§ Mr. Graham Page
I beg to move Amendment No 35 in, page 23, line 38, leave out:'or passing of a house order or resolution'and insert:',passing or acceptance of a housing order, resolution or undertaking'.I think it would be convenient if we discussed with this amendment the following Government amendments: Nos. 36, 41, 42, 43, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 69, 70, 71.
All of these deal with the question of displacement and the definition of displacement when dealing with home loss payments, disturbance payments and the duty to re-house residential occupiers. All the clauses which deal with this apply when a person is displaced from a dwelling in consequpence of, among other things, the making of a housing order. This is defined in Clause 26(7) as a demolition, closing or clearance order under Part II or Part III of the Housing Act 1957, Section 60 of the Housing Act 1969 or Part II of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1966.
As an alternative to making a demolition or closing order a housing authority may, and frequently does, if it thinks fit, accept an undertaking from an owner that an unfit house will not be used for human habitation. If as a result an occupier is displaced we would like that to be a displacement which brings into operation Clauses 26, 33 and 34.
Amendment No. 43 is the key amendment in this group. It amends Clause 26(7), the definition subsection, to include in the definition of a housing order those cases where an authority accepts such an undertaking because it is proceeding by way of demolition or closing order. All the other amendments are consequential upon that amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I beg to move Amendment No. 37, in page 24, line 11, leave out 'seven' and insert 'five'.
Might I suggest that with this Amendment we also discuss the following amendments: No. 38, in page 24, line 11, leave out 'seven' and insert 'three'.
No. 46, No. 49, No. 47, in page 25, line 28, at end insert 'and a minimum of £250'.
No. 51, No. 50, in page 26, line 15, at end insert 'and a minimum of £250'.
§ Mr. Mulley
That would be convenient. They deal with different points. One point is the period of qualification and the other is the amount of benefit, but it would be convenient to debate them together.
§ Mr. Page
It is true that they deal with different aspects of the same subject. They are, however, interdependent.
I undertook in Committee to look again at the length of the qualifying occupancy period for home loss payments and at the formula for calculating the amount payable. I decided to reduce the eligibility to five years' occupancy in place of the seven years which appeared in the Bill as drafted and to put a minimum payment—a floor, as it were—of £150, as well as, the ceiling, in the Bill, of £1,500.
The amendments arose in this way. It was evident from the debates in Committee that the period of seven years was regarded as too long. Therefore, I sought to choose a period related to the establishment of a home. It is true that a home may be established in a shorter period of years, but we want to avoid attracting the speculator who may endeavour to take advantage of the home loss payment. If we go below these figures, we feel that we shall get into the world of the speculator.
After the Bill was drafted, we decided to introduce the benefit to the furnished tenant. It is evident that there will be furnished tenants in properties with a very low rateable value. When one starts to apportion the rateable value of a house let off in bed sitting rooms as separate dwellings, the rateable value becomes 889 very small. Therefore, the floor of £150 will benefit the furnished tenant in particular.
We considered whether we should entirely divorce these home loss payments from rateable value in making a flat rate across the board. The arguments in favour of that were persuasive in that what we are compensating here is not based on the value of the bricks and mortar, but on the value of a home to the householder who has lived there for a period of time. It could be argued that a home is a home whether it be a hovel or a mansion. But I think there is some point in relating it to rateable value, not merely because a large house is obviously of a different value than a cottage, but because of the relationship of the value of money to the home owner. We are trying to compensate the feeling of loss and grief felt by the home owner who is turned out. I have stuck to the principle in terms of the rateable value in the Bill, but I take the point that it is fixed over too long a period. We have reduced it to five years.
I know that I have not met all the arguments on this matter—indeed, the Opposition wanted to reduce the period to three years, and in one case sought no qualifying period at all. But I feel that we need a fairly substantial period to ensure that a home is established, and I believe that the choice of basing the payment on rateable value was right. The amendments thus bring those two principles, embracing five years and £150, into operation in the Bill.
§ 1.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman
We on this side of the House still think that five years is too long. I appreciate the necessity for having some restrictive period, but a home is a home whether it has been established for two, three, four or five years, and the person ejected from such a home will suffer the same hardship, grief and disturbance. I appreciate that it is necessary to have some qualifying period simply to prevent what the Minister called the speculator, or perhaps a tenant in London who "jumps the gun" by getting into a clearance area in the hope of being rehoused with others. I think that three years would be ample to prevent a person deliberately beating others in the queue for housing. I hope the Minister will reconsider the period.
§ Mr. Goodhart
As I pressed my right hon. Friend on this point in Committee, I congratulate him on the amendment he has moved. We must have been more persuasive than we thought, for he has wrung a major concession from the Treasury.
By my reckoning, lowering the period of occupancy from seven to five years and bringing in furnished tenants and the "floor" payments, will add £4 million a year to the cost of this Bill. With this and related Amendments we are paying out four times as much as we shall receive in one year in the contentious museum charges. So this is no small matter and I think it will be a major benefit.
In Committee I tried to show that the seven-year provision would rule out 46 per cent. of Greater London residents from home loss payments if their property was taken over. I estimate that under this amendment two-thirds of Greater London residents will be eligible for home loss payments if their property comes into this category. That is no small matter when one thinks of the ringway proposals and the Greater London Development Plan which have received broad approval. I congratulate my right hon. Friend. As he knows, I was in favour of sliding scale payments. I should like to see payments begin from three years once rateable value to six years, twice rateable value going from six to nine years and three times from nine years onwards. At this late hour I will not press that argument nor cavil about the major concession which my right hon. Friend has won from the Treasury.
§ Mr. Rowlands
I feel I am an odd man out because the argument has gone the wrong way in the decision taken by the Minister. But the generous spirit in which he has allowed us to debate the issue and allowed us to discuss various possibilities has been a marvellous example of open and participatory government. However, by shortening the period but nevertheless repaying those with more expensive properties with higher home loss payments than those with poorer properties, the Minister has succumbed to a metropolitan rather than a provincial solution.
If one considers the cases that one meets in industrial South Wales and in 891 my constituency where the vast majority of home loss is due to slum clearance or redevelopment of the oldest and poorest properties, one realises that the use of rateable values to which the hon. Gentleman has stuck rather than the flat-rate solution which I consider to be preferable militates against the payment of proper compensation for the home loss by people at the lower end of the housing scale.
Even on the right hon. Gentleman's argument the use of rateable value is unfair. The right hon. Gentleman's argument in Committee—and it was a little disingenuous of him to try to modify it tonight—was that home loss payment was not related to true compensation or to the physical condition of the property, but was a payment for grief and loss of the home. To people who have lived in a home for perhaps 70 years, three years or seven years is irrelevant.
In the provinces and in areas like mine the rateable value assessment will mean that even with a limit of £150 occupants of the poorer houses will find that there is a shortfall. Our proposal for £250 is a better bet because, as we worked out in Committee, the difference in the proposed home loss payments would mean between £50 and £60 for the householder at the poor end of the scale. I suggest that in terms of home loss, in the average property in industrial South Wales or in the provinces the loss can be greater than in the more expensive properties in metropolitan London.
Perhaps it is the Government's decision to endorse the views of the Lay-field Committee that has swayed the argument, because there will as a result be home loss in areas right across the spectrum. The Minister has found in favour of the wealthier end of the housing scene and militated against the lowest. For that reason I should like him to reconsider his decision and put in a £250 floor level, with some rateable value topping up.
I did not press the matter in Committee because I hoped that rateable values would not be the basis of home loss. At column 311 in Committee I asked the Minister about the effect of home loss payments where rateable values were altered during the course of construction. The right hon. Gentleman promised to look at that. Perhaps he 892 will consider that further in the light of his decision, to use rateable values. I regret the decision, because I prefer the flat-rate system.
§ Mr. Moate
My right hon. Friend has secured a major concession in the sense of reducing the loss period to five years and providing a minimum of £150. It would be ungracious not to concede that, but I am a little disappointed that he has decided on five years and not a lower figure. There was a sound argument for saying that there should be no figure. One could argue that every loss of a home through compulsory purchase is an assault on the person's rights, and I think that an individual should be entitled to compensation for that factor alone. Nevertheless, one can understand that there is a sustainable argument. One becomes attached to a house more after a period, and my right hon. Friend argued that this is essentially a payment for grief. On that argument the public would understand the grounds on which that compensation was calculated.
My right hon. Friend used another interesting phrase in Committee when he said:… it should be a payment for exceptional personal grief or frustration of the residential occupier forcibly displaced …It was the word "or" which caught my attention—"or frustration". I submit that a man who moves into his home only to find in a year or two that it is to be purchased compulsorily is likely to be more frustrated than a person who has lived in his home for a number of years. His anger would be considerable.
I was surprised to hear that the cost of the three-year clause was estimated to be only £24 million compared with £17.5 million for the seven-year period, and I should have thought that a difference of that order could be contemplated by the Government.
In the same sitting of the Committee, my right hon. Friend concluded by saying:Let the debate continue until the Bill reaches the Statute Book because we want this new right compensation or concession for those who are being turned out of their homes. And we want to get it right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 23rd January 1973; c. 267–9.]We are not yet at the final stage of the Bill, and I suggest that there is no need 893 to pass this amendment now. Why not leave it until the Bill reaches another place so that it may be debated there? In that way the question will be left open for other views to be heard.
§ Mr. Mulley
I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Rowlands) said about the generosity and open-mindedness of the Minister throughout our deliberations. I am only sad that the right hon. Gentleman's conclusion in this case has not been as characteristically generous as some of his other decisions.
I have much sympathy with the remarks of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) that we have not reached the end of the consideration of the Bill and that, while we accept that more generous provision would cost money in the total involvement and in order to get people outside to feel we are beginning to try to compensate people for all that is involved in their private interests being overriden in the public interest, another £7 million might be worth spending, especially as I am rather suspicious about the basis of a lot of the figures. It must be rough and ready estimating. We cannot tell down to the last million what is likely to be involved.
While we pressed for the inclusion of furnished tenants, by taking five years I think that a lot of furnished tenants will not qualify. It is the exception rather than the rule for people to stay in the same furnished premises for more than five years, especially in London. People are seeking to get unfurnished accommodation or to buy their own homes. Usually they do not want to stay in furnished premises for as long as five years. There are two separate but related points here. I hope that the Minister will look again at both of them and, if possible, persuade his colleagues that another £7 million is worth spending.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. Julius Silverman) said, five years is still too long. It looks as if, we having proposed three, many people outside having proposed three, and the original Bill saying seven, the Government have taken the midway point and said five. I think that five is too long. For many people, the time that they feel proudest about their homes is when they have just got everything right. 894 Anyone moving into a house knows that it probably takes two or three years to get the garden right and to get the place furnished and decorated to one's taste. If after about two or three years a compulsory purchase order came along, a house owner would possibly feel a much greater sense of deprivation than if it happened after 10, 15 or more years when perhaps it would not be as serious a matter for them to move.
I agree that it is an extremely difficult matter, because individual cases vary enormously, but I wonder whether we could not get the period a little below five years—although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aston said, we accept that there must be a qualifying period because we would not want to encourage people to move from one place to another seeking to accumulate one home loss payment after another.
It is unfortunate that the Bill and the White Paper which came before it are couched in terms both of rateable value and of a maximum of £1,500. This may have inhibited the Government from looking at the solution proposed in Committee, I think from both sides, that a flat-rate payment would have been more appropriate if it was not intended in any way to be related to the value of the property—the bricks and mortar, as the Minister said—but was meant to be some kind of compensation for the grief and sorrow of having to surrender a home and move elsewhere. A flat rate would have been much preferable to the heavily graded payment now in terms of rateable value, even though we are of course glad that the Minister has accepted my suggestion that there should be a minimum as well as a maximum.
I still think that a minimum of £150 is much too small. With the new rateable values, council houses in my constituency in Sheffield which are 20 or 30 years old will be rated between £100 and £150, so that the number of people who will benefit by the minimum of £150 will not be numerous.
These are both points on which many people outside have made adverse comment, although in each case the position is better than when the Bill was introduced. We hope that in the process of further consideration the Minister might be able 895 to persuade his colleagues to be a little more generous on both points. I certainly hope that he may continue to try.
§ Mr. Graham Page
We have discussed these points many times and I do not think that it would be profitable for me to try to answer them as they have come forward. I must let the Bill go to another place with a firm decision on these lines from this House, although I know that it is not agreed by both sides. If another place further debates the matter and sends it back to us with other figures, we must consider it again. I should not, however, like to give any undertaking at this stage that between now and the matter being dealt with in another place I would be able to alter the amendments which are now on the Amendment Paper.
These are the figures which go as far as we can go at the moment on this type of compensation. If we spend a lot of money on one form of compensation, obviously we deprive ourselves of putting right anomalies elsewhere. In the Bill we have used a lot of money, if I may put it this way, in tidying up small hardships. Had we concentrated on one major item of compensation, we should have been unable to spread it over the rest.
I should call attention to the fact that one of the amendments which we are asking the House to approve is a small one—No. 48—which will enable the Secretary of State by order to change both the minimum and the maximum. If later we find that this form of compensation is not working very well, the Secretary of State will be enabled by order to bring before the House a change in those figures. We might find that we could bring up the minimum more to the figure which the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) would wish it to be.
Therefore, it is flexible even after the Bill has become law. But I would wish it to go forward at the moment on the basis of these amendments, and then we shall see. If it comes back to us from another place we shall have to debate it again.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Mulley
I beg to move Amendment No. 39, in page 24, line 38, at end insert: 896'(5) For the purposes of this section a person displaced from land owned by a local authority shall be treated in the same manner as a person displaced in consequence of the circumstances set out in subsection (I)(a), (1)(b) and (1)(c) above'.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
It may be to the convenience of the House if with this amendment we take the following:
Amendment No. 66, in Clause 33, page 33, line 3, at end insert:
'(4) For the purposes of this section a person displaced from land owned by a local authority shall be treated in the same manner as a person displaced in consequence of the circumstances set out in subsection (1)(a), (1)(b) and (1)(c) above'.
and Amendment No. 72, in Clause 34, page 35, line 16, at end insert:
'(7) For the purposes of this section a person displaced from land owned by a local authority shall be treated in the same manner as a person displaced in consequence of the circumstances set out in subsection (1)(a), (1)(b) and (1)(c) above'.
§ Mr. Mulley
This series of amendments is designed to deal with problems that I feel may arise in respect both of home loss payments and disturbance allowance, and also possibly the right to rehousing in circumstances which may concern persons who are already tenants of a local authority and who find that their premises are required in order that a road may be built or for some other change of use by the local authority.
I know that the Minister has been concerned to see that, all things being equal, a council tenant living in a street where demolition occurs should receive the same benefits as the tenant of a private landlord would receive in similar circumstances. As the Bill is drafted, I am not sure that even the words that were inserted in Committee would be sufficient to make this absolutely certain. For example, I am not sure whether the wordsfor the purposes for which it was acquired or appropriatedwould be sufficient to deal with the kind of case which I have in mind. On a fairly new council estate it may be necessary, for the purpose of providing a new road, to take away two or three houses. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) gave an example in Committee from his own constituency, where two or three houses 897 may have to be demolished for the construction of a road. I do not know whether that would be caught by the words "appropriated" or "redevelopment".
Another difficulty that I have in mind exists currently in my own constituency, and we are awaiting the outcome of our proceedings on this Bill. A small self-employed cutler—known in our part of the country as a "little mister"—has had to move from premises that he rents from the corporation for road development, the corporation many years ago having acquired those industrial premises. It is not certain that he will qualify under the words "appropriated" or "redevelopment".
There is a third example, which was mentioned in Committee. In a certain area some council property may be acquired for the purpose of road construction, and then it may be decided not to build the road but to use the property for a school or for some other public purpose.
Would cases of that kind be covered? While in the great majority of cases I am satisfied that local authorities will be anxious to carry out the letter and the spirit of the law, there are bound to be some local authorities which will take as restrictive a view as possible of the measure for financial and other reasons, and I should not like the Bill to be left in such a form that it has to go to another place acting in its judicial capacity before it is clear whether or not this or that circumstance is covered. I am sure that it is the wish of both sides of the House that people who happen to be council tenants in the wider sense, not strictly in the normal sense of occupying council houses, but also tenants of commercial, industrial and often slum property, should be covered for all the benefits that we intend.
There is also the problem that the tenancy is often on a monthly basis, as all council tenancies are, and an unscrupulous council, prior to formally resolving that an area should be cleared, could give all those involved notice to quit, and that would often deprive a tenant of the benefits. It might be argued that a private landlord could do the same, but he is not likely to bother, for he does not have to foot the bill, as the council 898 has to foot the bill, for the substantial benefits that we hope—and I say "we hope" because we are not sure—that the Bill will confer.
There is thus an important distinction between private tenants and those who, for whatever reason, are the tenants of a local authority. I accept that my wording may be somewhat clumsy, but we clearly intend to ensure that, whatever the circumstances, someone who is a council tenant will qualify for the benefits of the Bill just as will the tenant of a private landlord; we want both kinds of tenants to be on exactly the same footing.
I doubt whether council tenants are similarly covered for home loss payments, disturbance payments and the rehousing obligations, and I am sure that the Minister wants them to be so covered.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I seem to have reached that stage of the Bill where I dig my toes in, for I cannot advise the House to accept the amendments. They provide that when a person is displaced from land owned by a local authority, in any circumstances and for any reason, he shall be entitled to benefit from the provisions relating to the home loss payment, the disturbance payments and the rehousing obligations and shall be entitled to benefit as though he had been displaced in consequence of one of the events specified in subsection (1), such as compulsory purchase, housing orders, redevelopment and so on.
This throws the whole scheme wide open. It would enable the tenant of a local authority who merely receives notice to quit to make a claim to get the benefit of, say, the home loss payments. The amendments fail to recognise that the roles of the local authority, as a housing and property manager and as an authority empowered compulsorily to acquire property for statutory purposes, are distinct.
I doubt whether any local authority would operate its landlord and tenant powers so as to deprive a tenant of the right to those payments, that is to say, would serve a notice to quit, when it knew perfectly well that in due course it would have the right to require possession from the tenant as a result of wanting to develop the property.
899 2.0 a.m.
Acceptance of the amendments would place an onerous burden on local authorities in carrying out their housing or property management functions. For example, authorities could not move their residential tenants in the course of normal housing management or gain possession of tenanted business property under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 without incurring a liability to make these kind of payments and to meet rehousing obligations corresponding to a compulsory purchase of private property.
As the Bill stands, and by reason of amendments made in Committee, we have tried to make certain that where the eviction arises because the property is to be developed, or comes within some scheme for development, the home loss payments and the rest of the benefits of that kind will come into operation.
I am sure that the clause as drafted will catch all those cases about which the right hon. Gentleman expressed concern. It would be an extraordinary authority which deliberately tried to defeat the clauses now in the Bill. I do not know how we could reasonably try to guard against that. Certainly the amendments go too far and would make the housing and property management side of a local authority's duties almost impossible to operate.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am glad to have the Minister's assurance that the cases that I have in mind will be covered by the Bill as drafted. I look forward to seeing whether there are any adverse cases after the Bill comes into force.
I accept that my amendment is defective in drafting because it can be construed in the wider context that the right hon. Gentleman has explained. I do not wish to hamper the proper housing functions of local authorities. Therefore, having received the assurance that I was seeking, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Rowlands
I beg to move Amendment No. 40, in page 24, line 39, leave out subsection (5).
When we debated this subsection in Committee we found ourselves with a schizophrenic Minister and an equally 900 divided Committee. The Minister said at various times that he thought the amendment was a good idea and at other times that it was not. Usually he found that his other self was beaten by the realistic, pragmatic self. The Committee endeavoured to help him to make up his mind which side he should support, and the result was eight for and eight against the subsection. Only the casting vote of the Chairman saved it.
Whatever the particular difficulties that the Minister has had debatinig with himself on the issue of the division of the Committee, this is the second area where there has been unanimous condemnation by every organisation, professional body and the particular group concerned with these matters. They have universally recommended that the subsection should be deleted in order that people who serve blight notices, not in a voluntary sense to compel the local authority, but because they are under the threat of development, of being evicted or of being displaced in future, and therefore take an unnatural course of action to find themselves an alternative home should not be deprived of the home loss payment.
In Committee one of the Minister's repeated arguments was that we did not understand blight notices. According to his interpretation, a blight notice is a marvellous voluntary act in which an individual shelves his responsibility by forcing, the local authority to buy in order that he may move away from home or for other compelling reasons of hardship, health, and so on. That in most instances is so when a person serves a blight notice, but he serves that blight notice because he knows that the local authority which accepts it will purchase or acquire the property in due course. In other words, that home is already under the threat of some action by the authority at a future date. I cannot see the justice of the argument that, if a person under the duress of a threatened development or displacement serves a blight notice because of his domestic and family circumstances, he should then be deprived of the home loss payment.
I know that the Minister has said that, under subsequent clauses, if there is agreement between the local authority and the individual, the notice is not served and there is agreement to acquire beforehand, a home loss payment can be made. But 901 there are many cases—in Committee, I quoted some from my own constituency—in which blight notices have been and will be served, not by agreement but because the individual is under duress of a known future development or displacement. If the subsection is not removed, these people will be deprived of home loss payments.
This is of particular significance to a later Clause, under which we give an extra power for a blight notice to be served when people are threatened by compulsory purchase orders in clearance areas. This gives one power to the householder, but if the subsection remains, it will take away an invaluable home loss payment.
I plead with the Minister, in no spirit of bitter criticism. He has recognised that there are genuine arguments for and against this subsection. In another place, the weight of the opinion of outside bodies will mean that the same arguments come up again. Although he has said that he has dug in his toes on some recent amendments, I hope that he will now swing back to his marvellous earlier spirit of generosity and say that the subsection should be deleted.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I wish that I could comply with the hon. Member's wishes and delete subsection 5, but I am still of the same mind. With all respect to him, lie is not interpreting blight notices as they were intended by the statute, and indeed as the provisions of the relevant statute define them.
A blight notice comes about because, when a property is subject to some scheme which will eventually result in the compulsory purchase of the property, at that stage, when the acquiring authority or the local authority does not wish to take over the property, the owner-occupier wishes, for some purpose, to move out of it. He is not forced out at that stage by the scheme, but he take the initiative and has the benefit of the statute in serving a purchase notice on the acquiring authority, and saying, "Because I want to get out of this house, or have to get out of it for some other reason than its immediate acquisition, I serve you with this notice. I cannot sell it at a reasonable price, and I call on you to buy it from me."
902 That is not the sort of circumstance for which we are providing for a home loss payment. The home loss payment is for circumstances in which the owner-occupier has been displaced, in which he has been evicted because of a compulsory purchase order. When he taking it into his own hands to sell his property and leave before the date by which the acquiring authority would evict him, that is not a case for a home loss payment.
I am afraid that I must stick to my guns on this one, and advise the House to reject the amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendments made: No. 41, in page 25, line 13, leave out 'or resolution' and insert ', resolution or undertaking'.
§ No. 42, in line 16, leave out 'or'.
No. 43, in line 17, at end insert:
'or an undertaking accepted under section 16(4) of the said Act of 1957, section 60(2) of the said Act of 1969 or section 15(4)(i) of the said Act of 1966'.—[Mr. Graham Page.]
§ Mr. Mulley
I beg to move, Amendment No. 44, in page 25, line 17, at end insert:'(8) In this section "dwelling" includes a caravan on a permanent caravan site'.I move the amendment in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan), who raised this point in Committee and received a very sympathetic reply from the Minister. The short point is that it would seem, under the Bill as at present drafted, that the owners and occupiers of caravans on permanent caravan sites will not have the benefit of a home loss payment if the site on which the caravan is located becomes subject to a compulsory purchase order or the other provisions under which the home loss payment would come into being.
To the owner of a caravan, especially in an area where it is exceedingly difficult to find another permanent site, leaving the caravan would mean just as great a loss and sense of grief as leaving a more orthodox permanent dwelling would be to people who had become attached to it.
Clearly, the owners of the caravan would have to have lived on the site for the same qualifying period and would have to qualify under all the other provisos. In my hon. Friend's constituency, 903 where I think that there are two such sites, it is very unlikely that a similar site could be acquired, so people would have to give up living in a caravan and hope that the local authority, in these circumstances, would find them accommodation in houses or flats.
The Minister has described the home loss payment as compensation for the loss of a home. In that sense, it should equally apply for caravan dwellers who have lived on a permanent caravan site for five years. While my lion. Friend's drafting may not be of a standard sufficient to earn a permanent place in the legislation, we hope that the principle can be accepted and, if necessary, it could be put into more eloquent language at a later stage.
§ Mr. Graham Page
The amendment is similar to a new clause moved in Committee by the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan). I undertook in Committee that the Government would wish to provide that those who lose their permanent home, whether it be mobile or otherwise, should receive home loss payment. I said that I could not promise to produce the proper amendment by Report stage.
The hon. Member for Renfrew, West has produced an amendment which would not be satisfactory as it stands. However, my undertaking still stands. I apologise for not having been able to produce a satisfactory amendment at this stage, but consideration is being given to the ways of bringing caravan dwellers into the home loss payment scheme. I have set my officials and the parliamentary draftsmen a very difficult problem on this matter, but no doubt it is an admirable subject for another place.
§ Mr. Mulley
The Minister does not need to apologise. The point was raised very late in the proceedings of the Committee, and we have come to the consideration of the Bill rather soon, as the Minister's officials have found, I think, judging by the stars on Government amendments, which are very unusual.
We understand the position. I take this opportunity to say how very much we appreciate the tremendous work done by the officials in the Department in producing the Bill and servicing the Committee throughout. Certainly this is no 904 criticism. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West probably tends to get reminders from his caravan dwelling constituents to put gentle reminders to the Minister.
We are absolutely delighted by the further assurance and look forward to the more elegant form of the amendment in due course.
§ I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.