HC Deb 11 June 1980 vol 986 cc721-3
Mr. George Robertson

I beg to move amendment No. 147, in page 31, line 41, at end insert or such period as may be inserted in the tenancy agreement, whichever is the lesser.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 243, in page 31, line 42, leave out paragraph (b).

Mr. Robertson

The amendment would provide slight flexibility in the period of notice given by people on short tenancies if they wish to terminate them before the dates identified in the Bill. In Committee the Minister agreed that we had a point. He said that he would consider the matter to see whether the figures provided by the Opposition were more appropriate.

The amendment would help transient people, whom the Government intend to assist by short tenancies, however, sceptical we may be about those benefits.

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point. However, it is essentially a matter of judgment.

In Committee my hon. Friend undertook to take a fresh look at the periods of notice that a tenant must give. There is no evidence to suggest that the periods of notice for which clause 34(2) provides do not hold the balance equitably between the competing interests of landlord and tenant. My hon. Friend wrote to the hon. Gentleman setting out his conclusions.

The periods in the Bill keep Scotland in step with England and Wales, which is material. It will further assist those moving about the country.

In Committee it was pointed out that amendment No. 348, which amendment No. 147 repeats, is defective. It allows any period of notice, however short, to be adequate, provided that it has been agreed between the parties. That is awkward. Section 131 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 provides that a notice to quit shall not be valid unless it is served at least four weeks before it is due to take effect. There is therefore already a statutory minimum of four weeks, and the amendment would conflict with that.

Amendment No. 243 would remove the requirement that a tenant with a short tenancy of between two and five years shall give three months notice of his intention to give up the tenancy. As the amendment does not offer a specific alternative, the Opposition might feel that sections 3 and 4 of the House Letting and Rating (Scotland) Act 1911 should apply automatically to such tenancies. The general effect is that the tenant of such a tenancy would be required to give only 40 days' notice of his intention to terminate the tenancy. The legal position is that if retained Clause 34(2)(b) would override the provisions of the 1911 Act.

Whether there is need for a technical amendment must be explored further. I shall explore it in case an alteration is needed.

Mr. Robertson

If the Secretary of State had been present to hear our debates on the rural areas and on the protection of accommodation for the elderly, perhaps he would not have proclaimed so loudly the need to bring the English and Scottish legislation into line. The Minister has agreed that there might be a technical difficulty which has not received full consideration. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Younger

I beg to move amendment No. 148, in page 32, line 2, after ' law ', insert ', but subject to subsection (5)(b) below'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may discuss Government amendments Nos. 151, 152 and 155.

Mr. Younger

The amendments are designed to safeguard the position of a lawful sub-tenant under a short tenancy where for any reason the tenancy of the principal tenant is terminated before the expiry of the period specified in the tenancy agreement. The amendments ensure that a lawful sub-tenant is entitled to security of tenure for the balance of the period of the tenancy agreement.

The amendments honour a commitment given in Committee to protect a subtenant when the landlord would otherwise be able to recover possession against the principal tenant. The Opposition might wish not to move amendment No. 149.

Amendments Nos. 152 and 155 relate to a situation in which, at the end of a period specified in a short tenancy agreement, the landlord takes no action to recover possession of the dwelling. When the landlord does not serve notice of his intention to recover possession before or within three months after the termination of the period specified in the tenancy agreement, the tenancy will be continued as a short tenancy for 12 months.

Mr. Millan

We welcome the amendments which arise from points we made in Committee. One can always argue that the protection should go even further, but the Government have responded. We shall not move amendment No. 149.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made : No. 150, in page 32, line 5, at end add 'or against any statutory tenant who has succeeded to the tenancy'.

No. 151, in page 32, line 13, at end add '(5)(a) Where a short tenancy is terminated by the death of the tenant before the expiry of the period specified in the tenancy agreement any statutory tenant by succession within the meaning of Schedule 1 to the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 shall be entitled to retain possession of the premises until the expiry of that period only.

  1. (b) Where a short tenancy is terminated for any reason before the expiry of the period specified in the tenancy agreement, any subtenant of the dwelling-house shall be entitled to retain possession of the premises until the expiry of that period only.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (5) above "subtenant" means any person deriving title from the original tenant or from a subtenant, provided that his title has not been granted in contravention of the tenancy agreement.'.—[Mr. Rifkind.]

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