HC Deb 13 June 1988 vol 135 cc92-108
Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch)

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 27, line 30, leave out subsection (1).

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

With this it will be convenient to discuss also the following amendments: No. 3, in page 27, line 42, leave out 'paragraphs 5 to 8 of'. No. 4, in page 28, line 1, leave out subsections (5), (6) and (7).

No. 215, in page 28, line 44, leave out subsection (9).

No. 305, in page 28, line 44, leave out subsections (9) and (10).

No. 5, in schedule 4, page 85, line 25, leave out paragraph 1.

No. 6, in page 85, line 38 leave out paragraphs 3 to 8. Government amendments Nos. 275 to 281.

Mr. Squire

In moving amendment No. 2, which is tabled in my name and that of various Labour and Social and Liberal Democratic Members, I shall obviously seek to comment on amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6.

To those hon. Members who were not privileged to serve on the Standing Committee, a little explanation might be needed. I readily confess that my amendments do not clarify the issue. However, we are discussing the important question of carers in our society—those people, often relatives, who give up their existing homes to look after aging or infirm relatives.

I make no apology for returning to this subject, which I raised in Committee. Although my hon. Friend the Minister of State listened as courteously as he always does to reasoned arguments, he felt unable on that occasion to concede any ground. Therefore, I return to those arguments today. If I may, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall make some passing comments about the Government amendments that are to be considered at the same time.

At present, the law is that anyone who gives up their home, whether rented or owned, to move to look after a relative, will succeed to that person's tenancy after six months. I do not know whether there has been any widespread abuse of that. If there has been, I am sure that my hon. Friend will give us the figures at the appropriate time. However, in the absence of any knowledge of abuse, clause 37 and schedule 4 reveal that, instead of the period being six months, in future it will be five years. That is excessive both in itself and by comparison with the existing law.

We owe an enormous debt to the people who give up their time and homes to look after relatives in their own home rather than seek to have them released into the wider community at a considerably greater charge and, no doubt, with less advantage to the aging or infirm relative. The Bill does such people no service and has greatly worried organisations such as Age Concern, which has written to me, and Shelter, which believes that the present proposals go too far. This evening I wish briefly—seeing the Minister's amendments encourages me to think that if I speak briefly I may achieve something that I am seeking, whereas when I spoke at length in Committee, I was unsuccessful —to say that we owe a great deal to those carers and that we must be seen to look after them.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled has spoken at great length and on different occasions about the important role that carers play in our society. We must recognise that and say that five years is far too long. Ideally, I should like the period to revert to six months, which is the purport of my amendments.

I notice and naturally welcome the Government's amendments. I notice also that in the way of these things it is possible to amend schedule 4 without amending clause 37. I wish that I had access to the same advice as my hon. Friend the Minister of State. Never mind, the purpose of his amendments is precisely the same as mine, with the single obvious exception that the period now becomes two years. Clearly, that is an improvement on the five-year qualification period that we were otherwise facing. That must be welcomed although I naturally wish to hear from my hon. Friend why his proposal is not for six months, as I moved in Committee and move now.

Ms. Primarolo

In Committee, the Minister said: We believe"— that is, the Government believe— that succession rights have been as important as rent control in driving rented property off the market … It would be easy to seem caring by reinstating the right, but it would lead to further drying up of rented property."—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 2 February 1988; c. 614.] We totally refute that and ask the Minister, if he can, to provide us today with proof for his assertion. We believe, and organisations such as Age Concern believe, that there is no sign that succession rights have proved to be a difficulty in the private rented sector.

We believe that it is crucial to link the Government's policy on succession rights with their so-called "care in the community" policy. At present, it is estimated that one in five women over 40 are responsible for dependent relatives. The Government's care in the community policy increases the burden on women, but carers are often forgotten when housing policy is discussed. They were forgotten when this section of the Housing Bill was drafted, because their needs and responsibilities were totally ignored.

It is estimated that women living with elderly tenants in the private sector account for about 60 per cent. of private protected tenants aged over 65 years. The Government's proposals to remove from them the right to take over a tenancy or succeed to one on the death of a relative by elongating the period of qualification, seems wholly inappropriate.

At the moment, there are three significant proposed changes to the current arrangements in the Bill. First, where a tenant is protected under the Rent Act 1977—in other words an existing tenant when the Housing Act 1988 comes into force—a relative would have to have lived with the tenant for the previous five years instead of the present proposal of six months. The proposals in the Bill would enforce homelessness on those who have cared for relatives if they then die before having lived with them for five years. It is unbelievable that at a time of great stress and sorrow for families, carers might find themselves with the additional problem of homelessness.

The second proposed change would mean that a relative would have no right to succeed to a protected tenancy if the relative qualified under the five-year regulation. Instead, she—I say "she" specifically because I do not want that to be translated into "he" in Hansard in the sense that "he" always means "he or she"; in the majority of cases when we talk about carers we mean women in our communities—would succeed to an assured tenancy. In other words, that carer would probably face a massive increase in rent and be subject to the landlord's potential use of much more wide-ranging grounds for possession than those covered in the Rent Act 1977. The third change would mean that, where a tenancy begins after the Housing Act 1988 comes into force, the carer will have no right of succession.

The Government want to help landlords to increase the supply of rented accommodation by ensuring that, when an existing regulated tenancy comes to an end, any succession is to an assured tenancy only. The Government have stated that the rights of existing tenants will not be affected by the Bill. They continue to explain that that is the case. However, as I have said, and as Age Concern has been at great pains to stress, we are extremely anxious about the effects of the Bill on family members who care for elderly people.

Carers who have been living with a relative for less than five years may be made homeless when that relative dies. Many carers will have to decide to give up a home to care for a relative whose health is deteriorating. Age Concern also knows of no evidence that the right of succession is being abused and therefore why the period of qualification should be extended to five years.

8.15 pm

Carers who have been living with relatives for more than five years will be entitled to succeed, but only to an assured tenancy. Many of the carers who have given up their own accommodation may well be on low or modest incomes and are extremely unlikely to be able to afford the new market rents that they will be required to pay under the new regulations. Therefore, they will be forced out of their accommodation even though they have some nominal rights, simply because they cannot afford the rent.

The chances of their finding alternative accommodation are not high. Only assured or assured shorthold tenancies will be available in the independent rented sector. Most local authorities will have enormous housing waiting lists. For example, there are already 14,000 people on the waiting list in Bristol. There will be very little chance of a local authority being able to house a single woman.

Many people who give up their homes to care for an elderly relative in the private rented sector will not realise that they will be forfeiting their rights to the right to a home in future. The Government have put pressure on women to take up responsibilities and burdens in the community; women recognise that if they do not care for an elderly relative, no one else will because the Government have made cuts by their policy of care in the community. As a result, we know that, despite the restrictions facing carers in securing a home after the death of a relative, the considerations of care and love for the relative are likely to override the possibility that the carer might find herself homeless.

The Government are exploiting the feelings and responsibilities of many women in our community to pave the way for the greater exploitation of tenants in the private sector. That is simply not good enough.

The Government have issued guidance document LAC (85)2 to local authorities on the treatment of a dwelling house when an elderly home owner has to go into residential care leaving a relative at home. That acknowledges that, if that family member seems to have been a principal supporter and has no other home, local authorities have discretion to ignore or discount the capital value of the home in assessing whether it is to be used to pay for home fees.

The proposals on succession contradict the Government's care in the community policy which relies heavily on family carers. We do not support the Government's care in the community policies, but we believe that it is outrageous in one Newspeak that they should say that we should recognise and give a place to carers in the community and recognise their contributions, while another Ministry attempts to take rights away from the same people.

At a Conservative party conference fringe meeting in October 1987, organised by the National Council for Carers and their Elderly Dependants, the Minister for Health emphasised the Government's commitment to supporting informal carers, recognising that they are the bedrock on which community care provision is based. The lack of alternatives to family care further underlines the Government's dependence on formal carers. Yet the Government have the audacity to place before the House proposals which will mean that widows could find themselves homeless, having lost the right to succeed to a protected tenancy, and that single parents moving in to care for elderly parents will lose their right to tenancy unless they have lived at the property for five years.

That is another example of the Government's attempt to exploit those in our community who give freely of their care and support, and who so allow the Government to avoid paying for the cost of that care out of the Exchequer. Because of that shame and the way in which the Government have treated carers in other areas, the Government should remove the restrictions in the Bill and allow the succession right proposed in the previous Rent Act to remain with a six-month qualification remaining intact.

We strongly made the case for that change in Committee, when the Minister said that he sympathised and that it was a difficult decision to make. I hope that today the Minister will say that, because of the problems which carers in particular face in our community, their right to succession on the death of a relative will be reinstated with a qualification period of six months rather than five years.

Mr. Simon Hughes

In Committee there was all-party agreement from the Back Benches and it is important that the same degree of agreement is in evidence now. I wish to underline both the points made by the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) and the important betrayal that there has been on the fundamental issue. Later, we shall debate succession rights within the new assured tenancy regime, but that is not the subject of this debate. It concerns succession rights for tenants currently protected by the Rent Act. Unless the Government are prepared to make a concession, their proposals give the lie to their assertion that they are not taking rights from people who already have them, because that is not the truth. The Government's succession proposals would clearly take away rights which people have acquired.

The Government have now come clean about that aspect, because a Government press release dated 7 June states: The succession rules are modified to make them fairer to landlords. That is certainly true, and it is now the case. The Government's previous argument that the position of Rent Act tenants would not be changed is now shown to have been deceptive.

In Committee, it was argued that people should not lose rights retrospectively, and that to make people wait for five years when they have already qualified by virtue of the previous six-month rule would be unfair. Concessions have been made in that respect, which I acknowledge. What remains unaltered is the Government's position in respect of the request made in Committee—which we forced to a vote on both the clause and the schedule because of the strength of feeling—that the right to succession should remain if one were resident at the property in question for six months.

I could understand the logic of the argument, if the Government were to advance it, to increase the period of qualification to one year, because that is the present requirement for succession in the case of council property tenants. However, the Government are arguing for a period twice that length, of two years, and their case for that needs to be clearly made.

The hon. Members for Bristol, South and for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) made the case that the people most vulnerable are in large measure women and the elderly. I wish to cite the concern felt about this matter by personalising it to some degree. Last December, my constituency office received a telephone call from a constituent of mine named Miss Fuller, who lives in Larcom street, Walworth. She wanted to know how her housing situation would be affected by the Bill. The point was not clear and the head of my constituency office discussed the matter with me. I made inquiries and wrote back to Miss Fuller. She in turn, as I had suggested, made inquiries of her landlord's managing agents. My advice to her was to seek a joint tenancy with her mother.

On 3 December, the landlord's agents replied: Thank you for your letter of 2nd December, regarding your application to have your present tenancy, which is in your Mother's name, to be expanded to include your own. I regret"— here comes the surprise— at the present time that due to the fact that we have contracted to sell the freehold of No. 55, we are unable to agree to your request. Incidentally. she did not know that the property was to be sold. The letter went on: However, as and when the sale has been completed, when we shall be continuing to manage the property, we will approach the new owners of the property with your request which of course at this stage I am unable to forecast the outcome. Miss Fuller wrote to me in January: This is just to thank you for your letter of 7th December in which you promise to attempt an amendment in the new Housing Bill to ensure that people in my position have some security of tenure. Luckily, although my mother is in her late 60s, I am not yet in the position of having to 'care' for her, but I am sure that there are people in the position of 'carer' who will be affected by this Bill. She goes on to express precisely the same concern as that raised by the hon. Member for Bristol, South—that she will be entitled only to an assured tenancy and not one protected by the Rent Acts. The reality of that is a substantially greater rent, for instead of paying a fair rent she will have to pay a market rent. In some years' time, she will herself be in her 50s or 60s and will probably be unable to succeed to the home in which she and her mother have already lived for seven years and in the street in which she has lived all her life. That is the reality of the situation.

The Government promised that the rights of tenants currently protected would not be adversely affected. The present proposal is a betrayal of that promise. The Minister should be decent to the House and to many vulnerable and important people in the community, and he should respond to massive external concern and give people the succession rights to which they are entitled.

Mr. Wigley

I am glad to participate in this debate, although I did not serve on the Standing Committee because I was attending another Committee at the time, as other hon. Members who served with me will remember.

This matter is of considerable concern to those involved in disability politics and in caring for the elderly. Coincidentally, in my constituency surgery this morning, I was presented with a case that underlines the kind of problems facing relatives when they give up their own homes to look after an elderly disabled person and that person then dies. The case I encountered this morning was most invidious, and none of the amendments would have catered for it. It involved an elderly relative who died just two weeks after the carers had given up their own home. They could not turn the clock back and retrieve their old home or have a right to the new one. One can never have a safety net that will protect everyone. None the less, one must try to ensure that legislation makes the best possible sense under all circumstances. The Minister would have to make a very strong case for changing the existing provision. I am glad to support the amendment of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire), to bring even more all-party support for the change he proposes.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) spoke of the Government's care in the community policies. I would not wish to give any impression of being against those policies, but some of us have misgivings about whether they are sufficiently generous and go far enough. I am glad that the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) is in the Chamber, given the struggle we had to obtain adequate resources for the full implementation of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, which he sponsored.

Ms. Primarolo

I was not seeking to denigrate the principle of care in the community. I was trying to say, perhaps not very well, that the Government make a sham of that principle. They are trying to get policy on the cheap rather than proper care in the community.

8.30 pm
Mr. Wigley

That is the point. I may disagree with the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) about that. Care in the community is not necessarily a cheaper option, but we should support it because it is right in terms of human dignity and family values. We should ensure that those who make enormous sacrifices, often late in life—and they are often single women—are cared for properly.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) mentioned the costs that can hit those who lose the security of the rent levels previously paid. That can indeed be a blow. Someone looking after an aging and infirm relative, having been in receipt of attendance allowance, probably at the higher level—and possibly mobility allowance as well—may find that all the money stops coming in at the same time. It is likely that such people will face increased rents at the very time when there is a reduced income to sustain the household. Often there is only one carer, whose age may make it very difficult for him or her to go out into the community to look for work—particularly in areas such as mine where there is high unemployment. We should introduce policies that do their utmost to secure the position. of carers.

The Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation arid Representation) Act 1986, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West contained a charter for carers. Concern has been expressed by those in all parts of the political spectrum about the necessity for better consideration for the needs of people who sacrifice so much for the disabled and elderly. While I acknowledge that the Government seem likely to move some way towards meeting their arguments, as it stands the Bill is retrograde.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend when he reminds the House, as he does so often and so eloquently, that substantial sections of the 1986 Act that were so firmly supported have not yet been implemented. Does he not agree that it is tragic that the Government are trying to push through yet another measure that will be conspicuously unhelpful to carers, when we have waited for two years for those sections to be implemented?

Mr. Wigley

Absolutely. A policy for disabled and eldely people, and for those who look after them, should be a seamless web. It should be integrated into a single thrust. Unfortunately, the present thrust seems negative in many ways. We are not making progress with the Act brought forward by my hon. Friend, which would be of such great benefit. Indeed, we seem again to be moving backwards. I appeal to the Government at least to try to provide some coherence in their legislative policies, and to ensure that they run from one Department to another.

The length of time for which a carer may be living with the person for whom he or she cares is open-ended. Carers move in not knowing whether the people for whom they are caring will live for a month, a year or 10 years. It can be an enormous commitment, and the sacrifice can be equally enormous. The position can be particularly difficult when the relative concerned dies after a fairly short time. Many district council areas have a qualification for housing residents: they must have lived in the area for a certain period—for a year of even two years. If someone has been there for six months or a year and the relative dies, they may not be entitled immediately to get rented accommodation from the district council. They will not be a priority under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, yet they will be in danger of losing the tenancy.

I hope that the Government, in conceding that the threshold should be brought down to two years, as the amendments appear to suggest, will be prepared—if not tonight, in another place—to go along with the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Hornchurch and do what they can to maintain the status quo, so that at least we do not make things worse for the people who give so much.

Mr. McCartney

Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker. Let me first congratulate you on your 15th anniversary in the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott), you and I are today celebrating 15 years in the House. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, have weathered the storm rather better than my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is most generous, but he really should not draw the Chair into the debate.

Mr. McCartney

You know what I am like, Madam Deputy Speaker. I never learn from experience in these matters.

I also congratulate the Under-Secretary of State on returning from Finland in time for the meat of the debate. The Minister of State was rather tetchy the other evening when she was not here to help him out then things got difficult. I am sure that this evening she will give us some words of wisdom about why the Minister has done a partial U-turn, insufficient to deal with my concerns and those of my hon. Friends.

The principle behind the amendment was debated on two occasions, on 19 January and 4 February. In both instances the Minister failed to take account of the cross-party objections to what was being proposed, and at no time gave an indication that he was prepared to concede the principle for which we argued. He made his view clear to me—I had tabled the amendments that we were discussing on 19 January, when he said that he was " coming too clean for the hon. Member for Macklesfield". —[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 19 January 1988; c. 305.] He meant that he was prepared to reject the amendments. The Government felt that succession ran contrary to the whole concept of the Bill, in that the Bill was concerned with providing an immediate access to the owner of the property. If that access was through death, so be it. The Bill would give the landlord the opportunity to take possession of the property.

During that debate and the subsequent debate on 4 February, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) and I pursued the Minister, and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) attempted at every stage to give the Minister an opportunity to backtrack and say that he was wrong. However, he rejected all our approaches. At the end of the debate, he refused in any circumstances to accept an amendment to help carers who have had to move house to look after elderly or chronically ill relatives.

We have dealt with amendments proposed by Age Concern. Before I came to the House, I dealt daily with the problems of the physically handicapped, many of whom were not elderly. Unfortunately, because of the nature of their illnesses, they never reached retirement or even middle age. In many instances elderly parents suffered infirmity or death, and a friend or another member of the family would have to move in to care for them. That group will be affected further by the Government's proposals.

This is a missed opportunity for the Minister to respond to the strength of feeling expressed on two occasions by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. The Minister has not answered the questions that I put to him on 4 February. At the time of death, the tenancy is in the market place. It is available for rent. If the family wishes to continue the tenancy, why are the Government proposing to restrict the right of that family to continue it? Even if the family is allowed to continue the tenancy, why are the Government changing its fundamental nature, particularly rent levels?

After a death, the landlord has a number of choices to make about the tenancy. The landlord could sell the property for commercial or residential use or he could allow the family to continue to live in the property. Unless the property goes to the tenant, it comes out of the market place. That is against the whole concept of the Bill. The Minister said that the purpose of the Bill is to retain tenancies in the market place, but if the landlord wishes to evict a tenant, he can then sell the property for commercial or other uses. That leaves local authorities and the Government with the problem of homelessness. There is no logic behind the Government's amendments. They say that they need to restrict succession because they want properties to remain in the private rented sector. However, if a family wishes to continue the tenancy, the legislation allows the landlord to remove the tenant and take the property out of the private rented sector. That will lead to homelessness.

The Bill also makes provision for new tenancies, but what is the logic of that? The property already has a tenant, who may have a wife or a child. If the tenant dies and the tenancy is offered to somebody else, the wife or the child of the tenant will be left homeless. No additional accommodation is to be provided for them. What is the logic of that? If the tenant is removed from the property and the landlord decides not to offer it to another tenant at a higher rent but to sell the property for purposes unconnected with the private rented sector, it will lead to homelessness and to the removal of private sector rented property from the market place. That makes no sense.

I accept that the Minister is attempting to increase the private rented sector but the amendments mean that tenancies will be removed from the market place. Landlords will be able to take their property out of the private rented sector. The Minister must explain why he is doing that. It will happen every day after the Bill becomes an Act. He must explain this intellectual difficulty. The amendments will lead to a reduction in succession rights. The Government want to ensure that property remains in the private rented sector but tenants will be made homeless.

8.45 pm

The Minister has argued against the six months' entitlement. I do not understand why, because the Government say that they are committed to looking after the carers in the community. My hon. Friends referred to the arguments advanced by many organisations. The Secretary of State for Social Services says that local authorities and the social services should provide resources for care in the community. They want people to be looked after in the community instead of being transferred to institutional care, and they want those who are now in institutional care to be looked after in the home. However, the Government's proposals will lead to persons who are looking after sick people being evicted when those sick people die. Under this legislation, carers can be evicted.

It would not be so had if the Government were proposing to move a further amendment that would lead to additional resources being made available to local authorities and housing associations to provide for the carers. Instead, the Government are proposing to reduce still further the rights of local authorities and housing associations to provide for the carers.

This is an absolute hotch-potch, and the Minister knows it. In Committee he was purple with embarrassment. He may lift his bushy eyebrows and ask me what I am talking about, but he knows precisely what I am talking about. In Committee he was severely embarrassed about having to defend his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. What he said in Committee and is saying now is not his own view.

The Minister is an honourable gentleman. I do not believe that he wants a carer who has looked after a sick person for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be evicted. I do not believe for a moment that he wants to have to defend such a proposal at the Dispatch Box. Because he was severely embarrassed, the Minister, behind the scenes, went back to his right Hon. Friend the Secretary of State and said to him, "Look here, we have a problem, I cannot defend our policy. But it is a long time before the next general election, and as I am not prepared to resign we had better come up with a compromise." In reality, the compromise is meaningless to those in the community who will have to implement the legislation. It is meaningless for the carer and it is absolutely meaningless for the family.

If the Minister does not believe me, he should believe his hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire). Despite our clashes in Committee, I believe that the hon. Gentleman is sincere. I do not believe for a minute that all that he is trying to do is to kid the electors of Hornchurch into thinking that he cares for his constituents. The Minister should believe those of his hon. Friends who, in their own guises, put forward the views of various organisations, because they are the same points as I am making.

I ask the Minister to come to the Dispatch Box not just to withdraw the amendments but to make a commitment that he will return to the House later, or in another place, with proposals to meet the concerns of hon. Members and of those in the community who look after the disabled. Without such a commitment to carers in the community, he will do a major injustice to carers. If somebody gives up his own home to care for a member of the family or a friend, he could eventually find himself thrown out into the street as the victim of market forces. I do not believe that any hon. Member would vote for such a change in the legislation.

For the third time, I ask the Minister to withdraw the amendments and to return to the House with a meaningful solution that will meet the concerns that were expressed in Committee. They were expressed not because of party-political rancour but because of genuine concern for those who work for the disabled, the carers in the community. I ask the Government to deal with the practicalities of the market place and with what will happen if the Bill becomes law. Even at this late stage, I cannot believe that the Minister will come to the Dispatch Box and defend the Secretary of State's proposals. By defending that, the Minister is defending the indefensible and the proposition that carers should be evicted because the person for whom they have cared has died.

Mr. Waldegrave

The House is seldom more eloquent than when it is disposing of someone else's property. That, after all, is what this is all about. Ever since the iniquitous Rent Act started, we have, where fair rents are lower than market rents—which I imagine is most of the country—been disposing of other people's property rather than facing the consequences of providing people with the resources necessary to buy into the market by voted housing benefit or by providing subsidised housing, also through funds voted by the House. More or less randomly, both parties, but especially the party which introduced the Rent Act, have taken certain people's property and also, rather randomly, passed the benefit of it to a group of tenants. That is not defensible.

When trying to get out of that muddle, we have the difficulty of having various vested interests to deal with. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), alone in the Committee, drew attention to the six-month people. We have taken the view that they, and others who live with people with Rent Act tenancies, should have some rights to security. All the eloquence, so easily deployed by the Opposition on this issue, is simply another way of saying that the people who should take responsibility for looking after such people are the landlords who have been caught at random by the Act. That is not a very high claim for justice.

The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) was honest enough to say that the Government did not move at all on this issue in Committee. There were three Divisions on closely related proposals which the Committee rejected. Nevertheless, we listened to the arguments and we have come up with the compromise —getting out of such situations is bound to lead to some compromise—of suggesting that it would be right to offer security under the assured tenancy regime.

It must be a matter of judgment whether we alight on six months, two years or five years. We have settled on two years as a reasonable step forward and as the time after which one can reasonably say that a person has made their home somewhere. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) and others will recognise that we have gone some way to meet the point, although not as far as they would like. The further we go, the more we perpetuate the injustice inherent in the fact that the House has previously, more or less randomly, confiscated part of the capital value of a landlord's property, finding that an easier way to popularity than dealing with housing policy properly.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The Minister has moved from five years to two years. That is an improvement. An argument has been made out for six months. The House will be interested to know why the Minister did not accept one year, as that is the period of security of tenure in other legislation which the Government have proposed, most noticeably for people in local authority property. It would seem logical to have a common base. The two years would also be one year better for those people who face the prospect of being protected for one and a half years less.

Mr. Waldegrave

The argument works both ways. We took the view that two years seemed a reasonable definition of establishment of a home. There is no magic about the figure.

I am well aware that the arguments that we had at great length in Committee exposed the fundamental divide between us. The Opposition think that the easy way to meet the commitment of caring is to take property which was originally let in good faith and, by Act of Parliament, confiscate part of the benefit of it and hand it out. They would be the first to observe, in their gleeful way, that there are more tenants than there are landlords, so that is a more popular way in which to proceed.

It is not a sensible course in terms of housing policy, however. The sensible course is for the Government and local authorities to take responsibility for the provision of low-cost rented housing, if it is needed, and for housing benefit to work in the market. The Rent Act is neither of those. That is why we want to end it as swiftly as possible and why we want to make as few additional loopholes as possible. It is also why, having made some concessions to the arguments made by my hon. Friends and some organisations, we do not wish to go further.

Mr. Morgan

The Minister has not said whether he has discussed the implications of the Griffiths report, which was published after the Committee stage finished but before Report, with his colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Security. If the Government intend to legislate on the basis of that report, they will clearly be backing more care in community. It would involve removing people from institutional care in hospitals to local authority care and providing back-up in the form of old people's homes or sheltered housing so that people do not have to stay in local authority institutional care. Such people may also be looked after by younger relatives or, in the case of those suffering disabling diseases such as multiple sclerosis, they may be looked after by older relatives. If the Minister has not discussed these issues with his colleagues in the DHSS, he has not done his job properly.

Mr. Waldegrave

This is collective Government policy. Neither the Griffiths report nor any other part of DHSS policy will be based on the extension or continuation of Rent Act tenancies. If there are consequences elsewhere, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have to consider them, but he knows that it is central to the Government's stance that Rent Act tenancies should be wound down as soon as possible.

Mr. Soley

The Minister is disingenuous. If he really was concerned for carers, he would ensure that alternative accommodation was available for those who will be evicted as a result of the Government's proposals. He has not done that, and he is aware that the private sector will not be revived by abolishing the Rent Acts, as we all know that the problem is more to do with housing finance than it is to do with Rent Acts. Because of that, we shall divide the House.

Mr. Simon Hughes

This is a sad occasion. The Minister and his colleagues said in the early stages of the Bill that the rights of tenants would be safeguarded. They will not. Towards the end of his speech, the Minister revealed the reality: when it comes to choosing between the rights of people and the rights of property, the Government come down on the side of property. Whatever the compromise, it is not a compromise which meets need. It is a compromise which advances profit and the rights of people best equipped to make it.

9 pm

Mr. Squire

We have had a very important debate on a matter that affects many thousands of people at some stage in their lives. The House is right to devote time to it. I recognise that the House wishes to move to a Division shortly and I shall be brief in my concluding remarks.

Ms. Primarolo

The Minister referred to succession rights as the confiscation of property from the landlord. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is the same confiscation as the Government's right-to-buy policy from council housing committees? We are just a little surprised at the Government's reluctance to split both ways and at their double standards.

Mr. Squire

I recognise a whole range of distinctions, including that between state and private ownership. Even in concluding I am anxious not to lose the support of the hon. Lady for my amendment. I very much welcome the unanimous view from the Back Benchers of different Opposition parties. There was a hint of déjà vu about the speech of the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney). Those of us who heard him demonstrate his ability to speak without hesitation, deviation and above all, notes, were impressed. When I sit on a future Committee I shall scan it very carefully to see whether the hon. Gentleman is on it and if he is I shall bring my blanket and my flask of warm drink. He has the ability to talk at great length, which is a tremendous attribute.

The important and serious point is that every hon. Member who spoke stressed that the role of carers is critical in our society and that the Bill as drafted does not assist them in any way.

My hon. Friend the Minister did his best—[Interruption.] I am by temperament one who seeks the middle ground, as is my hon. Friend. He has given half a loaf. Indeed, mathematicians among us would demonstrate that he has given more than half a loaf in moving from five years to two years. I hope only that further reflection—clearly some reflection brought us down from five years to two years—perhaps in another place will bring us down from two years to six months where I believe it should be.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 172, Noes 2

Division No. 348] [9pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Flannery, Martin
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Allen, Graham Foster, Derek
Alton, David Foulkes, George
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Fraser, John
Armstrong, Hilary Galbraith, Sam
Ashton, Joe Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) George, Bruce
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Barron, Kevin Golding, Mrs Llin
Battle, John Gordon, Mildred
Beckett, Margaret Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Bell, Stuart Grocott, Bruce
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Harman, Ms Harriet
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bidwell, Sydney Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Blair, Tony Heffer, Eric S.
Boateng, Paul Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Boyes, Roland Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Bradley, Keith Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Buckley, George J. Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Caborn, Richard Illsley, Eric
Callaghan, Jim Janner, Greville
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) John, Brynmor
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Canavan, Dennis Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Lambie, David
Clay, Bob Lamond, James
Clelland, David Leadbitter, Ted
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Leighton, Ron
Cohen, Harry Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Lewis, Terry
Corbett, Robin Litherland, Robert
Corbyn, Jeremy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cousins, Jim Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Crowther, Stan McAllion, John
Cummings, John McAvoy, Thomas
Dalyell, Tam McCartney, Ian
Darling, Alistair Macdonald, Calum A.
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McKelvey, William
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) McLeish, Henry
Dewar, Donald McNamara, Kevin
Dixon, Don McTaggart, Bob
Doran, Frank Madden, Max
Douglas, Dick Mahon, Mrs Alice
Duffy, A. E. P. Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Maxton, John
Eastham, Ken Meacher, Michael
Evans, John (St Helens N) Meale, Alan
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Michael, Alun
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Moonie, Dr Lewis Short, Clare
Morgan, Rhodri Skinner, Dennis
Morley, Elliott Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Soley, Clive
Mowlam, Marjorie Steinberg, Gerry
Mullin, Chris Stott, Roger
Nellist, Dave Strang, Gavin
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Brien, William Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
O'Neill, Martin Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Parry, Robert Turner, Dennis
Patchett, Terry Vaz, Keith
Pendry, Tom Wall, Pat
Pike, Peter L. Wareing, Robert N.
Primarolo, Dawn Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Randall, Stuart Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Redmond, Martin Wigley, Dafydd
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Reid, Dr John Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Richardson, Jo Wilson, Brian
Robertson, George Winnick, David
Robinson, Geoffrey Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rogers, Allan Worthington, Tony
Rooker, Jeff Wray, Jimmy
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruddock, Joan Tellers for the Ayes:
Sheerman, Barry Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Allen McKay.
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Alexander, Richard Conway, Derek
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Allason, Rupert Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Amess, David Cope, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Couchman, James
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Cran, James
Ashby, David Critchley, Julian
Atkins, Robert Currie, Mrs Edwina
Atkinson, David Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Baldry, Tony Day, Stephen
Bellingham, Henry Devlin, Tim
Bendall, Vivian Dorrell, Stephen
Benyon, W. Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bevan, David Gilroy Dover, Den
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dunn, Bob
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Durant, Tony
Blackburn, Dr John G. Dykes, Hugh
Body, Sir Richard Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fallon, Michael
Boswell, Tim Farr, Sir John
Bottomley, Peter Favell, Tony
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Fookes, Miss Janet
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Forman, Nigel
Bowis, John Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Forth, Eric
Brazier, Julian Fox, Sir Marcus
Bright, Graham Franks, Cecil
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Freeman, Roger
Browne, John (Winchester) French, Douglas
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Fry, Peter
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Gale, Roger
Buck, Sir Antony Gardiner, George
Budgen, Nicholas Garel-Jones, Tristan
Burns, Simon Gill, Christopher
Butcher, John Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Butler, Chris Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Butterfill, John Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Carrington, Matthew Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Carttiss, Michael Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Cash, William Gregory, Conal
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Chapman, Sydney Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Chope, Christopher Grist, Ian
Churchill, Mr Ground, Patrick
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Colvin, Michael Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Hanley, Jeremy Moate, Roger
Hannam, John Monro, Sir Hector
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Harris, David Morrison, Hon Sir Charles
Haselhurst, Alan Moss, Malcolm
Hawkins, Christopher Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hayes, Jerry Mudd, David
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Nelson, Anthony
Hayward, Robert Neubert, Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, David Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Heddle, John Nicholls, Patrick
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hill, James Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Oppenheim, Phillip
Holt, Richard Page, Richard
Howard, Michael Paice, James
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Patnick, Irvine
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pawsey, James
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, Andrew Portillo, Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Powell, William (Corby)
Irvine, Michael Price, Sir David
Irving, Charles Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jack, Michael Redwood, John
Jackson, Robert Renton, Tim
Janman, Tim Rhodes James, Robert
Jessel, Toby Riddick, Graham
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Key, Robert Roe, Mrs Marion
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kirkhope, Timothy Rost, Peter
Knapman, Roger Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Ryder, Richard
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sackville, Hon Tom
Knowles, Michael Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Sayeed, Jonathan
Lang, Ian Scott, Nicholas
Latham, Michael Shaw, David (Dover)
Lawrence, Ivan Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lee, John (Pendle) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lilley, Peter Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Shersby, Michael
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lord, Michael Speller, Tony
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McCrindle, Robert Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Sumberg, David
McLoughlin, Patrick Tapsell, Sir Peter
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Taylor, John M (Solihull)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Malins, Humfrey Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mans, Keith Thorne, Neil
Marland, Paul Twinn, Dr Ian
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Waldegrave, Hon William
Maude, Hon Francis Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Widdecombe, Ann
Miller, Sir Hal
Mills, Iain Tellers for the Noes:
Miscampbell, Norman Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. David Maclean.
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Question accordingly negatived.

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