HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 cc84-5

Lords amendment: No. 133, in page 73, line 44, leave out from

("section") to end of line 45

Mr. Curry

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 134 to 137.

Mr. Curry

Some concern was expressed in Committee to the effect that the introductory tenancies internal review might not be as objective or fair as people wanted. We were pressed to give the Secretary of State the power to make regulations that laid down basic guidance to that end. The amendment provides for that. It gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations that can lay down requirements for the conduct of the internal review.

Mr. Raynsford

The Opposition support amendments Nos. 135 and 136, which are to do with tenants being informed of their rights to request a review. The Minister has referred to provisions that will ensure that such a review is carried out fairly and properly.

The idea of introductory tenancies is attractive to some local authorities—but only to some. Others strongly oppose it. The Government have nevertheless proceeded with the idea, so it is clearly right to introduce safeguards against possible abuse.

Introductory tenancies deny the usual principle of security of tenure to council tenants and enable tenancies to be terminated rapidly if the local authority chooses to do so during the introductory period. Hence it is essential that there be safeguards, because the potential for abuse remains.

There is widespread concern about people who may display characteristics that are not necessarily attractive or likely to make them popular in a particular area. They might fall foul of the provisions if they were granted a tenancy in such an area. One thinks of people housed under the care in the community provisions, who may be a cause of some concern to residents. One thinks, too, of people from ethnic minorities, who may be the subject of crude prejudice or racism.

If trumped-up complaints were lodged against such people by a majority of tenants in an area who did not want someone with a history of mental illness or with a black face to live there, there would be a real risk of injustice without a proper system of safeguards. That is why we pressed strongly in Committee for adequate time for people to dispute possession actions taken against them. They must have a proper opportunity to have their cases reviewed; such a review should be carried out fairly and reasonably, thus guaranteeing justice.

We therefore welcome the amendments, which provide the security that we think essential if the introductory tenancy concept is to come in without the risk of discrimination or breaches of natural justice.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 134 to 141 agreed to.

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