HC Deb 13 June 1988 vol 135 cc110-1
Mrs. Roe

I beg to move Government amendment No. 68, in page 30, leave out line 22.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will he convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 69 and 52

Mrs. Roe

Clause 40 as drafted provides for the president of every rent assessment panel to keep and make available information concerning determinations of rent if required to do so by the Secretary of State. There has never been any question in our mind as to the need for such an order to be made. It has always been our firm intention that the requirement to maintain a register of rents should apply as soon as the Bill takes effect. In Committee it was argued that the legislation ought to leave no doubt as to the matter and we accepted the force of that argument. Amendment Nos. 68 and 69 are therefore designed to alter the wording of clause 40(1) to remove the discretion of the Secretary of State as to whether or not an order is made.

Clause 40 as drafted refers to information relating to the determination of rents by the rent assessment committees. On further consideration, it seems to us that there is a strong case for widening the scope of the provision to take account of the distinctive procedure that will apply to rents under shorthold tenancies.

The House will recall that where a shorthold tenant refers his rent to the rent assessment committee under clause 20, the committee is empowered to make a determination only where there is evidence that the existing rent is above market level. If such evidence is unavailable, no determination is made. In those circumstances, it seems sensible that arrangements should be made for the publication of information as to rents which have been referred to rent assessment committees under clause 20 but in respect of which no determinations have been made.

Such information will constitute a source of evidence as to the level of rents prevailing in the shorthold market. I am sure that that will be of help to shorthold tenants, both actual and prospective, who seek an indication whether their rent or proposed rent is in line with the market. It will also be useful to rent officers in carrying out their assessment functions for housing benefit purposes.

With that aim in view, amendment No. 52 provides that the information kept and published under clause 40 may relate not just to rents actually determined by assessment committees but to rents which are the subject of references or applications to assessment committees. The details will be covered in the order made by the Secretary of State under the clause.

I am sure that the Opposition will welcome the amendments, which fulfil an undertaking given in Committee.

Mr. Soley

I thank the Minister for that and I accept that it is a concession.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 69, in page 30, line 24, leave out 'the order' and insert 'an order made by the Secretary of State'. No. 52, in page 30, leave out lines 25 to 27 and insert— 'as may be so specified with respect to rents under assured tenancies and assured agricultural occupancies which have been the subject of references or applications to, or determinations by, rent assessment committees.'—[Mrs. Roe.]

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