Housing Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 20th July 2004.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 2:30 pm, 20th July 2004

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, helpfully took us through the Clause 2 components of the new system in his earlier inspection of the way in which we see the new HHSR system working. He did so rather forensically, I thought. He usefully set out how we see it operating. For that reason, having listened to the noble Baroness, the amendment probably misses the point of the way in which the assessment must work if it is to give an objective means of comparing the severity of hazards across the housing stock. I heard what she said about assessments and how they relate to the age of the occupant and the level of risk but she failed to make a leap of faith, as it were, involving the way in which we see the system working in practice.

Amendment No. 3, which attempts to redefine hazards as a risk of harm to the health or safety of an actual or likely rather than a potential occupier, slightly misses the point. It fails to take account of the fact that the assessment system is intended to assess the condition of the property for the most vulnerable person who could potentially live there based on the principle that a dwelling that is safe for the most vulnerable is safe for all.

We need to know not who is likely to live there but only that such a person may possibly do so in future. Having come to an understanding of the degree of hazard, it will be for the environmental health officer to determine the appropriate action to be taken in the circumstances, which involve the property and the way in which it is likely to be used.

The noble Baroness may have failed to take account of that part of what happens after one has understood the level of hazard and risk as part of the assessment. The amendment is not in the end necessary although I can appreciate that it is hard—certainly at the initial stages—to get to grips with the way in which the system might work in future.