HC Deb 05 December 1983 vol 50 cc71-4W
Mr. Peter Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many reports have been issued by the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment; and on what topics.

Mr. Chris Patten

The Northern Ireland Assembly Environment Committee issued 10 Reports up to 31 October 1983:

  • Rent structures and levels.
  • Proposal for a draft Access to the Countryside (NI) Order 1983. Registered Rents (Increase) Order (NI) 1983.
  • Proposal for a draft Housing (NI) Order 1983.
  • The Strangford Lough Ferry (Maximum Charges) Order (NI) 1983.
  • The Rates (Payments by Instalments) Order (NI) 1983
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  • The Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 1983.
  • Consultative paper on areas of special control and outstanding natural beauty.
  • Proposed amendment to the building regulations: access for the disabled.
  • The Northern Ireland Housing Executive's housing renewal strategy for Belfast.

Mr. Peter Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many recommendations have been made in the various reports issued by the Environment Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly; and which of these recommendations have been accepted by the Government.

Mr. Chris Patten

In relation to the reports issued up to 31 October 1983, the information is as followsProposal for a draft Housing Order (NI) 1983 — 31 recommendations made, 11 accepted and four to be considered in relation to future legislation:

Recommendations accepted requiring specific amendments to the proposal

  • — to provide for the recoupment from purchasers of a proportionate part of the cost of the maintenance of common parts and to provide an obligation on purchasers to maintain and to ensure against fire and other normally insurable risks;
  • — to organise the provision in flats and maisonettes of common services including insurance against fire and other normally insurable risks, common area maintenance, maintenance and renewal of lifts and all other common services; to recover a proportionate part of the cost of such provision from each owner;
  • —to amend Article 35 to require the Housing Executive to reimburse tenants (at the end of the tenancy) for improvements undertaken by the tenant, at his or her own expense, with the consent of the Executive, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld;
  • —Article 53 to be amended to dispose of the requirement for charitable associations, fully mutual societies and other non-profit-making societies to supply a certificate for future occupation when they are assisting first time buyers in obtaining low cost home ownership;
  • —Article 67(4) to be amended to provide that the date by which a house must have been erected to enable the Executive to pay a repairs grant should be 31 December 1956;
  • —Article 82 and Schedule 7 to be amended to dispose of the prohibition of applications from persons being members of or having a relative on the Committee of an association and to rely on the provisions of other legislation concerning declarations of interest that there is no abuse.

Recommendations accepted not requiring specific amendments to the proposal

  • —Article 10 to be amended to provide that, in the event of destruction by fire, the house shall be reinstated or, alternatively, provision will be made for the repayment of discount out of the proceeds of the insurance policy;
  • —to provide for the Housing Executive to take back into public ownership houses which have been damaged and become abandoned;
  • —provision to be made in the Order that where a tenant has made improvements at his own expense the Housing Executive will not be able to increase the rent solely on account of those improvements;
  • —Part I of Schedule 4 to be amended to ensure that separate bedroom accommodation for adults is regarded as a standard amenity.

Recommendation accepted in principle for future legislation

  • —Article 5 to be amended to remove the restriction upon the right to buy.

Recommendations accepted for consideration for future legislation

  • —Article 38 to be amended to reduce the period within which inforation should be given about the terms of secure tenancies;
  • —to provide that a certain level of grant will be payable at a lower valuation limit reducing as the valuation limit increases;
  • —to make void any contract for the payment by the tenant of the landlord's agents' letting Commission.

Recommendation accepted for amendment if the existing provision proved unsatisfactory

  • —Article 12 to be amended to provide a right of appeal against the assessment of market value by the District Valuer.


—I5 recommendations made, 6 accepted (a further 7 did not necessitate changes):—

Recommendations accepted requiring specific amendments

  • —that article 3 be amended to require District councils to keep maps and records of public paths and public rights of way;
  • —that provision be made for application to be made to the Department for closure or diversion of public paths and rights of way to safeguard the flora and fauna of an area;
  • —that Article 44 (b) be amended to refer to the need to conserve the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside.

General recommendations accepted

  • — that the establishment of a Countryside Commission for Northern Ireland be considered carefully;
  • —that the expertise used in the creation of the Ulster Way be available to councils in construction of long-distance paths;
  • —that adequate finance is made available to district Councils for the performance of their functions under the Order.


  • recommendations made, 1 accepted and 1 other amendment made:—

Recommendation accepted

  • that the Department considers a further amendment of the 1977 Order in due course to remove entirely the requirement to set valuation limits.

Recommendation which led to an amendment

  • that since the removal of all valuation limits for the entitlement to pay by instalment would require a further amendment to the 1977 Order, the proposed statutory rule be altered to prescribe a lower limit of £3 and an upper limit fixed at the highest entry in the valuation list (not accepted as proposed but subsequent significant amendments were made to the original upper and lower valuation limits when the Rule was made).


  • —that the proposed statutory rule be made forthwith;
  • —that further regulations be prepared forthwith to bring the law regarding the control of noise emissions from motor vehicles in Northern Ireland fully into line with that in England, taking account of the further amendments referred to at Pargraphs 20 to 23 of the Government White Paper.


  • —the requirements of this proposal to be extended to include facilities for the disabled at sub-Post Offices, Health Centres, Doctors' and Dentists' surgeries, Private Nursing Homes, Sheltered dwellings for the elderly, churches, etc;
  • —a more sensitive system of exemption to be derived without causing undue complication and weakening of enforcement;
  • —the application of the proposed regulations to be extended to include certain alterations or extensions to existing buildings where facilities can be incorporated without undue cost;
  • —ground floor shops to be included when alterations or a new shop front are being provided to ensure provision of a door large enough to accommodate a wheelchair with user;
  • —regulation U1.(2) to be amended to include extensions over certain area;
  • —consideration to be given to adequate arrangements for the emergency evacuation of the disabled whenever access is 74 provided;
  • —the proposal to include a definition of "disabled persons" as set out in BS5810 1979 which refers to 3 different types of disabled persons, ie disabled people, ambulant disabled and wheelchair users;
  • —the proposal to follow closely the pattern for England, Scotland and Wales, a pattern which is generally regarded as being in the interests of owners and users of buildings, as well as of builders, the professions and the suppliers of materials to the construction industry;
  • —the Department to take account of the need to provide that there is no obligation to give access to the disabled, in circumstances where there would be a consequent uninsurable risk for the owner.

Mr. Peter Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many statutory and administrative rules have been commented upon by the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment; and in how many cases the Government have accepted these comments.

Mr. Chris Patten

Up to 31 October 1983, the Committee had commented on only five of the draft statutory rules submitted to the Assembly:

  • The Motor Vehicle (Construction and Use) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 1983, on which three recommendations were made and two accepted;
  • The Rates (Payment by Instalments) Order (NI) 1983, on which two recommendations were made and subsequent amendments made on both matters.
  • The Strangford Lough Ferry (Maximum Charges) Order (NI) 1983, on which three recommendations were made and one accepted, to defer consideration until a further report was made;
  • The Registered Rents (Increase) Order (NI) 1983—on which one recommendation was made, but not accepted.
  • The Housing (Improvement, Intermediate and Repairs Grants) Order (NI) 1983, on which one recommendation was made and accepted.