HL Deb 04 July 1980 vol 411 cc763-841

12.34 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Bellwin.)

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clauses 130 and 131 agreed to.

Schedule 19 agreed to.

Clauses 132 and 133 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 249 not moved.]

Schedule 20 [Amendments of Leasehold Reform Act 1967 and Housing Act 1974, Schedule 8]:

Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 249A:

Page 144, line 41, at beginning insert— (" . In section 1 of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, in subsection 1(a) (certain tenants entitled to enfranchisement or extension of their leaseholds where rateable value is within certain limits on a particular day) there shall be added the following subsection:— (7) In any case where the rateable value of a house and premises has been reduced since the appropriate day following a proposal for an alteration in the valuation list and the rating authority certifies in writing either that

  1. (a) it has made a refund of rates for a period commencing on or before the appropriate day under section 9(1)(a) General Rate Act 1967 on the ground that the amount of the entry in the valuation list was excessive, or
  2. (b) it would have made a refund on that ground for a period commencing on or before the appropriate day had the application for such a refund been made within the period specified by section 9(2)(a) of that Act
then the rateable value as ascertained for the purposes of this section shall be the reduced amount shown in the valuation list following the proposal for the alteration.".")

The noble Lord said: This is in the nature of a probing amendment raising a matter which I should be grateful if my noble friend would undertake to look into. I have no intention of pressing it at this stage. The purport of this was tabled in another place by my honourable friend the Member for Winchester, who was encouraged to table it by my honourable friend the Minister of Housing, but owing to some misadventure it was not debated.

The amendment is designed to deal with the injustice which has been caused to leaseholders who have their rateable value assessed incorrectly because of a mistake by local authorities and who have therefore been disfranchised where they ought to have been allowed to be enfranchised and negotiate the purchase of the freehold of their properties. I think the Committee will appreciate that, where an error like this has occurred, it ought to be possible for the matter to he rectified and for the leaseholder, if he is entitled in fact to become enfranchised, to he so enfranchised. I should be grateful if my noble friend would look into this and, if he agrees that an amendment along these lines is required, perhaps table one himself, because I am almost sure that his department would get it more nearly right than I can. I beg to move.


I support the amendment. I am sure that if the Government look into the matter they will realise that it is an injustice to the person who is placed in the position the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, described, to be deprived of what in fact should be given to him. I hope the Minister will consider the amendment favourably.


On the face of it, this seems a reasonable suggestion, but the difficulty is that if reductions of rateable value were allowed to count, it would be inequitable if corrections upwards were not also allowed to count. It would tempt landlords of houses just inside the limits to apply for corrections intended to take them outside the Act and thus would give rise to considerable anxiety on the part of the leaseholders concerned. There would also be the question of what to do about completed transactions and cases in the pipeline. We do not know how many leaseholders have been excluded from the 1967 Act as a result of incorrect rating valuations, but it seems unlikely to be many. On the other hand, a similar number may probably have been brought within the Act for the same reason. Consequently, although the Government are not unsympathetic to the intention behind a proposal of this kind, it seems that on balance we are as yet not persuaded that corrections in one direction only can be equitable. Whenever lines are drawn in legislation there are inevitably hard cases on either side of the line. That is a fact we must accept and regrettably there is no easy solution.

As it happens, the amendment would be effective only where the local authority had refunded an overpayment of rates back as far as "the appropriate day", as defined in the Act, or would have done so if the application had been made in time. Since this is a matter in which local authorities have discretion and base their decisions on widely varying criteria, the result would be uncertain and therefore unsatisfactory. It would also mean that corrections made in the future could not affect the position except in the case of new houses where the application for a reduction was made within six years of the house entering the valuation list.

I hope that in view of this explanation my noble friend will withdraw the amendment; it is clear that problems would arise from it. I am not sure whether we can, as he suggests, take the matter up and find a better way to make it effective in the way he wants. I suspect that, if that had been possible, we should, in view of the sympathy we have for what my noble friend is trying to do, have done it already. Nevertheless, if my noble friend has highlighted a point we should look at, of course we shall, but that is as far as I can go at the moment.


A point arises here, particularly in regard to Wales. Let us consider the City of Cardiff, where 40 per cent. of the population are leaseholders. Since the Industrial Revolution—which was spoken about by my noble friend last night, when we were here until very late—there has been a certain unfairness. The Government ought to look at this matter favourably. There is no need for me to make a long speech about it. I have the 1967 Act in front of me. I sincerely hope that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, receives the attention that it deserves, because in Wales, in particular this question has a great bearing on people's rights.


I hope that the Committee will forgive me for rising again, but I should like to direct a few more words to the noble Lord who is dealing with the Bill from the Government Benches. I find that he is prepared to listen to reason, and it must be borne in mind that two wrongs do not make a right. If a person has been in a position to obtain the advantages of the Leasehold Reform Act, it would be quite wrong to deprive him of them if the rates were increased. But the situation is not quite like that. I do not think that anyone would want such people to be placed in a category similar to those to whom the noble Lord referred in his amendment. I hope that the Minister will have another look at this matter. It strikes at the root of what we have been doing for many years; namely, correcting a situation which had prevailed, wrongly, for a long time.


I am grateful for the support for the amendment and I am grateful to my noble friend for his recognition that there is here an issue which is perhaps worth looking into. Nevertheless, I was impressed by his argument that if adjustments made one way must count, then adjustments made the other way ought to count, too. That probably means that marginal errors ought to be discounted and that an element of rough justice around the margin ought to be accepted. However, if the errors have been fairly substantial—and I understand that in a few cases they were, because totally wrong plans were used in the assessment—it ought to be possible to devise a way for the injustice to be corrected. If my noble friend will undertake to look at the matter again with a view to dealing with those issues—leaving aside the marginal ones, which I agree will be more difficult—I should be very happy to withdraw the amendment.


I tried to say that if there was a way in which we could be helpful without causing difficulty, we should want to do that. Yes, we shall have a look at this. May I point out in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that the amendment is not of any signifi- cance in regard to Wales because most, if not all, leasehold houses there fall well within the reteable value limits.


Good. I thank the noble Lord.


I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord DAVIES of LEEK moved Amendments Nos. 250 and 251: Page 144, line 43, leave out ("three years") and insert ("one year") Page 144, line 47, leave out ("three years") and insert ("one year")

The noble Lord said: I think it would expedite our proceedings if, with the permission of the Committee, I moved Amendments Nos. 250 and 251 together. For a long time the issue regarding the right to buy a freehold has been hedged around with all kinds of difficulties. Nevertheless, something is being done. I notice that several amendments to the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, including some contained in Labour legislation, have been retained by the present Government. Some of these amendments are purely technical, while some contain points of real substance.

The Government have already amendded the Bill in order to reduce from five years to three years the period that a leaseholder must have lived in his home before he can exercise the right to buy the freehold under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. That is the elementary position. The time which must elapse has been changed. Since the Government have gone so far in this direction, why should they not reduce the period to one year'? The nub of the argument is known by the entire Committee, and I should only cause irritation if I were to give illustrations which are in fact well-known to everyone. I hope that the Government will look at this matter sympathetically, because in particular it is of importance to the whole of Wales. I beg to move.


I oppose these amendments, as I do all amendments which are designed to broaden the scope of the 1967 Leasehold Reform Act. I am surprised that the Government themselves have in this Bill provided certain exten- sions to the 1967 Act, albeit minor ones. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, was understandably also somewhat surprised. Back in 1967 the Conservative Party in this House, in another place, and in the country as a whole, described the leasehold reform proposals then going through Parliament as "legalised robbery", and that description was an accurate one.

Speaking in your Lordships' House on 26th June 1967, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, as reported at column 23 of the Official Report, spoke of the injustice and the immorality of an unjust and immoral Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull (whom I am glad to see in his place today), described the proposals as astonishingly iniquitous, and he went on to point out that Mr. Silkin, an extremely distinguished member of the Labour Party, also conceded that the compensation terms were decidedly unfair to certain ground landlords. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, spoke of great injustice, and from the Liberal Benches the noble Lord, Lord Meston, referred to deplorable compensation which was scandalously unfair. From these Benches that very experienced surveyor Lord Silsoe, who unfortunately is no longer with us, also strongly condemned the compensation terms.

The fundamental objections of principle which applied 13 years ago are surely every bit as valid today. Therefore I hope that the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench will resist any amendments that are designed to widen the scope of the Bill, and that he will, indeed, have second thoughts about the Government's own proposals which also to some extent have that effect.


I listened with great care to the speech that has just been made, and I need hardly say that I do not agree with the contention. The aim of the Leasehold Reform Act was to remedy a grave injustice. We must face that fact. Therefore, there ought not to be any limiting of the period. Those of us who have been involved in this matter for 50 years or so realise what the Leasehold Reform Act did. It gave an opportunity to people who had lived in their homes for many years. Such people had built up the area, had given much of their lives towards making the area in question a flourishing one; and then found themselves deprived of all that. The whole idea was that they should receive something in return for the years of service that they had given in respect of the buildings that they had been occupying. Consequently, although I shall probably have a further word or two to say on this matter on later amendments, I think we ought to regard this from the real point of view, that anything which affects the leaseholder's rights should be very carefully examined. I therefore think that the amendment moved by my noble friend is a reasonable one.


I think the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, is along the right lines. I must declare my position as one of principle: that I am opposed, except in exceptional circumstances, to the maintenance of the concept of long leases of residential property. I should like to see them—subject to compensation, of course—converted into freeholds. Under the 1925 legislation copyholds disappeared, much to the joy of copyholders and, indeed, of lawyers, who had to try to understand them. I should have thought that with a bit of real will on the part of a Government—and this Government seem to have a great will to introduce the right to buy —this would be an opportune moment to consider the abolition of long leases of residential property. I agree that there are specialist areas—flats, business premises and so on—which are different, but I think the concept of leasehold tenure, with long leases of residential property, is wrong in principle; and therefore anything which increases the rights of the tenants to enfranchise I would support.


Perhaps I could say briefly, as my name was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that I suspect the noble Lord, Lord Monson, is possibly on his own now, some decade later, in taking the view that one could go any further with the Leasehold Reform Act. When the Act came into effect I felt just as strongly about it, because one was affecting a market and one was removing what were, in a sense, very large capital sums from freeholders who might have invested in property a year before, and who, a year later, would find that their compensation was greatly reduced.

When the Act first came into law, as it is indeed the law today, I think one had had to occupy the residence for five years. Now we are down to three years, and the suggestion is to make it one year. The principle of five years is that the occupant had established a right. He had improved the property and had established a right to a home. What happened immediately is that the clever lawyers recognised the position, and they advised their clients to serve a notice to purchase the freehold and, before the purchase actually went through, they could then sell that right on and make a handsome capital sum. I put that point only because it has not been mentioned; and I should like to think that that was the judgment, the balance. I would support my noble friend, in fact. Three years is now possibly the minimum period. One year is too short a time, and I hope the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.


I am most grateful to those who have spoken, very briefly and yet, I think, very effectively on this matter. Especially am I grateful to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for the specialised observations which he makes. They are always such a help in this complex area. The Act was, and is, intended to help genuine owner-occupiers of leasehold houses, and the Government felt that this objective could be adequately served by a three-year requirement, which, as I think the noble Lord has acknowledged, was amended in another place. We do not feel it would be justified to reduce the period to one year, and I feel, therefore, that we cannot accept that, so far as Amendment No. 250 is concerned.

Sub-paragraph 1(2) in the Schedule similarly reduces from five years to three the period which must elapse before a leaseholder who has withdrawn an application to enfranchise can make a second application. Some restriction of this sort is necessary to prevent landlords from being subjected to applications that are not seriously intended. But the five-year ban at present in the Act may sometimes cause hardship. So here again we thought the principles of the Act could be served by a three-year period, but we would not be in favour of reducing it to one year. I wonder whether, in the light of that, the noble Lord may feel able to withdraw his amendment.


I thank the noble Lord for that analysis of the situation. I paid a tribute to the Government for having brought the period down from five to three years. In view of the reply of the Minister and the fact that we have made some movement, to be fair to the Government, I will withdraw both amendments, 250 and 251, because I asked permission to move them together.

Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.

12.57 p.m.

Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON moved Amendment No. 252: Page 144, line 47, at end insert— ("(3) After subsection 1(4) of the 1967 Act insert: (5) Where a tenant is entitled to enfranchise his lease under the provisions of this Act, and if a Housing Association registered with the Housing Corporation under the Housing Act 1974 is willing to acquire the freehold on the terms to which the tenant would be entitled under this Act, the tenant may serve with his notice under this Act a notice stating that he wishes that Housing Association to purchase and the provisions of this Act will apply as if the Housing Association were a tenant entitled to apply for enfranchisement under this Act and the landlord will be bound to convey the freehold to that Association.")

The noble Lord said: There is not a matter of great principle involved in this amendment, but I think it is a useful reform, because it intends to amend the Leasehold Reform Act so that a housing association can obtain the right to acquire the freehold of a tenant if that tenant is willing that the housing association should. As the law stands at present, the housing association cannot purchase the freehold direct despite the fact that the lessee might be willing for the association to do so and the lessor might be willing for the association to do so; and even when the lessee cannot afford to do it, there is still no opportunity for the lessor to sell direct to a housing association. I understand that in South Wales and the Midlands, where this problem is very prevalent, there are many active housing associations which are anxious to take advantage of this potential improvement in the law, and numerous leaseholders who would benefit from it are currently suffering because of what must surely be an unintended anomaly in the existing law.

I know that this can be got round by the lessee contracting to sell to the housing association and then the transaction being completed in that way. I know that this is a device which can sometimes be used. But it is not a device which is always successful; it is a device which has pitfalls. If an amendment along these lines could be accepted, I should think that it would be to the benefit of quite a large number of people who are in difficulties as lessees at the moment, and where the lessor has no objection whatsoever to a housing association standing in the shoes of the lessee. I beg to move.


The Leasehold Reform Act provides that a person who is qualified under the Act and serves a notice of his intention to enfranchise may sell the house with the benefit of that notice. There is no restriction on to whom he sells it, and the purchaser then completes the process of buying the freehold from the landlord under the terms of the Act. It follows, therefore, that there is no need, with respect, for this amendment, since its objective can to all intents and purposes be achieved already, albeit in two stages.

Furthermore, by involving the third party in the process of enfranchisement from the start, such a proposal would give rise to a number of issues which would need to be dealt with. For example, if the transaction fell through because the housing association withdrew from the purchase, would the leaseholder lose his right to enfranchise for the next three years? I would have to say that I am not convinced that what is proposed here really is necessary to achieve what I think the noble Lord is wanting to achieve; and in view of the other problems it may bring with it I wonder whether he would feel able to withdraw this amendment.


I had no intention of dying in the last ditch in support of this particular amendment. I think the two-stage device to which the noble Lord has referred is not as widely known as it might be, and if the existence of that device is better known as a result of this debate and people in fact take advantage of it, it will be a good thing. They do not do so now very much because they find it complex and difficult—that is the problem. But I am quite willing to withdraw the amendment in the hope that people make more use of the two-stage device. So, with your Lordships' leave, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (The Earl of Listowel)

Before I call the next amendment I must point out to the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 255 or 256.

Lord MONSON moved Amendment No. 253: Page 145, line 7, leave out paragraph 3.

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to remove that subsection which would effectively make it impossible for anyone to grant a new long lease which would be exempt from the provisions of the 1967 Act or any subsequent modification to that Act. This subsection seems to me entirely contrary to the new Conservative philosophy, or shall I say the revived Conservative philosophy, of allowing people to stand on their own feet; because people will after all, should the Committee agree to this amendment, be going into the lease with their eyes open. They will know that it will terminate in a certain number of years and they will weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of paying a lower price in return for never being able to gain the freehold.

There are, and have always been, certain advantages in this for certain people. In 1967 the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, speaking on 26th June (in column 24) described how he had been brought up as a boy in a leasehold house in London and how, when he was young, he resented the fact that the house would not be his or his family's forever. He said: … as I grew older I soon realised that the fact that this house was not ours for ever was offset "— and this is the point: it was offset— by the fact that my father had been able to buy it at a much cheaper price than if it had been freehold.

It is surely up to the individuals, so long as they know what they are in for, to be able to enter into a contract on this basis if they wish. I would ask the noble Lord to think again about this subsection.


Amendment 253 would delete the provision in paragraph 3 of Schedule 20 to the Bill which closes a loophole in the Leasehold Reform Act, 1967. In so doing it will reopen the loophole and will thereby permit landlords to evade the provisions of the Act by granting life leases of a certain kind which are at present exempt. Government Amendment 255 will modify the proposal in the Bill by permitting the granting of bona-fide life leases in the future which will be exempt from the 1967 Act. I hope that this may satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin. I did not realise that the amendment has the effect that apparently it has. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Before calling Amendment No. 254 I should explain that it will pre-empt Amendments Nos. 255 and 256, so that if it is argeed I shall not be able to call those amendments.

1.3 p.m.

Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY moved Amendment No. 254: Page 145, line 7, leave out paragraph 3 and insert— (" 3. The proviso to Section 3(l) to the 1967 Act (meaning of Long Tenancies) shall be deleted.")

The noble Lord said: The Leasehold Reform Act, 1967, which gave a long-leaseholder of a house in certain circumstances the right to acquire the freehold compulsorily also had a proviso in Section 3(1) of the Act exempting leases which are terminable by notice after a death or a marriage. The purpose of this exemption was to enable people who had relatives, especially elderly ones, to continue in the house with a leasehold without necessarily attaining the right to buy.

Unfortunately, that small and well-intentioned loophole opened an enormous gap in the Act through which could be driven a horse and cart. There are a number of estates at the moment where the giving of a lease is tied to the death of someone totally distinct from the party. A very frequently used provision is the reference to the death of all the issue of King George V presently living, and the lease can go on until the last one dies. It then becomes, because it has that provision in it, a lease which cannot be enfranchised. That is obviously not what the Act intended. I do not think it is a very good thing, although the firms concerned were entirely entitled to treat the law as it then existed.

The Government have gone some way to correcting this by putting a provision in this Bill which amends the 1967 Act and means that long leases on houses granted from the 18th April 1980 will not be subject to that proviso. That is a very good thing and we are grateful to the Government for doing what they have done. What they have not done is to say that it applies to all the long leases of houses under the 1967 Act, including the ones in which the leasehold started before April 18th. They take this position, as I understand it—and the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—on the basis that to apply this alteration in those cases would be retrospective. It is my argument this afternoon that in that they are totally mistaken or, if they are not mistaken, that this Bill, too, is retrospective and so is the 1967 Act.

There are two ways of dealing with matters in the past in our legislation. One is where we say that a thing becomes an offence and was an offence as we look at it now, even though at the time it was committed it was not against the law. That is the kind of retrospective legislation that most of us deplore, and certainly my party has always stood very firmly against it. That is entirely different from passing a law which says, we will now change what the law is as it affects people's houses and leaseholds, et cetera. That is a very serious step to take, because, to a certain extent it is taking away from some people their rights just as it is giving other people rights. It should not be done. It is more common than true retrospective legislation, and we are used to it.

We are at the moment in fact dealing with a Bill doing exactly that the whole way through; and the 1967 Act did exactly that all the way through. I cannot see why the Government cannot amend this Bill to what was originally intended in the 1967 Act, without any injustice to anyone. I think that they really should do this. It would help enormously a number of people of the kind the Government want to help. I ask them seriously to consider this. I beg to move.


The intention of Amendment 254 seems to be to go further than the Government's original proposal in paragraph 3 of the schedule to close a loophole in the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, by making the proposal operate retrospectively. That is to say, the result would be that all life leases which are at present exempt from the 1967 Act would become enfranchisable, whether they were entered into as bona fide family arrangements or whether they were granted by commercial landlords perhaps as a means of avoiding the Act.

The Government's proposal, by contrast, does not affect leases granted before 18th April, 1980, and was announced in a Press Notice issued the previous day, so that those contemplating granting life leases would be aware of the proposed change in the law. The fact that this amendment would bring bona fide family arrangements within the scope of lease-hold reform when the original Labour Act excluded them—while I would not in all cases want to use that as an argument—in this instance is an argument against it. I am not able to be very helpful to the noble Lord. I entirely understand the point that he makes and, I like to think, the motivation behind his making it, but we would not want to go further than we are proposing. Therefore I hope that he will not be unhappy that I have not gone into greater depth in responding—I am sure that we shall do so on other points that he will raise—but on this matter, that is as far as I can go.


I am not unhappy. I take the noble Lord's point. With the leave of the Committee, I will withdraw this amendment. I will try—and at first sight it does not appear totally impracticable—to come back at Report stage with an amendment which will catch the people who make distant provisions about the children of King George V and will not catch bona-fide family cases. I entirely follow the noble Lord's answer. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.12 p.m.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 255: Page 145, leave out lines 8 and 9 and insert ("the following words are inserted at the end of the proviso:" if either—

  1. (a) it was granted before 18th April 1980; or
  2. (b) the notice is capable of being given at any time after the death or marriage of the tenant, the length of the notice is not more than three months and the terms of the tenancy preclude both its assignment and the sub letting of the whole of the premises comprised in it".")

The noble Lord said: The reason why Amendment No. 255 is starred on today's Marshalled List is that two words—"or marriage"—have been inserted into it in the light of a comment from the Law Society. Schedule 20 to the Bill contains in paragraph 3 an amendment to the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 which closes a loophole in Section 3 of that Act. I should explain that Section 3 contains a proviso which exempts from the Act tenancies granted so as to become terminable by notice after a death or marriage.

We have recently seen examples where landlords have granted long leases of houses which would be within the scope of the Leasehold Reform Act but for the fact that they contain an option for the leaseholder to determine the lease at any time after the death of the last survivor of any issue of King George V living at the date the lease was granted. We are back to King George V again. Such leases would appear to be exempt from the Leasehold Reform Act by virtue of the proviso to Section 3.

The Government decided that this loophole should he closed and the provision in paragraph 3 repeals the proviso so that it would not apply to any leases granted from 18th April 1980, the date on which the proposal was announced. The change would not however affect leases which had been granted prior to that date.

We recognise therefore that a further amendment is needed, and Amendment No. 255 restores the proviso, but only for leases which satisfy certain conditions. This should allow for the creation of bona-fide tenancies terminable on the death or marriage of the tenant, which would be exempt from the Leasehold Reform Act, but would prevent the proviso being used by commercial landlords as a device to evade the Act. I beg to move.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I should like to support my noble friend and welcome this amendment. I should like to make one plea on a general point: Schedule 20 is possibly the most complicated "gibberish", one would almost say in the reform of the Leasehold Reform Act. It is so bad that I hope my noble friend will insist that an explanatory memorandum is published very soon so that everyone knows their rights: tenants, landlords and the professionals. Quite frankly, at the moment you have to buy three old Acts, this new Act and then you have to piece it all together.


May I support what the noble Earl has said? The explanatory and financial memorandum attached to this Bill is one of the most laconic and brief that I have ever read. It is no help at all. I hope that the Government will consider this in the future. May I repeat the plea that I made before that they will publish a plain man's guide (or perhaps I ought to say also a plain woman's guide) to this complicated legislation.


Dare I say that we sometimes refer to certain guides as "idiot's guides"? I dare not say that and nor do I mean it in any context other than one within our department: sometimes we have "idiot's guides" for Ministers. I entirely take the point. I am not aware of the problems that the schedules or whatever present to people. If there is a need, as has been so forcefully and fairly suggested, certainly we should look at it. I undertake that we shall do so, and similarly with those parts referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.


I am obliged to the noble Lord.

[Amendment No. 256 not moved.]

1.16 p.m.

Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON moved Amendment No. 257: Page 145, line 21, at end insert— ("In Section 16 of the 1967 Act, omit subsection (1)(a) and subsection (1)(b)")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I feel I may be slightly inconsistent. I exclaimed loudly in support of what the noble Earl said about the complexity of Schedule 20, but my amendment now makes it more complex. But this is on humanitarian as opposed to administrative grounds. This is a very important amendment and is similar to that in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, Amendment No. 258.

Under Section 16 of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, leaseholders who have exercised the right under that Act to extend their leases by 50 years are denied the right then to purchase the freehold of their property at the expiry of their extended term. To me this is totally inconsistent with fair play and certainly inconsistent with the views of my party and with the present avowed policy of the Minister's party of establishing a property-owning democracy. The present situation is such that there are a very large number of people who have been born and brought up in one house—a house that their parents and sometimes even their grandparents lived in before them. When the present representatives of the family—after 99 years of continuous family occupancy are told that the lease has come to an end and they are asked to pay several thousands of pounds to purchase their family home, this seems to be anomalous and contrary to the most modern views about house ownership.

If they do not at the end of the 99-year term have the money to buy the house but because of financial stringency choose to take the 50-year term and renew the lease after 50 years, at the end of that period their successors, their great-grandchildren perhaps, will not have the option under the present law of purchasing the freehold. They will be denied the right that is currently given to council tenants all over the country by this proposed legislation. I should have thought that the Government might well have been willing to accept this amendment. I do not think they will be showing weakness in doing this. It would be consistent with their policy of expanding a property-owning democracy. As the Leasehold Reform Act stands at present, it is not consistent with that philosophy. Many of us who have had to work with the Leasehold Reform Act and have had to try to interpret its meanings and fathom the complexities and obscurities of that legislation would like to see the Leasehold Reform Act rewritten completely. This is one way in which an anomaly and a hardship could be reversed and it would be consistent with the general philosophy of this Bill. I beg to move.


What the noble Lord, Lord Evans, has said gives me the opportunity to ask the Government what in general they are intending to do about leasehold reform. A century ago vast areas of Birmingham, Cardiff, London and other industrial cities were developed on 99-year leases. These are now beginning to fall in or will fall in within the next few years. I think it is true to say that in London, which I know well, there are very few freehold houses at all. There are only the houses which are clustered round what were the old villages and they are rare. These leases are expiring and will be expiring in very great numbers. There will be thousands of houses where the leaseholds will be running out and many elderly leaseholders are faced with an extremely worrying choice between buying the freehold, extending their lease or being thrown into the insecurity of the private rented sector.

The Bill introduces a price formula for valuing minor intermediary leases and establishes the leasehold valuation tribunals. These proposals are welcome, but there are other major reforms which are long overdue. Many leaseholders are not qualified to buy their freehold and often the price asked prohibits purchase. I hope the Government are going to consider this. I know it is one of their views that, because houses below a certain rateable value are able to, houses above a certain rateable value should go to a valuation tribunal and the market price should be paid. But in the case of some of the London houses, particularly in the more desirable parts, this could mean £150,000. Perhaps the tribunal would say, "We think a fair price would be £100,000 or £110,000"; but that is still far beyond what the leaseholder can pay. The Government might say, "Oh, yes, but we cannot allow them to make a large capital gain", but even the houses below the rateable value involved, which are still able to do this at very reasonable prices, are making a capital gain. Anyone who owns a house makes a capital gain. In fact, the country is now divided not between rich and poor but between those who own property and those who do not.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, talked about "daylight robbery", but I really think that the rights of a landowner in London whose estate has let the houses on leases for 100 years or more are fairly slim. Is it the noble Lord's intention that every 100 years the house should go back to the estate? That is certainly not the case with the copyright laws, which exist only for 50 years after the author's death. You might be a beneficiary of a very lucrative estate of a popular composer or author, but it is cut off after 50 years.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, in London at any rate, the contract has always been between a willing buyer and a willing seller. People know exactly what they are in for when they are buying a short or medium length lease and they accordingly pay a price which reflects that. Prior to the 1967 Act they paid very much less for a leasehold house than they would have done for a freehold house.


I accept that, but people did sometimes buy houses 50 or 60 years ago, which is a long time, and at that time it was an accident really whether you bought a freehold or a very long leasehold. If you were unfortunate enough to come down on the side of buying a long leasehold house, now, at the end of your life, you are probably finding that it is beginning to run out. I know there is a lot to he said on both sides. As I mentioned before, in the case of the rented fiats and the large mansion blocks in London, this is a problem which the Government ought to take on board because thousands, thousands and thousands of long leasehold houses granted 100 years ago are going to fall in within the next decade and hundreds of thousands of people are going to be thrown out who are not in a position to buy the freehold. What are the Government going to do about it, particularly in the area of stringent public expenditure cuts? I do not think that local authorities are going to be able to cope. What is the forward thinking of the Government and what long-term plans have they in mind?

1.22 p.m.


I hope your Lordships will forgive me for participating in almost all these amendments, because I fought an election on the Leasehold Reform Bill and the leasehold system in 1929. I think the approach to it is wrong. What is the idea of lease reform? Why did Lloyd George spend so much effort on it? I knew Lloyd George very well and discussed these matters with him. The whole idea was that when the Industrial Revolution came an ingenious set of landlords decided they would have leaseholds which would protect their future generations and give them the benefit of what the leaseholder had done for the whole of his life.

That is the position. It is not a question of capital gain. It is a question of paying a leaseholder for what he has done by having occupied the leasehold for all the years and consequently having increased the value of the house or flat—of course, the Leasehold Reform Act did not refer to flats, but that is the position. This is not a question of being given a gift. It is a question of being compensated for having kept a house or flat in order and having, by that method and by paying the rates, improved the area in which the house is situate. Consequently, because of this and because the payment has been made by the lessee all along, it is a question of his being entitled, according to the leasehold reform idea, to have the benefit of it. So, please, get it out of your minds altogether that the idea of the Leasehold Reform Act meant that there was a gift to the person who had actually been a leaseholder for many years.

What are you asking for now? In 50 years' time you will have somebody other than myself and others who are living today raising exactly the same point.

Areas and districts will be left at the mercy of the landlord, and who knows what kinds of landlord they will be? As I have said many, many times, there are very good and very humane landlords but it will be left to the unscrupulous landlord to come along—and God knows how high the prices will rise then!—and say: "Unless you pay this price, all you have done in the past 50 years is for my benefit and consequently you are entitled, as a decent fellow, to help the landlord by giving him the gift of the advantages you have brought to the property in all those years."

That is why I speak like this. The noble Lord referred to my contribution as "emotive." Probably it is, because I have lived through it all and I was president of the Leaseholders' Associations for many years. This is the actual position. We are dealing with the lives of people, with the homes of people and with the advantages that are brought to districts and docks —because this is what happened at the time of the Industrial Revolution: land increased in value because there were docks there. Do not let us take advantage of the people who were responsible for improving those areas; and please, I hope the noble Lord will, without having to wait until a further time, say that this is a reasonable request.


Of course, it is true that I said the noble Lord is emotive on this subject, but there is nothing wrong with being emotive on it. Indeed, the whole subject of housing is an emotive one. It is bound to be. It concerns the lives of people, because housing is so basic to everything in the country. I was rather pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi—it would not have helped him if I had called him my noble friend—say that the country is divided between those who own property and those who do not. Of course, he is quite right. That is the very reason why we are so desperately keen to see that tens and hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of council tenants also become owner-occupiers and join those who own their properties. I do not think that the noble Lord differs from me as to that.

May I say, first, before I come to the specific points on the amendment, that, so far as I am aware, the Government do not have proposals at the present time to amend the Leasehold Reform Act beyond the proposals in the Bill. Whether or not that is something which should be taken up, as has been so eloquently commended to the Committee today, is something which no doubt my colleagues will consider. But I know of no such proposal at the present time.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked what would happen to people when the leases fell in. Again, to the best of my knowledge, when those leases do fall in tenants can become secure Rent Act protected tenants, if they so wish. While that is not, by any means, the same kind of thing as noble Lords opposite would like to see, nevertheless it is an answer—it may not be satisfactory—as to what would presumably happen to them at that time.

Coming to the amendment, and the points put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Evans, when a leaseholder has obtained an extension of his lease for 50 years he has a valuable asset which is saleable, and it is not easy to see what justification there is for giving him another opportunity to change his mind and enfranchise once the 50-year extension has begun. It also seems fair that once the term of the original lease has expired and the leaseholder has made his choice, the landlord should know that the position is no longer subject to change.

We are told constantly—and I think with great sincerity—by noble Lords opposite, not only that not all landlords are villains but also that very few are villians, and that is fair. That being so, we must see that their position, too, is watched carefully in the context of this whole matter.

The question of the valuation basis to be used under this proposal could give rise to some difficulties, but presumably the price of enfranchisement would be expected to increase the further one got into the period of the extension lease. For this reason, it would seem unlikely that many leaseholders who were unable to enfranchise during the original period of their lease would be able to do so at a later stage, when the cost would be higher in real terms, quite apart from increases in house prices. I do not myself think that that is a very powerful argument against the amendment, but nevertheless it is a factor.

The second part of Amendment No. 257 would enable a leaseholder who had obtained a 50-year extension lease to claim a second extension and, I suppose, any number of extensions. I would remind the Committee that no premium is payable for an extension lease under the Act, and that is one very good reason for not permitting more than one extension. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that the White Paper, Leasehold Reform in England and Wales, which announced the proposed legislation in 1966, made it quite clear that once the lease had been extended there was to be no right to a further extension thereafter, and that is the position under the Act.

I do not feel that there is much more I can add to that. As I said a moment ago, I recognise the depth of feeling on this matter, as indeed on other matters which are covered in this Bill that we are discussing. But it does not seem to me, if I may say this off the top of my head, that without a major and complete reform of the Leasehold Reform Act we can get much further than we have done with this matter.


There is a philosophical difference between the noble Lord the Minister and myself about these matters. I have a very deeply-felt, fundamental belief that it is totally inappropriate that long leases of residential property, such as this, should be able to produce a profit for a second and, perhaps, a third time to the feudal landlord—which is pretty well what he is.

My grandfather was one of the notorious, or famous, Welsh builders on Merseyside and he built thousands of houses. But because he did not think that he had some feudal right, he sold them, while other people—ancestors of some noble Lords in this place—at the same time created 99-year leases which they were selling for virtually the same price. What is the difference? It is a matter of fundamental principle to me, and I think it is extraordinary that the noble Lord, the Minister, will give tenants of council houses endless bites at the cherry of house purchase, but will give the leaseholder only one bite and will not give him a second opportunity to come back.

Lessors seem to me to be one of the very few groups of people in our society who not only want, but can have, the cake and eat it, and have it frequently. I feel very strongly indeed that, in this day and age, this is a totally wrong attitude. It is causing a very great deal of hardship to a very large number of families who thought, rightly or wrongly, that they had a house which they would own for the rest of their lives and which they could pass on to their families. They may not have been aware of all these complexities, but that is what they believed and they are finding now, in many sad cases, that they are having to pay many thousands of pounds to try to buy what they thought was their own—


Would the noble Lord not agree that most ground landlords are not feudal landlords but charities?


Indeed. I am very glad the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that. The BP pension fund is one that comes to mind. I do not want to repeat the problems that they had in another place, but they have been very much criticised for their attitudes to their lessees. They say, quite rightly

I suppose, that they have to make the best terms they can for their pensioners, but these make very bad terms for the lessees. It seems to me that this would be a reform that would not go to the root of the concept of leasehold, as I should like to do—I agree that this is not the appropriate time—but it would help people who were not able to afford to renew, when it came to an end, a lease which they may have thought, without justification, was theirs in perpetuity. They could not afford to renew it and they took out a 50-year term. Why can they not have another opportunity to buy it? We are not talking about expropriation. We are just seeking a second opportunity for people to buy something which they thought they had already bought. I cannot understand the attitude of the Minister. My intention is to test the feeling of the Committee, and I hope that I shall have widespread support.

1.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 257) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 37; Not-Contents, 57.

Airedale, L. [Teller.] Evans of Claughton, L. McCarthy, L.
Amulree, L. Fisher of Rednal, B. Peart, L.
Ardwick, L. Gaitskell, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Aylestone, L. Gifford, L. Rochester, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller.] Gordon-Walker, L. Sainsbury, L.
Hale, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Birk, B. Hatch of Lusby, L. Shackleton, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Henderson, L. Stone, L.
Brockway, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Strabolgi, L.
Collison, L. Janner, L. Underhill, L.
David, B. Jeger, B. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Abinger, L. Gowrie, E. Mottistone, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Greenway, L. Mountgarret, V.
Bellwin, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Bessborough, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Clitheroe, L. Hanworth, V. O'Neill of the Maine, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Hornsby-Smith, B. Redmayne, L.
Craigavon, V. Ilchester, E. Remnant, L.
Craigmyle, L. Kinnaird, L. Romney, E.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lauderdale, E. Sandford, L.
Davidson, V. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
De Freyne, L. Long, V. Soames, L. (L. President.)
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lyell, L. Spens, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Effingham, E. Marley, L. Swansea, L.
Ellenborough, L. Merrivale, L. Trefgarne, L.
Elton, L. Milverton, L. Trumpington, B.
Faithfull, B. Monk Bretton, L. Vickers, B.
Ferrers, E. Monson, L. Vivian, L.
Fortescue, E. Morris, L. Westbury, L.
Gainford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

1.46 p.m.

Lord DAVIES of LEEK moved Amendment No. 258: Page 145, line 21, at end insert— ("In section 16 of the 1967 Act, after subsection (1) insert— (1A) No person whose tenancy has been extended under section 14 above shall thereby forfeit the right to acquire the freehold".")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Birk. May I explain why the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, is not here. It is because of the illness of his wife. It is not because he lacks any assiduity in following up the leasehold issue. He was kind enough to let me see some of the notes he was going to use, but I am not going to read masses of them to the Committee. I am sure the Committee will be glad to hear that.

What am I saying and why? This is very important because half the Committee does not seem to know what it is saying. That was evident in the very important debate which the House had this morning. In my amendment I say that after subsection (1) of Section 16 of the 1967 Act the following new subsection should be inserted: (1A) No person whose tenancy has been extended under section 14 above shall thereby forfeit the right to acquire the freehold".

In other words, this Bill has in it a Catch 22—the 1967 Act. You can buy your leasehold if you can afford to do so, and yet, by the tenant foreclosing on you, you cannot buy the leasehold. That is putting it in simple English. We can forget the Barons at the Bar—I mean the legal Bar! It is quite obvious that the Committee is tired—


Can I say to the noble Lord how much we are enjoying this?


—for the Committee would have picked that up like a shot last night. But sitting until three o'clock in the morning affects the reactions!

Turning to Section 16 of the 1967 Act, I will try to put the relevant part of it into plain English. When the tenancy of a house and premises has been extended under Section 14, and any part other than the house or the property then comprised in that tenancy is afterwards, while so comprised, held or occupied with another house not so comprised, what happens? This Act shall not apply to exclude any right under this Part of the Act for the tenant of the other house to acquire the freehold, but if the case falls within subsection (2) above and the tenant of the other house gives notice of his desire to have the freehold, or to extend it, the landlord—here is the nub of it—not later than two months afterwards, may give written notice to him objecting to the inclusion in his house and premises of that part in question.

Putting it into plain English, he can stop the purchase of the leasehold. To pick up the philosophy of the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, I heard the Committee talking about leaseholds costing £110,000.

A noble Lord: Freeholds.


Yes, freeholds. When I was a child, my grandfather could have bought his farm for £50. It was offered, until he poured sand and glass down the chimney pot and stuffed it up and could not undo it. He tried to put a fire out in a crooked farm. What has happened? It happens that the individual is left with conditions—and I think I ought to give one or two—that are completely different from those of the tenants of council houses. There is a complete disparity.

The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has worked brilliantly during the week and he is so tired out—I could see that he was tired out this morning—but about 10 minutes ago, before we had the Division, he built us a glorious picture of council house tenants being property-owning democrats. They were going to buy these council houses all over the country. What he has not told the taxpayer is that about £15,000 for each house bought is ultimately to be a charge on the nation. Where is all this money coming from? This is the kind of people we are dealing with. In Wales, the West Midlands and in Leek, where I had the honour to represent the people for about 26 years in the other place, I knew the miners' houses and I knew the farm houses. We had about 3,000 farms in one area. The leasehold system is like perpetuity of interest. Until mankind discovers an answer to the perpetuity of interest the power of the tomb will completely dominate the living. I have said in this House many times before, we have not yet paid for the Battle of Waterloo in real terms.

In land, if you have perpetuity of leasehold you can go on until you have a volcano or one of these atomic wars which some people think will protect us and life will not be on earth. We then come to the axiom: there is no wealth but life. Land cannot create wealth unless people are there to work it and when leaseholders talk about their property and their land and their treatment, let me give an example. The noble Lord from Cardiff said that I could quote the person's name, but I do not want to make a silly mistake by quoting somebody's name without checking it; but I will give the example of this dear old person. This lady in Cardiff, in her seventies, has lived in a house for nearly 50 years; she has brought up five children and has been a widow for most of that time. During that time she has looked after the little house, kept it clean, grown roses in the garden and had it looking good.

Her lease expired last September. Before it expired she asked to buy the freehold and was quoted £3,200—none of your £110,000. The house is worth £8,000 freehold but there seems to be no way in which she can raise or pay back this money. If she fails to find this money she can extend her lease at £220 per annum. This forfeits the right of her ever buying the leasehold. How in the name of heaven can a poor old widow like that find the money? Noble Lords talk about £110,000. Let us bring it down to the reality of the people we are trying to make property-owning democrats. That is the issue at stake.

Now I do not want any sanctimonious answers about robbing the landlord. That is bunkum. Some of that property has been leased for 999 years in some parts of historic Britain. To say that one can reclaim the land after such a time is nonsense. In fact we Celts were driven out. We have a better claim to England than the noble Lord here has to Palestine.


Not Palestine!


I knew I would upset the noble Lord. We were driven out—


Will my noble friend give way for a moment? I do not want to be discourteous, and I agree with him on his theological and geographical observations, but which amendment is he talking about?


Oh, the noble Lord did not hear—

Several noble Lords: Order!


If I may intervene, I also have been wondering that same thing for the last few minutes.


There is no need to be worried about it.


I am not worried about it; I should just like to know which amendment it is.


It is Amendment No. 258.


The noble Lord must move it.


What on earth is the noble Lord telling me that for? My first words were "I beg to move."


I am sorry.


That was the example that I wanted to give. That landlord could also, by the application of this 1967 Act, if necessary, prevent the person concerned from ever buying the leasehold. That is all I want to say. It is very similar to the Act that we had. There was no let-up in the answer given to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and I sincerely hope that we shall bring this subject down to the realities of little people like this who are in terrible circumstances, in various places throughout the length and breadth of England and Wales. I have kept your Lordships long enough. I have wakened you up a little and thank you for listening. I beg to move.

1.57 p.m.


I should like to support this amendment, in spite of the fact that my noble friend brought in Palestine. If I may say so in passing, if he were to go to Israel today and could see what they are doing he would find a tremendously important example of what the world should be doing, particularly in housing, with the vast number of immigrants coming into the country. But be that as it may, I will return to this Bill. Here again we are up against the same problem and I appeal to the Minister because, as I have said before, I think he is a reasonable person who is prepared to listen to appeals that are made to him and to persuade his Government. Never mind about the Government persuading him, he should persuade the Government that what we are saying is right and then we should have some peace.

The Leasehold Reform Act was intended to protect people who had leasehold properties. We fought for about 12 to 15 years in order ultimately to get the Act through, and it is so reasonable and sensible an Act. Apart from some of the amendments that have been produced, we really must look at it from the point of view that the leaseholder is the person who has created the value. Therefore, any removal of the possibility of having the benefit of that value to go to him or to his successor is absolute robbery. That is the position and I will not pursue it much further. I think the noble Lord understands what we are driving at.


I do indeed understand the point that noble Lords opposite are driving at. I understood it on the last amendment, when we had a lengthy debate on it and I have to say that I do not become more impressed when the same points are repeated and thrown at me over and over again. I like to think that I am as tolerant as anyone, but I find it frustrating to have the same points put to me almost ad nauseam after all this time.

I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, had not said that he wants no sanctimonious answers about robbing the landlords. In the first place, I have not given him any sanctimonious answers about anything, and I feel that perhaps that request is something that he will not feel so pleased about when he considers having said it. After all the debates we have had about the finances and the implications of selling council houses, I think it is wrong simply to knock out that it will cost the taxpayer £15,000 for every council household in the country. It is not so. That is totally false.

I am not going to say much at all on this amendment because I made the points to the best of my ability on a similar amendment. It so happens that this amendment, No. 258, is technically defective because it would conflict with another part of Section 16 of the Leasehold Reform Act which makes it clear that a leaseholder cannot enfranchise during the 50 years' extension. We cannot accept this amendment.


If I may intervene before the noble Lord sits down, he question my figures. He should know that I take care before I quote them. The financial effects of disposing of asset council houses, which in the long run will more than pay their way, according to a Department of the Environment confidential figure leaked in the Guardian showed that each house sold over its life would cost the public purse between £1,500 and £9,500. This money will ultimately have to be made up by the taxpayer. I did not drag it out of the air.


I am not going into this argument again. We had it yesterday at some length, and I said at that time that I would produce, and the department has produced, evidence which shows that that is not a fact. There is nothing in the experience of what has happened that shows it to be a fact. In fact it is total rubbish, and I do not care what source the noble Lord quoted. He cannot come along, at this point in time, when he had the opportunity yesterday when the matter was being debated at length and now throw out figures which have no validity at all.


I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

2.2 p.m.

Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON moved Amendment No. 259: Page 146, line 45, at end insert— ("9.—(1) The freehold reversioner of any long lease falling within the provision of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 shall notify the tenant of his rights under that Act not less than six months nor more than one year before the date on which the lease is due to expire by effluxion of time. (2) Where any freehold reversioner fails to give such notice as is required by paragraph (1) above, the term granted by the lease shall be extended until one year after the service of notice of the tenant's rights under the said Act. (3) The Secretary of State for the Environment shall make regulations by statutory instrument prescribing forms of notice for the purposes of this paragraph. 10. All expenses incurred under section 9(4) of the Leasehold Reform Act shall he repaid to the tenant by the local housing authority for the district in which the property is situated.").

The noble Lord said: Again I am beginning to feel that I am repeating myself, but this amendment is again an amendment which I think would be a useful help to the lessee and make the plight of people who are not aware of their position, less onerous. What it seeks to do in the first three paragraphs, is to help lessees, tenants, who are unaware that their lease is coming to an end, to be informed. In other words, it puts an obligation of a positive nature on the lessor, the landlord, to inform the tenant, not more than a year and not less than six months before the expiry of the term, that his lease is coming to an end. If he does not inform the tenant, the lease continues until he does so inform the tenant, and thereafter the tenant has a year in which to enfranchise or renew the lease as appropriate. This seems to me to be a very important minor measure of assistance to lessees. I do not think I need to go over the ground again. They should know that their lease is coming to an end, but so many people do not know for one reason or another, because of age, or infirmity or whatever. What it really seeks to do is to put the same obligation on the landlord as the landlord has under the Landlord and Tenant Act in the case of business premises. It seems to me a perfectly reasonable proposal which would leave the tenant in no doubt at all. The landlord has to take the positive step of telling the tenant his lease is coming to an end, and then the tenant would not have the fear or the uncertainty about when his lease comes to an end and expires. The final paragraph is, of course, to cover the cost of carrying out that work. It seems to me a reasonable amendment which would be helpful, and I would hope the Government might soften their stony heart and accept it. I beg to move.


I think my noble friend will be able to deal with the substance of this amendment, but I would, before he does so, take up the last point the noble Lord, Lord Evans, was making when he was referring to the cost of all this. The expenses involved are the expenses of investigating the right of the leaseholder to acquire, verifying title, valuing the premises, and then eventually conveying the premises. I cannot for the life of me see why that should fall upon the ratepayers, which is what the local housing authority is at the end of the day.


I am very grateful to my noble friend for making certainly one of the points I had intended to make myself in response to Lord Evans.

The noble Lord may perhaps be unaware that a provision of the kind he is seeking already does exist. He mentioned the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Under that a long tenancy of the kind to which the Leasehold Reform Acts apply does not automatically terminate on the date specified in the lease. The landlord has to serve notice on the tenant giving him not less than six and not more than 12 months' notice of the date on which the tenancy is to terminate, and the notice must among other things warn the tenant that he will lose his rights under the Leasehold Reform Act unless he exercises them no later than two months after service of the notice. This provision is to be found in Schedule 3 to the 1967 Act. It ensures that the leaseholder will not be deprived of his rights under the Act merely by being unaware of them. Consequently, the first part of the amendment is covered in that way.

With regard to the second part, in relation to costs, I would only want to repeat what my noble friend said. I do not for a moment think it right to expect the public purse to pay these costs in all circumstances, which I assume is the intention of the amendment. Legal aid is available in the usual way to those who qualify. I cannot accept the amendment.


The provision as I put it in the amendment would have improved, in my opinion, the position of the tenant at the end of the term, or the successor or the family of the tenant at the end of the term. In a sense I might have been wiser if I had left out paragraph 10 and concentrated on the first part, because I see now that there was not much chance of this Government doing as I hoped they would. I have taken the view right from Second Reading, as the noble Lord knows, that what I want to do is to protect the rights of private tenants just as much as those in the public sector. It seems to me that the interest of the Government has only been about those in the public sector. I know the philosophy behind that. But the fears and problems and disadvantages of tenants in the private sector are very often worse than those in the public sector. This has always been the difference between myself and the noble Lord the Minister over this. Consequently, I could not have expected him to accept my amendment, and because of the time of day and the general atmosphere of longeur in the Chamber, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON moved Amendment No. 260: Page 146, line 45, at end insert— ("9. In the event of there being more than one interest in the premises superior to that of the tenant the total of the prices to be paid by the tenant to those entitled to such interests should not exceed the price that the tenant would under the provisions of this Act have to pay to the owner of the freehold interest. If after ascertaining the price payable by the tenant for the freehold and any other superior interest in premises if the tenant gives notice to landlord that he is unable or unwilling to acquire such interests at that price, the tenant may not serve a new leaseholder's claim until a year has elapsed after he withdrew his previous application".).

The noble Lord said: I am really quite frightened to move this amendment, because it is an extremely complex point which arises when renewal of long leases comes up, where an intermediate owner has intervened. The type of case that I am thinking of is where a tenant thought that he would be able to enfranchise the lease from the lessor and it turns out that there is more than one immediate superior landlord. The Leasehold Reform Act 1979 went some way to help here. That Act was passed providing that the price payable on enfranchisement could not be made less favourable to the tenant seeking enfranchisement by transactions carried out after 15th February 1979, which created or transferred such intermediate leases, as I was mentioning. Thus, such transactions are to be ignored if effected after that date.

However, the 1979 Act does not relieve tenants from having to pay inflated prices because of transactions before that date over which they have no control. And if a tenant is caught by such a pre-1979 transaction, he still has to buy out each superior interest separately. The purpose of Amendment No. 260, therefore—and I am trying to put it briefly, simply and as quickly as possible because of the time —is to place all tenants seeking to enfranchise in the same position, in that they will only have to pay the price which would be payable if they were the immediate tenant of the freeholder. I hope that that is pellucidly clear to your Lordships.

This is a technical amendment which is perhaps unimportant to the vast, overwhelming body of lessees, but it is extremely important to a small number of lessees as the difference to them might be the difference between having to pay £300 or £400 and £5,000 or £6,000. So, although it only affects a small number of people and although it has been brought to my attention by people representing such people, I think that the mere fact that it affects a small number of people is not a reason why we should ignore it. That is why I beg to move.


As the noble Lord has said, this amendment is in two parts. The first part would provide that where there was a chain of leases between the occupying leaseholder and the freeholder, on enfranchisement the leaseholder would not pay more in total to purchase several interests than he would if there were only one. This is what would normally happen in practice, however, because the value of each interest will be reduced by virtue of the existence of the leases below. The advice I have received, therefore, is that the provision in the first part of the amendment is not necessary.

The second part of the amendment is similar in intention to Amendment No. 251, and would reduce the period before which a leaseholder may serve a second notice of enfranchisement, after withdrawing a previous one, to one year. It would, however, conflict with the provisions in paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 20 which reduces the period between applications from five years to three years. I do not think that it would be reasonable to go further and to reduce this period to one year, because it would enable leaseholders to make repeated claims and it does not seem very likely that their circumstances would change so quickly and so often. For those reasons we cannot accept the amendment.


There is no question that this is a difficult amendment. It involves two separate matters of principle and also the possibility of a very large number of interests. What I am trying to do is to attack the weakness of the 1967 Act of separate valuations of each superior landlord. I could summarise the purposes of the amendment as follows. It seeks to abolish the scheme of separate valuation and replace it with a system under which all tenants enfranchising their leases have the price fixed on the same basis, and where there are superior interests that price would be divided between the holders of those various superior interests.

I think that I had better ask leave to withdraw the amendment on the grounds that it is a complex matter. I should like to look again both at the form of my amendment and the reply which the noble Lord has made. If it does not satisfy those who brought the matter to me, I shall have to bring it back at a further stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 20, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 134 agreed to.

Schedule 21 [Leasehold Valuation Tribunals.]:

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendments Nos. 261 and 262: Page 147, line 39, after ("9(4)") insert ("or 14(2)"). line 40, after ("freehold") insert ("or an extended lease").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment Nos. 261 and 262 en bloc. These two amendments fulfil an undertaking which my right honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales gave in another place. Under our proposals in Schedule 21, valuation disputes arising under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 are to be referred in the first instance to Leasehold Valuation Tribunals instead of the Lands Tribunal, as at present, but unlike the Lands Tribunal the Leasehold Valuation Tribunals will not have power to award costs.

Paragraph 5 of Schedule 21 makes it clear that the landlord's legal and valuation costs which a leaseholder may be required to bear under Section 9(4) of the 1967 Act when he enfranchises, do not include any which arise solely from the reference to a leasehold valuation tribunal. It does not, however, deal with the situation where a leaseholder has obtained a 50-year extension to his lease under the 1967 Act and is asking the leasehold valuation tribunal to determine the modern ground rent payable at the beginning of the 50-year period. The amendment therefore inserts a reference to costs arising under Section 14(2) of the 1967 Act, to ensure that a leaseholder will not have to bear the landlord's costs of a reference to a leasehold valuation tribunal to determine the modern ground rent. I commend this pair of amendments to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

2.15 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 263: Page 148, line 4, at end insert—

("Provision of information

6A.—(1) Where a matter is referred to a leasehold valuation tribunal for determination, the tribunal may by notice in writing served on the tenant or landlord or on a superior landlord require him to give to the tribunal, within such period but not less than 14 days from the service of the notice as may be specified in the notice, such information as the tribunal may reasonably require.

(2) If any person fails without reasonable cause to comply with any notice served on him under this paragraph he shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £200").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of Amendment 263 is to ensure that a leasehold valuation tribunal, to which valuation disputes arising under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 will in future be referred instead of the Lands Tribunal, will have the necessary power to obtain such information as it needs. For example, it may need to see copies of leases. Accordingly, the amendment empowers the leasehold valuation tribunal to require any party to a dispute to provide such information as it may reasonably require, within a specified period. There is the usual penalty for non-compliance. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendments Nos. 264 and 265: Page 148, line 10, after ("(1A)") insert— ("An application to a leasehold valuation tribunal under subsection (1) above must be in the prescribed form and contain the prescribed particulars. (1B)") Page 148, line 29, at end insert— ("(5A) After section 21(4) insert— (4A) The Secretary of State may make regulations prescribing—

  1. (a) the form of any application under subsection (1) above; and
  2. (b) the particulars which it must contain; and any such regulations shall be made by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.".").

The noble Lord said: With your Lordships' permission, I will deal with these two amendments together. At present an application to the Lands Tribunal for the determination of a dispute arising under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 has to he made in a prescribed form. Schedule 21 to the Bill provides for these matters to be determined in the first instance by a local leasehold valuation tribunal. Amendment 264 requires that an application to the leasehold valuation tribunal must similarly be made in a prescribed form, and Amendment 265 gives the Secretary of State powers to make regulations prescribing an appropriate form and the particulars it must contain. The regulations would be made by statutory instrument, subject to the Negative Resolution procedure. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 21, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 135 agreed to.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 266: After Clause 135, insert the following new clause: Landlord's failure to disclose identity or give notice of assignment: increased penalties (. In relation to offences committed after the commencement of this section section 121(1) and (5) and section 122(5) of the 1974 Act shall have effect as if for "£200" there were substituted "£500".).

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 266 and consequential Amendment No. 293 fulfil an undertaking given by the Government in another place. Sections 121 and 122 of the Housing Act 1974 relate to the disclosure of a landlord's identity. Under Section 121 a tenant of a house or flat may request an agent of his landlord to provide him with the name and address of the landlord, which the agent must supply within 21 days, if the landlord is a corporate body the tenant may ask for the names and addresses of the directors and secretary, which the landlord must supply within 21 days. I am concerned that many tenants seem unaware of these rights and the penalties on landlords who fail to comply. The maximum penalty for failing to provide any information of this kind is a fine of £200. The amendment will increase it to £500, which is in line with the general scale of penalties for which the Home Office has responsibility. I commend this amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 136 agreed to.

2.19 p.m.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 267: After Clause 136, insert the following new clause:

"Houses in multiple occupation: over-crowding.

(".—(1) For section 90 of the 1957 Act (overcrowding in houses let in lodgings) there is substituted the following section— Over-crowding in houses let in lodgings.

90.—(1) If it appears to a local authority, in the case of a house within their district which is occupied by persons who do not form a single household, that an excessive number of persons is being or is likely to be accommodated on the premises having regard to the rooms available, the local authority may serve on the occupier of the premises or on any person having the control and management thereof, or on both, a notice under this subsection (an "overcrowding notice") complying with subsections (2) and (3) below and including either—

  1. (a) the requirement set out in subsection (4); or
  2. 803
  3. (b) that set out in subsection (5).

(2) An overcrowding notice shall state, in relation to every room on the premises, what is in the authority's opinion the maximum number of persons by whom it is suitable to be occupied as sleeping accommodation at any one time or, as the case may be, that it is in their opinion unsuitable to be occupied as sleeping accommodation.

(3) An overcrowding notice may, in relation to any room, prescribe special maxima applicable in any case where some or all of the persons occupying the room are under such age as may be specified in the notice.

(4) The requirement referred to in subsection (1)(a) is that the person on v. horn the overcrowding notice is served must refrain from—

  1. (a) knowingly permitting any room to be occupied as sleeping accommodation otherwise than in accordance with the overcrowding notice; or
  2. (b) knowingly permitting such number of persons to occupy the premises as sleeping accommodation that it is not possible, without—
    1. (i) one or more rooms to which the overcrowding notice relates being occupied as sleeping accommodation otherwise than in accordance with that notice; or
    2. (ii) any part of the premises which is not a room being occupied as sleeping accommodation; to avoid persons of opposite sexes and over the age of 12 years (other than persons living together as husband and wife) occupying sleeping accommodation in the same room.

(5) The requirement referred to in subsection (1)(b) is that the person on whom the overcrowding notice is served must refrain from—

  1. (a) knowingly permitting any room to be occupied by a new resident as sleeping accommodation otherwise than in accordance with the overcrowding notice; or
  2. (b) knowingly permitting a new resident to occupy any part of the premises as sleeping accommodation if it is not possible, without—
    1. (i) one or more rooms to which the overcrowding notice relates being occupied as sleeping accommodation otherwise than in accordance with that notice; or
    2. (ii) any part of the premises which is not a room being occupied as sleeping accommodation; both to permit the new resident to so occupy any part of the premises and avoid persons of opposite sexes and over the age of 12 years (other than persons living together as husband and 804 wife) occupying sleeping accommodation in the same room.

(6) In subsection (5) above "new resident" means a person who was not immediately before the date on which the overcrowding notice was served, living in the house.

(7) Where a local authority have served an overcrowding notice on any person and that notice includes the requirement referred to in subsection (5) above, the local authority may, at any time, withdraw that overcrowding notice and serve on that person, in its place, an overcrowding notice which includes the requirement referred to in subsection (4) above.

(8) Not less than seven days before serving an overcrowding notice, the local authority shall—

  1. (a) in writing inform the occupier of the premises and any person appearing to them to have the control and management thereof of of their intention to serve the notice, and
  2. (b) ensure, so far as is reasonably possible, that every person living in the house is informed of that intention;
and shall afford to any such person an opportunity of making representations regarding their proposal to serve the notice.

(9) The local authority may from time to time serve on the occupier of premises in respect of which an overcrowding notice is in force, a notice requiring him to furnish them within 7 days with a statement in writing giving all or any of the following particulars, that is to say—

  1. (a) the number of individuals who are, on a date specified in the notice, occupying any part of the premises as sleeping accommodation;
  2. (b) the number of families or households to which those individuals belong;
  3. (c) the names of those individuals and of the heads of each of those families or households; or
  4. (d) the rooms used by those individuals and families or households respectively.

(10) Any person aggrieved by an overcrowding notice may, within twenty-one days after the date of service of the notice, appeal to the county court and—

  1. (a) on any such appeal the court may make such order confirming, quashing or varying the notice as it thinks fit; and
  2. (b) sections 37 and 38 of this Act shall apply in relation to an appeal tinder this section as they apply in relation to an appeal to the county court under Part II of this Act.

(11) A local authority may at any time, on the application of any person having an estate or interest in the house, revoke an overcrowding notice or vary it so as to allow more people to be accommodated in the house.

(12) If a local authority refuse an application under subsection (11) above, or do not within 35 days from the making of such an application, or within such further period as the applicant may in writing allow, notify the applicant of their decision on the application, the applicant may appeal to the county court, and on the appeal the court shall have power to revoke the notice or vary it in any manner in which it might have been varied by the local authority.

(13) Any person who contravenes an overcrowding notice shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500.

(14) Any person who knowingly fails to comply with the requirements of a notice under subsection (9) above, or furnishes a statement which he knows is false in a material particular, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50."

(2) Nothing in this section shall affect the operation of the 1957 Act, as it had effect immediately before the commencement of this section, in relation to any notice served under section 90 before that date.")

The noble Lord said: This amendment arises from consideration that we undertook into overcrowding legislation, following discussion of the Bill in another place. It was put to us then that there was no power that would allow authorities easily to control the occupancy of houses in multiple occupation by reference to their size. This clause will allow the authorities to do just that. I have other reasons why I feel that this amendment will commend itself to the Committee. Unless pressed I see no reason especially to enumerate them at this moment. I beg to move.


I agree, of course, with the principle of the amendment, and I am sure the Committee will agree to it, but a few points about it worry me. In these days of not only shortage of accommodation but difficulties that young people and others find in getting accommodation at all, I am worried least in certain areas local authorities might even evict parts of families. I am thinking in particular of the first and second generation of people coming into our country who may have large families. It is possible—I can envisage this—that local authorities might take it unto themselves, because of the amendment and the way it is drafted, to distribute families separately, and I want to avoid that. I am not against the amendment but simply wish to bring this point to my noble friend's attention.

Secondly, one knows of accommodation which one would think, in the terms of the amendment, would be seen to be overcrowding. Young people are taken in and perhaps sleep five, six or seven to a room, simply because there is nowhere else for them to go, because they have no roof over their heads. I fear that unless local authorities are guided by the Minister as to what they can do as a result of the amendment, some of those young people may be thrown out into the streets with literally nowhere else to go. As one knows, that has happened in the past. I hope that, with these comments, my noble friend will ask the Minister to ensure that what I have described does not happen.


I am grateful to my noble friend, and of course what she says is a matter of concern. She can be comforted by the fact that our proposals will make some improvement on the present situation. I fear there will be a tendency for there to be a worsening; it seems to have gone on in that way for so long, however much one strives to make it better. It is sometimes like trying to push back the sea. Nevertheless, we must try to improve matters, and I am grateful for her remarks.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

2.22 p.m.

Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 267A: After Clause 136, insert the following new clause:

Houses in Multiple Occupation—Termination Orders

(.—(1) Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of sections 12, 14, 15 and 16 of the Housing Act 1961, where the local authority are satisfied that a house which is occupied by persons who do not form a single household does not satisfy the relevant standard in respect of any one or more of those provisions, and is not capable at a reasonable expense of being made to satisfy that standard, then the local authority shall serve on the person having control of the house notice of the time (being not less than twenty-eight days nor more than fifty-six days after the service of the notice) and place at which the condition of the house and any offer with respect to the carrying out of works, or the future user of the house, which he may wish to submit, will be considered by them.

(2) Within seven days of the service of a notice under subsection ( 1) of this section, the local authority shall post a copy of that notice in some conspicuous part of the house, and it shall be an offence (other than on the authority of the local authority) for anyone to remove, damage, deface or obscure that notice, punishable, on summary conviction, by a fine not exceeding ten pounds for a first offence, and a fine not exceeding fifty pounds for a subsequent offence.

(3) The local authority may serve a copy of the notice on any persons having an intrrest in the house, and where such person gives notice to the local authority of his interest, the local authority shall serve a copy of any notice issued under this section.

(4) A person upon whom a notice under subsection (1) is served, any other person having an interest in the house, and any private tenant shall be entitled to be heard when the matter is taken in to consideration at the meeting called by the notice issued in accordance with subsection (1).

(5) Any freeholder, mortgagee or lessee shall be entitled to submit offers with respect to the carrying out of any works. Details of such an offer shall be given to the local authority not less than three days prior to the time set by the notice under subsection (I). On receipt of such details the local authority shall forthwith post a copy in some conspicuous part of the house.

(6) The local authority may accept an undertaking from any person having an interest, in the house either—

  1. (a) to carry out the works detailed in a programme which will, in the opinion of the local authority, ensure that the house conforms with the relevant standard: or
  2. (b) that the house will not he occupied by persons who do not form a single household until such time as the local authority certify that the house conforms with the relevant standard.

(7) If no such undertaking as is provided for under subsection (6) is accepted by the local authority, or if, in the case where they have accepted an undertaking there has been some breach of that undertaking, then the local authority shall forthwith make an order requiring the termination of the use of the house by persons who do not form a single household.

(8) Where a local authority have made an order under subsection (7) they shall serve a copy of the order on the person having control of the house and shall post a copy in some conspicuous part of the house.

(9) An order under subsection (7) shall come into force when it is made, and the effect of the order shall be subject to the provisions of subsections (10) and (11) of this section.

(10) At the expiry of six months from the making of the order under subsection (7) it shall be an offence for any person to cause or permit the house subject to the order to he occupied by persons who do not form a single household, punishable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500 for a first offence, and a fine not exceeding £2,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

(11) From the date of the making of an order under subsection (7) and until the expiry of six months from that date, the local authority shall have the like powers and duties with respect to the house as if a control order under section 73 of the Housing Act 1969 had been made.

(12) Nothing in this section shall preclude the letting of any vacant accommodation within the house: Provided that any such letting shall not be for a longer period than that remaining unexpired in the period specified in subsection (10) of this section.

(13) For the purposes of this section, private tenant ' has the meaning given to it in section 17 of the Rent Act 1977.").

The noble Baroness said: May I, before dealing with this amendment, thank the Government for making the previous amendment, with which we totally agree. We are glad to see that something is being done about what is a really horrendous problem. Amendment No. 267A supplements the one we have just accepted. It introduces a new clause to allow local authorities greater flexibility in dealing with multi-occupied houses which do not comply with the proper standards. At present a local authority, if it requires an owner to do necessary work, can only make a closing order, a drastic remedy which means that the house cannot be used at all. Many authorities are unwilling to do this, with the result that many houses continue to be multi-occupied in absolutely appalling conditions, with many families sharing a WC or kitchen, or both.

The amendment would provide for a termination order whereby over a period the house would cease to be multi-occupied but could be used for a single household, so it would not be removed altogether from the housing stock, particularly at this time of such enormous homelessness. The Government have said they are studying these problems with local authorities. While, as I have said, we welcome the previous amendment, I hope the Minister will tell the Committee what progress has been made and whether he is prepared to accept this amendment or something along these lines, because both are very badly needed.


In examining this amendment, we are considering what should be the duty of local authorities who consider that an HMO is not up to standard in some way or another, and cannot be made so at reasonable expense. Quite apart from the vexed question of definition of "reasonable expense", I should like to make the general point that our purpose must be to keep these houses open: closure or reduction of occupation must be regarded as a last resort.

Local authorities already have wide powers to close an HMO wholly or partly, and to reduce occupancy levels, as well as powers to require works of improvement. I am not convinced that this amendment would add a useful power to what authorities are already able to do. However, my honourable friend the Member for Hampstead made this point in another place, and said that we should be willing to consider this, if it was shown to be needed, but such consideration would not be possible within the timescale of the Bill. No further evidence of the need for this measure has been received by my department in the interval. For the present, therefore, I can only repeat that I do not believe that any useful purpose would be served by this amendment. In the light of the Government's offer to consider evidence to the contrary, I invite the noble Baroness, first, to withdraw the amendment, and further, to send me evidence, which I assure her will be very carefully taken into consideration.


May I follow what my noble friend and the Minister have said? There is probably a general wish in all parts of the Committee to find constructive solutions to the problems of multi-occupied housing. On the one hand there is a real need for housing for the single homeless and often for families for whom there is no other provision. On the other hand we are talking about what is probably the rock bottom in terms of amenities and conditions, when discussing these various clauses on multi-occupied housing. A little later, we, and I think the Government, too, will come to the fire problem.

In this case it is not so much a question of new evidence. We all know that there are multi-occupied houses which are grossly insanitary and where the need to share facilities is quite unacceptable. The question is: Are the existing legislative mechanisms adequate and sufficiently flexible to deal with the problem? I am thinking in particular of the smaller houses which are quite unsuitable for three or four families to be crammed into, but which might he perfectly suitable in terms of accommodation. I am wondering whether the idea of a termination order—which is not new; I think that it was put forward in another place in a Private Member's Bill—is the subject of consultations with the local authorities, which, on the information that I have been given, might be interested in exploring the use of wider powers. Of course I take it that these ideas are under consideration, but I was informed that at some point a report is to be produced following the consultations which have been taking place with local authorities.


I must confess that I do not know of the report that the noble Lord mentions. I understood that my honourable friend the Member for Hampstead said that we were anxious to consider whatever may be put to us, and I repeat that we shall be glad to do that. If, in addition, there are reports or discussions of the kind that the noble Lord mentions, I should think it right that they should be included in the pool of thinking on this whole area. This is a subject with which at one time I was very much concerned as the noble Lord will probably appreciate and as such it is of much interest to me.


I think that the report is to be made by the Housing Services Advisory Unit. The unit has been asked to examine this problem and to report to the Minister of Housing, who I think has agreed to publish the report. Perhaps the Minister can inform me in writing, if he does not have details now, what progress is being made with the preparation of the report.


I shall be glad to do that.

Baroness BIRK

Bearing in mind that there is about to be correspondence between my noble friend and the Minister, and in view of the Minister's assurance that he will look at this matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 22 [Houses in multiple occupation; revised penalties for certain offences]:

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 268: Page 150, line 16, leave out ("(as originally enacted)").

The noble Lord said: This is purely a drafting amendment, the intention of which is to remove from Schedule 22 the erroneous implication that Section 61 of the Housing Act 1969 has been amended in the past. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 22, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 137 to 139 agreed to.

Clause 140 [Regulations and orders]:

2.30 p.m.

Lord GIFFORD moved Amendment No. 269: Page 93, line 26, leave out ("51(3)").

The noble Lord said: Clause 51(3), which is mentioned in this amendment, takes us back to our discussions on short-holds, because that clause is the clause which provides for regulations to be made by the Secretary of State for the prescribed form of notice to be given by landlords proposing to let on shortholds. Your Lordships may recall that when we debated shortholds some concern was expressed about the form of that notice, and the Minister agreed to give further consideration to providing us with information about what would he in the notice. At present, under the Bill, the regulations prescribing the form of notice do not need to be laid before Parliament, even under the Negative Resolution procedure, and the purpose of this amendment is to require that they are brought under that procedure, so that we have the opportunity to look at them when they are finally agreed to. If we find that they are defective and do not give enough notice to the tenant, then the matter can be raised in either House of Parliament. I do not see why they are one of the few exceptions to the Negative procedure, which has been laid down for almost everything else, and it would be much more suitable if they were. I beg to move.


There are already precedents for using the Negative procedure in cases similar to those that we are proposing. For example, may I mention the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. Section 68 of that Act is concerned with exempting certain classes of development from the requirement for an industrial development certificate. Subsection (2) enables the Secretary of State to direct that no industrial development certificate shall be required for particular classes or descriptions of development in any area prescribed. It does not specify the criteria that the Secretary of State must consider, and these regulations are subject to Negative Resolution.

However, the appropriate procedure obviously needs to be determined in the light of the circumstances of a particular case. I agreed yesterday that we should consider this, but without commitment. I hope that the quoting of this example will nevertheless help to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, that what we are proposing is in fact neither unconstitutional nor unprecedented. Even so, I promised the noble Lord, Lord Foot, that I shall be consulting with my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor on this point, which the noble Lord was concerned about, and I shall ensure that whatever my noble and learned friend may say on it will be communicated to the noble Lord, Lord Gifford.


May I ask the noble Lord whether before the matter is considered again some kind of opportunity will be given to those of us who are concerned about this matter to have a look at what is proposed, and possibly to suggest some alterations which might be acceptable? It is a very difficult position, because the average person does not really know what his rights are, and it is important that these matters should be introduced in such a way that the public will be able to understand what they are about.


I hope that we all agree about what the present Bill is providing. It is not providing the Negative procedure at all; it is providing that the regulations under it shall be exerciseable by statutory instrument, subject to annulment pursuant to a Resolution by either House of Parliament—that is to say, subject to the Negative procedure—except in the case of certain sections, including the section regarding shorthold notices. They would just be brought into force by statutory instrument, without the Negative procedure. From the noble Lord's reply, I was not quite sure whether we had the same understanding. Having said that, I accept the undertaking to consider this matter and I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 269A: Page 93, line 26, after ("51(3)") insert ("55(7)").

The noble Lord said: This is a minor consequential amendment to the Government's Amendment No. 124A to the assured tenancies scheme in Clause 55. It relates to the notice which, as a consequence of the earlier amendment, an approved landlord will be able to serve in order to create a protected or housing association tenancy. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord GIFFORD had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 270: Page 93, line 29, after ("under") insert ("section 51(4) or").

The noble Lord said: We have already discussed this amendment and in the circumstances I shall not move it.

Clause 140, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 141 agreed to.

Schedule 23 [Minor and consequential amendments: transitional provisions and savings]:

2.37 p.m.

Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON moved Amendment No. 271: Page 151, line 28, at end insert— (". For section 4(1) of the 1957 Act (matters to be taken into account in determining fitness for human habitation) there is substituted the following sub-section:— 4(1) In determining for any of the purposes of the Act whether a house is unfit for human habitation, regard shall be had as to its condition in respect of the following matters, that is to say—

  1. (a) repair;
  2. (b) stability;
  3. (c) freedom from damp;
  4. (cc) internal arrangement;
  5. (d) natural and artificial lighting;
  6. (e) ventilation;
  7. (f) water supply;
  8. (gg) drainage and sanitary conveniences; (gg) standard amenities as described in Schedule 6 to the 1974 Act;
  9. (h) facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water.").

The noble Lord said: I put down this amendment at the suggestion of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities of which I am a vice-president. This might be an improvement on the present standard of fitness defined by Section 4 of the Housing Act 1957. This section is in need of revision, having been in operation virtually unchanged for 26 years since it was enacted in the Housing Repairs and Rents Act 1954. Expectations have arisen among tenants and the nature of the housing problems has changed significantly since that time. This amendment seeks to introduce two new factors in fitness standards. The standard of amenity—baths, inside toilets and artificial lighting and so on—is related to other proposed amendments which your Lordships have considered or will be considering to improve the physical environment mainly in inner urban areas of our great cities.

The Denington Report in 1966 recommended that the presence of the standard amenities should be taken into consideration when assessing a dwelling's fitness for habitation. This view is now commonplace and the recommendations of the report should he implemented because, besides being in keeping with the contemporary greater expectations of the average tenant, such a revised definition would have the advantage of consistency with the legislation for renovation grants.

It is also considered that suitable and sufficient artificial lighting should be a requirement of fitness, although exceptions may have to be made to houses without main electricity when none is available. At present, compulsory improvement procedures (the installation of basic amenities at the request of the tenant) are cumbersome, to which many noble Lords will bear witness. One of the effects of changing the definition of fitness to include basic amenities will mean simplification of the procedure where an authority wish to improve a dwelling. Lacking of basic amenities alone is unlikely to render a dwelling suitable for demolition or closure. Hence, this amendment will have the effect of streamlining and consolidating the improvement and repair conditions of the Housing Act. It is not intended to mean, nor will it inevitably mean, more demolition.

I think, therefore, that the effect of these changes would be threefold. First, a revision of the standards will allow authorities more readily to seek to improve housing conditions or prevent deterioration by extending and simplifying the procedure whereby a local authority can make a house fit; reasonable expenditure should be explicitly defined to refer to the vacant possession value of the property thereby eliminating much of the confusion arising from the interpretation of this section. Secondly, the integration of the fitness standard with renovation grant legislation will have the major effect of making any work required under a Section 9 notice grant-eligible. I have mentioned the principal points. There is quite a lot more I could say.

The third reason is that in areas where there is poor housing, again inner urban areas, it would allow an authority more discretion in its decision to demolish either individually or by declaring a clearance area or to retain substandard houses which have been improved. I suggest this is a useful amendment. It has the support of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. It would go a long way to ensuring higher standards living up to modern expectations, and go some way to improving the environment in the at present very unpleasant inner urban areas in which many people have to live. I beg to move.


I have crossed swords with the noble Lord, Lord Evans, at quite a number of points during the passage of this Committee stage. The Association of District Councils has not always seen eye to eye with the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. But in this particular amendment we are at one and we are broadly in agreement with the next two amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Evans, Amendments Nos. 273 and 274. It is time that the criterion of unfitness were re-examined. The Denington Report is waiting, as it were, to be implemented and this seems to be a good opportunity to do it. I should like to confirm to my noble friend who is going to reply that both associations would like to see changes of this kind. I agree they are of more significance and importance to the housing authorities in the great conurbations. They would be valuable to housing authorities everywhere. I hope therefore- that my noble friend can give us some reason to hope that this amendment will be acceptable, another like it can be tabled by the Government for the next stage, or these changes will soon be made in some other form.


I hope that the Government will accept this amendment. It has been most excellently put by my co-vice president of the Association and supported by the Government Benches. This has been carefully considered by the Association, which represents a large section of official bodies who represent the public. From this side of the Committee we hope that this proposal will be acceptable.

2.44 p.m.


As my noble friend, Lord Sandford, said, this amendment hangs with the other two and it might shorten our debate if I were to speak to Amendments Nos. 271, 273 and 274. Taken together, they would fundamentally change the existing statutory provisions relating to unfit housing. The first amendment would add two new items to the list of factors which are to be taken into account in determining whether a dwelling is unfit; namely, artificial lighting and the provision of standard amenities; that is, a WC, a bath, a sink, a washbasin, a hand basin and so on, and the necessary hot and cold water supplies.

On the face of it, this does not seem unreasonable but it has to be seen in its context. Section (4) of the Housing Act 1957, which is the section in which this list appeared, provides that a dwelling-house must be: so far defective in one or more of the said matters". These are the various factors which the section provides are to be taken into account. A second provision is: that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition". Let me emphasise the words "so far defective" in "one or more" of the listed items. It is clearly possible, therefore, for a dwelling to be declared unfit on any single ground.

Given this, one is entitled to look fairly closely at the underlying objective. Simply declaring a dwelling to be unfit does not in itself achieve anything positive. However, it may well have considerable implications for the owner. The local authority is given very wide-ranging powers, including the power of compulsory acquisition and demolition and the owner's right to compensation can be dramatically reduced. Clearly, therefore, an extension of the present unfitness requirements is not something to be undertaken lightly.

I can only assume that the objective behind this amendment is to widen the powers available to local authorities to tackle the problems of what might be termed "substandard" housing. I take note of what the noble Lord has said, but I must point out that provision already exists in the 1974 Housing Act for local authorities to require the installation of missing standard amenities in tenanted dwellings. These powers do not generally apply to owner-occupied dwellings, where the choice clearly lies with the owner, and I can see no sufficient reason why they should. If enacted, this amendment would apply to owner-occupied houses just as it does to any others.

Let me turn now to the somewhat curious provisions of Amendment No. 273, the effect of which is to treat one particular category of unfit dwelling differently from all others. The provision has been changed since it was considered in another place, but the change does not remove the basic objection. The amendment now provides that if one of the grounds for the unfitness notice is the lack of standard amenities then the local authority is required to consult—not merely notify but consult—the occupying tenant.

Why a tenant should have a right of consultation if his home is being judged unfit because it is, let us say, in serious disrepair and has no bathroom, but not if it is in serious disrepair and is unacceptably damp, I do not know. Nor am I clear what the purpose of the consultation is. If it means that the tenant is effectively to have the right to say that he does not want anything done, where does that leave the local authority? Let me repeat the point made by my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State in another place—if these dwellings are really unfit to be lived in, why are they to be treated differently from any other unfit dwelling?

Finally, my Lords, I come to Amendment No. 274, which would give the person on whom a notice is served a right to require the local authority to purchase his interest in the dwelling. My first point on this particular provision is that the person on whom notice is served may in fact have no interest in the property—he is perhaps an estate agent or manager. The requirement is for the notice to be served on the person having control of the property and this, in many cases, would be an agent. Thus, the amendment would not secure what I take to be its objective—namely, the right of the owner of the property to require the local authority to buy it.

My second point is that, as it stands, this right to require a local authority to purchase the dwelling would apply to all cases in which notices under Section 9 are served. Section 9 now covers a wide range of circumstances, from making fit a house which is unfit, through the remedying of serious disrepair to action to put right a specific defect, perhaps no more than a broken gutter or a minor roof problem.

The amendment confuses the terms "dwelling" and "house" and is defective on those grounds alone. Admittedly, they are technical: I accept that. But there is a much more significant issue—namely, whether this vast extension of the obligation placed on local authorities to buy substandard housing can be justified. Where the Section 9 notice refers only to the remedying of relatively small defects under the provisions now contained in Clause 138 of this Bill then I can see no place for a purchase notice provision at all. When more substantial works are required the effect could well be to limit the effectiveness of local authority action against unfit housing, or to consume a considerable quantity of local authority housing resources in acquisitions which, in themselves, will add nothing, to the quantity or quality of the nation's housing.

These amendments will, of course, be studied closely, and my advisers and other Ministers in the department will also study closely what the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and my noble friend Lord Sandford have said. They will also note that it has been pointed out that the councils of the various associations would like to see something along these lines implemented. Rut, as things are at the moment, I regret to say that we do not find the amendments acceptable.


The Minister has been rather severely criticising two of my noble friend's amendments without my noble friend—I shall not say without his having had a chance to move them, but without his having, in fact, moved them. It may very well have been convenient for these three amendments to be discussed together but, if that is going to be done, I think one ought at the outset to have an agreement that the three shall be moved together, so that the noble Lord w ho is moving them has at least an opportunity to point out the merits of his amendments before the Government have a chance to come in with such rather strong criticisms.


Yes, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, if I was remiss. But, of course, when the two other amendments are moved he will then have ample time to put his case.


Yes, but the whole purpose of moving amendments is, surely, that people have a chance to demonstrate their merits before the Opposition or the Government, as the case may be, have their chance to point out the demerits.


I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Evans, would like me to reply before he takes a final decision on what to do about this amendment. My own feeling would be—

Baroness BIRK

With respect, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Evans, should have a chance to speak to his own amendments first. I think he is trying to do so.


I am perfectly happy. It is very good of your Lordships to be so kind to me, but I am perfectly happy that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, should speak now.


I thought, in the circumstances, that it was better for the noble Lord, Lord Evans, to have the final say, but I am very happy for him to lead off, if he would prefer it. All I want to say is that I think my noble friend has answered Amendment No. 271 in detail, and given a technical answer which I should like to study with care. I do not think he has, in fact, answered the main point which the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and I were making; namely, that it is high time that the whole criteria for unfitness were looked at again, and that this is a good opportunity to do it. I therefore feel that it would be better to set aside all these technical matters, which we can look at in detail, and I hope that my noble friend can agree—if the noble Lord, Lord Evans, would like it this way—to have some further discussion with the two associations and see whether an amendment can be tabled for the next stage, preferably by the Government, which will have the effect of taking this opportunity to adjust the criteria in one way or another.


am grateful to my noble friend Lord Airedale and others who have been so helpful in this matter. The position here, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said, is that one is seeking to change standards which, with the different expectations that people now have, have become totally outdated since 1957. We thought that this might be a convenient time to do this, and I gather that attempts were made in another place to do it there, too.

Those advising us feel quite strongly that this, in itself, will not increase the number of unfit houses, a matter which seems to worry the Government, nor will it necessarily lead to more demolition. I feel very remiss because of the interpolation of the next amendment, but what I should have said—I think that this is the better way to deal with the matter, if I may make this suggestion to the noble Lord the Minister—was that, in moving Amendment No. 271, I wanted Nos. 273, 274, 275, 276 and 277 to be considered at the same time.

If the Government are willing to have a look at this area of unfitness and improvement, and at changing the basis, as in Amendment No. 277, for unfitness, smells and noises—which again are very important matters—and can tell us that they will do nothing or that they will put something down later, that will be acceptable. If they are not willing to do anything, then 1, and possibly the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, might at Report be able to put down something to meet some of the criticisms which the noble Lord the Minister has made in his reply. If that is acceptable, I should be willing to consider withdrawing this amendment and the other amendments before they are even moved.


In principle, we are totally willing to have conversations with the associations and it would be our duty to do so. However, I am almost certain that the time scale for this Bill to go through your Lordships' House is insufficient for conversations. Although the answer is, Yes, in relation to the Report stage and Third Reading of this Bill in your Lordships' House I do not think I can give any promise of hope.


I quite understand that. I do not think that two days for the Report stage of the B;11 will be sufficient, in any case. But, in the light of what the Minister has said and in the light of our freedom, if we wish, to take some action at Report, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

2.57 p.m.

Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 272: Page 151, leave out lines 29 and 30.

The noble Baroness said: This amendment deletes the provision in the Bill that takes off the prohibition, which has existed for some time, of building back to-back houses. I know that the Minister will remind me, so I shall get in first and say that I am absolutely aware that this provision was contained in the 1979 Bill which was published by the last Government. It did not go any further than that so it was never debated. If it had been, I expect that the debate would have been heated. This provision appears to have been taken into the Bill. It is probable that somewhere in my old department there is a "gnome" who has this particular point on his or her mind and who is intent upon seeing that it goes back into the various Bills. So it is now back in this Bill.

There are several concerns about this. First, there is concern about the safeguards. It is true that since back-to-backs were first dealt with in the 1909 legislation there have been a great many improvements. There has been the tightening of the health regulation standards, and also of other regulations, planning legislation and so on. Nevertheless, even with all the artificial ventilation that can be put in, and lighting and so on, I wonder whether or not, with no possibility of a rear exit, there will be a fire hazard in these buildings. Some of our amendments deal specifically with that very hazard.

There is also a danger that this will become another architectural fad or fashion, which after a time will be seen to have been a mistake. I am referring here to the great acclaim that there was at the time for tower blocks. It was felt that they were the answer to the tremendous number of housing problems that there were because they could increase density without taking up too much space. As vice-president of the Council for Children's Welfare, about 15 or 20 years ago we carried out some research which showed that tower blocks were very bad for families, particularly where there were young children. Despite that, tower blocks continued to be built. I am not saying that tower blocks may not be of some advantage to single people.

Everybody has fastened on to this. It is quite possible that as a result of this new fad of returning to back-to-backs, the same thing may happen again. The quality of housing being built today —and this Bill loosens the hold of the Parker-Morris standards—is not always up to standard because of the materials used, the need to cut costs and the reduction in housing expenditure. In the economic situation in which we are at the moment, it seems to me to be a mistake to reintroduce something which we had thought was part of the last century. Even if it is brought in with new ideas and perhaps with new architectural whims, it does not seem to be the right time to do it.

If and when private developers and local authorities have the money to build the houses, the Minister might perhaps consider one or two being built in Leeds to see whether people ask to buy them. Then we should have some idea as to whether there was any demand for them. I know there has been talk of the Barrett experiment. That is one thing, but this makes me rather nervous. There will be people who will be carried away over this, and we may have a lot of poor quality housing which people will not be very happy to live in. I do not intend to press this amendment, but I should like the Government to think it out again. I beg to move.


I have in front of me a very impassioned speech which I was to make on this subject, but I do not intend to make it. I hope that will comfort the noble Baroness. I think it is an excellent idea that in Leeds they should put up any type of experimental housing. It is the only way forward in housing. I am glad to know that the noble Baroness recognises that Leeds, as always, is in the forefront of these things. I will refrain from what I wanted to say about this. There really can be no question of back-to-back houses in the old sense being built. That is not the intention and it would not happen at all. But it is also wrong, surely, that we should use an archaic provision to deem unfit dwellings which, in a free market and chosen by owner occupiers, would satisfy all our regulatory requirements and which are capable of meeting perfectly satisfactorily the needs of many people. Of course not for everyone, but there are sections of the communiity who would be delighted to have this kind of accommodation which today would not be built by any means in the style specifically in which these were built in the past.

I do not want to say much more about this. The noble Baroness was kind enough to say that she was not pressing the amendment, and I thank her for that because it means that I do not have to go into the whole subject. I think we shall have to differ on this. I will even refrain from mentioning the intentions of a previous Administration—I am sorry, I have done it now.

Clearly we cannot accept the amendment. One could have a philosophical argument about it. Actually, I have a lot of confidence in the novelty—if that is the right word—of what might be built in the future. I think it is one of our hopes in the long term, and therefore I hope the noble Baroness will understand why we cannot accept the amendment.

Baroness BIRK: I entirely take the Minister's point about experimentation and I would be the first to believe that we should do that. What I want to do is to find a way, whether it is in the legislation or the way in which it is carried out, to have this monitored so that experiments are made but at the same time it does not "take off" as a general feature of housing, so that the faults are found much later when a great deal of money and manpower has been put into it. If something wonderful results from this, that is very good, but I did not want it to be a general thing without the experiment being looked at and checked. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 273 to 277 not moved.]

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 278: Page 151, line 40, at end insert— ("7A. In Schedule 3 to the 1957 Act (procedure for authorising compulsory purchases under Part Ill) for sub-paragraph (4) of paragraph 3 there is substituted the following sub-paragraph— (4) Where any objection not withdrawn has been made on the ground that a building included in the order is not unfit for human habitation, the local authority shall not later than 28 days before the date of the enquiry or hearing—

  1. (a) serve upon the objector a notice in writing stating what facts have emerged as their principal grounds for being satisfied that the building is so unfit; and
  2. (b) send a copy of the notice to the Secretary of State."
This paragraph does not apply in relation to an order under sections 43 or 51 of the 1957 Act made before the commencement of this paragraph.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment alters the procedure by which local authorities who have made compulsory purchase orders on clearance areas under Part III of the Housing Act 1957 must serve notice on objectors of their principal grounds for being satisfied that their houses are not fit for human habitation. It brings the procedure into line with the provisions of Rule 4(4) of the Compulsory Purchase by Local Authorities (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1976 which relate to the serving by councils on objectors of their reasons for making such orders, by requiring that the notice be served not later than 28 days before an inquiry is held and that copies shall be sent to the Secretary of State. It relieves the authorities of the specific duty to satisfy the Secretary of State, not less than 14 days before the inquiry, that all such notices have been served. The amendment therefore simplifies procedure, secures consistency with the corresponding provisions for most other compulsory purchase orders and provides objectors to Part III orders with a longer period of notice of the case against them. I beg to move.


May I say how much I welcome this amendment. It was a great scandal during the 1950s and 1960s that so many houses which were only technically unfit for human habitation, because the bedroom ceiling was perhaps two inches too low or the kitchen one half of a cubic foot too small, were declared unfit for human habitation by local authorities zealous to pull down and redevelop an area and erect tower blocks. Consequently thousands of people, many of them extremely humble people, lost their last asset. They were given compensation of perhaps no more than £150 for houses which might today be worth £20,000 or £25,000 if they still stood. I know that compensation was subsequently improved by a Labour Government—I cannot remember whether it was the most recent one or the previous one—but compensation is still not as good as it ought to be. Anything which increases the safeguards against unnecessary demolition, compulsory purchase and demolition, is to be very much welcomed.

Baroness BIRK

May I add my welcome to this amendment, to show that we do appreciate some of the good things when they are occasionally put before us.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

3.8 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS moved Amendment No. 279: Page 152, line 3, at end insert—

("Housing Act 1961 (c. 65)

10. For section 16 there is substituted—

16.—(1) Where a local authority upon consideration of a report from a proper officer, or a complaint from a private tenant, are satisfied that any house which is occupied by persons who do not form a single household is not provided with such means of escape from fire as the local authority consider necessary, then the local authority shall, subject to this section, serve on the person having control of the house, a notice specifying—

  1. (a) the works which, in the opinion of the local authority, are required to provide such means of escape; and
  2. (b) such reasonable time, or times, within which the works are to be executed; and
  3. (c) requiring the person on whom the notice is served to execute those works within the specified time or times.

(2) A local authority who are not, under the Fire Services Act 1947, the fire authority for the area in which the house is situated, or who have under section 12 of that Act, delegated all their functions in respect of that area to another fire authority, shall, before serving a notice under this section, consult with the fire authority concerned.

(3) Within seven days of the service of a notice under subsection (1) of this section, the local authority shall post a copy of that notice in some conspicuous part of the house, and it shall be an offence (other than on the authority of the local authority) for anyone to remove, damage, deface or obscure that notice, punishable, on summary conviction, by a fine not exceeding ten pounds for a first offence, and a fine not exceeding fifty pounds for a subsequent offence.

(4) Where a local authority receive a complaint from a private tenant that a house occupied by persons who do not form a single household is not provided with the necessary means of escape from fire, then a proper officer shall forthwith inspect that house and report to the local authority stating all the facts in the case and whether or not, in his opinion, the house is provided with the necessary means of escape from fire. Copies of that report shall be available to the private tenant (or his authorised representative) at all reasonable times, for a period of 28 days from the date of inspection, at the principal office of the local authority.

(5) In addition to serving a notice under subsection (1) of this section on the person having control of the house, the local authority may, at any time after the service of that notice and before the execution of the works, serve a copy of the notice on any other person having a interest in the house, and, where such a person, or a private tenant who has made a complaint to the local authority under subsection (1) of this section, gives notice to the local authority, the local authority shall provide him with a copy of any notice served under this section.

(6) The person on whom the notice was served may, within 14 days of the service of the notice, serve a counter-notice on the local authority—

  1. (a) undertaking to carry out the works specified in the notice within the periods specified in the notice, and also stating the date upon which he intends to commence those works; or
  2. (b) he cannot, or does not intend to, carry out the works specified in the notice within the periods specified in the notice; or
  3. (c) undertaking to provide necessary means of escape from fire, and providing to the local authority an alternative specification of works and specifying alternative periods within which those works will be executed.

(7) Where—

  1. (a) no such counter-notice as mentioned in subsection (6) is received by the local authority; or
  2. (b) a counter-notice under subsection (6)(b) is received by the local authority; or
  3. (c) a counter-notice under subsection (6)(a) is received, but specifies a commencement date which, in the opinion of the local authority, will cause an unreasonable delay; or
  4. (d) a counter-notice under subsection (6)(c) is received but, in the opinion of the local authority, the alternative specification is unsatisfactory;
then the local authority shall themselves execute the works specified in the notice.

(8) Where a local authority have accepted an undertaking under subsection (6)(a) or (b) and the undertaker has failed to comply with any of the terms of his undertaking, then the local authority shall themselves complete the works specified in that agreed undertaking.

(9) Where the local authority are about to enter upon a house under the provisions of either subsection (7) or (8) of this section for the purpose of carrying out any works thereon, they shall serve on the person having control of the house a notice of their intention so to do, and if at any time after the service of such notice any person upon whom the notice was served, or any workman or contractor employed by him, is in the house for the purposes of carrying out any work, such persons shall be deemed to be obstructing the local authority in the execution of this Act, and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds for a first offence, and to a tine not exceeding two hundred pounds for a subsequent offence, unless he proves to the satisfaction of the court that there was an urgent necessity to carry out the works in order to obviate danger to the occupants of the house.

(10) Any expenses incurred by the local authority under this section, including administration expenses and expenses incurred under subsections (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8) or (9), together with interest (at the rate fixed by section 171(2) of the Local Government Act 1972) when a demand for the expenses is served until payment is made, may he recovered by the local authority in accordance with the provisions of section 10(3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8) and (9) of the Housing Act 1957.

(11) For the purposes of this section, private tenant ' has the meaning given to it in section 17 of the Rent Act 1977.").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move the amendment standing in my name. Under present legislation local authorities have power to require owners of multi-occupied premises to install means of escape from fires. When a local authority uses this power and serves a notice on the owner considerable delays can occur before these works are finally carried out. During that time the occupants are left at great risk. For example, the local authority must leave a "reasonable time" for the works to be completed before it can even begin to consider serving a further novice that it intends to do the work itself if the owner has not complied with the order. In metropolitan areas this could mean that the premises are left unprotected for a minimum of nine months.

This power is only one of the statutory responsibilities at the disposal of local authorities in relation to fire precautions, and often confusion can arise about the related role of the local fire authorities. Thus the Brent Council inquiry report on the Kilburn hostel fire described the legislation as a "tangled web". Under existing legislation local authorities have a range of powers, complex and unwieldy, for dealing with overcrowding and for forcing closures. There is an urgent need for simplified procedure. Local authorities have no obligation to secure that people made homeless when the closures occur have any alternative accommodation. Yet for years the local authorities have been able to secure alternative homes for those displaced by their own slum clearance.

This amendment is intended—and I hope that its intentions are correct—to provide authorities with a simplified procedure (based on existing closing orders) by which, after both the owner and the authority have agreed that premises could not be made to comply with required minimum standards at reasonable expense, the premises must cease to be used after six months. It penalises anyone so using premises after that time, except for approved use, and also places on the authority the duty to secure alternative accommodation for anybody displaced. It also should replace the clause in the Housing Act to put the duty on local authorities to ensure means of escape. It includes the duty to consult with the local fire authority and allows an authority to carry out works in default within six weeks of serving an initial notice, if the owner fails to comply or cannot comply. It gives the tenants of multi-occupied premises the right to complain about unsafe conditions in line with the rights that tenants have in the private sector. I understand that if one is in a hostel, for example, or a house owned by a local authority, one has no right to complain. Perhaps the Minister will confirm whether that is correct?

I feel sure that my noble friend will agree that there is need for reform in current legislation and it is occasioned by the considerable delays—which I have mentioned already—which its implementation can involve and by the overlapping of powers and responsibilities enjoined on the local authority and the fire authority under different legislation. In fact, the Brent Council Inquiry Report into the Kilburn hostel fire, in which your Lordships may remember 11 women died, lists the legislation that might be used: Section 60 of the Public Health Act 1936: Section 238 of the Public Health Act 1936; Section 16 of the Housing Act 1961: and Section 1 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Fire Services Act 1947. In the House of Commons the Minister, Mr. John Stanley, undertook to consider whether the statutory duties of local authorities needed to be strengthened. The reference in Hansard is Volume 985, column 85, 19th May 1980.

I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, present because he knows about the Department of the Environment's Housing Services Advisory Unit. I gather that it conducted a survey of some 35 local authorities—covering 74 hostels and small houses in multiple occupation—in January and February of this year. I I gather that the unit's report has been considered by the Minister and he has said that it will he publicised, and we are waiting for that with great interest. It was promised by the Minister on 19th May in the House of Commons.

The survey form sent to local authorities included certain questions. In fact, I was going to ask the Minister to reply, but I gather from what he has just said that he does not have full knowledge of the matter I should like to mention three of the questions. First, does a local authority inspect its local houses in multiple occupation only after receiving a complaint or on a cycle? What is the cycle? Secondly, what are the local authority's standards, set locally, for means of escape from fire? Thirdly, will authorities use the new fire grant in the Bill to aid owners? I think that those are three very important points which I hope will receive a satisfactory answer when the unit's report is published. I beg to move.


Again, I had intended to make a number of points in some detail because the amendment that is in front of us creates a lot of problems and, as such, would not be acceptable. However, I should like—and I think this is the general feeling in the Committee—to remind your Lordships that my honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Construction undertook in another place to consider whether the responsibilities of local authorities should be strengthened in this area and to ensure that a Government amendment was tabled if it was felt to be necessary. I am now able to assure the Committee that a Government amendment will be tabled for consideration at Report stage. In the light of that undertaking, I wonder whether we may let this amendment go at the moment and we shall be able to consider that which I bring back at Report stage.


May I ask the noble Lord to consider two further points when he is formulating his own amendment? When drafting an amendment it would be as well to refer not only to fire escapes, which are of course important, but to fire precautions generally; such things as an adequate number of extinguishers, proper provision of fire doors, et cetera, which are important as well. The second point I should like him to bear in mind when he comes to tighten up the duties of the local authorities is the desirability of having some consultation with them so that those greater duties are realistic in the light of the manpower constraints and financial constraints to which they are now subject.

Baroness VICKERS

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 279A not moved.]

3.17 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 280: Page 152, line 6, leave out from ("3(1)") to ("and") in line 7 and insert ("for" local authorities "substitute" bodies"").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is a consequential amendment designed to amend the descriptive words in paragraph 3(1) of Schedule 3 to the Building Societies Act 1962 so that they are sufficiently general to reflect the fact that not only will local authorities and the Housing Corporation be empowered to enter into agreements under Clause 106 (indemnities for building societies) but parallel provision will be made under Northern Ireland legislation enabling such agreements to be entered into by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness FAITH FULL moved Amendment No. 281: Page 153, line 28, leave out ("are hereby repealed") and insert ("shall be replaced by the following words" and every authority shall submit a report to the Secretary of State not later than 31st August each year in such form as the Secretary of State may direct of the action it has taken in the year ending the previous 31st March whether by the provision of new housing or otherwise to meet the needs of such persons".").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 281 standing in my name. This concerns the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, under which local authorities have to make a report to the department of alterations, adaptations, which they have carried out, and houses which they have built in their areas for the disabled. Under this Bill I see on page 153 paragraph 21 that this has been deleted. I would recommend that this is not deleted. Not because Big Brother Westminster must look after and watch small brother local authorities—not in that spirit at all—but because this Act is still, comparatively speaking, a new Act.

A great deal of monitoring of houses and adaptations and alterations for the disabled has to be carried out. Under Amendment No. 180 the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, recommended that different costs should be looked at for houses for the disabled. I have not been able to read Hansard because, of course, it has not yet been printed, but I think I am right in saying that at that time the Minister said that they would have to look at this whole problem. It is important that adaptations, alterations, and buildings for the chronically sick and disabled should, at any rate for the next decade, be monitored. Therefore, not because we want to watch local authorities but because we want to monitor the facilities of the disabled, I move this amendment. I beg to move.


The purpose of paragraph 21 of Schedule 23, taken with Clause 80, is to remove a statutory obligation on local government which has been found to be redundant, an obligation to prepare and submit proposals to the Minister for the provision of new houses, distinguishing among other things houses to be provided for the chronically sick and disabled. It is redundant because authorities have provided voluntarily in their housing investment programmes all the information successive Governments have required about their house-building proposals, including those directed at special needs.

The effect of the amendment would be to replace the old obligation with a new one, which is to report to the Secretary of State each year on the action taken in the previous year to meet the housing needs of the chronically sick and disabled. It is our experience that local authorities are always ready to meet voluntarily any reasonable central government request for information. Indeed, the Department of the Environment already collects and publishes information about, for example, local authority provision of dwellings designed for the chronically sick and disabled and mobility dwellings. In view of the success of these voluntary arrangements, we cannot think it right to impose a new statutory requirement on local government. I hope that, with this explanation, my noble friend may see fit to withdraw the amendment.


I cannot but say that I am disappointed with the Minister's reply because I believe that at this stage we need to monitor what we are doing for the chronically sick and disabled. However, I shall consider what he said and, at this stage, beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord GIFFORD moved Amendment No. 282: Page 153, line 33, at end insert— ("Land Compensation Act 1973 (c. 26) . In section 29(7) of the Land Compensation Act 1973, after paragraph (c) there is inserted the following paragraphs— (d) a notice under section 78(5)(a) of the Housing Act 1957; (e) a notice served under section 16 of the Housing Act 1961; (f) an order made or an undertaking accepted under a relevant section of the Housing Act 1980.".").

The noble Lord said: This is part of the package of amendments which sought to deal with multi-occupied housing. I need not move it at length, although it deals with a very important point—that is, whether people displaced as an result of overcrowding or as a result of other controls on multi-occupied housing should be rehoused as a duty by the local authority. In response to other amendments which have been moved on this subject, the Minister said there were considerations and consultations going on. If those considerations and consultations take in the matters raised by this amendment, I certainly would not wish to press it or describe it any further. I beg to move.


I am sure the House would agree that as a general principle people who for good reason are required by local authorities to leave their accommodation should have an alternative to go to. It might be simplest for me to take paragraph (e) first. Section 16 of the Housing Act enables local authorities to require means of escape from fire to be provided in hostels and other houses in multiple occupation. But there is no requirement in that section for anyone to leave the house; therefore there is no need to arrange suitable alternative accommodation. The noble Lord may have in mind Section 60 of the Housing Act 1969, which complements the power to require means of escape with a power to close part of the house if means of escape cannot be provided at reasonable expense. Here people may be displaced, but the Land Compensation Act already provides for suitable alternative accommodation to be offered to them. I cannot see that anything more is needed.

Now we have two overcrowding provisions. To take paragraph (f) first, the only relevant provision under consideration for the Bill is Amendment No. 267, which revises Section 90 of the Housing Act 1957. Under Section 90, whether or not revised, authorities may require excess residents in a house in multiple occupation to leave at once. Authorities also have an alternative in the revised revision whereby they can allow excess residents to leave of their own accord and stop replacements moving in until the overcrowding is relieved.

I understand that in practice excess residents are rarely required to leave at once, and when they arc, authorities accept a moral obligation to rehouse them. Under Amendment No. 267, authorities would always be able to use the alternative of natural wastage—allowing people to leave of their own accord—so that no rehousing obligation would be incurred. It would seem therefore to make little difference in practice whether the noble Lord's paragraph (f) is accepted. However, we are prepared to consider, without commitment, whether a Government amendment could be tabled at Report stage, providing that if excess residents are required to leave at once, the local authority would have a duty to secure alternative accommodation for them.

Lastly, we come to paragraph (d). This deals with overcrowding in single household dwellings. Here the local authority do not have the alternative of natural wastage. If they serve a notice, overcrowding becomes an offence at once. The burden on local authorities of rehousing could therefore he onerous. Furthermore, the duty would be open to abuse, if, for example, a landlord took in a succession of single people, knowing that they would be rehoused, despite the fact that they would not be entitled to rehousing under the homelessness legislation. I think that this could be a recipe for queue-jumping. I conclude therefore that we cannot accept paragraph (d).

Paragraph (d) must be resisted, and paragraph (e) is unnecessary, as I have said. We are prepared to consider paragraph (f), though, as I have said, it would have little, if any, practical effect. On that basis I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment. I apologise for the muddle at the beginning of my reply, but I had not planned to deal with this amendment, and therefore it had not been included in my brief.


During the course of the Committee stage there have been raised from various parts of the Chamber a number of positive and constructive points on the problem of those who live in multi-occupied houses. I am pleased that the Government have responded in a positive way, and I thank the noble Lord in particular for his constructive reply on certain aspects of this amendment. Clearly on Report we shall be able to look at all the various problems regarding multi-occupied houses which have been raised in the Committee, and in the light of that, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord STRABOLGI had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 282A: Page 157, line 32, at end insert— (" .—(1) Section 102 of the 1977 Act (Compensation for misrepresentation or concealment in Cases 8 and 9) is amended as follows. (2) After "Case 8" leave out "or" and after" Case 9 "insert" or Case 19".").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is consequential upon Amendment No. 118, and is not moved.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 283: Page 158, line 21, at end insert— ("49A. Section 138(3) of the 1977 Act (effect on furnished sub-tenancy of determination of superior unfurnished tenancy) shall have effect, and be deemed always to have had effect, as if for the words from "meaning" to the end there were substituted the words "same meaning as it has for the purposes of section 137(2) of this Act".").

The noble Lord said: I must again ask a moment's indulgence of the Committee, since this amendment was on the brief of another Minister. This amendment is designed to correct a small error that was made during the consolidation process that resulted in the Rent Act 1977. It is a somewhat complex legal point, but I shall be glad to explain it if any noble Lord so wishes. The amendment remedies this error by providing that Section 138 of the 1977 Act will also apply to long tenancies at low rents. I can say more about the amendment if the Committee wish, but I hope that what I have said will suffice. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

3.30 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 284: Page 159, line 37, at end insert (", at the end of paragraph (a) there are inserted the words" (other than one under which the landlord might recover possession of the dwelling-house under one of the Cases in Part II of this Schedule)", and at the end of paragraph (b) there are inserted the words "of a kind mentioned in paragraph (a) above".").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is designed to make clear that a shorthold tenancy would not qualify as suitable alternative accommodation for a fully protected or statutory tenant under Part IV of Schedule 15 to the Rent Act 1977.

Several noble Lords: No.

A noble Lord: This is Amendment No. 284, not 285.


It is 284 that I am reading. It is designed to make clear that a shorthold tenancy would not qualify as suitable alternative accommodation for a fully protected or statutory tenant under Part IV of Schedule 15 to the Rent Act 1977. It was never the Government's intention that this should be the case. It has always been made quite clear that shorthold would in no way affect the security of existing statutory and protected tenants. This amendment puts the matter beyond doubt. It explicitly spells out that neither shorthold nor the other mandatory cases under Part II of Schedule 15 would constitute suitable alternative accom- modation for a fully protected or statutory tenant. I recommend this amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.


I think this amendment precisely covers the point which was sought to be covered by Amendment No. 285. It is an important little point, and I am very pleased that it has now been covered by the Bill. We support the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 285 and 286 not moved.]

Schedule 23, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 24 [Repeals]:

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 287: Page 162, line 35, column 3, at beginning insert ("Section 65(1A).").

The noble Lord said: This is a purely drafting amendment concerned with penalties in connection with houses in multiple occupation. It adds to the full list of repeals that are referred to in paragraph 6(2) of Schedule 22. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 288: Page 163, leave out from beginning of line 38 to end of line 41 and insert— ("In section 20, in subsection (5), paragraph (d) and the words" or (d)(ii)", and in subsection (7) the words from "section 19(8)" to "Schedule 3 to this Act". In section 24(5), the words "or their allowance scheme, as may be appropriate" and the words from "of Housing Revenue" to "housing account dwellings". In section 26(1), in the definition of "allowance" the words from "but also" to the end, in the definition of "allowance scheme" the words from "and includes" to the end, and the definition of "housing account dwelling".").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to list in the repeals Schedule to the Bill repeals which have already been made by Schedule 14. This is to meet the editing requirement of the Statutory Publications Office that all repeals made elsewhere in a Bill should be listed in the repeals Schedule. I could say more, but I think that will be enough to explain what this is about. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 289: Page 163, line 44, after ("4") insert ("in paragraph 1(3)(a) the words from" Housing "to" account".").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment, like that of No. 288, is to insert in the repeals Schedule a repeal already made in Schedule 14, paragraph 9, in order to meet the editing requirements of the Statutory Publications Office. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 290: Page 165, line 142, at end insert— ("In section 19(5)(b), the words "or of the Duchy of Lancaster or to the Duchy of Cornwall".").

The noble Lord said: This is the last of the minor amendments consequential upon the Government's earlier Amendments Nos. 150 and 152 applying the Rent Acts to the Crown Estate and Duchies. It merely records the repeal already made by subsection (2) of the new clause. The reference to the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster in Section 19(5)(b) of the Rent Act 1977 previously excluded the Duchies from the restricted contract provisions contained in that section. Those provisions are now applied to the Duchies. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 291: Page 167, line 59, column 3, at end insert ("In Schedule 12, the entry relating to section 65 of the Housing Act 1964.")

The noble Lord said: This is a purely drafting amendment related to Amendment No. 287, and also concerns penalties in connection with houses in multiple occupation. It adds a repeal referred to in Schedule 22 to the full list. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 24, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 142 (Commencement]:

3.35 p.m.

Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 292: Page 94, line 7, leave out ("eight weeks") and insert ("one year")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment, by leaving out "eight weeks" and inserting "one year", seeks to cause Part I of this Act to come into operation on the expiry of a period of one year from the day on which this Bill is passed. Apart from putting off the evil day, which is justifiable in itself, there are other reasons for delaying in this case. The House of Commons Environmental Select Committee is still considering the whole subject of council house sales and has not yet made its report; the rural areas are not yet defined in the Bill and as yet we do not know what are the criteria by which the Secretary of State will define those areas. Furthermore, the Bill when fully implemented will put extra burdens on local authorities at a time when staff cuts are being made. It seems to me to be absolutely absurd, at this particular time, when local authorities are being asked daily by the Secretary of State to cut their expenditure, for the Bill to come into operation almost immediately. This Bill must involve increased expenditure and, as the Government themselves have said, in some areas increased manpower.

This is recognised by Clause 142(3), which say that other sections will move in at later stages. It would be better if Part I, Chapter II, Security of Tenure and Rights of Secure Tenants could come in the same way as the late Barts. I quite understand that the Minister has had to leave, and it was courteous of him to inform me about it. Perhaps, too, if the Bill is delayed, we may be able, by the time it comes into operation, to see the Notes on Clauses, which will then explain the Bill to us. I beg to move.


Yet again, like my noble friend, I am putting sackcloth and ashes to the noble Baroness for her not having her Notes. I know that she will not be surprised to hear me say that we cannot go along with her on this amendment. It might almost be called "wrecking" if this were not such a polite Committee. To delay the right to buy for a whole year after the enactment of the Bill would mean that a lot of people who have hopes of this Bill would be let down. They expect us to enact this and I think that the layman would find the delay incomprehensible.

The noble Baroness has said that this year's delay is necessary, among other things, to allow landlords to prepare themselves to implement the Bill. But many local authorities in partiuclar already have experience of sales. Even where an authority may not have sold in the past, there is plenty of experience and information about best existing practices to be drawn on in local government generally. It is not really breaking new ground. All the procedural steps are provided in the Bill itself; there is no question of landlords having to design their own administrative procedures from scratch. Most statutory notices and forms will be prescribed and produced by the Secretary of State. More general guidance will also be given after enactment. We have been at pains to give landlords the most workable and administratively convenient scheme that we could. I could say more about this; but perhaps we may leave it to the next stage of the Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness BIRK

When the noble Lord says that many people will find the delay incomprehensible, I would reply by suggesting that many more will find many parts of the Bill completely incomprehensible. Nevertheless, the reply did not surprise me and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 142 and 143 agreed to.

Clause 144 [Short title, extent, etc]:

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved amendment No. 293: Page 94, line 25, after ("126") insert (" (Landlord's failure to disclose identity or give notice of assignment increased penalties.)").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has already been spoken to by my noble friend with Amendment No. 266. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 144, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


May I raise one small point? Clause 144 includes among other things the title of the Bill as the Housing Act. We really have had in this Committee two Bills: a Housing Act and a Rent Act. While I do not seriously suggest that the title needs to be changed, there is one rather more serious point that ought to be raised on that fact. A private tenant who wants to find out what his rights and remedies may be will have most of it set out in the Rent Act 1977 but will have small parts of it tucked away in the middle of the Housing Act 1980.

For instance, if you are a shorthold tenant to find out what the law is about the grant of the tenancy, you have to look at the Housing Act. If you want to find out how you can be evicted, you have to look at the Rent Act because the amendment has been put into that Act. Serious consideration ought to be given before we pass this Bill into law as to whether the Rent Act provisions ought not to be put into the Rent Act by way of amendment instead of still being tucked away in the Housing Act as some of them will be. I hope that is a matter to which the Government will give serious attention.


I will certainly undertake that serious attention will be given to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, has raised.

Clause 144, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.