HC Deb 26 October 1988 vol 139 cc333-43

Lords amendment: No. 12, in page 16, line 19, at end insert— (3A) Where any rates in respect of the house concerned are borne by the landlord or a superior landlord, the rent assessment committee shall make their determination under this section as if the rates were not so borne.

Read a Second time.

Mr. Home Robertson

I beg to move, as an amendment to the Lords amendment, amendment (a), in line 5, at end insert— 'and where a landlord has borne such rates as part of a tenancy agreement before 1st April 1989, and where a tenant has informed the Rent Assessment Committee about such terms, the Committee shall ensure that the rent is adjusted to take full account of the abolition of domestic rates'.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 15 and 22.

5.45 pm
Mr. Home Robertson

The amendment is intended to deal with what I fear is the likelihood that some landlords will seek to take advantage of the poll tax to swindle their tenants. I know that several of my hon. Friends, particularly those representing Edinburgh constituencies, have already drawn attention to that potential problem. In several urban areas it is not uncommon for private landlords of perhaps tenement-type property to charge rents that also cover rates paid directly to the local authority.

If the rating system is to end, for the time being anyway, on 1 April 1989, tenants in that type of relief will become liable for the poll tax. But, as things stand, there is absolutely no guarantee that their landlords will reduce their rent payments to take account of the abolition of domestic rates. It is quite possible for a landlord to seek to have his cake and eat it, and for the tenant to end up paying the tax twice. Having previously paid an element of rent as a contribution towards rates, there is nothing to stop the landlord carrying on pocketing the difference, and the tenant will be liable to pay the poll tax. That is a serious threat, and it has been drawn to the attention of the House by hon. Members from constituencies that are likely to be affected.

I fear that it will be easy enough for tenants to be exploited under the new housing legislation that the Minister is talking about. Frankly, it would add injury to insult if tenants were to find themselves having to pay their local taxation twice—once to the local authority and a second time to the landlord, as a little bonus for the landlord in such circumstances.

The amendment requires the rent assessment committee to intervene in such cases and to ensure that the rent paid by the tenant to the landlord is reduced to take account of the fact that the landlord no longer has to pay rates to the local authority. It is absolutely imperative that there should be a safeguard of that nature, and I commend the amendment to the House.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I have listened with care to what the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) has said, but I do not believe that his amendment is necessary. Lords amendment No. 12 is designed precisely to ensure that, whenever a rent assessment committee makes a determination of rent for an assured tenancy, that determination must be net of any payment in respect of rates. That means that the rent assessment committee decides rent and ignores any charge that the landlord may make in respect of rates. That is to be the case when the determination takes place before or after domestic rates are abolished on 1 April next year. In practice, the hon. Gentleman's amendment would add nothing to what Lords amendment No. 12 already provides.

I should respond to the concern of some Hon. Members about the position of tenants who pay part of their rent in respect of rates when the community charge replaces domestic rates next year.

Assured tenancies will only have been allowed in Scotland for a short time when domestic rates are abolished. So the vast majority of private sector tenants will still be regulated tenants, subject to the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984. Those tenants will, of course, retain their right to have a rent registered by their rent officer. Registered rents are net of rates, so no regulated tenant needs to be unsure about his position. Of course, I strongly recommend private tenants to become registered.

I would expect assured tenants, in negotiating the terms of their tenancy with their landlord, to ensure that any payment in respect of rates is clearly distinguished from their rent payment and ceases on 1 April 1989. A written lease, for which the Bill provides, should set out the terms of the tenancy clearly and the provisions for a writen agreement are an additional safeguard. In addition, there are provisions to allow tenants with short assured tenancies to refer their rents for a determination by the rent assessment committee in certain circumstances and RACs will determine rents net of rates. In other words, they will determine solely the rent, so tenants will know what their rents will be.

In general, there is no need for any tenant to pay his landlord anything for rates after April next year. The only difficulty is encouraging tenants to make use of the rights available to them. That problem is not confined to rates and can be tackled only by a long-term common effort involving central and local government, and advice agencies.

If a landlord persists in seeking to charge a tenant a rent which includes a payment for rates, the tenant will have every right to refuse to pay the element in respect of rates. The landlord could not evict a tenant in those circumstances, unless he had valid grounds to do so under schedule 5 to the Bill or schedule 2 to the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984.

Mr. Galloway

Again, the Minister demonstrates a woeful misunderstanding of the realities of life in the private rented sector. A great number of my constituents are living under the yoke of private landlords. Many are young people who pay high rents for dingy rooms in dingy buildings in inner-city Glasgow. The great majority, or certainly a large number, are already paying their landlords an amount which is supposed to be calculated for rates. If I heard the Minister correctly, he said that he would expect the tenant to ensure by 1 April 1989 that he was netting the amount which is supposed to be for rates. What sort of an apology for government is that? The Government are throwing the onus on to the tenants.

Many tenants are not as legally trained or as adroit as the Minister, many are afraid of their landlords, many are from ethnic communities and are unsure of their ground, and many are young people with little experience of the housing market. Yet the Minister expects them to ensure by 1 April 1989 that they have netted the amount needed in rates. Surely it is the Government's responsibility to ensure that private landlords cannot exploit this situation.

We are not asking much, even of a Government who are clearly the landlords' friend. People in the Public Gallery who have been listening to the debate will know that by now. It is not asking much of such a Government to ask them to ensure that landlords are not making off with money that is supposed to be for rates when tenants will also have to pay the poll tax from 1 April.

The Government are again demonstrating a faith in private landlords which would be touching if it were not so repulsive. The Scottish people will look forward to the day when the last private landlord is strangled with the last copy of the Scottish Daily Express, to paraphrase Tom Nairn. The sooner that day comes the better.

Mr. Bill Walker

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) made an impassioned plea, but he probably did not listen to what my hon. Friend the Minister said. My hon. Friend stated clearly that tenants such as the hon. Gentleman described did not have assured tenancies. They will not be caught up in this until they renegotiate their tenancies after the Bill becomes law, if they decide so to do.

Mr. Galloway

indicated dissent.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. The amendment deals with tenants who will be affected by the legislation after they become assured tenants. The tenants described by the hon. Gentleman do not fall into that category.

Mr. Hood

Only a few minutes ago we heard from the mouth of the Minister that he strongly recommended tenants to register straight away. The only conclusion to draw from that statement is that he knows, and we know, that tenants will be in the hands of sheepskin spivs. Did you hear that?

Mr. Walker

I imagine that the Chair heard everything that was said. No doubt the question was not intended for you, Madam Deputy Speaker, but for me. Whatever amusing incidents the hon. Gentleman finds in the debate, I find it much too serious for levity. If I sincerely believed what the hon. Member for Hillhead was saying—that all the tenants he described would be caught by the legislation —perhaps I could move towards his position, but that will not happen in the real world. The tenants will come under the old legislation for whatever tenancy they arranged.

I choose my words carefully, because both the hon. Gentleman and I know that many people in the real world are not operating under the constraints of the legislation tabled by successive Governments. As often as not, they have reached some private arrangement to meet their circumstances and we understand that. Therefore, they will not be caught up in this until they become assured tenants. For those reasons, the amendment does not apply to them.

Mrs. Fyfe

The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) has not attempted to assure us that these wonderful landlords from whom the milk of human kindness flows would never attempt to do anything so dastardly as to pretend that a rent which formerly included a rates element was now a realistic rent or charge too much for the new rent.

We can all recall earlier days when a former Member of this House, now Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, had to introduce a Bill to prevent private landlords from fraudulently charging too much for gas. At that time, private landlords could get away with jacking up meters to charge too much for gas which was supplied at a given rate by a nationalised industry. We all know what the conduct of private landlords can be like.

The Minister suggests that the answer for tenants caught in this trap is to appeal. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) eloquently pointed out the difficulties that face many members of the public when attempting to make such an appeal. They may not understand their rights or the language. Instead of leaving it to individual tenants to appeal, why does the Minister not call this what it is? It is fraud and there should be a police charge for it because it is as dishonest as stealing goods from a shop or money from people.

Mr. McAllion

Like the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) I try to live in the real world and for the most part I succeeded in doing so until I came here. Once one enters the doors of this Chamber one enters an unreal world.

In the real world it is common practice for rents to include some charge for rates. Indeed, not two miles from here is the private sector flat that I rent in Kennington, for which I am charged rent and rates combined—to the princely sum of £538 a month. If anyone here knows of any cheaper accommodation I should be pleased to hear about it. That flat is rented at a market rate freely negotiated between landlord and tenant. Its price reflects the shortage of such accommodation in London, and it is the sort of rent which Members of Parliament can afford, but ordinary working class people in London cannot. They are being squeezed out to the margins, away from central London, by Tory councils and private sector landlords.

6 pm

The Minister said that my hon. Friend's amendment was not different from the Lords amendment, but of course it is. The Lords amendment says: The rent assessment committee shall make their determination … as if the rates were not so borne. My hon. Friend's amendment says that the tenant can draw the attention of the rent assessment committee to the fact that the rates are included in the rent. That is a big difference. How will the rent assessment committee know the facts unless the tenant has the right to go to the committee and draw its attention to the fact that rent and rates have been combined and that the latter should be discounted in determining the rent?

The Lords amendment gives the tenant no such right. There is a shortage of accommodation. All the power and influence lies with the landlord, not the tenant, and the tenant must have the absolute right to defend such small rights as he has under the present legislation. He should have the right to go to the rent assessment committee and draw this to its attention, and the Minister should know that.

The Minister also said that most tenants would not be affected, because the provision takes effect only from 1 April, and most tenants hold regulated tenancies. I understand that an assured tenancy is supposed to be freely negotiated between landlord and tenant at the market rent. How can the market rent be assessed? People look at the rents being charged in the local area. So, in this case, rents in the regulated sector will be looked at, and they may well include a charge for rates. When assessing the rent for an assured tenancy, rents for regulated tenancies may well be taken into consideration, and they include a charge for rates. There is a serious possibility that people with assured tenancies may find themselves being charged for rates that are included in the rent, and rates charged in the area in which they happen to be trying to obtain a tenancy. The Minister should recognise that that is a real possibility.

If the Minister stands by the Lords amendment, the tenant will have no right to go to the rent assessment committee and draw its attention to these facts. It will be left to the committee to discover them in some mysterious way. Landlords and tenants are in an unequal relationship; many tenants will feel intimidated. The legislation should at least include a statutory right for tenants, enabling them to go to welfare rights officers and others and ask them to intercede for them with the rent assessment committee. The Lords amendment includes no such right, and will include none if it is passed unamended.

Mr. Doran

My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) raised an important point. I accept a great deal of what the Minister said, which may surprise him, but I have to tell him that some of it does not affect what happens in the real world.

We are focusing on the effect of the poll tax and what it will mean to people who live in rented accommodation. Most tenants, council and private sector, when asked what their rent is will give a global figure of £20, rather than identifying £15 for rent and £5 for rates.

Two categories of people will be seriously disadvantaged after 1 April 1989. The first are those who already pay rates to the landlord. The Minister is right to say that when rents and rates are paid as a global sum the tenant may have a right to recover after 1 April if there is a registered rent and the rates are separately identified. That, however, does not take account of the problem that this must be brought to the notice of tenants in some way. Most of them know that they pay a global figure and do not realise that they are paying extra for rates. I shall be interested to hear how the Government will attempt to make tenants aware of that.

The second group of people who will he at a disadvantage are those who live in areas of high pressure on housing, in which there is a shortage of rented accommodation of all kinds. Like most of my hon. Friends, I am fairly sure that there will be an increase in homelessness and in shortages of housing for rent. The private sector is not the panacea for that problem that the Government think it is. I see major problems ahead. Landlords will increasingly try to get around the legislation, although to a lesser extent than they do with the present legislation.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) said, there is already a great deal of pressure on rented accommodation here in London. I have never yet been to see a flat for rent in London without being asked to take a company lease so as to get around the English Rent Acts. The same thing will happen in high-pressure areas such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and even possibly Aberdeen, because of housing shortages.

I have tried to assess the implications for people in my area. For instance, a couple with an average rent will pay about £40 a week—just over £2,000 a year. That will include rates, because that is the sort of rent I would expect them to pay. Unless there is some way of notifying these people that, after 1 April 1989, they will be entitled to a reduction in their rent because of the introduction of the poll tax and the removal of the burden of domestic rates from landlords, that couple in Aberdeen will face the prospect of their housing costs increasing by about £520 a year. We expect a poll tax of about £260 a year in Aberdeen, and these people will face a real increase of 25 per cent. in their housing costs.

I accept what the Minister says. In an ideal world in which everyone knew his rights and could exercise them, this legislation might be adequate, but we need much more than that. My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian addressed that problem; the Government failed to do so.

Mr. Home Robertson

The Minister sought to play down the likely incidence of exploitation of tenants by the double charging of the equivalent of local authority taxation, saying that only a small number of people would be affected and that if they had registered rents, everything would be allright. We all know that a high proportion of rents in certain parts of Scotland are not registered. We know that many people pay rent and rates together to their private landlords, and it is not impossible that some landlords will try to carry on charging that equivalent charge after the poll tax comes into effect next year. So some tenants could have to go on paying the equivalent of rates to the landlord and, the poll tax to their local authorities.

Perhaps our amendment is technically flawed; I think that was the point the Minister tried to make. I am convinced, however, that we are on to an important point here. The Government should grasp it and seek ways of protecting tenants in these circumstances. They could do that by accepting the amendment which, even if flawed, could still be tidied up in another place.

This is a genuinely important point of principle. A significant number of tenants could face exploitation as a result of this double charging and as some private landlords try to swindle their tenants. I invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to join me in voting for the amendment to the Lords amendment.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran), said that people would not know whether they were paying rates as part of their rents. They will not have to know, because any application to the rent assessment committee will mean that the committee will find out what the rent should be, and that is what the tenant will pay.

Mr. Doran

My point was that people who already have a registered rent and who pay rent and rates together will not be aware of any change in their rights on 1 April 1989 unless some special effort is made to draw it to their attention. This affects the vast majority of Scottish private tenants.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

As I explained earlier, registered tenants now have their rents determined net of rates so no regulated tenants need be unsure of his position. The facts should be before him. The hon. Gentleman pressed hard for written leases. We are bringing those in and that will help, because they will be written into the terms of the tenancy.

We fully appreciate that after 1 April rent payments by tenants should not include a sum formerly paid in respect of rates. We do not want tenants to pay such sums plus community charge payments. Lords amendment No. 12 is designed to ensure that the rent assessment committee takes account of this in relation to applications for a rent determination. That reflects the Government's concern in the matter. For that reason, the amendment of the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) is unnecessary.

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)

The Minister seems to be missing the Opposition's point. Why should the onus be on the tenant? We are told that landlords will operate fair practices. Why should they not recognise immediately that they are honour bound to reduce rents by the amount that they were charging for rates? If a landlord keeps his rents at the same level and charges an amount for rates that he should not be charging, and if a rent assessment panel decides that that is the case, the landlord should be deemed to have committed a criminal offence. That would put a stop to any shenanigans and malpractices.

If tenants know the law, surely landlords should also know it and should carry out their duties so that tenants do not have to apply to an assessment panel. I have many years experience of tribunals and rent assessment panels and it was one field in which I was almost entirely unsuccessful. I raised about 400 cases and lost 398. I won on two occasions and the tenants were awarded a reduction in rent of 2p. Our people do not see rent assessment panels as fair and unprejudiced, and I urge the Minister to recognise the reasoning behind our amendment.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

By leave of the House, I did not suggest that the onus should be on the tenant. I said that registered tenants have a right to have their rent registered by the rent officer and should exercise that right. I am sure that in the vast majority of cases they do that and will continue to do it. I stressed that if a landlord seeks to charge a rent which includes a payment for rates, the tenant will have every right to refuse to pay that element. The Opposition amendment is unnecessary.

Question put, That amendment (a) to Lords amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 162, Noes 226.

Division No. 453] [6.13 pm
Anderson, Donald Fyfe, Maria
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Galbraith, Sam
Armstrong, Hilary Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Ashdown, Paddy George, Bruce
Ashton, Joe Godman, Dr Norman A.
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Golding, Mrs Llin
Battle, John Gordon, Mildred
Beckett, Margaret Gould, Bryan
Beggs, Roy Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Beith, A. J. Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Grocott, Bruce
Bermingham, Gerald Haynes, Frank
Blair, Tony Heffer, Eric S.
Blunkett, David Henderson, Doug
Boateng, Paul Hinchliffe, David
Boyes, Roland Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Bradley, Keith Home Robertson, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hood, Jimmy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Howells, Geraint
Buckley, George J. Hoyle, Doug
Caborn, Richard Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Ingram, Adam
Clay, Bob John, Brynmor
Clelland, David Johnston, Sir Russell
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cohen, Harry Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Coleman, Donald Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Kilfedder, James
Corbett, Robin Lamond, James
Cousins, Jim Leadbitter, Ted
Cummings, John Lewis, Terry
Cunliffe, Lawrence Litherland, Robert
Cunningham, Dr John Livsey, Richard
Darling, Alistair Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Loyden, Eddie
Dewar, Donald McAllion, John
Dixon, Don McAvoy, Thomas
Dobson, Frank McCartney, Ian
Doran, Frank Macdonald, Calum A.
Douglas, Dick McFall, John
Duffy, A. E. P. McKelvey, William
Eadie, Alexander McLeish, Henry
Evans, John (St Helens N) Maclennan, Robert
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) McNamara, Kevin
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) McTaggart, Bob
Fearn, Ronald McWilliam, John
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Madden, Max
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Flannery, Martin Marek, Dr John
Flynn, Paul Maxton, John
Foster, Derek Meacher, Michael
Foulkes, George Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Spearing, Nigel
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Steel, Rt Hon David
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Steinberg, Gerry
Moonie, Dr Lewis Stott, Roger
Morgan, Rhodri Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mullin, Chris Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Paul Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Nellist, Dave Wall, Pat
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wallace, James
Patchett, Terry Walley, Joan
Pendry, Tom Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Pike, Peter L. Wareing, Robert N.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Prescott, John Wigley, Dafydd
Radice, Giles Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Redmond, Martin Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Reid, Dr John Winnick, David
Robertson, George Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rooker, Jeff Worthington, Tony
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wray, Jimmy
Short, Clare
Skinner, Dennis Tellers for the Ayes:
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Mr. Allen Adams and
Soley, Clive Mr. Allen McKay.
Alexander, Richard Cran, James
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Currie, Mrs Edwina
Allason, Rupert Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Amess, David Davis, David (Boothferry)
Amos, Alan Day, Stephen
Arbuthnot, James Devlin, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dicks, Terry
Ashby, David Dorrell, Stephen
Aspinwall, Jack Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Atkinson, David Dover, Den
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Durant, Tony
Baldry, Tony Dykes, Hugh
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Emery, Sir Peter
Batiste, Spencer Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bendall, Vivian Evennett, David
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Fallon, Michael
Benyon, W. Favell, Tony
Bevan, David Gilroy Fenner, Dame Peggy
Blackburn, Dr John G. Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Fishburn, John Dudley
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Forth, Eric
Boswell, Tim Fox, Sir Marcus
Bottomley, Peter Franks, Cecil
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Freeman, Roger
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) French, Douglas
Bowis, John Fry, Peter
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Gardiner, George
Brazier, Julian Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bright, Graham Gill, Christopher
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Glyn, Dr Alan
Browne, John (Winchester) Gorst, John
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Gow, Ian
Buck, Sir Antony Gower, Sir Raymond
Burt, Alistair Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Butler, Chris Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butterfill, John Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Gregory, Conal
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Carrington, Matthew Grist, Ian
Carttiss, Michael Ground, Patrick
Cash, William Grylls, Michael
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Chapman, Sydney Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chope, Christopher Hanley, Jeremy
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Hannam, John
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Colvin, Michael Harris, David
Conway, Derek Haselhurst, Alan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hawkins, Christopher
Cope, Rt Hon John Hayes, Jerry
Couchman, James Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Hayward, Robert Riddick, Graham
Heathcoat-Amory, David Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Heddle, John Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Roe, Mrs Marion
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Rost, Peter
Hill, James Sackville, Hon Tom
Hind, Kenneth Scott, Nicholas
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Shaw, David (Dover)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Shersby, Michael
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hunter, Andrew Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Irvine, Michael Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Jack, Michael Soames, Hon Nicholas
Janman, Tim Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Stanbrook, Ivor
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Steen, Anthony
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Stern, Michael
Key, Robert Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Stokes, Sir John
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sumberg, David
Lang, Ian Summerson, Hugo
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Tapsell, Sir Peter
McCrindle, Robert Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
McLoughlin, Patrick Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thorne, Neil
Meyer, Sir Anthony Thurnham, Peter
Miller, Sir Hal Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mills, Iain Tracey, Richard
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Tredinnick, David
Moate, Roger Trippier, David
Monro, Sir Hector Trotter, Neville
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Nelson, Anthony Waddington, Rt Hon David
Neubert, Michael Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Walden, George
Nicholls, Patrick Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Waller, Gary
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Ward, John
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Oppenheim, Phillip Warren, Kenneth
Page, Richard Watts, John
Patnick, Irvine Wheeler, John
Patten, Chris (Bath) Whitney, Ray
Pawsey, James Widdecombe, Ann
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wiggin, Jerry
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wilshire, David
Porter, David (Waveney) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Powell, William (Corby) Winterton, Nicholas
Price, Sir David Wood, Timothy
Raffan, Keith Yeo, Tim
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Young, Sir George (Acton)
Rathbone, Tim
Redwood, John Tellers for the Noes:
Renton, Tim Mr. David Lightbown and
Rhodes James, Robert Mr. David Maclean.

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 13, in page 16, line 19, at end insert—

"(3B) In any case where—

  1. (a) a rent assessment committee have before them at the same time the reference of a notice under section 17(2) above relating to a tenancy (in this subsection referred to as "the section 17 reference") and the reference of a notice under section 24(1) above relating to the same tenancy (in this subsection referred to as "the section 24 reference"); and
  2. (b) the date specified in the notice under section 17(2) above is not later than the first day of the new period specified in the notice under section 24(1) above; and
  3. 343
  4. (c) the committee propose to hear the two references together,
the committee shall make a determination in relation to the section 17 reference before making their determination in relation to the section 24 reference and, accordingly, in such a case the reference in subsection (1)(b) above to the terms of the tenancy to which the notice relates shall be construed as a reference to those terms as varied by virtue of the determination made in relation to the section 17 reference."

Lord James Douglas Hamilton

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendment No. 14.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Amendment No. 13 is necessary to make clear in the Bill how a rent assessment committee is to proceed if it has to make two determinations at more or less the same time concerning the same tenancy. This could arise if a tenant were referring a proposed rent increase to the committee under clause 25, while at the same time either tenant or landlord were referring proposed changes in other terms of the tenancy under clause 17. Obviously, it makes sense for the committee to hear the two references together. In such cases, the committee should resolve the issue of what variation in tenancy terms is appropriate before considering the level of market rent to be determined. Therefore this amendment requires a rent assessment committee in these circumstances to determine the terms of the tenancy first no matter in what order the reference are actually received. The subsequent rent determination should then take account of the revised terms.

Amendment No. 14 simply corrects an error.

Mr. Home Robertson

Lords amendment No. 13 highlights the range of options being made available to landlords through this legislation. It provides for the order in which a rent assessment committee should determine a landlord's applications. If he were to decide on the blunderbuss approach to a tenant, it would have to deal first with the conversion of the tenancy into a short assured tenancy, which would involve loss of security and then, if the first option failed, with the increase in the rent of the original assured tenancy. This is not a happy prospect for Scottish tenants who fall into the trap set for them by the Government. I welcome the opportunity to highlight what is going on.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments 14 and 15 agreed to.

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