Housing Bill: Committee Stage (Period Extension)

Housing Support Services Bill:  Committee Stage (Period Extension) – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 17 September 2002.

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Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:15, 17 September 2002

As the next two motions relate to the extension of Committee Stages of housing legislation, I propose to conduct only one debate. I shall call the Chairperson of the Committee for Social Development to move the motion, and there will then be a debate on both motions. When all those who wish to speak have done so, I shall call the Chairperson to do the winding-up speech and will put the Question on the first motion. I shall then ask the Chairperson to move the second motion before putting the Question without further debate. If that is clear, I shall proceed.

Photo of Fred Cobain Fred Cobain UUP

I beg to move

That, in accordance with Standing Order 31(5), the period referred to in Standing Order 31(3) be extended to 13 December 2002, in relation to the Committee Stage of the Housing Support Services Bill (NIA 23/01).

The following motion stood in the Order Paper:

That, in accordance with Standing Order 31(5), the period referred to in Standing Order 31(3) be extended to 13 December 2002, in relation to the Committee Stage of the Housing Bill (NIA 24/01). — [The Chairperson of the Committee for Social Development (Mr Cobain).]

The Housing Support Services Bill and the Housing Bill, both important pieces of legislation, which passed Second Stage on 3 July after some debate, presently stand referred to the Committee for Social Development.

The Housing Support Services Bill seeks to introduce a new method for funding the costs associated with providing housing support services for vulnerable people who live in supported accommodation. Although the Bill has eight clauses, the Committee is concerned that they are scrutinised fully. We are also anxious to examine that Bill in the context of the Housing Bill before reporting back to the Assembly.

Before the Housing Bill’s belated introduction to the Assembly, there was great anticipation and much speculation about this long-awaited legislation. It is substantial in volume and content, having no less than 150 clauses and five schedules. It is the first piece of housing legislation to emerge in Northern Ireland for 10 years, and the Assembly has a duty of care to ensure that its wide-ranging provisions are given the utmost scrutiny.

It attempts to deal with a host of issues by introducing new provisions or amending existing legislation. The main areas to be addressed in the Bill include: the conduct of tenants of premises let by the Housing Executive or registered housing associations; the payment of grants for the renewal of private sector housing; caravan sites for members of the Irish traveller community; the rent register; the allocation of housing; and registered schemes for houses in multiple occupation.

The Bill is likely to be remembered as the most important piece of legislation considered by the first mandate of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is regrettable that we have so little time left to give the Bill the consideration that it deserves. However, it is important to acknowledge that the Committee had the foresight to conduct a major inquiry into housing matters in anticipation of the Bill’s introduction. We received much evidence and called many witnesses during that inquiry, and two reports on the subject were published in the past year, all of which should prove invaluable as we carry out this enormous task.

I hope that the House will agree that the Committee will be unable to do justice to either Bill in the 30 days prescribed in Standing Orders. The Committee is mindful, however, that there may be a desire for a significant and long-running debate on the Housing Bill after its Committee Stage. Having carefully considered the matter, the Committee believes that it could fulfil its responsibilities only if it met at least twice weekly during September, October and November, in order to examine the detail of the Housing Bill and the Housing Support Services Bill, and subsequently to produce and present associated reports to the Assembly for its consideration.

In seeking extensions on both Bills until 13 December 2002, I recognise that members of the Committee will face increasing and competing pressures in the weeks ahead. I stress how important it will be that Committee members attend the meetings and that everything possible be done to accommodate their attendance.

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30, 17 September 2002

Mr Cobain, there have been no requests to speak. Do you wish to make a winding-up speech, or will I put the Question?

Photo of Fred Cobain Fred Cobain UUP

Please put the Question.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved:

That, in accordance with Standing Order 31(5), the period referred to in Standing Order 31(3) be extended to 13 December 2002, in relation to the Committee Stage of the Housing Support Services Bill (NIA 23/01).

Resolved:

That, in accordance with Standing Order 31(5), the period referred to in Standing Order 31(3) be extended to 13 December 2002, in relation to the Committee Stage of the Housing Bill (NIA 24/01).