HL Deb 18 April 1978 vol 390 cc1074-8

Report received.

7.15 p.m.


My Lords, I must inform the House that, owing to printing difficulties, there is no Marshalled List, so it will be necessary to describe the Amendments as the first, second, third Amendments, and so on.

Schedule 2 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord KIRKHILL moved the first and second Amendments en bloc:

Page 16, line 25, after ("includes") insert ("(a)") after ("houses") insert ("; or (b) a house or houses and other premises.".")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these Amendments deal with a small technical point; the intention in the Bill is not modified because of them. The purpose is to clarify and secure beyond doubt the original intention behind the amendment of Section 24 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1969 which is to bring within the scope of the repairs notice procedure commercial premises in tenements or other buildings containing houses in disrepair. The wording of paragraph (7) of Schedule 2 was modified to meet the wishes of the Opposition, accepted by the Government at House of Commons Committee stage. The intention was to make it clear that non-housing premises within a building could be brought within the scope of repairs notices issued by a local authority under Section 24 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1969 and would meet their share of the costs. The Government accepted the principle of that Amendment. It is only right that the owners of, for example, commercial premises in a building which includes houses—say a tenement building in Scotland—should share responsibility for common repairs required and should be made the subject of a repairs notice. The present wording of paragraph 6(d) might still not be construed as allowing a repairs notice to be issued in respect of a building which included premises other than houses. The insertion of the phrase ";or (b) a house or a houses and other permises" puts the matter beyond doubt.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, for explaining these two Amendments. They appear to be drafting and consequential, following acceptance by the Government in another place of a Conservative Amendment, and these two Amendments continue the purpose behind the agreement in another place and I commend them to the House.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Lord KIRKHILL moved the third Amendment:

Page 16, line 30, after ("among") insert ("the persons having control of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is another minor technical Amendment which, like the first two, does not modify the intention of the Bill. Paragraph (7) in Schedule 2 would at present amend the Housing (Scotland) Act 1969 to the effect that the cost of repair works undertaken by a local authority consequent on a repairs notice is apportioned amongst houses and other premises in a tenement building. It is now considered necessary to provide specifically that the apportionment is to identifiable persons, thus bringing the Bill into line with the existing provisions in Section 25(1) of the 1969 Act.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord KIRKHILL moved the fourth Amendment:

Page 16, line 39, at end insert— ("8A. In section 16(3) (rent allowances to private tenants)—
  1. (a) after the word "person" where it first occurs there shall be inserted "(a)";
  1. (b) at the end there shall be added the words "or (b) who is a tenant of a house which has or had on the appropriate day a rateable value not exceeding £600 and who would be such a protected tenant or statutory tenant if the house of which he is a tenant has or had on the appropriate day a rateable value not exceeding £200.
In this subsection "appropriate day" means—
  1. (i) in relation to any house which on 1st April 1978 comprised or formed part of land and heritages for which a rateable value was shown on the valuation roll then in force, means that date, and
  1. (ii) in relation to any other house means the date on which such a value is or was first shown on the valuation roll.".")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise to the House for introducing this Amendment at such a late stage. Its purpose is to correct a serious anomaly which has only recently come to light. The anomaly concerns the effect of the recent revaluation of property in Scotland on the scope of the rent allowance scheme. If the Amendment is not made, a number of tenants will be denied access to a rent allowance for which they would have been eligible but for the revaluation.

The scope of the scheme—with one small exception—is defined by reference to the criteria for protected tenancies under the Rent Acts. One of these criteria is a rateable value limit contained in Section 6 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971. That rateable value limit affects the eligibility of tenants for a rent allowance, even if their tenancy is not itself protected. For example, it affects tenants of housing associations—the group which, in practice, is most likely to be affected by the anomaly.

The problem is caused by the revaluation which took effect from 1st April this year. A newly-built or converted house whose rateable value is fixed for the first time after 1st April this year, is likely to have a rateable value roughly three times as large, on average, as the value which would have applied to comparable property prior to revaluation. In these new circumstances the statutory limit of £200 rules out new and converted property of a standard which was always intended to be within the scope of the rent allowance scheme. The Amendment seeks to remove the anomaly by introducing a new limit of £600 for the purpose of the rent allowance scheme.

My Lords, the simplest, and obvious, way of achieving the objective would be to alter the rateable value limit in the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971. But such an Amendment would be outwith the scope of this Bill. But we can deal with the point in the present Bill by amending the scope of the rent allowance scheme. The terms of the Amendment reflect the complexity of achieving the desired effect without either significantly widening or narrowing the scope of the rent allowances scheme.

This is a detailed, but important, Amendment which I felt should be put before your Lordships without delay. I wish to acknowledge in public the consultations I have had with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, who, with complete impartiality, and utter fairness, permitted the Amendment to come forward this evening. I confess that we have had to prepare it in a rush, and I think that we will wish to make a small, but vital further change to make quite sure that we preserve the right to rent allowances of housing association tenants, and similar categories. It is a complex piece of drafting, but I think that your Lordships would want us to get it absolutely right. Therefore, there may be a further minor Amendment at Third Reading. I beg to move.


My Lords, again we are grateful to the noble Lord for explaining the Amendment, which is the substantial Amendment to the Bill at this stage. It seeks to remove unfairness to a number of private tenants, an unfairness which would have arisen due to the effects of the recent valuation on the rent allowance scheme in the 1972 Act. I would remind your Lordships that the rent allowance scheme is the counterpart to the rent rebate scheme in the public sector, and my understanding is, as the noble Lord has explained, that most of those affected in Scotland are private tenants of housing associations, rather than other private tenants; and I saw the noble Lord nodding just now because I was responsible for the 1972 Act and for bringing in the rent rebate schemes and the allowances for private tenants. I hope that the noble Lord will look very carefully again, as he has suggested he will, to see that he has the wording absolutely right to cover all the tenants of housing associations whom we both have in mind. I shall certainly be ready to acquiesce in any change that may be necessary to make sure that the categories we have in mind are completely covered.

The noble Lord has confirmed that the Government must have realised only recently that the revaluation had this effect, and the noble Lord was good enough to let me know in the middle of last week that this Amendment was probably needed. From these Benches, we have no objection to holding the position for the benefit of these private tenants until the time comes for a more appropriate Act to be amended. Thank heavens that this House exists! If there were no Second Chamber, it would not be possible at this stage to make sure that this unfairness did not arise. These private tenants would have found themselves being, unintentionally, discriminated against. This is a comparatively straightforward Bill, and it has had full examination in several days of Committee in another place; yet this point has come up only at this stage. Several Government Amendments were made at Committee stage, and now there are these at Report stage. When a Bill is passing through Parliament revision, second thoughts, and even further thoughts occur, and these must be regarded as normal. The Second Chamber makes sure that there are opportunities of improving the legislation and ensuring that a Bill is as good as it can be before it leaves us.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord KIRKHILL moved the fifth Amendment:

Page 25, line 27, at end insert— ("37A. In section 6(I)(b) (payment of improvement grant) for the words" or 7(4) "there shall he substituted" 7(4) or I0A(4)".")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a further minor consequential Amendment. It is of a purely drafting character. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.