Lords amendment: No. 11, in page 13, line 11, at end insert
(c) he became entitled to the tenancy as mentioned in section 39(5) below.
§ Mr. Trippier
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that clause 17 establishes the right of succession to an assured tenancy for the spouse or common law spouse of a deceased assured tenant. The Bill in its original form did not provide a right of succession to an assured tenancy, but after strong representations from Opposition Members we agreed to provide a right of succession for the spouse of an assured tenant, as for someone who was living with the assured tenant as man and wife. However, it is a single right of succession for the spouse alone.
This amendment blocks a small loophole in the succession provision. Most new tenancies granted after commencement will be new assured tenancies—the results of new tenancy agreements. However, some tenants will become assured tenants by succession. They will be family members who have succeeded to a Rent Act tenancy. When a Rent Act tenant dies, his spouse will have the right to succeed to his Rent Act tenancy, and when that spouse dies, a family member who has fulfilled the residence qualification will have the right to succeed to an assured tenancy. That family member could then marry and, without this amendment, her or his husband or wife could succeed to the tenancy. So the property would have seen three successions in which the landlord had no say.
If the landlord is willing to grant an assured tenancy voluntarily to the spouse of the family member, that is an entirely different matter. However, we do not want to perpetuate successions over which the landlord has no 370 control. This is a small amendment to ensure consistency in our succession provisions, and I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
This may be a small amendment, and one that closes a loophole, but the Minister will be aware that this provision was the subject of controversy in Committee. This clause deals with succession rights, and closing the loophole will take away a right that currently exists. It will be of harm specifically to single and elderly single people. There was opposition from all parts of the Committee upstairs to reducing succession rights. This amendment is a backward step, and I greatly regret that the Minister is asking us to agree with the Lords amendment.
The noble Earl who introduced this amendment in another place made it clear that he had heard it argued strongly that tenants would not automatically negotiate joint tenancies for a husband and wife, and therefore that great hardship would be caused to widows if there was no automatic succession.
I shall give the Minister a simple and obvious example of the way in which this change will remove the assurance of security. It is the example of an elderly mother of 85 living with her son, aged 60, and daughter-in-law, aged 55, who move in to the mother's home specifically to look after her. When the mother, as a Rent Act tenant, dies, the son could succeed to the assured tenancy, but when he dies his wife cannot do so. By that time, the wife might be elderly and well past pensionable age, yet she will be prevented from succeeding to the tenancy by this amendment.
The arguments are known to the Government; they put the arguments themselves in another place. It is an unsatisfactory element of this Bill that succession will be denied to those who are vulnerable and need the security of their homes.
The Government take the philosophical view that three successive tenancies are bad. They are not. I can think of many constituents, as can other right hon. and hon. Members, who will suffer greatly from this amendment. My hon. Friends and I tabled an amendment asking the House to disapprove of it, but it has not been taken. However, I give notice that we shall oppose Lords amendment No. 11 if it is put to the House later this evening.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts
We share the view of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that this is not just a small, technical amendment, as described by the Minister. It touches on a major point of principle that was debated at great length in Committee and that divided this House on a number of occasions during earlier stages of the Bill.
The Minister says that the Government do not want three successions without the landlord having any control. That is an insult to the tenants of private landlords. Under this amendment, the relative of a tenant who dies will not be allowed to continue living in what has become home. That is what we are talking about.
§ Mr. Roberts
The Minister, from a sedentary position, contradicts me; let us consider the facts. Under this amendment, when a person succeeds to a Rent Act 371 tenancy, the spouse will have no right of succession—even though clause 17 gives a right of succession to spouses of assured tenants. If someone has lived somewhere for longer than two years, I would call that his home. Thus, for a relative to be unable to succeed in such circumstances is to deny to him the right to continue living in his own home.
It used to be the case that relatives entitled to succeed needed a six-month residential qualification. Under the Housing Act 1985, the qualification period was reduced to one year, but under this legislation, there will be a two-year residential qualification. Is the Minister saying that, if a person has lived somewhere for two years, that still cannot be deemed to be his home? I say that it certainly is.
In establishing the concept of the assured tenancy—in the past, we have made it clear that the only assured thing about these tenancies, unlike those of the 1980 Act, is that there is nothing assured about them and that they are very insecure—the Government go on to take away what limited rights relatives and spouses have. The whole idea behind this legislation and of destroying security of tenure among the tenants of private landlords, is that private landlords will more easily be able to get vacant possession of their property. That is what the Government argue.
That in itself will be a major factor in increasing homelessness. I do not want another debate on that aspect because we dealt with the matter of homelessness in the first group of amendments. Nevertheless, it is wrong for Conservative Members to claim that the main cause of homelessness in Britain is the same as in every other country in the western world, that it is a problem that will never go away, and that it has nothing to do with housing policies but is a social problem. This is an example of Government legislation that could, by taking away security of tenure, increase the number of people presenting themselves as homeless.
Under Lords amendment No. 11, if an assured tenant dies, the relatives living in the same house can be made homeless. If relatives are not allowed to succeed to the tenancy, the individuals or families will have to go to the local authority and present themselves as homeless. They will not have been made so intentionally but will have been put in that dilemma by the Government's legislation. Let not the Minister say that we are simply blocking a small loophole. This is a major issue of principle relating directly to our debates on succession. We believe that anyone who lives for a reasonable time in the tenancy of a private landlord should have succession when the tenant dies.
There was such a case some time ago in my constituency. Two elderly sisters had lived together for most of their lives in a terraced property, renting from a private landlord. The sister who died first was the tenant. The other sister, who had been there for 40 or 50 years, was going to be refused the right of succession. Only when we invited Granada Television to come along and interview the sisters did the landlord decide to change his mind—or her mind; it was difficult to ascertain exactly who the landlord was, although we knew the identity of the agents.
It would have destroyed that elderly person to have to accept that the house that had been her home for 30 or 40 years would be taken away, and this little "technical" amendment will result in many such cases.
§ Mr. Heddle
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, particularly as I was not in the Chamber for all his speech. I am sure that he has no wish to mislead the 372 House now any more than he did when he cited similar examples in Committee. But he has just reminded the House that the two sisters had lived together for 30 or 40 years—he said 50 years first and then amended that. He will acknowledge from his experience of housing law that those two sisters would have been controlled and then regulated tenants, with all the security of the courts. The younger sister, being a direct relation of the deceased, would have succeeded to the tenancy.
§ Mr. Roberts
They did not have that kind of tenancy. If they had, we would have succeeded when we put the lawyers on to the case, without having to involve Granada Television.
What the Minister describes as the right of relatives to inherit tenancies was the reasonably fair position berore the present legislation was presented. The Government must admit that their avowed purpose is to make it more difficult for tenants to remain if landlords want to evict them. The Government argue as a matter of principle that one of the reasons for the lack of an adequate supply of private rented accommodation is that landlords cannot get rid of tenants easily enough, and cannot obtain vacant possession when they want it.
The amendment is intended to enable landlords to obtain vacant possession when someone dies who has succeeded to an assured tenancy following the death of a spouse who was a Rent Act tenant. All relatives from that time would cease to have tenancy rights. The Minister admitted that he would make the third succession and any beyond it illegal if the landlord did not want to grant succession.
We think that that is wrong, and that people should have security of tenure whether they are tenants or not, as long as it is clear that the accommodation has been their main home for a reasonable period. We thought that six months was reasonable. We thought that a year, under the 1985 Act, was reasonable. Now the period is two years, and even so the Government in their miserable amendment are trying to take away tenants' rights and to increase the possibility of homelessness. The Minister says that they are trying to close a loophole. We say that they are trying to destroy the major principle of security of tenure.
§ Mr. Trippier
I ask the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) very seriously to read Hansard tomorrow. When he came out with his example, I was convinced that the person to whom he referred could succeed to the tenancy. I subsequently received advice from the Box that confirmed that I was right. As I understood it, the wife in his example was the tenant. The son who succeeded to the Rent Act tenancy would he the first successor. The hon. Gentleman said that the daughter-in-law could not succeed to the tenancy. I am saying to the hon. Gentleman that that person could succeed as a second successor.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
The Minister may well be right. It depends on the status of the original tenant. If the mother 373 had inherited the tenancy from her husband, for example, her carers who moved in might find themselves without succession rights.
§ Mr. Trippier
I shall not delay the House for much longer, and I have no doubt that there will be an exchange of correspondence between the hon. Gentleman and myself.
This is the point that I wished to make to the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts). If there had been two successions to a Rent Act tenancy—which is what the hon. Gentleman was talking about; he was talking about depriving people of rights that they already had—and the second successor was a family member, the family member's spouse would have no automatic right of succession. There has never been such a right. It is wrong for the hon. Gentleman to give the House the impression that we are taking away rights that already exist.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts
I assure the Minister that I would not suggest that any rights were being given that did not already exist, and I am sure that what he says is correct. But let us clarify the matter, because there was some confusion in the Minister's exchanges with the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). When a wife or husband succeeds to an assured tenancy from a Rent Act tenant who dies, the next of kin—even if there has been a remarriage and there is another spouse—will not inherit that tenancy under the amendment.
§ Mr. Trippier
I could not have made this clearer than I did in my opening remarks. I gave my own example—we have had several since. I appreciate that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey wishes to divide the House, but I seriously ask whether he knows on what he is dividing it. We are not depleting the current legislation or removing tenants' rights.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
The Minister must remember what his colleagues said in the Lords—that the amendment was to close a loophole because it was not Government policy to allow three people to succeed in a row. Loopholes have been closed elsewhere, but not in this context. At present there is a guarantee of security where the tenant was protected under the Rent Act. We want to sustain that, and the Minister wants to take it away. That is a very good reason for dividing, if the Minister persists in his aim.
§ Mr. Trippier
We do not want to take the right away. I suggest that it does not exist, but the hon. Gentleman is right to divide the House if that is what he believes. We are not prepared to extend the legislation to cover a third succession.
§ Mr. Roberts
Does clause 17 give the right of succession for spouses of assured tenancies, except where it is the third succession? Is that the case or not?
§ Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 226, Noes 185.376
|Division No. 480]||[7.59 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)|
|Allason, Rupert||Ashby, David|
|Amos, Alan||Aspinwall, Jack|
|Arbuthnot, James||Atkins, Robert|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Baldry, Tony||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Hunter, Andrew|
|Bellingham, Henry||Irvine, Michael|
|Bendall, Vivian||Irving, Charles|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Jack, Michael|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Jackson, Robert|
|Body, Sir Richard||Janman, Tim|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Jessel, Toby|
|Boswell, Tim||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Bowis, John||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Brazier, Julian||Key, Robert|
|Bright, Graham||Kilfedder, James|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Knapman, Roger|
|Burns, Simon||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Burt, Alistair||Knowles, Michael|
|Butcher, John||Lang, Ian|
|Butler, Chris||Latham, Michael|
|Butterfill, John||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Carrington, Matthew||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Lilley, Peter|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Colvin, Michael||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Lord, Michael|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Couchman, James||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Cran, James||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Durant, Tony||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Madel, David|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Malins, Humfrey|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Mans, Keith|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Maples, John|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Marland, Paul|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Marlow, Tony|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Gorst, John||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Gow, Ian||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Mellor, David|
|Gregory, Conal||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Mills, Iain|
|Grist, Ian||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Ground, Patrick||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Moate, Roger|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Hannam, John||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Neale, Gerrard|
|Harris, David||Needham, Richard|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Neubert, Michael|
|Hayes, Jerry||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Hayward, Robert||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Heddle, John||Page, Richard|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Paice, James|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Patnick, Irvine|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Patten, John (Oxford W)|
|Hill, James||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Hind, Kenneth||Pawsey, James|
|Holt, Richard||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Howard, Michael||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Portillo, Michael|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Price, Sir David|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Raffan, Keith|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Riddick, Graham||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Rost, Peter||Thurnham, Peter|
|Rowe, Andrew||Trippier, David|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Trotter, Neville|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Viggers, Peter|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Waller, Gary|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Ward, John|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Watts, John|
|Shersby, Michael||Wells, Bowen|
|Sims, Roger||Wheeler, John|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Whitney, Ray|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wilshire, David|
|Squire, Robin||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Steen, Anthony||Wood, Timothy|
|Stevens, Lewis||Woodcock, Mike|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Yeo, Tim|
|Stokes, Sir John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Sumberg, David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Mr. David Maclean and|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Mr. Michael Fallon.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Darling, Alistair|
|Anderson, Donald||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Dewar, Donald|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Dixon, Don|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Dobson, Frank|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Doran, Frank|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Barron, Kevin||Eastham, Ken|
|Battle, John||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)|
|Beggs, Roy||Fearn, Ronald|
|Beith, A. J.||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Bell, Stuart||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Fisher, Mark|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Flannery, Martin|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Flynn, Paul|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Blunkett, David||Foster, Derek|
|Boateng, Paul||Foulkes, George|
|Bradley, Keith||Fraser, John|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fyfe, Maria|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Buchan, Norman||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Buckley, George J.||Gordon, Mildred|
|Caborn, Richard||Gould, Bryan|
|Callaghan, Jim||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Grocott, Bruce|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hardy, Peter|
|Clay, Bob||Haynes, Frank|
|Clelland, David||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cohen, Harry||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Coleman, Donald||Holland, Stuart|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Home Robertson, John|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Corbett, Robin||Howells, Geraint|
|Cox, Tom||Hoyle, Doug|
|Crowther, Stan||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Cryer, Bob||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Cummings, John||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Illsley, Eric|
|John, Brynmor||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Johnston, Sir Russell||Radice, Giles|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Randall, Stuart|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)||Redmond, Martin|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Richardson, Jo|
|Kennedy, Charles||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Robertson, George|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Rogers, Allan|
|Lamond, James||Rooker, Jeff|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Leighton, Ron||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Lewis, Terry||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Litherland, Robert||Sheerman, Barry|
|Livsey, Richard||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Short, Clare|
|Loyden, Eddie||Skinner, Dennis|
|McCartney, Ian||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|McLeish, Henry||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Snape, Peter|
|McNamara, Kevin||Soley, Clive|
|Madden, Max||Spearing, Nigel|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Marek, Dr John||Stott, Roger|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Straw, Jack|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Meale, Alan||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Michael, Alun||Turner, Dennis|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Vaz, Keith|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Wall, Pat|
|Morley, Elliott||Wallace, James|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Walley, Joan|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Mullin, Chris||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Murphy, Paul||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Nellist, Dave||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Wilson, Brian|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Winnick, David|
|Parry, Robert||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Patchett, Terry||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Pike, Peter L.||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Mr. Malcolm Bruce and|
|Prescott, John||Mrs. Ray Michie.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.