Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Welfare Reform and Work Bill – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 27th January 2016.

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Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 9:45 pm, 27th January 2016

My Lords, we support each of the amendments set down in this group and have added our names to some of them. On Amendments 50, 51 and 52, we join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Best, on his negotiating skills—doubtless assisted in that endeavour by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake—and the Minister for listening and helping with at least a partial solution.

The deferral of the rent reduction programme is clearly welcome. The clarification on the comfort in respect of LHA caps is clearly important as well. The more that the Minister can say on that, the better. My noble friend Lady Warwick has outlined some of the problems because of the known existence of that aspiration. The Minister could, I hope, therefore go further. It is always the way that Ministers come forward with concessions, and then everybody piles in and wants just that little bit more, but this is a very important issue.

That raises the question of where that leaves the amendments, as the Minister’s proposition in his correspondence effectively covers co-operatives, almshouses and community land trusts, as well as housing associations. Are the Government going to accept the amendments, substitute something for them or simply rely on what is on the record of this debate?

The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, spoke to Amendments 53, 61 and 63, each of which we can support. He stressed the importance of an independent evaluation of what has gone on, in good time for rent policy for the subsequent period to be settled. In respect of Amendments 61 and 63, the noble Lord explained the importance of flexibility in respect of new-build, particularly for schemes of marginal feasibility. We had a very helpful meeting with members of the Bill team and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on this. Hopefully, embedded in this long list of government amendments is one that addresses that issue specifically. It may not necessarily have the breadth or flexibility the noble Lord is seeking, but I think it at least seeks to address the principle.

Amendment 59A, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, proposes a report on local housing allowance rates. We debated this in Committee, but the Minister probably still owes us a reply. The purpose of that discussion was to recognise that, with the moratorium following the 1% limitation, LHA rates are increasingly going to move away from the reality of what renting in the private sector actually entails.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was clearly pleased with the outcome for almshouses. All in all, we should be grateful to the Minister for responding as he has—or hopefully will—at the Dispatch Box in confirming this. This is a real issue of substance which was worrying many people.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, is probably happy with the definition of supported housing that we have here, which is the broadest possible. I know there have been issues with specified support—what is in and what is out—but I take it from the correspondence and what has gone before that the moratorium is in respect of the widest definition of supported accommodation.