HL Deb 16 July 1980 vol 411 cc1870-938

House again in Committee.

Clause 23 [Landlord's consent to work]:

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 88: Page 27, line 16, leave out ("(including wireless or television aerials)").

The noble Lord said: Alterations etc. to dwelling-house. It shall be a term of every secure tenancy that the tenant shall not carry out work "— This is, shall we call it?, the cock-a-snook at the local authority clause. Then they come down to earth and discover that it is not quite so easy, because the Government are getting behind the landlords of the local authority and saying, "If they are secure tenants, then we agree they shall not carry out work, other than interior decoration, in relation to the dwelling-house without the consent in writing of the landlord, which shall not be unreasonably withheld".

Then we define "work": —alteration, improvement or enlargement of the dwelling-house or of any fitting or fixtures". I think we can agree with that. Then, (b) addition of new fittings or fixtures"; and then we have in brackets, (including wireless or television aerials)". I suggest that we leave out, "wireless or television aerials".

I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon is coming in or not because this would pose an interesting question that he might well put. I think I will put it for him. When we dealt with the question of reasonable accommodation, and whether it served the special needs of the family, we were told by the Minister that it was quite unnecessary to put in the words, "including the proximity to other members of the family who might need help". It was said that this was comprehended within the special needs of the family. Here is a classic case of exactly the same thing, including wireless or television aerials". After all, they are new "fittings or fixtures", so why do we need to specify these? I should have thought that people would be able to understand that.

One of the reasons why I put down this amendment was because I remember as a Member of Parliament being approached by the tenant of a local authority house who, no doubt, will soon become a secure tenant, and who wanted to put up a television aerial to suit his particular television set. It had to be in a particular place just outside his window, and the local authority said, "No. If you want a television aerial it must go somewhere else". I thought there was no justification at all for putting in this, drawing attention to a possible restriction, "including wireless or television aerials". If it is desirable to refuse them this without permission, then it could be included within the addition of new fittings or fixtures. Really if I had been doing my job properly for amendment I should have left the words, "wireless or television aerials" in and put in the word "excluding" instead of "including", because I think this is a bit pettifogging and giving a little too much power to the local authorities in this particular respect.

The rest of the clause I am entirely in agreement with. The: erection of a garage, shed or other structure No one who is an owner-occupier could do that kind of thing without getting the permission of the people round about him. This, I suppose, would equally apply in respect of anybody within a borough where there is an old dean of guild court still there. They would need to get a minor warrant for it, and within that get the permission of the local authority․not necessarily the housing authority․to do that kind of thing. I think it would be right that that should be restricted in this particular way. Remember that the provision has that it shall not be done … without the consent in writing of the landlord, which shall not be unreasonably withheld". On wireless or television aerials, I think we could forget that altogether; hence the amendment to leave it out. I beg to move.


In the vast majority of cases, there can be no doubt that a tenant should be able to put up a television or wireless aerial, and I have no doubt that landlords will give automatic consent in those cases. However, wireless and television aerials are not always the unobtrusive structures which one would like and one would tolerate. They could be very large and unsightly structures where it would be right in some instances that a landlord should have some say. For example, to impose restrictions on where they are located and how they are secured in the interests of the safety of those living round the property.

Nevertheless, I have been asking myself first whether "wireless or television aerials" are ejusdem generic so far as new fittings or fixtures are concerned, and I am not persuaded that they are. Equally, I bear in mind the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Ross. This was taken from the English Bill and put in in order to be consistent with it. I am not persuaded that we need it in the Bill. I may be getting very soft, but I am not prepared to recommend to the Committee that this amendment should not be accepted.


Could we have a more positive statement?


I trust that we shall have this in writing in Hansard tomorrow, and it should be in really black letters․or indeed in red letters because this is a red letter day. I am grateful for the rather hesitant, rather reluctant step-by-step approach. Two steps forward and one step back, but eventually we came to the position, as I understand it, although the noble Earl put it rather negatively, that the Government are not going to oppose this particular amendment. Well, we are grateful for that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Reimbursement of cost of work]:

8.10 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 89: Page 27, line 26, leave out from ("him") to ("before") in line 27.

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment designed to clarify the clause, which deals with the termination of a secure tenancy and the landlord having power, in addition to any other power he has, to make a payment to the tenant for work the tenant has done. I do not object to that, but the provision then says: or by any predecessor of his as tenant under the same secure tenancy". It says "any predecessor", but we have already been told that there can really only be one predecessor and only one transfer of tenancy; I think that was the conclusion we came to when we discussed an earlier amendment. What worries me is the use of the word "any" here and the tracking back that appears to be done for work carried out by "any predecessor". I suggest we are taking a bit of a chance on this one, and if what was said before applies․that there can be only one transfer of secure tenancy․then it should be "the predecessor" rather than "any predecessor". I beg to move.


The provision to which the amendment refers does not give tenants the right to be reimbursed for works which they or their successors under the same tenancy may have carried out; it merely gives the landlord discretion to reimburse in such cases if it sees fit. I do not know whether the noble Lord grasps the distinction.


It is discretionary, yes.


Yes, it is discretionary, and the effect of the amendment, if the noble Lord meant it․I do not think he did․would be to remove the discretion of the landlord to reimburse in cases where the works were carried out by a predecessor in the same tenancy. This of course refers to a tenancy which has been passed from one member of a family to another, on the death of the first, under Clause 13.

On this matter of only one successor, would remind the noble Lord that there can be more than one successor where a joint tenancy is created on the first succession. The sort of case we are dealing with is that of a widow whose husband was sole tenant prior to his death and carried out certain works to the house at his own expense. The widow could become tenant in succession to her late husband under the clause as drafted, and could be reimbursed by the landlord for the works carried out by her late husband in the eventuality of her being removed to other accommodation, for instance to special housing for the elderly. The landlord․the local authority․could do that if it wished under these provisions, but of course if the amendment were agreed to, then the local authority, the landlord, would not have that discretion any longer. I hope the noble Lord will be content with that explanation and will withdraw the amendment.


I am reasonably content with the noble Earl's explanation, but I would ask him to have another look to make sure the words are accurate, and I specifically have in mind the word "any": it gives the impression that one might be able to track back considerably. The Minister said earlier that the tenancy could be transferred only once, although the local authority out of the goodness of its heart might allow some other member of the family to carry on. I suggest we must draw the line somewhere as to liability in respect of work done earlier which could be considered for payment. I appreciate it is only discretionary․I have been dealing with Bills for quite a long time․but often, by common use, this sort of thing comes to be expected by tenants giving up a secure tenancy, and therefore perhaps we need a limitation of some sort. That is why I suggest that "the predecessor" or "his predecessor" might be preferable to "any predecessor". I see the difficulty with a joint tenancy, but I am not entirely satisfied that the wording is clear.


In view of the Minister's example of the widow, may I ask whether "his" embraces "hers" where it says "any predecessor of his as tenant"?


Yes, it is unisex.


With that explanation, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Mackie of Benshie․if I may dare call him a friend after the kind of things he has been saying during the day․will permit me to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 90: Page 27, line 27, after ("of") insert ("section 23 of").

The noble Earl said: This is a purely drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8.17 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 91: Page 27, line 33, leave out ("under") and insert ("after").

The noble Lord said: Are we about to have another amendment accepted by the Government? This raises a matter of grammar, not of substance. Subsection (2) says: The amount of any payment … shall not exceed the cost of the work in respect of which it is made, under deduction of the amount …". I should have thought "after deduction of the amount" would have been much clearer. I suppose, however, there is a danger that people might understand the provision, so perhaps the noble Earl, who is a lawyer and Minister, would insist on sticking to the subsection as drafted. For the sake of noble Lords who are simpleminded like myself and who prefer to understand Acts of Parliament, I suggest that we replace the word "under" with "after".


I am always prepared to consider the arguments of a simple man. Although the meaning is perfectly plain to those of us who can interpret the Statute, I am inclined to agree with the noble Lord that we must try to look after those who may not be able to read the Statute quite so well. Accordingly, I accept the amendment.


Twice within a few minutes! We should have had dinner about three hours earlier, if food arouses the passions of generosity towards the Opposition in the heart and mind of the Minister. We are grateful for his acceptance of the amendment and hope he will carry on in that vein for the next six or seven hours while we are considering the Bill.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 25 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 92 not moved.]

Clause 26 [Restrictions on residential requirements]:

8.20 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 93: Page 28, line 34, leave out ("give priority") and insert ("determine the priority given").

The noble Lord said: This is another simple matter of English, concerned with relating the words to what the local authority actually does. Where a local authority has rules which give priority to applicants on its housing list the rules do not give priority to applicants; they determine the priority that is given. That is very simple, and I should prefer the provision to be stated in that clear way. That is the whole purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.


This is a drafting point that was discussed in another place, and at the suggestion of the noble Lord's successor in title, my honourable friend agreed to consider just this point. He has done so, with the draftsman, and we remain of the view that the Bill as it stands more accurately expresses what is meant than do the words suggested in the amendment. I am reluctant to be drawn into a discussion on semantics, particularly when it comes to drafting, but the use of the word "determine" in the amendment suggests that the rules lead inexorably to the final decision, whereas our information about the allocation methods of local authorities indicates that in most areas the rules are a guide, on the basis of which officials or councillors make final decisions, and it is this process that the Bill is intended to embrace, its use of the word "give" implying less conclusiveness than does the word "determine". For those reasons I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.


It is far too early in the evening to start arguing about a small point like this. At one stage, I spent quite a long time․admittedly it was in Glasgow․teaching English. Certainly it was a long time ago, but I am prepared to dispute this matter with the noble Earl․and to dispute it at length. However, I do not think that it is worthwhile. I think that people understand what is there, and so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Publication of rules]:

[Amendment No. 94 not moved.]

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 95: Page 29, line 23, after ("published") insert ("by a body").

The noble Earl said: This is a purely technical, drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28 [Repeal of provisions of Housing Rents and Subsidies (Scotland) Act 1975]:

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 96: Page 29, line 36, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: We now move on to something entirely different: the abolition of reserve powers to limit rents. One thing that I rather deplore in Bills is legislation by reference, though too often we have to resort to it. Clause 28(1) states: Section 1(5) of the Housing Rents and Subsidies (Scotland) Act 1975 "— I am perfectly sure that we all read that section before we came into the Committee today— (no provision to be made for surplus in housing revenue account) is repealed". If we have not read the section referred to, I am sure that we are all dying to know exactly what it means and to know the implications of this particular reference. Of course without an explanation the reference is nonsense; it does not mean a thing to anybody. I put down the amendment in order to give the Government an opportunity to explain exactly what this is and what they are doing here. I beg to move.


Subsection (1), which Amendment No. 96 would delete, effects a further release of local authorities from interference by central Government in their affairs. It frees islands and district councils from an unnecessary restriction in housing finance decision-making, and it prevents local authorities from being placed in a difficulty over their rent policies. Section 1(2) of the Housing Rents and Subsidies (Scotland) Act 1975 allows authorities to charge such reasonable rents as they may determine and the retention of the embargo on accumulating surplus might well in some places prevent the charging of reasonable rents. If an authority wishes to accumulate funds with a particular object in mind, there is no reason to forbid that course. The point is to allow flexibility to the local authorities so far as the charging of reasonable rents is concerned.


Am I right in thinking that at the moment local authorities cannot so arrange matters that they have a surplus and that now this provision will allow them to raise the rents as high as they like, regardless of whether they make a surplus from doing so, subject to any other limitations that there may well be? So they are now being encouraged to fix their rent policy so as to enable them to make a profit. It is almost an encouragement to raise rents, is it not? That is one of the dangers, unless there is some other provision whereby the Secretary of State will safeguard the interests of the tenants. I have no objection to the proposal provided that there is such a safeguard elsewhere. Can the noble Earl tell me whether there is such a safeguard?

I do not think that anyone objects to the fortuitous accumulation of a surplus, but there is nothing here about a particular reason or about what the local authority is to do with the surplus. I suppose that it could put all the surplus into the common good fund and have with it what in Scotland we used to call a "good water trip"․and the last thing that anyone ever saw on a water trip was water! I am perfectly sure that the noble Earl, as an ex-member of a local authority in Scotland, will know what I am talking about.

The danger in the proposal is its implications regarding the rents. Is it an encouragement to the local authorities to raise their rents excessively, and if it is, is there any other power whereby the Secretary of State can place a limit upon that in the interests of the tenants? Remember that in this Bill we are talking about tenants' rights, and I believe that this is a field in which the tenants should have very considerable rights.


The noble Lord has raised two points. The first relates to the quantum, and so far as that is concerned, Section 1 (2) of the 1975 Act provides that reasonable rents must be charged. With regard to the disposal of the surplus, that is dealt with in subsection (2) of this clause, which is sandwiched between the noble Lord's two amendments to the clause. The Committee will see that under subsection (2) a new sub-paragraph 11(1) is written into the 1972 Act.


The noble Earl has answered one of my points, but not the other. Probably he appreciates that it might arise in another amendment that I may or may not move. It is clear that the local authorities can make a profit; they will he encouraged to make a profit. They can put the surplus into the general fund, not into the housing fund. So they can do virtually what they like with it within their duties as local authorities.

There are many people who think that if you are making a profit out of housing then the place for it to go is into the housing account, and it may well be that you could use it to improve the amenities of the houses and prevent the department from having to go to the Scottish Office for some particular development which the Scottish Office would not allow them to have. But the explanation is clear. We now know the purpose of the thing. We will just wait until we get to the end of this clause, and then we will get a fuller picture of what is involved. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.31 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 97: Page 30, line 10, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: Now we come to subsection (3) of the same clause, and with this all will be revealed, no doubt. That says: Section 2 of the Housing Rents and Subsidies (Scotland) Act 1975 (reserve powers to limit rents) is repealed". I merely want to know the implications of that. I tend to forget things in my old age. The 1975 Act, of course, was an Act which was passed while I was Secretary of State. There was a time when I was familiar with every line and clause of it, but I just want the noble Earl the Minister of State to revive my memory, and to find out what is being repealed in subsection (3). I beg to move.


Section 2 of the Housing Rents and Subsidies (Scotland) Act 1975 confers on the Secretary of State a power to limit or restrict individual authorities' council house rent increases, so what subsection (3) of this clause does is to remove yet another impediment to local decision-making; that is to say, it removes the possibility of interference by the Secretary of State in the fixing of local council house rent levels. There is no reason to suppose that any tenant will be disadvantaged by the Government's relinquishing this power of intervention, and I commend it to the Committee on that basis.


I wish I could be as confident as is the noble Earl that no local authority tenant will be disadvantaged. What this whole clause means, then, is that local authorities can raise their rents as high as they like and the Secretary of State will not interfere. He has thrown away the power he had of interfering․and interfering for the protection of the tenant. The real reason for subsection (1), for which I sought an explanation earlier, is that, of course, if they raise the rents they will make a profit out of the houses, so that way was cleared by the withdrawal of the restriction which said that they should not make a profit out of housing.

Let us be clear and let the tenants know what their new right is․the secure tenants, who have the right to buy their houses. It may be an encouragement for them to buy, because now, as I understand it․and I am prepared to be corrected․the local authorities can raise the rents by as much as they like, and the Government will not intervene. The Government have an interest here, because if the local authorities raise the rents too high then the tenants will apply for a rent rebate, and if they apply successfully for a rent rebate because the rents are too high then of course the Government will have to provide a very considerable sum of money. As a matter of fact, if we turn once again to the unfortunate Financial Memorandum we see that the Government are looking forward to that, because it says that it is estimated that there will be additional public expenditure of £1.15 million a year as a result of the provisions dealing with the rights of public sector tenants, including the right to buy; and some of this will be due to a considerable extent to the increase in rent rebates. So it is not a very pleasant outlook for the tenants.

Of course, the reaction of some tenants may well be that it will be a better bargain to buy the house. I do not know whether that is the intention of the Government․so to raise rents that the local authority tenants will seek refuge in owner-occupation. I think it is going a bit far bearing in mind that many people are going to be given the right of choice, which the Government say they would prefer, just to rent their house. There is not much choice if we are going to force them into this position by so raising the rents. I myself do not think this is a sensible power that the Government are leaving to the local authorities; and the noble Earl should know from what has happened in the past in relation to rents that there can be resistance to this.

Certainly people will say, "Yes, but if you cannot afford to pay then there is the rent rebate". Not everyone applies for that; and I think it is quite wrong, when you are meeting a social need, as we are in respect of the provision of local authority housing, that we should deliberately set out to make a profit out of it. This is the position we are coming to under this Government. They are encouraging the local authorities to raise rents. Perhaps at this point the Minister will tell us what the limitation is that has been placed at the present time on any yearly increase by the local authorities. That will give us a fair idea as to what is going to face the local authorities in future although, of course, the Government are not going to intervene. But beyond what point?


May I ask the Minister whether a local authority could apply any profit to reducing rates? I am not sure that a great many people in the centre of Scotland, and in Glasgow particularly, would not prefer to pay a little more for their houses and have jobs; and it is a fact that the higher rates in certain areas of Scotland have kept industry out of that area. So if profit could be applied to reducing rates, it might be in the better interests of the tenants in the long run.


I really think that this debate would have been very much better on the Question, Whether the clause shall stand part? than on a minute amendment taken by itself. However, perhaps we could have it now. I start by saying, or by repeating, that local authorities cannot by statute charge unreasonable rents, and this is made plain by Section 1(2) of the 1975 Act. I start from that point.


It is not "unreasonable". I think the word is "reasonable".


One can make it positive or negative, whichever way one likes to, and I do not mind splitting hairs. But if the point of the noble Lord is that local authorities are going to use the freedom․and he has at moments in the discussions on this Bill urged the Government to allow local authorities freedom․to be reasonable according to their lights, this is a point of view which the Government share. There are moments when one has to give local authorities guidelines and other moments when one has to fetter their discretion in one direction or another, particularly if one thinks that it will not be very sensibly used. But all things considered, we believe, as I think the noble Lord does, that local authorities ought to be left alone to do their job to the best of their ability.

The Financial Memorandum contains no reference to increased rent rebate expenditure as a direct result of this Bill; and I do not suppose that the noble Lord was saying that it did. As I was going on to say, I would hope that the noble Lord would have withdrawn his amendment and then, if he wanted to challenge the whole of the clause, we could have a debate on "Clause stand part". Does that commend itself to the noble Lord? I am trying to save time.


I am trying to save time, too. I have not raised any question on "Clause stand part", much as I could. The noble Earl should not try to encourage me along these lines. In the other place there was a process whereby the chairman could say, "We have discussed the clause enough on the amendments and I will not allow a debate on 'Clause stand part'." But this is a different place with different rules and much freer; and from that point of view I think far better.

He says that this is a little amendment, a little section. It is perhaps a line and a half; but the implications of it are far from little. They are quite clear-cut. If the reserve power that the Secretary of State has to limit rents is repealed that obviously means that that long stop that the Secretary of State has against some local authority that is acting unreasonably is gone. As I recollect, the local authority used, by order, to say that the rent increase will be so much on average and that any single house rent shall not be increased by a certain amount more. I want the Government to make it clear to the local authority what is in front of them. The tenants have a right to know․and the right to know that the Government now want increases in rents and are not prepared to stop those increases or play any part in them. It is all very well to say that you can trust the local authorities. He himself during the course of the Bill spoke of "unscrupulous local authorities". The words are his; not mine. I do not want to throw in his teeth all his occasional phrases about local authorities. Some local authorities have been unreasonable even in respect of rents․whether too low or too high. This was a wise power in relation to the reserve power to limit. I am not prepared to go into a debate about it. I want people to be clear about how misleading is this title of tenants' rights when it may lead to tenants' grievances in respect of the changes to be made by the Government. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 28 shall stand part of the Bill?


I am a little worried about subsection (2) of this clause. As I understand it, having checked Section 93 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, money received from the sale of council houses will go into the local authorities' general funds and can be spent as income on anything from new Rolls-Royces for convenors to Christmas decorations. Can the noble Earl say whether this is the case?

Several noble Lords: Yes.


The noble Lady was good enough to apprise me of her worry by letter. I am bound to say that in my way I had assumed that her worry was to do with the use made of receipts from council house sales; which is a very different matter from what she now talks about, which is the use to which is put any surplus from what we all hope is going to be the rising level of council house rents. They are two different matters, as I am sure the noble Lady will appreciate. So far as rents are concerned, I can do no more than to echo the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, when he said in effect․and I confirmed it․that subsection (2) of this particular clause lays down what a housing authority can do with the credit balance. It goes into its general fund under Section 93 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act and may be applied to any purpose that any money in that fund can be applied to. If the noble Lady is saying that any money that comes from housing and the housing revenue account (if there is a surplus) ought to be kept in some way in a special housing subdivision and devoted in some way to housing․and I am reinforced by the noble Lord, Lord Ross, shaking his head․then that is a simplistic view as far as revenue is concerned; and I would not share the noble Lady's concern about that.

If she wants me to go into capital receipts ․and I see that she nods․I am not happy that this is the moment to do so but I should be prepared to do it if that was what the Committee wanted. Perhaps I might say that, so far as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, is concerned, I have not invited him to make any intervention on this Bill at all. I merely suggested that if he wanted a debate on the merits of this particular clause then "Clause stand part" would be a better Motion on which to have a debate than a series of mini-debates taken on different subsections of the clause. If I may say so, the noble Lord can conduct the opposition to this particular Bill in any way he wants. It is not for me to tell him that. He is a past-master of the suggestio fats when he suggests that the Government "want rent increases", to use his words. The Government do not want anything of the sort. We want the local authorities to have freedom to carry out their operations within their discretion provided that they do it in a responsible way.

The law as it stands permits central Government to interfere with local authorities' decisions to increase rents and to prevent them doing so. This was introduced in 1975 and used only once in respect of a decision by Cumbernauld and Kilsyth district council to increase rents in 1979. The then Secretary of State for Scotland ordered them to limit the increase; but the order was annulled a few weeks' later and after the election of last year, in May 1979 the new Secretary of State for Scotland took the view that a local authority was best able to determine its own rent policy within the disciplines that we have already been into and in particular Section 1(2) of the 1975 Act.

Because of the number of new houses which there are in Scotland, I think it is beyond question that there will be a move towards surpluses. That betokens a need for flexibility for the local authorities, if they think fit, to create surpluses in their housing revenue accounts and to use them for whatever purpose they consider necessary. This is an important provision at this particular point in time when overall resources are scarce. It could give the local authorities the possibility of raising additional resources for themselves, putting them to whatever purpose they think best, including if they wish, to new house building. That is the purpose of the clause. I suggest that it is a perfectly logical and worthy one.


I am grateful to the noble Earl for advising me that I can do what I like as to how we conduct the opposition on this Bill. If he looks at the clause, there are three separate points. The first is in relation to surplus, the second is in relation to how you use these surpluses and the third is in relation to rents. I cannot think of any clause in which it is more appropriate to amend each of the separate entities within it, and then, if necessary, debate "Clause stand part". I do not know what he complains about. I did not transgress in any way in respect of this. I made a reference as to how the surplus created under subsection (1) could be used. I said it could be used for the water trip. He confirmed that. It can be used for any purpose except the housing revenue account. Because of the amount that is there, that could have dictated the future rent policy. They would not need to raise the rents at all. They can make a surplus there. The whole or part of it may be made available for any purpose for which the general fund of the local authority is maintained. One does not want to build up an idle surplus on the housing revenue account. A surplus could be made and one can take it out and use it for other purposes.

I am very glad that the noble Earl has made it clear that what faces local authority tenants is an increase of rents. If they have any sense of fairness they will not use it to buy Rolls-Royces but to reduce the rates. That is what people would like to see. I am glad that the Liberal Party is concerned with that. So far as I am aware I cannot recollect any situation in which industry has refused to come to an area because of the rates. They know that there is a considerable reduction of rates in industrial areas in Scotland. In certain areas the proportion of the expenditure paid centrally goes up as high as 90 per cent. and beyond. They talk about independence in these areas; but they would not be able to get the national standards without the support of central authorities. That is another argument. I am not going to oppose the agreement of this clause.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Local authority home loan interest rates]:

8.54 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 98: Page 31, line 13, leave out ("declared") and insert ("approved").

The noble Lord said: The local authorities are being invited to increase their rates of interest on home loan charges. The position at the moment is that local authorities can consolidate their charges. Some of their debt charges were actually running out. In respect of pre-war housing they were over 40 years and at fairly low rates of interest. It means that local authorities at the present time can give home loans at about 2 per cent. below building society rates. They are generally dealing with people who have been turned down by building societies and who are considered to be a bad risk. It is very sensible in relation to this that they should be able to carry on with this.

The policy of the Government is to ensure that the local authorities shall increase their rates of interest at the behest of the Secretary of State and that they will be more or less on a par—it might well be more than that—with the building societies. It is rather tough luck. The Government are telling us in relation to the conditions for purchase and for loans that they are making it such that it is going to be easier for tenants to buy their houses. But we find that they are putting up the rate of interest compared with what it is now. This will apply to existing home loans which have nothing to do with the purchase of local authority houses but the purchase of private houses, many of which in the past were private tenanted properties. It is rather a pity that the Government see fit to do this.

I have had representations from Glasgow about this. They probably are subject to more demands for home loans than anywhere else because of the desperation of young people waiting to get a house from the local authority to rent. They purchase ancient flats in tenement properties. The building societies will not touch them and the local authorities come in and do a certain amount to help. But it means that it is going to be more expensive for the purchasers. The same will apply to the home loans which must be given under an earlier clause to those who purchase their local authority houses. I beg to move.


Before getting into this clause, I wonder whether I might ask the noble Lord if he is also speaking to Amendments Nos. 99 and 100.




I am obliged.

It is not acceptable to us that local authorities should always charge the locally determined rate—that is, the rate required to cover their borrowing costs in relation to the money which they use for lending—even when it is lower than the rate which building societies are charging. This is quite incompatible with the proper role of local authorities as lenders of last resort, and the whole purpose of Clause 30 as it stands is to ensure that local authorities do not lend at rates below those charged by building societies. This is extremely important in relation to council house sales, which will account for the bulk of local authority lending in future, because the public expenditure benefits of sales are significantly greater where they are privately financed than where they are financed by a local authority loan because the full capital benefit accrues to the authority more quickly.

The noble Lord asked whether authorities were being forced to increase interest rates. The answer in short is, Yes. The point of this clause is that people must be encouraged to make a genuine attempt to get private finance. Local authorities, as I have said before, should be the last resort so far as finance is concerned and above all should not compete with building societies.

If I could come back to the central purpose of Clause 30, it provides that local authorities shall no longer grant fixed interest loans rather than loans which permit the rate of interest to be adjusted, and that the rate to be charged at any time shall be either a rate based on building society rates or a rate based on the authority's own borrowing to finance its lending activities, whichever is higher. At present local authorities are often lending at rates several per cent. lower than building society rates. This has to be stopped. I hope that assists the noble Lord with his query.


It certainly does assist me. I think it is fine that a Government will stand and make absolutely clear to everyone that as a result of Government action they are going to make it more expensive for people to buy their houses. That is the gist of what the noble Earl said. He said that it is only fair to the building societies that we should not have this unfair competition. Remember the local authority is not making a loss out of this. It is in relation to the whole consolidated debt charges of the local authority. They have to cover themselves like everybody else. But they are able to do this because of the whole history of this. I can remember the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, telling us that some of the houses which may be sold may have been built in the year 1930, and that all the debt charges are gone.

It means that the local authority, with the consolidation of the whole position, are in a position, without making any loss, to give home loans at a cheaper rate, and the Government say, "This is wrong". Now the Minister says, "We have got to put them into the position that they are not undercutting the building societies". Surely we are in a different field altogether. We have tried, as Governments on both sides of the House, to interest the building societies in financing home loans in respect of properties that they would not touch. This is the kind of property I am concerned about—property in respect of which the home loans have been provided by local authorities. Indeed, it is implied in the earlier provisions of this Bill that the local authorities will not provide the money for the great majority of the council house purchases. But the tenant has to go through the form of it. He has to apply and has to be turned down. Then he goes to the local authority and the local authority must accommodate him.

With due respect, there is not an element of competition and fair charging there, when one has the discretion to say, "No", and the other has no discretion at all. The local authority has got to give a loan, as the Bill stands at the present time. We are dealing here with the poorer section of the owner-occupying market. During the course of this Bill, when we discussed the price of the house, when we discussed the discount, when we discussed the loan, the Minister said that this must be there, that must be there and the other thing must be there because we really wanted to cut the thing down as much as possible and give a real incentive to buy. Then he throws all these arguments aside and says that the local authorities must put up their interest charge.

The interest rate is one of the most vital things in respect of the decision to buy or not to buy. I do not think he is right in his comparison about the building societies and the local authorities. I know that he would like to have the building societies come into this field in a big way, because that is the way in which the local authorities will get a capital sum of money in their hands. But if he looks again at what he himself has provided—the majority of these are loans where local authorities are compelled to sell houses, and sell them at rates that they have no say in and grant loans for them—he will see that it is going to be the local authority in most cases. This is one of the assumptions, in that financial paper of the Department of the Environment, and it is quite wrong.

All the local authority is going to do in these circumstances is exchange a rent for an interest payment. Notionally it is going to provide the money to the tenant to buy the local authority house. I am afraid this is how it is going to turn out. If the Minister really wants the thing to go ahead and if he wants it to be a success, he should be careful about interest rates. Interest rates at present, and interest rates in the future, which have nothing to do with the purchase of local authority houses, are equally going to be affected, and this is where we come to the great pretensions of the Government that they want to see the maximum amount of owner-occupation. The interest rate is the one thing that presently is stifling owner-occupation and is the burden under which people who have entered into the purchase of houses are struggling. This has meretricious attractions in relation to the fair competition aspect of it, but I do not think competition is really relevant here when it is a field in which, generally speaking, the building societies are not presently interested.


I just want to correct the noble Lord on one or two of his more extravagant assertions and assumptions, at the risk of precipitating another stream. If one concedes, as I think the noble Lord does, that local authorities are to be lenders of last resort it then follows that one cannot give vent to that policy if in fact they are often lending at rates several per cent. lower than the building society rates. That follows as surely as night follows day. Therefore the purpose of this legislation is not to provide a more difficult method of funding house buying but merely to channel the would-be buyers in the right direction.

The noble Lord makes all sorts of assumptions as to what he considers the financing role of the local authorities is going to be. If I may say so, I do not think he has the facts which would warrant those assumptions. I can tell him that 50 per cent. of the sales in this area in the last 12 months were financed by sources other than local authorities, and 25 per cent. of lenders to building societies are, in fact, council tenants. If one takes those two statistics—and I do not make any more of them than this—it shows, as I suggest, that what I have been saying is approximately right; that a large quantity of these sales will be financed by the building societies and a large amount of money from building societies will represent the savings of the council tenants. It is no more and no less than that, and I do not think I can take it any further.


Because people are lenders to building societies it does not mean that they will become borrowers from them or that the building societies will accept them as borrowers. What they look at, of course, is the property, which is their safeguard; it is there. What the Minister is saying comes to this—that it is only the very best of houses that are going to be sold and in respect of which the building societies are going to enter the field. He knows as well as I do that there are a great many local authority houses that the building societies just will not touch.

Of course, without any advice against it from them, they will allow people to lift their savings and use them as part of the purchase, but I think that over a period we will find that more and more it will be the local authorities themselves who will come into the lending field as far as loans for the purchase of local authority houses are concerned. That is the whole implication of everything that has gone on, and indeed in the debates in the Committee in another place. We have got it clear just exactly what I wanted from the Minister, that they are going to compel the local authorities to increase their interest charges on home loans. So long as people know what the Government are doing, then I am satisfied. They will know the implications of the Bill and it will be clearer in their minds as to whether it will be desirable and advisable to go ahead with a purchase. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 99 and 100 not moved.]

9.9 p.m.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendments Nos. 101 and 102: Page 32, line 11, leave out from ("Notwithstanding") to ("the") and insert ("anything contained in subsections (1) to (8) above, but subject to subsections (11) and (12) below,") Page 32, line 22, at end insert— ("(11) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, an islands or district council may, where the conditions set out in subsection (12) below are satisfied, give assistance to a person acquiring a house in need of repair or improvement by making provision for waiving or reducing, for a period ending not later than five years after the date of an advance of money of the kind mentioned in subsection (1)(a) above or of the granting of a security under an arrangement of the kind mentioned in subsection (1)(b) above, the interest payable on the sum advanced or remaining outstanding under the security, as the case may be. (12) The conditions mentioned in subsection (11) above are that—

  1. (a) the assistance is given in accordance with a scheme which has been approved by the Secretary of State or which conforms with such requirements as may be specified by the Secretary of State by order made by statutory instrument with the consent of the Treasury; and
  2. (b) the person acquiring the house has entered into an agreement with the local authority to carry out, within a period specified in the agreement, works of repair or improvement therein specified.").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 101 and 102. The noble Lord, who takes every opportunity of making his political points and publicising what he thinks are the intentions of the Government, I have no doubt will not hesitate to publish this one too, because the effect of these amendments is going to be to allow local authorities to charge no interest in certain circumstances. That will no doubt bring joy to the noble Lord's heart.

These amendments, of which Amendment No. 102 is the principal, provide for the Secretary of State to allow local authorities to charge low interest or to waive interest for up to five years where they are granting a mortgage for the purchase of a house in need of repairs or improvements. The provision is aimed at "homesteading" arrangements, where purchasers, often young people with limited resources, are enabled to buy houses in need of considerable improvement on favourable terms on the understanding that they will carry out the work necessary to bring the house up to standard. The favourable terms have, in some schemes adopted in England, taken the form of reduced or waived interest payments in the early years of the mortgage and it is considered desirable that this sort of arrangement should be able to continue at the Secretary of State's discretion. These amendments are necessary to allow this because Clause 30, as it stands, prescribes that certain interest rates must be charged on all home loans granted by islands and district councils.

There has, as far as I am aware, been no attempt by Scottish local authorities to undertake "homesteading" on any significant scale. However, I understand that Glasgow District Council are considering a homesteading scheme and that among the sources of experience which they are examining is the Greater London Council's homesteading scheme. Under the GLC scheme, a house or flat in poor condition, needing a minimum of £2,000 spent on repairs and improvements and having been empty for at least two months, is bought by a purchaser who undertakes to put it into good repair and decorative order during a specified period of no more than three years, during which period payments of interest on the GLC mortgage are waived and repayments of capital deferred. Such schemes are designed for people who are willing to put time and money into improving a rundown property and who would not normally be able to afford the combined cost of mortgage repayments and repair and improvement costs.

Amendment No. 102 will enable the Secretary of State to approve individual schemes submitted by local authorities but he may, if it appears appropriate, issue an order with the consent of the Treasury, on the basis of which local authorities could proceed without the need for individual approval. Among the considerations which the Secretary of State will have in mind either in deciding individual cases, or in preparing an order, will be: first, that the dwelling concerned is in need of significant improvement or repair; secondly, that the purchaser enters into an agreement with the authority to carry out specified works within a period specified in the agreement; thirdly, that the extent to which interest is reduced or waived would depend—within the maximum five years permitted by the amendment—upon the inducement needed in the particular circumstances of the scheme.

I must assure noble Lords that this amendment does not herald a change in the Government's policy on local authority mortgage interest rates. I maintain that local authorities should lend only in the last resort. Only in the exceptional circumstances which I have described, therefore, should borrowers be able to obtain mortgages from the local authority at more favourable rates than those who borrow from building societies; and only in such circumstances should a local authority be able to lend money for house purchase at a rate which is below normal mortgage rates. The general principles remain as set out in Clause 30. I beg to move.


This is a splendid amendment and it certainly has my full support. It is in line with the kind of thing that we started way back in the year 1949, when the Labour Government introduced the improvement grant scheme. Although we hoped that it would be taken up by owners of tenemented property, to help stop the slide into slumdom that was then in evidence, we were disappointed by the results. We discovered that it was owner-occupiers who became interested and abused this scheme. That scheme was developed and has spawned other aspects of repair grants and standard amenities, and this is something similar which will be available to owner-occupiers. Admittedly, it is very limited. First, get your house and then get your agreement with the local authority.

I welcome the information that Glasgow Corporation have been looking at this scheme, and I hope that it will be prepared to use it. I am glad that the Government have taken the cautious step, in the first instance, of seeking approval of individual cases, but have also taken power to give a much wider discretion to local authorities. I think that the Government are to be congratulated on this new venture.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 31 [Local authority indemnities for building societies, etc.]:

9.16 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 103: Page 33, line 20, leave out ("14") and insert ("15").

The noble Lord said: It might be to the convenience of the Committee if I spoke to Amendments Nos. 103 and 104 together. Both amendments concern insertions into the legislation relating to building societies of a provision enabling them to accept indemnities which are offered by local authorities under Clause 31. Amendment No. 103 is a purely drafting amendment. At present, both this Bill and the Housing Bill for England and Wales propose the insertion of a new paragraph 14 into Schedule 3 of the Building Societies Act 1962. One of us must give up the number 14 and settle for the number 15, and this is all that Amendment No. 103 does.

Amendment No. 104 makes identical insertions into the Building Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 to those already made by Clause 31(7) into the Building Societies Act 1962, in order to allow building societies which are registered in Northern Ireland, but operating partly in Scotland, to accept indemnities from Scottish local authorities. These are fairly simple amendments. I beg to move.


The noble Lord says that they are simple, but where a local authority undertakes to indemnify a building society in respect of, (a) the whole or part of any outstanding indebtedness of a borrower; and (b) the loss or expense to the building society resulting from the failure of the borrower duly to perform any obligation", some explanation is required as to who the borrower is and the circumstances involved.

We have just heard that we must establish a relationship which does not put the building societies at a disadvantage. Here we have local authorities indemnifying building societies against the default of borrowers. How does this tie up with the borrowings by would-be purchasers who are tenants of local authority houses? This is a very important and serious amendment from the point of view of local authorities, who are taking over responsibility for the debts and failures of somebody else, which would normally fall on building societies. There may be some simple explanation, but, on the face of it, it is not a simple amendment.


If I go up to Scotland—because we shall all be unemployed in South Wales—with no money at all, but am a fairly honest individual, and I am told that I can be indemnified in. Glasgow, because on shipbuilding or armaments I shall get a job, is my integrity at stake? Am I guaranteed or must there be an agreement between the leaders of the local authority and the building society that Davies is honest? Shall I have to sign some kind of document, or will they take me on trust and say: "He is a good guy and he will be all right"? Will the noble Lord explain that to me?—because up to now these are only words.


I am sure we would always take the noble Lord on trust. Taffy may be a Welshman, but the second half of the old saw would never apply in that case. Powers are at present available to local authorities under Section 50(1) of the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1968 to guarantee repayment of advances, and interest thereon, in respect of particular home loans granted by building societies. These powers enable a local authority, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to guarantee part or all of a home loan. Under Section 50(2) of the 1968 Act, the Secretary of State may agree to contribute towards losses incurred by a building society where a local authority guarantee relates to the part of a home loan which is in excess of what the building society would have been prepared to advance without the guarantee, so long as the losses incurred are to be shared equally by the building society, the local authority and the Secretary of State.

The purpose of this provision is to encourage building societies to lend to lower wage-earners. No use at all has been made of the existing powers in Scotland, mainly because the guarantees available are considered by building societies to be inferior to the commercial guarantees available from insurance companies, which provide also for recovery of a building society's incidental costs and which are obtainable very quickly. This clause replaces these powers and extends them to the Housing Corporation. It will enable local authorities to indemnify a building society against incidental losses resulting from a borrower's default as well as repayment of the whole or part of a borrower's outstanding debt. In line with the commercial guarantee procedures, local authorities and the Housing Corporation will be enabled in terms of an agreement with a building society and borrower to take over the building society's rights and liabilities in relation to a home loan. I hope that this reasonably succinctly gives the purpose and scope of the clause, and the amendments which my noble friend moved will slot into place.


I am grateful to the Minister for that information. The information I was looking for was to confirm what I had already learned from my own experience as Secretary of State, and my continuing interest in the subject was that we had hoped to interest the building societies in the way of making loans available to people for the properties that were less desirable. Sadly, although we have offered that inducement, which was really a sharing of the loss, in fact one-third of it only going to the building society, they have not to any extent—in fact not at all—come into this particular field, although I remember it being announced that a sum of money was being made available by the Government to meet this.

I should like to think that even with this they would come in, but, as I said before, I feel that the bulk of the home loans are going to be provided—as they might as well be considering the nature of this indemnity—by the local authorities. We have tried and tried to interest them in this, to get them to support home loans for those who are less well-off. The fact is that the less well-off are trying to buy, and can only buy, lesser properties.

I at one time was opposed to Glasgow providing monies in respect of the purchase of some of these houses, because we had the situation where young people in their desperation were becoming owneroccupiers in tenement flats, some of them in houses that their parents were glad to be rehoused out of. Then, once in, of course they seek to get the advantages of improvement grants and the rest of it. You cannot blame them for the straits they get into; but the sad thing is that there is no decent rented accommodation apart from local authority accommodation, which is strictly limited and for which there is a long waiting list. It is one of the sad stories about Scottish housing. We have had experience of that. I had hoped that this might attract them. Unless building societies can give to local authorities a sum of money, it will be a very considerable drag upon local authority finances rather than the bonanza which the Government hopefully made an assumption about when they produced their memorandum.

I am not going to object to this, but I am glad that I have had an explanation. One thing which local authorities know about home loans is that one in five—a high percentage—of those who have had home loans, supported by local authorities, have defaulted. It may have been because of unemployment and other tragedies. People may have bitten off far more, financially, than they could chew. We have to appreciate this kind of problem when we are making assumptions about what will happen under this Act of Parliament. We have to be realistic and not spread inflated stories, one way or the other, about the outcome. Many of us do not know—and I am perfectly sure the Government do not know—what the consequences will be for people who embark upon home loans. At a later stage of the Bill I have put down one or two amendments to try to safeguard people from defaulting when an agreement has been made and when the local authority would need to come to the rescue of the building society. I am prepared to leave the matter there and not to oppose the clause.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 104: Page 33, line 24, at end insert— ("(8) Schedule 3 to the Building Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 shall be amended as follows—

  1. (a) in paragraph 3(2)(c) after "Scotland" insert "section 31 of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980,"; and
  2. (b) at the end add the following paragraph—
15. An agreement under section 31 of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 (local authority indemnities for building societies, etc.)"").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 31, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 32 and 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 [Short tenancies]:

[Amendments Nos. 105 and 106 not moved.]

9.27 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 107: Page 34, line 39, after ("and") insert (", notwithstanding the provisions of section 44(1) and (4) of the 1971 Act,").

The noble Lord said: This is another technical amendment, pace the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. However, I assure him that it is. This amendment removes any doubt that there may be as to what the effective date will be in cases where the landlord applies within the statutory period of 14 days' grace which is allowed by subsection (1)(e)(ii) for the rent specified in the certificate of fair rent to be registered. The position at the moment is uncertain. The latter part of paragraph (ii) provides that the registered rent shall take effect from the commencement of the tenancy. This position may be contrasted with the new Section 44 of the 1971 Act, which Clause 46 inserts into that Act. In other words, the earliest date from which the new registered rent may be recovered is the date when the rent officer registers that rent.

This process is clearly inconsistent with Clause 34(1)(e)(ii), and subsection (2) in the case of a landlord who takes advantage of the 14 days' grace. The proviso which the amendment proposes should be inserted in subsection (2) makes it clear that in such circumstances the registered rent shall be payable from the start of a tenancy, notwithstanding the general rule in the new Section 44(1) that the effective date is to be the date when the rent officer registers the rent or the date when the rent assessment committee make their decision. It is technical. Nevertheless, I commend the amendment to your Lordships.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 108 and 109 not moved.]

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35 [Effect of tenancy being short tenancy]:

[Amendment No. 110 not moved.]

9.30 p.m.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 111: Page 35, line 17, leave out ("(b)").

The noble Earl said: The broad purpose of Clause 35 is to ensure that if a tenant under a short tenancy either assigns his tenancy or grants a sub-tenancy, he cannot thereby prevent the landlord from recovering possession at the end of the short tenancy. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the general right to a possession order conferred upon landlords of short tenancies is subject to both of the circumstances specified in subsection (5). These circumstances are that if the tenant dies, any statutory successor who could succeed to the tenancy under the normal transmission rules applicable to all protected tenancies shall be entitled to remain in possession until the end of the period of the let. Similarly a lawful sub-tenant can remain in possession until the end of the contractual letting even although the head short tenancy is terminated before that date. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 36 [Conditions applying to landlord's right to recovery of possession]:

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 112: Page 36, line 11, leave out ("the expiry of a") and insert ("not later than 3 months after the expiry of any").

The noble Earl said: If I may, I will move Amendment No. 112 and speak to Amendment No. 115 at the same time. The reason that I say this is that the two amendments hang together and are designed to remove any ambiguity there might otherwise be in the present drafting. Our intention is to enable short tenancies to be continued for further periods of 12 months in cases where the landlord takes no steps, by the service of a Case 11D notice for which subsection (2) provides, to terminate the tenancy either before the expiry of the contractual period or within the period of three months immediately following that period. In such a case at the moment subsection (4) provides that the tenancy shall be renewed for a further period of 12 months beginning with the expiry of the original tenancy. The amendment which I urge should be made to subsections (2) and (4) has the effect of continuing the tenancy for successive periods of 12 months on each occasion that the landlord fails to serve notice within the prescribed time. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 113: Page 36, line 16, leave out ("the date of").

The noble Earl said: This is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 114 not moved.]

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 115: Page 36, line 42, at end insert ("or with the expiry of any period of 12 months for which the tenancy is continued under this subsection.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 36, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 [Limits on rent increases]:

9.35 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 116: Page 37, line 2, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: This clause deals with the limits on rent increases. It is a bit of a misnomer, because I doubt very much whether there will be any limits on the increases. Whereas before we had the noble Lord telling us why the Secretary of State would not intervene in respect of increases of rents in the local government sector, we find a very different position here. I understand it, although you would not from the two lines: Subject to subsection (4) below, sections 7 to 9 of the 1975 Act and Schedule 2 to that Act are repealed".

Nobody knows what that means, but I am perfectly sure the noble Earl is going to explain it to us and then tell us, "Do not worry. We are wiping out the question of phasing of rents "—which was not done in England by the way— "but the Secretary of State is going to lay down a maximum amount by which the total rent payable under a tenancy may be raised in any period of 12 months". Now we are in the private sector, by the way; it is to limit the total amount by which a regulated tenancy registered rent may be raised, and "restrict the total additional rental income which may be recovered by a landlord under such a tenancy in any period of 12 months". So there is very considerable restriction here, but it does mean there are going to be immediate increases in rent rather than the phased increases in rent. Bearing in mind that when some of these houses have been brought into regulated tenancy in the past, by the removal of the old controls, in some areas of Glasgow the rents have gone up by a factor of more than 10, I think it is right that the tenants should know exactly what is in front of them now in relation to future increases. I believe at the present time the increase is limited to somewhere about £78 a year. We have not been told, certainly not in another place; I have seen it quoted in a document, not an official document, as to what they are likely to be, but I think it would be fine if the noble Earl could tell your Lordships' House just exactly what the new maximum increase in respect of these tenancies is going to be in any one year. That is the information I want, and I am absolutely sure the noble Earl will be fairly frank with us in respect of what is going to be done. He will justify the fact that we are doing things differently in Scotland because circumstances are different; I am not terribly interested in that argument. It is the facts I want to know. I beg to move.


As the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has said, we now come effectively to the phasing amendment, if I may so call it. As the noble Lord was careful to say, after he very nearly misled your Lordships, we have passed now from the public into the private sector. It is extremely important to emphasise this, because I want to say at the beginning that nothing in the provisions of this Part of the Bill are going to affect in any way the rights of the tenants so far as the three year period is concerned, and it is very important.

I should also explain, because there has been some inquiry in some quarters, why the Scottish proposals differ from those contained in the Housing Bill. To take the second point first, which is of a more general nature, the distinction between the proposals in this Bill and the Housing Bill is that, while Clause 37 in its present form abolishes phasing as such for Scotland, the Housing Bill reduces the number of phases from three to two in England and Wales, so that the full fair rent is payable a year after registration. Not for the first time, I have explained that in Scotland we sometimes prefer our own way of doing things, and I make no apology for saying this in relation to this particular clause.

We have thought it appropriate to abolish phasing in its present form because there is no reason in logic why the landlord should not receive immediately the full fair rent which is based on the state and so on of the property at the date of determination. I might mention in passing that the Rent Act 1965, which set up the fair rents machinery, made no provision for phasing of rent increases on re-registration. The new fair rent became payable in full right away. However, the Government fully recognise that a return to this position could create problems for tenants who had become accustomed, through phasing, to being cushioned from sudden, sharp increases in rent. We appreciate that and the Bill recognises that tenants have become accustomed to having a period of time, following an increase in rent, to make the necessary adjustments to their personal budgets.

So far as England and Wales are concerned, the Housing Bill tackles the problem by continuing phasing, but reducing the period over which the increase is phased from three to two years. However, we believe that a more logical and equitable manner of balancing the conflicting interests of landlord and tenant is to replace the present system of phasing with an order making power for the Secretary of State to specify the maximum increase that is permissible in any one year.

The reason why we take that view is quite simple: the only argument against the full fair rent being paid immediately is the possible hardship that it could cause the tenant, particularly where the increase is a large one. We have dealt with that problem by restricting, by order, the maximum increase that can be recovered in any one year and the Secretary of State can adjust that, in order to ensure fairness to both parties, in the light of prevailing economic circumstances.

During the Committee stage of this Bill in the other place an indication was given of the Government's current thinking on what level of annual increase might initially be prescribed by order. We have in mind that the order shall prescribe an annual maximum of £104 or 25 per cent. of the existing rent, whichever is the greater. That bears favourable comparison with the present annual maximum of £78 fixed five years ago by the Housing Rents and Subsidies (Scotland) Act of that year.

Finally, I should emphasise that these new annual maxima will only take effect from the next re-registration of a fair rent. In other words, phasing under the existing arrangements will run its full course. I trust, therefore, that this is a plan which will commend itself to your Lordships on the basis that we are making a start in getting the Scottish rent control system on a more equitable basis.

I assure your Lordships that in general terms the overall effect of the two new systems in Scotland and England will work out roughly the same. For example, we are retaining in Scotland the three-year registration period, which I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, and that pegs the rent for that period. However, in England the period is reduced to two years, which will mean more frequent increases. So, balancing the one with the other, the differences are not likely to be great or one-sided and our system in Scotland will be more firmly-based in logic and more flexible in operation.


It is clear that in both cases there will be very considerable increases in rents. Of course we shall see the order when it eventually comes, but the Minister has told us that in the first year following the completion of the present registration period of three years—whenever that may be—in respect of any particular rent the maximum will be £104. Of course there will he other years to come after that. He said that there would be more or less the equivalent of a 25 per cent. increase. I think that the present maximum over the period is £78. So there will be a very considerable increase.

I wish to thank the noble Lord for his frankness and for the information which he has given us. Although he may talk about fairness in one way or another, when he appreciates that many of these tenants have already had a tremendous increase in rents, that many of them believe that they have been over-rented, despite the existence of the rent officer and the rent assessment committees—some of which we could discuss at length later on —he must realise that it will be a very considerable shock to them. So here we have it both in the public sector and the private sector. The one thing we can be sure of in Scotland is higher increases in rents than we have ever known before. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.46 p.m.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 117: Page 37, line 26, leave out from ("of") to ("not") in line 27 and insert ("subsection (2) above" rent "and" rental income "do").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment which is necessary to achieve consistency of treatment between what is "rent" in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) and "rental income" in paragraph (b). At the moment the cost of providing services is only specifically excluded from the calculation of the restriction on the total additional rental income that a landlord may recover in the relevant period of 12 months. The amendment makes it clear that in cases where paragraph (b) does not apply the service element in "rent" recoverable in terms of paragraph (a) is also to be exempt from the limit on the maximum annual increase in rent for which that paragraph provides. This will mean that the cost of providing services—which represent a direct cash outlay on the part of the landlord—will be recoverable in full in the same way as it is exempt from the current phasing limits. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 37, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 38 agreed to.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 118: After Clause 38, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act 1951c. 65

.—(1) The Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act 1951 shall be amended in accordance with this section.

(2) In section 15 (protection of tenure of certain premises), after subsection (1) insert the following subsection—

"(1A) This section does not apply in relation to any tenancy entered into after the commencement of section 53 of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980.".

(3) In section 16 (protection of tenure of premises not falling under section 15)—

  1. (i) in subsection (2)(c) the words from "and" to the end are repealed;
  2. (ii) for subsections (3) to (8) substitute the following subsections—

"(3) The rent for any rental period (that is to say, a period in respect of which an instalment of rent falls to be paid) shall be the amount payable for the last rental period before the end of the tenancy, but subject to adjustment from time to time in accordance with section 22 or 23 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 (adjustment, with respect to rates, services and furniture, of recoverable rent for statutory periods before registration).

(4) Subsection (3) above has effect subject to any agreement between the parties for the payment of a lower rent; and where a lower rent is agreed it shall not be increased in accordance with the said section 22 or 23 but may, notwithstanding anything in any other enactment, be increased by agreement in writing between the parties up to an amount not exceeding the amount of rent provided for in subsection (3) above.".

(4) In section 17(2)(b) (provisions supplementary to section 16 where the accommodation is shared other than with the landlord) for "(5) to (8)" substitute "(3) and (4)".

(5) In section 18(2) (protection of tenure in connection with employment, under a licence or a rent-free letting) for "(5) to (8)" substitute "(3) and (4)".

(6) Section 19(5) (limitation on application of Rent Acts—heritable secutities) is repealed.").

The noble Earl said: This new clause amends the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act 1951 to take account of changes to the Rent Acts in the current Bill. As noble Lords will remember from consideration of the comparable provisions in the Housing Bill, the 1951 Act is designed to protect in a variety of ways many people who are still liable to be called up in an emergency and might not have the opportunity to get their legal affairs in order before call-up. So far as privately rented property is concerned the provisions in the Act mean that families of reservists who would not otherwise be covered by the Rent Acts, get analogous protection during the reservist's spell of duty.

Broadly speaking, the changes proposed for Section 15 of the 1951 Act have the effect of bringing the protection available to reservists under Section 15—that section applies to Part VII of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 to lettings by a resident landlord, but where there is no Part VII contract—into line with the protection to be available to Part VII contract holders generally after the commencement of Clause 53 of the Bill.

The amendments made to Section 16 are consequential upon the conversion, under Clause 44, of all remaining controlled tenancies to rent regulation and the repeal of Part V of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971. The effect on reservists' tenancies is largely unchanged: the new subsection (3) of Section 16 limits the rent to the last contractual rent, plus any increases in respect of rates, furniture or services; and the new subsection (4) enables less than the full contractual rent to be charged if that is provided for in a separate agreement between the parties. The remaining subsections are technical in nature. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.50 p.m.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 119: After Clause 38, insert the following new clause:

("Extension of Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 to Crown tenants of Crown Estate Commissioners etc.

.—(l) Section 4 of the 1971 Act shall be amended as follows—

  1. (a) in subsection (1)—
    1. (i) before"a tenancy" insert "Subject to subsection (3) below"; and
    2. (ii) the words or of the Duchy of Lancaster; or to the Duchy of Cornwall" are repealed;
  2. (b) after subsection (2) add a new sub-section

"(3) An interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown shall not prevent a tenancy from being a protected tenancy or a person from being a statutory tenant if the interest is under the management of the Crown Estate Commissioners.".

(2) Section 6(3) of the 1971 Act shall be amended by inserting after paragraph (a) a new paragraph—

"(aa) in relation to any dwelling-house of which a tenancy granted before the commencement of section (Extension of Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 to Crown tenants of Crown Estate Commissioners etc.) of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 becomes, or would but for its low rent become, a protected tenancy by virtue of that section, means the date of commencement of that section.".

(3) Section 85 of the 1971 Act shall be amended as follows—

  1. (a) in subsection (3)—
    1. (i) before "This Part" insert "subject to subsection (3A) below"; and
    2. (ii) in paragraph (a) the words "or of the Duchy of Lancaster or to the Duchy of Cornwall" are repealed;
  2. (b) after subsection (3) insert a new sub-section—

"(3A) An interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown shall not prevent this Part of this Act from applying to a contract if the interest is under the management of the Crown Estate Commissioners.".

(4) Schedule 3 to the 1971 Act shall be amended as follows—

  1. (a) in Case 5 after "1965" insert "or, in the case of a tenancy which became a regulated tenancy by virtue of section (Extension of Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 to Crown tenants of Crown Estate Commissioners etc.) of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, after the commencement of that section"; and
  2. (b) in Part III, in paragraph 2 at the end add a new paragraph—

"(aaa) in the case of a tenancy which becomes a regulated tenancy by virtue of section (Extension of Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 to Crown tenants of Crown Estate Commissioners etc.) of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, the relevant date means the date falling six months after the passing of that Act; and".

(5) Section 134 of the 1971 Act shall be amended by adding the following new paragraphs—

  1. "3. Where an interest belongs to Her Majesty in right of the Duchy of Lancaster, for the purposes of this Act the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster shall be deemed to be the owner of the interest.
  2. 4. Where an interest belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall, for the purposes of this Act the Secretary of the Duchy of Cornwall shall be deemed to be the owner of the interest.".")

The noble Earl said: The purpose of this new clause is to amend the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 so that it applies to tenants of the Crown Estate Commissioners, the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster. Noble Lords may remember discussing and approving on 3rd July the parallel provision in the Housing Bill. The new clause mirrors those provisions which are relevant to Scottish circumstances; for example, the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 do not apply to Scotland so that it is unnecessary to repeat the changes made to these Acts by the Housing Bill. Similarly, we have been advised by the Crown Estate Commissioners that it is unnecessary to amend the provisions in the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 which relate to the charging of premiums because the special circumstances which led to changes being made by the Housing Bill to the provisions for premiums in the Rent Act 1977 do not apply in Scotland.

I understand that there are approximately 140 tenancies in Scotland that are managed by the Crown Estate Commissioners on behalf of the Crown and these are largely in the rural areas of the North-East and the South-West. These properties are let at rents agreed with the rent officer as fair. When vacant possession is secured the future of the dwellings is considered in estate management terms and, if not required, they are sold off. Although neither of the Duchies appear to own residential property in Scotland the new clause ensures that should either grant a residential tenancy in future it will be subject to the Rent Acts.

Tenants who are brought within the Rent Acts by this clause will have full security of tenure and be subject to the fair rents system. It has been the practice in the past, I understand, to apply the Rent Acts administratively to such tenants; now the tenants will for the first time have statutory entitlement to their protection. I beg to move.


I do not think that anyone would quarrel with the new clause here. It is interesting to see the sidelines into which these new clauses take us. I should have liked to embark on the activities of the Crown Commissioners in Scotland. I had a certain measure of responsibility at one time. The only quibble I would have with the noble Earl is when he says that they have so many properties involved mainly in certain parts of the country. I was waiting for him to mention Edinburgh, becaue they have been active in respect of properties in Edinburgh as well. They may get beneficial help, if protection is needed from the Rent Acts, under the new clause. Now is not the time to embark upon the activities of the Crown Commissioners in this respect, and I certainly welcome the new clause.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 [Prohibition of eviction without due process of law to apply to Part VII contracts]:

[Amendments Nos. 120 and 121 not moved.]

Clause 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 [Amendment of sections 1 and 86 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971):

9.53 p.m.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 122: Page 39, line 9, after ("roll") insert ("on or").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment. At the moment the Rent Acts apply to tenancies of dwelling-houses the rateable value of which did not exceed £200 on 23rd March 1965 in respect of existing dwellings or the date when the entry is first made in the valuation roll in all other cases. As presently worded the new section (1A) provides that in respect of dwellings whose rateable value is first entered on the valuation roll after 1st April 1978 the Secretary of State may make an order increasing the present limit of £200 to whatever limit he thinks appropriate. But since the effective date of the current valuation rolls is 1st April, dwellings whose rateable value was between the present limit of £200 and any new limit and in respect of which the entry was made on 1st April, would not be subject to the Rent Acts. The amendment seeks to plug this gap of one day in the Rent Act cover. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 41, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 43 and 44 agreed to.

Clause 44 [Conversion of all remaining controlled tenancies]:

9.55 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 123: Page 40, line 2, at end insert (" certified by the local housing authority as meeting the tolerable standard ").

The noble Lord said: There was a time when there would have been furious battles over the subject raised by this amendment, but I have no desire to rouse the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, at this time because I know exactly how he would feel if I had proceeded to debate the whole issue. We are here discussing a relic of the past, the position of remaining controlled tenancies. There are not all that many of them, in terms of thousands anyway, and we must appreciate exactly the kind of houses we are discussing. They are properties with a very low rateable value indeed, and probably even lower rents. We have had a few valuations of these properties since they were first pinpointed, when we started releasing from control a great number of houses, but these houses have never been released. The Government sought to do something much more drastic in 1971, but then changed their mind, or Parliament changed it for them, and I am sure they would like to have done something more later on.

The houses about which we are talking are some of the oldest in Scotland, mostly in Glasgow. I remember saying some years ago in another place that people should be pretty well paid to live in them, and sadly that is true. It may be that the existence of the rent restriction Acts had something to do with it, but when one remembers that it was thought desirable not to remove these, then there must have been some justification for that. In any event, even if they could have got not just a 25 per cent. but a 50 per cent. increase in rents, they could not have looked at the possibility of the kind of repairs that need to be done to these houses; rather than abolition, I would look to demolition because that is really the only way out. I have not objected to the conversion of all remaining co controlled tenancies, but knowing the nature of the houses involved, I have suggested that we insert: certified by the local housing authority as meeting the tolerable standard".

We must keep an eye on what happens to these houses, and the insertion of these words might be one way of achieving the purpose, and I suggest we should give them a certain time to reach that tolerable standard, if they possibly can reach it; and that is why I suggest in the next Amendment, No. 124—and, with the permission of the Committee, that can be discussed at the same time—that it should be delayed until 1st January 1984. There is nothing ulterior in this, just trying to get to grips with the situation. I do not think it will help to any great extent just to convert these controlled tenancies into registered tenancies.

The people will be in a very difficult position. The houses are old and, generally speaking, the people occupying them are old, too. One finds this in Scotland; the older people live in the older houses. Many of them are quite unwilling to move. We discovered that when we tried to clear places such as Anderston. One stubborn person could delay us for quite a long time because he owned a property there and did not want to move until he obtained complete satisfaction. Indeed, the development was held up for a year. Local authorities in a position like that are not without compassion. The delay meant that in regard to Anderston people had to wait and wait before we could get the area cleared.

Properties such as these are in a rather sad state, but if possible we want to get them up to a tolerable standard, though in fact the tolerable standard is not a very high standard. I think that it was following the 1967 report from the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee that this standard was introduced. It has been of some help in that money can be spent on houses by the Government and by local authorities in order to bring them up to a tolerable standard, which does not mean all that much in terms of the houses having a permanent life; they have a limited life. I suggest that we insert what is proposed in the amendment and give the local housing authority more or less a watching brief in regard to this matter. This is not an unreasonable amendment for the Government to accept, or at least to think about. I beg to move.


As the noble Lord has said, Amendment No. 123 would restrict the conversion of controlled tenancies to rent regulation to those which are certified by the local authority as meeting the tolerable standard. The only controlled tenancies still in existence are those with a rateable value of under £25 on 27th August 1972, where there has been no change of tenancy since before 6th July 1957. Dwellinghouses of such a low rateable value are, in the main, single rooms in tenement blocks, and it is unlikely that many of them currently meet the tolerable standard, or indeed that they could be made to meet that standard, given the limitation of space.

That apart, the Government see no justification for retaining alongside a rent registration system a controlled rent system covering only some 3,000 tenants paying only some £10 to £12 per annum. Such rental levels provide a landlord with no margin to insure the property or carry out repairs; far less do they provide him with an income. For that reason we are proposing in Clause 44 to bring all controlled tenancies under the umbrella of the rent registration system. I do not for one moment conceal that the registration of a fair rent will mean some increases in rent for most controlled tenants, and for the reasons that I have previously given I think that this is justified, if only to give the landlord the opportunity and incentive to maintain and improve his property. The limit on rent increases and the availability of rent allowance will mitigate the effects for the tenant.

However, I am very much aware that, as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, has said, the tenants of these controlled tenancies are for the most part elderly, are often widows or widowers, and are of limited means. For that reason I am happy to repeat the assurances given by my right honourable friend in another place that these tenants will be dealt with by the rent officer with sympathy and understanding. Indeed, that is the norm for the rent officer service; and I should perhaps say with especial sympathy and understanding. The implications of the registration of a fair rent will be carefully explained. The explanation will include the maximum increase in rent to which they will be subject, and any financial assistance to which they may be entitled in the form of rent allowance and so on. For those reasons I am unable to accept Amendment No. 123, which would be impossibly restrictive. Amendment No. 124 would postpone the date of conversion to rent registration until 1st January 1984. In my view, the conversion is long overdue and no good will be served by postponing it for another three years.


Of course, the noble Earl appreciates that when I was talking earlier about home loans and the kind of property that young people were buying their way into to become owner-occupiers, much of it was this kind of property, because when it became vacant there was no question of re-letting it. There is no doubt at all about it, that property owners in Glasgow were delighted to be able to sell it, and sell it they did. It is a sad position. I do not think for a minute that if they get an increase of another £1 a week in rent they are going to spend a penny of it on repairs and maintenance. What can you do with these ancient properties in Glasgow—over 100 years old, some of them—in the situation that I mentioned in the discussion on an earlier amendment, where you go up the close and on each level there is the landing in the middle and the room and kitchen on each side? They have been there for a hundred years without any facilities. They do not reach any standard at all; and it is sad to think that, in this day and age, and after all the efforts made by all sorts of Governments to improve things, in many cases they are still there.

So far as concerns introducing the fair rent system and registering the rent, the people who are in these houses are the last people in the world to be able to understand it, or even to be able to defend themselves in that way. There is many a time a letter from a property owner telling them about an increase in rent and they cannot understand it. They will not know their rights, they will not understand their rights; and I think local community counsellors or local welfare officers will need to be very busy in their jobs to make sure that these people understand what is going on.

But any increase in rent for them, of course, is going to be, probably, an increased demand on social security. I do not know whether the noble Earl appreciated that, that it will not necessarily be the tenants of these particular houses who will be called upon eventually to pay; it is going to be the state itself. I think what we want to do is to speed up the process whereby we get rid of these houses which have not reached a tolerable standard. That is ultimately the right way.

It is no good saying that special sympathy and understanding will be brought to bear by the rent officer. With all due respect, he is not allowed to do that. He has got to deal in facts and figures, and ease his position by bringing in his own experience and his own judgment. With all due respect, judgment and experience are not sympathy and understanding. It may be that in the way he deals with the people and in the way he talks to the people there will be sympathy and understanding; I am perfectly sure that is true. But when it comes to the activities of the rent officer and where someone is not satisfied, it is not likely to be the tenant who will appeal to the rent assessment committee; it is much more likely to be the property owner. This is all our experience of it; and when it comes before that committee then I am afraid the tenant has not got very much chance. He is not going to employ a surveyor or a lawyer to put his case; it is the property owner who is going to be involved there. This is one of the reasons why, in a later amendment, it will be seen that we change and help the rent assessment committee and the rent officer to a certain extent. But the dice is always loaded in respect of the tenant. It is loaded in respect of resources; it is loaded in respect of knowledge; it is loaded in respect of experience. That is all there and can be bought by the appealing property owner. I must thank the noble Earl for the explanation he has given, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 124 not moved.]

Clause 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 [Determination of fair rent]:

10.10 p.m.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendments Nos. 125 and 126:

Page 40, line 33, leave out from ("section") to first ("to") in line 35.

Page 40, line 37, after ("to") insert ("apply their knowledge and experience of current rents of comparable property in the area, as well as having regard to").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 125 and 126. In introducing Amendment No. 125, I should like to explain first of all the purpose of the clause itself and then to deal with the effect of the particular amendment we have before us. The purpose of the clause is to free rent officers and rent assessment committees in Scotland from the inhibition they at present feel very strongly they are under, in that they cannot use their own judgment, in addition to any other evidence submitted, when determining a fair rent. The problem arises as a result of a judgment in the Court of Session in Albyn Properties v. Knox in 1977. In that decision, the Court of Session required the rent assessment committee to show: upon what proved or admitted fact their decision proceeded [and] what reasons they had in the light of the evidence for selecting the particular figures of rent for particular houses". The effect of that judgment was, as I have said, to deny rent officers and rent assessment committees in Scotland the opportunity to use their own judgment, in addition to any other evidence submitted, when determining a fair rent. They could take into account only the actual evidence submitted to the rent assessment committee by the parties.

Your Lordships will appreciate that landlords regularly have both the means and the ability to produce substantial evidence of comparable rents that exist in the area. Tenants rarely have that same opportunity as a consequence of their lack of means, lack of expertise and general know-how or other obvious circumstances. That is why the original legislation in Section 42 of the 1971 Act made provision for the rent officer and the rent assessment committee to use their own experience and judgment. This sought to ensure that the odds were not weighted overwhelmingly against the tenant when evidence of comparable rents in the area was being considered. The purpose of Clause 45 is therefore simply to clarify and reaffirm the intentions of the original legislation. It has not been necessary to amend the comparable English legislation in the same way, due to the fact that the English courts have interpreted the legislation differently from the Scottish courts. The English courts have come down clearly in favour of what the original legislation intended and what the Government consider appropriate in this matter, and the only way in which we can harmonise practice both sides of the Border— which in this particular instance, I am sure, your Lordships will agree is highly desirable—is to amend the Scottish legislation on the lines proposed in Clause 45.

This point was fully argued in another place and I think it is fair to say that the Opposition were generally in favour of what the Government are trying to do in this matter. The actual wording of the new provision, however, has naturally exercised us greatly and we are anxious not to leave any loophole for further misinterpretation. Hence, Amendments Nos. 125 and 126, which my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate and I think will more meaningfully convey what Clause 45 is out to achieve. My noble and learned friend has pointed out that it would be better to subsume reference to knowledge and experience of rents in the area into the "circumstances" to which regard is to be had. This would avoid any suggestion that the primary emphasis is to be given to this knowledge and experience to the possible exclusion of other methods of assessment. Your Lordships will readily see that this is what these two amendments seek to do and that, if incorporated, we shall arrive at a more felicitous text.


We were very much in favour of the change originally made. I think this is even more helpful. I welcome the fact that the Government are prepared to anticipate and to plug loopholes before they ever arise. It also shows that they have considerable experience now in the Scottish Office of the Scottish property owners. I am glad that the noble Earl confirmed what I said earlier: that the dice is loaded against the tenant. We have had this experience over a long time, much to the distress of people who are sincere supporters of the fair rent system, who discover that the tenant is helpless there against the barrage of evidence that is brought by the landlord, which very often is just a property agent. They have all the facts and figures. They can take discriminating instances, and select evidence. It is usually the only factual evidence available because the tenant is not in a position to do that.

It is good to know that the Government have confidence in the rent officer to this extent. I have seen figures quoted, and the noble Earl will know that usually the appeal to the rent assessment committee is that from the landlord and the property owner, and the chances of the tenant winning are about nine to one. That is the experience, I gather, of cases. I saw this figure quoted some time ago. I hope that it is wrong. It shows once again that it is not always easy for the poor man to get justice and that the dice is very often loaded against him.

The Government here are doing what they can. It may well be that there is a case for looking at the actual constitution of the rent assessment committee at some later time. This is not the clause, and these are not the amendments, in which to do it. I approve of what the Government are doing within these amendments and I applaud their efforts.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 45, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 46 agreed to.

Clause 47 [Repeal of provisions relating to increase of recoverable rent on account of improvements]:

10.17 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 127: Page 42, line 20, at end insert— (" (3) The 1971 Act is amended as follows—

  1. (i) in section 21(4) for to 24' there shall be substituted ' and 23';
  2. (ii) in section 25(1)—
    1. (a) after 21(2) ' insert ' or '; and
    2. (b) the words or section 24(2) ' shall cease to have effect.").

The noble Lord said: This is a small, technical drafting amendment which deletes from Section 21 (4) and Section 25 (1) of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 references to Section 24 of that Act which subsection (1) of this clause repeals. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 47, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 48 [Cancellation of registration]:

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 128: Page 42, line 28, at end insert (" (2) to (4), (7) and (8) ").

The noble Lord said: Any members of the Committee who have read the Notes on Clauses will find that there is some reference in those Notes to the new Section 44B which this particular clause inserts in the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971. The purpose is to enable a landlord to have a fair registration cancelled in certain circumstances. These circumstances are that the registration is at least three years' old and also at the time of application the dwelling is not then let on a regulated tenancy. The procedural requirements that are to be attached to such an application are already prescribed by Section 44A of the 1971 Act. As members of the Committee will already know, that section prescribes the procedure which is to apply to an application made jointly by landlord and tenant for the cancellation of an existing registration. What the amendment does is to delete from the procedural requirements of an application made under new Section 44B those elements of the procedure prescribed for joint applications that are clearly irrelevant where application is being made by the landlord alone. That is the procedure which we seek to make by this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 48, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Transfer of functions of rent tribunals to rent assessment committees]:

[Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 not moved.]

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 [Furnished lettings by certain bodies not tobePartVllcontracts]:

10.21 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 131: Page 43, line 36, at end insert— (" (2) Section 16(3) of the 1972 Act shall be amended by adding, after ' 85(3) ', (aa) or '.")

The noble Lord said: This is a short and, again, a rather technical amendment. This amendment will preserve the status quo as regards the entitlement to rent allowance by tenants of furnished premises which are let by any of the landlords who are listed in Clause 10(2). In practice it is most likely to affect housing association tenants. Without the amendment I am proposing these tenants would cease to be eligible for either the rent rebate or the rent allowance as a consequence of Clause 51, and the tenants would thus fall through the safety net which exists to assist with their rent those on lower incomes. As I have pointed out, it is a simple, technical amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 51, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 52 [Apportionment of rateable values for Part VII contracts]:

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 132: Page 44, line 5, leave out from (" the ") to end of line and insert (" assessor on the ").

The noble Lord said: This is a dispute in relation to the division of the various proportions of rateable values to be borne by people in a dwelling-house. I think we are really going beyond what is reasonable when we have got to take everything to the law courts. The suggestion by the Government is that failing agreement the parties should go to the sheriff on an application by either side. Would it not be far better calling in the man who fixes the valuations—the assessor—and letting him make the decision? It is going to be very much cheaper for everybody concerned. It is not going to cost them anything at all, whereas if one takes the matter to law it will cost a lot of money. I am sure that, with his experience, the Minister will agree with me, although it may be against his own interests or the interests of his profession, that it would be far better to go to the regional valuation officer, better known in Scotland as the assessor. If the Minister does not like the name "assessor" and prefers the title "regional valuation officer", then we can put that in. The Minister can think about this and put that in at a later stage. But we are taking things far too seriously, and unnecessarily taking people into courts. In a case like this, where it is a matter of apportioning the rateable values, why not take it to the man who does that kind of thing all the time for a living? I beg to move.


The effect of this amendment would be to transfer from the sheriff to the assessor responsibility for apportioning the rateable value where only part of a dwelling-house is subject to a Part VII contract. Ever since the Rent Restriction (Amendment) Act 1933 the responsibility for settling disputes between landlord and tenants as to apportionment of rates has been placed on the sheriff—in England it is the county court—and so far as I am aware no difficulty has been encountered by sheriffs when called upon to perform this duty. I am very willing to be persuaded that there is some reason, and a good reason, for changing what has been the practice since 1933. I think my attitude to the noble Lord, if he really wants me to take this away and look at it, is to say, "Tempt me"!


I will proceed now in my most dulcet tones to tempt the noble Earl the Minister. Surely, bearing in mind the potential load we are putting on sheriffs in the earlier part of this Bill, whereas hitherto there may have been no trouble, I do not think it is a great burden on sheriffs, but it might be better to relieve them of this burden in view of the other work we are throwing their way. After all, I am perfectly sure that people would accept the decisions of valuation officers as readily as they accept those of sheriffs. The valuation officer, or assessor, as he is better known in Scotland, is doing this all the time. In England and Wales I believe it is done by the Inland Revenue: they get it for nothing. In Scotland, apart from one area where it is done elsewhere, it is done by the regional valuation officer. I think he would do a good job. Certainly, so far as cost is concerned, it would be far better for the parties involved. I sincerely hope that the noble Earl will take this away and look at it and give us the opportunity of having his mature reflections when we come to another stage of the Bill.


Compared to the noble Lord, the sirens were but corncrakes! I will take it away but with no commitment.


Thank you. On that understanding I am delighted to be able to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Notice to quit relating to Part VII contracts entered into after the commencement of Part IV]:

10.28 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 133: Page 44, line 10, leave out (" Part IV ") and insert (" section 53 ").

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to introduce a minor degree of flexibility into the determination of the commencement date of the new Section 95B which this particular clause inserts into the Rent Act 1971 in Scotland. As it is currently drafted, the new Section 95B assumes that the whole of Part IV of this Bill will have the same effective date, but in practice that may not necessarily be the case. We think it seems preferable to make the provisions regarding the commencing date less rigid than they are at the moment. The amendment that I am putting forward would also bring Clause 53 into line with the other clauses, for example, Clause 51, in this respect. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 134 not moved.]

Clause 53, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 54 and 55 agreed to.

Clause 56 [Extent of operation of Section 119A of 1971 Act]:

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 135: Page 45, line 17, leave out (" to ") and insert (" in ").

The noble Lord said: This is perhaps the most minor amendment of this evening. It corrects a mere printing error to leave out the word "to" and insert the word "in". I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 56, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 57 to 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [Recovery of possession of dwelling-house subject to regulated tenancy]:

[Amendments Nos. 136 and 137 not moved.]

10.30 p.m.

The Earl of SELKIRK moved Amendment No. 138: Page 48, line 8, at end insert— (" (3) The following Case shall be inserted after Case 16 of the said Part II—

" Case 17

Where a person acquired the dwelling-house or any interest therein (he then being a member of the regular armed forces of the Crown) and without occupying it let it on a regulated tenancy and—

  1. (a) not later than the relevant date the landlord gave notice in writing (he still being such a member at the date of the notice) to the tenant that possession might be recovered under this Case, and
  2. (b) the dwelling-house has not, since the commencement date for this provision appointed under the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, been let by the landlord on a protected tenancy with respect to which the condition mentioned in paragraph (a) was not satisfied, and
  3. (c) the court is of the opinion that one of the following conditions is satisfied—
    1. (i) the dwelling-house is required as a residence for the owner or the spouse of the owner; or
    2. (ii) the owner-occupier has died, and the dwelling-house is required as a residence by a person inheriting the dwelling-house under the will of the owner-occupier or on his intestacy; or
    3. (iii) the owner-occupier has died and his personal representatives wish to dispose of the dwelling-house with vacant possession; or
    4. 1926
    5. (iv) the dwelling-house is not reasonably suitable to the needs of the owner-occupier, having regard to his place of work, and he requires it for the purpose of disposing of it with vacant possession and of using the proceeds of that disposal in acquiring as his residence a dwelling-house which is more suitable to those needs; or
    6. (v) the dwelling-house is subject to a heritable security, granted before the creation of the tenancy and as the result of a default by the debtor the creditor is entitled to sell the dwelling-house and requires it for the purpose of disposing of it with vacant possession in exercise of that entitlement.

Provided that if the court is of the opinion that, notwithstanding that the condition in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) above is not complied with, it is just and equitable to make an order for possession of the dwelling-house, the court may dispense with the requirements of either or both of those paragraphs, as the case may require.

In this Case "regular armed forces of the Crown" means the Royal Navy, the regular forces as defined by section 225 of the Army Act 1955, the regular air force as defined by section 223 of the Air Force Act 1955, Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service and the Women's Royal Naval Service.".")

The noble Earl said: I moved an amendment with the same purpose to the Housing Bill which deals with England. I cannot, of course, expect the noble Earl who speaks for the Government to have read the report of the Committee stage on the Housing Bill, as that would have been a very extensive job. I shall therefore explain what this amendment is intended to do, and how it does it.

It is intended to enable Service personnel to purchase their houses, which they cannot do at the present time. This is not a privilege. The structure of the law at present makes it virtually impossible for a man who is serving in the armed forces to buy his own house and to get into the housing market, which puts him at a disadvantage when compared with other members of the public.

It is common knowledge that about 80 per cent. of young people today want to buy their own houses, and that is certainly true of young people in the armed forces. It is also true that Scotland has about the lowest level of owner-occupation of any country in the western world. This is a situation which I am certain anybody who is interested in housing in Scotland will want to improve. It is improving, but it is not improving anything like fast enough. As regards mortgages, I am notionally interested, as president of the Building Societies Association, and, although I do not speak for them, I can say that the building societies approve of this amendment.

The problem is the nature of the engagement which the armed forces enter into. It is quite different from that of any other section of the community. From the word "go", they are housed by the Government—nobody else is housed by the Government from the word "go"—because they have to be under discipline and be able to move at extremely short notice to any place. No one else is in that position. If they buy a house, they fall under Section 10 of the 1971 Rent (Scotland) Act. That means that if they let the house they will never get it back again, and the court will not make an order for possession, unless—and the word "unless" is crucial—and then reference is made to various cases in Schedule 3 to that Act.

I shall not go through the cases, but none of them fits this situation. They deal with people who have occupied a house and have gone away; with people who are going to retire—and these people are not going to retire, because they have many years of active life in front of them; and with ministers of religion, who are a very specialised category, but by all means let them be included. But none of these cases touches Service personnel.

What is required? If a serviceman buys a house and he cannot occupy it, he must let it in order to pay the mortgage. But if he lets it, he loses the house and can never regain it. No one else is in that position and some solution must be found. Having obtained vacant possession, the serviceman then has to pay the mortgage, which he can do by getting rent, but if he does that the house is not capable of being repossessed. My proposal, under the amendment, is that the serviceman will give notice that he proposes to repossess the house after he leaves the armed forces, and then, in due course—provided he has given that notice —he will be able to repossess it. This is of very considerable significance to the armed forces. It is of particular significance, perhaps not so much to recruiting in the first place as to re-engagement. If you look at the White Paper on Defence, which has particular significance, what worries the Secretary of State for Defence is the increased number of experienced and well-qualified officers and servicemen who choose to leave prematurely. I believe this arrangement will have a considerable effect on re-engagement. I suggest to the Government that the Secretary of State for Defence is interested in improving the terms of the engagement. He speaks of increased pay as playing a big part. This will also play a big part. It will cost the Government nothing. It will make the terms of service better, and cost them absolutely nothing.

For that reason, noble Lords should consult the Secretary of State for Defence and see whether this is not something in which he is extremely interested. I think this is a fair and proper arrangement, and if I may use the words here, again from the Defence Review, our volunteer forces are a priceless national asset. By improving their terms of service, this is one of national interest. It is on those grounds that I beg to move.


If I could intervene at this stage, because we are not going to have a debate on the merits. The reason is this, and if I can say this it may help noble Lords who I know feel very strongly about this matter.

There has been a discussion, as my noble friend said, on a similar amendment moved by my noble friend in relation to the Housing Bill and at the invitation of my noble friend Lord Bellwin, my noble friend withdrew his amendment to enable the Government to consider the whole position which is highlighted by this amendment. Consideration is going on urgently at the moment between departments and my noble friend Lord Bellwin will be making a statement on behalf of the Government at a later stage—I assume during one of the later stages of the Housing Bill. Your Lordships will appreciate that this is a matter on which there is no Scottish separate dimension, and therefore it would not be appropriate for it to be dealt with here tonight, even if it could be; and conversely it would be appropriate for it to be dealt with in one pronouncement in relation to both Bills. So, in the same spirit, but perhaps without the same flowery language which my noble friend used on another occasion, could I ask the noble Earl, as he did before, to withdraw his amendment pending a considered Government response in due course.


I hesitate to detain the House at this hour of the night, and I greatly appreciate what the noble Earl has said, but I would like to say a few words in support of the noble Earl's amendment. This was important for the Housing Bill, and my noble and gallant friend Lord Hill-Norton made the point on behalf of the armed forces then. I believe it is even more important for Scotland. Scotland provides splendid men and women for all three services, but it so happens inevitably that very few of them can serve, and certainly serve, for long in their own home country. This is even more important for members of the regular armed forces in Scotland than it is for those in the rest of the United Kingdom. I would ask the Government most strongly to ensure that there is absolutely no question at all that at least the spirit of this amendment, moved by the noble Earl, is accepted.


Of course the Government will pay the greatest heed to what the noble and gallant Lord has said, particularly as he saw fit to say that it applies even more forcefully to Scotland than to other parts of the United Kingdom.

10.40 p.m.


I shall be brief. In responding to the amendment moved by the noble Earl, the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, said that the noble Earl was pushing at an open door. Is the noble Earl saying the same sort of thing now? For it was on that understanding that the noble Earl withdrew his amendment. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to use similar language and will not put those who support this amendment in the position of having to withdraw now with greater difficulty because a statement by the Government is to follow which will cover both England and Scotland.

Secondly, as the noble Earl has said, this is not a new principle. The principle is established for ministers of religion, for lay missionaries, for those who buy a house in advance of their retirement. It is accepted even in the case of owner- occupiers who, having let their house, want to regain it on the ground that it is needed by themselves or their families. We are considering an old principle but we are seeking to apply it, for overwhelmingly good reasons, to men and women in the Services.

I am glad that the noble Earl made the point that the decision must be common to both countries, otherwise we should have Scottish servicemen retiring to England in order to achieve the benefit of this situation. I hope that the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin—that the noble Earl was pushing at an open door—can be used by the noble Earl who is now speaking on behalf of the Government, bearing in mind that in due course a Commons statement will be made.

The Earl of SELKIRK

I am grateful to both the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Carver, and to the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, for what they have said. I am also grateful to the Government for what they have said. I have great confidence that the Government will take a sensible view about this, but do not let us have any nonsense about this applying only to troops overseas; it applies to all service personnel. It is the nature of the engagement that has to be considered, and that is what this Committee should enforce. I shall certainly beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 61 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 139 and 140 not moved.]

Clauses 62 to 65 agreed to.

Clause 66 [Maximum approved expense for the purposes of improvement grant]:

[Amendment No. 141 not moved.]

Lord MACKIE of BENSHIE moved Amendment No. 142: Page 52, line 3, leave out (" £2,000 ") and insert (" £5,000 ").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 142. If I may speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 143 and 144, I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee. I do not intend to make a meal of it. We are trying to draw the Government's attention to the fact that a certain amount of inflation has taken place. Both of the Ministers on the Front Bench who are dealing with the Bill are estate owners and both must have observed that there has been some slight increase in the cost of doing up houses. I did up a house about a year ago. No real structural alterations were involved, but to bring that house up to date cost over £6,000. Therefore the figure of £2,000 for a complete refit is too small. The same is true of the other figures. That is all I have to say. I should like to hear the Minister's comment, not only from his position as Minister but from his personal knowledge of these matters.


Nothing that I say must be taken by the noble Lord as meaning to be offensive, because the clause as drafted shows only part of the new Section 5 of the 1974 Act, so that it might appear that only derisory sums are being offered for the installation of amenities. The amendments proposed seek to raise the maximum approved expenses for these associated repairs from the present limit of £2,000, which is the new level for repairs grant generally, to £5,000, a figure more in line with major schemes of improvement and certainly out of proportion to the cost of the repair work expected to be carried out under this clause.

In addition the clause makes allowance for £200 worth of repairs to be done when each single amenity is installed in a house expected to have a life of less than 10 years, subject to a maximum of £800. The amendments propose that these amounts should be raised to £500 and £2,000 respectively. There can be no hard and fast rules about the amount to be spent on repairs but we believe the sums we have suggested, which are in line with those proposed for England and Wales in the current Housing Bill, are reasonable, in line with current costs and would certainly make a significant and economically sensible contribution to improving the comfort of the house for its few remaining years.

If I may give an example, in a short life house the installation of an inside lavatory would attract a maximum approved expense for standard amenities grant of £270. Under this clause an additional sum of £200 would be available to carry out necessary associated repairs. In a house where expected life exceeded 10 years, installation of all the standard amenities would be eligible for a maximum approved expense of £1,600 with, under this clause, a further sum of £2,000 for repairs. Of course the noble Lord, as he said, has not made a meal out of this but, bearing in mind where he lives, might I perhaps suggest that there is an element of a raspberry fool?


I am grateful for the noble Earl's instruction. The raspberries are not quite ripe at the moment in our part of the world, so at the present time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 143 and 144 not moved.]

Clause 66 agreed to.

Clauses 67 to 71 agreed to.

Clause 72 [Abolition of Scottish Housing Advisory Committee]:

On Question, Whether Clause 72 shall stand part of the Bill?

10.48 p.m.


I should like to speak briefly about this particular clause, which abolishes the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. More than once during the course of this Bill I have mentioned in laudatory terms the work of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee, and indeed during practically the whole of my parliamentary life I have been concerned with something that has been produced by that committee. I remember that in one of my first housing Bills, concerned with housing improvements, (I think it was in 1948 or 1949) we were dealing with a report from the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee on how to deal with and improve Scotland's older homes.

I think a chance was missed then. Certainly it was right after the war and not all that money was available for everything, but if we had done the right thing at that time we should probably have been about 20 years ahead in relation to improving and retaining very substantial and structurally good blocks of housing in Glasgow, rather than eventually abolishing them and losing some of the character of Glasgow. That was the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. For a time it did very good work, and then from 1950–51 to 1964 it virtually fell into disuse. It was not abolished but the Conservative Government at that time did not use it. I think that was to he deplored because there were problems it could have looked at and given good advice, and there might have been less controversy in housing as a result.

When I became Secretary of State again in 1964 I revived the work of this committee, and it has done sterling work. We have been talking tonight about repair grants of a tolerable standard; all these things were laid down by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee in a report in 1967. At the same time they were doing work on allocations. Part of the work within this Bill stems from the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. I think the Government have been rather hasty. It may be this searching after Quangos that they could abolish. It was not the most expensive Quango in the world in relation to the work it had been doing. Time and time again, as in the past, for a long time in the future reference will be made to the report of the Culling-worth Committee, one of the outstanding reports on Scottish housing by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee; that is the quality of work it can do when the Government give it the work to do.

I know the noble Earl is saying that during the last three or four years the last Labour Government did not use it. That does not mean there is no problem arising in Scottish housing; there may well be problems arising out of the consequences of this Bill itself, which could be dealt with by a committee which has already established a reputation for good and reliable work. It did not do the work on rural housing. It is a pity it did not, because it pinpointed the need for that to be done. It was done, I think, by officials of the Scottish Office and has never been published. If it had been done by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee it would have been published, and it may well be that our debates in respect of rural housing today would have been much more enlightened. Nobody is going to say that we are not going to have housing problems for which we require an independent committee like this. It had the power to form sub-committees. It dealt only with the things that were put to it by Governments. I regret very much indeed that the Government think that in the future there are going to be no problems and no work for the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee.

I want to pay tribute to the men who have served on it and to the work they have done. I think they have done Scotland proud. This committee goes way back before 1945. It has a record of advice, much of which has been taken by Governments. Sometimes there were bitter pills for Governments to swallow, but the prestige of that committee was such that its recommendations had to be followed through into legislation. I do not know whether the noble Earl appreciates all that the committee has done and the quality of people who have served on it. I want to pay tribute to them. I regret that the Government have taken this decision, but I hope that we shall be able to call them together again when the time comes, when Scotland needs them, for independent advice on housing problems, for nobody is going to tell me that in the coming years we will not have serious problems in respect of which we shall need the advice of the kind of people who form the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee.


The Scottish Housing Advisory Committee was set up in 1935 and since then it has been responsible for a great deal of very important work in this field. Over the years it produced a number of valuable and well thought out reports, and I pay my tribute to its labours. However, we must consider whether a permanent body like the advisory committee provides the best use of resources in the present circumstances and for the future.

To justify its continuing existence, as compared with a system of ad hoc working groups or studies, it would have to be able to demonstrate a considerable volume of research and recommendations over recent years. There is no point in keeping on a body which has become moribund simply because it was once active and useful.

To judge how far this applies to the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee, we may look back at the period of the last Labour Government when, to judge by the noble Lord's anxiety to retain the body now, it must have been given every encouragement to play its part in forming housing policy. If we do that, we find that in 1976 the committee met once. In 1977 it did not meet at all; and, in fact, by July 1977 the terms of appointment of all the members had expired and it was nine months before the then Secretary of State appointed any new members. So that alone shows how little importance the Labour Administration assigned to the committee.

Since then the committee has met twice in 1978 and twice in 1979. With such a low level of interest and activity it is simply not possible to argue that now the committee is a vital part of the Scottish housing scene. That is why we propose to abolish it so as to use our resources more effectively in promoting studies on an ad hoc basis as and when they are needed.

The noble Lord, Lord Ross, referred to the report on allocation and transfer. I pay tribute to the recommendation of that report. But I must point out that it was produced not by the committee itself but by an ad hoc sub-committee, half of whose members were not on the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee at all—they were specially appointed from outside for the inquiry and as soon as the inquiry was completed they ceased to be members. The arrangements under which that report was produced were, therefore, very similar to the ad hoc arrangements that I am suggesting should he employed in future. In those circumstances, I fear that I cannot share the noble Lord's apprehensions in this matter and I must suggest to the Committee that the clause is fit to take its place in the Bill.


The point is that from its formation in 1935 there have been blank periods. However, that did not prevent it coming along at various times; for instance, at the end of the war it dealt with the question of the modernisation of Scotland's homes. Indeed, it did so in 1964, 1967 and later. It did not cost anything at all to keep going and in being.

I can assure the noble Earl that from my own experience as Secretary of State when a problem suddenly arises it is far better and may be less dramatic to refer it to an existing committee that one knows will do a job and will co-opt on to its membership special help when required, rather than to think about setting up a special ad hoc committee, finding a chairman and members and proceeding in that way. I do not want to argue about it, because it may be that argument will throw a cloud over the reputation and the work that has already been done by the committee. The noble Earl has paid tribute to it, but I think that he has made a wrong decision in respect of this particular clause.

Clause 72 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 145 not moved.]

Clause 73 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 146 and 147 not moved.]

Clause 74 agreed to.

Clauses 75 to 81 agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Repeals]:

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 148:

Page 63, line 11, at end insert —

(" 14 & 15 Geo. 6. c. 65. Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act 1951. In section 16(1) the word "standard".
In section 16(2)(c) the words from "and" to the end.
Section 16(4)(b).
In sections 17(2)(a)and (b) the word "standard" and in section 17(2)(a) the words from ",and" to the end.
In sections 18(2)(a)and (b) the word "standard" and in section 18(2)(a)the words from ",and" to the end.
Section 19(5).")

The noble Lord said: This amendment follows on the consequential repeals of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act 1951, following the amendments to that particular Act which we proposed and, indeed, took in Amendment No. 118. These are consequential. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved Amendments Nos. 149 to 168: Page 63, line 17, column 3, at end insert— (" In section 17(3) the words ", or fail to make such regulations under the said subsection (2)(b) as the Secretary of State approves,"."). Page 63, line 23, column 3, at end insert—(" Section 145(5)(b).") Page 63, line 41, at end insert— (" 1970 c. 44. Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.") Section 10 Page 63, line 42, column 3, at beginning insert (" In section 4(1) the words from "or of" to "Cornwall".") Page 63, line 50, column 3, at end insert— (" In section 25(1) the words "or section 24(2)".") Page 64, line 3, leave out ("79") and insert ("76") Page 64, line 7, column 3, at end insert— ("In section 82 the definitions of "qualification certificate" and" qualifying conditions ".") Page 64, line 8, column 3, at end insert (" In section 85 the words from "or of" to "Cornwall"."). Page 64, line 9, column 3, at end insert— ("In section 100, the definition of "rent tribunal"."). leave out lines 20 to 22 and insert— (" Section 123(2), and in section 123(3), the references to sections 24(3), 49(4), 50(4), 54(2) and 69(4).") Page 64, line 26, at end insert (","repairs increase", "section 50 increase" and "standard rent"."). Page 64, line 44, leave out (" tenancy ") Page 64, line 48, column 3, at beginning insert—(" Section 49(2).") Page 64, line 57, column 3, at end insert— (" In Schedule 7, paragraphs I to 7."). Page 65, line 3, column 3, at end insert— (" In Schedule 13, paragraphs 4, 5 and 7."). Page 65, line 10, leave out (""by that owner,"") and insert (""by the owner," in both places where they appear,") Page 65, line 21, column 3, at end insert—(' Section I4A(2).') Page 65, line 26, column 3, at end insert—(" In Schedule 3, paragraph 37.") Page 65, line 32, leave out (""when"") and insert (""where"") Page 65, line 35, column 3, at end insert— ("In section 5, in subsection (2) the words" and the terms of any agreement shall be approved by him ", in subsection (3) the words "and to the terms".".).

The noble Earl said: I beg to move these amendments en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.