HL Deb 28 April 1983 vol 441 cc1070-102

House again in Committee.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Denington moved Amendment No. 28: Page 22, line 31, after ("tenants") insert ("minor non structural").

The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 28, 30 and 32 are grouped together. Amendments Nos. 28 and 30 are two halves of one amendment but, because the first applied to line 31 and the second part to line 33, Amendment No. 29 (which applies to line 32) came in the middle and separated the whole. Amendment No. 32 will be dealt with separately. Amendment No. 28 deals with the minor repairs and Amendment No. 30 deals with the more structural repairs of greater magnitude and importance. All of us, the local authorities and the public landlords, have to realise that we must move with the times. This is an age of "DIY". People get pleasure out of doing "DIY" as well as saving themselves money.

These amendments are in sympathy with that attitude but they are also probing amendments. One really would like to know just what is in the Government's mind. We have read the documents of their consultation with tenants. I have been in touch with councils who do this sort of thing. The clause refers at least twice to "regulations". What are these regulations going to be? If one could have known this then probably this amendment would not have been put down. Are the Government going to make regulations that let tenants do anything? For example, underpinning or dealing with a sagging roof or some structural work. How far do they intend to go with this scheme of theirs? If we could get some information on that it would be very useful.

When I used the expression "minor non structural" in my amendment, I really meant that to cover substantial work carried on in the house. But I should have thought that the landlords ought to be tackling the things that are really structural. It is only when the landlord is really failing completely in his proper duties to come along in time and get on with the work that the tenant should then be able to go out to a reputable builder and get it done. Perhaps we can be told just where the Government intend (if they have their mind clear on that) to draw the line.

Amendment No. 32 is slightly different. This is setting down, as I see it, a principle that the overall responsibility for maintaining the property in a satisfactory state of repair shall remain with the landlord".

Some years ago, I was chairman of a committee which looked into problems of the nation's old homes, a committee that was set up by Dick Crossman when he was Minister. In that report, by agreement with everybody on the committee (and it is there in the report) we enunciated a principle. I quote it: That the nation's houses are a vital national asset, be they publicly or privately owned". That is, all the nation's houses.

We are dealing today only with public landlords; but I think that we have to recognise that, while tenants can have a lot of responsibility, in the end the public landlords must see that public property is maintained and kept in good order. They may not always use their direct labour organisations. They will want to do so where the organisations are competent; but, where they are not, they will bring in a private builder. However, the landlords must be responsible. That is the principle which is enunciated in that particular clause.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

May I apologise for not having been present when the opening words were spoken. Are not these amendments, in truth, another facet of the previous amendments, as regards which my noble friend the Minister has been good enough to say that he will have a look at them? Surely, if this problem is to be looked at it is wrong that it should be looked at in, so to speak, watertight compartments. In that spirit, I would support the amendment.

Baroness Denington

If I am allowed to say so, yes; it is all part of the same picture. We from this side are delighted that the noble Lord is going to look at it; but perhaps these amendments are a little more flexible, if I might put it like that, than the previous ones.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am grateful to the noble Baroness and to my noble friend. Yes, of course I will bring this within the ambit of my consideration. I am sure that the noble Baroness who moved this amendment in fact read the account in Hansard on 24th February of what happened in another place at (appropriately enough) column 1234, in which a full response was, I feel, given.

However, I should like to make a couple of points in answer to the noble Baroness's probe. It is beyond doubt that the landlord's liability would be suspended only for that repair to which the landlord has consented until the tenant had completed the repair and it had been approved, or until the time allowed had expired, which means that any other repairs outside the approval are the responsibility of the landlord. I will, of course, reconsider that reply in my general consideration. Does the noble Baroness wish to intervene, as I am about to leave that point and go on to another one?

Baroness Birk

I was slightly worried because it sounded a little sinister when the Minister said that there was a full answer given in column 1234. As I understood it—this refers both to the previous amendment and to the one now moved by my noble friend—if the Minister is really going to look at them, I was assuming, perhaps naively, that they were going to be looked at perhaps with the mind opened once again. But if he is going to fall back once more on what has been said—and, let us face it, most of these matters were turned down in Committee in another place—then I think we would take a rather tougher view on this.

Lord Skelmersdale

Of course, I take the noble Baroness's point on this. What the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, asked me was how the Government envisaged this working. That is slightly different from the consideration point, and perhaps I may answer the noble Baroness as to how we consider it is likely to work; certainly at the moment, before I have taken my own considered view of the operation.

Four basic steps would be necessary to have a workable scheme whereby a tenant who so wishes can exercise his right to repair. The first step would have to be the reporting of the defect by the tenant. The second would be the landlord's consent to the proposed repair. The third would be the tenant's reporting to the landlord the completion of the repair; and the fourth would be the landlord's making a payment or credit to the tenant's rent account. That is the sort of broad scheme of things at the moment. Various points have been brought up in regard to the last block of amendments, which will throw light on future consideration of those four steps. This is absolutely right and proper.

The other point I wanted to make was that secure tenants, following the making of the scheme, will be entitled, under the provisions of the scheme, to serve a notice on their landlords giving an indication that they wish to carry out repairs. Their landlords will be obliged to make payments to tenants when that work, and only that work, has been carried out under the scheme. It is currently envisaged that the regulations will lay down by cost limits the repairs to which this right will apply and also what proportion of the estimated costs which the landlord would have incurred should be paid to the tenants. So it is not necessarily the whole amount. I think possibly this cost limit approach is rather better than the one in the amendment, where I think the words are: "minor non structural".

Baroness Denington

Yes, I think the wording of the amendment is very loose, as it was a probing amendment; and that is partly why it was so worded. One surely cannot lay down cost limits nationally, can one? Costs vary from area to area. In London they are wildly expensive and, I hope, not so expensive in other places. Is it to be left to the local authorities? There are so many questions: we could go on for hours asking questions. I suppose all this will be in regulations?

Lord Skelmersdale

The noble Baroness is exactly right. All this will be in regulations.

Baroness Denington

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I do not think we can take it any further today.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 29 to 33 not moved.]

Clause 23 agreed to.

4.58 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 34: After Clause 23, insert the following new clause:

("Local authority and Housing Corporation indemnities for certain mortgages

.—(1) Local authorities and the Housing Corporation may, with the approval of the Secretary of State, enter into agreements with recognised bodies making relevant advances on the security of dwelling-houses whereby, in the event of default by the mortgagor, and in circumstances and subject to conditions specified in the agreements, an authority or the Corporation binds itself to indemnify the recognised body in respect of—

  1. (a) the whole or part of the mortgagor's outstanding indebtedness; and
  2. (b) any loss or expense falling on the recognised body in consequence of the mortgagor's default.

(2) The agreement may also, where the mortgagor is made party to it, enable or require the authority or the Corporation in specified circumstances to take a transfer of the mortgage and assume rights and liabilities under it, the recognised body being then discharged in respect of them.

(3) The transfer may be made to take effect—

  1. (a) on any terms provided for by the agreement (including terms involving substitution of a new mortgage agreement or modification of the existing one); and
  2. (b) so that the authority or the Corporation are treated as acquiring (for and in relation to the purposes of the mortgage) the benefit and burden of all preceding acts, omissions and events.

(4) The Secretary of State may under subsection (1) above approve particular agreements or give notice that particular forms of agreement have his approval; and

  1. (a) he may in either case make the approval subject to conditions;
  2. (b) he shall, before giving notice that a particular form has his approval, consult such organisations representative of recognised bodies and local authorities as he thinks expedient.

(5) In this section— local authority" means a county or district council, the Greater London Council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly; recognised body" means any body specified or of a class or description specified in an order made by statutory instrument by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury; relevant advance" means an advance made to a person on the security of a dwelling-house in respect of which he has exercised the right to buy or was, before he acquired an interest in it, entitled to exercise that right.

(6) Before making an order under subsection (5) above varying or revoking an order previously made, the Secretary of State shall give an opportunity for representations to be made on behalf of any recognised body which, if the order were made, would cease to be such a body.

(7) Section 16(3) and (5) of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976 (recommendations by services supply association to members) shall not apply to recommendations made to recognised bodies about the making of agreements under this section, provided that the recommendations are made with the approval of the Secretary of State, which may be withdrawn at any time on one month's notice.

(8) In section 110(1) of the 1980 Act (local authority mortgage interest rates) at the end of paragraph (c) there shall be inserted the words "or section (local authority and Housing Corporation indemnities for certain mortgagees) of the Housing and Building Control Act 1983".")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment. I spoke to Amendments Nos. 34, 35 and 36 when we were discussing Clause 13 stand part. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

There was no prior discussion on Amendment No. 34 and, with respect, I should like to seek clarification from my noble friend the Minister, in particular as regards subsection (7), because I find myself really unable quite to understand it. One starts with subsection (1), which reads: Local authorities … may, with the approval of the Secretary of State, enter into agreements with recognised bodies". Then you find the "recognised bodies" in subsection (5), and they are the creatures of the Secretary of State and the Treasury. Then you go on to subsection (7), which says: Section 16(3) and (5) of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976 … shall not apply to recommendations made to recognised bodies". On subsection (7) generally, I ask my noble friend why any provisions of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976 should apply at all to recommendations made to such bodies about the making of agreements. Then who is it who makes such recommendations? The agreement must be made with the approval of the Secretary of State under subsection (1); so if this is the recommendation, why not just omit, for example, the proviso to subsection (7)? If it is not the Secretary of State who makes the recommendation, then again why not omit the proviso? You can look at it in another way. I find this drafting extremely difficult. If the approval in subsection (1) is not the approval referred to in the proviso to subsection (7), then, if a contract has been made with subsection (1) approval, why should this be affected retrospectively by any subsequent withdrawal of approval to the recommendation within subsection (7)?

I know that this sounds like Mr. Justice Gobbledygook, but I really am trying to understand it. If any of your Lordships understand it, and if my noble friend the Minister understands it, I shall only be grateful. If the approval in subsection (1) is the same as the approval in subsection (7), then the same question arises but a fortiori. So then you come to this position. If the first limb of the proviso—and this proviso has two limbs— provided that the recommendations are made with the approval of the Secretary of State", serves any valid purpose, this is on the basis of a double approval. All right. So be it. But, then, what is the purpose of the second limb?

If my noble friend could clarify three matters, I should be most grateful. The first is the intendment of subsection (7) as a whole, the second is the purpose of the first limb of the proviso, and the third is the need for the second limb and the circumstances in which it is envisaged that such withdrawal would operate. Of course I would not expect my noble friend to do this now, unless he is fully briefed on the matter, but I would only ask that consideration be given.

Lord Renton

We are indebted to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway for having so clearly, and with such penetration, drawn attention to the weaknesses in this new clause. It is unsatisfactory that we should be legislating in a way which creates a doubt upon a doubt and upon a doubt. If anybody doubts what I say with regard to that, I invite him look at the definition subsection, which is subsection (5) at the foot of page 3 on the Marshalled List, where we find that a recognised body, means any body specified or of a class or description specified in an order made by statutory instrument by the Secretary of State". It means that none of the rest of that order can be understood, or its effect ascertained, until the Secretary of State has made an order defining what the recognised body is.

In the nature of things, I would not have thought that there could be many recognised bodies envisaged by the department in this context, and that therefore, instead of leaving it for a statutory instrument to be made at some unknown time in the future, it would be better, even if it has to be described fairly widely, to put in a definition of what a recognised body is. That would remove some, but not all, of the uncertainty which lies in the rest of this new clause.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am grateful to both my noble friends for pointing out the difficulty and, of course, I will take up the opportunity afforded by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway to write about which proviso hangs on the other, or whether neither does, which I am not able to answer at this moment. In reply to my noble friend Lord Renton, and also, slightly, my noble friend Lord Campbell, I must say that recognised bodies are far from being creatures of the Secretary of State or the Treasury. Your Lordships will know that the mortgage market, which is what this clause is all about, is in a state of fluidity at the moment and it is not just the building societies which comprise it. We envisage initially that the main mortgage lending institutions, other than building societies, would be specified in the order and would thus include, for example, banks, insurance companies and friendly societies. In five years' time there might well be another financial institution offering mortgages, in which case it would be appropriate to add it to the list by a future order. This is why the middle part of subsection (5) is drafted in this rather peculiar way.

Lord Renton

I understand what my noble friend says, but he has essentially referred to bodies which at present exercise certain functions and he says that there may be other bodies exercising such functions in the years to come. Therefore, one way round this difficulty, I should have thought, would be to say that any body which now or in the future—I am only paraphrasing and am not trying to be an amateur dratfsman—exercises the functions which my noble friend has described shall be a recognised body for the purpose of this clause. That would be one way round it and I should have thought it was worth thinking about.

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, most certainly it is, and I will do so.

Baroness Birk

As I understood him, the noble Lord said that he would write to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. I do not think that that is quite good enough. I welcome the spirit of what is intended in the clause. I am afraid I had reached the stage of thinking that it was part of the clause, and I did not entirely understand the way in which it was described. But when two eminent lawyers opposite point out problems in the drafting of this clause, it creates a great worry and it should be taken back for redrafting. I do not think that a letter teaching the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton, how to find their way round the clause is the answer. If they have difficulty about some points, then I must ask the Minister to take the clause back.

Lord Skelmersdale

In the consideration which always goes on before writing a letter, one of the points is consultation as to whether the clause needs redrafting in the way that my noble friend Lord Renton has suggested, and, of course, I undertake to carry out this consultation.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.8 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 35: After Clause 23, insert the following new clause:

("Local authority contributions towards certain mortgage costs

.—(1) A local authority may contribute towards any costs incurred by any person in connection with any legal charge which secures, or any proposed legal charge which is intended to secure, a relevant advance made or proposed to be made to him by a body specified in subsection (2) below, but only to the extent that the contribution does not exceed such amount as may be specified in an order made by the Secretary of State.

(2) The bodies referred to in subsection (1) above are—

  1. (a) any recognised body; and
  2. (b) any building society within the meaning of the Building Societies Act 1962 or the Building Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1967.

(3) An order under subsection (1) above shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(4) In this section expressions used in section (local authority and Housing Corporation indemnities for certain mortgagees) above have the same meanings as in that section.").

Baroness Birk

I believe the noble Lord said that he spoke to this amendment on Clause 13, but we did so much work the other day that I have no recollection whatsoever of it. I am sure that he did so, but I do not have what he said in front of me at the moment. I am rather concerned about the amendment because, once again, the intention is to subsidise further the mortgage costs of tenants at the expense of the landlords' financing. That means that some local authorities will be contributing towards any costs incurred by any person in connection with any legal charge". If the proposed clause had used the word "shall", I should have launched an enormous onslaught on it, but instead it uses "may".

I am rather concerned about this upping of the subsidy towards the purchase of a house in terms of either the mortgage charges or mortgage costs, or in any other way. I want to register that feeling. I doubt whether the noble Lord the Minister can put my fears at rest. I fear that this clause clearly states its purpose, and I do not like what it says—unless I have misunderstood the drafting.

Lord Skelmersdale

Amendment No. 35 is essentially a repeat of the existing Clause 13 of this Bill. The noble Baroness has had plenty of opportunity to study Clause 13. If she wanted to register the kind of complaint she has just made, she might have done so when we discussed Clause 13 the other evening—which we did, if my memory serves me right (I do not have Hansard in front of me), in some detail. I will look in Hansard tomorrow to establish the points which the noble Baroness has made.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24 [Transitional provisions]:

Clause 24 agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 36: Transpose Clause 24 to after Clause 21.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Giving and acceptance of an initial notice]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 37: Page 26, line 4, leave out ("such").

The noble Lord said: I do not have a great deal to say, but as the clause is drafted, as I read it, plans do not necessarily have to accompany an initial notice. I should have thought it absolutely essential that plans should accompany an initial notice, and my amendment is designed to ensure this. There is, however, one point that I have noticed since putting down this amendment. It is that the words, as may be prescribed", in the following line should also be removed to ensure that the amendment meets this point. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

Clause 26 implements our proposal—and if my noble friend will permit, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 38—to establish the option of a private sector alternative to local authority building control. It provides the mechanisms enabling an approved inspector to undertake the functions of inspecting plans and supervising building work.

The initial notice is the first step in the process of private certification. It must be in a prescribed form, containing certain information, if the local authority are to accept it. This information will include a statement that the certifier is independent of the developer and there must be evidence of insurance cover. The notice will also have to be accompanied by prescribed plans—and it is this requirement to which my noble friends' first amendment relates.

Perhaps it will be helpful if I explain what these prescribed plans will be. They will not be detailed building plans, but plans that are sufficient to identify the proposed work and to enable the local authority to carry out certain obligations under the Public Health Act 1936 and other enactments. These are matters which are outside the building regulations but which are triggered off under the present system by the deposit of building plans, and I shall refer to them as the linked powers. They include, for example, Section 25 of the 1936 Act, which protects existing sewers and drains. If the building plans show that a proposed building would be situated over an existing sewer or drain, the local authority may reject the plans, or alternatively impose conditions to ensure the satisfactory maintenance of the drains. Another example is Section 37, which relates to the provision of adequate drainage. If the plans accompanying the initial notice are unsatisfactory in any of these respects, the local authority will be required to reject the notice. Perhaps my noble friends are anxious lest the Secretary of State might not prescribe these plans, but I can assure them that the amendment is unnecessary. The certification system could not operate without them. They are essential in setting out the division of responsibility; the local authority for the linked powers, and the approved inspector for the building regulations.

Possibly the second of my noble friends' amendments (which I have to say is defective) is also intended to remove the discretion of the Secretary of State so that an approved inspector will somehow have to do "everything". I am afraid that the effect would be to remove from the Secretary of State the most important power in this part of the Bill—the power to prescribe the statutory duties of an approved inspector. The main prescribed function of an approved inspector will be to take such steps and make such inspections of the work as enable him to be satisfied, within the limits of proper professional skill and care, that the work is in conformity with the building regulations. There will be other important functions, such as consulting the fire authority in respect of any proposed work, which a local authority, under the present system, is required to do.

These are matters on which there will be further consultations, and we need the flexibility in finalising details which is available from prescribing them in regulations. In responding to my noble friend Lord Swinfen, I believe it was proper to go into this matter in some detail—either for his benefit now or to have on record. As a consequence of my observations, I hope my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Caithness

Before commenting, I apologise to the Committee for not being here on Tuesday. I was in the North of England looking at houses and factories, and that was a very depressing sight in some instances.

I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply. Part of the problem with this part of the Bill is that it is very wishy-washy; we do not know what it is we are dealing with. One point that concerns me is that we are attempting to discuss details of a Bill that has many regulations and requirements which are still unspecified, but which are to receive attention at a later date. Therefore, we have to put down these amendments in order to decipher from the Government a little more about what it is they are going to do. It would have been helpful had there been a clearer exposition of the prescribed regulations. Can my noble friend Lord Bellwin say whether there is any chance that we might be able to see a draft of the regulations or have his thoughts on them before the Bill leaves this House?

Lord Bellwin

I did refer to the fact that there has to be further consultation, and that will be so. My noble friend will take the point that, with regulations, these are matters which develop after consultations. Therefore, the likelihood of the regulations being available before the Bill goes through the House is remote in the extreme. Nevertheless, I know of my noble friend's concern, and of his knowledge in this area. It will be useful to hear what he has to say. If my noble friend has not yet seen them, I shall be glad to make available to him the Notes on Clauses, which may serve to give some clarification. I certainly offer him the facility of any detailed explanation or clarification that he might like to have on any aspect of the Bill.

Baroness Birk

I should like to support that which has been said by the noble Earl and the noble Lord opposite because we have encountered this same problem in other parts of this Bill. It is very difficult when matters are prescribed in regulations which are to follow the Bill. This is why a number of amendments are asking for some matters to be put on the face of the Bill. There is general concern about this. I accept that not everything can be on the face of the Bill, but there are certain matters which we strongly feel should be.

In respect of the regulations, while I appreciate the noble Lord's point that we must deal with the Bill first, there are certain areas where the regulations could be dealt with concurrently or where we could know about them. Although we are grateful to have received the Notes on Clauses, these do not go all that way towards helping one, so far as future regulations are concerned.

Baroness Nicol

I, too, must apologise for missing the first part of this Committee stage on Tuesday. I just want to make one point on the question of the building regulations. I support the amendment which is being put forward, for the reasons the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, gave. I understand that consultations, certainly with the Association of District Councils, and no doubt with many other bodies, began about a year ago. In their very first reply, the Association of District Councils drew attention to the fact that, although they recognised that these regulations were overdue for revision, they felt that any changes in respect of appointment of approved inspectors or any other major changes in the system should wait until the regulations had been finalised.

I find it difficult to understand why we have this undue haste. It seems to me perfectly reasonable that, with proper consultation, the regulations could have been produced so that the bodies concerned could have given their views on them, and then we could have proceeded with the next stage, and changed the system of inspection. I should be interested to know why there has to be this haste and why we cannot see the regulations before we have to make these decisions.

Lord Bellwin

It is absolutely—if I may use the expression—par for the course for the many Bills with which I have been associated that regulations are worked out after the Bill goes through or while the Bill is going through. I was rather amused when the noble Baroness said that a year ago there were consultations and discussions taking place; I thought she was about to chide me for the fact that nothing had been resolved, but she went on to ask why the undue haste. I am sure she was referring to something slightly different. The fact is that this is the normal procedure and the regulations will have to be resolved as we go along, by consultations which will continue. Discussions on the Bill always afford an additional opportunity. My noble friend Lord Caithness, for example, and my noble friend Lord Swinfen obviously have something they want to put in, and this is part of what I understand as consultation, which I think is welcomed. One wants to have it as right as one can get it. So, although that may not be too satisfactory to the noble Baroness, I hope it is at least an explanation of the position as it is.

Lord Swinfen

May I thank my noble friend, and thank the noble Baronesses opposite, for their support. Like them, I feel that we should have had, not necessarily detailed regulations, but some indication of the form they might take. I realise that there is some difficulty in having any final draft ready until the Bill has completed its stages in both Houses, but it has spent some considerable time in the other place before coming here, and I think there might have been some indication ready for us. However, I will read what my noble friend has said with interest, and in the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 38: Page 26, line 13, leave out from ("take") to ("the").

The noble Lord said: This amendment, I should like to say to the Minister, is designed to make sure that an approved inspector must inspect the building plans, because, as I read the Bill, regulations or no regulations, there is at the moment nothing in it to ensure that he must inspect the plans to ensure that the building is eventually constructed in accordance with them. Can my noble friend assure the Committee that, when the regulations come out, it will be mandatory on the inspector to inspect the plans in order to ensure that the building is properly constructed? I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

No, I cannot give that assurance to my noble friend. What I can give him an assurance about is that the point he makes will be very well taken, and hopefully will be a contribution to the regulations as they will eventually turn out to be.

Lord Swinfen

I am not entirely sure that I am satisfied, because either in the regulations or in the Bill before it leaves this House it must be made absolutely essential that the approved inspector does inspect the building plans, because how else will he ensure that any building is properly constructed? I will possibly go further into this at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 27, line 21, at end insert— ("(8) Any scheme approved or insurance cover prescribed for the purposes of this section shall require that an approved inspector shall be fully covered for any period during which a claim may be made against him or his estate.")

The noble Baroness said: This is a very important amendment, as it is concerned with insurance cover. Under the existing law, where a local authority building inspector negligently certifies that a building work complies with the building regulations and where that building is subsequently found to be defective, the local authority which employed that inspector would be liable in damages to the owner or occupier of the building. To avoid or reduce such claims to the minimum, local authorities operate the building regulations on the basis that prevention is better than cure, and accordingly their policy is to stop defective buildings being constructed, so far as is possible, rather than to approve them and pay damages later.

In this Bill we appear to have a change in this situation. The concern felt about this comes not only from noble Lords on our Benches, but also from NALGO, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, district planning officers, the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors, and indeed a host of other bodies who are all concerned at what is an extremely important point. We believe that the intention behind this part of the Bill is to replace that preventive concept with a more relaxed system based upon compensation through insurance where defects pass unnoticed. If the concept of compensation through insurance is to be anything approaching a satisfactory replacement—and I still wonder if even that is possible—for that of prevention, it is essential that the provisions for requiring insurance cover should be adequate enough to protect the victim of the negligence of an approved inspector.

Clause 26(1)(c) touches on the requirement for insurance, but that requirement arises more specifically in subsection (6) of the clause. That subsection provides that the Secretary of State "may" impose requirements with respect to the provisions of insurance cover against the negligence of an approved inspector. It is that "may impose" which also adds to the doubt as to the relaxation of the clause. The matter of insurance is one of vital importance. Therefore, we and the different bodies who are worried about this particular clause take the view that subsection (6) of Clause 26 does not in its present form adequately provide for the requirements necessary to suit the new arrangements as laid down and put before us in the Bill. We feel that the Secretary of State must accept a duty to impose a requirement, through the building regulations, that an approved inspector shall be fully insured for his negligence during any period in which a claim might be made against him. The object of the amendment is to secure that necessary result. I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Claughton

I think that, as the noble Baroness says, this is a very important clause. I think it is important that this insurance cover should be mandatory and not permissive, as it appears to be under the Bill as drawn. Recent decisions in the High Court have imposed a very heavy burden on local authorities in the event of damage to buildings being discovered which are a result of negligent cover by the inspectors. The provision is a very useful additional protection for house owners. Since the time for the Statute of Limitations only starts running from the date that the defect is discovered it is a useful form of protection which has been devised in a number of leading cases, as I have said.

I would be very unhappy if the Bill is left as it is. For instance, if a defect is not discovered for 10 or 12 years after the house has been built and the Statute of Limitations runs from there, it is likely that, with inflation, any insurance cover taken out under the provisions of subsection (6) would have become totally inadequate to cover the cost of putting the matter right at the time the defect was discovered or within the period of the Statute of Limitations thereafter.

It would be a pity if this protection, which is useful for house owners, were to be watered down in any way. I hope that the Minister will accept firming up the position as suggested by the noble Baroness.

Lord Swinfen

I support the principle behind the amendment. However, I am not sure that it is not already covered under subsection (6); but I am no legal eagle and I could be wrong. It is not unusual for defects to be found in buildings many years after they have been constructed. The more complicated that buildings become—and every year they become more complicated as new methods and materials are brought into use—the more essential it is that proper insurance cover should be in position to protect not only the owner of the building for any damage caused but also the tenant and the aproved inspector. It is not usual for a local authority to be sued for damages or for something that a building inspector has missed. It is becoming increasingly difficult, no matter how highly skilled the building inspector is, to ensure that he covers every single point on some of these extremely complicated modern buildings.

Baroness Nicol

Subsection (6) states that the Secretary of State "may" approve just as subsection (7) states that building regulations "may" prescribe. If the "may" in each case became "shall" the clause would take on a completely different complexion. It is the element of doubt left in subsections (6) and (7) which makes the amendment even more important.

Lord Bellwin

I certainly agree with the noble Baroness that this is an important matter. Let me say first that subsections (6) and (7) provide two methods by which the Secretary of State will be able to see that satisfactory insurance arrangements are made. The objective is to ensure that the building owner and any subsequent owner will be certain to be able to obtain redress, at least within a known period, where defects were subsequently discovered in a certified building. It will always be open to a building owner to sue a certifier for negligence at any time in the future, subject to any time limit in the general law of liability, but measures taken under these subsections would guarantee redress for a known period.

We do not consider that certified buildings are likely to prove to be defective. We are confident that inspectors, as qualified and experienced professional people, will do a reliable and technically competent job. However, just as at present local authority control does occasionally fail, the same may occur in the private sector and the building owner clearly must have some means of redress.

The Bill allows for two alternative methods of providing satisfactory insurance. Subsection (6) enables the Secretary of State to approve particular schemes of insurance in relation to work, which could include insurance against the occurrence of defects whether or not they are due to the certifier's negligence. Subsection (7) enables the Secretary of State to prescribe by means of regulations the insurance cover which is to be provided in cases where the work is not covered by an approved scheme.

We think it will be possible to provide insurance cover which will give owners of privately certified property adequate protection. The National Housing Building Council has already said that, if approved as certifiers of low rise housing, they would give owners of houses which they certified first an improved 10 year warranty in respect of defects in a house, and, secondly insurance protection in the event of their negligence as certifiers for up to 15 years. The improved 10 year warranty would cover major damage not only due to major defects, as at present, but also due to breaches of the building regulations. For example, it would cover excessive damp penetration and defects in the drains.

The British Insurance Association has commented that the NHBC arrangements appear to provide the framework for a satisfactory way of dealing with this area of building work. We are exploring this and other possibilities in our continuing discussions with the insurance industry.

Amendment No. 39 however would require something which the insurance industry cannot provide; namely, insurance cover for a certifier, covering his own negligence for an indefinite period, regardless of the fact that there is no way of ensuring that premiums will continue to be paid.

It is true that under the present law, which the Law Reform Committee are currently considering, a local authority might be called upon to meet claims in the indefinite future, and would have the resources to do so, if they admitted liability, or were found liable in the courts.

Similarly, it would always be open for an owner to sue a certifier, for as long as the law permits. Consequently, it would be in the interests of a certifier, or any other professional person for that matter, to insure himself against such an eventuality. But we cannot require people to do the impossible.

The advantage to a house owner of being able to sue the local authority in the distant future is more apparent than real. If the court did not find the authority liable, the building owner would have incurred considerable expenditure and obtained no redress. Against that, a warranty covering defects for a reasonably long period will ensure that they are remedied without the need for litigation. The approved inspector will thus be offering something which will not be available from the local authority.

We think building owners who choose certification will be as well if not better protected by a scheme such as the NHBC has offered, which gives guaranteed protection to building owners against defects, regardless of liability, for 10 years, followed by guaranteed protection for a further period against defects resulting from the certifier's negligence.

I do not know what more I can say. I recognised all along that this would be a point of concern, and quite rightly so. It was a point of concern when we were considering the drafting of the Bill. That is why we have paid such careful attention to it and thought about it as we have. The noble Baroness knows that I always live in hope. I hope therefore that on reflection, and in view of what I have said, she will agree to withdraw her amendment.

The Earl of Selkirk

Is the Minister taking the proposals by the NHBC as standard insurance proposals; that is, that they will normally be for a period of 10 or 15 years? I mentioned the continuance of premiums, but surely in the NHBC scheme there is only a single premium. So there is no question, so far as I know, of the premiums being continued over the years. Roughly speaking, is this going to be the standard which will operate for all authorised inspectors?

Lord Bellwin

Absolutely. We are very concerned about the inspectors and the insurance aspects which my noble friend mentions. To the best of my knowledge that is so—in fact, it must be so if we are to get the protection and the cover that is required.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

I have been listening with great interest to the Minister. He has stressed faults that might arise during house building. However, the building inspectors at present do a great number of large jobs outside house building and that must cause us all great concern. Very often the buildings will be used by the general public, so we are dealing with a matter of public safety.

As I read the Bill at the present moment, it seems to me that the Secretary of State is leaving the details out of the Bill, which makes it more difficult for the contractor to know at what stage, and in what kind of amount, the insurance will be required. A person may be given the position of an inspector perhaps of a shopping arcade, worth several million pounds, with a sports centre attached to it. Obviously a terrific insurance would have to be paid by the approved inspector. One would have to wait and see whether the approved inspector would be able to recoup that.

Because the Law Reform Committee are still considering the matter of liability, and have not yet reported, it seems premature that the Government should be putting something as loose as this in the statute. The Law Reform Committee are having the greatest difficulty in defining the matter of liability and for how long the period should be from when the building defect is noticed or from when the building was constructed. We think that it would be premature even to consider that angle when the Bill might easily have to be altered if the Law Reform Committee come forward with recommendations later in the year. For that reason, we think that it is premature, but to cover ourselves and to cover anybody who is going to use the building, I think we have to say that the insurance must cover every eventuality.

Lord Bellwin

If I might add just one word, let me make it quite clear that it is considered that insurance is absolutely essential. The Bill requires it. Clause 26 (1) (c) says that the initial notice must be: accompanied by such evidence as may be prescribed that an approved scheme applies, or the prescribed insurance", and so on. In other words, there must always be insurance. The only discretion allowed to the Secretary of State is the nature of the evidence to be prescribed. But I say again that I understand the concern. It is proper that it should be expressed. But I think that it is covered.

The Earl of Caithness

I think that the noble Baronesses have raised a very interesting point, but I hope that they do not press it today, because I certainly want to do more work on this point. I had not picked it up myself but it was a point that I was going to raise later. The work that these approved inspectors can undertake will be limited by insurance, because a lot of them will not be able to cover themselves to undertake shopping centres, laminated timber constructions or constructions of stressed concrete in two directions at once. They just will not be able to do it with the insurance cover to satisfy the prescribed regulations—whatever they are going to be. So I should like to support the principle of this, but I hope that the noble Baronesses will withdraw the amendment so that we can raise the matter again at a later stage.

Lord Bellwin

A final word, if I may, just to remind my noble friend—I am sure he does not need it—or to make the position quite clear. The developer, whoever he may be, has an option. It is not an "either/or" situation. He has the option to say, "I want the local authority to do it. I like the way that it is now. I prefer their system". He is absolutely entitled to do that. But what the Bill gives is an option to those who feel that there is a more flexible and quicker alternative. That is all it is doing and not offering one thing instead of another. It is not "either/or".

Baroness Birk

I think that it is clear from what the Minister has said—and he has been quite frank about it—that the Government are not intending to move on this. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who asked me not to press this amendment, will accept there is no point in our waiting for the next step, because, if the Minister was going to have new thoughts on it, I think that he would have quite frankly said so now. He always does do that.

We are deeply concerned about this. It is a move from the local authorities to privatisation. It is an entirely different scene that we are moving into. With local authorities, which have a great deal of both authority and security behind them, it is an entirely different situation. This has also been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, sitting on another Bench, as well as from this Bench. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, also raised some points which I found disquieting. We are also aware that a number of the big insurance companies do not want to have anything to do with this. What worries me is that, while the Minister says that he accepts the principle of this, he is unwilling to take into the Bill wording—quite a simple amendment—which would make it absolutely definite and which would impose what we want to have imposed in the Bill. It would be there and it would be simply described, rather than just leaving this very open discretion. Relying on the body to which the noble Earl and the noble Lord referred only deals with part of the problem. It is a very large problem and could get larger. In view of that, I am afraid I must press this amendment.

Lord Howie of Troon

Before my noble friend decides whether she will press this amendment—

Noble Lords

She has decided.

Lord Howie of Troon

I do not think she has quite yet. Before she decides, will she reflect that I, for one, will not support her? I am sure that that will move her deeply. In my view, there is quite enough meddling with the building industry in this clause already. We should not add any more.

Lord Evans of Claughton

With respect, I had not intended to speak again, but I must say after that remark that the point is that one is not concerned about the developers so much or the meddling; it is a concern to protect purchasers, whose protection will now be considerably diminished as a result of this proposal. I think that that is a very important and serious matter.

5.47 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 39) shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 62; Not-Contents, 86.

Airedale, L. Kennet, L.
Aylestone, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Balogh, L. Leatherland, L.
Banks, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Barrington, V. Lockwood, B.
Beswick, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Birk, B. Mais, L.
Bishopston, L. Mayhew, L.
Brockway, L. Mishcon, L.
Caithness, E. Molloy, L.
Coleraine, L. Nicol, B.
Collison, L. Oram, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Peart, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Phillips, B.
David, B. [Teller.] Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Denington, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Elwyn-Jones, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Seear, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Gallacher, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Glenamara, L. Stone, L.
Hanworth, V. Strabolgi, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Swinfen, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Tordoff, L.
Hooson, L. Underhill, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jacques, L. Wigoder, L.
Jeger, B. Wilson of Langside, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Winstanley, L.
John-Mackie, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Kagan, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Donegall, M.
Auckland, L. Eccles, V.
Avon, E. Elton, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Faithfull, B.
Bellwin, L. Ferrers, E.
Beloff, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Belstead, L. Gainford, L.
Boardman, L. Geoffrey-Lloyd, L.
Brookes, L. Gibson-Watt, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Glanusk, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Glenarthur, L.
Carrington, L. Grantchester, L.
Cathcart, E. Gridley, L.
Chelwood, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Colwyn, L. Halsbury, E.
Cottesloe, L. Hornsby-Smith, B.
Craigavon, V. Hunter of Newington, L.
Croft, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Killearn, L.
Daventry, V. Lauderdale, E.
Davidson, V. Lawrence, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Long, V.
Digby, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Dilhorne, V. Lyell, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. St. Aldwyn, E.
Marley, L. Sandford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Selkirk, E.
Merrivale, L. Shannon, E.
Morris, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Mottistone, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Stradbroke, E.
Moyne, L. Strathspey, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Newall, L. Tenby, V.
Northchurch, B. Terrington, L.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Teviot, L.
Orkney, E. Teynham, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Pender, L. Trefgarne, L.
Platt of Writtle, B. Trenchard, V.
Porritt, L. Vivian, L.
Portland, D. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Romney, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Effect of an initial notice]:

5.55 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 40: Page 28, line 3, leave out ("plans are") and insert ("deposit of plans is to be").

The noble Lord said: The sole purpose of this amendment is to correct a drafting error. As drafted, Clause 27(2)(d) refers to a declaration under section 66 of the 1936 Act that the plans are of no effect". In fact, Section 66 provides for a declaration that the deposit of plans shall be of no effect. The amendment merely brings the wording of the Bill into line with that of the earlier Act. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 27, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Swinfen

I wonder whether the Minister can help me on the clause regarding just one point for clarification. Who is responsible for consulting? Is it the fire authority, the local authority, or the approved inspector? Should it not definitely be the local authority, and should this not at some place be written into the Bill? I ask the question in order to ensure that the fire authority is consulted at the relevant stage, and that developers do not fall between two stools and end up without the fire authority being consulted.

Lord Bellwin

Whether this particular point should be written into the Bill is a question that I should have to consider, though I doubt whether we should want to do so; I think that it is self-explanatory. But again, as with many of the technical querieś which my noble friend raises, not least in the light of his own very considerable expert knowledge in this sphere, I should be glad to take up with him any point which he feels may be necessary and which is not sufficiently clarified.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28 [Approved inspectors]:

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 41: Page 28, line 41, leave out ("body (corporate or unincorporated)") and insert ("single body").

The noble Baroness said: As drafted, the clause permits a wide range of bodies to apply different criteria, different rules, and different degrees of discipline on their members. What we feel is required is one body which will apply consistent standards, while drawing upon the expertise of all the professions. The last thing we want to do is to set up a large, new quango-like structure. What is proposed would be a panel of professional bodies already engaged in the field—a joining together—which would make more sense and would lead to more efficient working of the provision. A number of professional bodies have already announced their interest in participating in the function of a body along the lines suggested.

Further, the amendment would still enable the Secretary of State to appoint an approved inspector, though I feel that common sense would dictate that this should not be necessary from the date when the single body is set up. The objective is to create a body with a wide range of expertise and with credibility in the eyes of builders, developers, insurance companies, and indeed the builders' workforce on site.

The Secretary of State has I think accepted already that in the case of more complex work it should not be left to individual professional bodies to determine those capable of certification. In another place, the Minister stated that such a body as proposed by the RICS, the Institution of Municipal Engineers, the IAAS and IBCO would be a prime candidate for designation for the purpose of approving specialist inspectors. It may be that the local authority associations should also have representation; but I do not believe that, at this stage, we need enter into such details. The type of body proposed is strongly supported both inside and outside Parliament. It would certainly appear to us to be an improvement to the Bill. There is no really good reason why this should not be done. I beg to move.

Lord Prys-Davies

I am pleased to be able to support the amendment for the good reasons advanced by my noble friend. As the subsection stands, an admixture of bodies will be designated by the Secretary of State as approving bodies. As my noble friend has remarked, the snag is that their standards, rules and criteria differ. The various bodies representing different specialties and different disciplines could designate persons whose standards are not comparable. This leads us to the conclusion that a single body drawing upon the expertise of all the appropriate professions should be set up to designate the approved inspectors.

We are not asking for the setting up of an expensive and administratively top-heavy body. We are calling for a small panel whose members would be nominated or appointed by the professional bodies, and some possibly by the local authority associations. With that kind of membership, a panel should be able to work in a co-operative spirit with the professions and the local authorities. The cost of the administration would be small. A single body with a wide range of expertise, and conscious of its responsibilities, would be the best guarantee that the approved inspectors—they are really the key figures—are competent and suitably qualified to meet the demands of their job.

Lord Bellwin

We have not yet reached any firm conclusion as to which bodies should be designated. This is a matter on which we propose to consult further. Any application will be considered on its merits. They could well include a number of professional institutions, and the clause as it stands provides for this. Amendment No. 41—with which, if your Lordships permit, I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 42A—would have the effect that only a single body could be designated by the Secretary of State for the purpose of approving inspectors. I do not think that the limitation is justified. I am not sure that it is even what the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, intend. There are existing bodies that should be quite capable of approving inspectors to undertake certain sorts of work. I am thinking particularly of the professional institutions. It is my belief that members of some existing professional institutions and registered architects, provided that they are sufficiently experienced, should be competent to inspect some of the more straightforward types of building, and that the respective institutions are sufficiently responsible to approve their members on the basis of their professional experience. Clause 28 specifically provides for approval of an inspector to be limited to particular kinds of work.

In the case of more complicated buildings, some higher degree of competence and some form of individual vetting of potential inspectors would be required. In this connection, the department received a submission prepared on behalf of the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors, the Institution of Building Control Officers, the Institution of Municipal Engineers and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors suggesting the setting up of a joint board that might take on this role. There could be much practical merit in a proposal on these general lines. If the professional institutions were to set up such a joint body, it would seem to be a prime candidate for designation for the purposes of approving specialist inspectors.

Amendment No. 42A appears to be consequential upon Amendment No. 41. It would remove the Secretary of State's ability to make building regulations providing for the maintenance of a list of designated bodies. I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, will perhaps see the value in retaining the flexibility inherent in the Secretary of State's powers to designate more than one body if deemed appropriate. In those circumstances, I invite them to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Selkirk

I wonder if the noble Lord will carry matters further. This is one of the most important developments in the Bill. We are possibly in two minds about how it will work out. The noble Lord says that the great professional bodies will carry out this task. It is a long drawn-out course. The Secretary of State appoints a body, the body appoints an inspector and the inspector can delegate the work to someone else. This asks for an awful lot to be taken on trust. Who decides, if a chap proves not to be up to the job, that he should be relieved of his job as an approved inspector? Who will be the judge? Who will see that standards are maintained?

One has to remember that there is the possibility of back-scratching in this business. If there is a touch of that, the chap should be scratched straight off the list. Is this going to be a matter for an outside body or a professional association? These are members put on their honour to do a job properly. Sometimes, people will not live up to the standards of a professional association. Will the noble Lord give a better picture of the way in which he expects this to work?

Lord Bellwin

My noble friend raises important points. The question of who judges the competence in the scenario that I have described will be the professional bodies. Is there not always the safeguard however of an appointed inspector passing on the word to someone else that, when appointed, he takes on the responsibility? What a responsibility it is! It is true that he will have insurance but he only has to be proved incompetent once and that—if I may use the expression—would be game, set and match for him. There is a tremendous onus on a person appointed to make sure that anyone to whom he may sub-delegate work does that work properly and carries it out.

As to the question of how far one can rely upon, not the integrity, but the ability, of the body set up to do the appointing, this is clearly an issue that has to be thought about carefully. I am sure that the Secretary of State will be so concerned when it comes to the setting up of the body. Again, as I have said on more than one occasion today, if there proves to be any problem the Secretary of State can always withdraw approval from the designated body. That would be fairly serious I would have thought professionally. However, if there are suggestions that your Lordships wish to make, I am sure that the Secretary of State will be glad to take them into account. Certainly he will read very carefully what has been said today on this matter.

Lord Prys-Davies

The noble Earl has made a very valuable point and I must confess that I had missed it. Who is empowered to take away the powers from the approved inspector? I should have thought that he who gives the powers can also take the powers away. If the body mentioned in Clause 28(1)(b) is also to be clothed with the power to take away the authority of the approved inspector, then I should have thought that a single authority would be far better equipped to handle that situation than a professional body. It is an argument which really supports the main argument which we have put forward for transferring the responsibility to a single body.

Lord Bellwin

Let me just confirm to the noble Lord that, yes, indeed, the designated body can withdraw approval.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Perhaps I could follow what my noble friend has just said by giving an example. Let us suppose that an approved inspector is building a house next to the one in which I live. I am unhappy about something and I do not think that the building regulations are being honoured. I make my representations to the people who are having the house built and they say, "Oh no, he is an approved inspector and there is nothing wrong with it". But I am still very concerned because it is going to affect my property. Therefore, I go along to the local authority and I say, "I feel that the building going up next door to my house contravenes the building regulations". Have the local authority some power, because I am a ratepayer, to come down and inspect that work and say, "This is not being done correctly and you must remedy it"? Is it the local authority's responsibility or do they just say to the approved inspector, "We have had a complaint about your work. Will you take note of it?" Alternatively, does the local authority say, "We shall have to notify the Secretary of State"? Or do they notify the approved body that it is acting in the wrong way? Does the local authority have to do it or would I have to do it if I were the person who was complaining?

Lord Bellwin

If the noble Baroness had that concern and she knew that it was an inspector, other than a local authority, who was supervising the work, then clearly the complaint would go in the first instance to the inspector and she would specify the grounds of her complaint. If she was not then satisfied that he acted upon it, or if he acted and she was still not satisfied, then she would surely go to the body who had appointed him and say so. The inspector would be faced with a challenge which he would then know he would have to justify in two ways. First, if he persisted and if the complainant let the matter go but it proved in the end that there had been negligence or incompetence on his part, then he would be very much at risk—he would certainly be liable. Furthermore, the designated body, faced with the type of complaint to which the noble Baroness has referred, would surely want to look into it and discuss it with the inspector and give him a chance to have his say before coming to a conclusion. That is a fairly logical approach. But I should not have thought that the local authority, in the circumstances which the noble Baroness has described, would come into the matter.

The Earl of Selkirk

May I push my noble friend a little further? Like myself, he is very anxious that everybody should operate to the highest professional standard, and I hope that they will do so. But one must conceive a situation where that is no longer so. There is no provision here for getting rid of somebody.

Let us suppose that the authority says, "You are sacked". What happens then? He will sue for libel, or he will claim damages. Ought there not to be some provision of some semi-judicial character which could look at the matter? I do not think that it should be dealt with by the law courts; this is a professional matter. If anyone falls below the level of the required professional standard, there should be some procedure for dealing with him on a professional basis and not simply on a judicial basis. I throw that thought out to the noble Lord because these things may happen and I am not at all sure that it would not be easier to make some provision at the present time.

Baroness Nicol

It seems to me that the whole success of the Bill from the Government's point of view hinges on this particular aspect. If the inspectors who are approved are inefficient or are not acceptable to the building profession or not respected by the building profession—and let us face it, the building profession is a pretty tough organisation at times—and if the approved inspectors do not have credibility and the members of the public do not clearly see that they are professional people on whom they can rely and if there is a fault they have a clear line of authority to follow in their complaints, then, with the greatest respect, I suggest that the Bill will prove to be rather a rubber ball from the Government's point of view because it will bounce back and cause a lot of difficulty. With the greatest respect, I should have thought that by now the Government should have come forward with more concrete suggestions than vague remarks about a body or bodies and where they may or may not come from. It seems to me that that is absolutely crucial to the whole success of the Bill and certainly crucial to its acceptance by noble Lords on this side of the Committee.

Baroness Denington

Perhaps I may pursue this point. I should have thought that it would be enormously helpful to the Government if they could get the co-operation of all the professional people involved in this exercise to agree jointly, and with the approval of the Government, to setting up a body. Indeed, the Government could set up the body with the approval and co-operation of those professional people. That one body might then have panels of inspectors with different qualifications at different levels. Perhaps at the lowest level—if I may use that expression—they would be competent to inspect two-storey houses and so on, and at the very highest level they would be competent to inspect the building which I think is fabulous—namely, the new Lloyd's building in the City which would need an inspector with enormous experience. If there were one body that was recognised nationally and composed of representatives from all the professions it would be a body of enormous standing giving enormous confidence. It could have panels, and as regards the very difficult question of somebody not doing his job properly it could ensure that he did not get another one.

Lord Swinfen

I have some sympathy with noble Lords opposite but there is at the same time difficulty. The way in which different materials are now coming into the building industry and the way in which technical advances are being made, means that the different professional bodies—engineers, architects, electrical and mechanical engineers—know the new advances in their own materials and what can be done with them. It is extremely difficult for any one, central body to keep up-to-date with all the new advances. They are different professions; they are almost different industries. Research is being carried out by different bodies.

I entirely see the point that noble Lords opposite are aiming for one centre of not just competence but excellence. But as a surveyor I know my limitations. No way would I take on the job of an approved inspector of some of the more modern buildings. I would not know where to start, because that is not where my expertise lies. It is possible that there are other surveyors who have qualified on the building side rather than on the valuation and general practice side—as I did—who would be qualified to do so. I should be competent to look at an ordinary house or a small block of flats. But I would not know where to begin with a building like the National Westminster Tower or some of the modern buildings that are going up in the City.

It is not a job for one body. For a building as large as that different inspectors would be needed for different parts of it. You would possibly need an inspector to deal with the structural steelwork; you might need another one to deal with the stressed concrete that goes into the building; you might need another on the purely mechanical engineering side to deal with the lifts; you would need someone else to deal with the very complicated electrical side; you would need a physicist of some sort who is competent to ensure that the foundations are satisfactory. In modern building these are all becoming very specialised techniques.

Although I appreciate that there is some little force in the arguments of noble Lords that they want one central body of expertise, all these different professions should liaise, must liaise and I am sure do liaise, to make certain that the new knowledge coming into all of them is passed on and discussed between them. Therefore new methods and new ideas can be made to work together—and made to work together safely—and in such a way that, as regards their knowledge, the building will remain upright, safe, usable and habitable for a very long time.

Lord Prys-Davies

I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, said. I should have thought that there is a great deal of common ground between what we are saying on this side of the Committee and what he has just said. From listening to the noble Lord, the conclusion that I have reached is that there is an interdependency of the specialities. If that is so, that should be reflected in the designating body. We are asking for all the disciplines to be represented on this body.

Baroness Birk

We have had quite a long and interesting debate on this subject. I agree with the noble Earl that in many parts of the Bill the wording is very flexible—and this is particularly so in this instance. I do not think that anything the Minister has said has convinced any of us; it certainly has not convinced me and my noble friends. The present wording permits a wide range of bodies able to supply different criteria, different views and differing degrees of discipline. We are asking—and I think that my noble friend answered very well the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen—for one body to apply consistent standards, but this one body, as I was careful to explain, would be more of a panel of different professional people, with all the different expertise which the noble Lord mentioned.

Therefore, as I do not think that we shall get very much further in discussing this, I shall press the amendment.

6.24 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 41) shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 50; Not-Contents, 82.

Airedale, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Aylestone, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Balogh, L. Lockwood, B.
Banks, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Beswick, L. Mayhew, L.
Birk, B. Mishcon, L.
Bishopston, L. Molloy, L.
Briginshaw, L. Nicol, B.
Collison, L. Oram, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Phillips, B.
Denington, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Fisher of rednal, B. Seear, B.
Gallacher, L. Segal, L.
Glenamara, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Hanworth, V. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stone, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Strabolgi, L.
Hooson, L. Tordoff, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Underhill, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Jacques, L.
Jeger, B. Wigoder, L.
John-Mackie, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Kagan, L.
Auckland, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Avon, E. Long, V.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Bellwin, L. Lyell, L.
Beloff, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Belstead, L. Marley, L.
Boardman, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Brookes, L. Merrivale, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Morris, L.
Caithness, E. Mottistone, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mountevans, L.
Carrington, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cathcart, E. Moyne, L.
Chelwood, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Coleraine, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Colwyn, L. Orkney, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Pender, L.
Cottesloe, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Craigavon, V. Porrit, L.
Croft, L. Portland, D.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Romney, E.
Daventry, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Davidson, V. St. Davids, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Sandford, L.
Donegall, M. Selkirk, E.
Eccles, V. Shannon, E.
Elton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Faithfull, B. Somers, L.
Ferrers, E. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Stradbroke, E.
Gainford, L. Strathspey, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Swinfen, L.
Glanusk, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Glenarthur, L. Tenby, V.
Grantchester, L. Teynham, L.
Gridley, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Trefgarne, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Trenchard, V.
Killearn, L. Vivian, L.
Lauderdale, E. Wakefield of Kendal, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.31 p.m.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 42: Page 28, line 46, at end insert ("but shall in any event restrict the work to that in which the inspector has no interest apart from his normal fee as an inspector").

The noble Lord said: In my view, this is an important amendment. The precise wording may not be the best that could be produced, because I am not a lawyer, but the principle behind it is extremely important, in that there should be no conflict of interest with the "approved inspector". In other words, he may not act as the approved inspector on a development with which he is concerned either as the owner or prospective tenant, or if he is related to the developer, or indeed the building contractor, in any way. The concept of self-certification, as I am sure the Committee is aware, was rejected in the last century when architects and surveyors in London were forbidden to inspect their own work.

By not limiting this amendment purely to a financial interest I am trying to cover instances where pressure may be brought to bear on the approved inspector by such people as a spouse or other relative, or—although this is possibly rather difficult—a girlfriend of a son, or other relative, but that may be a little far-fetched. It is important that there should be no conflict of interest and that this should be written into the Bill. I hope that, if my noble friends are unable to accept the precise wording of the amendment, they will at least accept the principle and suggest other wording at another stage. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

I should like briefly to support this amendment and to add one further point. It is difficult to find words to put into this Bill which would guarantee true independence. How independent does someone become if he works continuously for the same developer, or indeed for the same group of developers? Is it possible to spell this out in the Bill? Is it the Government's intention that this degree of independence should be obtained if possible, and are they seeking words in which to spell it out?

That is the main point I want to make. However, I should also like to say that it is obvious that he should not have any contact with the architects or anyone else who has had anything to do with the conception of the development in the first place. I am not sure whether the noble Lord made that point.

Lord Bellwin

Perhaps it would be helpful in discussing my noble friend's amendment if I briefly explained the intention behind Clause 28 and in particular subsection (2), to which the amendment relates. Clause 28 will enable the Secretary of State to approve suitably qualified people to act as inspectors of building control work and to confer this power on bodies which he designates. The clause also provides for limitations to be attached to any approval, and subsection (2) is intended to ensure that inspectors are only approved to undertake the type of work for which their qualifications and experience fit them; if, for example, an inspector was suitable to certify low-rise housing, but not a more complex scheme, his approval would have to be limited accordingly. Clause 28(2) is therefore concerned with matters of professional qualifications and experience—in other words, the general fitness of a person to carry out the duties of an approved inspector.

Having said that, let me assure the Committee that we fully share the concern which underlies Amendment No. 42, that an approved inspector should be independent of the builder and developer. This was a principle set out in Cmnd. 8179, and we attach much importance to it. We propose to achieve this result by making regulations under Clause 26(1) which will prescribe that, as a general rule, an initial notice will have to contain a statement that the inspector is independent as far as the particular project is concerned. The test is to be that he must not be a member of a firm or partnership responsible in any other capacity for the design or construction of the work. Cmnd. 8179, however, also envisaged that in the case of minor works such as small single-storey house extensions, alterations within an existing house, and works to which only the thermal and sound insulation regulations apply, the requirement of independence might be waived. We want to keep this option open, and for that reason we should be reluctant to see independence made an absolute requirement in all cases.

But, as a general rule, if an initial notice does not contain a statement of the inspector's independence, it will be the duty of the local authority to reject it. This will be one of the prescribed grounds of rejection under Clause 26(2). A false statement in such a notice would in fact be a ground for prosecution under Clause 36. I hope that, in the light of these assurances, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Caithness

Can my noble friend help me by defining "independence"? We have a problem here. He may be a beneficiary of a trust, or he may belong to a company which is going to take part of an office block—say, a suite of offices within the premises. He will then be an involved party. We get back to the problem that we are back to regulations which we do not know, we have not seen, and therefore we are discussing a hypothetical situation. Can my noble friend help us on this specific point by giving us a close definition of "independence"?

Lord Bellwin

My noble friend knows that I cannot, nor can anyone, give a definition of "independence". It will be a question of common sense, and if challenged later then it would be open to a judgment. Let me repeat what I said before, which was pretty categorical. We hope to achieve this position by making regulations. I agree they are not spelt out yet, but this is nothing new at all. This is common practice. If my noble friend, as I said before, has an input into the making of them, fine, that will be very good. The regulations will prescribe that, as a general rule, an initial notice will have to contain a statement that the inspector is independent so far as a particular project is concerned. I said that the test is to be that he must not be a member—and this may satisfy my noble friend—of a firm or partnership responsible in any other capacity for the design or construction of the work. I should have thought that that was pretty clear, and I hope my noble friend will think so too, but he must decide.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

I have listened with interest to what the noble Lord has said about interpreting the word "independent". Of course, the independent inspector is the local authority who will not be tied up with any organisation in any body and therefore will be completely neutral. He will inspect and there will be no reason to think that he will be anything other than independent. That is why we on this side of the House feel that perhaps the approved inspectors might find themselves in great difficulty as the workload is placed upon them, especially when contracts need to be fulfilled very quickly to keep the cash flow going in the building industry in which they are involved. If we want to define "independent" it is important that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, recognises, as I feel sure he will, that it is the local authority building control inspectors whom we can really designate as independent.

Lord Swinfen

I am not entirely satisfied with my noble friend's answer. I do not think he really expected me to be entirely satisfied. To give me a list of the people who might be connected with the approved inspector, to give cases where he may not carry out the work, is not really all that is required. There should be a certificate of some kind, possibly prescribed by the regulations, for him to give an instance of any other way in which he might be connected; whether he happens to be a beneficiary under a trust that owns the land or whether he is a trustee of a trust are examples, none of which has been covered by my noble friend. There are all kinds of other ways in which a man can have in a development an interest that may or may not be financial. He may be responsible for managing someone else's finances as a trustee but he still has an interest. Be that as it may, I would still prefer to see written into the Bill the fact that the inspector must be totally independent so that it would be a question of definitely breaking the law, not just a matter of regulations.

As we have heard earlier this afternoon no one has yet seen even the roughest draft of the regulations that might be produced under this Bill. However, I will read what my noble friend has said and will give consideration to it, and I may possibly bring this back at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment 42A not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 28 shall stand part of the Bill?

The Earl of Caithness

I would like in particular to pick up a point made by my noble friend the Minister on Second Reading and again this afternoon on the limitations of the work that the approved inspector can undertake. On Second Reading on 11th April he said: it will be possible to restrict approval to particular types of building depending on professional qualifications and experience.—[0fficial Report, 11/4/83; col. 17.] I am not clear whether he is solely making the restriction to buildings or making restrictions within a type of building.

We have already heard this afternoon of the very different qualifications needed to certify any building. Therefore, is it going to be said, when it comes to office blocks for example, that the approved inspector can do only the structural steelwork and foundations, if that is his forte, and cannot do the brickwork or the roof?—because this would pose a situation which would defeat the whole object of the Bill, where one would have four or five independent inspectors working for a developer; and so far from encouraging a developer to go to an independent inspector he will go straight to the local authority on Day 1 and defeat the whole object of the Bill.

Another point I wish to raise is a very general one. At present a developer with his consulting engineer will deposit plans with the local authority. As likely as not if the development is complicated, in a vast majority of cases the local authority will delegate the work of checking the plans because local authorities just do not have the competence. They are very used to doing house extensions but when it comes to a complicated office block, which a small local authority will not have done before, that is delegated out. Fair enough. I thoroughly agree with that; but would it not have been easier in this Bill, for the task of actually approving the work, to say to local authorities, "You can delegate that out"? That would have saved quite a lot of time on this Bill and quite a lot of work. It could be done on exactly the same basis as it is being done now and the Government by various means could have encouraged local authorities to do exactly that.

Lord Bellwin

If my noble friend had worked as much with local authorities as I have he would know that the one thing they do not really want is a lot of encouragement of the kind he has just suggested; nevertheless, I take the point that he makes. I do not say that I do not sympathise with it but in practical terms that is not really what this is about. On the other point made by my noble friend, I can tell him that generally speaking the whole building is the responsibility of the inspector appointed. He may indeed subcontract—if that is the right word—to others to do work, but whether he does or does not, at the end of the day the responsibility is his. The responsibility is upon him and it will be for him to be sure that the standards are maintained.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Plans certificates]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 43 Page 30, line 23, leave out from ("shall") to ("give") in line 24.

The noble Earl said: The object of this amendment relates in part to an earlier amendment raised by my noble friend and myself on the initial plans. I am glad to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has down an amendment (No. 48) which I believe seeks to do very much the same thing, to provide that a plan certificate should in every case be deposited with the developer, the local authority and the builder so that there is no dispute at a later date, particularly if there is to be litigation, as to exactly what was the final construction of the building. This is particularly important when one gets into the much more complicated construction in commercial development and it is essential that we should have a plan as built deposited with the developer and the local authority.

Lord Prys-Davies

I would very much like to support this amendment. It seems to me that time after time in this Bill we are in grey areas. Under the existing law we are on pretty firm ground. The rules have been built up over the years. Now we are moving forward into uncertainty and to uncertain ground. I should have thought that in the conditions envisaged in Clause 29(a) (b) and (c) there ought to be no discussion. If those conditions have been met then the approved inspector should give a certificate in the prescribed form. Too often we find that the rights and the duties are ill-defined in the Bill. I would support very much the deletion of the words from "shall" to "give" because it would mean that we have less discretion and are moving away from the grey areas.

6.50 p.m.

Lord Swinfen

I should like to support my noble friend. We have so far been talking about the construction of buildings but the demolition of them is sometimes even more important. With the very complicated and very highly stressed modern buildings, if you do not have the right plans when it comes to demolition and you wrongly cut a stressed part of the building, the rest of the building can literally explode and send bits of concrete and metal flying for a long way. I think that this is an added pointer to the amendment.

Lord Bellwin

I am not too sure about things exploding; I am doing my best not to do so myself. Can I say that acceptance by the local authority of a plan certificate will give the developer similar protection to that resulting from the passing of plans by the local authority under the current system; that is, in the event of responsibility reverting to the local authority, if it can be shown that work has been carried out in accordance with plans which the certifier has approved, the local authority will not be able to serve a notice requiring it to be taken down or altered on the ground that it contravenes the regulations. The apparent intention of this amendment is to make it obligatory for an approved inspector to give a plan certificate in all cases rather than only where the developer has requested it. At the moment, the Bill would allow an approved inspector who has not been asked to provide a plan certificate to use his discretion as to how far he scrutinised plans before building work began.

I would have thought that this provides a useful flexibility, as there is in the local authority system where there are arrangements for stage or provisional approval of plans. This is often essential in cases involving complex work. I have described the advantages which possession of a plan certificate gives to a developer but, at the end, it is a matter for him to decide whether he wants one and is prepared to pay the cost of getting one. We see no reasons for making plan certificates obligatory in all cases. That is why we cannot accept the amendment.

Baroness Birk

The noble Earl is quite right; my later amendment is slightly different but is on the same lines. We are again back to the Minister saying that we should keep this as flexible as possible. I say once again that we are in what my noble friend has called a grey area, and entirely different scenario from the context in which building control operates today. If this Bill goes on to the statute book it is going to be absolutely different because it is really moving away from the local authority to the area of privatisation. There is a tremendous responsibility on the people concerned, the people who are involved personally and financially, to make sure that every precaution is carried out. I think that this neat and simple amendment, which makes it obligatory to give a certificate, is absolutely right and ought to be accepted in the context of the Bill.

The flexibility in Government Bills seems always to be in the wrong place. It always puts everything to the Secretary of State who, it appears, has the last word. If it is something where it applies to the people concerned and is of great importance to them then it should not be left in this wide-open way; it should be obligatory to give a certificate. Therefore, I support what noble Lords opposite have been saying.

The Earl of Caithness

I was concerned by some of the remarks made by my noble friend. I think that he said at one stage that there were instances when some plans would not be needed. That rather worried me because the whole point that we were trying to make earlier was that we wanted plans with the initial notice, we wanted plans all the way through; because the approved inspector cannot do his job without the plans. I should like to discuss with my noble friend instances where he can operate without plans. I would think that they are few and far between. I cannot think of one at the moment.

He also mentioned plan certificates on part of the building. I am all in favour of that. It is an excellent idea that, as you are proceeding with the structure and you have done your foundations, you get the plan certificate then. I am not complaining about that. All I want is deposited with the local authority the plans as the development is built at the end of the day. You have 14 or 15 changes of the staircase, of the lift, how it will tie in and how it affects the foundations—you can forget all of those. We want a final plan at the end of the day, as built. I would ask my noble friend to reconsider that point because I think it is extremely important.

Lord Bellwin

I have nothing to add. Of course, I will discuss with my colleagues, as always, everything that is said here. If they feel that there has been something omitted here along the lines of what my noble friend has said, then we shall want to do something about it. That is the only helpful comment I can make.

The Earl of Caithness

I am grateful for that. I should very much like to discuss it with my noble friend and with the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment but reserve my right to bring it back at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 29 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Swinfen

Very quickly, I see no provisions in this clause or elsewhere in the Bill to cover cases where there are changes in the building proposal. I am sure that my noble friend is aware that on the large buildings which are being constructed today there are continuous changes throughout the construction of the building. Some buildings take years to construct, notably some Government buildings; so my noble friend must be aware of the changes that take place and some provision, I think, should be made for this in the Bill. I wonder if he would consider bringing in an amendment later that will cover this point.

Lord Bellwin

I cannot give such an assurance. I can only repeat what I have said to my noble friend Lord Caithness. Together with colleagues and experts we will take careful note of what has been said. That I undertake to do.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Final certificates]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 44: Page 31, line 32, after ("completed") insert ("and when the building or part is occupied").

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, I think it would be appropriate to speed matters by speaking to Amendment No. 45 at the same time as moving this amendment. It is a very simple amendment relating to occupation of a building. We all must realise that there is often a considerable delay before all the building work is completed, but that, during the latter stages of that, the building might be occupied. The amendment put forward in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Swinfen is designed for the local authority to be notified that occupation has taken place. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

I fear that Amendment No. 44 may have an effect which my noble friend would not desire. Clause 30, to which the amendment relates, provides that an approved inspector shall give a final certificate to the developer and to the local authority when work specified in an initial notice has been satisfactorily completed. This certificate can relate to the whole of the work specified in an initial notice, or to only part of it. For example, in the case of a housing development, where a single initial notice covered an entire estate, a final certificate given under Clause 30 could relate to all the houses together; or separate notices could be given for each house.

The only thing that governs the timing of these final certificates is the satisfactory completion of the work itself. As soon as the inspector has satisfied himself that the job—or a part of it—has been done properly, he can give his certificate, and thus "sign it off". Amendment No. 44 would prevent him doing this. He would have to wait until the building was occupied. Then, and only then, would he be able to serve his final certificate that the work was satisfactory.

This is surely the wrong way round. It must be better to try to ensure that the building is satisfactorily completed before it is occupied. This is certainly what the Government intend to do. We propose to make regulations under Clause 26(4) which will provide that an initial notice ceases to have effect when a building is occupied, or within a specified time of occupation. This will, of course, mean that unless there were a final certificate from an approved inspector, confirming compliance with the regulations, the local authority's powers of enforcement would then revive, so that any potentially dangerous contraventions could be rectified. In practice, this will mean that final certificates have to be given either before occupation or virtually simultaneously with it. I hope that my noble friend will agree that this is a sensible and necessary safeguard.

The present Amendment No. 44 would prevent this, and that is why I therefore invite my noble friend to withdraw it. Amendment No. 45, I think, is in some way consequential.

The Earl of Caithness

I will read very carefully what my noble friend has said. I was only trying to be helpful to the local authority where building works had not been completed or received a final certificate. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Denham

I think this is probably an appropriate moment to break for the dinner adjournment. Before moving that the House do now resume, I think it would be for the interest of your Lordships to say that we will not resume consideration of this Bill until 7.40. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.