HL Deb 31 July 1974 vol 353 cc2342-7

[Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 8]

Clause 2(1) leave out sub-paragraphs (bb) (i) to (iii) and insert—'a course of study provided by a specified educational institution and is so granted either by that institution, or by another specified institution or body of persons ' [3] Clause 2(2), second line, leave out from ' following ' in the second line of subsection (2) to the end of subsection (5) and insert ' subsection:—

"(4) In paragraph (bb) of subsection (1) above "specified" means specified, or of a class specified, for the purposes of that paragraph by regulations made by the Secretary of State by statutory instrument '.

[5] Clause 3(1), at and insert—

'Case IOC

Where the dwelling house is let under a tenancy for a term of years certain not exceeding 12 months and—

  1. (a)not later than the relevant date the landlord gave notice in writing to the tenant that possession might be recovered under this Case; and
  2. (b)at some time within the period of 12 months ending on the relevant date, the dwelling house was subject to such a tenancy as is referred to in section 2(1) (bb) of this Act;
and for the purposes of this Case a tenancy shall be treated as being for a term of years certain notwithstanding that it is liable to determination by re-entry or on the happening of any event other than the giving of notice by the landlord to determine the term '.

[8] Clause 3, at end insert—

'Case 11C

Where the dwelling-house is let under a tenancy for a specified period not exceeding 12 months and—

  1. (a) not later than the relevant date the landlord gave notice in writing to the tenant that possession might be recovered under this Case; and
  2. (b) at some time within the period of 12 months ending on the relevant date the dwelling-house was subject to such a tenancy as is referred to in section 2(1) (bb) of this Act;
and for the purposes of this Case a tenancy shall be treated as being for a specified period

  1. (i) of less than 12 months, if it is determinable at the option of the landlord (other than in the even of an irritancy being incurred) before the expiration of 12 months from the commencement of the period of the tenancy, and
  2. (ii) of 12 months or more, if it confers on the tenant an option for renewal of the tenancy for a period which, together with the original period, amounts to 12 months or more, and it is not determinable as mentioned in paragraph (i) above '.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 8. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, argued very compellingly in favour of her Amendment when the Bill was originally before your Lordships, and I have no doubt at all that if she were so minded she would do so to-day. I can now say with complete honesty that the Government appreciate the concern which she and her noble friends feel on this issue, and this concern is fully shared on these Benches. We recognise that urgent action is necessary to ensure the continuance of an adequate supply of private rented accommodation for students, and we are fully committed to taking that action. But let me explain to your Lordships why the Amendment which was inserted here is not, in our opinion, a practical proposition.

It imported into rent legislation the entirely new and very dangerous concept that protection should depend, not on any fact connected with the relationship between the landlord and tenant, or with the nature of the letting, but rather with the occupation pursued or not pursued by the tenant. This would immediately give rise to practical difficulties of hair-raising complexity; and, as one who has been in this present condition since he was 21, I might well have felt that the Amendment of the noble Baroness needed no other merit. But, of course, the question is: should an existing tenant lose his protection if, perhaps, in maturity, with a view to a change of career, he decides to take up one of the numerous courses of study or training specified in the Amendment which was moved by the noble Baroness? If a person ceases to be a student but wishes to remain in the same accommodation, perhaps taking up a job in the same area, can he ever become a protected tenant; and, if so, at what point in time?

The noble Baroness's proposal may well have involved great hardship to those students who are married and have families, and who thus have arguably as good a claim to full protection as anyone else. There were many other difficulties which I deployed in the course of our Committee and Report stages. The Government are fully appreciative of the urgency of this matter, and of the need for workable machinery; and we therefore intend, as I said in my offer to the noble Baroness, to enter into immediate and full-searching inquiry and consultation with the various authorities concerned. When those have been completed, it is our intention to move legislation for the purpose of dealing with this problem, and we have particularly in mind a form of registration. This is a matter to which we attach great importance, and we recognise the urgency. We do not believe the noble Baroness's Amendment, which was included in the Bill when it went to another place, was practical or desirable. But it is our intention to deal with this problem as soon as possible. I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 8.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments.—(Lord Shepherd.)


My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will expect me to do anything else but to express deep regret that the Government have been unable to meet in a satisfactory form the very real problems which were identified by all sections of the House on the question of student accommodation. I am very disappointed that we are left with the Bill as drafted in the first instance. The noble Lord has given two reasons for not accepting the Amendment which your Lordships agreed to at Committee stage, the first being that he did not like the drafting of it. That is something which I think anybody who is not a Parliamentary draftsman comes up against. But he said, in effect, that he did not like the fact that the way it was drafted was dependent on the occupation of the tenant and not on the type of accommodation. I should have hoped that the Government would be able to redraft the Amendment to meet that point, if that was the cause of the difficulty.

The second reason which the noble Lord gave for not accepting the Amendment, which was that if someone was a mature student taking up a course, perhaps in his thirties or forties, he would lose his existing protection, which is perhaps the only argument that he could have produced against it, has certainly come very late in the day. If he went into the question, I think he would find that the overwhelming majority of students who take up these courses will be married women and that it will almost certainly be the husband who will be the tenant of the house, so I am not at all convinced that this is an argument that would apply to more than a very few cases.

On the general point, as I indicated before, under our Amendment the position of the students would have been no different from what it is under present legislation, so that one cannot say that in any sense they were being discriminated against. I think the disadvantage of what is now in the Bill is that it has been drawn up without any consultation with the Department of Education and Science or the local authorities, which is in itself something to be deplored. It affects thousands of students—we are not talking about a very small number—and the fact that the Bill is drafted as it is indicates the Government's concern because, as I understand Clause 2(1)(bb), this applies only to those rare students who are tenants and not licensees, and the reason why they are deliberately excluded is because it would not be helpful to future generations of students if accommodation let to students were let to them permanently.

The fact that this clause has been put in shows that the Government recognise the very real problem which exists for all universities. What they are suggesting is that there should be regulations brought in by the Minister to specify who is a student and where he is to live, but this will take some time and the noble Lord has already indicated that it will require legislation. It may well be that we shall not see the worst effects of the Bill in October, but we shall almost certainly begin to see them by the following October, when students will be looking for accommodation, and I hope that the Government will recognise the urgency of the situation. In my own town of Oxford, there are already horrifying stories about the difficulty of finding accommodation: this Bill will make it infinitely worse for every single university student.

So there is great urgency, which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, recognises. I should like to ask him to indicate to us what is his timetable on this. Do the Government—should they still be the Government next autumn—intend to move an Amendment to the Housing Bill which they published two days' ago to include something on this point? If not, are they proposing a Housing Bill of some kind in the course of next year in order to meet the problem that will arise in October, 1975? If they are not, we have a situation which will become serious next year and extremely serious very soon after that.


My Lords, as I said at the beginning, the noble Baroness can always argue in a pleasant but formidable way. I thought that she erred in only one respect, and that was in introducing any question of doubt as to who will be occupying this side of the House in October, but then I know that the noble Baroness still lives in hope. What I will say to the noble Baroness is that I recognise the urgency though I cannot go any further than what I have said today in terms of legislation. We recognise the urgency and, since I expect to be occupying a certain room which the noble Baroness well knows in No. 2, Marsham Street, I will invite the noble Baroness to come to have coffee with me on October 16, the day following the day when this House resumes. I will give her a cup of coffee and that will give me an opportunity to be pursued by her on this matter, and I shall then perhaps be in a position to give a more satisfactory reply than that which I can now give her in regard to this item.


My Lords, is my noble friend suggesting that coffee is the right way to celebrate?


My Lords, it depends entirely on whom one is celebrating with.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

12.45 p.m.

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