Debates between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 29th Mar 2022
Building Safety Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2
Mon 7th Feb 2022
Tue 11th Jan 2022
Tue 26th Oct 2021
Thu 22nd Jul 2021
Mon 24th May 2021
Thu 18th Mar 2021
Tue 2nd Mar 2021
Mon 22nd Feb 2021
Thu 22nd Oct 2020
Tue 22nd Sep 2020
Mon 18th May 2020

Housing: Private Renters

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 22nd June 2022

(1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, the purpose of this 12-point plan of reforms is to ensure that we balance the interests between landlord and tenant, but first remove the Section 21 no-fault evictions. In doing so, we are enhancing the grounds around Section 8 so that it is easier to remove tenants who disrupt the community and cause persistent anti-social behaviour, while bringing grounds for egregious rent arrears and moving and selling grounds, because landlords have a right to ask the tenant to leave if they need to sell the property. We are making those grounds work for the landlord so that we can remove Section 21. It is all about balancing those interests.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I warmly welcome the measures that my noble friend announced on Monday, which will improve the terms of trade for private tenants, particularly against bad landlords. But is there not a risk that these bad landlords see the legislation coming and, before it is enacted, introduce leases that deny tenants that protection? Is it not imperative that this legislation is introduced as soon as possible and, if possible, backdated to the time of its Second Reading?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I always appreciate my noble friend’s eagle eye. We do not want landlords gaming the system, and we want to make it very clear that any abuse of the future system will not be tolerated. We are committed to ensuring that local councils will have the right powers to crack down on any rogue practices such as those that my noble friend has outlined.

New Homes Commitment

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 21st June 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they remain committed to building 300,000 new homes a year.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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Delivering new homes and regenerating left-behind communities are central to our levelling-up mission and we remain committed to our ambition of delivering 300,000 homes a year. We have made progress, with more than 2 million additional homes being delivered since April 2010. Over 242,000 homes were delivered from April 2019 to March 2020, which is the highest level for over 30 years.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend. The Construction Industry Training Board has forecast that we will need an additional 266,000 construction workers over the next three years if demand is to be met—and that is in an industry already facing shortages. What action can my noble friend take to see that those numbers are met? If there is to be a shortfall in output, can he ensure that that does not fall on the affordable sector of the market?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend is right that there has been a recent report by the CITB, but I point out that that shortfall is for the whole of the construction industry, not just housing. We have significant cross-government intervention and investment in skills, and the CITB made £110 million available in training grants to support 14,000 businesses. However, we continue to recognise—this was picked up by the Federation of Master Builders—that there are stresses and strains in terms of labour and materials. The Government are working hard to overcome these.

Leasehold Reform: Forfeiture Provisions

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 20th June 2022

(1 week, 2 days ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that forfeiture is an extreme measure. We have asked the Law Commission to look into this and it has come back not with removing forfeiture but with simplifying the process, making it more transparent and coming up with a mechanism that is more proportionate. We are considering these as part of the second stage of our leasehold reform.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend recall saying on 9 June last year that it was the Government’s aim to complete the leasehold reform programme in this third Session of Parliament? Is that still the case, because the Bill was not in the Queen’s Speech? If it is not, can we at least have a draft Bill in this Session so that we can hit the ground running in the fourth?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I always thank my noble friend for his interventions. We want to move forward with the second stage of leasehold reform. It will not be part of the third Session but there is a commitment to this Parliament. My noble friend is right that we can use this time to get a Bill drafted. We will take time so that we can get it through Parliament as soon as possible at the beginning of the fourth Session.

High-rise Buildings: Evacuation of Disabled Residents

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 25th May 2022

(1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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There are real concerns based on the previous consultation around practicality—the measures that get mobility-impaired residents out in advance of fire and rescue services, which on average respond in six to seven minutes—proportionality in a residential setting, where there are rarely 24-hour staff to carry out evacuations, and safety around evacuation of all residents that does not hinder the fire and rescue services fighting the fire. Those are the concerns we have outlined in the current consultation.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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Does my noble friend agree that the need to evacuate disabled residents from high-rise flats would be greatly reduced if the remediation measures to reduce fire risks took place? Following the passage of the Building Safety Act, can my noble friend now say what progress is being made in eliminating those risks from high-rise buildings?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend is right that the concern is ultimately for those buildings where simultaneous evacuation is in place. We are making progress in ACM buildings and high-rises with other forms of flammable cladding. Most importantly, we now have a situation where we are getting the polluters to pay and the funding in place to get remediation done as quickly as is practical.

Housebuilding: Target

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 30th March 2022

(3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards meeting their target of building 300,000 homes a year.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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From April 2019 to March 2020, more than 242,000 homes were delivered—the highest level for over 30 years. Despite the pandemic, we enabled construction sites to stay open, allowing us to deliver more than 216,000 homes in England in 2020-21, well above the 186,500 forecast for the whole of the UK.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend, but is he aware that the House of Lords Built Environment Committee has warned the Government that they will miss their targets by about half over the period of time in question? In order to catch up, will my noble friend consider greatly accelerating the number of homes built off-site, using modular construction? These are quicker, built to a higher quality and less susceptible to the weather than traditional methods. Within that, will he consider more homes for the elderly, which are in short supply, so that those who want to can downsize, freeing up their homes for families?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend has extensive experience of housing. The department recognises the importance of modern methods of construction, both volumetric and non-volumetric as well as those designed for manufacture and assembly, and we have a target within the affordable homes programme of delivering around 25% through these methods. Obviously, we recognise the need for housing of all types and tenures, and both supported and private housing for the elderly, and retirement communities are a very important part of getting the built environment right.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this long—a little over an hour on one group—but important debate on ensuring that the polluter pays. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Pinnock, for Amendment 22, on the levy on social housing. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, raised the issues of exemptions from the building safety levy for social housing providers and who the details of the buildings levy will apply to in secondary legislation.

I am pleased to inform the noble Baroness that we are considering an exemption from the levy for affordable housing as a whole, including social housing, housing for rent or sale at least 20% below market rent or sales rates, and shared ownership. The Government recognise that applying a levy to affordable housing would increase the cost of developing affordable housing and would therefore be likely to disincentivise supply, as the noble Baroness said. We consulted on this exemption for affordable housing in our consultation on the levy, which ran from July to October last year.

I hope the noble Baroness understands that her suggestion is under careful consideration and will be addressed in secondary legislation. I will probably have to roughly translate: she should be reassured that the building safety levy will not apply to public housing. That probably makes it a little easier for her to decide what she wants to do.

I turn now to Amendment 200, on the leaseholder protection fund, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, which would require the Government to use funds raised by the levy to refund leaseholders who have already paid for safety works. While a noble thing to do, the Government’s primary aim is and should be to protect leaseholders from building safety risks and enable work to be undertaken to ensure this. For this reason, we will not be able to accept the amendment.

On Amendment 221, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for this amendment. We share her determination to make sure that the industry acts now to take responsibility for fixing building safety defects and that the burden should not fall on leaseholders or taxpayers. The whole tone of the amendment is to get on with remediation and I have great sympathy for that. The principal objective of Clauses 128 and 129 is to make sure that responsible parties pay and to enable us to hold the industry to account. The further amendment I spoke to earlier will make it clear that we can link the scheme to the planning system.

Together, these powers will allow us to monitor compliance of members of the responsible actors scheme and make sure that members take responsibility and act promptly to make buildings safe. We do not believe a 5-year deadline needs to be inserted into the Bill. Our intention is for the measure to achieve its objectives much more quickly. Those that do not meet the scheme conditions may lose scheme membership and may immediately be subject to the planning prohibition, as our amendments make clear. A focus on pace is already built into the Government’s approach. I hope this reassures the noble Baroness that her intention has been more than met by the Government through this Bill, just in another way.

I turn now to Amendment 231 on social landlords and defects, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Pinnock. The Bill already makes provision to protect leaseholders from unreasonable costs and allow guilty parties to be pursued. It contains a requirement on landlords to take reasonable steps to pursue other cost recovery avenues before seeking to recover the costs of remediation works from leaseholders. They need to provide evidence to the leaseholders of the steps taken. Social landlords will have to undertake these measures, including pursuing construction companies or installers where applicable.

To help all landlords, including social landlords, the Government are bringing forward an ambitious toolkit of other measures to allow those responsible to be pursued. This includes extending the limitation period under Section 1 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 to apply retrospectively for 30 years. We are also allowing the High Courts to extend the reach of civil liability to associated companies and creating a new cause of action. This will allow manufacturers, distributors and sellers of construction products to be pursued where defective or mis-sold products have been used in the construction of a dwelling, or where further works are carried out to that dwelling, rendering it unfit for habitation. These amendments make it easier for those affected to force those responsible for defective buildings—developers and construction products manufacturers—to pay.

While we are making it easier to pursue third parties, in parallel, we continue to protect leaseholders, so they are not paying for unreasonable remediation costs. The Bill introduces new statutory provisions which provide that cladding remediation costs cannot be passed on to qualifying leaseholders in buildings over 11 metres. The law is already clear that service charges and any increase in cost must be reasonable. Finally, the Government set a rent policy for social housing which determines the maximum amount of rent that social tenants may be charged and the maximum amount by which rents may increase each year. The rent standard prevents unforeseen hikes to tenants’ rents and is enforced by the Regulator of Social Housing.

Turning now to Amendment 232 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, the service charge is the means by which fire safety costs would be recovered and the leaseholder protections measures already prevent costs being passed to leaseholders above the permitted maximum.

I now turn to Amendment 233, tabled by my noble friends Lord Young of Cookham and Lord Blencathra, which seeks to impose a duty on local authorities to pursue responsible developers. It imposes requirements on local authorities to remediate buildings with defects and to recover funds from responsible parties. If no funds can be recovered, the Secretary of State would be required to reimburse the local authority.

We have been clear that industry is responsible for remediating defective buildings. We expect developers to remediate buildings they had a role in developing or refurbishing. Where this does not happen, building owners and landlords will have new powers to pursue those responsible. Local authorities will also have powers under our new remediation orders and remediation contribution orders, as will other regulatory bodies. However, to impose a duty on local authorities to fix buildings or pursue responsible parties is not the right approach. This would absolve industry of its duty to resolve the crisis and building owners and landlords of their responsibilities to make buildings safe. It would also place an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer.

The amendment seeks to create a taxpayer backstop by requiring the Secretary of State to reimburse local authorities for costs they cannot recover. We have been very clear that it is wrong to look to the taxpayer for further funding to fix defective buildings. For these reasons, we will not be able to accept the amendment. I want to deal with the specific issue of the remediator of last resort. I understand where my noble friend Lord Young is coming from. We have asked the industry to provide a fully funded solution for both the cladding and non-cladding costs, including fixing their own buildings and contributing to a fund for the very orphan buildings he has highlighted of between 11 and 18 metres that need cladding remediation. The focus of the industry is on fixing its own buildings, and therefore we can begin to be more focused on where we apply taxpayer funds.

Finally, I address Amendments 201, 202, 229, 234, 235, 236 and 237 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. Amendments 201 and 202 would hold the Crown liable where properties escheat—that is probably not the right pronunciation—and would prevent liquidators and trustees in bankruptcy renouncing the leases of buildings with fire safety defects. The Bill already prevents freeholders evading liability by simply escheating their properties where they do not want to pay. It also makes provisions in relation to insolvency and bankruptcy. Freeholders will still be liable where they were, or were connected to, the developer, or had a net worth over £2 million per in-scope building on 14 February. As I have said before, taxpayers should not be held liable. For this reason, I will not be able to accept these amendments. Amendment 229 is unnecessary as landlords are already prevented from passing on costs unless they have explored all other routes of funding.

I turn to the important Amendments 234 to 237. These cover building safety cost orders, providing powers to make regulations, stipulating liability and establishing a building safety cost fund. Liability for remediation costs is already set out in the Bill, as are provisions for building owners and landlords to go after associated developers, companies and manufacturers of defective products. For this reason, I will not be able to accept these amendments.

My noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lord Young of Cookham raised the position of enfranchised leaseholders and asked whether we have made life harder for them via Amendments 186 to 193. I want to be absolutely clear that nothing in the amendments increases liabilities for enfranchised leaseholders. No leaseholder will be worse off; all are measures to make the polluter pays principle apply to enfranchised leaseholders.

I hope that I have gone some way to provide assurances on the Government’s approach.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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Before my noble friend sits down, I am really grateful to him for the explanation he has set out but can he tell the House what happens where there is a building and no one has any money— the leaseholders cannot afford it, there is no freeholder and there is no developer or contractor to pursue? Who then puts that building right?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, in practical terms, we have a £5.1 billion fund, of which we have committed the first stage of £1 billion. We have an additional £4.1 billion for buildings over 18 metres and an additional £4 billion for cladding remediation, yet we are asking industry to fix its own buildings. That gives us the ability to focus on the few buildings my noble friend is talking about, because we have got the developers that built these buildings to go on and fix them in a proportionate way and we do not have to use the core of money that we already have. Noble Lords can test the opinion of the House, but that is a practical way of dealing with the problems—focusing the current funds on those few buildings where that scenario applies.

Building and Fire Safety: Leaseholders

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 14th March 2022

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for putting me in the hot seat. We have done an awful lot. It is fair to say that through regulation we can ensure that we protect leaseholders, who are very much the victims, from bearing anything apart from, I hope, very minimal costs. Those have been capped at £15,000 over five years in London and £10,000 outside London. That is for the narrowest shoulders, particularly shared owners, who are protected as well. We can always do more, and I appreciate that that campaign reckons that we should take this down to zero. However, we continue to ensure that we protect leaseholders wherever we possibly can.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome what my noble friend just said but I remind him of what the Secretary of State in another place said on 10 January:

“First, we will make sure that we provide leaseholders with statutory protection … and we will work with colleagues across the House to ensure that that statutory protection extends to all the work required to make buildings safe.”—[Official Report, Commons, 10/1/22; col. 291.]


I welcome the amendments that my noble friend has tabled in Committee but does he recognise that further substantial amendments will be necessary on Report if that commitment is to be honoured?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for stepping in helpfully. Of course, as we approach Report, the Government will bring forward further amendments that will do more to protect leaseholders but will also ensure that the polluters must pay—my noble friend and I share that principle.

Building Safety Bill

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 28th February 2022

(4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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My Lords, I can see that my noble friend is about to rise, but there is a crescendo in this group of amendments and I realise that it is very important to hold in reserve the speeches from my noble friend Lord Young—as well as the crescendo of the amendments to be introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, and by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. This is a veritable feast of amendments, so I will introduce the government amendments at this point, if I may, before I summarise the group.

As this is a feast of amendments, I have looked up my old grace, which I used to say when I was 18, 19, 20 years of age. It is very long—I hope I will not get it wrong, as I know the right reverend Prelate will know if I do. It goes as follows:

“Oculi omnium in te sperant Domine:


Et tu das escam illis in tempore.

Aperis tu manum tuam,

Et imples omne animal benedictione.

Benedic, Domine, nos et dona tua …

et concede, ut illis salubriter nutriti

tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus,

per Christum Dominum nostrum.”

That is roughly right. It is what we used to say before we could eat. This is a feast, and I appreciate that every amendment is laid with the interests of improving this Bill. If we cannot accept them, I want to say that I appreciate the intentions behind every one of them. I will summarise our position at the end.

I have tried to summarise each group in three words. This is the “residents and redress” group, and I have always been clear that residents should be at the heart of the new regime. Today’s debate demonstrates the continued importance of that commitment. I am pleased to start by speaking to a group of amendments that is focused on ensuring that residents and others have more access to redress.

Amendments 76 and 77 create a new power for the High Court to impose building liability orders in appropriate cases. These orders will allow civil claims to be made against the associated companies of a company involved in the development or refurbishment of a building in certain circumstances, including when the original company no longer exists. In this House and in the other place, we have discussed the lack of ongoing liability that large developers have due to their use of special purpose vehicles. These amendments directly address this issue and support the changes we have proposed to the Defective Premises Act. They rebalance the level of exposure that small and medium-sized businesses in the construction industry currently have compared with the larger players—and, most importantly, they unlock potential funding for those who have remediated or who need to remediate, if they bring a successful claim. I consider that these orders will be an important tool in holding “polluters” to account and making them pay for their past misdeeds—so I hope that noble Lords will join me in supporting these amendments.

Moving on, I have also tabled a series of amendments that will help to make sure that construction product companies pay to put right building safety issues that they have contributed to causing. I do not intend to move these amendments today but have laid them to invite the scrutiny of noble Lords. I will listen carefully to the debate and bring these measures back at a future stage. Briefly, they target construction product manufacturers and ensure that they take responsibility for their part in the creation of building safety defects. The new clauses in Amendments 107 to 109 and 144 introduce two new causes of action against construction product manufacturers. There are currently almost no routes which allow leaseholders to hold construction product manufacturers accountable for their role in the creation of serious building safety defects. The Government are clear that those who have been responsible and continue to be responsible for building safety defects have a responsibility to put them right.

These causes of action will enable claims to be brought against construction product manufacturers and sellers for their role in the creation of building safety defects. They will apply if a product has been mis-sold or is found to be inherently defective, or if there has been a breach of construction product regulations. If this contributes to or causes a dwelling to become “unfit for habitation”, a civil claim will be able to be brought through the courts under these causes of action.

The cause of action relating to cladding products in Amendment 107 will be subject to a 30-year retrospective limitation period. The broader cause of action relating to all construction products in Amendment 108 will be subject to a 15-year prospective limitation period. These limitation periods reflect the changes we are making to the limitation period under Section 1 of the Defective Premises Act. These causes of action will ensure that construction product manufacturers can be held responsible for the costs of rectifying their mistakes.

Amendments 110, 113, 114, 141 and 145 will create a power to make regulations to require construction products manufacturers and their authorised representatives, importers and distributors to contribute towards the cost of remediation works where they have caused or contributed to dwellings being unfit for habitation. Amendment 110 will enable the Secretary of State to serve a costs contribution notice on companies that have been successfully prosecuted under construction products regulations, where the relevant product has contributed to identified dwellings being unfit for habitation.

Amendment 114 introduces a new schedule that will give the Secretary of State the power to appoint an independent person to inspect buildings where the relevant product has been used. This assessment will consider whether the conditions for serving a costs contribution notice are met, and the remediation works required. Amendment 114 will enable the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out a process for establishing costs that a company should be required to pay, which will take account of its ability to pay, and to whom payment should be made. This amendment will also enable the Secretary of State to require a company to contribute towards the cost of building assessments carried out as part of this process. Setting out this scheme in secondary legislation will enable the necessary interaction between costs contribution notices and construction products regulations, including those that will be made using the powers in this Bill.

I will listen carefully to the remainder of the debate today, as I have to every speech given so far introducing various amendments, and I look forward to hearing from noble Lords. As I said earlier, I will be moving only Amendments 76 and 77 today. I will carefully consider what I have heard in relation to the other amendments, and I will bring these measures back at a future stage.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, the instructions on the sheet of paper in front of me are not “crescendo” but “diminuendo”—some gentle accompaniment on the bass to the forte soprano that we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Fox. But seriously, I want to add a brief footnote to the excellent speeches made by the noble Baroness, my noble friend and the right reverend Prelate.

I make the point that they all underline the need for the next stage of leasehold reform which the Government have promised, which does away with this feudal system of leasehold which exists nowhere else in the world. Once we have done that, all these problems that we have been talking about this afternoon will disappear: there will be an identity of interest between the freeholder and the leaseholder because they will be the same person. At some point, perhaps the Minister can shed some light on the next stage, confirming that that is indeed the Government’s objective and that they want to move in that direction as fast as possible.

I add a brief footnote to the excellent speech the right reverend Prelate made on Amendment 50A. In particular, I draw attention to the radical proposal in subsection (3)(a) of the new clause proposed in his amendment, which places an obligation on the landlord for

“where there is no recognised tenants’ association in existence before the coming into force of this section, creating a recognised tenants’ association and consulting with it about building safety”.

Because of the Long Title of the Bill, the right reverend Prelate had to confine it to building safety. However, it is a radical proposal. It places the obligation for establishing a tenants’ association not on the tenants, which is the position at the moment, but on the landlord, evening up the terms of trade. As I said, it is a very radical proposal indeed. An indifferent landlord does not want a residents’ association or a tenants’ association with whom he has a statutory obligation to consult, although I happen to believe that it is in his best interests to have such a dialogue. So the terms of trade are dramatically altered by the right reverend Prelate’s amendment.

In an earlier incarnation, I recall helping establish an organisation called Tpas—the Tenant Participation Advisory Service—I see the noble Lord, Lord Best, nodding sagely; he has a similar vintage to myself when it comes to housing legislation. That was focused primarily on tenants of social landlords, but I believe it has subsequently expanded into the private sector. It would be very well placed to advise landlords and tenants on how to set about establishing such an association, were the right reverend Prelate’s amendment to be accepted.

Finally, on this group of amendments, I reread chapter 4 of the Hackitt report last night, entitled “Residents’ voice”, and it has a whole series of recommendations about enfranchising the resident and the tenant in exactly the way that we have underlined. So, as I said at the beginning, I add a small a complement on the double bass to the excellent speeches that have been made on this group of amendments—or perhaps I am a tenor.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I recognise that the government amendments in this group may be of greater significance than mine. I think it would be in the interests of the Committee if I sat down and allowed the Minister to explain them, and perhaps responded later. I beg to move.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to introduce the government amendments in this group. This is an important group—equally as important as the previous group—and is about leaseholder protections.

We have been clear that it is fundamentally unfair that innocent leaseholders, most of whom have worked hard and made sacrifices to get a foot on the property ladder, should be landed with bills they cannot afford for problems they did not cause. That is why I have laid a series of amendments to the Bill to right this wrong. I want to outline these important government amendments and highlight how they will provide much-needed protections to leaseholders from exorbitant costs for remediation of their buildings.

These leaseholder protection provisions will make landlords liable, partially or in full, for the costs of remediating historical building safety defects. Amendments 62 to 64 and Amendment 66 are definition clauses setting out the types of defects, buildings and leases that are in scope of the protections. The new clauses state that leaseholders living in their own home or subletting in a building over 11 metres will be entitled to protections from unjust and unaffordable remediation costs. It will not apply to buildings that have exercised the right to collective enfranchisement or are on commonhold land, as in those buildings the leaseholders together effectively are the freeholders.

Amendment 68 would insert a new schedule into the Bill before Schedule 9, which sets out the circumstances in which service charges relating to historical building safety issues cannot be passed on to leaseholders, and the circumstances where service charges can be passed on to leaseholders are limited. Paragraph 2 of the new schedule provides that, where the landlord is responsible or has links with the developer that is responsible for the defect, they will be required to pay in full for the historical building safety issues. This will ensure that, as far as possible, those who are responsible for creating the defects take on the burden of costs and remove all liabilities for the historical defects from innocent leaseholders.

A definition of an “associated person”, for the purpose of determining which building owners have links to the developers of the building, is set out in Amendment 67. Similarly, where building owners are not linked to the developer but can afford to pay, they will be required to put the money up to do so and pay in full. We intend to table further amendments to provide details of the affordability test on Report. I welcome any suggestions from noble Lords on how this could work.

Paragraphs 5 to 7 of the new schedule provide that, where building owners are not linked to the developer and are not able to afford the remediation, some costs can be passed on to leaseholders. This will be subject in most cases to caps of £10,000, or £15,000 for leases in Greater London. These caps will limit how much leaseholders can be asked to pay for non-cladding costs, after—I repeat, after—building owners and landlords have exhausted all other cost recovery options, such as litigation under the Defective Premises Act or the new construction products causes of action we have just debated.

The amendments also provide that any costs paid out by leaseholders over the past five years will count towards the cap, meaning some leaseholders will pay nothing more. They also provide that cladding costs cannot be passed on at all. Paragraph 6 sets out caps to be applied to very high-value properties. It provides that, for properties with a value of over £1 million but under £2 million, the maximum permitted charge is £50,000 and, for properties with a value of over £2 million, the permitted maximum is £100,000.

Building owners and landlords must comply with the law as set out by Parliament. However, there may be some who attempt to avoid their liabilities. These landlords may be associated with a company with substantial assets. Given the extent of the building safety crisis, it is morally right that these associated companies are asked to shoulder their fair share of the costs. Amendment 69 would give the First-tier Tribunal powers to make a remediation order on the application of an interested person, meaning the regulator, local authority, fire and rescue authority or another person specified in regulations by the Secretary of State. A remediation order will require a landlord to remedy defects in their building, as specified in the order.

Amendment 70 would give the First-tier Tribunal powers to make a remediation contribution order on the application of an interested person if it considers it just and equitable to do so. For the purposes of Amendment 70, interested persons include the new regulator, the local authority and the fire and rescue service, as well as leaseholders and other persons who have a legal or equitable interest in the building. A remediation contribution order will require an associated company to make specified payments, at a specified time or event, to the landlord to remedy relevant fire safety defects in the building.

Where a company needs to be wound up, our provisions enable the liquidator to apply to the court to access the assets of associated companies to contribute to the remediation of building safety defects. All too often, companies let subsidiaries go into liquidation to cut their losses. It is morally wrong that they can just fold a company up and leave leaseholders in unsafe buildings with outstanding building safety defects and the corresponding liabilities. The court’s decision will be based on whether it is just and equitable to do so—in other words, whether it is right for that associated company to help to meet the building safety remediation liability of the failing landlord.

Some unscrupulous companies may try and wind up subsidiaries before these provisions come into force, which is why we have included provisions to enable liquidators to pursue associated companies of those landlords who are currently going through insolvency proceedings. It is unfair that innocent leaseholders have had to pay for remediation of building safety defects while those who caused the fire safety issues are able to exploit company law to escape liabilities that are morally theirs. I ask your Lordships to support this significant and important set of amendments.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. It was bit like listening to one of the advertisements on the radio when, right at the end, all the terms and conditions are read out very quickly and one has to listen to them very carefully. I welcome the assurances that my noble friend gave right at the beginning; I will come back in a moment to some of the things he said.

In the meantime, I will speak to Amendment 56 in my name and also to Amendment 131 in the name of two of the three wise men. This group of amendments focuses on Schedule 8 to the Bill, which defines building safety charges. It takes up no less than 12 and a half pages of rules and regulations. My Amendments 58 and 60 would eliminate eight of them, but any benefit so gained would be wiped out by the 13 government amendments tabled since the Bill left the other place.

--- Later in debate ---
Earl of Lytton Portrait The Earl of Lytton (CB)
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I said commercial developers, but I meant to say “developers of commercial property”. However, I will leave that point for the next debate.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, as the Committee enters its sixth hour of sitting, this is not the time for a comprehensive wind-up. However, I thank all those who have taken part in this debate.

My noble friend Lord Naseby made a valuable point about buy-to-let investors. Over the past 10 or 20 years, buy to let has become an alternative to a conventional pension for many people. I am grateful that my noble friend the Minister said that he is open to discussion on this; we count that as a win.

My noble friend Lord Blencathra had a series of amendments on the theme of protecting leaseholders. I am grateful for them.

My noble friend Lord Leigh of Hurley made a legitimate point about the freeholder who had not claimed the money he could have. I wrote down the solution that my noble friend the Minister arrived at. He said, “We will fix it at the political level.” The mind boggles as to what exactly that involves but I am sure that, with his robust physique and experience of government, he will come up with a satisfactory outcome on that.

The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, would remove the cap for leaseholders. I have a lot of sympathy with that. New paragraph 2(1), proposed by government Amendment 92, states:

“No service charge is payable under a qualifying lease in respect of a relevant measure relating to a relevant defect if a relevant landlord … is responsible for the relevant defect.”


That is fine, but then there is a whole series of exclusions, of which this is one. I find it difficult to reconcile the cap with the principle that the leaseholder is innocent and should not pay; I think we will have to come to back to that.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, made the same point as my noble friend Lord Leigh of Hurley: that the leaseholder should be able to apply. If the leaseholder could have applied in my noble friend’s case, there would not have been a problem and the freeholder would not have been in the loop, as it were.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe for supporting a number of the amendments. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, had her own, thoughtful approach to protecting leaseholders. She referred to the cascade. I hope that her many questions will be answered; perhaps we can all share in the letter that goes round. She also supported the request for an inquiry into compensation, for which I am grateful.

On the waterfall, the Government did not seem to appear in it. I thought that they were right at the end, but they have somehow been left out. I think that the Government are at the end of the waterfall if all else fails; my noble friend the Minister is indicating that this may not be the case, but what are the levy and fund for if not to help where the costs are not otherwise met by the freeholder, the leaseholder or the developer?

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, asked how the cap was arrived at. It may well have been through a reverse process involving the Treasury.

Finally, my noble friend the Minister said that I thought he was a snake oil salesman. I believe that he believed what he said; my comment was about the pace at which he said it, which was like an advertisement where the terms and conditions are spelled out at an accelerated pace and one does not really have time to hear them. I think my noble friend said that enfranchised leaseholders are now within the scheme; I think he said that because I read his lips. I find that difficult to reconcile with what is in government Amendment 63:

“‘Relevant building’ does not include a self-contained building or self-contained part of a building … in relation to which the right to collective enfranchisement … has been exercised.”


If that should not be there, that is fine, but that is how I read it; I also made that point in an earlier contribution.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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We can sort it out. I am told by my lawyer that you are wrong.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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If I am wrong, the Bill may be wrong, because I have just read out what is in it, but I think this is something we can sort out at the political level.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Building Safety Bill

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 24th February 2022

(4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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Housing is ring-fenced.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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I know that housing is ring-fenced; I introduced the housing revenue account.

Building Safety Defects

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 7th February 2022

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I salute the tenacity of the noble Lord. He will understand that next Monday will be a very special day: it will be the day he writes a card to his wife, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, but it will also be the date when we will see a series—a slew—of amendments from, I am sure, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Cross Benches, my noble friends behind me and also from the Government as we reach Committee on the Building Safety Bill. We have two objectives in mind: to protect leaseholders and to ensure that the polluter pays. We are starting a process to encourage voluntary contributions, but we are very clear that, if they do not pay up, there will be measures in law to make sure that they do.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the very positive statement that my noble friend has just made, and his personal role in making the progress that has just been announced. On 10 January, the Secretary of State said in another place:

“First, we will make sure that we provide leaseholders with statutory protection—that is what we aim to do and we will work with colleagues across the House to ensure that that statutory protection extends to all the work required to make buildings safe.”—[Official Report, Commons, 10/1/21; col. 291.]


Can my noble friend confirm that that is the case and that protection extends beyond cladding replacement?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I do not want to pre-empt 14 February, but it is very clear that, from Florrie’s law, which sought to protect leaseholders from high-cost building safety and remedial works, there will be a principle which protects leaseholders. I thank my noble friend for raising this issue.

Levelling Up

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 7th February 2022

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I hope my noble friend will sign my copy of the levelling-up White Paper. The Public Services Committee, ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, produced a report on levelling up last year and I am delighted that the Government have responded to two of its recommendations: first, that there should be clarity about what levelling up means; and, secondly, that there should be regular milestones so that we can see whether progress is being made. We also commented on transparency and I wonder whether my noble friend will recognise that under the levelling-up White Paper very substantial sums of central grants will continue to be allocated to local areas. So I ask my noble friend whether there will be total transparency about the basis of those decisions.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I always thank my noble friend for his comments and his probing in the right areas. I failed to mention in my response to the Front Bench that, of course, there will be an annual report that will measure progress on that mission to 2030 and beyond. The point that my noble friend raises is precisely right. We need to have transparency. It is important to track the money. I think a policy that was actually delivered under, I believe, the Blair Government, the Total Place agenda, is a very important one to ensure that we get the money into the right areas across the piece, whether it is funded by central government, regional government or, indeed, local government and make sure that the money gets to the people who need it most. Transparency is a key part of achieving success and we will take that point on board.

Building Safety

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 11th January 2022

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I commend the Minister for his tireless work over the past few months, which has led to this very welcome initiative. Will he clarify two points that arose from the exchange in another place yesterday? First, when asked about costs relating to fire doors and external wall insulation, the Secretary of State said that

“the freeholders, as the ultimate owners of these buildings, will be held responsible for all the work that is required, and we will make sure that leaseholders are not on the hook.”

He then confirmed this in a subsequent reply to Matthew Offord, saying:

“It is our intention that the ultimate owner of a building is responsible for all of the safety steps that are required, and we will use statutory means in order to ensure that that happens.”—[Official Report, Commons, 10/1/22; col. 301.]


I read that as saying that leaseholders are protected for all safety steps, not just dealing with cladding. Secondly, while the Secretary of State repeatedly promised statutory protection for leaseholders, it is not clear what they should do about bills sitting on their mantelpiece for work completed or under way but not paid for. Do those leaseholders have statutory protection?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend always asks very pertinent questions and he knows this issue inside out. Rather than obfuscating this, I will give the straight answer. Of course, in protecting the leaseholders, someone else has to pay—that is the thrust of the question from my noble friend. When it comes to cladding, there is now funding in place and a plan to deliver that without touching anyone beyond the polluter, if we can get back the money put up by the taxpayer. Some leaseholders have obviously borne the brunt of the costs as well and that is regrettable. We cannot apply these protections retrospectively but, by having the reset statement issued by my right honourable friend, we can ensure that we protect many thousands—potentially hundreds of thousands—more leaseholders from being affected in the future by having those statutory protections in place.

Building Safety Defects

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 5th January 2022

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I know that there is a “broken promises” line, but the reality is that 95% of ACM buildings have been remediated. Actually, we have accelerated at pace while I have been Building Safety Minister, despite the global pandemic. The reality is that for many of these buildings—about 20, and a lot of them happen to be in the London Borough of Southwark—it was literally discovered only months ago that they had ACM cladding. I am not blaming the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, but we are doing our best. This is tough, and we should not be trying to score points. We are absolutely committed to remediate these buildings, especially those with aluminium composite material, the most deadly form of cladding. Very shortly, we will have that removed from all buildings in this country.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, since we last discussed this matter, on 1 January, thousands of leaseholders will have received service charges from the freeholder demanding very substantial remediation sums—sums which are not affordable for many of these leaseholders—which will lead to either repossession or bankruptcy. While the Government have provided substantial support, which I welcome, does the Minister recognise that this is insufficient to prevent hardship? Will he have urgent discussions with a view to raising more resources, possibly through a levy on those developers and other builders responsible for the defects in the first place?

Smoke-free Pavements

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 24th November 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, all previous legislation to reduce the harm done by smoking has been on a national basis, such as the ban on smoking on public transport and the ban on smoking in public places. However, despite representations from the Local Government Association that any ban under this measure should also be on a national basis, the Government declined and left it to local discretion. Will the Government follow up the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and, in the light of that, consider giving a clear health warning about the risks of damage from smoking and introduce a total ban on smoking on pavements?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for making the point about how progress has been made and that it has been on a national basis. However, as someone who spent 20 years in local government— 16 as a councillor and four in City Hall as deputy mayor—I know that sometimes it is right to recognise that we do not have problems equally on a national basis. Smoking rates are higher in the north of England, so let us learn from there first before we take the next step.

Leaseholders: Costs

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 18th November 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for what I know he was doing behind the scenes to sort this. Can he confirm that when his Secretary of State was given his new job, he was instructed by the Prime Minister to resolve the cladding crisis? This clearly involves measures beyond those that my noble friend has already referred to. If innocent leaseholders are to avoid financial distress, bankruptcy and eviction, either the Treasury or those responsible for building these defective flats will have to dig deeper into their pockets. Does he agree?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend makes it easy for me: yes, I agree. Implicit in the fact that the Treasury would have supported a subsidised financing scheme is that we need more taxpayer subsidy, but it cannot be the only answer. We need to make sure the polluter pays, and the Secretary of State is looking at every avenue to do that.

Levelling Up White Paper

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 15th November 2021

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their white paper on levelling up.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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We aim to publish by the end of the year. However, our priority is to have a White Paper which meets the scale of ambition and sets out our transformative agenda to deliver real long-term change across the United Kingdom. Levelling up is at the heart of this Government’s agenda to build back better after the pandemic. The recent spending review showed the significant action we are already taking to empower local leaders, boost living standards, spread opportunity and restore local pride.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the Government’s commitment to levelling up and to reducing some of the inequalities in our country. But if levelling up is to be more than a slogan, does it not need clearly stated objectives, transparency in the allocation of resources, and measurements so that we can monitor progress? Is my noble friend able to tick those three boxes?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, in July, the Prime Minister set out that we will have made progress in levelling up when we have begun to raise living standards, spread opportunity, improved our public services and restored people’s sense of pride in their community. The forthcoming White Paper will set out the further detail, so that I hope we will be able to tick my noble friend’s three boxes.

Public Services

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, it is for every council to decide what level of council tax it needs to set. Obviously, there is a latitude to increase council tax by up to 2% to help support the additional social care costs, but the Government have set out their plan to increase funding to social care, as the noble Baroness knows.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, many of us who remember the days when local authority direct labour organisations had a monopoly on public services such as refuse collection welcomed the decision in the 1980s to open these services to competition—a decision that has not been reversed since. Given all the pressure on local authorities today, is now the right time to encourage them to invest manpower and capital to re-enter this market?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend. There has been a tremendous success in the competitive tendering of services that has driven down cost and increased value for money for the taxpayer, and also seen an improvement in the delivery of local services. It is not surprising that £64 billion is now paid out by local government to private companies to deliver those services. Although local authorities have the powers to trade and charge, they should think very carefully before they decide to move back to the situation before the introduction of competitive tendering.

Building Safety Defects: Costs

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 18th October 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we are looking very closely at the “polluter pays” principle and the amendments that have been supplied to us by Steve Day. I have asked my officials to meet on a number of occasions; in fact, I am meeting them this Wednesday. There are, however, some difficulties and hurdles that need to be overcome to make this potentially work. I do not exaggerate; they will be quite challenging to overcome.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, since we discussed this on 16 September, we have a new Secretary of State with instructions from the Prime Minister, so we read, to sort out the cladding crisis. While welcoming the new tax on high-rise development and the substantial support that the Government have already offered, this is not enough to prevent innocent leaseholders facing substantial hardship. Further to the suggestion of the right reverend Prelate, should there not be a substantial levy on the developers who built and sold these unsuitable flats?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we have a new Secretary of State who is putting his fresh eyes on this. We recognise that the developers that put up these shoddy buildings need to pay. Indeed, we may need to look at other people—the cladding manufacturers may also need to contribute to this—because we want to do whatever it takes to ensure that leaseholders are protected as far as is practicable.

Leasehold: Building and Fire Safety

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 16th September 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we recognise that if you buy a defective dwelling you expect the person responsible for the building of it to do something about it. That is precisely why the Government, as part of the Building Safety Bill, are proposing to increase the Defective Premises Act redress period from six years to 15 years retrospectively, which will bring in a great number of buildings to be able to seek redress from developers. That is why we continue to work on measures that will ensure that the polluter does pay wherever possible, and we are looking very closely at proposals from Steve Day and his team around the polluter pays amendments.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, the Government have provided substantial support to deal with the cladding crisis, which I welcome, but that support, together with the new tax on high-rise development the Minister mentioned, will be inadequate to avoid hardship and inequity for many innocent leaseholders. Further to what the right reverend Prelate just said, would it not be fair to bridge the gap by a levy on developers that built and sold these substandard homes?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend is right, which is why we are looking at a new levy and a developer tax to ensure that the industry contributes. At this stage we are in consultation. We need to ensure that it is set at a level that raises substantial funds precisely for that purpose.

Supported Housing: Funding

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 14th September 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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The noble Baroness is right: we are concerned about quality issues, and that is why we carried out some pilots in Birmingham, Blackburn, Darwen, Hull, Bristol and Blackpool. We do not have the results from those pilots, but that is why we invested £5.4 million—to ensure that there is no drop in quality.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, following the success of the Everyone In campaign, which protected rough sleepers from Covid, Housing First is the most cost-effective supported housing solution, to stop those most at risk from returning to the streets. It is estimated that 16,000 places are required, but so far the Government have pledged funding for only 2,000. Can my noble friend hold out any prospect of a more generous response?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend knows that we are committed, in our latest manifesto, to expanding Housing First. The findings of our evaluation, together with our experiences from the pilots, will help to inform next steps.

Grenfell Tower: Demolition

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 6th September 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, in addition to the consultation by the site team of my department, MHCLG, the local authority is engaging reactively. I heard from the leader of the council this week that it has another meeting to look at mental health and other well-being issues, and it has asked my officials to join that meeting. The Government at every level have a duty to do their best to make sure that we learn from this tragedy and that we continue to engage with the residents, bereaved and survivors.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, the Minister will know that the Kensington Aldridge Academy is located at the base of the Grenfell Tower. It had to move out following the fire and move back in 2018. What consideration has been given to the future of that school in the discussions referred to by my noble friend?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, despite the reporting, I can assure my noble friend that the school does not require any move or decant in the future. The tower is safe; there are no immediate safety issues. As I said, the programme of safety maintenance continues until the spring of next year.

Council Tax

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 22nd July 2021

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to introduce higher rate bands for Council Tax.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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I recognise my noble friend’s interest in this issue, but the Government do not have any plans to introduce higher bands for council tax. Many people living in high-value properties are on low incomes and may have lived in their homes for a long time. Higher bands risk penalising such people, including pensioners, who have seen their homes increase in value. They could face a substantial tax rise without having the income to pay the higher bill.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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Does my noble friend agree that it would be odd to calculate today’s income tax on what people earned 30 years ago, but this is the basis on which we fund local government? The council tax is out of date, arbitrary and regressive. While the right policy would be revaluation, ducked for too long by successive Governments, would it not be right in the meantime to take the higher band and, without breaking any manifesto commitments, introduce two extra bands to bring in extra revenue from those with more valuable assets?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend’s suggestion has some merit. Even a limited revaluation would be costly and would yield significant extra revenue only in those parts of the country where house prices are the highest, given that council tax income is not redistributed. It would also leave council tax payers in a rather odd, and arguably less fair, situation where some were paying their tax based on 1991 values while others were doing so based on prices in the present day.

Mortgages: EWS1 Form

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we have had repeated engagement with both UK Finance and also the Building Societies Association on this matter. We are seeing a picture that is troublesome but is continuing to improve, bit by bit. We have taken a number of measures to ensure that we encourage lenders to take a more proportionate approach.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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Has my noble friend read Inside Housing for April? It reports that buildings are being issued with a succession of different EWS ratings after a sale has taken place. How can inspectors sign off forms, expressed to be valid for five years, but change them later to the disadvantage of the purchaser?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend raises an important issue about the inconsistency of the application of EWS1 forms by professionals. I point out that we are working with the British Standards Institution to produce a publicly available specification, known as PAS 9980, which is a code of practice designed to ensure greater consistency in these assessments.

Homeowners: Cladding-related Costs

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 24th June 2021

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, those are not official figures. There are a lot of estimates, and there is a great range in those estimates. We are carrying out some detailed research so that we can properly understand the incidents, particularly in lower-rise and medium-rise buildings, where remediation would be required. Then we will be in a position to know the burden that will potentially fall either on the taxpayer or on leaseholders.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the substantial support that the Government have provided to deal with the cladding crisis but, on its own, it is clearly not enough to deal with the problem and with hardship. In February, the Government announced a new tax on future high-rise development, but would it not be fair to complement that with a levy on those developers who built these substandard homes?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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Of course it is right that the polluter pays. That is why we have announced not only a building safety levy on future high-rise developments as part of the building safety Bill, but a tax on developers that is aiming to raise some £2 billion over 10 years.

Housing: New Developments

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 17th June 2021

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we have already looked at the approach to assessing local housing need to ensure that we see greater focus on the renewal of our cities and towns rather than urban sprawl. So we have already taken that point on board.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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Does my noble friend agree that the public would be more supportive of the proposals to build the hundreds of thousands of new homes that the country needs if more of these homes were clearly being targeted at families on average incomes, with children, already living in the area and at key workers such as nurses and teachers, with perhaps less emphasis on unaffordable homes for newcomers?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend is absolutely right that we need homes of all types and tenures. Our reforms will give communities a greater voice from the start of the planning process. The reforms will make planning more straightforward and accessible and make it easier for people to influence local plans and have a say on locations, standards and types of development. The Government are of course committed to home ownership; the First Homes scheme allows a discount of up to 30% of full market value and, of course, there is the £11.5 billion affordable homes programme that will allow for the decent family homes that my noble friend sees as so critical.

Private Landlords: Tenants with Pets

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 15th June 2021

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we have set out a model tenancy agreement that encourages wider pet ownership. It also ensures that the landlord must give a clear reason why they will not accept a pet. This agreement strikes a balance between making it easier for responsible tenants to keep pets and ensuring that landlords are not forced to accept them.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, last week the Public Services Committee took evidence from a rough sleeper in Birmingham who was full of praise for the Everyone In campaign, which helped him and other rough sleepers into safe accommodation last year. However, he told us that rough sleepers with dogs were now at risk because hostels would not accept them. Is my noble friend aware of this problem and does he have a solution?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I am aware of the issue that my noble friend raises. We know how important pets are to many people, particularly rough sleepers. That is why we have supported a number of local schemes enabling people to find accommodation that will also accept pets. Housing authorities need to be sensitive to the importance of pets to some applicants, particularly rough sleepers, and I thank my noble friend for raising this.

Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 14th June 2021

(1 year ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, this amendment from my noble friend Lord Young seeks to capture within the definition of rent other charges, such as fixed service charges, if they are reserved as rent in leases. It also seeks to exclude from the definition of rent variable charges or insurance if they are reserved or form part of the rent. The comments on a proposal regarding the definition of rent received from my noble friend Lord Young and other noble Lords continue to be carefully considered. I am very grateful to all those who have given it such close examination and look forward to hearing the further deliberations from the Law Society.

This is an important point to discuss today, as the treatment of what is meant by a ground rent and a rent lies at the heart of what the Government wish to convey through the Bill. It sets the tone for leasehold reform legislation to follow. On the specific meaning of rent, I am not unsympathetic to my noble friend Lord Young’s intention in his amendment. Since the very outset, this Government have been alert to defining what is meant by a ground rent in such a way as to discourage avoidance activity by sectors of the property market which make a habit of such activity. I believe we are all agreed that preventing such activity is of the utmost importance.

To give noble Lords some more of the context behind our reasoning for this definition, we started from a similar position to many of the Committee when approaching this issue by seeking to define closely what is meant by a ground rent. It is a logical approach; tightly drawn definitions are often meat and drink to a strong legislating body such as this House. However, I ask your Lordships to reflect on the seeming ease with which some parts of the leasehold sector have found ways around generation after generation of leasehold legislation, drafted with the greatest care and scrutinised in both this House and the other place, as my noble friend Lord Young knows well.

After very extensive consideration, we have concluded that we would need to take a different approach to the definition of rent for the leasehold sector. We therefore purposely defined rent widely to prevent landlords avoiding the restrictions in the Bill by including spurious periodic changes under any other name. As stated at Second Reading, the Bill intentionally uses a wide definition so that it includes anything in the nature of rent, whatever it is called. For example, we are mindful of not wanting to allow for a new garden rent or parking space rent replacing ground rent after the Bill is passed. That is why the meaning of rent in the Bill is drafted in such broad terms.

Any change faced by leaseholders that looks and sounds like a rent, whatever it is called, will therefore be open to challenge through trading standards and the First-tier Tribunal. Freeholders, landlords and even managing agents acting on behalf of a landlord will be able to refund this rental charge, whatever it is called, and may face a penalty fine. This imposes a potential liability on managing agents and ensures that they will scrutinise future contracts with great care.

We agree that it is not necessary for a lease to reserve charges, such as service charges and insurance, as rent. Under the Bill’s definition of rent, landlords will need to consider whether to itemise other charges separately in the lease. I point out that fixed service charges are a valid way for freeholders to charge for services where leaseholders and freeholders enter into a lease agreement. We are aware of criticism of the misuse of fixed service charges on occasion; these charges are generally in payment for a tangible service and differ from ground rent. Under the Bill, landlords will need to consider whether to itemise these in the lease agreement, and to be clear what the charge is and what a leaseholder receives in return.

I thank my noble friend Lord Young for raising the points made previously by my noble friend Lord Hammond of Runnymede. He raised two specific points, one on the definition of a ground rent for long leases over 21 years where a rack market rent is charged. I welcomed my noble friend Lord Hammond’s thoughts on this and am happy to undertake today that my officials and I will continue to engage with him and others as we look further into this matter. My noble friend Lord Hammond also raised a point on intermediate leases where there is a head lease or multiple properties. I point out that there are a number of potential options to address the complexities in this scenario. Once again, I am grateful to him for raising this issue and will continue to explore the matter further before Report.

Above all, I welcome the efforts of my noble friend Lord Young to achieve our shared objective of a clear definition of rent. However, I fear that my noble friend’s amendment would add complexity and provide opportunities for landlords to find workarounds to a Bill otherwise closed off by the simple definition it currently contains. I am interested to see what the Law Society comes up with and to see the revised drafting.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, we have engaged with a number of NGOs and stakeholders in preparation for the Bill and I am happy to provide details of that in writing. While I appreciate the intention behind my noble friend’s amendment and I am happy to continue discussions with him, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have taken part, as this is a modest Back-Bench amendment which has generated three Front-Bench responses. The noble Baroness, Lady Grender, reminded us that there is a lot of money riding on the definition of ground rent; there are huge financial instruments at stake. We do not want a shaky foundation for that market.

I listened to the Minister’s reply. I will say only that he has so far failed to convince the Law Society or the lawyers I referred to, who do not believe that the broad definition adopted by his department is the right way to proceed. I am not sure that I was reassured by the Minister saying that, if there was any doubt, tenants could go to tribunals. The whole point of the amendment is to try to avoid doubt and grey areas and reduce the need for litigation.

At the beginning of his response, my noble friend said that his department continues to carefully consider the issue of the definition and that he was not unsympathetic to what I was trying to do. I am grateful for those responses. On the basis that discussions will continue between the noble Lord, Lord Hammond, and the department, the Law Society and the department, and indeed, those solicitors who have expressed serious doubts about the current definition, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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I am very grateful to the Minister for his reply. I press him on what he said right at the end about the importance of getting the Bill through “as speedily as possible”. I accept that, but if it is important that Parliament processes this legislation speedily, is it not then incumbent on the Government to announce an early date for the implementation of the Bill?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we want to move as speedily as possible but, as I stated in my reply, we do not want to set a deadline for things. We want to get this on the statute book very speedily in this Session; that is why it is so early in this Session. That is my answer.

Rogue Landlords Register

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 26th May 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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There is no complacency; I am merely outlining that we are considering the introduction of the register as part of our commitment to introduce a White Paper in the autumn. That will contain a number of measures designed to redress the balance between landlord and tenant.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I commend the excellent report Journeys in the Shadow Private Rented Sector by Cambridge House, which reveals the extent of organised crime in the murkier parts of this market: criminals who are wholly undeterred by local authority sanctions; the obliging of tenants who feel defenceless to pay their rent in cash; and police who are ill equipped to deal with this criminality, not just roguery. Will the Government respond to the report’s recommendations, such as the better detection of unlicensed HMOs and better monitoring of online platforms advertising private rentals?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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The report that my noble friend refers to provides valuable insights, highlighting illegal evictions and behaviours by the most criminal and irresponsible landlords and agents. Such reports will be very helpful in developing our proposed reforms. We will be publishing the White Paper in the autumn and continuing to work with these stakeholders, who have valuable knowledge in these matters.

Social Housing

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 24th May 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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It is not all about demand-side subsidies. We have pointed out that the Government are committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing and are investing over £12 billion in the affordable housing programme over the next six years, which is the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, we all agree that more social homes should be built and I welcome my noble friend’s statement, but does he agree that, for every one family housed in a newly built home, roughly eight are housed in the relet of existing stock? In addition to building more new homes, will my noble friend promote home ownership schemes for existing social tenants who want to move out and buy, thus freeing up a home for those in housing need?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend that social mobility and social housing are critical, and that social housing can and should be a springboard into home ownership. We will look at promoting many of the schemes that he outlines, including our offer for shared ownership.

Rent Arrears: Covid-19

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 20th May 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I point out that two-thirds of the tenants identified in the survey have two months or less of rent arrears. We have preferred to avoid encouraging further debt, instead providing non-repayable financial support through furlough and the welfare system.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, in the debate in Grand Committee on 22 April on poverty and mass evictions I asked my noble friend whether his department would do a quick review of the schemes in Wales and Scotland of grants and loans that prevent evictions to see whether any lessons might be learned for England. He replied:

“I will encourage my officials to look at what we can learn from the devolved Administrations”.—[Official Report, 22/4/21; col. GC 402.]


What was the outcome of that review?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend is quite right. I have asked my department to do that. My officials carefully studied the Scottish and Welsh schemes to support tenants with rent arrears. I understand that a relatively small number of loans have been made by these schemes. Indeed, the Government continue to believe that it is right to provide non-repayable financial support rather than encouraging further debt.

Leaseholders and Property Management Companies

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 29th April 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we believe very strongly that any fees and charges should be justifiable, transparent and communicated effectively and that there should be a clear route to challenge or address things if they go wrong. That is why we commissioned the noble Lord, Lord Best, to do his report.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, on 5 January, when I described leaseholders as

“a relic from a feudal age”,

my noble friend replied:

“There is no doubt that in this country we are unique in having leasehold. We need to focus on reform, which will take this forward to a position similar to that in Scotland or on the continent, where people are co-owners of their property.”—[Official Report, 5/1/21; col. 9.]


Is legislation on its way so that everyone can benefit from my noble friend’s ambition?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend knows that the Government wish to extend the benefits of freehold ownership to more homeowners; that is why we are establishing a commonhold council to prepare homeowners and the market for the widespread take-up of commonhold. We share that same drive and ambition to change things.

Levelling Up

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 18th March 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the Government’s commitment to levelling up those parts of the country that, by general consent, have been left behind. I also welcome the very substantial sums of money that the Minister has just referred to. Further to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, when the Minister in another place was asked how we would know whether levelling up was achieving its objectives, he basically said that the next general election would provide the answer. Are the Government working on a measurement, or system of measurements, that would enable us to measure value for money for the levelling-up agenda in the meantime?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I reassure my noble friend that the Government have established a series of provisional priority outcomes and metrics, which has been published as part of the spending review. Table 2H is a particular example of an outcome that will help to measure the success of the fund.

Rough Sleeping

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 2nd March 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, all I can say in addition to my response to earlier questions is that the Government are committed to expanding Housing First. That commitment was made in our latest manifesto, but it is important to take on board the lessons from the three pilots.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, like others, I welcome the Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament and the progress being made towards that. But the Statement says, of those sleeping rough:

“Many of the individuals will have been offered accommodation but will not have chosen to accept it, for a wide range of reasons.”


How, then, will the commitment be delivered?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I commend my noble friend on his tireless work that started in the early 1990s with the launch of the Rough Sleepers Initiative. Recognising that the moral mission of ending rough sleeping will be difficult shows the need to work in harness not only with our health partners and others in local authorities, but also with the community voluntary sector to deal with the underlying problems. The Housing First principle is first to find secure accommodation, then to deal with issues so that the person involved does not return to the streets.

Building Safety

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 22nd February 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, in welcoming the extra support for leaseholders, I commend my noble friend on the role that I know he personally played in shifting the Government’s position. On the developer levy, which I called for last year, can he explain why it is going to be levied on future developments—which, as he has just explained, will not have the same problems, and where indeed the developers may be new to the market—rather than on those developers that are responsible for the defects and that did very well on the proceeds?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for recognising that this announcement includes a developer levy, which he was lobbying for. It will be on future buildings, but at the same time we recognise the role that a number of developers have played in creating the cladding crisis. That is why the Secretary of State also announced that a new tax would be introduced for the UK residential property development sector that will ensure that the largest property developers also make a fair contribution to the remediation programme. We think that these measures taken together will ensure that the industry does more to contribute to the remediation of historical cladding defects and will play its part in dealing with this crisis.

Covid-19: “Everybody In” Scheme

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 11th January 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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Vulnerability is incredibly important to understand. That is why the Government have put £10 million on the table for local authorities, which know their communities best, to come up with plans to target those rough sleepers and give them the wraparound care needed. That is how we will proceed: in partnership with local leaders at a local level.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, like others, I welcome the Government’s instruction on Friday to local authorities to redouble their efforts to accommodate those sleeping rough. This will help achieve the target by 2024. Might I ask my noble friend about numbers? In 2019 the Government estimated the number of rough sleepers to be 4,000. As a result of Everybody In, we now know that, of the 15,000 people supported, 7,000 people had been sleeping rough. Does this not underline the need for a better measurement of rough sleepers if we are going to hit our target?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend because I agree that, through this pandemic, we have got much more of a grip of the quantum involved if we want to end rough sleeping. We also know there are people who may not be rough sleeping in the truest sense of the word—but they are sofa surfers on the edge of being rough sleepers. Understanding more about the cohort and what it will take to resource this is the only way to deliver on the Government’s moral mission to end rough sleeping for good.

Leaseholders: Properties with Cladding

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 7th January 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I absolutely accept that a generation of people have built buildings that are not fit for purpose and, under any regime, should not have been built in this way. In recent years, developers have made profits of between 20% and 30%, so of course they should step forward and do the right thing. I absolutely share that view. The leaseholders who find themselves in this position are victims. I have said that at the Dispatch Box and am happy to commit to do everything we can to ensure that this does not fall heavily on leaseholders.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe rightly says, this problem has dragged on too long. We need a solution that avoids the costs and delays of the courts. Should the package of measures not include further support from the Government, as with PRC houses in the 1980s, and a major contribution from the developers, as was just implied by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, which have a moral responsibility and should be subjected to a levy?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I think the solution will include a levy on the development community, but I also want to talk about construction products. Look at the margins made by those who sold some of the construction materials used on high-rises such as Grenfell Tower. They made astronomical profits. Profits have been made and the result was products that are not fit for purpose. We have seen total regulatory system failure and construction practices that require significant regulatory change. As Buildings Safety Minister, I am committed to that.

Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 6th January 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I have never heard so many questions poured in with such economy, but I refuse to give advice to any council, or any councillor, on how they should tax their local communities. I could point to my own record as the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council. For six years we cut council tax by 3%, and for one year we froze it. That was because I believed that our council tax level was too high. I did not understand why neighbouring boroughs such as Wandsworth and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had substantially lower council tax than Hammersmith and Fulham. I chose the route of being able to tax less and provide better services, through more efficiency and driving greater productivity. So I would say that it is down to local leaders to decide how they set their council tax. My advice would be: what do you think is in the interests of your people? I agree that council tax is a regressive tax—but it is particularly ridiculous to see how some councils have to raise their funds largely through council tax increases, because they receive so little grant as a proportion of their combined budget. I shall give more examples of that later.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, in the Statement we are discussing, the Secretary of State said:

“I want local government to emerge stronger, more sustainable and better able to meet the needs of those it serves.”


Does my noble friend, with his local government experience, recognise that the current tax base for local government is unsustainable, with domestic rates 30 years out of date—and, as he has just admitted, regressive—and commercial rates killing the high street? Will the White Paper on devolution and local recovery, promised for last autumn, set out a firmer and broader basis for local government, so that it can be empowered as the Secretary of State wishes?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I have saved my data, which I carefully put together—although I will not be able to read it very well—for my noble friend’s question, of which he kindly gave me notice. I shall tell a tale of two boroughs—the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, a Liberal Democrat authority, and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, now, sadly, a Labour borough. It was taken over after I was leader of the council—but that is democracy for you. Things can change back again, I hasten to add, for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. Things can swing both ways. For those two boroughs, exactly the same budget base was estimated, through both council tax and grant. Richmond upon Thames had £173 million and Hammersmith and Fulham £174 million—pretty much the same amount. Yet 83% of the money in Richmond upon Thames is raised through council tax, whereas only 31% of the money in Hammersmith and Fulham is raised through council tax. That is patently absurd. Of course we need to think about a more sensible system of local government finance. It is very hard to estimate via complex formulae, and I am sure the devolution White Paper will look into some of the vagaries of local government financing, whereby a river can separate, and thus create such great differences between, two neighbouring authorities.

Housing: Leasehold

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 5th January 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I assure your Lordships that leasehold reform is coming. A lot has been announced and, subject to the vagaries of the Downing Street grid, more will be announced shortly.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, is the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, not right to say that leasehold as a form of tenure is a relic from a feudal age that exists nowhere else in the world? Instead of trying to patch it up, should we not be actively replacing it with commonhold for new developments and much easier enfranchisement for existing ones?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank my noble friend. There is no doubt that in this country we are unique in having leasehold. We need to focus on reform, which will take this forward to a position similar to that in Scotland or on the continent, where people are co-owners of their property.

Leaseholders and Cladding

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 25th November 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend must point out to them that this Government have an iron resolve to make sure that developers step up to the plate. They have made significant profits on those developments and will want to make profits in the future. We need to make them pay; we need to reason with them and say that it is no good laying this at the door of the taxpayer. They will have to step up to the plate. I will ensure that this Government make every endeavour to make them do so.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, 36 years ago, when I had my noble friend’s job at the then Department of the Environment, I put on the statute book the Housing Defects Act 1984. In a nutshell, it compensated homeowners who found that their homes were unsaleable, through no fault of their own, and had no other form of compensation coming from the Government. Does my noble friend think that that legislation has relevance to today’s leaseholders? Would he welcome my advice on how to persuade the Treasury to pay for it?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, there is no problem in public life that has not been seen before. My noble friend makes a valuable point and I will indeed ask my officials to look into the ways in which the Housing Defects Act of 1984, when I was doing my A-levels, and the Housing Act of 1988, when I left university, were used to address the issues we face today.

Covid-19 Lockdown: Homelessness and Rough Sleepers

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 12th November 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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As Faith Minister, I completely agree. Places of worship, whether they are gurdwaras, temples, churches or synagogues, play a huge part in dealing with the social issues of our time, including homelessness.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my noble friend agree that rough sleepers, and those working with them, are particularly vulnerable to Covid? Will he recommend to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that they should be a priority?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am happy to make representations to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation about making this decision.

Planning: Accessible Homes

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Wednesday 4th November 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we are currently consulting on the accessibility standards. I propose that we wait until the end of the consultation, which completes on 1 December, for our response to that.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support the proposal made by many groups representing those with a disability that Part M of the Building Regulations should be raised to what is known as the adaptable and acceptable standard, or M4, Category 2. This would enable more people to live healthy and independent lives without having to move. Further to what my noble friend just said about the consultation document, when will the results be published and when will its conclusions be implemented?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend should know that the response to the accessible-homes consultation will be published by March 2021. The implementation of any change will depend on the course of action that the Government take.

Almshouses

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 22nd October 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I have pointed out that there are 36,000 almshouses. However, there are 700,000 specialist supported and secure accommodation homes for people in this country. In addition, the affordable homes programme includes 10% towards specialist housing—but I will write further if I can provide any assistance on that point.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, will the current review of the planning system consider exempting almshouses from the infrastructure levy, which is raised at differential levels throughout the country, thereby freeing up the finances of these charitable institutions to continue to deliver homes to those in need?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend makes an incredibly important point: we want them to continue their endeavours without being burdened by the community infrastructure levy. We are currently consulting on the proposals for reform set out in the planning White Paper. We will listen carefully to all representations made, including those from almshouses.

Housing: Rent, Evictions and Covid-19

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 13th October 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I have pointed to the unprecedented support that we have given to renters, including raising the local housing allowance, which is also important. The housing benefit bill and universal credit housing element total well over £20 billion. However, we need to get the balance right between the rights of renters and protecting and safeguarding the interests of landlords.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend rightly refers to the recent generous increase in the local housing allowance, which will help tenants struggling with their rent. However, the increase runs out at the end of the year and, unless further action is taken, LHAs will revert to the previous, less generous levels in 2021. Does my noble friend agree that that would be a retrograde step, leading to an increase of some £54 a week for some tenants? The right thing to do would be to keep the 30th percentile at current market rents.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend makes reasoned points. The increase to the 30th percentile of the local housing reliance will remain in place for the duration of the year, until March 2021.

Housing: Rent and Covid-19

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 8th October 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I would point out that discretionary housing payments have increased by some £40 million, to £180 million. We do not have great data on rent arrears: the data from the National Residential Landlords Association indicates that about 7% are in arrears. However, I will write to the noble Lord, as he requested.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, in answer to an Urgent Question on this very subject a fortnight ago, my noble friend the Minister said, of measures to help renters:

“They are kept under constant review in the light of evidence of public health, and we are prepared to take further measures as they are needed to protect landlords and tenants alike”—[Official Report, 24/9/20; col. 1948.]


Since then the public health evidence has, sadly, deteriorated significantly, so will my noble friend now introduce the further measures that he then referred to? Might those include the recommendations of Shelter’s recent report, Renters at Risk?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I assure my noble friend that there is no evidence yet of an eviction epidemic. We have established an unprecedented package of support, and the Chancellor has announced in the other place the Government’s winter economy plan to support people through the winter, and to support jobs, including the new job support scheme. We have increased local housing allowance rates to the 30th percentile, which will remain in place at least until the end of March 2021.

End of Eviction Moratorium

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 24th September 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I point out that the domestic abuse ground applies exclusively to the social sector. I will write to the noble Baroness providing clarification. This prioritisation of cases does not extend just to domestic abuse; it covers illegal occupation, fraud, egregious rent arrears, abandonment and anti-social behaviour. That is why we want to strike a fair balance between protecting the rights of landlords and of tenants.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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Noble Lords will recall that in March, under the Everyone In campaign, some 15,000 rough sleepers were successfully housed in emergency accommodation. Many of them will now have moved on into privately rented accommodation. Given the Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping, what assurances can my noble friend give that those rough sleepers can rebuild their lives and that, now tenancies can be terminated, they will not be evicted and return to the streets?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend is right that it is a great achievement that 15,000 rough sleepers have been successfully placed in emergency accommodation. On 18 July we launched the Next Steps accommodation programme, under the leadership of Dame Louise Casey, and we are putting in two sources of funding: £161 million to deliver 3,300 units of longer-term, move-on accommodation in this financial year and £105 million of additional funding to pay for immediate support to ensure that people do not return to the streets. This Government have put in around £0.5 billion to date to ensure that we end rough sleeping and homelessness.

Devolution in England

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, there are ways for government to provide support to the devolved Administrations and across borders. I point the noble Lord to the borderlands growth deal as one such way of being able to achieve that. We are not looking at top-down devolution, but focusing on local city and growth deals as the way forward.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, further to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, will the White Paper recognise that devolving more powers to local government needs to be accompanied by greater financial freedom to use those powers? Will the White Paper explore alternative means of funding local government, perhaps broadening the base and possibly replacing business rates, which, in their present form, are increasingly difficult to defend?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I have great sympathy for my noble friend’s point, as a co-author of A Magna Carta for Localism a decade ago. I can assure him that we are reviewing the mayoral combined authority model to identify how to maximise its effectiveness, including such powers as financial freedoms and funding devolution.

Housing: Cladding

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the progress in removing dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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My Lords, we are continually assessing progress on removing dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings and publish data on this every month. Progress has been made. Almost three-quarters—74%—of buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material cladding are either completed or in the process of remediation.

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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply and for the funds the Government have made available to deal with the problems following the Grenfell tragedy, but the PAC report last week and the Sunday Times article reveal the scale of the problems that lie ahead. Only one-third of buildings with Grenfell cladding have had it replaced with safe alternatives. There are 186,000 other privately owned high-rise flats where the leaseholders are trapped with high service charges, unaffordable repairs and, in some cases, fire patrol costs of £750 a month. Then there are 1.5 million other flats that leaseholders cannot sell because they cannot get the certificates that lenders are now insisting on. Will my noble friend convene an urgent meeting of freeholders, leaseholders, valuers and lenders to come up with a comprehensive and time-limited plan which both ensures safety in these flats and removes the blight?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend should rest assured that we are focused on the pace of remediation. The Secretary of State or I will be speaking to building owners, local authorities and fire and rescue services to press them to accelerate this pace. We are also looking at the interventions that we may need to take as a Government to deal with this blight. We will obviously continue our engagement with all the stakeholders he mentioned in the course of that endeavour.

Housing: New Homes

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I point out a number of measures. Obviously, the investment in affordable homes of £11.5 billion that I just announced is the largest investment in affordable housing in over a decade. In addition, the removal of the borrowing cap enables housing to be built. Councils have built 10 times more council housing in the last decade than in the previous one.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the Government’s commitment to drive up the construction of much-needed new homes but, with social distancing on building sites, the loss of many skilled construction workers as they return to Europe and the vagaries of the British weather, is the case not stronger now for investing in modular off-site construction, with higher safety standards, higher quality standards and improved productivity? What steps are the Government taking to increase these new methods of building the homes that we need?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend is right in highlighting the importance of boosting the use of modern methods of construction, and we are helping to create a pipeline of opportunities to give confidence to the sector and investors. We are providing financial support for the sector through our £4.5 billion home building fund, and a further £450 million was announced for the home building fund this summer in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Covid-19: Local Government Finance

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh
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My advice to the Secretary of State would be to focus on the three pillars of support that we need to give councils. We are covering demand pressures through the Covid-19 pandemic and we have announced an income support package. Councils are also facing irrecoverable tax losses, and the principle of sharing that between national and local government has been agreed, but not the precise proportions. I would therefore encourage my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to agree that with the Treasury as part of the spending review.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con) [V]
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My Lords, further to the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, on financial stability, local authorities borrow substantial sums of money from the market. While some local authorities have recently had their credit rating reduced, most have so far maintained high ratings, enabling them to borrow cheaply. Will my noble friend do all he can to take the necessary steps to ensure that this remains the case to avoid further pressures on local authority budgets?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh
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My noble friend is right to say that the credit ratings of local authorities remain strong, and where there have been some downgrades, that happened before the pandemic. I have made an undertaking to see that local authorities continue to get access to funding. However, we should recognise that the main lender to them is the Public Works Loan Board, which is an agency of HM Treasury.

UK Shared Prosperity Fund

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Thursday 21st May 2020

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh
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Yes, I can give the noble Lord an assurance that the amount of funding will be at least at the same level as all the European structural funds it replaces. I cannot say any more about the timing, and I refer to my previous point about the importance of the comprehensive spending review.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, the assurance that the Minister has just given on funding is very welcome. Do the Government propose to invite competitive bids for the prosperity fund in England and make decisions centrally, or to allocate funds to the areas and regions concerned and promote local decision-making?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh
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I thank my noble friend for his question. This is a unique opportunity to provide the right priorities for the United Kingdom and to design something that levels up the four nations and our less developed regions. It is a great opportunity to do that and the details will be forthcoming. I note my noble friend’s point.

Covid-19: Housing

Debate between Lord Greenhalgh and Lord Young of Cookham
Monday 18th May 2020

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh
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I do not have the answers to hand with regard to specific discussions. Housing is a devolved matter, as the noble Baroness knows, but I am sure that discussions between officials will happen.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, one constraint on the construction industry as it recovers from recession is the shortage of skilled workers from the EU, who have left and are unlikely to return. What steps are the Government taking to retrain with the necessary skills those who, sadly, may be made redundant by their current employers?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh
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My noble friend makes the important point that we require all the skills of construction workers and that many of those were from EU countries. I am sure the immigration system that has been introduced by the Home Secretary will take into account our need for the skills to drive the construction industry. I can write to my noble friend with specific measures that are being taken. Obviously, we are doing what we can on this but there is nothing in particular to state at this point.