HC Deb 26 June 1969 vol 785 cc1843-6
Mr. Allason

I beg to move Amendment No. 87, in page 30, line 39, leave out subsection (1).

Subsection (1) requires that the consent of the tenant must be given after the issue of the certificate. The consent of the tenant is for works to be carried out to his dwelling which will result in the improvement which will allow his rent to move from control into regulated fair rent.

We anticipate that some tenants will object to their houses being improved by the landlord, not because they object to the improvements, but because they object to the resulting increase in rent. If the tenant initially agrees to the improvements he may give his consent in writing. The landlord is then put to considerable expense and must spend a great deal of time in arranging for the improvements to be made. He goes through the process of getting a provisional certificate of fair rent and, at that stage, the tenant changes his mind.

I suggest that that might be unfair to the landlord. One can see the Minister immediately bristling or perhaps shaking with joy at such a thought, but that is the situation. It can be extremely inconvenient for the landlord if, after the tenant has freely agreed to the proposals, he is given a second chance of opting out long after the landlord has been put to considerable expense over the whole matter.

The effect of Amendment No. 87 is to leave out the requirement that the consent of the tenant must be given after the issue of the certificate. I do not think that the rest of subsection (1) is of any great significance. It is all contained later in the Clause.

Mr. Greenwood

I was not really bristling. It was simply that my political antennae were prominent when the hon. Gentleman was speaking. His proposal to leave out subsection (1) is not nearly as innocuous as he would have us believe. That subsection is one of the most important protections in the Bill for controlled tenants, and it is interesting that the Opposition should want to remove that protection.

The subsection ensures that where the landlord proposes to provide a controlled dwelling with any standard amenities that it lacks in order to have the tenancy converted into a regulated tenancy, any consent required from the tenant must be obtained or confirmed in writing after the issue of the certificate of fair rent. If the subsection were deleted, any consent given by the tenant before the issue of the certificate of fair rent would be sufficient. The tenant might well be persuaded in the circumstances to agree to the improvements without realising that they would lead to the conversion of the controlled tenancy to a regulated tenancy.

I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not wish to create that position, and that, on reflection, they will not press the Amendment.

Mr. Graham Page

The right hon. Gentleman's political antennae have suddenly turned a practical and sensible Amendment into a political issue. It is nothing of the sort. It envisages a situation where a landlord has gone ahead with obtaining a certificate, not in secrecy, not under the counter, and not without the full knowledge of the tenant, since it has been stated in the application for the certificate of fair rent and the tenant will have known about it at that stage. The landlord having gone to that trouble and expense and the tenant already having agreed to give facilities, the tenant is then given the chance to change his mind— … unless … confirmed in writing after the issue of the certificate. Surely one will not deal with improvements to property on the basis that the tenant is quite ignorant of what is to happen and is a complete ass. The tenant knows full well that, when an application of this sort is made, it will lead to a change from a controlled rent to a regulated rent. Consent having once been given, and the landlord having been allowed to rely on that consent and go to the expense and trouble of getting a certificate, it seems ridiculous then to give the tenant the right to retract from that.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Ifor Davies

I beg to move Amendment No. 88, in page 31, line 4, leave out subsection (2) and insert— (2) Where a dwelling which is subject to a statutory tenancy (whether a controlled or a regulated tenancy) does not satisfy the qualifying conditions and the works required for those conditions to be satisfied cannot be carried out without the consent of the tenant but the tenant is unwilling to give or confirm his consent, then, if the conditions specified in subsection (3) of this section are satisfied, the county court may, on the application of the landlord, make an order empowering him to enter and carry out the works. (3) The said conditions are—

  1. (a) that the works were specified in an application for a certificate of fair rent and the certificate has been issued; and
  2. (b) that, if the statutory tenancy is a regulated tenancy, the works were also specified in an application for a grant under Part I of this Act and the application has been approved; and
  3. (c) that the court is not precluded from making the order by section (Restriction on powers of court under section 56) of this Act.
It is always gratifying to respond favourably to effective speeches made in Committee. I do not see the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan) in his place, but I should like to congratulate him on the effective speech that he made in Committee on the remarkable word "if". He criticised the use of the two "ifs" in subsection (2) of Clause 56 and my hon. Friend said that if the wording could be improved this would be done.

Perhaps I should say that we think that the present wording is quite clear and is perfectly good English. The subsection, however, has been remodelled to eliminate the supposed stylistic difficulty.

The Opposition also asked in Committee to have the Clause split into two separate provisions. But, as it deals generally with the consent of the tenant, the most appropriate arrangement is to keep all the provisions within one Clause. The whole recasting which has been done, however, may make the Clause as a whole clearer.

I should like to draw attention to the only change of substance, which is the introduction of subsection 3(c) which is consequential on new Clause 4, which the Minister has tabled to exempt low income tenants from the compulsory provisions in Clause 56(2) to (4). The new subsection simply provides for the court not to make an Order under Clause 56 where it is prevented from doing so under the new Clause.

Now that the hon. Member for Hove is in his place, I should like to congratulate him on a remarkably effective speech on a very small word, but it has produced a remarkable new Clause.

Mr. Maddan

Perhaps I might make a small speech on that small word. I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Wales. We are glad that our representations on that occasion fell on such fertile ground.

Mr. Peter Walker

I am grateful to the Government for what has been done. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Wales will not get into any difficulties for taking such an interest in the English language.

Amendment agreed to.

Forward to