Clause 19 — Commencement, transitional provisional and general saving

Part of Orders of the Day — Homelessness Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 22 October 2001.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions) 9:00, 22 October 2001

I trust that these amendments will be agreed by the House with acclaim. They all deal with one minor issue in providing that paragraphs 3 and 7 of schedule 1 will come into force on Royal Assent. Paragraphs 3 and 7 of schedule 1 amend existing sections 161(2A) and 185(2A) which were inserted in the Housing Act 1996 by section 117 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Section 161(2A) of the 1996 Act currently provides that the Secretary of State cannot prescribe in regulations that a class of person is qualified for the allocation of local authority housing under part VI of the 1996 Act if that class of person is excluded from entitlement to certain state benefits, including housing benefit, pursuant to section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Groups excluded by section 115 include persons subject to immigration control who have been given leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom on condition that they do not have recourse to public funds. Section 185(2A) makes similar provision in respect of eligibility for homelessness assistance under part VII of the 1996 Act.

The policy intention behind the 1996 Act provisions is to ensure that those not entitled to housing benefit cannot be prescribed as qualifying persons. We are not concerned with entitlement to the other benefits. Arguments put forward in recent judicial proceedings cast doubt on whether these provisions achieve the policy intention, and paragraphs 3 and 7 seek to make the position clear. However, they need to come into force as quickly as possible to avoid any further possibility of doubt. That is especially necessary if paragraph 3 is to have any usefulness as other provisions, namely clause 13, would repeal section 161 of the 1996 Act when commenced.

I commend the amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.