11 Lord Bishop of Manchester debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities

Wed 24th Apr 2024
Wed 27th Mar 2024
Wed 22nd Mar 2023
Wed 2nd Feb 2022
Building Safety Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading
Moved by
28: Schedule 4, page 161, line 15, at end insert—
“(3A) But in a case where the freeholder is a charity and the freehold interest was vested in that charity immediately before the passing of this Act—(a) assumption 2 must not be made, and(b) accordingly, marriage and hope value are payable.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would provide that, where the freeholder in the case of a lease extension or freehold enfranchisement is a charity which had owned the freehold interest since before the passing of the Bill, marriage and hope value are payable.
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, while I thoroughly enjoyed that previous group, I hope this one will not prove quite so wide-ranging. In tabling these amendments, my aim is to deal with an issue that in the charity world is specific to a small number of bodies but would severely impact the work that they do. First, I am a leaseholder myself, as it happens, as set out in the register of interests. I have been through the process of extending my lease; my flat is not in London, and it was quite a simple and cheap process. Secondly, although I am no longer on the board of governors of the Church Commissioners, it is the body that pays my stipend, owns my home and covers my working expenses, so I declare that interest too.

The commissioners are directly affected by the proposals in the Bill. They would indeed benefit from my amendments but, as has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, in the previous group, that charity is large enough to withstand the adverse impact. Smaller charities would struggle much harder to maintain their work, and it is their case I seek to plead today.

As I said at Second Reading, I wholeheartedly support the central thrust of the Bill, which is to protect leaseholders from freeholders who exploit them as a cash cow. I also agree that leasehold is ripe for bold reform. I have spoken repeatedly in your Lordships’ House on behalf of victims of the cladding scandal, as well as joining them on public platforms in Manchester. My lifelong commitment to those in housing need is well known in this House and that commitment remains undiminished.

I was unable to be in my seat on Monday and I am grateful that my right reverend friend the Bishop of Derby spoke to an amendment in my name that day. Having carefully read the report of that debate in Hansard, I have informed the Whips’ Office that I no longer intend to oppose the question that Clause 47 stand part of the Bill, nor does my co-signatory, the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow. I have taken that step as I believe my efforts at this stage are best focused on the specific issue of charities and marriage value. I apologise to noble Lords for the lateness of that decision but hope that they will take it as a sign that even a bishop can be penitent.

To focus on the subject of this group, in England there are a small number of charities, probably no more than a dozen, all of them with long and distinguished histories, which, in centuries far past, came into the possession of land lying largely within just a few miles of this House. As London grew and the land increased in value, rather than simply selling it and seeking to invest elsewhere—remember that back then there were far fewer opportunities for investment—the charities stuck with the business they knew and understood. They kept the freeholds and have used them as regular and predictable sources of income to drive their work. The charities, apart from the commissioners, of which I am aware, are John Lyon’s Charity, the Portal Trust, the Dulwich Estate, the London Diocesan Fund, Merchant Taylors’ Boone’s Charity, and Campden Charities —not a large number.

John Lyon’s Charity was gifted its land in St John’s Wood about 500 years ago. Income from being the freeholder, principally through marriage value, provides it with about £4 million per annum, which is one-quarter of its total income. Marriage value is not a matter, as we have heard, in which the freeholder can set their own arbitrary figure. It is not open to the abuses that have been associated with ground rents. It is also the case that around 80% of all marriage value is in or around the capital. This is a very London-focused issue.

The money that John Lyon’s Charity receives enables it to be one of the principal providers of youth services to some of London’s most needy children. Properties on its holdings sell for around £5 million. The leaseholders who purchase them are not London’s poor and needy. Many are not resident in the premises, which are let out to tenants. A typical leaseholder on such an estate is, as we have heard in previous debates, more than likely to be a wealthy overseas investor or corporation. I have nothing against them, but the Bill, in its present form, will transfer money used presently for youth work to these very rich organisations and individuals. It will present them with an entirely unearned windfall, hence my comments at Second Reading about this being a “reverse Robin Hood”.

I have been told that the Bill needs to be kept simple, and that making any exceptions will unnecessarily complicate it. Of course, there is already an exception for the National Trust, but I will not debate that any further. However, the simplest solution to a problem is not always the right one. In any battle between simplicity and justice, justice must always prevail.

I have also been told that it would be wrong for some leaseholders not to profit from the abolition of marriage value when others, whose freeholders are not charities, do. I will not go back as far as my good friend, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, did when citing Magna Carta in the previous debate, but there is another principle that is long established: the assets of a charity should not be alienated from it at anything less than full market value, except where those assets are being applied directly to the purposes set out in the charity’s objects clause. That principle has been applied even to such flagship Conservative projects as tenants’ right to buy, in which charitable housing associations were excepted as not being forced to sell properties at a discounted value, unless that discount was being made up from elsewhere. I have not heard any case, not even an unconvincing one, as to why leaseholders of charity-owned freeholds should be treated more favourably than charity tenants.

My amendments in this group offer one way forward. They stipulate that marriage value should continue to apply in cases where the charity owned the freehold before the Act came into effect. There would be no loophole allowing charities to purchase freeholds and apply marriage value in future, nor any opportunity for other bodies to seek to register as charities thereafter. From day one, those leaseholders with charity freeholders should know exactly who they are.

We could tighten it up even further—this is still just Committee stage. It would make little difference if the exemptions applied only to charities, or their predecessors, which owned the freehold prior to 1950, which would of course exclude most housing association leasehold properties. Given how few they are, we could even name them in a schedule. We could explore how marriage value for charities might be phased out over a period of some decades, as was referred to more generally in the previous group, instead of the impact hitting in full in the first year. We can also look at ways of compensating charities in full for the loss of assets—again, an issue referred to in the previous group. I note the Minister’s comments that to fully compensate all freeholders would be an unfair burden on the taxpayer. We are talking here about something much smaller—a small number of charities severely impacted—and I beg to suggest that that can be afforded. None of this needs to slow down the progress of this much-needed Bill through your Lordships’ House.

I am grateful to the Minister, who has already met me and representatives of some of the affected charities, written to us setting out the Government’s current position, and assured us that she remains ready to meet again. I greatly appreciate her openness to such conversations. I also appreciate the Opposition Front Bench for similarly listening to our concerns. I look forward to hearing the views of other Members of your Lordships’ House, so that the charities impacted can have a better sense of where we might find ways forward to tackle this problem. In the meantime, I beg to move.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, and I have added my name to his amendments.

There is a great deal that I could say on this issue but, since I said most of it in the debate on the last group, I shall keep my remarks fairly short. I can add a little personal knowledge of one charity to which the right reverend Prelate refers, because it is very Kensington-based. I have no connection with it and no interest to declare—but Campden Charities was started in the 17th century by Count Campden, a devout Puritan. When he died, he left a charitable endowment, naturally in the shape of land that he owned, for the benefit of the poor youth of Kensington. His widow, when she died, did likewise with her property—hence the plural. It is Campden Charities: technically, they are two separate endowments, but they are run as one. They own land in Kensington to this day from which they have an income, and they continue to support the poor youth of Kensington—and there are poor youths in Kensington—giving them grants to allow them to continue their education and apprenticeships, and work of that sort. Their income is now going to be, to some extent by this measure, reduced and expropriated.

As I say, apparently as Conservatives we feel no embarrassment in doing this—we feel no constraint on us. We are too tender and too ginger to feel that we can expropriate the assets of ill-doers such as Putin’s friends—they are sacrosanct. But those who do good, such as charities, can have their money taken away with very little debate and handed to leaseholders who may or may not be poor and meritorious. Who knows? What is it next, I wonder, for my noble friends on the Front Bench? Shall we be stealing the widow’s mite from the poor box?

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Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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Obviously, I completely respect my noble friend, but I think I have answered that point.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which has been somewhat less emotive than the previous one. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for his support, and for his description of the good work that is done by the Campden Charities for young people in Kensington. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bailey of Paddington, who spoke movingly of how that same charity has been part of what has enabled him to become the great asset he is to your Lordships’ House today, and to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for his helpful and insightful questions.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for asking whether other charities, including those outside London, are affected. While I cannot guarantee that my list is exhaustive, I am pretty sure that if there are any that we have missed, they would quickly come forward, but I do not think that there are many.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, both for her meeting yesterday and for her support for the matter being further considered. Can we find a workaround that does not disapply the whole principles of the Bill, but which deals with the problem that these particularly good causes are going to suffer as things stand? I am very happy to look at some tighter drafting, as she suggested. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gascoigne, for his response, and for his willingness, and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, to continue to engage with us on this matter.

In the previous debate, we were told that compensation for loss of marriage value would be too much of a strain on the taxpayer. We are talking about a very much smaller amount here, and I wonder whether that would be a course that we could continue to pursue in further conversations before Report. For now, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 28 withdrawn.
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests. I am no longer a church commissioner, as my time finished at the end of last year, but I am paid and—if the Lord spares me—will be pensioned by the Church Commissioners in due course. The commissioners are freeholders, not least of the Hyde Park Estate, which has been in continuous Church ownership and care since around the 11th century, when it belonged to the monks of Westminster Abbey. I guess, if I am going to echo a word that we have used several times today, that makes it genuinely feudal. I also own one leasehold flat in the West Midlands, as set out in the Members’ register.

I support this Bill. It addresses many deep injustices which other noble Lords have addressed and hence I do not wish to repeat. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness the Minister for meeting me and colleagues from the charity sector a few days ago. I am grateful for the comment from the noble Lord, Lord Best, about regulation and the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, on forfeiture and buildings with fire, safety and other defects. I am also grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who is such a doughty campaigner on these matters. It remains a huge scandal that so many people remain trapped owning apartments that are unsaleable.

However, there are three areas that I would like to see explored at later stages; I shall try to be brief for now. The first is about marriage value. Noble Lords might expect a Bishop to support marriage and I will not disappoint. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for raising this subject, not least in referring to pension funds, and again to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and, most recently, the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising. My concerns are with particular reference to charities which own freehold as part of their permanent endowment. We have already heard that some 80% of marriage value in UK relates to properties in and around central London. As several noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, have stated, many leaseholders in such blocks are corporate and often overseas entities. They are not the people this Bill aims to protect or benefit, nor should it. The Church Commissioners’ Hyde Park properties have an average sale value of £1 million. Those who own them are not, by and large, London’s poor.

The Bill, as drafted, will take money presently used for charity purposes and give it to the wealthy—robbing the poor to pay the rich: a reverse Robin Hood. Lest I be seen as being parti pris, let me offer a non-Church example. John Lyon’s Charity exists to fund children and young people’s services, particularly in nine north and west London boroughs. It is the largest independent funder of children and young people’s services in Greater London and, in 2022-23, it reached the milestone of having awarded over £200 million in grants since 1991. That is over 4,500 grants to over 1,700 organisations. The loss of marriage value could cost it around £3 million per year, money which would go to owners of apartments valued in the millions. John Lyon’s is not the kind of rogue landlord that leaseholders need protecting from.

It is a widely accepted principle of charity law, accepted even when right-to-buy legislation was extended from council housing to many housing association tenants, that charity assets should not be transferred to individuals or bodies that would not qualify as their beneficiaries. This Bill seems to fly in the face of that principle. Is it possible to exempt charities? It appears that the National Trust already has such an exemption and one not restricted to those parts of its estate that are inalienable under Act of Parliament. The principle of exemption is not at stake; what we need to talk about is its extent. Will Ministers look at whether that exemption, or one similar to it, afforded to the National Trust could be extended to encompass other charities? Should that prove impossible, will they put forward a full compensation scheme for when a charity loses marriage value?

My remaining two points relate specifically to mixed blocks in town and city centres. Typically, you will get a ground floor of retail, then there will be some floors of offices and then the residential floors on top. These points might well have been addressed by us moving away from leasehold entirely but, while it remains, they need to be addressed if our town and city centres are to be the vibrant hubs that we need.

First, how are we to prevent groups of enfranchised leaseholders, particularly if many of them are overseas companies, from neglecting the community facilities—ground-floor shops, and sometimes even schools? I have heard it said by one of my colleagues that, on one estate, we could end up with a whole load of vaping or mobile phone shops. We would lose all the shops that really matter to those who live perhaps not in that block but locally. Can the Government offer amendments that will enshrine ways to protect the non-residential parts of blocks, particularly those areas devoted to community and retail uses, or can we limit those entitled to vote on decisions about their properties to actual individual residents in person, rather than remote and often disinterested corporate entities, which would see shops as a way in which to get a rental income, not a service to a community in which they play no part?

Finally, I am concerned that the reduction of threshold for enfranchisement could lead to less building of homes in town and city centres—or we could end up with too few homes and too much office space. I am aware that I am taking a different view from that of the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, a few minutes ago, so perhaps we need to establish the facts. Have His Majesty’s Government undertaken an impact assessment on future home building and, if not, will they do so, and report to your Lordships’ House during the passage of this Bill?

I believe that this is a good Bill, but one capable of improvement, and I look forward to continuing to engage with it through its later stages.

Local Government Finances

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2024

(4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for securing this important debate, but I am doubly grateful for its full title. This is not simply a debate about local government finances; it is a debate about the impact on local communities, and that is a vital distinction. Money is only ever a means to an end. It is an input—a crucial one—but what really matters are the outcomes and, in terms of local government, what really matters is how well local communities are served.

I still recall that back in the 1990s, when I started attending and speaking at national housing conferences, there were some where every positive mention of housing associations brought an audible hiss from some local authority members who were present. They saw us as rivals, and in some cases even the enemy, as we were taking money that had formerly gone to them to provide services that they had previously enjoyed delivering. I guess their attitude could be summed up as: if a job is worth doing, it is for the public sector to do it. I hope that we have long moved on from those attitudes. Local authorities have a vital and leading part to play in the service of their communities, but they are not the sole provider. Other agencies are not competitors; they are partners in the common task of supporting the local community.

Much of my diocese, as noble Lords will know, falls within the Greater Manchester area. Our mayor, Andy Burnham, understands well that it needs more than just local authorities—indeed, more than just the wider public sector—to pull together if we are to maximise the positive impact we can have for our local communities. So, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority works closely with voluntary, community, faith and social enterprises, and our faith communities work hard to be both visible and distinct. The authority acknowledges that faith-motivated work makes a significant contribution to the well-being of the whole of our communities, regardless of the service users’ faith.

Only last year, the GMCA’s faith and belief advisory panel drafted a statement which drew attention to the variety, visibility and delivery of faith community support in a whole range of areas of social need—things such as homelessness and food security. That initial statement is part of working towards a faith covenant. We are currently drafting one which we hope will be signed by each of the 10 local authorities, along with faith community reps. Faith covenants actually emerged from the APPG on Faith and Society, and I know that they are already operating in areas such as the West Midlands and in Leeds.

Our combined authority has a number of action networks, including the homelessness action network. A youth homelessness report from 2023 showed that at least two community partner agencies are working to resolve individual youth homelessness cases through the pathfinder programmes that have grown out of faith communities. Faith involvement is woven into the whole of the provision of tackling homelessness, including the “A bed every night” scheme, whose target remains to ensure that nobody need sleep rough on our streets. The Greater Manchester Food Security Action Network is a similar story, with 134 food banks and 68 pantries or clubs across Greater Manchester, many of them run by faith communities, including my own local Broughton food pantry run by St James Higher Broughton, which I think has been well-reported here before.

As well as responding to immediate needs, partners recognise that the long-term future prosperity of Greater Manchester depends on our being able to achieve our shared commitment to be carbon net zero by 2038. To that end, our faith leaders—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jain—invited our mayor and other civic leaders to accompany us in a delegation to meet and discuss these matters with Pope Francis and leaders of the international Roman Catholic organisations in Rome last year. That really inspired us to think about how we could better work together as faith and political leaders to achieve our goal.

I have drawn my examples predominantly from the combined authority level, but I could equally mention more local cases, such as the Manchester homelessness partnership board, which I chaired from its inception until recently. That body brings together businesses, charities, and faith and public sector partners to maximise impact on ending homelessness in the city. I could speak of how the housing association that I chaired, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, provides much of the services for young people in its area, using properties owned by the city council but where that council is no longer able to be the provider. Our emphasis is on synergies and partnerships—on recognising that faith communities deserve a seat at the table for what they already do, and what more they can do.

This debate must be as much about recognition and partnership as it is about sources of funding, but I guess that is where the levels of local authority funding kick in. Noble Lords have spoken, and will no doubt in the rest of this debate speak, of the severe limitations that many are operating under and the rapid rise in Section 114 notices that we have heard about. The danger is that when they are faced with major deficits, councils become tempted to cut back on the vital support they provide to those partner bodies, simply to maintain as much as they can of their own directly provided services. I understand why they want to limit the damaging impact of redundancies among their own staff. The trouble is that those understandable responses tend to maximise rather than minimise the harm being done to local communities.

Noble Lords will also note the negative impact of very short-term funding. Earlier on, I asked a Question about the household support fund and its extension for a mere six months. We debated that this morning, but local authorities and their partner agencies need longer-term certainty so that they can plan and provide. They are not helped by constant fears that funding may end in the very near future. So yes, my speech is a cry for a more generous settlement for local authorities; not so that they can plot a return to the municipalism of former decades, but to allow them to plan and deliver services along with their partner agencies.

The principle that we should come together across all sectors to support and strengthen community life is important at all times, not only when the money is short. Because it is through that partnership working, as I have seen over and over again throughout my adult life, that we begin to see, in big ways and small, not only our communities served better but the revitalisation of our common shared life together.

Temporary Accommodation Costs

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Asked by
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on local authority finances caused by the rising cost of temporary accommodation.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Baroness Scott of Bybrook) (Con)
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My Lords, local authorities deliver vital homelessness services, and we recognise the pressure that the cost of temporary accommodation places on councils. As we announced recently, total core spending power for councils in England will rise by 7.5% for 2023-24 to 2024-25—an above-inflation increase. In addition, we are providing more than £1 billion over three years to councils through the homelessness prevention grant, with a further £120 million UK-wide funding in 2024-25, announced at Autumn Statement, to help prevent homelessness.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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I thank the Minister for that Answer. I recently visited a secondary school in Manchester which now has to make significant bespoke provision out of its school budget for pupils who are living in bed and breakfast hotels. Those students are only a tiny fraction of nearly 140,000 children in temporary accommodation, which represents a 14% rise in the last year. What assessment, if any, have the Government made of this issue? Will the Minister commit to improving the data available so that the impact of living in temporary accommodation on children, particularly on their education, can be fully understood, and local authorities can be supported to enable their schools to address and minimise it?

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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I thank the right reverend Prelate for that question. No one wants to see families with children in temporary accommodation, and I am sure that every local authority across the country is doing everything they can to stop it happening. But sometimes, in emergency situations, it is important for the short term that those families have a roof over their head, a safe and secure place to go. We continue to work with the Local Government Association and local authorities on how many there are in such accommodation, and what more we can do—for instance, stopping people going into temporary accommodation in the first place. With the £1 billion grant for local authority homelessness prevention, we can also start to improve the quality of any temporary accommodation that we might have to use.

Home-ownership Rates

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Wednesday 6th December 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, the Government completely recognise the issue that my noble friend has set out. The mortgage guarantee scheme is relatively new; it opened in April 2021 and was recently extended to June 2025. It extends the availability of 95% mortgages, which helps with that deposit issue because it reduces the amount that people need to save for their deposits. More than 39,000 households have been helped through that scheme already, and I expect many more to be helped in future. To give a sense of scale on the lifetime ISA and its predecessor—the Help to Buy ISA, our other main scheme to help with saving for deposits—I say that under the Help to Buy ISA we supported over 550,000 property completions, so these are not insignificant support schemes to help people in these areas.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, in cities such as mine of Manchester and Salford, in terms of home ownership, many people in this age group aspire to an apartment yet, however many years we are on from the Grenfell fire disaster, too many properties still remain unmortgageable. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, for the support he has given to campaigners over the years, yet still people cannot get a property because they cannot get a mortgage on it. When will the Government put an end to this scandal?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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Let me reassure the right reverend Prelate that we continue to make progress on the cladding issue. It has gone on for too long; we have made significant changes to the legislation and other measures to address it, and we will continue to work until everyone in that position has the resolution they need.

Lord Best Portrait Lord Best (CB)
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My Lords, I am speaking to Amendment 221; I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford for adding their names. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, gave a brilliant exposition of many of the things I was prepared to say, and this amendment is really a prelude to later Amendments 207 and 336. For those two reasons, I will be very brief and save some powder for later debates.

I speak as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People, and this is about older people’s housing and the local plan. The amendment enables the Secretary of State to require local authorities to bring forward an assessment of the local need for housing for older people as part of the documentation in preparing their all-important local plan. Sadly, such an assessment is currently a rarity in local plans, despite the ever-increasing number of older people, for whom opportunities to downsize, to rightsize, can meet so many health, care and social needs.

Tailor-made housing for older people preserves independence, prevents or postpones the need for residential care, helps people to maintain fitness, combats loneliness and isolation, keeps people out of hospital, saves the NHS and care budgets, frees up family homes for the next generation and more. But we have a national shortfall in homes being built specifically for the older generation. Production is running at fewer than 8,000 homes per year, but demand is estimated at 30,000 to 35,000 homes a year.

The trouble is that the volume housebuilders are not interested. Given the choice, they will stick to building for the less discerning, more profitable market of young buyers and will avoid having to organise the ongoing management arrangements necessary for developments for later living. Since these housebuilders dominate the industry, nothing will change unless there is some pressure on these developers to do better. This amendment would start the process of getting on top of this key issue and is very much part of levelling up in extending healthy life expectancy and reducing health inequalities. It represents a key step in getting greater momentum behind a national effort to see local plans incorporate requirements for older people’s housing of different sorts.

I hope to build on this case in subsequent amendments but, in the meantime, I give notice that I will pursue the question asked by my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, about the task force on housing for older people. It would be great to hear what progress has been made in that direction. The task force was announced on 25 May 2021 by Chris Pincher, the then Housing Minister, at my all-party parliamentary group meeting. It would be great to hear how that is going, having been launched some two years ago. On that note, I commend this amendment.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I support Amendment 221 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which, as he indicated, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chelmsford added her name. She apologises for being unable to be in her place today; in my own brief remarks, I will make a number of points that she would have contributed had she been here. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, who, like the noble Lord, Lord Best, has a long and honourable history of leading the thinking on housing matters in this land.

I declare my interest in housing for older people: as set out in the register, I am a board member of the Wythenshawe Community Housing Group. In fact, it is more than an interest; it is a passion. In my time as chair of the association, we have opened a flagship development of 135 apartments for older people with mixed rental, shared ownership and outright purchase. Developments such as this enable local people to live in dignity in old age. They provide social space as well as private dwellings. In many cases, they allow residents to remain close to their family networks and former neighbours—the support networks that they need in later life. We can do well for older people but that should not have to rely on episcopal passion or potluck. It needs to be part of how we plan housing provision at a strategic level.

Research by BNP Paribas Real Estate published late last year found that there is a shortfall of more than 487,000 senior living housing units. As our population ages and the housing crisis continues, this housing shortage is set to grow. The 2021 census confirmed that there are more people than ever in older age groups. Some 18.6% of the total population, more than 11 million of us, were aged 65 years or older—an increase from 16.4% at the previous census a decade earlier. There is expected to be a 31% increase in those aged over 65 over the next 15 years. I reached that milestone myself a few months ago; I have a real interest in remaining part of these statistics for many years to come.

Furthermore, as has been indicated, housing is not just for fully able people. Some 91% of homes in England fail basic accessibility standards. Not only do we need more housing but we need to work to improve the suitability of our existing and new housing stock. In doing so, it is important to note that, as the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, reminded us before the dinner break, older people are not a homogenous group so needs will vary.

The recent Mayhew review suggested that 50,000 homes are designed for older people annually. Providing suitable housing for seniors not only addresses their housing and care needs but reduces demand for NHS services, as people stay healthier for longer, and frees up housing and surplus bedrooms for younger families. Amendment 221 would facilitate an important part of the solution to these issues, enabling the Government to consider older people’s housing needs in drawing up plans. These should include more integrated retirement communities, such as the one that I referred to in Wythenshawe. They foster social connection, especially for people living alone in the latter years of their lives. This would help to counter the epidemic of homelessness, since over 6 million people will be living in single person households by 2040, half of them over the age of 80.

There is a real opportunity in this Bill for His Majesty’s Government to work more comprehensively to address the housing needs of our ageing population. I urge them to take it.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con)
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My Lords, I have not heard Amendments 191A and 191B extensively discussed; it is possible that I zoned out earlier. I have two points. First, proposed new subsection (5) in Amendment 191A says that a national development management policy must contain

“explanations of the reasons for the policy, and … in particular… an explanation of how it takes account of Government policy relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.”

That is a very welcome requirement, if the Government pick up on it, but it is huge. Having that in there will have a vast impact on policy and what will be done, because so many aspects of our life impact on our response to climate change—the design of our transport systems, how we handle our energy, the kind of houses that we are building, how we make the facilities outside the house that people need accessible to them. This would be a really encouraging development if the Government were to go down that road. I had hoped to hear from the Benches opposite some advocacy of their amendments in this direction. I hope that they mean this seriously.

My second point concerns the aspect of these amendments and others that says what the role of Parliament is in looking at the development of national development management policy. We have another Bill with us, the REUL Bill, in which this is a very cogent consideration. I very much hope that this House holds firm and says that Parliament does have a role here and that we will not let this Bill away without insisting on it.

Building Safety Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I count it a great privilege to speak following the valedictory speech of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Winchester. He has indeed been a powerful advocate, both in your Lordships’ House and in the Church, for our nation’s further and higher education sector. In that capacity, he has also been a great personal supporter and encouragement for me, in my own rather modest efforts at lifelong learning. Along with this, his passion for the global Anglican Communion and his strong links with Africa will be much missed, both in this House and in the House of Bishops of the Church of England. We all wish him a long, happy and fruitful retirement, and indeed pray that he will be safe in his new home.

In turning to the substance of this debate, I declare my interests as set out in the register, as chair of Wythenshawe Community Housing Group and as deputy chair of the Church Commissioners for England, both of whom are substantial residential landlords. Last year the Archbishops’ commission on housing reported, with recommendations for both Church and State. In the debate in this House, my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury drew attention to the five principles which underlie the findings of that commission: that every household should have a home that is sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying. As he said in that debate,

“from almshouses to housing associations, (the Church) has for centuries been involved in the provision of decent places to live. We do not do this just to be nice—we are not an NGO with a pointy roof—but because we believe that Christ commands us to love our neighbour.”—[Official Report, 24/3/21; col. GC 38.]

We on these Benches heartily welcome this Bill as a means to progress the principles enshrined in the Coming Home report.

The proposed building safety regulator is particularly welcome. As the chair of a housing association, I am familiar with the work of the regulator in that part of the housing sector, where regulation is seen as not simply about punishing bad practice, but as promoting good practice. I welcome this, not least since theologically I am drawn far more to the advocacy of virtue than the denunciation of sin.

While I accept that the regulator of social housing has a particular role as a consequence of the state funds that support the sector, I struggle to agree that issues of safety are substantially different between different forms of tenure. I hope that as this Bill progresses, we will be able to clarify and, where need be, strengthen the regulator’s role.

Many noble Lords have already drawn our attention to the fire safety scandal in medium- and high-rise buildings. I deliberately do not refer to it as a cladding scandal; while it may have come to our attention through the tragic loss of life at Grenfell Tower, what has been exposed is much wider. It has been my privilege this last couple of years to support the campaigning efforts of the Manchester Cladiators. These are ordinary men and women who purchased properties in good faith, and now find their homes are technically worthless. Not only that, but they face unaffordable costs in terms of remediation works and in paying for interim measures.

I am proud that my housing association has spent a considerable sum to remediate taller buildings, and without requiring leaseholders to pay for the work. But that does not come without a cost. As the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, has already said, many housing associations are now cutting newbuild plans in order to focus spending on building safety. We need both safe homes and more homes. I urge the Minister, whose understanding and sympathy have helped move matters forward significantly in recent months, to press on his colleagues, perhaps particularly in Her Majesty’s Treasury, that the one-off costs of remediating a crisis that has built up largely unacknowledged and over many years should not be taken from the budgets required for the regular ongoing work of building the new affordable homes that this nation badly needs.

For many of us in your Lordships’ House, this matter will not have been rectified until two things have happened: that all affected properties can be bought, sold and insured at their full, true value, with mortgage providers content to lend against that full value and that this is achieved without the costs being borne by the leaseholders. In that category, I include individuals who have sublet properties that they had to move out of, and now cannot sell. Meeting these two criteria will require the legislation we pass to cover not only buildings of over six storeys or 18 metres in height, but to encompass buildings of four storeys or 11 metres tall, which I believe is the height standard supported by the Fire Brigades Union, whose members attend fires in such properties. I welcome assurances from Her Majesty’s Government that they will seek to bring forward new provisions as the Bill progresses. I and my friends on these Benches will be scrutinising those amendments carefully as well as considering support for other amendments as noble Lords may bring before us.

I will end my remarks by quoting Scripture. On the matter of building safety legislation, Deuteronomy Chapter 22, Verse 8, reads as follows:

“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, otherwise you might have blood guilt on your house if anyone should fall from it”.


If I may be permitted a pun, they were building on biblical foundations—foundations laid in that book around 3,000 years ago. We must consider not only parapets, but the general safety of our building.

For today, we are seeking to find the right legislation that will protect our fellow citizens in their homes. It is a sacred duty—if we fail, we risk drawing that same blood guilt on this House. I welcome this Bill and look forward to supporting and strengthening it as it progresses through your Lordships’ House.

Homeowners: Cladding-related Costs

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Thursday 24th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I think that extended beyond two points. In addition to the unprecedented sum of £5.1 billion towards the remediation costs, we recognise the need to strengthen redress mechanisms. That will come forward as part of the building safety Bill. We have also stepped forward to support the installation of many hundreds of alarms to ensure that people do not have to pay for a costly waking watch, with our waking watch relief scheme of some £30 million. We recognise that it is for the building owners to shoulder their statutory responsibilities to keep their buildings safe. We will continue to work with all levels of government to make sure that that happens and that the costs are not passed on to the leaseholders.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester [V]
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My Lords, four years on from Grenfell, one of the heaviest burdens being borne by those trapped living in unsafe buildings—whether due to cladding or otherwise—is simply not knowing when their plight will end. Will the Minister now urge Her Majesty’s Government to present this House with a clear timetable and deadline for resolving all outstanding issues, so that residents will know when they will be able to live in their homes safely and when they will be able to sell them for a proper price?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we have made further progress on the remediation of all forms of unsafe cladding. Nearly 700 buildings have had their funding approved, and around £400 million has been allocated as part of the building safety fund. We recognise some people’s problems with regard to access to EWS1, but that is why we have the RICS guidance, which has been adopted by about 80% of lenders. I hope that it that will see a more proportionate approach.

Anti-Semitic Attacks

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend, with his experience as a leader of Bradford, is absolutely right. We need to combine that strict policing, where we do more than engage and the police act to ensure that we take the hate off our streets and online wherever it occurs, with an equally strong and robust approach to social cohesion. In fact, Bradford pioneered the Near Neighbours programme, which brings different communities, such as the Muslim and Jewish communities, closer together. We can learn from that.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester [V]
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Is the Minister aware that the Union of Jewish Students has raised serious concerns that Jewish students and societies are now being targeted with really quite disgusting anti-Semitic abuse due to the conflict in the Middle East? Will he reassure Jewish students that the Government will clamp down on all forms of campus anti-Semitism and encourage all universities not just to adopt but to implement the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we are aware of this tension. The Community Security Trust has reported a massive spike in anti-Semitic incidents, but equally, Tell MAMA has seen a similar increase in anti-Muslim incidents of 420% in the past week. We are funding the Union of Jewish Students to do precisely that: to tackle these issues. We want to see the full implementation, not just the adoption, of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Housing Strategy

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Wednesday 24th March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester [V]
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My Lords, I thank my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury for sponsoring this debate. My personal interest and passion in tackling homelessness and creating good homes for the people of our nation go far beyond the interests contained in the official register, to which I draw your Lordships’ attention. Alongside those, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, has indicated, I now chair the board of governors of the Church Commissioners, as deputy to my most reverend friend. I gladly confirm to your Lordships that the board welcomes the report, and indeed I am member of the group set up by the Church charged with overseeing its implementation.

Today we have no Bill to scrutinise, no complex Marshalled List of amendments to work through; what we have is something that runs far deeper, something that should underpin and equip us for such future legislation on the matter of housing as is brought forward to your Lordships’ House to determine. The five values for housing that the Archbishops’ Commission has set before us—sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying—have been implicit in much of the work I have engaged in over the years. But now we have them encapsulated in a simple and memorable form. Not least, they recognise that a home is far more than walls, roofs, bricks, tiles, glass and mortar. A home is somewhere we can belong.

Some years ago, I was speaking at the official opening of a building that housed several asylum and refugee support services in Birmingham. After those of us numbered among the moderately great and modestly good had all had our say, a young man from one of the charities based in the centre spoke. He said, “For all my time in this country so far, I have been your guest. Today, for the first time, I am the host and you are my guests, and that makes all the difference.” A home is not fully a home until it is a place where we can do what that young man did—offer hospitality and receive guests. That, I believe, is why the concept of home as a sociable place—the fourth of the core values set out in the commission’s report—is so important. I also learned that day in Birmingham that other cultures have much to teach us about the centrality of hospitality to human flourishing.

My most reverend friend referred in his opening speech to his predecessor William Temple. Temple was of course translated to Canterbury from York, having prior to that been Bishop of Manchester. So three of us speaking in Grand Committee today hold offices Temple once held and seek to inhabit that inheritance. Worn out by war and restricted by rationing, the Britain of the 1940s could all too easily have become a divided nation, but Temple and those with whom he worked had a greater vision of a society where all were provided with basics, such as healthcare and education, so that they might have space to flourish.

The mass social housing efforts of the post-war years demolished the slums of our cities, including the house where I was born, in order to replace them with something better. Not everything that was built proved a lasting success—things are rarely that straightforward —but huge progress was made in creating homes that could be lived in with dignity.

In a Britain reeling from 12 months of pandemic, a nation still seeking to redefine itself outside the European Union, we need to recover the boldness of Temple and his generation. We need to make decisions about housing not based on short-term political expediency—whatever might garner a few more votes in a marginal council ward or parliamentary constituency—but on a vision of the good society we wish to bequeath to our grandchildren. Recommendations set out in the commission’s report offer us a road map, if I may use that fashionable term, towards a nation housed for living in the 21st century.

I cannot let this opportunity pass without some reference to one piece of legislation currently before Parliament. It is my privilege to support the Manchester Cladiators group. Its members are leaseholders in high and medium-rise buildings who have been caught up in the aftermath of the dreadful tragedy of Grenfell Tower. The ramifications of that disaster reached much wider than merely to residents of high-rise blocks beset by poor cladding. The deaths at Grenfell have, like the deaths of George Floyd and Sarah Everard, made our society aware of more widespread failings, albeit in this case in our physical rather than our social fabric.

Many buildings formerly considered safe, and homes in them bought on that basis, are now deemed sufficiently at risk as to be unmortgageable. Residents who may need to move for work or family reasons are trapped; some are facing service charges and bills of orders of magnitude higher than in previous years in order to pay for waking watches, insurance or building refurbishment. In many cases the freeholder is little more than a shell mechanism through which leaseholders pay their service charges to the developer who constructed the block. This is a problem too big for anyone other than government to solve, and too urgent for it to be allowed to fester a moment longer. Will the Minister speak with his Treasury colleagues and use his good offices to gain their commitment to attending the next meeting that he and his ministry are due to have with the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign?

Noble Lords will remember, I hope, the famous words written by Lewis Carroll—like me, both a mathematician and an Anglican clergyman:

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’”


In housing terms, an “affordable rent” is now defined by Her Majesty’s Government as being one at or below 80% of the market rent for the local area. But if I were looking in the window of an estate agent and saw one house on sale for a million pounds and one next to it for £800,000, that would hardly convince a mortgage lender that I could afford, on a bishop’s stipend, to buy the cheaper one. As several speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, have reminded us, affordability has to mean what the purchaser can afford. Redefining the word, Humpty Dumpty-like, to mean something entirely other may assert mastery over the language but only at the cost of confusing and damaging serious discourse on Britain’s housing crisis. Please may we have our word back, and some truly affordable homes?

Shortly before lockdown became a word, I was standing one morning in a room high up in the centre of Manchester, speaking with Sir Richard Leese, the leader of the council. Looking out through the windows, we began to count the number of cranes visible. Each one was a symbol of the economic regeneration that had revitalised the city that we both serve, and many of them were building blocks of high-quality apartments.

The number of people living close to the city centre has rocketed so much in recent years that I have had to reverse the practice of my predecessors and buy new city-centre vicarages to house the clergy of the city churches closer to their new parishioners. I welcome the growth in city-centre living, locating people close to where they work, cutting down commuting costs, while helping to support shops and leisure facilities.

Sadly, however, we have also seen something of a trend first spotted in London: blocks are built and apartments are sold, but no one ever moves in. Instead of homes, we are constructing bank vaults in the sky: edifices intended purely to hold value, never people. They have more in common with gold bricks than the bricks that build our homes. While so many of our fellow citizens remain homeless or poorly housed, they are a scandal.

I accept that appropriating them directly to rent out affordably would probably prove too complex to achieve in law, but a stiffer tax regime, radically reducing the incentive to hold much-needed properties empty for long periods, would not only bring more homes into occupation but raise funds from the others—money that could then be redeployed to address our housing crisis. I urge the Minister in this debate to let us know what plans the Government have or will consider, including the taxation of such properties, so that they no longer lie empty in our cities, while, mere yards away, our fellow citizens lie down to sleep in shop doorways each night.

To conclude, today is a day for words, but, like those in the Archbishops’ commission’s report, they must result in action. I thank my most reverend friend for giving us this opportunity to debate these matters, and I pray that his efforts may be richly rewarded.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Faulkner of Worcester) (Lab)
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I call the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach. Lord Griffiths? The noble Lord cannot unmute, so we will move on to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, and hope we can go back to the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, later.