HC Deb 26 October 1988 vol 139 cc346-59

Lords amendment: No 17, after clause 28 insert the following new clause: .—(1) It shall be the duty of the landlord under an assured tenancy (of whatever duration)—

  1. (a) to draw up a document stating (whether expressly or by reference) the terms of the tenancy;
  2. (b) to ensure that it is so drawn up and executed that it is probative or holograph of the parties; and
  3. (c) to give a copy of it to the tenant.

(2) On summary application by a tenant under an assured tenancy, the sheriff shall by order—

  1. (a) where it appears to him that the landlord has failed to draw up a document which fairly reflects the existing terms of the tenancy, draw up such a document or, as the case may be, adjust accordingly the terms of such document as there is; and
  2. (b) in any case, declare that the document (as originally drawn up or, where he has drawn it up or adjusted it, as so drawn up or adjusted) fairly reflects the terms of the assured tenancy;
and, where the sheriff has made such a declaration in relation to a document which he has drawn up or adjusted, it shall be deemed to have been duly executed by the parties as so drawn up or adjusted.

(3) A tenant shall not be required to make payment in respect of anything done under subsection (1) above.

(4) Where, under an assured tenancy, rent is payable weekly, it shall be the duty of the landlord to provide a rent book.

(5) A rent book shall contain such notices which shall he in such form and shall relate to such matters as may be prescribed and otherwise shall comply with such requirements as may be prescribed.

(6) If, at any time, the landlord fails to comply with any requirement imposed by or under subsection (4) or (5) above he and any person who on his behalf demands or receives rent in respect of the tenancy shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.

(7) Where an offence under subsection (6) above committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or a person purporting to act in any such capacity, he, as well as the body corporate, is guilty of an offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly."

Read a Second time.

Mr. Home Robertson

I beg to move, as an amendment to the Lords amendment, amendment (a), in subsection (1)(c) at end insert 'together with a copy of a document summarising tenants rights and duties under current legislation, including procedures for appeal against eviction or variations in terms or rent, which shall he made available by the Secretary of State'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

With this, we may also consider amendment (b), leave out 'subsection (1)' and insert 'subsections (1) or (2)'.

Mr. Home Robertson

Again, the fact that the provision for a written lease and rent book has had to be extracted from the Government as a concession must highlight the fundamentally oppressive nature of the Bill. Obviously, we welcome those concessions which we demanded in Committee and it is an important step in the right direction, but the provision should have been in the Bill in the first place.

The Bill lays out a minefield of dangers for tenants, which will not be easy to understand. I cite, for example, the procedures for referring rent increases to the rent assessment committee, the procedures for appeal to the sheriff against eviction and other complications that arise from the Bill. We shall have a mass of different types of tenancy in addition to the protected tenancies which will continue to apply in the public sector. There will be assured tenancies, statutory assured tenancies, short assured tenancies and other variations and permutations on those themes.

I genuinely fear that some tenants will be saddled with impossible rents or leases. They could even face eviction because they cannot understand or cope with the procedures set out in the Bill. That could be a particular problem for former secure tenants who have been accustomed to the security that applies in the public sector. The Government have made it clear that they intend as many secure tenants as possible from the public sector will be transferred into assured tenancies in the private sector in the coming months and years before we have an opportunity to repeal the legislation.

That will create many difficulties for those tenants. They will need advice, back-up and all the assistance that it is possible to give them. It is questionable whether the citizens advice bureau, organisations such as Shelter, local authorities and solicitors will be able to cope with the work load of advising tenants faced with repeated applications by landlords for increases in rent and repeated efforts by landlords to evict tenants or harass them under the provisions of the Bill. However, as the Government are responsible for this phenomenally complicated and oppressive system which they are trying to impose in Scotland, they should accept the duty to provide a comprehensive guide to the basic rights and duties of tenants, which, under this amendment, could be annexed to the lease. That would be genuinely helpful to tenants.

The Minister said that the Government are intending to produce a booklet. The fact that it is a booklet rather than a leaflet emphasises the point that we are wading into complicated legislation from the point of view of tenants in Scotland. It would be much more sensible and satisfactory if there were to be a clear summary of the rights and duties of tenants which could be annexed to every lease produced under the legislation so that a tenant would have in his possession a clear guide to his rights and duties to which he could refer. He would then know when he required further advice and whether he was within his rights when a landlord was abusing his rights. There is a need for this sort of information, and I commend the amendment to the House.

Mrs. Fyfe

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), who has called for the production of a summary of tenants' duties and rights. I was a member of Glasgow district council, which spent a long time in genuine negotiation with representatives of various tenant associations and Glasgow council tenants to try to produce such a statement. The end result was a document which ran to several pages. That was only right, because there was so much detail on which tenants and council representatives had to be clear.

When it comes to tenants' rights, there has to be a list of exactly what types of repair the council will undertake and a similar list of the repairs that tenants are required to undertake. The list included fairly simple items. For example, when the rope on the pulley broke in the kitchen, the tenant was expected to replace it. If there were wiring problems or a ceiling fell down, the repair work was the council's responsibility. By and large, serious or major works were the responsibility of the council. Trivial or everyday matters were the responsibility of the tenant.

Council tenants have various duties, one of which is to pay the rent on time, while another is to wash the close regularly. Duties have to be described in detail because some people might genuinely not know exactly what is expected of them. That might well be the position of a young person who has never been a tenant before. Many councils are now encouraging and helping young people, who may be in their teens, in an understanding of their tenancies. Rights and duties must be spelt out in great detail so that everyone knows exactly where he stands.

The tenants of Glasgow district council welcomed the spelling out of their rights and duties. Those who represented the tenants' associations thought that the document produced by the council was the best that they had seen. That feeling was based on their experience of tenancy agreements throughout Scotland. If the Government were so minded, the Glasgow district council approach could be taken as an example of how to proceed. Unfortunately, they have not said anything so far about any intention to follow the practice of that council.

I urge the acceptance of the amendment because I cannot see how it could possibly have a harmful effect on any tenant or landlord. Each would know exactly where he stood if rights and duties were set out in the detail which I have described. Without that detail, landlords can get away with far too much. Surely the Minister does not wish landlords to escape their responsibilities.

When I was a tenant of a private landlord I had great difficulty in persuading the landlord that he should make my front door secure. It took two months to ensure that I had a door which would protect me from burglars. That is an example of the sort of problems that are faced by ordinary everyday parents, who may well be young persons. I was confronted with the problem while living in my first home, and it is typical of the difficulties that many tenants have to face. Rights and duties must be spelt out clearly so that everyone knows precisely where he is. I hope that the Minister will take the point on board.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Members for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe), and earlier, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran), have advanced a strong argument for ensuring that tenants are aware of their rights and responsibilities. I agree wholeheartedly with that view. The new assured tenancy system depends on both landlords and tenants being aware of their respective rights and responsibilities. It is because of our concern to ensure that tenants have the necessary information that we have provided the right, as set out in Lords amendment No. 17, for every tenant to have a written statement of the terms of his tenancy. It is in the interests of both tenant and landlord that both of them are clear about the terms on which the let is taking place.

Many landlords already provide a written lease, but others, for whatever reason, do not. We have been persuaded that it is desirable to provide the safeguard that is represented by the amendment. Under the proposed new clause a landlord has a duty to give his tenant a written document that sets out the terms of the tenancy. The document must be drawn up at no cost to the tenant. The provision has been framed with the intention of giving private sector assured tenants a similar right to that which public sector tenants already have.

6.45 pm

We are taking other steps to ensure that tenants are aware of their rights. Whenever a landlord under an assured tenancy seeks repossession of his house, or proposes a change in the rent or other terms of the tenancy, he must serve the appropriate notice on his tenant. The notices will all be prescribed by regulations. They will include information for the tenant about his rights— for example, his right in some circumstances to refer the proposal to the rent assessment committee.

We believe that it is much more helpful for a tenant to obtain such information when he needs it rather than at the beginning of his tenancy when he might regard it as unimportant. We shall also be issuing a booklet that will give general information about assured tenancies for both landlords and tenants. It will be circulated widely and it will be an accessible source of information for all those involved. I hope to have the booklet published before the end of the year. I hope also that hon. Members will agree that we are taking seriously the need to ensure that tenants are aware of their rights. We shall continue to give the matter high priority.

Lords amendment No. 17 would have implications far beyond tenants' rights. It would give tenants the right to raise court proceedings at no cost. That proposal, whatever is merits in general terms, should not be dealt with at the very end of our consideration of a Bill. With Lords amendment No. 17 we have tried to give private sector tenants broadly the same rights on written leases as those that are enjoyed in the public sector. To go down the road that is proposed would be, in our view, to go too far. I hope that the amendments will not be pressed to a Division.

Mr. McAllion

My hon. Friends and I would not quarrel with a number of the Minister's remarks. It is necessary for tenants to have the information that they require so that they can protect their rights under this extremely complex Bill. That makes it even more strange that the Government Benches are almost empty. I have no doubt that Conservative Members will support the Government whenever a Division takes place, but it is clear that they have no understanding of the Bill's contents.

I agree with the Minister that there should be a duty upon the landlord to produce a written document which sets out the terms of the tenancy. For three hours we have been debating complex issues, such as a tenant's right to go to a rent assessment committee and require it to come to a judgment on whether the rent offered to him by the landlord includes some charge for rates following the decision to abolish domestic rates and impose a poll tax. The tenant has to know where he stands. It is unlikely that a written lease would make information of that sort available to the tenant.

Under the Bill, tenants will be subject to eight mandatory grounds for eviction and nine non-mandatory grounds. These provisions are set out in tight print on four pages of the Bill. That information will not be included in the written lease that is made available by the landlord. The tenant will not necessarily be aware of his rights.

The same applies to the clause that sets out the prohibition of premiums or key money. That will not be set out in the written lease that the landlord makes available to the tenant. How is the tenant to know of his rights? In effect, the Minister says, "That is too bad. He will have to wait until the end of the year." The provisions in the Bill will take effect on 1 April 1989, and the booklet to which the Minister has referred will be available, so he says, by the end of the year. I hope that he means this year and not the end of next year. I hope that it will be available to tenants when the Bill takes effect.

What information will be set out in the booklet? The Minister spoke about "general information". What information will that be? Will every right that a tenant has be set out in the booklet? Will it be a comprehensive guide of the sort that is suggested in the amendment? Will the booklet be made available to every tenant in the private sector?

I have been fighting against the imposition of the poll tax in Scotland, but at least the Government sent an explanatory booklet to everyone who was involved. It never could be said to set out the truth, but at least it was issued. Will every tenant be sent a booklet setting out his rights and responsibilities? Will he be warned in advance of the different elements of the Bill that will affect him? It is necessary that he should be so warned.

If a booklet explains to tenants their rights in relation to assured tenancies, will it compare the rights with those of secure tenants in the public sector? One of the main motivations for the Bill is to encourage people to move out of the public sector and into the private sector—on the basis of assured tenancies. How are people to judge whether that is good for them if they are not given a comprehensive list of information? Will the booklet contain only information about the rights of assured tenants or will it compare them with existing rights in the public sector or in regulated tenancies in the non-assured tenancy sector?

The Minister must address those problems because the Government have a responsibility. If they bring forward a major piece of housing legislation and impose it against the democratic mandate in Scotland, it is up to them to give tenants in Scotland a comprehensive guide about how their rights will be affected under this new and complex legislation. Tory Back Benchers may not give two hoots about the Bill and they may vote for it in ignorance and with contempt for what the Scottish people want. However, they should at least have the decency to inform the Scottish people about how the rights of tenants will change in the revamped private sector, but the Minister will not concede that. The Lords amendment may give a written lease, but it will not give comprehensive information about assured tenancies or about how they compare with secure tenancies in the public sector. The Minister has a responsibility to address that problem. I am not convinced that a booklet that contains general information will do that.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) believes that Tory Back Benchers do not care about the Lords amendment. The evidence is obvious—there are no Tory Back Benchers here, or at least no Scottish ones. I see only an English stray, the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn). He is no doubt welcome.

I do not understand, from hearing what the Minister has said, why he does not support amendment (a). Everything that he has said should be leading him to support it. He has said that he is keen that tenants should be informed about their rights, so he should accept amendment (a), which provides him with an ideal opportunity. It is important that there should be a document to summarise tenants' rights and duties under current legislation, including procedures for appeal against eviction or variations in terms of rent. It is right and proper that that should be made available by the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The Lords amendment, which the Minister supports, creates a duty on the landlord to provide a written tenancy document and a weekly rent book. Those are sensible and necessary provisions for tenants and are to be welcomed. Amendment (a) seeks to take that protection one step forward. I cannot agree with the Minister when he says that it goes too far. It is a simple, straightforward, sensible measure, which I hope that he will adopt. On several occasions, he has said that he is interested in informing tenants about their rights. Here is a practical opportunity for him to do so.

If information is to be supplied by a landlord, amendment (a) is surely a sensible and reasonable provision, which adds to the ability of a tenant to know his rights. Amendment (a) would assist tenants and give protection to individuals by ensuring that they are alerted to their legal rights. I support amendment (a) and ask the Minister to think again. It is not a step that goes too far and it should be sensibly accepted as part of the protection for tenants.

Dr. Reid

I should like to thank the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) for acknowledging the effective opposition by Labour Members in Committee. It is a testimony to his political integrity that he has done so, whereas many other hon. Members might not have been genuine and generous enough to acknowledge the fight put up by my hon. Friends.

I ask the Minister a simple question in two words—why not? He has taken the opportunity tonight to tell us about what the Government will do. He has not given one good reason why a reasonable amendment, which seeks to inform tenants of their rights under the Bill, should not be accepted.

This is a complex Bill. The work that has been put in and the length of the Committee and of the Bill itself are testimony to that complexity. Anyone knows, when he is renting, or, indeed, buying a house, how complex an operation that is. The Minister must know, as presumably he buys bigger houses than we do and has more complex details to work out. Thus, an already complex situation will be made far more so by the Bill.

The Minister must tell us why it is such a bad idea or an unreasonable demand that, in the midst of those technicalities that are being inflicted upon would-be tenants, we should ask that they be given a general guide, particularly when all the evidence of the Government's Acts shows how, when complex issues are not explained in a comprehensive and straightforward way, the people who lose are the consumers.

One has only to look at the lack of take-up of benefits. Despite all the good intentions of hon. Members on both sides of the House, because of the complexity of the benefits system—most benefits do not involve lawyers, tribunals or the legal system—most of those benefits are not taken up. That does not show an unwillingness on the part of the would-be beneficiaries to take up the benefits, but it shows complete ignorance, not through any fault of their own. They cannot gain access to information or to details about their rights and entitlements.

In certain spheres, the Government are intent on making sure that people know their rights. When it comes to trade unions, we are constantly told in the House that trade union members must have knowledge, must participate and be involved and; above all, must have their rights clearly outlined to them. Similarly, for consumers, there is now legislation to ensure that their rights are known to them. When it suits the Government, they are willing to undertake vast exercises of public information or, as has been said, public disinformation.

There was an example of that on the poll tax and also when this legislation was proposed, in regard to tenants of the Scottish Special Housing Association. No excuses or reasons were given by the Government for why they could not contact every member of the SSHA. The stamp machines were going 19 to the dozen and the letters were flying out of the Scottish Office at St. Andrew's house. Every single tenant of the SSHA was contacted. Incidentally, there was no ballot form in the envelope. However, when it suited the Government and when they wanted to put out their propaganda supporting their case for the Scottish Homes legislation, they managed to write individually to every one of those tenants.

When it comes to the Government's pet subjects, such as undermining the trade unions and propagating their views on Scottish Homes and the poll tax, why is it that there are no lengths that are considered too inordinate for the provision of information? But when we ask for a straightforward, simple guide to tenants' rights to be supplied to every one of the tenants, the Government do not give us a single reason why that should not be done.

I look forward to the Minister's answer. He should not tell us what he has done. Let us assume that we look upon what he has done as a sign of his benificence and benevolence. But we ask him why he cannot do what is asked in what must be judged by any objective observer to be an eminently reasonable amendment, which means that the people who will be most affected by the Bill will be given an idea of their rights under the legislation.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths

When we started the Bill's long progress towards the Floor of the House on 19 January by embarking on the Committee stage, the Government had not even conceded the right of tenants to have anything in writing from their landlords. That was to be left to the market, to be negotiated freely between landlord and tenant. We have moved on a bit since then. If the booklet that the Minister has promised will be published had been published then, it would have been one of the shortest ever published by the Government. It would have contained the phrase, "All terms and conditions of rent are to be negotiated between the landlord and the tenant. Yours sincerely." We have moved on to what may well be an alarming position for tenants. They will have the right to a written lease, which we wholeheartedly support, but not the right to an explanation of that lease.

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I am not a lawyer—I know that the Minister is—but I have no doubt that it would suit certain landlords to visit certain solicitors and draw up leases that were hard to understand and would enable them to say to their tenants, "This is all legal jargon, but basically it means X, Y and Z. Sign here." We have all been subjected to pressure to sign at the foot of a page that looks too complicated to read. The Lords amendment asks—and we ask—for a summary explanation of tenants' rights and duties.

While it is fundamentally important that tenants' rights are explained to them, it is also vital that their duties are explained so that they cannot at any stage be hoodwinked by their landlords. That is part of our basic objection to the way in which the Government have handled the matter. They have sided with the landlord time and again. They have moved from their position of 19 January not because they disagree suddenly with the landlords, or because they think that tenants deserve better protection and more information now than they did then; their sole reason is that they fear public opinion.

Since January we have gone through what was, for the Government, a humiliating round of local elections. The Conservatives could not take back cities such as Edinburgh: they could barely gain one or two seats there, and they were wiped out in such places as Glasgow. If he did any canvassing in Edinburgh, West, the Minister will know that that was because many tenants in both the private and the public sector fear that the Government wish to hand over them and their tenancies and to prejudice their children's rights to tenancies, and they have reacted against that. Public opinion has forced the Government to make this moderate concession.

Cannot the Minister now agree that there are no real barriers to issuing a summary statement which would help tenants to know their rights and obligations and the obligations of their landlords so that when tenant and landlord sit down with the legal document that represents the lease there is a legally binding explanation that helps to describe what might be too complicated for laymen such as myself to understand?

Mr. Doran

I apologise for the fact that other business prevented me from being present for earlier speeches. I heard the opening of the debate, however.

Once again my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) has raised an important point. It returns us to the issue that has been brought up throughout the debate, that of the real world. On paper, I am sure that many of us are pleased to see the Government cave in to the forceful arguments that we presented in Committee, when we insisted at every opportunity that tenants' basic rights should be protected. A fundamental part of those rights was the right to a written lease, which was to be removed. I am delighted that the Government now accept that principle. While we might have been happier with wording other than the "civil servantese" with which we have been dished up, progress is clearly being made.

My hon. Friend's point is valid. The lease is not a declaration of the tenant's rights and interests; it is simply an expression of the contract between the two parties. It makes no reference to the law that backs it up. We have seen fit to regulate this matter; here we still have a bit of Government intervention. Let me direct the Minister's attention to precedents of which he will be well aware. For example, under the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984, with the service of a notice to quit there is a statutory form setting out the tenant's rights and obligations as well as the landlord's obligations. That was done for good reasons. Parliament considered it important that when such a serious step was being taken the tenant should be fully advised of his or her rights.

We feel that the circumstances that we are now discussing are on all fours with that. The Bill will mean a considerable shift away from the rights of the tenant—which were the basis of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 and all the Acts that preceded it, right back to the Rent Act 1965—to the rights of the landlord. There is an imbalance. But, although we have hammered the point home as hard as we could, we have been able to shake the Governrnent only a little. Opposition Members bitterly regret that they would not make the major shift that we wanted, because we believe that housing in Scotland will be profoundly affected.

The amendment seeks to achieve important but simple things. I find it rather difficult to understand why the Government have decided to produce a booklet, although I am delighted to hear that from the Minister today. Any information passed on to consumers—which tenants are —is welcome, as long as it is accurate and presented in an understandable form. I mentioned "civil servantese". It is important to write in ordinary plain English. There was a time when Governments attempted to do that, but they seem to be moving away from it again. We shall be discussing the documents on the community charge later this evening.

If the Minister has accepted the principle that information should be passed on to the tenant, why does he not accept the principle that that information should be targeted? The best way to target it is to oblige the landlord to include a schedule, just as he is entitled to present a notice to quit in a statutory form. Why cannot the tenant have a statutory declaration of his rights? It would be fairly simple to produce it by order, as is done in other contexts.

We are agreed on the principle that the information should be passed on to the tenant. We merely want to ensure that it reaches its source, and the simplest way in which to do that is to make it part of the lease. If he accepts the principle, why cannot the Minister accept this simple amendment?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The Government are fully aware that the smooth working of the assured tenancy system requires that tenants and landlords are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities. The provisions for a written lease are extremely important and should not be underestimated. We believe that the landlord must provide the tenant with a written document setting out the tenancy terms in the prescribed form, and notices for use by tenants and landlords will contain information on the rights of both.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran) said that that was not enough, and I agree with him: it is not enough in itself. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) asked whether the booklet would be comprehensive. It certainly will be. It will set out all the major rights and all the implications. It will also be freely available to every private sector tenant, although it will be impossible to ensure that every tenant picks one up.

The situation is not the same with SSHA tenants. There are now 80,000 such tenants, but there are no assured tenants—of course, not everyone wants to become an assured tenant. The booklet, however, will be widely and freely available.

Dr. Reid

The situation may not be exactly the same as that which applies to SSHA tenants, but I gave that example to illustrate the point. The Minister says that it will be possible to make sure that every tenant picks up a booklet, and precisely the same situation applies to benefits.

Is it the Minister's intention to ensure that the Bill operates on behalf of the consumer, about whom the Government constantly speak and to whom they direct their attention and propaganda? Does the Minister accept that, as in the case of benefits, consumers may not pick up a booklet because of a lack of knowledge and because they may be unaware of their rights? Therefore, that consumer will not gain the benefits of the Bill.

If the Minister agrees with that, why does he not follow what our amendment suggests? Procedures for appeals against conviction or variations in terms should be included with a summary of tenants' rights and duties under current legislation. The Minister should ensure that there is no question of a tenant not picking up a booklet by making it available to him at the time he enters into the contract.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I see the logic of the hon. Gentleman's question, but we believe that the combination of a written lease and a booklet, which will be widely and freely available, should provide the solution. I accept, however, that the booklet must be genuinely widely available.

Mr. McAllion


Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am sorry, but I shall not give way, because of time.

Ironically, the hon. Member for Dundee, East cited the example of the information sent out regarding the community charge. It almost appeared that the hon. Gentleman was citing it as a good example of such communications. We shall bear in mind what he said.

Mr. McAllion


Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I have dealt with that point and I shall not give way.

The hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) asked about the second Opposition amendment, which would give the right to raise court proceedings at no cost. We do not believe that the Opposition have considered the wide-ranging implications of that for the Scottish legal system. To accept it would be foolhardy.

Mr. Doran


Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am not certain whether the Minister is intending to give way or not.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

indicated dissent.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Home Robertson.

Mr. Home Robertson

I do not think that the Minister knows where he is either.

I acknowledge the generous words of the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) who rightly acknowledged that we have done an effective job in opposing this Bill by putting forward constructive amendments. I sincerely hope that that spirit of good will will spill on to the streets of Govan before too long.

Mr. Andrew Welsh

I believe that this is a sensible amendment and I am happy to support it in the same way as the colleagues of the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) supported my amendments during earlier proceedings on this Bill. It is a sensible amendment, which protects Scottish tenants and therefore it is well worth supporting, irrespective of party.

Mr. Home Robertson

The hon. Gentleman must forgive me, but I was not aware that he had taken a great deal of interest in this Bill up until now, although, fair enough, I recall that he tabled one amendment on Report. I will leave it at that.

The Minister has acknowledged the need for tenants to have information. He rather rashly said that, under Lords amendment No. 17, the lease would have to be provided in a prescribed form. I note that the Lords amendment refers to a prescribed form for rent books, but I see no reference to a prescribed format for leases. Therefore, I fear that leases could be curt documents setting out the rent to be paid and the duties of the tenant without giving any clear advice about the tenant's rights.

The Minister has made much of the booklet that the Government intend to publish. I echo my hon. Friends' welcome of the fact that that information will be published. However, I share the anxiety of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) about whether the booklet will be another propaganda leaflet on behalf of the Conservative Government.

Mr. McAllion

Does my hon. Friend agree that if it was intended to be a propaganda leaflet issued on behalf of the Government, it would be given to every private sector tenant and they would not have to go to collect it? After all, that is the case with the poll tax booklet, which is being published by the Government.

Mr. Home Robertson

My hon. Friend is right, and there are precedents to confirm his fears.

Under the present Government, the track record of the Scottish information office is not a happy one. It has allowed itself to be used as a mouthpiece by the Conservative party and it has not disseminated information to citizens or, as in this case, to tenants.

I am inclined to stick to my guns on our amendment. Let us consider the type of problem that may occur. A tenant in an assured tenancy may receive a notice of an increase in rent or a notice of eviction. Whom does he go to to find out his rights? How does he know how to go about appealing against an increase in rent or a variation in terms? How does he know what the correct format should be for appealing against an eviction order? How will he know the timetable for such an appeal? These are complicated affairs and unless there is clear advice, readily available, to tenants there is a genuine fear that they will be harassed or exploited by their landlords.

7.15 pm
Dr. Reid

I urge my hon. Friend to stick to his guns. The Government have run on the platform of tenants' rights in Scotland. They forced through the House—against the best interests of Scottish tenants—the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980. Therefore, it would be a supreme irony if Conservative Members voted on the basis that they are all for tenants' rights, but they do not want those tenants to know about them.

Mr. Home Robertson

That is exactly what the Minister is saying by resisting my amendment. It is a simple amendment which would require the Secretary of State to compile an up-to-date summary of tenants' rights, which could be annexed to every lease that is agreed between a landlord and tenant under the new assured tenancy system. That is not a particularly onerous burden for the Scottish Office. I have no doubt that if the Scottish Office wanted to disseminate propaganda it would do so cheerfully.

A summary of tenants' rights would be the mechanism whereby tenants could obtain urgently needed advice. The tenant may be lucky enough to have to hand a copy of the booklet. That might tell him how he should go about appealing against a rent increase or an eviction order. Surely it would be infinitely more satisfactory if that urgently needed information were annexed to the lease. That is what we are demanding and I invite my hon. Friends to join me in supporting the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 152, Noes 210.

Division No. 455] [7.30 pm
Anderson, Donald Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Armstrong, Hilary Clay, Bob
Ashton, Joe Clelland, David
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Battle, John Cohen, Harry
Beckett, Margaret Coleman, Donald
Beggs, Roy Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Corbett, Robin
Bermingham, Gerald Cousins, Jim
Blunkett, David Cummings, John
Boateng, Paul Cunliffe, Lawrence
Boyes, Roland Cunningham, Dr John
Bradley, Keith Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Dewar, Donald
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Dixon, Don
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Dobson, Frank
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Doran, Frank
Buchan, Norman Douglas, Dick
Buckley, George J. Duffy, A. E. P.
Caborn, Richard Eadie, Alexander
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Fearn, Ronald Madden, Max
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Marek, Dr John
Flannery, Martin Martlew, Eric
Flynn, Paul Maxton, John
Foster, Derek Meacher, Michael
Fyfe, Maria Michael, Alun
Galbraith, Sam Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
George, Bruce Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Godman, Dr Norman A. Moonie, Dr Lewis
Golding, Mrs Llin Morgan, Rhodri
Gordon, Mildred Morley, Elliott
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Grocott, Bruce Mullin, Chris
Haynes, Frank Murphy, Paul
Heffer, Eric S. Nellist, Dave
Henderson, Doug Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hinchliffe, David Patchett, Terry
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Pendry, Tom
Home Robertson, John Pike, Peter L.
Hood, Jimmy Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Prescott, John
Howells, Geraint Radice, Giles
Hoyle, Doug Redmond, Martin
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Reid, Dr John
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Robertson, George
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Rooker, Jeff
Ingram, Adam Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
John, Brynmor Short, Clare
Johnston, Sir Russell Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Spearing, Nigel
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Steel, Rt Hon David
Kilfedder, James Steinberg, Gerry
Kirkwood, Archy Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Lamond, James Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Lewis, Terry Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Litherland, Robert Wall, Pat
Livsey, Richard Walley, Joan
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Wareing, Robert N.
Loyden, Eddie Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
McAllion, John Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
McAvoy, Thomas Winnick, David
McCartney, Ian Wise, Mrs Audrey
Macdonald, Calum A. Worthington, Tony
McFall, John Wray, Jimmy
McKelvey, William
McLeish, Henry Tellers for the Ayes:
McNamara, Kevin Mr. Allen McKay and
McTaggart, Bob Mr. Allen Adams.
McWilliam, John
Alexander, Richard Brazier, Julian
Allason, Rupert Bright, Graham
Amess, David Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Amos, Alan Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Arbuthnot, James Buck, Sir Antony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Burt, Alistair
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Butler, Chris
Aspinwall, Jack Butterfill, John
Atkinson, David Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Carrington, Matthew
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Carttiss, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Cash, William
Bendall, Vivian Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Chapman, Sydney
Benyon, W. Chope, Christopher
Bevan, David Gilroy Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Conway, Derek
Boscawen, Hon Robert Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Boswell, Tim Couchman, James
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Cran, James
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Bowis, John Davis, David (Boothferry)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Day, Stephen
Dicks, Terry Moate, Roger
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Monro, Sir Hector
Dover, Den Nelson, Anthony
Dykes, Hugh Neubert, Michael
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Evennett, David Nicholls, Patrick
Favell, Tony Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Fishburn, John Dudley Oppenheim, Phillip
Fookes, Miss Janet Page, Richard
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Patnick, Irvine
Forth, Eric Patten, Chris (Bath)
Fox, Sir Marcus Pawsey, James
Franks, Cecil Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Freeman, Roger Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
French, Douglas Porter, David (Waveney)
Fry, Peter Powell, William (Corby)
Gardiner, George Price, Sir David
Garel-Jones, Tristan Raffan, Keith
Gill, Christopher Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Glyn, Dr Alan Rathbone, Tim
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Redwood, John
Gorst, John Renton, Tim
Gow, Ian Rhodes James, Robert
Gower, Sir Raymond Riddick, Graham
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Gregory, Conal Roe, Mrs Marion
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Sackville, Hon Tom
Grist, Ian Shaw, David (Dover)
Ground, Patrick Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Grylls, Michael Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hampson, Dr Keith Shersby, Michael
Hanley, Jeremy Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hannam, John Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Harris, David Stanbrook, Ivor
Haselhurst, Alan Steen, Anthony
Hayes, Jerry Stern, Michael
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Hayward, Robert Sumberg, David
Heathcoat-Amory, David Summerson, Hugo
Heddle, John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Hill, James Thurnham, Peter
Hind, Kenneth Townend, John (Bridlington)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Tracey, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Tredinnick, David
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Trippier, David
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Trotter, Neville
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Twinn, Dr Ian
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Hunter, Andrew Walden, George
Irvine, Michael Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Jack, Michael Waller, Gary
Janman, Tim Ward, John
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Warren, Kenneth
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Watts, John
Key, Robert Wheeler, John
Knapman, Roger Whitney, Ray
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Widdecombe, Ann
Lang, Ian Wilshire, David
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Winterton, Mrs Ann
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Winterton, Nicholas
Lord, Michael Wood, Timothy
Maclean, David Yeo, Tim
McLoughlin, Patrick Young, Sir George (Acton)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Tellers for the Noes:
Mills, Iain Mr. David Lightbown and
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendment agreed to.

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