HL Deb 26 March 1984 vol 450 cc27-76

4.12 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 33 [Meaning of "secure tenancy"]:

Baroness Fisher of Rednal moved Amendment No. 51: Page 35, line 28. leave out ("paragraph 3 shall be omitted and").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment. I should like also to speak to Amendment No. 53.

Amendment No. 53: Page 35, line 39, at end insert— ("2B. (a) A tenancy is not a secure tenancy if the tenant is an employee of a local education authority, and

  1. (i) the duties in his contract of employment necessitate that he live within reasonable proximity of an education establish-ment;
  2. (ii) the dwelling was let to him by the authority in consequence of that necessity.
(b) In this paragraph "contract of employment" has the same meaning as in paragraph 2 above and local education authority means an education authority for the purposes of the Education Acts 1944 to 1981.").

These two amendments run in parallel with one another. Amendment No. 51 seeks to restore paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 to the Housing Act 1980, which excludes from security of tenure, and hence the right to buy, houses let under the Education Act 1944. In the Housing Act 1980 the actual paragraph is specific: A tenancy is not a secure tenancy if the tenant is an employee of the landlord and … the dwelling-house is held by the landlord for the purpose of any of its functions under the Education Act 1944".

That was clear and explicit in the 1980 Act. As the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, told us on several occasions during the Committee stage, the idea of this Bill is to iron out any anomalies that need to be ironed out, as the Government appreciate that problems have arisen during the two years in which the Act has been in operation.

In considering anomalies, I would ask the noble Lord why, in the 1980 Act, he took from that part of the Act the provision protecting education housing but at the same time instituted in the Act a section protecting housing for the police and fire services. One presumes that the Home Office knew that the Housing Act was going through in 1980, but it seems strange that they never asked for any special provision. The education and social services asked for a special provision. At that late stage they must have seen the anomaly, and therefore the Minister is now trying to rectify the matter but, as I said on a previous Committee day, at the expense of education and social services.

I can readily recognise why the police and fire services might need a certain type of accommodation—perhaps for the young, single person. But information which I have obtained from a very authoritative source is at great variance with that which the Minister gave me in reply when I raised this matter on the last Committee day. I understand that the watch committees, which are police committees, run the police service on rosters and that these make quite sure that throughout 24 hours the police service is covered in the particular locality. The same arises with the fire departments; they go on what are called "watches" which, again, comprise a designated number of hours to cover a 24-hour service. In the main they now employ those who live in council properties, if they so wish, in private properties, if they so wish, and also those who are able to purchase their own properties. Again from very authoritative sources, I understand that police officers can live as far as 10 miles away from the particular police station where they are stationed. I understand that the fire service does not apply such a definite mileage.

These personnel employed by the fire service and the police service have regular hours of work, even if they work on a shift system, so they know that if they go on at a certain time they will finish at a certain time. All they have to do is to make sure that they get to the police or fire station at the particular time in question. If there is an extreme emergency—and it has to be an extreme emergency—both services have ways and means of calling in their personnel, which very often means that they go out and fetch staff in cars. Therefore, I do not understand what the Minister meant when, at column 1387 of Hansard of 22nd March 1984, he said: firemen are required to live in very close proximity to the station at which they work".

In the light of what I have said I hope that the Minister will look at that again, because my information, which comes from a very authoritative source, indicates that that is not quite true. So we are at variance on that.

The point I want to raise concerning education is very different. The days when fire and police officers needed to live next door to the job have passed. But there is now a greater need for those attending education and special schools to live near the job. We are now finding that pupils at residential special schools have changed very considerably. With the passing of the Education Act 1980, a number of children who were in special schools have become integrated into ordinary schools and are receiving their special education at that level. The special schools which are outside borough boundaries and ILEA boundaries very often have as their pupils those who in the past have received care under the National Health Service care in the community projects. Therefore, those pupils are leaving national health institutions—which often were mental hospitals—and are now being cared for in the community.

As a first stage, before they actually return completely to the community, they go to these residential schools. Many of these pupils can be described as being much more difficult behaviourally than were previous pupils. Their problems are much more acute; their maladjustment is much more serious. All these matters are manifested in the many more emergencies that arise, because of the more difficult pupils now being accepted in the schools. Therefore. I think that the need for the educational provision must still be continued and, as the noble Lord said previously, perhaps the needs of fire and police are more essential. My case and my argument is that there is a need for clarity, if for nothing else, in education. I raise no objection if the noble Lord says. "We must have protection for firemen and for police". All that I would add is, "Let us have parity for education, where the needs are now greater because it is incumbent upon the staff to live on the school premises or near them". In this way, they can look after emergencies; and not only that, but carry out the extra duties they are involved in. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, we talked about Amendment No. 53 previoulsy. I wonder whether the noble Baroness, in what she has just said, was referring also to Amendment No. 157 which I had understood might be covered.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Yes, my Lords.

Amendment No. 157: Page 98, leave out line 51.

4.22 p.m.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I believe that the landlords' interests will be adequately safeguarded under the arrangements we are now proposing. The question is whether landlords will be in a position to gain possession of such dwellings when they need to do so for operational reasons. There are three grounds for possession that I think are particularly relevant. First, the new Ground 9A (in Clause 24) will enable the landlord to gain possession if he requires a dwelling for letting to new employees. Second, new Ground 5B (in Amendment No. 40) will enable him to gain possession where an occupant of the dwelling has behaved in a way likely to put at risk the function of the building. Third, Ground 8 (in the existing legislation) will enable the landlord to gain possession where he requires to do so in order to redevelop or to carry out works to the building.

I said in Committee that I should be happy to reconsider, if your Lordships so wished, pressing the case for the retention of paragraph 3 of Schedule 3. I am as concerned as anyone that we should do nothing to prejudice the effective operation of premises used for social service and education service. But we must not lose sight of the fact that tenant employees also have a right to expect some security to the extent that this does not conflict with basic functional necessities. I have listened carefully to what the noble Baroness has said and I have fully considered representations received since Committee. Given the safeguards that I have mentioned, I am still not persuaded of the case for retaining paragraph 3.

Under the Government proposals social service and education authorities will be in a position to gain possession of a curtilage dwelling where it is important that they should do so for operational reasons. In other cases, what we are proposing will give employee tenants an added security which I believe they have every right to expect.

When we are talking about the educational matter, I think that I should make it clear and perhaps say a word or two about police and fire authority housing. A special exception is needed for police because police officers are not covered by paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 because they are officers of the Crown and are not employees. The provision regarding firemen is geared to—and this is the point—day manning arrangements which are gradually being introduced in some areas to replace shift arrangements. The noble Baroness moves her head signifying that she does not disagree. But what 1 have said is so. Whether or not it impacts sufficiently upon her case is a different matter; but that is what is happening as far as the fire service goes and the police situation is as I have described it.

What more is there to say beyond what I said last time about Amendment No. 53 and education? I could repeat what I said then. I am sure the noble Baroness does not particularly want me to do that. She asked whether I would look again, still talking about the fire matter and about premises in close proximity. Of course, she knows I will certainly do that. I want to be absolutely clear that there is no difference between us as to the facts of the matter. I will look at that. As far as the amendment is concerned—and I am referring to Amendment No. 53 as well—I am trying to avoid going over what I have said before, hence my hesitency; but I think that what is very important here is that there should be no possible proposals—and I do not think the noble Baroness intends this—which would deprive certain tenants of the statutory security which they have enjoyed since 1980.

There is a world of difference between giving an additional right and taking one away. I am sure that that is not the noble Baroness's intention but that would be the effect as far as Amendment No. 53 is concerned. If the noble Baroness would like me to elaborate on these arguments, I would be happy to do so. I have copious notes to hand; but I am sure that this is not the intention either. May I say that we have considered this very carefully; and the noble Baroness will know that my noble friend Lady Faithfull has been very anxious in this area, too—

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, cemeteries.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, cemeteries as well. The noble Baroness will have to take it from me that she has spoken to me about all matters of this kind which are of concern to her. I want to say that we have considered very carefully what provisions are appropriate to ensure that landlords retain control over dwellings which are needed for operational purposes, and at the same time we are conscious not to ride roughshod over the reasonable expectations of tenants, and certainly not to deprive them of the rights which were conferred in 1980—which is what Amendment No. 53 would do. I am sorry I cannot be more helpful. 1 know that the noble Baroness raises these matters in good faith because of her concern. This happens to be an area where I share that concern. I really think that her fears are groundless.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister look again at what I have said? Perhaps I could discuss two points with him which I feel that perhaps I did not explain fully. If I explain them to him privately it may be helpful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Aberdare)

My Lords, I have to point out that if Amendment No. 52 is agreed to. I cannot call Amendment No. 53.

Lord Bellwin

Amendment No. 52:

[Printed earlier: col. 1374.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 52 was taken with Amendment No. 1 A. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 not moved.]

Clause 36 [Giving and acceptance of an initial notice]:

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 55:

Page 38, line 10, leave out ("39(3)") and insert ("40(3)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 38, line 30, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Minister and his advisers will have seen that the words in the amendment relate to yet another attempt to raise the insurance issue. May I say to the Minister that it would not be my intention to press these matters too strongly, but we are under an obligation from a great range of people outside to use the opportunities that we have both to make their case and to invite the Minister to try to satisfy them in a difficult situation that the intentions of the Government are being speedily and satisfactorily carried out.

We on this side of the House are a little uneasy about the provisions contained in the Bill for the Secretary of State to approve insurance schemes and, in building regulations, to prescribe the type of insurance cover required, including the form and the contents of such policies. We are mindful, having been advised by people from outside—and we are certainly not objecting to the powers that the Secretary of State may have—that circumstances change and the Minister may very well feel from time to time that there is a need substantially to change the basis of the insurance schemes. We believe that when that happens there should be a mechanism which would force the Secretary of State to come to Parliament to explain and seek approval. The Minister may tell us that those he is in touch with, and not only the insurance companies but also the range of people that we have talked about—associations and other people—are satisfied that that would not happen; in other words, that there would be full consultation when the basis and the criteria on which the insurance schemes which need to be approved are altered.

Perhaps the Minister could say something about the progress towards getting a resolution of these matters, bearing in mind that the idea has been talked about—that is, the insurance basis of the matter as opposed to the previous one—for four or five years. I would say to the Minister that we are aware that progress has been made almost every time the matter has been brought to the House, but I should be grateful to the Minister for some assurance.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I have already described at some length in Committee our insurance proposals under this Bill. I readily take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that these are complicated. I explained the two alternative routes down which the Bill allowed us to go: under either subsection (6) or subsection (7) of Clause 36, as it is now numbered. Our current thinking remains that subsection (6) is the right way forward. Amendment No. 56 would delete this subsection, however, leaving no option but to make regulations under subsection (7).

Amendment No. 57 is merely consequential; and Amendment No. 58 would suggest the alteration of the word "may" to the word "shall". I would assume that is intended to make certain that regulations imposing requirements for insurance are made before certification is introduced. I assume also, first, that I am correct, and, secondly, that the noble Lord intended to speak to all three amendments together.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Yes, my Lords.

Lord Skelmersdale

However, as I explained in Committee, certification under Clause 36 will not—this is the important point—and cannot begin until either insurance regulations are made prescribing the cover to be required or else a specific scheme or schemes has or have been approved for the purpose by the Secretary of State. If there were to be no insurance schemes, then regulations would have to be made for certification to be possible. This is because subsection (1) of this clause requires that an initial notice will have to be accompanied by prescribed evidence of insurance. Failure to provide such evidence will be one of the grounds on which the local authority will have to reject the notice, so there can be no chance of an inspector supervising work without the necessary insurance. Amendment No. 58 is therefore un-necessary.

I have already explained that for the present we propose to rely on approved schemes. When the market has developed we may be able to make regulations, but we are not at that stage yet. The amendments, by forcing us to make regulations at the outset, would mean that we would have to do so without experience of the new system in practice. There could be a risk, therefore, that an insurer could find a loophole in such regulations which allowed him quite legally to provide cover which was not adequate to protect owners or third parties. By approving schemes, however, the Secretary of State will be able to vet every proposal for insurance and to ensure that it meets the letter as well as the spirit of the requirements set out in our guidelines, which I described in Committee.

The key question of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, was: is it possible for the Secretary of State to withdraw such approval for a scheme? The answer is, Yes; and I am sure that, with that proviso, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful each time the Minister gives more information on the progress of overcoming the problems involved, so that those outside may feel satisfied that the best is being made of a very bad job. The Minister must be aware that those outside have the greatest unease about the insurance aspect of this part of the Bill, as opposed to many others. There is violent disagreement about certain other matters, but there is unease and fear that there could be some (if I were to use emotive words perhaps I might be out of order) possibility that something dreadful might happen because the insurance side has not been got right. This causes great unease outside the House. The Government have decided that this is the way they want to do it, so theirs is the responsibility. But the unease does exist, and the Minister will know that I am not carrying tales because he will understand that the great unease felt outside needs to be drawn constantly to the attention of the Minister and his advisers, to remind them that the quicker they are able to satisfy the interests outside—that is everybody; not just the party or association, but the insurance industry as well—then the better will be their lot in implementing the legislation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 not moved.]

Clause 37 [Effect of an initial notice]:

4.37 p.m.

Viscount Hanworth moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 39, line 6, at end insert— (" ( ) If in the course of the work an inspector resigns or is dismissed by his employer the local authority shall, having regard to all the circumstances, decide whether to appoint their own inspector, nominate an independent inspector or leave the decision to the developer or building contractor, and such a decision shall be final.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a very straightforward amendment which can be explained quite quickly. It is entirely non-political. Although only my name appears above the amendment, it has the full support of the Opposition and Alliance Parties. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, and I have had discussions with the Minister and his advisers, and we are completely unconvinced by the arguments against the amendment. What is at stake is simply that the Bill as it stands leaves an open gateway for dishonesty and corruption by unscrupulous developers and contractors who can sack an independent inspector or cause him to resign. They are then free to find a more pliable inspector. The amendment says that in such circumstances: … the local authority shall, having regard to all the circumstances, decide whether to appoint their own inspector, nominate an independent inspector or leave the decision to the developer or building contractor".

So far, the Government's only arguments against this amendment are, first, that there is already a disincentive for sacking an inspector because of the difficulties with providing certification for partly completed work; and, secondly, that if corruption is occurring, the local authority or the authority approving the inspector will take action. I maintain that it is completely idle to suppose that action will be taken except in the clearest case of dishonesty, and this because of the difficulty of proof and the risk of legal action, with a possible appeal. The third Government objection is the potential liability of the local authority if they take on inspection themselves or appoint an inspector. However, such involvement, if any, would be no more than if they are used as inspectors in the first instance.

I am sure that your Lordships would agree that we ought to discourage the possibility of dishonesty so far as we reasonably can, and that is what this amendment seeks to do. It also ensures that the local authority will take an interest where there is a potential for dishonesty. If the Government are right in thinking that the circumstances I envisage will seldom arise, the amendment is surely wholly unobjectionable. If. on the other hand, my fears are justified, the amendment becomes essential. I earnestly hope that the Government will agree to the amendment or offer some compromise or further consideration. If they do not, and cannot today produce any better arguments than those which I have outlined, I shall almost certainly decide to divide the House.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I support the amendment. At Committee stage, the Minister was kind enough to invite the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, and me to discuss the matter with him. We had a very productive hour in his office during which we went over the ground. Although we were unable to persuade him and although he was unable to persuade us, this does not alter the fact that there is understanding about the point we are making. We are trying to find a form of words that will meet a situation which may not arise very often but of which we need to take account. This is because of the size of and the wide range of attitudes in the building industry.

We want to take account of a situation in which a builder may decide, for his own good reasons, to dismiss an approved inspector, without there being absolute clarity about it. The Minister carefully pointed out to us that because of the consequences and difficulties which would ensue, it was unlikely that a developer would take lightly such a dismissal. May I pray in aid of our case the letter which the Minister wrote after our meeting to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. In discussing the kind of problems which would exist over the form of words, the Minister said: If the authority nominated an inspector who was subsequently proved to have acted negligently, what would the council's liability be? If a developer appoints an approved inspector who is dismissed for what are considered to be uncertain reasons, we say that in those circumstances the local authority should have the power to appoint somebody else. The Minister asked: if the inspector who is appointed by the authority turns out to have acted negligently, what would the liability of the council be? It would be the same as it is now. Every inspector of buildings is now appointed and employed by the local authority. If he is negligent, the local authority has to carry the responsibility. We are trying to ensure the future right of the local authority to be involved. In the case of all forms of authority there must be responsibility.

The Minister went on to say in his letter: Secondly, we would, in effect, be asking the council to take a judgment on the competence of individual approved inspectors—turning down one and instructing developers to give work to another". The Minister is quite happy to say to the approved bodies that they will have the right to work out their own system of approving approved inspectors, and whoever they appoint will be "franked" by the Secretary of State. We believe that local authorities are perfectly competent to compile lists of approved inspectors who have already been "franked" by their approved body, be they members of the RIBA or of the relevant engineering and surveying institutions. They have already had to pass a number of tests and prove their competence. We believe that local authorities are perfectly able to compile such lists.

Part of the Minister's case is that if a local authority or anybody else has reason to believe that an inspector has been too lax it can tell the designated body which approved that inspector. We ought not to start off on the premise that part of the job of a local authority is to monitor the efficiency of approved inspectors. That should be the job of the designating body. More than once the Minister has quite rightly said that the RIBA will very jealously protect their own integrity. We do not believe that this should be the job of the local authorities. Unless the noble Lord the Minister is able to satisfy us that there is no need for these words, if the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, presses his amendment, we shall support him in the Division Lobbies.

Lord Skelmerdale

My Lords, at the Committee stage I explained the sequence of events which take place when an approved inspector cancels his initial notice and either a second inspector or the local authority takes over responsibility for the work. If, instead, the developer sacks his inspector, he has the same options of looking for a second inspector or of going to the local authority. As the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, said, this amendment would remove the developer's choice in those circumstances and instead empower the local authority to decide whether to allow a second approved inspector to take over the work. If they did so allow, the authority would have the option of nominating which inspector should take on the job.

Perhaps I might dispose here of the last point which the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, made. He referred to nomination being the same as nomination by an approved body. In fact, it is quite different. In the second case—nomination by an approved body—there is an open choice to be made by the developer or, under the amendment, by the council, whereas the amendment means the nomination of an individual. Therefore freedom of choice is very much restricted by the amendment.

I very much appreciate the noble Viscount's concern about this point, not least because we discussed it at some length outside the House during the meeting referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I accept entirely the fundamental concern which I know underlies the amendment; namely, that building work should be supervised by an impartial, properly qualified inspector to ensure that it meets the required standards of health and safety. However, the Government firmly believe that this objective will be achieved by the Bill as it is now drafted.

For a number of reasons we cannot accept the ideas behind the amendment. First, there is the problem that by imposing on a local authority the obligation to make a judgment about the quality of the building work and the chances of it being carried through to satisfactory' completion we shall be opening up a new field of potential liability. If the authority nominated an inspector who was subsequently proved to have acted negligently, what would the council's liability be? This point was mentioned in the letter which I sent to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, which has just been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, answered my question by saying that it would be the same as under the current scheme. This is not so. The difference is that in the case we have postulated—that of a second inspector, whether council nominated or otherwise—the second inspector would not always have been concerned with the project whereas, under the current scheme, the local authority would have been. The local authority has no reason to take an interest in the work and it will not, and should not, bear any responsibility for that work. This amendment, however, would put local authorities at risk of liability for work which they had not supervised. I very much doubt whether the local authorities would welcome it.

Secondly, we should also be asking councils to take a judgment on the competence of individual approved inspectors—turning down one and instructing developers to give work to another. I have already explained the difference between the ideas of the Government and those of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. Even so, this looks invidious and it is hard to see how local authorities could make such judgments on any very clear or secure grounds. It is the bodies which are to approve the inspectors which would have evidence of individual qualifications and experience. It is on the basis of that information that they would have taken the decision to approve any particular inspector. As I explained in Committee (at col. 446 of Hansard) if a local authority, or anyone else, had reason to believe that an inspector was too lax, they could tell the designated body which approved him. It is then up to the designating body to consider whether to withdraw his approval, which they can do at any time. Any designated body will be concerned to preserve its own reputation, without which its designation would be unlikely to last very long. Before designating bodies, we will want to be satisfied that they have suitable disciplinary arrange-ments.

I must also emphasise that I believe the problem will arise less frequently than noble Lords may expect, because of the practical difficulty of giving an "interim certificate" for a half-completed building. Sheer economic necessity will, in virtually all cases, force a developer to stay with the approved inspector he chose first, even though he may think that the inspector is being too rigorous.

The noble Viscount, however, was concerned about the other extreme; namely, an approved inspector who was too "pliable". Every approved inspector, though, will in fact be acting under a statutory duty, and legally responsible for his actions and judgments; and this should not be taken lightly. If an inspector were to co-operate—which, your Lordships will understand, is a euphemism—to the extent of knowingly or recklessly issuing a notice or certificate containing a false or misleading statement, he would be committing an offence under Clause 46. Not only would he be liable to a fine and/or imprisonment: he would, on conviction, automatically lose his approval for at least five years. In a case where an inspector merely acquired a reputation of being easy-going, the designated body which approved him could consider withdrawing that approval at any time. I believe that the professional institutions that we have in mind as possible designated bodies will be very concerned to maintain their reputation, by exercising their full responsibility under this Bill.

In any case, I believe it is wrong to expect that developers will always want to cut corners and to produce buildings that contravene the regulations. In short, we believe the way to ensure that buildings supervised by approved inspectors are safe is to have proper procedures for vetting applicants in the first place, with power to withdraw approval if appropriate. Since we are now proposing that approvals will be given for five-year periods, there will be an automatic review process built into the system. To follow some of the draconian ideas proposed in the amendment would. I feel, be quite wrong.

4.50 p.m.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, one point that has worried me about the independent inspectors is this. Supposing there are inspectors who are a little easier than others: as I understand it, that is the problem which worries the noble Viscount. What does one do in that situation? One dismisses one man, knowing that his replacement might take a slightly different view of some particular aspect of architecture. This can be quite a small matter. I am not talking about fraud or anything of that sort, but somebody else may be a little easier in some respects. My noble friend's answer to that is, "All our inspectors will be so grand and wonderful that they will never make mistakes and will never disagree on personal grounds, whoever the developer is". Of course they will disagree, and they will say, "I don't like this chap. I don't like his approach".

This is really an astonishingly innocuous amendment. All that happens here is that one dismisses the inspector and reports it to the local authority. That is the first step. One obviously has to have a conversation about the whys and the wherefores. One does not know what the local authority will say. They may say, "Take our chap", or they may say, "Appoint another inspector yourself. But one will have reported the matter to the local authority. If the local authority knows that Mr. Bloggins is always being asked, the local authority will grow a little suspicious that Mr. Bloggins is an easy-going chap.

My noble friend questioned the liability of the local authority. If a local authority nominates a well-qualified man, I cannot believe that any liability would rest on the local authority. My noble friend may have taken legal advice on this point, but I would have thought that in the case of a highly-qualified man, the local authority would not be left with any liability.

One could have the situation where one inspector is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the developer, who then appoints another inspector. My noble friend says that this is all right because all inspectors will be perfectly qualified. Is he really satisfied with that situation? I should like to go a step further. As far as I know, many of the inspectors will be appointed by the Secretary of State. If something goes wrong, one will have to apply to the Secretary of State, and not to one of the professional organisations. If I may say so, an application to the Secretary of State is rather a laborious way of dealing with this problem. My noble friend has given his views and I do not expect he will change them; but I am telling him quite frankly what my anxieties are.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will answer my noble friend's points. He questioned whether all approved inspectors will be properly qualified. Certainly they will be—otherwise the designating body would not be confirmed by the Secretary of State in the first place. That is why I placed quite a large measure of reliance in my reply on the powers and policing ability of the designating bodies.

My noble friend asked also whether the local authority will get to know of any upset with an approved inspector. The answer is, yes. In order to appoint a new approved inspector, the initial notice—which is individual to an inspector—would have to be cancelled and a new initial notice would have to be taken out for the further work. The key problem which my noble friend identified was that the developer might dismiss a strict inspector in order to use a rather easier one. In practice, I believe it is unlikely that this will happen. In the way that we see this provision operating, the approved inspector will have a contract from the developer. If the contract is broken, there will be a financial sanction against the developer and all the difficulties which always come in any situation where one replaces one man with another. Although I appreciate my noble friend's concern, there is not quite so much in it as he makes out.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, I am afraid that the Minister has said almost nothing new and almost nothing that I have not already dealt with. There was, however, his last point that a contract might perhaps exist between an inspector and a developer; but there still remains the possibility of the inspector himself resigning.

I do not mean to be unkind, but when the Minister talks about the inspecting authority succeeding in eliminating unsatisfactory or corrupt inspectors except in the very long term, it makes me believe that his advisers must be living in an ivory tower and have no idea of the corruption which occurs all around us today—even in the best-run circles. If we look at the newspapers, we can see that over the past year or so there is no profession where corruption has not occurred—even in the medical profession, which should be more ethical than most. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, has already said, the building industry is a difficult profession for various reasons. I do not blame them, but corruption can occur there perhaps more easily than it can in many other places.

One has to realise that only in extreme cases, as I have said already, can a case of dishonesty be brought to the courts and proved. Even then, one faces the possibility or probability of an appeal. Taking such a case to the court will not work unless the offence was really blatant. I offer one compromise, if the noble Lord will agree. I would cut the amendment down to say simply that the council shall, having regard to all the circumstances, decide whether it is desirable for them to take on the inspection work". That would satisfy me completely.

I suspect that the noble Lord will say that a great deal of the purpose of this part of the Bill is to avoid the local authority taking over work, that they wanted them to be in competition, with independent inspectors, and that they want their staff reduced. To be perfectly fair, of course they are already overworked in some places. But the noble Lord really cannot have it both ways. If he says that these circumstances are very unlikely to arise, when they do arise there is then no harm in the local authority taking over.

I hope that the Minister will agree to look at this very important matter. It is perhaps not as important as some other issues we have dealt with in the Bill, but in this day and age we must do everything that we can to prevent corruption. That is very important. I must say that it is not very desirable that arguments which have so little weight should be put forward against the amendment. I should like the Minister to say whether he can meet me; otherwise, I am afraid I shall have to press this amendment.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, again with the leave of the House, I do not think it is quite right for the noble Viscount to put words into my mouth and suggest what I might have said if I had been asked a particular question. However, he was asking whether under the new circumstances which might prevail at another stage I should feel able to accept an amendment such as he has just described. I am afraid the answer is, "No".

Lord Broxbourne

My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask the noble Viscount—

Noble Lords


Lord Broxbourne

My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I ask the noble Viscount, in considering an improvement in the drafting of his amendment, whether he could find a more appropriate word than "employer". It is not an "employer". The parties enter into a contract in regard to charges. There is not an "employer" either in the ordinary sense of the word or in the specialised sense which it bears in the building industry. If the noble Viscount is to redraft his amendment, perhaps he could take care of that.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, I am certain that the noble Lord is aware that any amendment one puts forward is always defective in one way or another. Certainly if I am lucky enough to win the Division I shall take any necessary steps to tidy up the amendment.

5.2 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 59) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 105.

Airedale, L. Fisher of Rednal, B.
Aylestone, L. Gaitskell, B.
Banks, L. Gallacher, L.
Beswick, L. George-Brown, L.
Birk, B. Gladwyn, L.
Bishopston, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Blyton, L. Grey, E.
Bottomley, L. Grimond, L.
Briginshaw, L. Hale, L.
Brockway, L. Hampton, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Hanworth, V. [Teller.]
Bruce of Donington, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Caradon, L. Hayter, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Henderson of Brompton, L.
Collison, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Jacques, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Jeger, B.
David, B. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. John-Mackie, L.
Denington, B. Rennet, L.
Diamond, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Leatherland, L.
Donnet of Balgay, L. Listowel, E.
Ennals, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Lockwood, B. Seear, B.
Longford, E. Serota, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Shackleton, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Stallard, L.
McNair, L. Stedman, B. [Teller.]
Mais, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Stone, L.
Molloy, L. Strabolgi, L.
Monson, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Ogmore, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Oram, L. Tordoff, L.
Peart, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Pitt of Hampstead, L. Walston, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Rathcreedan, L. White, B.
Ross of Marnock, L. Wigoder, L.
Sainsbury, L.
Ailesbury, M. Lane-Fox, B.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Lauderdale, E.
Ampthill, L. Long, V.
Annan, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Auckland, L. Lyell, L.
Avon, E. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Bauer, L. McFadzean, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Bellwin, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Beloff, L. Malmesbury, E.
Belstead, L. Mancroft, L.
Bessborough, E. Marley, L.
Broxbourne, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-
Campbell of Alloway, L. Avon, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Mersey, V.
Clitheroe, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cockfield, L. Moyne, L.
Coleraine, L. Northchurch, B.
Craigavon, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Onslow, E.
Daventry, V. Orkney, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Orr-Ewing, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Pender, L.
Eccles, V. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Ellenborough, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone,
Elliot of Harwood, B. L.
Elton, L. Porritt, L.
Faithfull, B. Portland, D.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Forester, L. Reigate, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Renton, L.
Gainford, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Gainsborough, E. St. Davids, V.
Gibson-Watt, L. Sandford, L.
Glanusk, L. Sempill, Ly.
Glasgow, E. Skeimersdale, L.
Glenkinglas, L. Somers, L.
Gormanston, V. Spens, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Strathspey, L.
Gridley, L. Sudeley, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Swansea, L.
Hailsham of Saint Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Marylebone, L. Terrington, L.
Halsbury, E. Teviot, L.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Teynham, L.
Hawke, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Trenchard, V.
Ironside, L. Trumpington, B.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Vaizey, L.
Kilmany, L. Vickers, B.
Kimberley, E. Ward of Witley, V.
Kinloss, Ly. Westbury, L.
Kitchener, E. Whitelaw, V.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Skeimersdale moved Amendment No. 60:

Page 39, line 33, after ("Act") insert— ("( ) section 14(6)of the Water Act 1973 (notice of proposal to erect or extend building over water authority's sewer);").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is purely technical. It relates to one of those matters, known as the linked powers, which are outside the building regulations but which are triggered off under the present system by the deposit of building plans. One of these linked powers is Section 25 of the Public Health Act 1936, which relates to building over existing sewers. Under the present system the local authority is required by Section 14(6) of the Water Act 1973 to notify the water authority of any such proposal. The amendment is necessary to ensure that it will do so under the new certification system. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 [Approved inspectors]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 61: Page 40, line 13, leave out paragraph (b), and insert ("(b) by the Joint Board").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we return to the issue of a central board or a joint council. The last thing that we want to maintain is that each of the independent approved inspecting bodies is not competent to do this task, but in our view there is a need to try to marry together the experience of all of them. We are a bit unhappy about whether an individual body would be moved to discipline an individual approved inspector who was appointed wholly by the body, whereas, if the appointments were made by joint board, I think that everybody would be a little more willing, if a dereliction of duty occurred, that that dereliction should be pronounced upon.

Secondly, in the new clause in Amendment No. 70 we stress the quality and certainty of the examinations. There is great unease about the fact that in one discipline there are many finely qualified people but in the discipline of building inspection topping up is needed. Those are the points that we should like the Minister to deal with as briefly as he can. I beg to move.

Lord Broxbourne

My Lords, before my noble friend the Minister replies, may I say a word on this matter? As I understand it, we are taking a number of amendments together. The purpose of the fasciculus of amendments and new clauses which we are taking is that it adds to the administrative machinery of administering building controls other than by local authorities. The danger of it is that it adds unnecessarily to the mechanism of private control, thereby prejudicing the chances of success of such private control. That may not be a serious disadvantage in the eyes of noble Lords opposite, who are basically opposed to any system of alternative control, and indeed it may be a positive advantage—I hope that this is not a cynical observation—if they can point to the cumbrous machinery and expense as a justification for retaining the monopoly of control with the local authorities. However, those who want to see an alternative scheme of control—that is the principle of this part of the Bill, as accepted by Parliament—are entitled to say that the onus rests on those who put forward the proposal to show both its necessity and its viability; and in my respectful submission that onus is not discharged.

There is of course a tendency nowadays for every problem to be met by setting up a committee, a council, a commission or a board, following the false syllogism that something must be done: this is something; let us do it. At the Committee stage a council was proposed, and now a board, no less—the Building Control Joint Board. But however grandiose the concept and nomenclature, there is still an onus on those putting the concept forward, first, to establish its necessity and, secondly, to identify its logistical structure.

So far as the logistics of this are concerned, they are far from clear in the new clause. Subsection (2) deals with membership—the members are to be appointed by the Secretary of State—but there is no guidance as to the qualities or qualifications desired or expected. It is silent also on the important question of remuneration. It seems to me that the scheme might well end up paying some people—the same people, indeed—to do work which they would be prepared to do for nothing under the Bill as unamended. Then there is the cost of office premises for the board. It is clear that it will have to have offices where people can inspect the register and for other purposes. I should like to ask noble Lords opposite what costings were in fact done before the amendments and new clauses were tabled, and what consideration was given to budgeting these schemes. At the end of the day, the taxpayer will have to pay for them.

Until and unless these questions are answered and a stronger case can be made for the advantages accruing from such a board, I would submit that the proposal is premature at the least. After all, it is much easier to set up such a board than to get rid of it if it proves to be otiose, unsatisfactory or to cost too much.

Therefore, it would surely be best to give the arrangements as promulgated in the Bill a reasonable chance to work. I hope, and I think, that they will work, but if they do not it would be very easy to add the machinery proposed in these amendments. The noble Lord on the Front Bench here, and indeed the Secretary of State, whom I have known, admired and respected since he was a pupil at the Bar, will, I am sure, review the matters objectively on their facts with an open mind and bring forward any amending legislation which may be shown to be desirable, which has so far not been shown. There certainly would be no difficulty in arranging the passage to the statute book of such a measure since, of course, they would be picking up a proposal originally emanating from the other side. But that time is not yet. There is no need for such a board at present. If this amendment is persevered with, I hope that it will be resisted.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, not for the first time my noble friend Lord Broxbourne has put his finger squarely on the first point that I wanted to make. As I said in Committee, the Government do not see the need for a quango, and, make no mistake, this is exactly what is proposed, even though the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, made some reference—at least I think that it was him—in Committee, to a part-time organisation which would not have to operate continuously.

Many of the main professional institutions which we have consulted have said that they wish to become designated bodies, and they are continuing their discussions on these standards and possible grades of inspectors with a view to reaching agreement among themselves. In particular they agree the need for a common syllabus on which candidates for approval would be tested on their knowledge of the various regulations and approved documents. Our consultations with these institutions will continue, and we have no intention of doing away with the power of the Secretary of State to designate those which he considers appropriate. Even though he would still have the power to approve individual inspectors, he does not intend to do this, since it is a job far better suited to the relevant institutions.

Of the group amendments we are considering, I think I am right in saying that only Amendments Nos. 63 and 70 are in fact new, so I shall address my remarks to them. Among other things, they would set minimum periods of experience to qualify as an inspector, and require the joint board to examine candidates, not directly for approval, but for something called a "certificate of proficiency". It is not clear what purpose this certificate would serve, or indeed how it would relate to the "practising certificate" envisaged by the amendment.

In any case, the questions of the criteria and procedures for approval are being considered by the professional institutions in discussion with the department. It would make no sense to impose these arbitrary restrictions on approval before the bodies most directly concerned have completed their deliberations on, for example, the period of experience needed for approval. When agreement has been reached on these matters, they can be enforced by the simple expedient of designating only bodies which agree to comply with them.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, by implication anyway, mentioned the subject of the unattached architects. Amendment No. 62 would require the Secretary of State to designate ARCUK for the purpose of approving architects, presumably so that the unattached architects could be approved without approaching a professional institution. However, as I told the Committee some days ago, ARCUK indicated at an early stage that it did not feel it would be possible to involve itself in this matter, which could better be dealt with by the professional bodies. We have continued to keep ARCUK informed by sending them copies of all our consultation documents, but I understand that their council's view remains that it is not a job for that organisation.

Included among the group of amendments which we are considering is Amendment No. 68, which aims to define the manner in which the proposed board would issue so-called practising certificates to inspectors who applied to them for approval. Such certificates would only be valid for one year. The board would have the power to cancel a certificate over a shorter period but no power to extend it beyond a year. I have already made reference to this this afternoon, and all I think I need say at this stage is that we do not see any justification for such a complicated and bureaucratic procedure. Quite apart from our objection to the idea of the board itself, we doubt the need for approval to be subject to annual renewal but have concluded, following our discussions with the institutions, that a period of five years would be appropriate. Our draft regulations provide for this.

In other words, what the noble Lord, Lord Graham, in moving this amendment, is seeking to achieve will, I believe, be achieved by the system we have designed. Therefore a board such as is referred to will not be necessary.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. This is a good idea, whose time has not yet come. It is quite clear from what was said by my good friend Lord Broxbourne and others that there is understanding as to what is sought to be achieved but that it is not necessary in the present circumstances. I am aware of a meeting in December at the Ministry when all the options were canvassed and there were some very strong views from a limited number of bodies which just said they would not participate, they would not take part in a joint board arrangement, they wanted to control their own affairs. Those voices were very powerful inside the Ministry and they prevailed. But, as far as we are concerned on this side of the House, we are satisfied that this matter will be kept under review.

So far as a quango or other body is concerned, no costings have been made. There are difficulties but, quite frankly, when you are dealing with an industry that has turnovers, not of millions or hundreds of millions but of thousands of millions, to inject a cost which may or may not be seen to be crucial to maintaining equity and good sense would be of very small moment indeed. But I am satisfied the matter is not yet lost. It certainly will be pursued and we will await the outcome of developments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment Nos. 62 to 66 not moved.]

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 67:

After Clause 40, insert the following new clause:

(" Construction manuals for dwellings.

. Building Regulations may provide that the person responsible for the construction of any new dwelling shall provide for the occupier a manual which will contain the plans of the dwelling, its basic construction method, the materials used in its load-bearing walls, the route of services providing gas, water, electricity and like facilities, and provide for the insertion of details of all structural charges and improvements, and require the deposit of a copy of the manual with the local authority in whose area the dwelling is situated.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the issue of the manual for purchasers of new houses. I simply want the Minister to consider the possibility of referring this issue to the inter-departmental committee that has been established, or was announced as having been established when the Bill to end the monopoly in conveyancing was before another place and the Government announced, as part of that exercise, that they were going to set up an inter-departmental committee to look at a range of matters relating to house purchase. I should be satisfied if the Minister would indicate, without commitment, that this issue of a manual along the lines that we have indicated could at least be put on the agenda for that committee to see how far it might proceed. I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am satisfied that it would be good practice for house builders to give the new owner all the necessary details about the construction and running of their home. Indeed, I have said as much in Committee. But I do not think that it is a proper subject for inclusion as an extra clause in this Bill. Indeed, some such manual is to be provided by the National House Building Council. I certainly undertake to include the point of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, in any discussions, at whatever level and with whichever group of members, I can.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful but I hope that the Minister does not treat lightly the seriousness that the inter-departmental committee is a proper forum in which this matter could be discussed. There is a host of problems—and I do not wish him to get to his feet again—but I hope he and his colleagues will in actual fact simply draw the attention of the inter-departmental committee to the debate on these matters in this House and another House and ask that they be seriously considered. They are considered important by a lot of people outside this House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 68 to 72 not moved.]

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 73:

After Clause 46, insert the following new clause:

("Information, reports and returns.

. Where an initial notice or a public body's notice has continued in force for any period, the local authority by whom it was accepted may require the approved inspector or public body by whom it was given to furnish them with any information which—

  1. (a) they would have obtained themselves if during that period their function of enforcing building regulations had continued to be exercisable in relation to the work specified in the notice; and
  2. (b) they require for the purpose of performing their duty under section 230 of the Local Government Act 1972 (reports and returns);
and that section shall have effect as if during that period that function had continued to be so exercisable.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is a consequential one arising from the creation of a new class of building inspector. Under the arrangements that currently exist, local authorities supply certain information about housing starts and completions to the department. This amendment does nothing more than to make sure that under the approved inspector's scheme this informantion continues to go through to the department. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 not moved.]

Clause 49 [Power of certain public bodies to relax requirements of building regulations for their own works]:

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 76: Page 51, line 9, after ("In") insert ("subsection (1) of).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 76 and to speak also to Amendment No. 77. Amendment No. 77: Page 51. line 11, leave out from first ("in") to end of line 13 and insert ("the first and second places where they occur, there shall be inserted the words "or other body", for the words "application is" there shall be substituted the words "direction is proposed to be" and for the words "before publication of the notice" there shall be substituted the words "where the direction is proposed to be made on an application". (2A) In subsections (2) and (5) of that section after the words "local authority", in each place where they occur, there shall be inserted the words "or other body" and in subsection (3) of that section for the words "application is" there shall be substituted the words "direction proposed to be".").

The amendments are meaning drafting corrections to subsection 49, subsection (2), which in itself amends Section 8 of the Public Health Act 1961 which requires the advertisement of proposals to relax the building regulations. They are necessary in order to ensure that the requirement to advertise will operate effectively when public bodies exempted from the procedures under Clause 48 themselves propose to relax regulations under Clause 49. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 77:

[Printed above. ]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 50 [Approval of documents for purposes of building regulations]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 78:

Page 51, line 26. leave out ("or a body designated by him").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise simply to say that it is not proposed to move Amendments Nos. 78 to 86, which are related amendments.

[Amendments Nos. 78 to 86 not moved.]

Clause 52 [Certificates of compliance with building regulations]:

5.31 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 87: Page 53, line 33, leave out ("subsections") and insert ("subsection").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 87 and 88 are technical corrections to the drafting of the Bill.

Amendment No. 88: Page 54, line 2, at end insert—

("(2A) After that subsection there shall be inserted the following subsection").

They merely split what is now Clause 52(2) into two separate subsections, which I hope will make the Bill easier to read. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 88:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 89:

Before Clause 54, insert the following new clause: Charges by local authorities for performing functions relating to building regulations. (". Building regulations may authorise local authorities, subject to and in accordance with the regulations, to fix by means of schemes and to recover such charges for or in connection with the performance of functions of theirs relating to building regulations as they may determine in accordance with principles prescribed by the regulations.")

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, this amendment is to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the noble Lord rose to his feet so smartly that I was not quite able to rise quickly enough. I am afraid that this amendment will take rather longer to describe than have previous amendments. What I have to say relates to Amendments Nos. 89, 91, 92, 93 and 155.

Amendment No. 91: Clause 61, page 57, line 33, leave out ("and 53(2)") and insert ("53(2) and (Charges by local authorities for performing functions relating to building regulations)") Amendment No. 92: Page 57, line 37, leave out from first ("the") to end of line 38 and insert ("repeals of section 67 of the Public Health Act 1936 and section 62(3) of the said Act of 1974")> Amendment No. 93: Page 58, line 2, at end insert ("; and different days may be so appointed for different provisions or for different purposes") Amendment No. 155: Schedule 12, page 98, line 4, column 3, at end insert— ("Section 62(3).") The introduction of private sector competition into the building control system will create a completely new situation in that there has previously been no alternative to control by the local authorities. As I have said several times, we mean the alternatives to be genuine options affording the developer a choice between two systems, each of which is paid for by the people who use it. without subsidy from the generality of ratepayers and taxpayers.

Under the present system, the Secretary of State prescribes fees in relation to the total costs of building control in all the local authorities in England and Wales. As the volume of work and the mix of building varies from one authority to another, the fees produce, for individual authorities, different proportions of their costs. It is not only more equitable to let authorities set their own fees and present a true picture of the cost of service in their own districts; it will also be a valuable spur to efficiency within local authorities. They will not be able, as they now do, to assume that any short-fall in income can be thrown into the balance for the calculation of the rate support grant settlement. Also among the benefits that I foresee is an enhancement of the professional status of building inspectors in line with the extra professional-ism that the new system of building regulations will require.

The underlying principles which we have in mind at present to prescribe for local authority schemes of fees are as follows. The charges will be related to some characteristic of the work controlled, such as the type of building or its size, or the cost of its construction; the revenue to be raised shall be neither more nor less than the cost of performing the function of control; and the revenue raised from the control of dwellings shall neither subsidise, nor be subsidised by, functions relating to other work. These are broadly similar to the principles which underlie the arrangements regarding, for example, setting water charges locally under the Water Act.

Amendments Nos. 91, 92 and 155 provide that the new clause (dealing with charges by local authorities for performing functions relating to building regulations) shall be brought into effect by commencement order. The new system of control will be allowed time to settle down, and there will be full consultation on the details of the arrangements before the fees system is changed, so that local authorities may make a reasonable estimate of their costs in the first year of operation. When the new fees schemes are brought in, Section 62(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, under which the Secretary of State prescribes fees, will be repealed.

Amendment No. 92 also incorporates another technical correction. Clause 54 repeals a number of unwanted provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and in consequence of one of these part of Section 69 of the 1974 Act is repealed. At present the Bill unnecessarily provides for a commencement order for this consequential repeal. The amendment allows it to take effect with the rest of the Bill.

Amendment No. 93 will enable those provisions of the Bill which require commencement orders for their coming into effect—that is, those in Clause 61(2)(a). (b) and (c)—to be brought into effect on different dates. I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the purpose of this series of amendments is to take very careful account of the disparity which would exist between the estimates of the cost of the new system compared with the cost of the old system. The Minister and his advisers are well aware that attempts by a range of bodies with experience to calculate the cost in future have produced estimates ranging from twice to three times or four times the cost of the present service. So let us make no mistake about it: the ministry and those who are concerned are very sensitive about the fact that the new system will cost more, and the Government have sought to diminish that charge by increasing the cost of the public service. It is as simple as that. What the Government are about is avoiding too much embarrassment in the future, while at the same time moving towards a concept—which, I say to the Minister, I accept they indicated some time previously—in which these are the kind of services which eventually will have to pay their way.

The Minister used some effective phrases to illustrate his argument. He said that when they finally see the light of day, the charges will be related to a system which will be designed to produce no more and no less a sum of money than is necessary for the service to pay its way. Of course, we must always be very careful about figures, but according to figures I have, in the year 1982–83 the amount received from building control fees was £36 million, as against a cost of £61 million.

One of the objectives is substantially to increase the cost to the public, and I realise that in this instance the public are a disparate range of individuals and organisations. Last year, ending December 1983, building control fees were increased but by only 7 per cent. Will the Minister confirm that whether it be in one stage or two stages, the cost of the public service in future is likely to be increased by 20, 25, or maybe 50 per cent. above the present figures? If that is the case, why does not the Minister take this opportunity to say so?'

The Minister believes that there will be an attempt to encourage authorities to become more efficient, and if that is the case we shall see inequality in the charges made as between one authority and another. The Minister will be aware that Amendment No. 65 (which I did not move so that I could concentrate on this amendment) sought to have a range of charges prescribed. Quite frankly, I think it would be reprehensible if charges for building control services were to vary from one authority to another, with a great range of different figures.

We believe that the purpose of this amendment, this new attempt by the Government to impose an increase in costs to the public, is—I repeat and underline—to avoid embarrassment in the near future over disparate charges, if the scheme ever sees the light of day. We believe that it will further undermine the quality of the local authority building control service, and I suspect that that would not cause the Government too much loss of sleep, since it is quite clear that once the Bill becomes law, the Government will be determined to try to show the new system in as good a light as possible. The local authority will be left to maintain as big a staff as it can in order to try to deal with the possibility of work in which it has not been involved being referred to it. All told, we believe that this is a very bad series of amendments. I shall delay a decision on the determination of these matters until the Minister has responded to the points 1 have raised.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I thought I was wise to take a little more trouble over this series of amendments. I should like first to make the point that responsibility to fix their own fees will not be forced upon local authorities at short notice. Amendments Nos. 92 and 93 to Clause 61 would allow the Secretary of State to set a separate commencement day for this purpose. It will be brought into effect only after there has been significant experience of the new system in operation; so authorities will have opportunities to adjust their resources to an accurate assessment of the task facing them.

The duty to prepare schemes of fees is a duty to plan sensibly. It is not an absolute requirement to cover all costs to the precise penny every year. If the number of applications to an authority was to fall to a very low level, the unit costs per case would obviously be high. But that would be a serious reflection upon the standard of service offered by that authority. If the local authority service is as good and of as much value as the Opposition say, there will be no shortage of customers. I can certainly give that assurance.

The noble Lord asked whether costs would be two times, three times or four times those of the present system. At the moment, we already have a system of partial recovery of fees for building regulations. This will enable local authorities fairly to charge the full cost of administering the regulations, and there is also the provision in the Bill for approved inspectors to do so. In other words, there will be direct price competion. As to whether some local authorities will charge more than others, I suggest that this is also a spur to efficiency between the local authorities, which the noble Lord will surely agree is no bad thing.

Lord Broxbourne

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, will he be good enough to give consideration to two related points in the proposed regulations? Can he kindly see whether it is possible to introduce some caution against any cross-subsidisation by local authorities in respect of their charges from other housing services? Secondly, can he ensure that the regulations include a notional element for insurance premium? My noble friend will, I think, appreciate that these two things are requisite if there is not to be an imbalance and possible distortion between the charges by local authorities and those in the private sector controlled scheme, to the disadvantage of the latter.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, although I have only just heard for the first time the idea proposed by my noble friend, he makes a valuable point which I shall certainly consider with my advisers. Obviously, since I am being slightly "bounced" by this one, I cannot give him any such commitment at this stage.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the phrases that the Minister has used are again very revealing. The noble Lord says that time will be given to local authorities to adjust their resources. What he really means is to increase their charges. According to the Government, a time will come, on a date not announced, when they will bring forward this proposal. If that fact is noted and charges are increased accordingly, they say, this will be all to the good. The noble Lord also indicated that all he was doing was to give local authorities freedom to fix their own charges. But the House and others know what that freedom has meant in respect of school meals, transport and other issues. Of course—

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am sorry; I was getting side-tracked by the noble Lord's questions. But this is, in fact, Report stage. I have moved the amendment and spoken again in winding up. A detailed speech by the noble Lord at this stage would therefore not be appropriate, perhaps.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I apologise. With the leave of the House, so far as I am concerned the response of the Minister has been quite unsatisfactory. The noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, has fairly raised the possibility that cross-subsidisation could be exercised by one authority to help to keep down the costs. This is always possible. In our view, the amendment is a deliberate attempt to try to reduce what we consider will be alarm in the future when the disparity between local authority costs and the new system—the amount will be punitive because of the need for the inspector to take out insurance—is revealed as far too high. In view of that, I shall be pressing Amendment No. 89.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)

My Lords, I am rather at a loss. I thought it was a Government amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I apologise.

5.46 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 89) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 97; Not-Contents, 78.

Airey of Abingdon, B. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Ampthill, L. McFadzean, L.
Auckland, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Avon, E. Macleod of Borve, B.
Bauer, L. Mancroft, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Marley, L.
Bellwin, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Beloff, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-
Belstead, L. Avon, L.
Broxbourne, L. Mersey, V.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Molson, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Mottistone, L.
Cockfield, L. Moyne, L.
Coleraine, L. Northchurch, B.
Craigavon, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Onslow, E.
Daventry, V. Orkney, E.
Denham, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Pender, L.
Eccles, V. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Ellenborough, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone,
Elton, L. L.
Faithfull, B. Portland, D.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Forester, L. Redesdale, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Reigate, L.
Gainford, L. Renton, L.
Gainsborough, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Gibson-Watt, L. St. Davids, V.
Glanusk, L. Sandford, L.
Glasgow, E. Selkirk, E.
Glenkinglas, L. Sempill, Ly.
Gray of Contin, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Gridley, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Somers, L.
Hailsham of Saint Strathspey, L.
Marylebone, L. Sudeley, L.
Hawke, L. Swansea, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Swinfen, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Kaberry of Adel, L. Teviot, L.
Kilmany, L. Teynham, L.
Kimberley, E. Trefgarne, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Trumpington, B.
Lane-Fox, B. Vaizey, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Vickers, B.
Long, V. [Teller.] Ward of Witley, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Westbury, L.
Lyell, L. Whitelaw, V.
Aberdeen and Temair, M. Bottomley, L.
Airedale, L. Briginshaw, L.
Aylestone, L. Brockway, L.
Beswick, L. Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Birk, B. Bruce of Donington, L.
Bishopston, L. Caradon, L.
Blyton, L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Collison, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Mackie of Benshie, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. McNair, L.
Denington, B. Milner of Leeds, L.
Diamond, L. Molloy, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Mulley, L.
Donnet of Balgay, L. Northfield, L.
Ennals, L. Ogmore, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Oram, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Gaitskell, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Gallacher, L. [Teller.]
George-Brown, L. Rea, L.
Gladwyn, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Sainsbury, L.
Grimond, L. Seear, B.
Hale, L. Serota, B.
Hampton, L. Stallard, L.
Hanworth, V. Stedman, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Stone, L.
Jacques, L. Strabolgi, L.
Jeger, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
John-Mackie, L. Tordoff, L.
Kaldor, L. Underhill, L.
Kennet, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Walston, L.
Leatherland, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. White, B.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Wigoder, L.
Lockwood, B.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

5.54 p.m.

Clause 54 [Amendments of enactments relating to building regulations]:

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 90:

Page 56, line 8, leave out ("provision") and insert ("provisions").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is merely a drafting correction. I beg to move.

Clause 61 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendments Nos. 91, 92 and 93:

[Printed earlier: col. 48. ]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Bellwin, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 91, 92 and 93 en bloc. I have already spoken to them with Amendment No. 89.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 94:

Page 58, line 2, at end insert— ("(2A) The following provisions of this Act shall come into effect on such day after their consolidation with the 1980 Act as the Secretary' of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint—

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I beg to move Amendment No. 94 and to speak also to Amendment No. 95 which is consequential upon it:

Amendment No. 95: Page 58, line 3, leave out ("subsection (2)") and insert ("subsections (2) and (2A)").

The amendment is concerned with consolidation, which has been discussed on several occasions during the course of this Bill. Part I of the Bill proceeds by amending the 1980 Act and it proceeds practically entirely—entirely so far as this amendment is concerned—by way of textual amendments. What the amendment which I am moving before your Lordships proposes is a measure of consolidation before those provisions in the Bill come into effect.

I tabled a slightly wider amendment during the Committee stage, but it came on very late at night when discussion necessarily had to be curtailed. Therefore, with the consent of the noble Lords who supported me and with the approbation of the noble Lord who asked to add his name to the amendment, I put it down in a more restricted form. Moreover, the issues are now much more restricted and defined. It is not now claimed, I think, by anybody in the Government that the Bill as it stands is comprehensible to laymen. It is not claimed that it is comprehensible, other than with great difficulty, to lawyers, if it goes out in its present form. Lawyers can only comprehend it with enormous and lengthy application and at consequent enormous expense to their clients. Moreover, it is not claimed that the Bill, if it goes out in its present form, is other than misleading in a number of respects.

Your Lordships have seen on several occasions—and we passed over several other occasions—that in the amendments that the Bill makes to the 1980 Act and which will then be part of the 1984 Act, it repeatedly uses the phrase, "this Act", meaning, "that Act"—in other words, the 1980 Act. Your Lordships might like to look at another example at Page 64 of the Bill. We have not come to it yet in the amendments on Report.

It is the new Schedule 2 which is misleadingly sub-headed "Schedule 1A", which is the title it will have when it goes into the 1980 Act. That starts: Determination of relevant period for the purposes of Sections 1(3) and 7(1)".

This Bill has a Clause 1(3). So in due course when it passes into law it will have a Section 1(3). It has a Clause 7(1), which in due course will be Section 7(1). But it does not refer to those sections in the 1984 Act, as it will be. What it refers to is those sections in quite another Act of Parliament—namely, the one which is amended, the 1980 Act. So I think it is agreed that, if the Bill passes into law in its present form and nothing is done about it, in so far as it is comprehensible at all it will be entirely misleading.

I believe that it is also common ground that, though nothing can now be done to make this Bill simple and perspicuous, something must be done to enable the Bill, when it passes into law. and the Act to be read as one document. So the issue is very narrow now. It comes down to two questions. First, is there any real argument against consolidation as the means of putting these two documents together; and, secondly, is there any acceptable alternative?

I should like to make four preliminary points. On a number of occasions we have smiled at the absurdities which are produced in letting this Bill pass into law without consolidation. But it is quite a serious constitutional issue. Your Lordships are asked to pass into law a legislative instrument which is not comprehensible. The Bill begins, and as an Act of Parliament it will say: Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal … and by the authority of the same".

How can that claim be made when such lawyers in your Lordships' House as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, the noble Lord. Lord Molson, and the noble Lord. Lord Broxbourne—all expert in this branch of the law as well as its administration—have said that the Bill is virtually incomprehensible?

However, it is not only your Lordships who are asked to make that pretension. After all. the other great principle of our constitution is the rule of law. This particular piece of legislation affects some of the humblest of our fellow citizens. We are sending out for their consideration and to govern them—and saying, as the law says, that ignorance of the law is no excuse—a document which is admittedly incomprehensible to them, which as it stands cannot be explained to them by the Citizens Advice Bureau because they will not understand it, and which can only with the very greatest difficulty, and at vast expense of time and trouble, be explained to them by lawyers at the expense of the citizens. So in the end it is agreed that at least these documents must be put together. That is the first preliminary point that I desire to put before your Lordships: that, on proper examination, it is unconstitutional to promulgate a Bill—without making any provision for its consolidation, which is the very minimum—in a form which is incomprehensible to most of the people affected.

The second point is this. I fear that the noble Lord the Minister, whom we have admired so much in his conduct of the Bill, through no fault of his own comes to this issue somewhat prejudiced; because last Session his department—and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will bear me out on this—produced a Bill, the National Heritage Bill, which aroused howls of execration in all parts of the House—with the noble Baroness nobly leading us. She will correct me if my recollection is wrong, but such was the indignation that we were summoned to a meeting with Ministers. I certainly was left with the firm impression that, though it might have been inadvisable to try to consolidate the Bill last Session—which would have been technically possible—as it went through Parliament because it was a very' complicated measure and it would have meant hurrying the draftsman, it would at least be consolidated this Session. But it is not in this Session's consolidation programme. Therefore I fear that the Minister, through no fault of his own, arrives somewhat prejudiced in this issue.

The third point that I want to make by way of preliminary is that when one has arrived at my age, one tends to view situations with a sense of déjà vu. Since we started examining this issue, I have felt that I was back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when one had a bureaucracy with quite excessive pretensions. In particular, it was characterised by a refusal to admit error, and in fact a resentment against anybody who questioned the official processes. That particular boil burst at Crichel Down. We lost a popular and very able Minister who insisted on resignation because he felt that it was his duty to take the blame for what had been done by officials in his department. The junior Ministers offered their resignations, and quite properly they were refused. When one finds, as I hope your Lordships find, insubstantial reasons being put forward against a reasonable proposal and palliatives offered where remedies are required, we are back in that bad atmosphere.

Why. then, should it be resisted? The reason, I submit to your Lordships, is this. This Bill cries out for consolidation. Nobody can read Part I without seeing that it ought to be fitted in and read with the principal Act of 1980; but that has been apparent since 1982, when the first version of this Bill was introduced before Parliament. Obviously nothing was done then; nothing was done until very recently, when the noble Lord the Minister wrote to me saying: In view of your concern, we have approached the Statutory Publications Office".

My concern is neither here nor there. What is of concern is that from its first sighting the Bill cried out for consolidation, or at least some action, and none was taken until a very late stage. Obviously, there is a fear that if anything were done now it might be said—it would not be said by me—"Why was some action not taken in 1982?" If it had been taken then, of course, consolidation could have been fitted into this Session's programme.

The fourth preliminary issue I thought I should mention was a suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that rather than consolidation the Minister might consider a Keeling schedule. He explained to your Lordships what a Keeling schedule was: that where you have one simple Act amended by another simple Act, or any legislative instrument, it is often very convenient to print the first as a schedule to the second, with printing indications of the changes made. If my recollection is right, the parts which are omitted by amendment are printed in italics in square brackets; the new parts in bold. That is, of course, perfectly acceptable as an alternative to consolidation if, as I have said, you have two simple Bills.

We all know why we have this Bill in this form. It is to suit the convenience of government business managers—and I am glad to see there is one business manager on each Front Bench. If the Bill is presented in this form, it is only the amendments which can be debated: the main provisions which are sought to be amended—and particularly those which are unamended—cannot be redebated. From the government business managers' point of view, a Keeling schedule is open to the same objection as the form that this Bill should have taken—would in the old days always have taken—namely, a Bill to consolidate and amend. In any case it is. I apprehend, too late, even if it were acceptable now, to deal with the matter by Keeling schedule. The Bill would have to be recommitted, I apprehend, and much time would be lost; far more time than by any possible computation of consolidation.

I turn to the arguments which have been put forward so far. and I collect them from the speech which was made in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale; from a letter from the Minister, for which I am very grateful; and from a statement he made on an earlier amendment on the first day on Report. I have grouped all those arguments. One can deal with the first of them very shortly. It is that parts of the Bill are not suitable for consolidation with the 1980 Act. I said at the time that I did not think there was anything in that, and that the normal processes of consolidation would take care of it; but in order to save time and argument today I have omitted from my amendment seeking consolidation all except the textual amendments in Part 1. so that amendment and consolidation would simply be a matter of scissors and paste, which, as I shall suggest to your Lordships in a moment, must already have been done.

The second argument—that consolidation would cause delay—was put in two forms: first, that the passage of this Bill was urgently required; and, secondly, that the consolidation of this Bill would delay a more comprehensive consolidation which was put in hand in 1982, which is still going on, and as to which no term can be foreseen. May I say right away that I would regard it as quite inappropriate to move from these Cross-Benches a dilatory Motion. If I thought there was anything in those arguments, I would not be submitting this amendment to your Lordships.

May I deal firstly with the urgent need for the passage of this Bill? The first thing to be mentioned is that the noble Lord the Minister said he requires the new provisions as to building controls soon. He will get them. They are not affected at all by this amendment. He will get them exactly as the Bill requires them to be provided; namely, two months after Royal Assent.

The second thing is this. So far as textual amendments are concerned, as I have suggested to your Lordships it is merely a matter of scissors and paste. I should be highly surprised if the draftsman had not done it already. He has given every sign of doing very accurately what he was obviously told to do; namely, to draft this bill in such a way that the main provisions of the 1980 Act, unamended, could not be debated—and noble Lords who have been through the Committee and Report stages will have respected his cleverness in improving Clause 5, in respect of which the drafting was criticised. As I say, I do not doubt for a moment that he has done the job already. He could hardly present a Bill like this without having done the job. Even if he has not, it would take only, at most, 48 hours, I should have thought. So the real question is not whether the draftsman can do the best job—because your Lordships will remember that we were offered as an alternative a recast, unofficial, unstatutory consolidation, in effect, an unofficial, unlegislative, Keeling schedule in the Statutes in Force.

The editorial board of Statutes in Force have got no draftsmen at all. If they are going to do the job that is held out they will have to rely upon the noble Lord's draftsman, and if they are going to rely on him for that, why should not his efforts be produced in a draft to the Consolidation Committee? Everything comes down to the Consolidation Committee, to which it appears that when the noble Lord the Minister first wrote to me there had been no approach at all. Instead, to save face, everybody rushed off to the editor of Statutes in Force.

The Consolidation Committee has a very full programme this Session. That is no fault of theirs. They were appointed very late in the Session so that they could not start work until January, which is intolerable. But their programme only goes up to the Summer Recess. There is an important Bill that they have to consider towards the end of that period, that dealing with Capital Transfer Tax. It is important that that should be consolidated; but, after all, that legislation is directed to specialists, it is ready by accountants and tax lawyers. Much as that legislation needs consolidation, it has not got the urgency of this sort of legislation which affects the lives of ordinary, humble fellow subjects of ours. So I suggest that that Capital Transfer Tax Bill could easily be moved over into the spill-over session and in its place, this Act of Parliament (as it will be), taken, and that no time would be lost at all.

As for the second part of that argument, that the passage of comprehensive consolidation will be delayed, as I have said, that seems to be going very slowly, anyhow. No term can be put on it and the argument, in any case, depends on the validity of the fact that this consolidation would take, in respect of the limited part of this Bill, some weeks or some months, I think it is said.

The third argument is that there are acceptable alternatives to consolidation and those are put as two-fold. In the first place, the Minister said that the department would be sending out brochures. It was not pretended that the Bill was comprehensible, but apparently the brochure will be—although I fear that this particular Ministry has not got a great reputation for handing out drafts of the purest English from the well of English undefiled. But they arc able to put out a brochure which explains the Bill in a form which is at least understandable by the Citizens' Advice Bureaux. One immediately asks, if that can be done, does this Bill really have to be in such complex, opaque and impenetrable terms? In any case, we live by the rule of law and not by the rule of bureaucratic brochure. It is no acceptable alternative.

The second alternative that was offered was the special publication hurried on in Statutes in Force. 1 fear that that is based upon a complete misapprehension as to what Statutes in Force are and do. I mentioned the matter in Committee quite shortly, but I thought that I ought to check with my noble and learned friend Lord Scarman, who is chairman of the editorial board of Statutes in Force. He wrote to me as follows: I have undertaken a post-mortem into the matter of Statutes in Force and consolidation. I am afraid that Lord Skelmersdale must have misunderstood the position. The true situation is the following. We get a new statute into the edition by inclusion within three months of Royal Assent. We are aiming at the moment to reduce this interval to two months and we are having considerable success. If the new Act is an amendment of an existing Act, and goes about the business of amendment by a series of textual amendments, then, I fear, a problem arises. What go into the cumulative supplement are the amendments. Nothing is done at that stage to produce the Act which has been amended together with the new textual amendments, so that the reader may have in front of him the Act as amended. 'What happens in this situation is this. We enquire of the Law Commission whether a consolidation is proposed"—

and then he says what he does there; he holds off the reprint. The letter continues: If there is no consolidation proposed then the reissue of Act, as amended, has to take its place in the queue of reissues. This may involve a delay of two or three years".

When I looked at the Housing Act 1974, I found that it had been unamended as late as 1979. The editorial board of Statutes in Force have only an editorial function. Consolidation is the work of the Law Commission and Parliament. It is no part of their function.

So there it is. In the view of the chairman of the editorial board of Statutes in Force, publication there is likely to be delayed and is, in any case, no alternative to consolidation. I had never heard it suggested until the matter was raised on this Bill that it was so. That was certainly never the view of the Statute Law Committee. When I was a member of that Committee I certainly did all that I could to prosecute the completion of Statutes in Force, as did the noble Lord. Lord Renton, who was then the Commons representa-tive on it. But nobody thought of it as an alternative to consolidation, and neither did the Renton Committee. They mentioned Statutes in Force. They wanted to see its completion, but they did not envisage it as an alternative to consolidation. On the contrary, they wrote a long and convincing chapter on consolidation quite separately. Nor did my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones envisage it in the debate on the Renton Report. He said that he would do all he could to foster consolidation. He never suggested that Statutes in Force was an alternative; nor did my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack say that when we subsequently debated the matter.

There is another objection. Statutes in Force is very useful for those who have the labour to manage the posting of the parts, but their circulation is comparatively limited. The noble Lord was quite mistaken in thinking that it is a common tool of practitioners. On the contrary, most counsel use the Law Reports, which have an annual volume of statutes. Most solicitors, I think use Halsbury's Statutes, which, with their annual volumes, have a commentary. So far as I know, practitioners do not use Statutes in Force, and to say that the practitioners will be satisfied by an addition to Statutes in Force is quite misplaced.

Those are the arguments which have so far been put forward. The noble Lord. Lord Renton. will be replying to the debate and no doubt he will deal with any fresh arguments that are put forward; but at this stage, considering these arguments, your Lordships may call to mind the story of the medieval king arriving at the gates of a city in hostile territory and demanding angrily and peremptorily on pain of death the surrender of the keys. In due course the mayor and corporation came out clad only in their shirts and with ropes round their necks, but carrying a long petition which contained 100 reasons why they should not surrender the keys and why they should be excused. As the first of the reasons was that they had lost the keys, the king graciously dispensed with the other 99 reasons. Your Lordships may well feel that if one solid argument can be put forward against this amendment you will graciously dispense with all those that have been put forward so far. In the meantime, I beg to move.

6.32 p.m.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords. I have no keys and I have no 100 reasons: I have just a few reasons which I should like to submit to your Lordships. They are as follows. I have already made clear both in this House and in correspondence with the noble and learned Lord the Government's attitude towards consolidation. The Government fully accept the need for consolidation of the housing legislation. The last exercise indeed was in 1957. Under the aegis of the Law Commission, the parliamentary draftsman has been working full time on this consolidation since late 1982. He is also being assisted by the former solicitor and legal adviser to my department, who has a vast amount of experience in housing legislation and who is advising on the various policy decisions in the department. He is also acting as a point of liaison between the department and the Law Commission as the work proceeds.

The task is a vast one, as I am sure your Lordships will appreciate, and it will be some time yet before a draft Bill can be published. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will agree that this is a task to which priority should be given and that it demonstrates the present Government's commitment to housing legislation consolidation. The noble and learned Lord is arguing that, regardless of the general consolidation, certain parts of this Bill should be consolidated with parts of the 1980 Act before it comes into force. I most certainly respect the noble and learned Lord's point of view and his motives in moving the amendment. He is properly concerned that the text of amendments of previous statutes makes the legislation extremely difficult to understand unless it is immediately followed by consolidation.

I sympathise with this view, not least as one who has to be briefed and as one who has to speak day in and day out to Government amendments to Bills which are at first sight not easy to follow. We can all agree that for those who read the statutes themselves (and I suspect they are fewer than the noble and learned Lord implies) early consolidation of amending legislation with the parent Act is highly desirable. Your Lordships may, however, also agree that there are many things in this life, and certainly in the world of politics, which are desirable but which can be done only at unreason-able cost or at the expense of pushing out something else, which is then given a lower priority.

That is exactly the problem posed by the noble and learned Lord's amendment. He has suggested that the kind of consolidation he is proposing could be done quite quickly and certainly much more quickly than I have indicated. I can assure your Lordships that I have been into the question with great thoroughness and I am satisfied that we have made the most realistic estimates of what is possible if the noble and learned Lord's wishes were to be met.

The first essential stage, of course, is that this Bill has to receive Royal Assent. There has yet to be a Third Reading in the House and the Bill must then return to the other place for their consideration of your Lordships' amendments. Thereafter it may be possible—who knows?—for messages to be exchanged between the two Houses. Bearing in mind some of the debates that we have had, the prospects of the Bill completing all its remaining stages before the Easter Recess are by no means certain. As your Lordships know, the timing of Royal Assent is not in the Government's hands.

Let us suppose, looking at the possible timetable, that it may be achieved at the end of April or shortly thereafter. Our best estimate is that it would take some three months to prepare a text of the right to buy and the tenants' charter provisions of this Bill, consolidated with those of the parent Act. This includes the necessary checking with the department and with others who have an interest. It also includes the shared ownership and Schedule 11 provisions, to which in fact the noble and learned Lord's amendment does not specifically refer. The various transitional provisions would need particular care in drafting because they are not textual amendments of the 1980 Act, but free-standing provisions. In saying, "three months", I should emphasise that I speak of a proper consolidation of this Bill and the relevant parts of the 1980 Act.

The noble and learned Lord has said that his amendment is not seeking a full consolidation but only the amended text of the sections that he has specified. In other words, as he said, this a scissors and paste job. May I quote from paragraphs 14 and 15 of the report of the Renton Commission?— It is wide of the mark to suppose that consolidation can be carried out by any competent lawyer with the aid of scissors and paste. It is highly skilled work". Three months from an hypothetical date for Royal Assent at the beginning of May takes us to July or early August. As your Lordships know, a draft consoli-dation Bill has to be presented by the Law Commission and then come before the Joint Committee on Consolidation of Enactments, chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. I cannot speak for that committee and would not purport to do so. I know that they already have a full programme of consolidation Bills to consider for the current Session, including four separate Bills consolidating all company enactments, which are doubtless being eagerly awaited by practitioners in the field.

The joint committee has the task of examining consolidation measures to ensure that they do not unintentionally make substantive changes in the law they are consolidating, and to make sure that they are not themselves defective. The committee calls witnesses, including the draftsman, and then draws up its report to both Houses. Although there is an accelerated and largely formal procedure for consolidation Bills which have been recommended by the joint committee, it is open to Members to raise points if they are dissatisfied with any aspect of a consolidation Bill.

I hope that I have explained sufficiently—without trespassing too much into the operations of the Law Commission and the joint committee, for which I am not responsible, as equally they arc not responsible for what I am saying now—that it is not unrealistic to suppose that a consolidation of parts of this Bill with parts of the 1980 Act could pass with proper scrutiny through all the necessary stages, under the standing orders of both Houses, for it to be enacted before the summer recess. Moreover, the procedure would be so unusual and novel that one could not reasonably expect it to go through on the nod. One would have to expect those concerned to want to take a closer look than usual at it.

As the noble and learned Lord knows from earlier debates and from the letters that I have sent to him, we have done our very best to meet his concern to have the textual amendments which the Bill makes to the 1980 Act incorporated into a clean printed copy which is authoritative and made available to the public by the editor of Statutes in Force so as to expedite publication of the housing supplement with the revised text of the 1980 Act. He has already offered to produce it within four months of receiving the Queen's printer's copy of the Act after Royal Assent. As a result of further discussion between my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, my noble friend the Lord President of the Council and the noble and learned Lord himself this very afternoon, I can undertake, despite the reservations which I heard the noble and learned Lord make about Statutes in Force (certainly I do not claim this as an alternative to consolidation) that the editor of Statutes in Force, with every assistance from my department, will do his utmost to issue the revised text giving effect to what the noble and learned Lord is asking for within two months. I know that this is certainly not entirely to the satisfaction of the noble and learned Lord, but I hope—

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, did the noble Lord say two months?

Lord Bellwin

Yes, within two months. I know that this is not entirely to the noble and learned Lord's satisfaction, but I hope he will agree that it will be of assistance to those who need to study the text of the Act and that it represents a very significant improvement.

May I also say that the noble and learned Lord's amendment raises wider constitutional issues and issues on the procedure of consolidation and that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is prepared to intervene, should this be desired.

Throughout the various stages of the Bill I have been very grateful for the attendance and interventions of the noble and learned Lord—always helpful, always concerned. In turn, I have tried very hard to meet the many points that he has raised, while recognising all along that on consolidation we were coming to a point where there would be a path down which I could not go, although it is one which the noble and learned Lord wishes us to follow. Nevertheless, I was very much encouraged when the noble and learned Lord said earlier that this is not in any way a dilatory motion. I accept without question that it is not his intention in any way to delay the Bill. From the many things which he has said and done throughout the passage of the Bill I know that the noble and learned Lord means that. I hope the noble and learned Lord will accept from me that, if perfection it is not, the intention certainly is to proceed apace with consolidation, and that all his interventions have had quite an effect upon that intention. In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble and learned Lord may feel able not to pursue the amendment.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him to clarify one point. At the Committee stage my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale said that a new cumulative supplement, setting out the whole of this Act with the previous legislation, could be produced within four months of receiving the Queen's printer's copy. If I understood and heard correctly my noble friend Lord Bellwin, he said that, having consulted the editor, it would be possible to do that within two months. Can my noble friend say within two months of when?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the point is what it is that we would produce in four months and what it is that would be produced within two months. If I may repeat what I said on what could be produced within two months, we have offered to produce, within four months of receiving it, the Queen's printer's copy of the Act, after Royal Assent. However, what we have offered to produce within two months is the paper by the editor of Statutes in Force. He will expedite the publication of the housing supplement with the revised text. This is not the same as the cumulative supplement which my noble friend Lord Renton mentioned. Possibly, therefore, we are not referring to the same document. However, I am sure my noble friend will agree that there is a tremendous wish to produce it as quickly as we can.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, after the formidable speech made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. there is no need for me to say very much. However. I should like to say that both he and the noble Lord the Minister have perhaps underrated the enormous task which will confront those who have the duty to consolidate these measures. Their very incomprehensibility will add to the burden. I welcomed with some surprise, I must say, the very forthcoming speech made by the noble Lord on the Front Bench. There is one phrase in it which, perhaps unfairly, I should like to single out for notice. At one stage the noble Lord referred to Bills which at first sight are not easy to follow. That seemed to me to be such a classic of euphemism that it ought to be picked out and given special mention. I very much hope that the noble Lord has not too greatly overestimated the ease with which this difficult task will be performed; but I hope that it will be performed quickly, for the need is great.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, did the noble Lord say that the consolidation could be submitted to the joint committee in December of this year? If that is the case, may I say that the joint committee works very quickly and would not take very long to complete its work. Was that not what the noble Lord said?

Lord Bellwin

No, my Lords.

The Earl of Selkirk

Then perhaps the noble Lord could tell me what he did say.

Lord Bellwin

To do that I should have to start at the beginning and go over all of it again. I did not mention December.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, the noble Lord said that consolidation is desirable. I would say that it is very urgent. He described it as a vast problem. Anybody who has to interpret the law and tell his client what it means finds it to be a vast problem. To begin with, anybody who wants to act under the Bill will take a long time to prepare for it, so there is no need for immediate action. No immediate action will follow from the point of view of the clients. The point at issue is this: unlike a finance Bill or a company Bill, which are interpreted by experts, this is something which, as the noble and learned Lord has said, has to be interpreted by every single person in his own personal life. On the most personal basis they will want to know the answer to how they are to act. Can the noble Lord indicate when he believes consolidation will be available? If he cannot do so, may I ask him to say what he can about it?

The noble Lord said that he regarded it as something which can be done. Furthermore, the complication of these Bills is very unfortunate. Much damage has been done to housing by over-complicating Bills in one form or another. I shall be grateful if my noble and learned friend can give some firm indication as to when this consolidation can be done.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I want to have a go rather later than this, when I shall deal with the question of consolidation from the technical point of view. I believe that my noble friend would find it more convenient to himself if I did my best—whether acceptably or not—to speak about this matter then. There is a complication which I wish to expound at rather greater length than will be possible by means of an intervention in my noble friend's question.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I am sure that the House will wait eagerly for the comments of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.

6.50 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, that moment has come rather sooner than I expected. When people genuinely want to arrive at a solution of what is admittedly a difficult problem, they need to approach it in a fairly practical spirit. There are objections to the amendment. My noble and learned friend on the Cross-Benches made what was rightly described as a formidable speech about the Bill in its present form. The one point which he did not really expatiate upon was the virtues of the amendment itself. I do see difficulties in the amendment. Just consider what it is that the House is being asked to do if the amendment is passed.

My noble and learned friend is seeking to use the commencement provisions of this Bill as a means of forcing on a consolidation between this Bill and the Act of 1980. He says that particular provisions of this Bill will not come into force until certain machinery has been put into effect following the passing of a consolidation Act which is not yet before Parliament at all. In my opinion, that is constitutionally objectionable and it could not be supported. I do not like to think what the consolidation committee might say if for the first time in legislative history this device were accepted. One must go on to observe that, even if that were done, it would have to go through the entire consolidation machinery before these sections were brought into force.

I want to make an additional point in answer to my noble friend Lord Selkirk. We want to consolidate, and what is going on at the moment is consolidation not of this Bill with the Act of 1980 (which is what is envisaged in this amendment) but consolidation of the housing Acts from 1957 onwards. Although my noble and learned friend on the Cross-Benches was quite right in saying that my noble friend Lord Bellwin has said that he could not put a term on that work, which was begun in 1982, I can be a little more forthcoming than that. Consolidation of the type I am contemplating will be consolidation of the 1957 Act onwards to this Bill, if it is passed as law. We want to get that consolidation onto the Floor of Parliament by this time next year, or thereabouts. I do not feel that I can be more accurate than that, but that is a little better than my noble and learned friend on the Cross-Benches thought that my noble friend Lord Bellwin had said before.

The process of consolidating this Bill with the 1980 Act would take at least the same time—and I forgot whether it was four months or six months—as my noble friend Lord Bellwin spoke of. What is much worse, having done that, it would all have to be done over again when we reconsolidated the Acts from 1957 onwards. One would be taking two bites at the cherry if one did it in that way, and losing a lot of time in the process.

There is a straight political point which I will insert in my argument at this stage because it needs to be made plainly. The purpose of this Bill is to give certain people new rights. I quite appreciate that the Opposition Front Bench is against that in principle; that is a political argument between the two sides of the House. But it is in a sense perverse to say that you will not give those people these rights until the battle between textual amendment and legislation by reference—which is the method adopted so far in this Bill—is fought out. That would be to deprive them of their substantive rights for the sake of a doctrine about textual amendments and legislation by reference. In that connection, I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Renton—and I am impatient to hear him speak when I sit down. I have always joined him in the battle for textual amendment as against legislation by reference. I should very much like to see that method adopted here.

Having reached that stage, what is the practical solution that I propose? Or rather, what is it that my noble friend Lord Bellwin has already proposed and which I respectfully endorse? I refer to the sacred scriptures; by which I mean, of course, the Renton Report. In paragraph 13.20 of that report, the committee recommended as follows—and I thought that my noble and learned friend on the Cross-Benches did not, perhaps, do this recommendation sufficient justice. I shall read the whole paragraph because, although I could be selective, it will be fairer to read the whole paragraph. It states: Having considered the problems on both sides of this question, we have concluded that the practice of using the textual method should be applied as generally as possible, and we so recommend". I heartily endorse that as a general principle. The paragraph continues: We are encouraged and pleased to hear that in fact the Parliamentary draftsman, having regard to the needs of the user of the statutes, already makes it a practice to amend legislation textually wherever convenience permits". Then in brackets appear the words: (The adoption of this practice was we are told, partly prompted by the decision to publish Statutes in Force and by the Law Commission's suggestion that the draftsmen should take account of the requirement of the new edition.) It goes on: "We further recommend that the Editorial Board of Statutes in Force should be encouraged to reprint without delay loose copies of Acts as amended where this would be for the convenience of the users". My noble friend has suggested that that constructive and admirable proposal of the Renton committee should be applied in this case. I believe it to be the best way out of the situation in which we are placed.

If I may speak for a moment, I hope with courtesy, to the Opposition Front Bench, we are all of us from time to time in office, and we are all of us from time to time in opposition. But it has always been the case that consolidation, or non-consolidation, has never been used as a political weapon. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, did not use it for that purpose, and I am not using it for that purpose, either. If one is to use consolidation as a weapon to hold up legislation by proposing the postponement of a commencement date until consolidation of a consolidating Act not yet before Parliament is actually passed, I think that that day would have come ultimately inevitably to an end.

Although I have no doubt whatever that my noble and learned friend on the Cross-Benches was perfectly sincere in saying that if he thought that this was a dilatory amendment he would not have proposed it, the effect of it is inevitably dilatory. Where legislation by reference is, for one reason or another, adopted by any Administration, it would be open for the Opposition, in that case, to propose an amendment of this sort and say "No, you shall not have your Act until the consolidation legislation is passed." That has a dilatory effect and has the inevitable result, as I see it, of bringing the consolidation process into the cockpit of party politics, and I object to it on that ground.

What does it ultimately come to? It now comes I think to this. The Statutes in Force will in fact produce a loose copy available to the user which contains the actual text of the law as it will be after this Bill is passed into law and will do so within two months of the period which my noble friend Lord Bellwin specified in his speech. That is one of the things that the Statutes in Force is for. If I may possibly trespass upon your Lordships' time to this extent, I will give my own account of what I think it is for.

The object ofStatutes in Force—which was not my idea but which I have enthusiastically supported from the very moment that I heard of the project in, I believe, my first term of office—is, instead of having the statutes contained in unusable volumes (they are unusable because year by year they become out of date despite what my noble and learned friend said about the practice of practitioners using the Law Reports' version of each year's statute as it comes out) the whole of the statute book is now comprised in a loose leaf form so that every time a statute is passed amending the law the new loose leaves are put into the place where they belong in our consolidated statute book. Although, of course, this is an editorial function and although it is, of course, no substitute for consolidation, or we would have done it that way to the exclusion of consolidation, that is what it is for.

It is also the case—I, of course, was not the privileged recipient of a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Scarman, who is another enthusiastic supporter of the Statutes in Force—that it is the design of the Statutes in Force that if, for instance, one is only interested in ecclesiastical law or the law relating to agricultural holdings, one can get that piece separately and in loose leaf alone. That is a considerable saving of expense because the one objection to Statutes in Force is the enormous expense of subscribing to the whole.

What is suggested in this case—and I am sure it is the practical way out—is that the editorial function should be expedited to the point where the user will have a readable text within two months of the date which my noble friend suggested. That will enable this Bill to go forward without the constitutional objections which my noble and learned friend saw to the text of it as it now stands and without the constitutional objection which would, I think, be raised to the amendment as put forward by my noble and learned friend; and there is more than one objection, as I have indicated.

I agree, if I may say so, with my noble friend, Lord Peyton, who cast some doubt on what I might call the easy scissors and paste version of consolidation. Whether it is consolidation of the 1980 legislation with this, or whether it is the far more comprehensive consolidation process that I had in mind as coming into force next year, whatever the result of this piece of legislation, it is a very highly skilled task which requires parliamentary draftsmen of very high talents, and a good deal of experience as well.

Having expressed that as my own opinion, because I am very conscious that I have never indulged in the practice of parliamentary draftsmanship but once—and then the parliamentary draftsman altered every word in my draft except the Short Title which he was not entitled to touch—I can only say that this is my humble opinion for what it is worth. Having said that, I therefore urge my noble friend Lord Renton when he sums up to accept the proposal of my noble friend Lord Bellwin. founded as it is upon the constructive suggestion in his own report. I think that will get us out of our difficulty. I have been as helpful as I can.

7.7 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, in moving this amendment was kind enough to warn your Lordships that he had asked me to reply to the debate and that is what I now propose to do, very briefly. I am sure that we are all deeply indebted to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, for drawing attention to the need for early consolidation—and I speak generally when I say that—but especially when one has a complex and difficult Bill of this kind which will affect people in their homes, and indeed in their lives generally. It will affect various organisations, too.

Although I am in broad agreement with the substance of the Bill, I share the misgivings which have been expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, by my noble friend Lord Selkirk and by others at other stages. Indeed, it is there for all the world to see how complex and difficult this is. Having said that, I am sure that we are all grateful to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor for this intervention. Indeed, I think it is an achievement on the part of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, to have in effect persuaded the Lord Chancellor to make the speech that he did, for so clearly expressing the Government's point of view, and for pointing out—I must say that I was conscious of this when I signed the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord—that by suggesting consolidation before the Bill comes into force we were suggesting something that was not only unusual but unprecedented. I would not go so far, with respect to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, as to say that it would be unconstitutional if Parliament were to accept it, but we are grateful to the noble and learned Lord.

May I comment on two matters that he particularly mentioned in his speech? First, I go along with him in saying that textual amendment is highly desirable. The fact that it has been used in the clauses chosen by the noble and learned Lord. Lord Simon, for consolidation meant that consolidation of those clauses, at any rate, would have been easier because of textual amendment. Let us be clear about that. So far as Statutes in Force is concerned, I welcome what the Lord Chancellor said referring to the report of our committee on legislation, but I would respectfully remind him that the use of Statutes in Force, although it comes sooner than consolidation, is in the net result second best, and our committee had that in mind. But having said all that, I feel that there is much more common ground between us than might have been imagined.

There are really three ways of doing what I think most of us would say should somehow be done. May I briefly mention what the options are? The first is consolidation of the whole of the Bill with what went before. We have been told, and we can but accept it, that that would take quite a long time. It probably could not conceivably be done in this Session; it would not have to be done in the next Session.

The next option is the one mentioned by the noble and learned Lord. Lord Simon of Glaisdale. The Lord Chancellor, in a slightly leg-pulling vein I think, said that this was a bit more than scissors and paste, and that consolidation always is. Indeed, it has been pointed out that in our report we said that consolidation was always more than scissors and paste. But I would remind your Lordships that the task of consolidation varies tremendously. You may have to consolidate the income tax Acts or the companies Acts. That is a mammoth task, taking years.

But then you may have quite a simple piece of consolidation, made all the easier because textual amendment has been used. That is the kind of consolidation which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, is asking your Lordships to accept. That is the second option. We may disagree, but we can but accept that even that limited type of consolidation would take some time. I would have thought that the best that we could hope for was to get it completed in the overspill part of this Session and finished in the early autumn. That would be the best that we could hope for.

I come to the third option, because we have to compare the third option with that second one. The third option is to use the next best solution, Statutes in Force, and not merely the interleaving but, as the Lord Chancellor so rightly said, the issue of a supplement specialised to the subject. (The Chief Whip need not be anxious; I shall be sitting down very soon). We were told that it would take four months from receiving the Queen's Printer's copy. Now we are told that it would be within two months of some unspecified Act; but at any rate it would be sooner, one must hope and believe, than the alternative proposed in the noble and learned Lord's amendment.

I am speaking purely for myself when I say that the difference both in time and in method between the second and the third options does not seem to me to be great enough for us to press this amendment. I would have thought that there was sufficient common ground—sufficient desire for progress in this matter—for us to express our gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, but to say, speaking for myself, that I could not support this amendment in the lobby; and, indeed, I do not think that it is a voting matter.

The noble and learned Lord has had the satisfaction, not only of bringing my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor to his feet but of pricking the consciences of the draftsmen and, I hope, the Ministers who are responsible for drafting. In the hope that consolidation will be expedited much more in the years to come, could we not leave it like that?

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I wish to reply in only a few sentences. With great respect, I did not agree with my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack in his description of how Statutes in Force works. If his description were right, he would have a very strong case, but it does not in fact happen that when a new Act is passed it is fitted by the editorial board into the old one. It goes into the cumulative supplement; and it is only the exceptional course which in this case the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has persuaded the editor to take which in any way approaches the requirement for consolidation.

I do not for a moment accept that to move an amendment such as this, which says that if you produce a Bill which is incomprehensible until it is fitted into the Act which it amends you shall not have it until it is consolidated, is an unconstitutional action. It seems to me the very reverse of unconstitutional action. Having been chairman of that committee, I certainly would not wish to do anything to derogate from its apolitical character. I agree with my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack that that would utterly destroy its character and its utility.

We have come quite a long way since we started discussing this. The period of four months has now been reduced to two; and I take it that by that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, meant that we should have, so to speak, an unstatutory Keeling schedule in Statutes in Force, and that he was not merely referring to the cumulative supplement. We now have a term on the general comprehensive consolidation; I think that my noble and learned friend said this time next year. Again, that puts a different complexion on it.

I am of course entirely in the hands of your Lordships whether we vote on this. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will collect the voices, and it is entirely a matter for your Lordships. I am conscious that a considerable movement has been made towards what we wish for. I am not contented with it myself. I should like to see that done which I have been urging your Lordships to do. But noble Lords have heard the whole of the debate, and in particular what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, and my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, and the matter lies in your Lordships' hands.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 95 not moved. ]

Schedule 2 [Schedule inserted after Schedule 1 to 1980 Act]:

7.18 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 96:

Page 64, line 3, at end insert—


The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf my noble friend Lord Bellwin, I beg to move Amendment No. 96 and to speak also to Amendments Nos. 97 to 112, which were taken with Amendment No. 4.

Amendment No. 97: Page 64, line 7, leave out ("7(5)") and insert ("7(1)"). Amendment No. 98: Page 64, line 9, after ("be") insert ("the period qualifying, or"). Amendment No. 99: Page 64, line 10, after ("of') insert ("this Part of"). Amendment No. 100: Page 65, line 9, leave out ("dies or otherwise ceases") and insert ("died or otherwise ceased"). Amendment No. 101: Page 65, line 10, leave out ("occupies") and insert ("occupied"). Amendment No. 102: Page 65, line 12, leave out ("becomes") and insert ("became"). Amendment No. 103: Page 65, line 15, leave out ("qualifies under this paragraph if it is a period"). Amendment No. 104: Page 65, line 19, leave out ("and either—(a) it was") and insert ("being either—(a)").

Amendment No. 105: Page 65, leave out lines 22 and 23 and insert— (" (b) a period ending not earlier than two years before another period falling within this sub-paragraph. shall be regarded for the purposes of paragraph 2 above as a period during which he was a public sector tenant.")

Amendment No. 106: Page 65, leave out lines 30 to 37 and insert—



5. There shall be deducted from the discount an amount equal to any previous discount qualifying, or the aggregate of any previous discounts qualifying, under paragraph 5A below.

5A.—(1) A previous discount qualifies under this paragraph if it was given—

  1. (a) to the person or one of the persons exercising the right to buy;
  2. (b) to the spouse of that person or one of those persons; or
  3. (c) to the deceased spouse of that person or one of those persons.

(2) A previous discount shall not qualify by virtue of sub- paragraph (1)(b) above unless the person concerned and his spouse were living together at the relevant time.

(3) A previous discount shall not qualify by virtue of sub- paragraph (l)(c) above unless the person concerned and his deceased spouse were living together at the time of the death.

5B.—(1) Where the whole or any part of a previous discount has been recovered by the person by whom it was given (whether by the receipt of a payment determined by reference to the discount or by a reduction so determined of any consideration given by that person or in any other way), so much of the discount as has been so recovered shall be disregarded for the purposes of paragraph 5A above.

(2) Any reference in this paragraph to the person by whom a previous discount was given includes a reference to any successor in title of his.

5C.Where a previous discount was given to two or more persons jointly, paragraphs 5A and 5B above shall be construed as if each of those persons had been given an equal proportion of that discount.



Amendment No. 107: Page 65, line 38, after ("tenancy") insert ("which is not a long tenancy and").

Amendment No. 108: Page 65, line 41, leave out from ("satisfied") to end of line 46.

Amendment No. 109: Page 66, line 36, leave out ("Schedule") and insert ("sub-paragraph").

Amendment No. 110: Page 66, line 37, leave out ("such other person or persons as may be") and insert ("a person who is").

Amendment No. 111: Page 67, leave out lines 24 to 31 and insert— (" "conveyance" means a conveyance of the freehold or an assignment of a long tease; dwelling-house" includes a house within the meaning of the 1957 Act; grant" means a grant of a long lease; long lease" means a lease creating a long tenancy within the meaning of paragraph 1 of Schedule 3 to this Act or a tenancy falling within paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983; previous discount" means a discount which was given, before the relevant time, on a conveyance or grant with respect to which the requirements of sub-paragraph (2) below were satisfied;")

Amendment No. 112: Page 67, line 38, at end insert— ("(2) The requirements of this sub-paragraph are satisfied with respect to a conveyance or grant of a dwelling-house if the vendor or lessor is—>

  1. (a) a person falling within paragraph 6(3) above; or
  2. (b) in such circumstances as may be prescribed for the purposes of this sub-paragraph by order of the Secretary of State, a person who is so prescribed.")

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I thought that we had stopped in that grouping at Amendment No. 8. I have a note, "See column 1392". It looks as if the noble Lord did not go beyond that. I do not raise that point just to be difficult, or because my amendment has not been approved, but I want to ask a question on Amendment No. 96.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I was under the impression that these amendments had been spoken to with Amendment No. 4. However, if the noble and learned Lord has a question, it would be only correct to answer it.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I am grateful.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord would forgive me. If I could just make this plea to him because we are running very much over time on this, could he possibly keep his questions as short as possible on this.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, it is quite irresistible. What I wanted to ask was how the top of page 64 will read under this amendment? I found it very puzzling.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am sorry I am somewhat confused. Was the noble and learned Lord asking me about Amendment No. 96?

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I think we are on Schedule 2, are we not? Page 64 reads: "Schedule Inserted After Schedule 1 to 1980 Act". Then "Schedule 1A", and then comes the amendment that has just been moved: "QUALIFICATION AND DISCOUNT PART I" and then does the heading follow: "DETERMINATION OF RELEVANT PERIODS FOR THE PURPOSES OF SECTION 1(3) AND 7(1)", which are of course the 1980 Act? Have I read it right there?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I do not think, quite; and I am not very adept at doing consolidation on my feet. However, my understanding is that the words "QUALIFICATION AND DISCOUNT PART I" go in before the word "Schedule 1 A" in the Bill in its current print.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

They follow that—do they not?—and precede the words "DETERMINATION".

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am informed that they precede the word, "SCHEDULE 1A".

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, they do not according to the Marshalled List. I do not want to waste time on this, but perhaps Ministers would look at this before Third Reading.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, most certainly I will, and if I may write to the noble and learned Lord on this point.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendments 97 to 112:

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 97 to 112 en bloc.

Schedule 3 [Terms of a shared ownership lease].

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 113: Page 70, leave out lines 32 and 33 and insert—

("R=F(100-S) ")/100

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a purely technical group of amendments to give the Secretary of State greater flexibility when prescribing, by order, how a shared owner's new responsibility for repairs, maintenance and insurance should be reflected in the payments that he is required to make and his lease. We are consulting the local authority associations and other interested bodies on the various options as to the method and level of adjustment to be adopted. The purpose of these amendments is simply to ensure that we have the power which will permit us to look at all the various options in the light of comments we receive, and it does not tie us down to one particular approach. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments Nos. 114 to 116:

Page 70, leave out lines 43 to 45 and insert— (" (1 A) The lease shall also provide that, for any such period, if the Secretary of State by order so provides—

  1. (a) the rent payable under the lease as so determined; or
  2. (b) any amount payable by the tenant under the lease which is payable, directly or indirectly, for repairs, maintenance or insurance,
shall be adjusted in such manner as may be provided by the order.").

Page 71, line 6, leave out from ("order") to ("as") in line 8 and insert ("under sub-paragraph (1A) above provide for such adjustment").

Page 71, line 10, leave out from ("tenant") to end of line 12.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 114 to 116 en bloc.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments Nos. 117 to 126:

[Amendment Nos. 117 and 118 printed earlier: col. 1414.]

Amendment No. 119: Page 72, line 11, leave out from beginning to end of line 17 and insert ("is a qualifying person").

Amendment No. 120: Page 72, line 31, at beginning insert—

("For the purposes of sub-paragraph (5)(a) above a person is a qualifying person in relation to a disposal if he—

  1. (a) is the person or one of the persons by whom it is made;
  2. (b) is the spouse or a former spouse of that person or one of those persons; or
  3. (c) is a member of the family of that person or one of those persons and has resided with him throughout the period of twelve months ending with the disposal.


[Amendment Nos. 121 to 126 printed earlier: col. 1414.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 117 to 126 en bloc.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 127: [Printed earlier: col. 1414.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 127. It was taken with Amendment No. 10. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 128:

Page 75, line 5, after ("provision") insert ("with respect to different cases or descriptions of case, including different provision").

Schedule 6 [Amendments of sections 104B and 104C of 1957 Act.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments Nos. 129 to 133:

[Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 printed earlier: col. 1414.]

Amendment No. 131: Page 81, line 3, leave out from beginning to end of line 11 and insert ("is a qualifying person")

Amendment No. 132: Page 81, line 26, at beginning insert— ("For the purposes of subsection (4A)(a) above a person is a qualifying person in relation to a disposal if he—

  1. (a) is the person or one of the persons by whom it is made;
  2. (b) is the spouse or a former spouse of that person or one of those persons; or
  3. (c) is a member of the family of that person or one of those persons (within the meaning of Chapter II of Part I of the Housing Act 1980) and has resided with him throughout the period of twelve months ending with the disposal.


[Amendment No. 133 Printed earlier: col 1414. ]

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 129 to 133 en bloc.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments Nos. 134 to 136:

[Printed earlier: col. 1423.]

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 134 to 136 en bloc.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 137: [Printed earlier: col. 1414. ]

The noble Lord said: I beg to move. This was taken with Amendment No. 10.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 138:

Page 82, line 6, after ("etc.)") insert ("for the words "by order of the Secretary of State" there shall be substituted the words "under section 19 of the Housing Act 1980" and")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this I would take Amendment No. 141:

Amendment No. 141: Page 82, line 23, at end insert—

("(4A) In subsection (9) of that section for the words from "means" onwards there shall be substituted the words "has the same meaning as in section 19 of the Housing Act 1980".").

These are my minor, technical amendments which need not detain us. These were oversights in drafting in the 1980 Act. They will reduce the administration work involved. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments Nos. 139 and 140:

[Printed earlier: col. 1414.]

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 139 and 140 en bloc.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 141:

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: I beg to move. It was taken with Amendment No. 138.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 142:

[Printed earlier; col. 1414.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords I beg to move. It was taken with Amendment 10.

Schedule 7 [Schedule inserted after Schedule 4 to 1980 Act]:

[Amendments Nos. 143 to 146 not moved.]

[Schedule 11Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 147: Page 91, line 27, at end insert ("or, where the right is that mentioned in section l(l)(b) above, twelve weeks".").

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments Nos. 148 and 149.

[Printed earlier: col. 1375.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 150: [Printed earlier: col. 1424.]

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 150 is consequential. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments Nos. 151, 152 and 153:

Page 96, leave out lines 12 to 16 and insert— ("25. Part II of Schedule 1A to that Act (qualification and discount) shall have effect as if "previous discount" included a discount which was given, before the relevant time, in pursuance of the provision required by paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 to this Act or any other provision to the like effect.").

Page 96, line 24, leave out ("In").

Page 96. line 25, leave out from ("tenancies") to the end of line 26 and insert ("shall have effect as if the reference to a tenancy granted in pursuance of Chapter I of Part I of that Act included a reference to a tenancy granted in pursuance of Part I of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 151, 152 and 153 en bloc.

Schedule 12 [Repeals]:

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 154: Page 98, leave out lines 2 and 3.

The noble Lord said: This is yet another drafting correction. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 155:

[Printed earlier: col. 48. ]

The noble Lord said: This, too, is consequential. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 156:

Page 98, line 31, column 3, at end insert— ("In section 7, subsections (5) to (11).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 157 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 158 and 159 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 160:

[Printed earlier: col. 1375.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords this is a minor and technical amendment. I beg to move.