It is a pleasure, yet again, to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope, on a bright and sunny Tuesday morning. I have a couple of questions for the Solicitor-General, to which I am sure he will have the answers to hand. As I understand it, this clause will limit the application of sections 87 and 88 of the Local Government Act 2003, in so far as they apply to Wales. I would be grateful if the Solicitor-General clarified whether this is part of the Silk review and what discussions, if any, he has had with Welsh Ministers about the reasoning for this change.
Perhaps I can make it clear that the purpose of clause 22 is to remove the power of the Secretary of State to require local housing authorities in England to produce a housing strategy. This is an attempt to tidy up the statute book, because the power has never been exercised since it was introduced more than 10 years ago and there is no intention to exercise it in the future. It is part of the Government’s aim to reduce unnecessary central regulation. Councils do not need to be told to have housing strategies; in fact, it has become common practice for them and is a fundamental part of their job. The duty, also here, to prepare a sustainable community strategy is again something which councils do.
This provision will continue to apply in Wales. The Welsh authorities wish to continue to have it available to them, so it has been agreed that the power devolved to Welsh Ministers requiring local authorities in Wales to produce a housing strategy is not affected in any way. There have been discussions at official level. I cannot say that I have spoken to Welsh Ministers, because I have not, but I understand they are happy with the outcome.