HC Deb 26 June 1974 vol 875 cc1686-8
Mr. Millan

I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 31, line 31, at end insert: 'but no such order shall be made unless the sheriff is satisfied that suitable alternative accommodation on reasonable terms will be available to the tenant'.

Mr. Speaker

With this amendment it will be convenient to take Government Amendment No. 22 and Amendment No. 21, in page 31, line 31, at end insert: '(4) Before making such an order the Sheriff will require evidence that alternative accommodation, which is reasonable and suitable to all the circumstances, has been offered to the tenant concerned'.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Millan

Amendment No. 20, taken with Government Amendment No. 22, meets a commitment that I made in Committee. Concern was then expressed that the provisions under this part of the Bill, while generally accepted as filling a gap in existing legislation, might have undesirable repercussions on individual tenants and in particular cases tilt the balance unfavourably against tenants.

There was a feeling in Committee that we should have written into the clauses concerned—Clauses 36, 37 and 38—additional protection for the tenant which would provide that where an order was to be made by the sheriff which would enforce eviction on the tenant for reasons which were regarded as necessary, the sheriff must have evidence that alternative and reasonable accommodation was available. I said in Committee that the position was largely taken care of but I was anxious that there should be no misunderstanding about it. Therefore, we have now made the position explicit.

Our amendments are preferable to Amendment No. 21, although its intention is absolutely the same. Our amendments are better from the point of view of drafting and they cover the whole position, which Amendment No. 21 would not. Our amendments include the words "on reasonable terms" which provide an added protection for the tenant. These words do not appear in Amendment No. 21, although I accept that the intention in this regard is exactly the same on both sides of the House.

Mr. McElhone

Bearing in mind my experience as a Glasgow City councillor, I am particularly grateful for what the Government are proposing. There is no record of Glasgow Corporation refusing a house to anyone who has had to be moved under housing treatment, redevelopment or clearance schemes, but there is a provision in the corporation's housing rules stipulating in regard to entitlement for alternative accommodation, that a person must have occupied a house for 12 months from the date of the clearance, demolition or treatment order which is to affect it. This meant that a person who took up occupancy of a house in a treatment area where the work had just started had not occupied the house for the period laid down under the rules and therefore could be refused alternative accommodation. At the end of the day such people were, however, offered alternative accommodation, although it might not have been of the standard they expected. Therefore, I am grateful for this provision to enable the sheriff to decide on reasonable alternative accommodation.

Mr. Ancram

I also welcome what the Government now propose, particularly as I put forward an amendment in Committee which gave rise to the original discussion on the point.

The main concern is that there is always a danger in housing demolition and renovation schemes that while we are trying to cure homelessness we may create it because we throw people out of their homes. In the past few years during the carrying out of renovation and improvement schemes there has always been a shortage of alternative houses into which people could move.

I welcome the amendments, which ensure that, before anyone is ordered out of a house by the order of the sheriff, the sheriff will be able to ensure that there is suitable alternative accommodation.

Amendment agreed to.

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