House of Lords seeks to protect charitable property from right-to-buy scheme

Amendment to charities bill by Labour's Baroness Hayter is approved by peers

House of Lords
House of Lords

The government plan to force charitable housing associations to sell off their housing to tenants suffered a setback yesterday after the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the charities bill that seeks to block the measure.

Last night the House of Lords voted by 257-174 to accept an amendment to the charities bill put forward by Labour peer Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town.

The new clause stipulates that "the Charity Commission shall ensure that independent charities are not compelled to use or dispose of their assets in a way which is inconsistent with their charitable purposes".

The vote could have ramifications for the government’s proposal to extend the right to buy scheme to housing association tenants. The scheme currently only applies to council housing tenants.

Baroness Hayter told the house: "Many other interventions help people get into the housing market, but we do not want the right to buy to be at the expense of the charitable aims of those charities which, for example, have been donated land, money or property for a specific purpose, whether it is to help house the elderly or rural workers or to rent to low-income families or other particular categories of beneficiary."

Responding to the Lords charities bill amendment, Sir Stephen Bubb chief executive of the charity leaders’ body Acevo, said "This is excellent news. It is essential that charitable assets are protected from nationalisation by governments. Many housing associations, most of which are charities, were developed from legislation dating back to Elizabeth I. When people give to charity they do not expect future governments to take money away from charities. This principle is sacrosanct."

The bill will leave the Lords to be considered by the Commons after the parliamentary recess, which begins today and lasts until 7 September.

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