welcome to the Bill.
Also, the consultative document goes on to say in paragraph 4 that,It is the Government's policy to liberalise the management policies of public authorities.Again, more flexible thinking can only help those people who are in need of housing, or are in housing which needs attention. I fully go along with what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, has said. The intentions of the Government here are good and have our support from these Benches.
But I did not see in the consultative document any mention of planning permission, or hear anything about it in what the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, said to us this afternoon. In my very limited experience in this field, planning permission is the area in which most misunderstandings occur, and in which there are the most unfortunate occurrences 1071 when people want to make even small alterations to their houses. For instance, when an elderly person wants to move the bathroom from upstairs to the ground floor, or someone wants to build an extension to house a kidney dialysis machine, planning permission either takes a very long time to come or is refused, for one reason or another. I hope that the liberalisation, which is referred to in the consultative document, will filter through to the planning permission authorities, because they are sometimes staffed by people who make one wonder what qualifications they have, and one often queries the reasons for refusing planning permission.
To return to the Bill before us, I wish to speak very briefly only on the repairs grant section in Clause 8, which consists mainly of the Government Amendment to the Housing (Scotland) Act 1974. It appears to me—and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, can clarify this—that we need some form of financial criteria for deciding whether or not a householder is entitled to the grant. Does this clause mean that the Government, or a local authority, wish to engage in some kind of means test before a grant of up to £1,500 is allowed for someone to do repairs to his house? If that is the case, I ask the noble Lord to reconsider, because it would be unfortunate to bring in a means test in connection with this kind of Bill. It might undo a lot of good work, and a lot of good intentions which this Bill is meant to fulfil. Furthermore, it may be almost impossible to implement. How is one to judge whether or not someone should get a grant? Perhaps the noble Lord will put my mind at rest on this aspect.
But, maybe, this is just a window dressing clause, because, in my experience, the money must be paid out before one gets a grant. if this grant is intended to help those who are in need, they must first pay out the money to get the repairs done before they are entitled to get a grant with which to pay for them. So what happens if a person does not have up to £1,500? He may get the grant but he cannot pay the builders to do the work. I am sure the noble Lord may see this as a very small and almost trivial point, but it is in regard to small alterations of this kind that an ordinary citizen, or an elderly 1072 householder, seems to run up against bureaucracy—if that is the right word—at its worst. So that I shall increase my welcome to the Bill if the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, can clarify this clause, and give some of the reassurances for which I have asked. It only remains for me to say that we give a general welcome in respect of the passage of this Bill through your Lordships' House.
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Lord STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, as one who has always taken a very keen interest in Scottish housing, and who in other days had a considerable responsibility for it, I should like in my opening remarks to thank the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, for the manner in which he has introduced this Bill. I fully support every single word that was spoken by my noble friend Lord Campbell, and I want particularly to support him in regard to house ownership, which is vital to the whole future of our country. I also support what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, whose last remarks were so true. Much more would be done if the financial resources of the person asking for the improvement were not to be a bar.
The position has been quite ridiculous. I know of many property owners, particularly landed property, in Scotland who provide houses for their employees. They do not gain anything by altering their houses, putting in bathrooms and so on, but the tenants who live in the houses gain and they often live in them for a very long time. But why on earth the financial resources of the owner should be taken into account, I cannot imagine. It is absolutely mad and completely stupid, and unjust to the people who will live in the houses. I can speak with some feeling on the matter, because I myself suffered from that situation for many years and I had to support, out of my own pocket, improvements to a great number of cottages, which were greatly welcomed by the people who occupied them.
As regards house ownership, I hope that the Government will pay attention to what was said by my noble friend Lord Campbell and by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw. I suggest that these are not criticisms; they are helpful remarks. There has been nothing done or said which, in any way, criticises the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, 1073 or the present Government. But if the Government will pay attention to what has been said, and break away from some of the old practices that continue to worry the Housing Department of the Scottish Office, the better for Scotland and its people. I again thank the noble Lord for the manner in which he introduced this Bill.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Baroness ELLIOT of HARWOOD
My Lords, may I just say one word in support of the Bill, since I have spent a lot of my time being chairman of a housing committee and dealing with housing matters. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord on this Bill. It seems to me that it has admirable purposes. I should like particularly to support the clauses that deal with repairs to good, solid but, sometimes, old-fashioned houses. They very often turn into very much nicer and more agreeable houses to live in than some of the modern ones, especially the groups of flats which have often proved to be highly unsatisfactory. I think that more people and more local authorities, particularly in small towns where there are often a lot of very nice, old, well-built but rather old-fashioned houses, would prefer to modernise such houses, rather than knock them down and start all over again. The Government are to be congratulated on that aspect, because it is something that is wanted very badly, and I am sure that people will respond, too.
I should also like to back up the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Campbell about house ownership. To me, it has always seemed extraordinary how few privately-owned houses there are in Scotland as compared with England, especially as, on the whole, we in Scotland like owning our own houses. We are just as keen about that as any other people, and it is a very good thing that this Bill encourages home ownership. Also, in the way of repairs, I hope that this Bill will encourage people to put better insulation in to old houses. As we all know, the cost of heating today is enormous. Whether one lives in a large or a small house, it is a very large proportion of one's expenditure. Insulation can now be provided quite cheaply, and it makes a tremendous difference. So I hope that that is something that will 1074 be encouraged. I do not want to delay the House. All I wish to do is to add another word of congratulation. I hope that this Bill will prove to be highly satisfactory for everyone concerned.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord KIRKHILL
My Lords, may I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, for her very agreeable remarks—as, indeed, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in our short debate this afternoon. If only for the sake of appearance, I have to stand aghast at the charge that my Government are yet perpetuating an edict of doctrinal narrowness and rigour. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that, as he well knows, legislation is not necessary for making home ownership easier in the public sector.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will give way because I feel that he has misunderstood me. I was recording the previous time of Labour Government. There was an interval from 1970 to 1974. There was a moment, however, when the selling of council houses was stopped in about 1968 or 1969. In fact, it stopped in the middle of the sale of a batch of houses in my own area. I was hoping that no such doctrinal edict applied now. I hoped that there would be something in the Bill which would positively encourage home ownership. Something like 54 per cent. of all the houses in Scotland are now in public ownership. It means that some of those houses will have to change their ownership if we are to encourage home ownership as a whole.
§ Lord KIRKHILL
My Lords, if I have misundestood the noble Lord, I apologise. I shall read his remarks very carefully in the record tomorrow. I had thought that there was a carry-over belief in his own mind about doctrinal narrowness on the part of my Government, and I was going to say—and I shall continue to say it—that legislation is not necessary for the sale of council houses where a local authority wishes to sell. I agree that, at present, authorities are required to secure the approval of the Secretary of State to the sale of individual houses. It is fair to say that approvals are being made in certain cases and in certain areas.
1075 I gladly acknowledge in the presence of your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, did indeed introduce a rent rebate system which has stood the test of time. It is effective, it has functioned well and it continues to function in a satisfactory manner. I gladly acknowledge the good work which the noble Lord did at that time in the Scottish Office.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, asked about possible safeguards for authorities which stand to lose subsidy because they have been prudent in the past. The Government's aim is to distribute the available grant so as to reduce the substantial differences which have grown up between authorities in the level of their local rent and rate fund contributions to housing costs—that is, the balance of housing expenditure over and above Government grants and subsidies.
These differences have arisen for two main reasons. First, the average cost of council housing is many times greater in some areas than in others. It is obvious that authorities which have had large building programmes over the past decade face a much bigger financial burden than those which have had little need recently to increase their housing stock. Authorities have built houses recently largely because the need to do so did not exist before. Examples of that type of authority are those which control areas where North Sea onshore development is taking place.
The second reason for differences in locally borne costs lies in the present subsidy system. It has some quirks which work to the disadvantage of authorities which concentrate on new housebuilding and to the advantage of those which concentrate expenditure on their existing housing stock. In other words, authorities with small building programmes have done unfairly well out of the present system.
Distributing grants so as to produce a more even pattern of locally borne costs inevitably means some redistribution of existing subsidy. Authorities which have been doing too well in recent years will receive a smaller share of grant in future in order to help those which have suffered unduly large local burdens. However, I repeat to the noble Lord the assurance 1076 that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State gave in another place. We shall introduce the new system gradually so that no matter how low the existing level of rent and rate contributions no authority will have to face an unacceptably large increase.
I welcome, of course, the kind manner in which the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, welcomed not only the Green Paper but the Bill which is presently before your Lordships' House. The noble Lord posed a specific question regarding planning permission, referring it to type of house, et cetera. I have to say to the noble Lord that planning control in this detail is delegated to local authorities by the planning legislation. However, I am sure that they will note what the noble Lord has said this afternoon regarding the need for a perhaps more liberal administration of this control. I certainly hope that they do.
The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, is also worried about a possible means test. I cannot entirely reassure him on that point. Nobody really likes a hardship test, but responsibility for repairs lies with the householder, and, initially at least, he should meet the cost from his own resources. In some cases, however, it will be beyond the scope of the householder so to do and the execution of repair work might lead to the need for some expedition, otherwise increasing decay of the building will occur. Then the local authority will have to assess the position. One might argue that this is a form of means test, and if one were to adopt that construction I could not cavil. However, I should hope that the matter would be approached in a liberal manner. Loans will be available from local authorities for the balance between the cost and the grant to the owner.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, also generously welcomed the Bill. Again touching upon the question of home ownership, I can say to the noble Lord that the Government are taking other steps to encourage home ownership by means of the savings bonus and loans scheme which is incorporated in the Great Britain Bill that is at present being considered in another place.
In winding up, I should also like to comment on a matter which was raised 1077 in another place and again this afternoon in your Lordships' House by the noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Croy; namely, the question of Parliamentary control over the Secretary of State's proposals for housing support grant each year. Unusually for a housing Bill, this Bill does not specify details of the rate of the subsidy for which it provides. Experience has shown that against the background of changing housing needs and of inflation, the fixing of subsidies in a Statute can lead to distortions and unwanted effects, and so to the need for further legislation. The Bill therefore provides a framework for evolutionary arrangements for grant.
As I have just said, it is the Government's intention to pay grant which in aggregate is sufficient to meet the balance of local authorities' necessary housing expenditure, after allowing for local contributions rising broadly in line with earnings. The question has therefore been asked whether such an arrangement affords sufficient Parliamentary control. I hope to assure your Lordships that it does. The arrangements arrived at each year in consultation with the local authorities will be subject to due scrutiny by Parliament and in due course, if it gets under way, by the Scottish Assembly.
The calculation of the grant and the basis of its distribution will be set out each year, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has mentioned, in a draft order which will require confirmation in another place. The order will be accompanied by a report fully explaining the basis of the calculations. The Affimative Resolution procedure which is to be adopted is the one which affords the maximum level of scrutiny of subordinate legislation by Parliament. It has been said, however, that even this procedure is unsatisfactory since Parliament's sanction, the rejection of the order, can result only in holding up payments to local authorities. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, touched on that particular point. Whatever may be the case elsewhere, I can assure your Lordships that, as respects the housing support grant order, Parliament will, if it thinks fit, be able to reject the initial draft order, which it is expected will be debated in November or December, without fear of deferring money due to local authorities. The main order will relate to the coming financial year and payments under it would not be 1078 due until the end of April. There would be time for a revised order to be prepared, in consultation with local authorities, to meet, so far as possible, the points to which Parliament may have objected, and for it to be presented and debated in either February or March.
I should like to take this opportunity of forewarning your Lordships that it is the Government's intention at Committee stage to introduce a new provision. This will enable home loss and disturbance payments to be made to households displaced from dangerous buildings. Apart from that, I envisage little in the way of amendment from the Government side at Committee.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for the statement which he made towards the end of his speech in response to my question about the Parliamentary procedure, because, although it does affect another place, it is very important that this kind of timetable which he has outlined should be adhered to, and that rejection of the order should not be regarded as a disaster but simply as an arrangement whereby a revised order can come forward.
§ Lord KIRKHILL
My Lords, I having taken about five minutes to explain that, it will readily be understood that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, most decently gave me advance notice that he would ask that question.
On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.