§ Consideration on Report continued, on Clause 23.
Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 20, line 24, leave out subsection (5).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is one which I regret was not tabled at Committee stage, but it was debated in Standing Committee "F" in another place. This subsection is most unsatisfactory as it stands and is causing considerable concern to local government officers and local government associations. The subsection enables the Secretary of State, by notice in writing, to require a public sector landlord to produce any document or supply any information which is specified in the notice. The subsection also imposes a statutory duty in the notice. The subsection also imposes a statutory duty upon an officer of a public sector landlord such as a local authority to produce such documents and information when able to do so without taking the instructions of the officer's employers. The Bill does not impose any penalty on an officer who commits a breach of the duty to be imposed by this subsection, but it would enable the Secretary of State to take civil proceedings against an officer and the legal expenses of such proceedings would 107 inevitably be a heavy financial burden on the officer concerned.
§ The concern of local government officers is that they will be placed in an intolerable position in that, as a result of the Bill, it is their duty to obey the Secretary of State, and that could conflict with instructions they might receive from their employers. Even the Conservative-controlled London Boroughs Association has expressed its concern with this subsection and has expressed the view that the Secretary of State's powers to give directions should be limited to the local authority and not directly to any officer of the authority. Furthermore, one wonders how the Secretary of State will know what officer in a local authority will provide him with the necessary documents and how he will know which officer in a local authority has the document that he requires.
§ Again the subsection does not state what the penalites for non-compliance are. No penalties are stated in the clause and individual officers, for reasons of professional conscience, may well not wish to comply. Surely they have the right to know what the penalties might be. I do not think this subsection is satisfactorily drafted at the present time and I hope that the noble Lord will be able, before Third Reading, to have another look at the wording of it. I beg to move.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, this subsection allows the Secretary of State to serve on a landlord a notice requiring the submission of information that he needs to deal with a case over which he has intervened. The subsection provides that the officer of the landlord who has control of the information or documents required, or who is designated in the notice, is to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the notice is complied with. This is a power which is very plainly needed: without it, a hostile landlord would be able to block progress on the right to buy, simply by refusing to tell the Secretary of State the facts that he needs to know. The noble Lord has suggested, however, that the subsection could produce conflicts of loyalty for the landlord's officers. I fail to see how this can be so. As one who is not without some experience of working with local government officers, I accept that they would always normally 108 look to elected members for their instructions, and that they would carry out those instructions faithfully and fully. I do not accept, however, that any conflict of loyalties or crisis of conscience is involved in this case, since the officer to whom a notice under subsection (5) was addressed would be under a clear, statutory obligation to comply. I do not believe that a reasonable elected member would be prepared to give, nor that an officer could accept, any instruction which purported to require him to break the law.
This amendment, as I have said, would remove a necessary element in this clause. I very much hope that we would never be in a position in which the powers given in Clause 23 would need to be invoked, but I am sure they must be available in a satisfactory form. I thought very carefully about this myself, based upon practical experience of what happens as regards the carrying out of statutory obligations, and so on, in practice regarding officers and members. I really see no conflict, because it has never been the case that officers have been other than anxious to point out to elected members—it has been pointed out in my experience many times—" you need to do this, because if you do not it will mean you are in breach of the law ". Nobody sets out to be that. I have as great a regard for the law-abiding attitude of local government officers as I have for local government members. At the same time, there is no doubt that there is, and has been, much made of what certain authorities or members would want to do to try to thwart the Government's intentions as regards rights to buy. Therefore, I think it is right that there should be at least a power of this kind which, first, one hopes would never be used and, secondly, which in practice will cause far less concern than the noble Lord may fear.
§ Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE
My Lords, the noble Lord in his reply did not in fact deal with the question of penalties. The subsection does not include any mention of penalities and I hope, despite what he has said, that he will look at that particular aspect of the subsection before we come to Third Reading. In view of his remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.109
§ Clause 25 [Statutory declarations]:
Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 29:
Page 22, line 25, after first ("landlord") insert ("the Housing Corporation").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 30 with Amendment No. 29. These amendments make it clear that the Housing Corporation, as well as the Secretary of State or a landlord, may accept statutory declarations for right-to-buy purposes. Housing association tenants will have the right to a mortgage from the Housing Corporation, who may want to make use of statutory declarations when working out a tenant's morgage entitlement. I invite your Lordships to accept these small but useful amendments. I beg to move.
Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 22, line 25, after second ("landlord") insert ("Corporation").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this with the last amendment. I beg to move.
§ Clause 27 [Interpretation of Chapter 1]:
Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 31:
Page 23, line 26, leave out ("I") and insert ("II").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment corrects a tiny error which has crept into Clause 27. Housing associations are registered with the Housing Corporation under Part II of the Housing Act 1974, not under Part I. I beg to move.
§ Schedule 3 [Tenancies which are not secure tenancies]:
§ 8.9 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 32:
Page 110, line 24, leave out paragraph 2.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is very complicated, because my 110 amendments and the Government's amendments all seem to be intertwined—not in holy matrimony, but by sonic means or other! My Amendment No. 32 goes with Amendments Nos. 42, 44, 48, and 39. I have in mind another amendment, which I shall table later, and which had I put it down today would have been a manuscript amendment to Schedule 1; but I did not think that it would be extremely popular. This, too, is tied up with the other amendments. The purpose of these amendments, Nos. 32, 42, 44 and 48—
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, would not Amendment No. 48 also be suitable for inclusion in the discussion on these amendments?
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I did say Amendment No. 48. The amendments are Nos. 32, 42, 44, 48, and 39. The purpose of these amendments is to give security of tenure to those in tied accommodation, but also to allow their eviction where the tenant is no longer in the employment of the landlord and the dwelling-house is needed for another incoming worker. In addition, Amendment No. 39 provides that if a tied tenant has had two years' continuous employment he is entitled to alternative accommodation. In contrast, the Government's approach in Amendment No. 33 is further to exempt from any security of tenure those occupying accommodation in schools or social service facilities where that accommodation is linked to employment. I shall come back to that point in a moment. It is not that I am opposed to the Government's Amendments, but to me the missing link is that there is no provision for alternative accommodation when the tenant loses the tied accommodation.
Amendment No. 32 deletes the exemption to security of tenure of those who occupy accommodation for the better performance of their duties. This follows what I believe was discussed in Committee; it also follows what was said in the Rent (Agriculture) Act. Amendment No. 38 inserts a new ground, Ground 14, which allows eviction in the case of tied workers who are no longer in employment, thus otherwise giving them the same rights as others in the public sector.
At this point I should mention the amendment that I have not in fact tabled, 111 since I believe that the picture is not complete if I do not refer to it. It is a consequential amendment to the other tied accommodation amendments, which give tied tenants security of tenure but allow eviction on certain grounds. As a result of that change those in tied accommodation would also have the right to buy as they become secure tenants. However, this would lead to a very difficult situation where the local authority could evict a tied worker if it needed the house for some other worker, but if the original worker served notice of the right to buy, he would gain de facto security. I have not tabled an amendment relating to that point, but I do not think that the overall case is clear unless I refer to the intention behind it.
Amendment No. 44 inserts a new ground for eviction, where a person who was a tied worker ceases employment and the local authority needs the dwelling-house for another worker. This means that the landlord does not have an absolute right to evict tied workers as in the Bill as presently drafted, but must show that the dwelling-house is genuinely needed. Amendment No. 44 is to be preferred to Amendment No. 42. I fear that these two amendments are fairly similar. The later amendment seems the better, but bearing in mind that the Government have down a number of amendments, I left in the earlier amendment in the hope that between us we could reach the best solution. Amendment No. 42 contains a less broad definition of a tied worker—for the better performance of his duties "—which had created the worry that some tied workers would be given permanent security of tenure with no redress from the landlord. Therefore, I believe that Amendment No. 44 is the better alternative.
Amendment No. 39 provides that those workers evicted on Ground 14, if they have worked for two years, will have to be provided with alternative accommodation. This is similar to the period for qualification provided in the Rent (Agriculture) Act. However, it differs slightly from that Act in two aspects. First, the worker has a right to alternative accommodation (rather than providing only that local authorities use their best endeavours) but, on the other hand, the local authority has the absolute right of 112 possession rather than being dependent on a judgment that is subjective. This seems sensible also because in most cases the rehousing authority will be the same authority as that which is seeking possession, and in this way the situation is not entirely similar to that under the Rent (Agriculture) Act. I believe that the Government amendments and one of my amendments are very similar to the AMA amendment, which also attempts to deal with this question.
This is a very complicated matter and probably I have said enough at this stage. Perhaps it would be useful if the noble Lord opposite spoke to the Government amendments covering this matter, so that perhaps we can try to sort it out together. I beg to move.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, the effect of Amendment No. 32, and Amendment No. 44 also tabled, would be to give security of tenure to tenants of local authorities when those tenancies are granted as a consequence of their employment. It would also expose the tenants to a ground for possession. Amendment No. 42 would do the same for accommodation occupied under a contract of employment. It is hardly clear from this duality which test the Opposition want to apply. Incidentally, if I may gently tease the noble Baroness's tail, I should add that her party's Bill did not contain any such provision, either.
This Bill as drafted excludes from security of tenure those who occupy their dwellings as a condition of their contract of employment. We believe that there is a basic difference between the circumstances of the tenant who has his house because of the job he does, and those of the normal run of tenant who is housed by the landlord as a function of the landlord's housing responsibilities. In the first case the housing is associated with the provision of a service, and the housing is provided to ensure that the service can be performed satisfactorily. In the second case the housing is provided from public funds in order to meet housing need. It is in those circumstances that security of tenure and the associated rights are appropriate. Where housing on the spot is vital to the job, as in the case of a caretaker of a block of flats or a warden of a sheltered housing scheme, for example, it is vitally important for management that 113 they can readily obtain possession of the housing should the employee concerned leave the job.
Therefore, we do not believe that security of tenure is appropriate in these cases of genuinely tied accommodation, even with a ground for possession limited, as in Amendment No. 44. We also realise the special nature of residential social service and educational establishments. Amendment No. 42, however, would reduce the security of the local authority employee who holds his accommodation merely as a consequence of his employment by subjecting him, and those tenants covered by the present exclusion in Schedule 3, to a ground for possession. This the Government do not wish to do. Where a teacher, for example, is living in an ordinary council house provided as an incentive to him to take up a job, we believe that he should have the same right as any other tenant to be secure in that dwelling. I consider (with, I think, noble Lords sitting opposite me) that we should not deny or reduce security of tenure without good reason. I am therefore perhaps a little surprised that they should seek to introduce such a wide ground for possession. There is not even any provision for the tenant to be notified that the ground might be used against him.
The amendment requires that, whichever of the new grounds applies, suitable alternative accommodation is to be available if the tenant has worked for the employer for more than two years. This is a considerable burden to place on public sector landlords as a matter of course. The Government hope, of course, that they will look with sympathy at claims for the rehousing of those who have occupied tied accommodation, but this amendment would force them to give preferential treatment to people who in normal circumstances might otherwise come well down the list. It would also, I think, possibly open up the chance of abuse by encouraging people to take a particular job in the certainty that, whatever happens, they will be permanently rehoused after two years. This would occur regardless of whether the employee had performed his job satisfactorily, whether he had been dismissed for dishonesty and whatever his financial and personal circumstances.
114 I am sure that in the normal course of events an employee in tied housing owned by a public sector landlord will be rehoused by his landlord when he leaves the job on retirement or for health reasons. Local authorities and others do this voluntarily in genuine cases. Beyond that, I do not think they should be required to go. Nor, apparently, did the Government of which the noble Baroness was a member, when they introduced their Bill. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
§ Lord HYLTON
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, can he say when he will speak to the Government Amendment No. 33; and would it not be to the convenience of the House if he did so now, before the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, made up her mind what to do with her amendment?
§ Baroness BIRK
I agree that I said when moving my amendment that they were very complicated, and I think the position is very difficult. If I may say so on the assumption that the noble Lord has not sat down, there seems to be some misunderstanding because under the Act I am talking about, the Rent (Agriculture) Act —through, it is true, the operation of the A DHACs—i f your Lordships remember, the local authorities had to use every reasonable endeavour to try to find alternative accommodation. In fact, that is working out very well, so there seems to have been rather a mistake over that.
Furthermore, although I absolutely understand that this created a difficulty for the noble Lord when I had to do it at the last moment, I did mention an amendment that I might move which would prevent the person in the tied cottage then exercising the right to buy, which could create problems; but I did not table that amendment today because I thought it was too late to do so. But if we could deal with them altogether, perhaps we might be able to work something out.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, I will speak, then, in effect, to Amendment No. 33 because I think that might be 115 helpful. The Government have considered with very great care the problem raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, when he moved what was Amendment No. 87 in Committee. He spoke of the problems the drafting of the present exclusion, which deliberately covers only strictly tied accommodation, might create for social service and similar establishments. After much discussion with him and with my noble friend Lady Faithful!, I think it would be fair to say that we now understand the problems better, and I am very grateful to them both.
My Lords, we did not feel able to make a change as wide-ranging as that suggested by the noble Viscount. As I said during our debate on that amendment, we do not want to remove from security any more people than is really necessary. That is why this amendment is specifically restricted to dwellings forming part of buildings, or in the grounds of buildings, held for social services or education purposes. In addition, the tenancy must have been granted to an employee of the local authority concerned on terms providing that it shall come to an end when the tenant ceases to be employed by the landlord. This covers what are known, I believe, as service tenancies, in those particular circumstances.
I should like to make it clear to the House that we are not excluding from security of tenure houses which form part of the ordinary housing stock. The dwellings falling within this exclusion will be dwellings not held under Part V of the Housing Act 1957, though not all dwellings outside Part V, of course, will be within the exclusion. What we are seeking to exclude are tenancies of dwellings within establishments catering for those with particular special needs—that is, old people's homes, schools for disturbed children—where it might not always be reasonable, or possible, to require in a contract of employment that the employee should occupy that particular accommodation, under pain of losing his job. If secure tenancies arose in a flat within these establishments, we accept that there would be special difficulties—for example, when an employment came to an end—and it might be difficult for the local authority to regain possession of the flat.
116 I am sure your Lordships will agree that we should do what we can to help the already difficult staffing situation in these special establishments. That is why we have introduced what I feel is a worthwhile amendment. I have no doubt that there will be some cases of merit which we have not succeeded in helping, but I believe that in this amendment we have dealt with the case of the problem as put to us, and I think this is as far as we can go bearing in mind our general wish to extend security and the right to buy to as many people as possible. I would beg to move that amendment when we come to it, and hope that my dealing with it now is helpful in the consideration of the previous amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk.
§ Baroness FAITHFULL
My Lords, I wonder whether I might take this opportunity to thank my noble friend the Minister very much indeed. The directors of social services throughout the country are very grateful indeed to the Minister for having effected this amendment because it will make very much easier the staffing situation, which, as the Bill stood before, would have been difficult.
I wish to ask the Minister a question. I know the answer, but perhaps I may ask him this question in order to give reassurance to the national child-care voluntary organisation, which comprise such organisations as Dr. Barnardo's, the Church of England Children's Society, National Children's Homes and Crusade of Rescue. I want to reassure myself and them that the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, referred to in the amendment, refers to them, because, of course, they look after local authority children on behalf of the local authority, and I think they would be very grateful if it were possible to have that reassurance, particularly as it would be recorded in Hansard.
§ Lord HYLTON
My Lords, I think the whole House will be grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, for having raised this question in the first place. May I say now that I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Bellwin for writing to me upon precisely the point that my noble friend Lady Faithful has just been mentioning, which is the voluntary bodies carrying out social service 117 functions. ft is quite clear from that letter that they were not affected in the first place.
May I ask this one question: is paragraph (b) of the new subsection set out in the Government Amendment No. 33 wide enough to cover a housing association employing a warden in a sheltered scheme? A housing association is, of course, a landlord for the purpose of this Bill.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, by leave of the House, so far as I am aware—and I have to put it that way because I think this is something that I should like to confirm later—unless the institutions to which my noble friend refers, Dr. Barnardo and the Church of England Children's Society, operate through a housing association (which I suppose it is always possible for them to do) the proposals in the amendment would not cover them. I put it that way carefully, because I am not certain whether that is the intention of the amendment. I think that is probably the exact position at the moment. I would have to try to ascertain if that is so and whether or not, if it is so, it is something we ought to think about. I am sorry I cannot be more positive on what is to my noble friend an important point. At the moment I cannot be more forthcoming on it but I recognise this is not as helpful as my noble friend would like it to be.
§ Viscount CRAIGAVON
My Lords, can I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, for giving what seems to be 98 per cent. of what I was asking for in my previous amendment and also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for her significant influence in persuading the Government of the desirability of this move. Without this amendment, I think there would have been a risk of slow thrombosis in the social services in one or two years' time. This has now been avoided. To take into account the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, I think the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, is saying that we should trust to this extent the local authorities in their discretion in rehousing. I feel that the amendment as put down by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, is sufficient. I should like to know from the noble 118 Baroness, Lady Birk, to what extent if Lord Bellwin's amendment is accepted her other amendments cease to be relevant.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, is satisfied with the Minister's reply. It did not seem to me, as the amendments are drafted, that they take in all the organisations she mentioned. It is difficult to ask a question of the Minister through the noble Baroness. I should like to get that straight before I continue with my winding up.
§ Baroness FAITHFULL
My Lords, may I ask the Minister (if this is the way to do it) whether he would not agree that the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 in the first schedule covers all these voluntary organisations, because those voluntary organisations carry out for the local authorities the work which the local authorities are not themselves doing at the moment? The Minister has said that he will look into it. I would be quite happy with that.
My Lords, I did not understand one thing my noble friend Lord Bellwin said. Is a flat constructed for the warden of an old persons' home for the aged, protected? Is it excluded?
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, by leave of the House, on the latter point raised by my noble friend, it would depend on what were the objectives of the housing association if they were operating (if "operating" is the right word) within the social services content of the Act—which I am grateful to my noble friend for handing to me. Then the flat would be excluded in that way. If I can be helpful to my noble friend on this, she, with her great knowledge of the subject, refers to the Act and to what I said regarding the bodies included in them. I said I was not certain of this point. I went on to say that I recognise her great concern and I would certainly undertake to look at this point. She is probably right on it. I should not even question the possibility that with her specialist knowledge she might not be right. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, can enlighten us. In any case, I will undertake to look at that point.
§ Lord WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, I think this matter is much too serious to 119 be left in the air. We must clear this up one way or the other. I understood the noble Lord to say when he was replying to his noble friend Lady Faithfull that four of the major voluntary organisations working in this field which were named by the noble Baroness, would be covered if they were working through (I thought the Minister said) a housing association. But they are not. The implication of that is that if he says they are covered if they are working through a housing association, and they are not; then they are not covered. We ought to get that clear.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, by leave of the House, to be helpful, I said that if they were a housing association they were covered; but I went on to say, on the assumption that they were not covered, I would still be willing to have a look at that. I think the Bill as we have it now before us and this amendment do not affect the position of those living in tied accommodation. These bodies are not landlord authorities—unless they are housing associations—so that security and the right to buy does not apply to them in any case. I think we are chasing ourselves in something of a circle. I think they are in any case not going to create a problem; they are excluded in any event. Therefore, I do not think we will have any problem with them at all. The right to buy does not apply. Therefore, I think that I can satisfy those who are concerned on this. Whether we get there one way or the other does not matter, so long as we get to the end position that we require. On this, I am glad to say all is well in the end.
§ Baroness BIRK
It is not all quite well. There are the amendments I moved and the noble Lord asked me how they fitted in. If I can be brief, I recognise absolutely the difficulty which the Government amendments seek to relieve. I believe the relaxation of security should only operate in relation to tenancies created before the commencement of the Act. Tenancies of this kind should be subject to security thus deterring local authorities from creating unnecessary tied housing. The Minister made the point clearly in the Committee on 30th June in columns 157 to 160, when he said that the authority should consider carefully before creating such accommodation and the relaxation 120 in security should not only be limited to existing tenancies but to take the form of a ground for possession of a right after two years' employment to suitable alternative accommodation. This is preferable to a blanket exclusion, as the Government propose, although we recognise the need with our own amendments to detach security from the right to buy.
The problem of right to buy arises in my amendment and not in the Government's. All the amendments are aimed to deal with the problems of tied accommodation. Some of us feel—although the Minister said at the last gasp that he thought it was all right—that it is not all right enough. I do not think that he was quite as certain about it as he would like to feel. It would be helpful to the House if it were taken back, and if we could get it sorted out for Third Reading. If he does that, it would then give him an opportunity to look at the amendments that I have been moving. I should be very happy to write to him further if there is any other problem to see whether we can get this interlinked. I am not objecting to the Government's amendments. I am saying that I would rather they went further in one way and less far in another. We have reached the end of where we can deal with this across the House now. We want some further clarification on several points. I am still not happy with the reply that my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell received.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, by leave of the House, again, at the end of the day I was absolutely satisfied—I would not say so categorically unless I felt I was able to do so—that the institutions to which my noble friend referred are excluded. Therefore, the problem does not arise for them. I am most reluctant to take back anything that is not absolutely essential at this stage. We probably took back too much at the Committee stage in an endeavour to be helfpul and try to do things. Of course, I understand the attitude taken by the noble Baroness, and I am grateful for that. There are one or two things coming along which are special but we have brought forward the amendment to meet the situation and I have now confirmed that it meets it entirely. I would not say that if I did not think so. I hope that we can proceed on that basis.
§ Baroness BIRK
With leave, my Lords, I will say that in that case I will study Hansard carefully as so much has been said about this. If I want to put down an amendment on Third Reading I will do so. If I am worried about any query I will get in touch with the Minister in the meantime.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, it seems a long time ago but when I was answering Amendment No. 32 I made a slight mistake. In my first paragraph I correctly referred to Amendment No. 44 and Amendment No. 42. In the third paragraph of my speech I referred to Amendment No. 44 and Amendment No. 42 again. I have to make an awful confession: I should have referred to Amendment No. 42 first and Amendment No. 44 second. I therefore ask that noble Lords will take note of this in their records and accept my apologies.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 33:
§ Page 110, line 36, at end insert—
§ ("Social service and educational premises
§ 2A. A tenancy is not a secure tenancy if the tenant is an employee of the landlord and—
- (a) the terms of the tenancy provide for the tenancy to terminate on the tenant ceasing to be employed by the landlord;
- (b) the dwelling-house is held by the landlord for the purpose of any of its functions under the Education Act 1944 or under any of the enactments specified in Schedule 1 to the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970; and
- (c) the dwelling-house forms part of a building held for those purposes or is within the curtilage of such a building.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have just spoken to this amendment. I formally beg to move it.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Baroness FAITHFULL moved Amendment No. 34:
Page 110, line 42, at end insert—
("(2) A tenancy is not a secure tenancy if the dwelling-house has been acquired for rehabilitation and the dwelling-house is used by the landlord, pending rehabilitation, at temporary housing accommodation.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I am now a split 122 personality! I have had the opportunity—and I am very grateful—of having talked to the noble Lord the Minister and his advisers. In part they have convinced me that I could withdraw my amendment. I say that I am a split personality for this reason. I deeply believe in this Bill from the point of view of the sale of council houses. I deeply believe in this Bill from the point of view of a tenant's charter and security of tenure. On the other hand, I am still worried—and would therefore put it in the form of a question to the Minister—over temporary accommodation owned either by the local authorities or housing associations which are empty and therefore short term, and which are going to be rehabilitated.
§ I am very well aware of the fact—and I would be the first to agree with this—that to open the door to local authorities circumventing the principle of the right to buy would be wrong, because I believe in the right to buy. I would ask the Minister whether he would not agree that the three tests of insecure tenants are met: that is, that housing for rehabilitation—not development—is in the first place temporary accommodation. When I say "temporary accommodation" I am also looking at Ground 8 which, if people refuse to move, gives the landlord the right to gain possession of the property. The tenants would be temporary and would be short term. Such property is not the normal housing stock.
§ Therefore, I would ask my noble friend the Minister whether we can be assured that local authorities are not going to leave empty houses although they are going to be rehabilitated when there are a certain group of people without any housing accommodation at all. I know that under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act homeless people are covered. I know that under this Bill students are covered and mobility of labour is covered.
§ There are certain people not covered: for instance, the young couple whose points are very low on the housing list because they have been only recently married; they have no children and it will take a couple of years before they can get a council house and they therefore could not possibly be secure tenants. Another example is the young teacher and secretary whose parents move away from the city but they want to stay and they cannot 123 find accommodation. Therefore, I would ask my noble friend whether he can assure us that the local authorities will be advised to use that property.
§ I withdrew an amendment at Committee saying that housing committees should be informed every quarter of empty properties. I withdrew that because I realised that was trespassing on the responsibilities of local authorities. I would further ask the Minister what housing associations will do if they purchase property or have property allocated to them by the local authority which they wish to rehabilitate—not develop—and whether the housing associations will be able to use those properties.
§ As I said at the beginning, I am in some difficulty having set down this amendment because I have seen the Minister and his advisers and I would be the last one to want to infringe the rights of tenants to be secure tenants or the sale of council houses. I therefore put this to the Minister and would be very interested to hear his reply.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, I understand the fear that my noble friend has expressed, that landlords will find it harder to use shortlife property. I think, however, that she need not be as concerned as I know she has been about this matter. The exclusion from security of tenure in paragraph 3 covers all tenancies of property acquired for "development" within the meaning of the Town and Country Planning Act 1972. I should like to emphasise how wide this definition goes. It covers converting an old house into several flats or bedsitters. It covers any work which will substantially affect the external appearance of the building. It covers a change of use; for example, from individual units to a hostel. It also covers, of course, cases where there is to be demolition which will involve either a change of use or a different structure.
Even where the work does not amount to development, there will still be the possibility of using such property, which is available for only a short time, to house persons who fall within one of the excluded categories. It would not, I feel, be too difficult to match these people to those dwellings which do not fall within the exclusion, if it were really essential 124 that a secure tenancy should not arise. Lettings to students, to people moving for employment reasons and seeking a permanent home, and to the homeless will all not be secure before a certain time has elapsed.
Where a dwelling which is scheduled for improvement has to be vacated for the work to be done, there is always a mandatory ground for possession available, provided that suitable alternative accommodation is provided. This, I believe, is the way ordinary tenants should be treated if they have to be moved, and the present exclusion is quite deliberately tightly drawn.
There is a further difficulty with this amendment, in that it would be extremely difficult to know what constitutes rehabilitation. In fact, much major work will fall within the definition of development "used in planning legislation. The Government do not want people to be deprived of security and the right to buy because relatively minor works—perhaps not even sizeable enough to justify seeking possession under Ground 8 in Schedule flare to be carried out at some future date. The definition of "development" is a tested one, and I submit that that in itself is a great advantage.
As on the last amendment, I am most anxious to he absolutely accurate in what I am saying, but I do not know whether I can give my noble friend the assurance that local authorities will not leave houses empty. Practice is this area varies so much from authority to authority. Some are seemingly not as concerned—I choose my words carefully—as others about keeping houses empty, in whatever condition. That is probably the fairest way of putting it. I know of many, however, who are most anxious about this. In some ways, perhaps they are anxious out of self-interest, because if a house is empty it is not only not helping the local housing situation, but it also means that the authority do not get rent, rates and all that go with them. While I recognise that shortlife accommodation is of a special kind, I could not give an assurance. I only hope that, with the emphasis which has been placed on what is happening in housing, there will be a much greater concern by local authorities about dwellings, of whatever kind and for whatever purpose, that are empty.
125 I do not know whether I have answered all the points to satisfy my noble friend whose concern I appreciate, because we have talked about this matter. But I think I have been able to assuage many of her concerns about the whole matter. Certainly, the Bill gives considerable flexibility, and "flexibility" is really the key word here. If we give as much flexibility as possible, it is certain that authorities will, at least, have the opportunity to maximise the use of this kind of accommodation.
With that, my noble friend may, at least, feel sufficiently satisfied for the time being. As with so many of the other points that we talked about earlier, there is much more room as time goes on to talk about so many aspects of housing, even after this Bill is well put away, as it will be.
§ Lord HYLTON
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for what he has said, particularly about the broad construction of the word "development" in the Town and Country Planning Act. I am also grateful for what he said about the various categories of tenants who will not become secure by the fact that they have a tenancy. I am a little disappointed that he could not go a step or two further, and say that no local authority or housing association need board up a house which is empty for fear that if they put somebody in it that will become a secure tenancy, and that they will never be able to do the rehabilitation which they want to do. This is a very important amendment which has been moved by my noble friend, simply because for too long there has been a total scandal of boarded-up and bricked-up houses, which is something we all want to end.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I am very concerned about this amendment and I cannot say that I am very happy at the Minister's reply. Unfortunately, this situation is something of which we have all been aware for a long time. Whichever Government are in power, it is terrible to see houses boarded up, longer and longer waiting lists and either squatters getting in or nobody being able to use a property. In the past, there has been some use made of shortlife property. The GLC have done a great deal in that field, particularly 126 for charitable organisations, and when they start to rehabilitate a house people go somewhere else. But if the situation is left as it is, then I am afraid, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is afraid, that this practice will continue. There will be more and more boarded-up houses, especially as it will take longer for local authorities to get around to rehabilitation now that their resources have been cut.
If this amendment is not accepted, there will be two direct consequences. First, housing authorities will be extremely limited in their ability to let property on a shortlife basis in future, and they will revert to the practice of boarding-up houses until work can commence, which practice we are trying to break up. Secondly, before the Bill comes into force, many councils will be under pressure to terminate licences granted to shortlife users, so that they will not have the responsibility of finding permanent accommodation for these non-priority cases. This is very important, and in that case one can hardly blame an authority for taking pre-emptive action.
At the Committee stage, the Minister argued that this exclusion would remove a tenant's right to buy, but it must be remembered that the amendment would relate only to property specifically acquired for rehabilitation and not to a housing authority's permanent housing stock. It would also apply only to property pending rehabilitation and not to property that had been improved. Furthermore, it would apply only where a property had been let to tenants as temporary accommodation, and not to tenants who occupied the property as sitting tenants when it was purchased. In that case, I cannot see who would be denied the right to buy; the answer is no one.
If a tenant occupying a property awaiting improvement wished to exercise a right to buy, the public sector landlord could gain possession under Ground 8 in Schedule 4 and, as Ground 8 is mandatory, the court having granted possession, the right to buy could not be exercised under Schedule I, Part II, paragraph 1. Therefore, the argument is not about whether such tenants should be excluded from the right to buy, which could not be exercised, but whether housing authorities should be obliged to provide permanent housing for non-priority cases who have 127 been allowed to occupy property on a shortlife basis.
The issue is a simple choice between whether housing authorities should be allowed to continue making good use of property which is awaiting improvement by letting it to shortlife tenants, or whether, instead, they should be compelled to revert to the former practice of boarding-up, inviting squatters, incurring a loss of revenue and, for several years, removing thousands of dwellings from the stock available for renting. It seems to me—and I have listened very carefully to what the Minister said, and to the questions posed by the noble Baroness—that this is an amendment of great importance and I think that it should be accepted by the Government. There is nothing else in the Bill which deals with a problem that Members on all sides of the House recognise. I put down my name to the amendment and if the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, is not prepared to press it, I am.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, by leave of the House, if the noble Baroness wishes to press the amendment, it is, of course, her right so to do, but I certainly cannot accept many of the points she has just made about what local authorities do or do not do, and what attitudes they take or do not take to people who are in this kind of accommodation. It has not been my experience that local authorities try to take advantage of any situation so as to get out of any obligations that they may have to house people. That is not so; it does not happen that way in practice, in my experience at least. While I cannot answer for every local authority, certainly I can speak for all those which I do know, and they are very many.
I do not have the concerns which the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has expressed. I spent some time looking carefully into this matter, together with my noble friend Lady Faithfull, whose knowledge of this area is so specialised, and I was satisfied at the end of the day that what we are proposing will not have an adverse effect upon this kind of property and accommodation. Quite the contrary; it will have a beneficial effect. I just do not accept that all local authorities are waiting to take advantage of people in these circumstances. I am sorry if the noble 128 Baroness for her part wishes to press the amendment, but I have satisfied myself in an area which has given cause for much careful consideration.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I was not blaming local authorities. I was saying that, if left unchanged, the situation would put local authorities in this extremely difficult and anomalous situation. I was not saying that they would behave maliciously but that they would feel that they had no alternative. I want the amendment because I want to give local authorities a feeling of security in which they can go ahead and let this property on short tenancies. It was for that reason that I very much hoped the Government would accept the amendment. I do not want to press it, but if the Government do not feel that they can accept the amendment then I must do so.
§ Baroness FAITHFULL
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his reply. I have no regrets about having put down this amendment because I think it is very right and proper that we should have aired this extremely difficult situation. I have been in the North lately, and in my own area there is evidence—indeed, there is evidence throughout the country—that local authorities are taking a different line from the one they have taken in the past, and that they are much more aware than before of their duties towards those who need housing and about using up stock in a way that can meet the problems in their areas. I am glad that we have had this debate. I am sure that local authorities and the housing associations will read Hansard with care. I bee leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER (The Earl of Listowel)
My Lords, is it your Lordships' pleasure that this amendment be withdrawn?
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 34) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 53; Not-Contents, 71.95
|Amherst, E.||Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Fulton, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Bruce of Donington, L.||Gaitskell, B.|
|Aylestone, L.||Chitnis, L.||Gifford, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Goronwy-Roberts, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Collison, L.||Hale, L.|
|Banks, L.||Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Crowther-Hunt, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||David, B.||Hatch of Lusby, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Davies of Leek, L.||Hooson, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Davies of Penrhys, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Birk, B.||Denington, B.||Hughes, L.|
|Blease, L.||Diamond, L.||Janner, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Evans of Claughton, L.||Kaldor, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Fisher of Rednal, B.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Rhodes, L.||Strauss, L.|
|Lovell-Davis, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|McGregor of Durris, L.||Seear, B.||Underhill, L.|
|Maelor, L.||Segal, L.||Wade, L.|
|Milverton, L.||Simon, V.||Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]|
|Northfield, L.||Soper, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Ogmore, L.||Stamp, L.||White, B.|
|Oram, L.||Stedman, B.||Willis, L.|
|Peart, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Phillips, B.||Stewart of Fulham, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Stone, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]||Strabolgi, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Faithfull, B.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Alport, L.||Ferrers, E.||Newall, L.|
|Avon, E.||Fortescue, E.||Northchurch, B.|
|Balerno, L.||Gage, V.||Orkney, E.|
|Bellwin, L.||Gisborough, L.||Pender, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Gowrie, E.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Sandford, L.|
|Boyd of Merton, V.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Savile, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Hatherton, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Hawke, L.||Soames, L. (L. President.)|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Spens, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Kinloss, Ly.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|de Clifford, L.||Long, V.||Teviot, L,|
|De La Warr, E.||Lyell, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||McFadzean, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Denman, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Trevethin and Oaksey, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mancroft, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Mansfield, E.||Vickers, B.|
|Eccles, V,||Marley, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Middleton, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Elles, B.||Monk Bretton, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Young, B.|
On Question, amendment agreed to.
|Ardwick, L.||Hanworth, V.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Hatch of Lusby, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Birk, B.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Blease, L.||Hughes, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Janner, L.||Seear, B.|
|Chitnis, L.||Kaldor, L.||Segal, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Listowel, E.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Collison, L.||Llewelyn-Davies, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]||Stone, L.|
|David, B.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Strauss, L.|
|Denington, B.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Mishcon, L.||Wade, L.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Monson, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Foot, L.||Northfield, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Peart, L.||White, B.|
|Gifford, L.||Phillips, B.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Gainford, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Avon, E.||Gisborough, L.||Pender, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Gowrie, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.].|
|Belstead, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Savile, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Selsdon, L.|
|Boyd of Merton, V.||Hatherton, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Soames, L. (L. President.)|
|Bradford, E.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Cockfield, L,||Killearn, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Long, V.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Lyell, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Cranbrooke, E.||McFadzean, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Teviot, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Trefgarne, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Mansfield, E.||Trenchard, V.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Marley, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Denman, L.||Middleton, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Monk Bretton, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Dundee, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Moyne, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Ferrers, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Newall, L.||Yarborough, E.|
|Gage, V.||Nunburnholme, L.||Young, B|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ [Amendment No. 35 not moved.]
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Viscount HANWORTH moved Amendment No. 36:
Page 113, line 4, at end insert—
("13. A tenancy is not a secure tenancy if the landlord is a housing trust which is a charity within the meaning of the Charities Act 1960 or is a housing association which is a charity within the meaning of the Charities Act 1960 and the principal object of such trust or association is to provide short term housing accommodation for persons who by reason of domestic marital or similar problems are in need of short term accommodation for themselves or their families.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, there are a substantial number of charities who provide short-term accommodation for unmarried mothers and others in need. This is on a rehabilitation or temporary basis in order to help them overcome immediate problems or to provide a period for readjustment. There are nearly always very long waiting lists, and in one case I know there are 10 people waiting for one vacancy. The Bill as it stands gives secure tenancies to such persons, and they must be so informed. However, Ground 9 of Schedule 4 to the Bill allows the charity to go to the court for repossession if the continued occupation of the dwelling-house would conflict with the objects of a charity and alternative accommodation is available. This sounds quite reasonable, but it imposes 135 have done so. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 37 not moved.]
§ Clause 34 [Grounds and orders for possession]:
Lord GIFFORD moved Amendment No. 38:
Page 27, line 25, leave out ("13") and insert ("14").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 38 which stands in the name of my noble friend Lady Birk. Amendment No. 38 looks innocuous enough, but it has to be read as a pair with Amendment No. 43; and what I have to say will make much more sense if your Lordships will look at No. 43, as the two go together. I will, if I may, speak to them together. The purpose of the two amendments is to grant to the courts an additional reason for granting possession of a secure tenancy in those cases where the accommodation has been inhabited by a husband and wife or by a man and woman living together and the relationship has broken down; the local authority either requires the accommodation to be occupied by one of the parties and their children, or the local authority has granted a tenancy to that party and her children and needs the accommodation for another family.
§ This amendment was moved in Committee and withdrawn. It covers what is today a very frequent situation where there has been a marriage breakdown, or breakdown of relationship, and the woman and children leave the matrimonial home, or the home where the parties have been living, and seek help, often at a woman's refuge; she then applies to the local authority and says, "Will you transfer the tenancy from my co-habitee's name or husband's name into my name? "Time and again up and down the country local authorities have done just that in cases where it is clearly the wife and the children, or the woman and the children, who need to be living in the home.
§ Under the Bill, if, for example, a man and woman are living together, with 136 children, and the woman and children have been forced to go, or have gone because of the strain of the relationship, and the man refuses to leave, he has a secure tenancy and there is nothing that can take it away from him; except, if he is a married man, the court can, maybe two years later, order the tenancy to be transferred to the woman. If it is not a married relationship that man can keep that home, designed for a family, as long as he wishes, and with it the right to buy. The woman and children will be homeless. The local authority will be bound to rehouse them as homeless persons. So the local authority will be using two family units to house one family.
§ The reply in Committee was entirely negative. It was said that it was objectionable for a local authority to be deciding about who should live in a council flat before questions of custody have been decided by a court. I fail to see the relevance of that reply because no one, so far as I know, has raised any objection by and large about the way in which local authorities have been exercising this power time and again in the past. No one is prejudiced if this ground for possession is inserted. The woman and her children—it normally is the woman; but it would work the same the other way round—will be able to go back into the home where they have been living. The man will be re-housed in accommodation suitable for him. The local authority will be able to use their stock to the full. I beg to move.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bellwin recognised, when we discussed this amendment previously, that the principle behind this amendment is that on the break-up of a family a pubic sector landlord should be able to evict the tenant partner in order to reinstate the other, or because the other partner has been rehoused elsewhere.
I recognise that there is widespread support for the idea that the spouse or partner with responsibility for dependants should generally be the one to be given precedence if the occupation of the family home is in dispute. However, my noble friend explained her objection to the notion as embodied in this amendment, that the landlord should be able to make the decision about this before questions of 137 custody and property have been considered by the appropriate court at the time of the divorce or legal separation.
Legislation in this country governs the matter of rights to the matrimonial home on divorce. This legislation will apply to secure tenancies under the Bill, Schedule 24, paragraphs 14 to 16. I can see no case for giving either local authorities or other public sector landlords the opportunity to make a prior judgment—and I emphasise the words "prior judgment"—about who shall get the tenancy of a home in the context of managing their housing stock. This is rightly the province of the courts in the context of matrimonial law. In most cases, there will, I believe, be a settlement on a commonsense basis where the spouse who does not have the children will agree to leave the dwelling until the court finally awards the tenancy in the light of decisions on the custody of children. Where there is a genuine dispute, it is surely the court and not—I repeat, not—the landlord who should decide.
It is, I realise, the case that in England and Wales the matrimonial homes legislation, other than certain provisions of the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act does not apply to people who are co-habiting. That argues, in our view, against our amendments which would treat cohabitees in the same way as the separated spouse for the purposes of this particular provision. We should be consistent, we think, in recognising the greater claim a legal spouse has on the matrimonial home.
I am, of course, aware that a similar ground has been included in the Scottish Bill. That is because there is as yet no equivalent to our matrimonial homes legislation in Scotland. If a landlord chose to use the ground for possession proposed in the amendment—and I am sure he would sometimes be put under considerable pressure to do so—it would fall under an obligation to provide suitable alternative accommodation for the displaced partner. Again, we do not accept that this further duty is always appropriate. Where the landlord and the parties concerned can agree voluntarily to settle the matter in this way and the accommodation is available, then of course it is up to them. But I do not believe it should be a further obligation on the landlord.
138 I do not accept either that there is any reason to adopt this proposed ground because it would simply enable landlords to do in future what they are perfectly entitled to do already. That possibility only arises at present because public sector landlords and their tenants have not so far been subject to any statutory rules about the tenants' security. Introducing these rules is a fundamental part of this Bill. When they exist it does not, I believe, make sense to incorporate in them what amounts to a specific power to decide between competing claims which ought to be settled elsewhere in the courts. In the light of all the circumstances, I do not think these landlords on the whole want that responsibility. Nor does it properly belong with them. I therefore urge your Lordships to reject this amendment.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Lord HYLTON
My Lords, I must say that I am very disappointed with the Government's reply to this amendment. I should have thought that there was rather a strong case for the landlord being able to anticipate the subsequent judgment of the court. Then, if the landlord happened to get it wrong, he could be put right by the court. In the interim period, which may be quite long, we would avoid the situation of a landlord having to keep on the husband as a secure tenant and finding extra accommodation for the wife and the children. It seems to me very undesirable that two units should have to be provided for the same family. Unless my noble friend can say something rather more helpful, I very much hope that the amendment will be pressed.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, am I really understanding my noble friend correctly? Is he saying that he wishes landlords to have the right to take decisions on these matters rather than the court?
§ Lord HYLTON
My Lords, I do not know whether I am in order to speak again, but I said that the court would have a later chance to correct anything that the landlord had done that was not legally correct.
§ Baroness DAVID
My Lords, the point is that very often it takes a very long time to get to the matrimonial court. I have
|Fortescue, E.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Gage, V.||Mansfield, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Marley, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Middleton, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Gowrie, E.||Mont Bretton, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Moyne, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Newall, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Hatherton, L.||Pender, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Sandford, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Killearn, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]||Vivian, L.|
|Long, V.||Savile, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Lyell, L.||Selsdon, L.||Westbury, L.|
|McFadzean, L.||Sempill, Ly.||Yarborough, E.|
|Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Soames, L. (L. President.)||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.144
§ [Amendment No. 39 not moved.]145
§ 9.50 p.m.
Lord GIFFORD moved Amendment No. 40:
After Clause 34, insert the following new clause:
§ "Distress for rent
§ (—(1) No distress for the rent of any dwelling-house let under a secure tenancy shall be levied except with the leave of the county court.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this raises the question of the remedy of distress for rents in respect of local authority accommodation. We debated this in Committee and I do not propose to go over the same ground now. The amendment is designed to see that it is no longer possible for local authorities to send bailiffs into the homes of those who are in default even of a small amount of rent without any sort of control by the courts. It is an old-fashioned remedy which has been roundly condemned by committee after committee, and even the Conservative Party about a year ago said it was in favour of abolishing it, or at any rate of abolishing it without the leave of the courts.
§ As was pointed out on Committee, the Conservative Party have gone back on that and they have changed their minds and still want distress. This amendment is very modest; it provides that if a local authority wants to go in and seize the goods of a rent defaulter it should have to go to court to get permission first. That is not very extreme. I wait to hear whether on this occasion the Government can give a better answer. I beg to move.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, this matter was discussed at some length in another place and in Committee here by your Lordships. I repeat that the Government do not lightly dismiss the concern expressed about the operation of the distraint system. On the other hand, we have strong representations from the local authority associations and from individual local authorities of all political persuasions that nothing should be done to alter the right of public sector landlords to take direct action and distrain on goods where this seemed the right course.
146 I appreciate that the amendment would not abolish distraint as a method of dealing with rent arrears, and I understand the reasons why it has been put down. However, we must recognise that the practical effect of the amendment would be to remove much of the value of distraint as a means of taking quick and early action, and tenants would soon become aware of this. The associations also argued powerfully about the extent to which the threat of distraint —not the actual use of the measure but the threat of it—could be effective in recouping arrears.
We all know that rent arrears represent a persistent problem for local authorities and the amount outstanding at the end of March 1979 was about £70 million. This is a sum we cannot ignore at any time, but least of all in the present climate. I think this should be stressed: there are already safeguards on the use of distraint, as your Lordships will be aware. Bailiffs have to be given a certificate by the county court under the distress for rent rules. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor last year increased the security that the court may require before a certificate is granted and has agreed also to look again at the distress for rent rules which regulate the granting of bailiffs' certificates, to see whether they need strengthening.
In addition, my honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Construction wrote on 29th April to the local authority associations, asking them if they would review the use of distraint and consider whether they should issue guidance to their members. He has already had replies from two of the associations and will be discussing with them the question of guidance. I am sure they do not want to see public sector landlords being charged with using distraint indiscriminately or insensitively. My honourable friend will continue to look at other methods of rent arrears recovery to see whether anything can be done to improve them so that less reliance need be placed on distraint. For example, the Lord Chancellor's office is considering recommendations made under the Rayner project for speeding up the attachment of earnings procedure.
There is considerable strength of concern about the value of distraint and, more 151 irritable and short-tempered and wants to get to bed. I am trying my best to be helpful, and I wonder whether the Minister might be able to help me.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, I am always terrified at this time of night of expressing too much of what one has been told, but when this provision was discussed at Committee we discovered for our own satisfaction how many tenants might be at risk from this amendment, which I think is what the noble Lord is wanting to know. I gather it is not possible to give any reliable estimate. However, in only a small minority of cases—under 5 per cent.—does a family member succeed to a tenancy at present. Some of these will not qualify as succession under the Bill because the one succession will have already been used up. Not all will be seriously under-occupied and not all landlords will have a suitable alternative to offer. Only a very small number will be within the scope of the amendment and will be in the category of the most vulnerable. I hope that this may give the noble Lord the information he wants. I do not think it is a serious problem.
§ Lord TEVIOT
My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, there are quite a lot of us who are not irritated and not bad-tempered and are quite happy for this House to go on for a long time on this Bill. Although the Opposition have done very well, there are a lot sitting on this side of the House and in all parts of the House who are happy to go on a lot longer.
§ Baroness DENINGTON
My Lords, perhaps on this occasion the Government could show us that they are flexible and not inflexible. If this is going to apply only to a very few people, why must we have this written into the Bill at all? Why not leave it to the good commonsense and management experience of the local authority and other people? Why do we have to have it? I suggest to the Government that here they can prove some of us wrong and show they are flexible. It is not only this point; it is the philosophy behind this particular measure that worries me profoundly because here are the Government pressing for the right to 152 buy—which, as I said earlier, I support. If you buy your house, you can be one person in it, you can under-occupy it, you are a good citizen, nobody quarrels with you, nobody wants you to move or go away even though you have four bedrooms and you are only using one or more. But if you are renting accommodation, that is another business and we will not have you renting accommodation and being under-occupied unless you are a widow or one of those who are exempted. It is the basic philosophy of this which is distressing—two nations, two sets of people, two sets of values. I suggest that it is not good enough. Will not the Government withdraw it?
§ Lord HYLTON
My Lords, I venture to suggest that the noble Baroness is making heavy weather over this. This ground for possession is something entirely permissive. Local authorities can act on it or not as they see fit. They can exercise their housing management discretion. The noble Lord, Lord Evans, was helpful; and, for once, I think the Government are right and that the noble Lord, Lord Evans, was right to be so helpful.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, with leave, may I say that I welcome my noble friend Lord Hylton back into the fold of the Conservative Party in realising that we are a Christian, philosophical party wishing to do good. I think that if the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, thinks about it she will find we are not as hard as she imagines.
§ Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON
My Lords, with consent, and in view of the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, suggesting that the grounds will be humanely interpreted; and in spite of the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, to go on forever. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 42, 43 and 44 not moved.]
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 45:153
Page 35, line 17, at end insert—
("(3) The Secretary of State may by order place a duty on groups of local authorities to participate in any arrangements facilitating moves of the kind outlined in subsection (1) above that have been agreed to the appropriate local authority association or local authority associations.
(4) The Secretary of State may only exercise the power provided by subsection (3) above following a request made by the local authority association or local authority associations concerned that he should exercise the power.").
The noble Baroness said: This amendment has to do with mobility. There was a great deal of support for mobility of labour from all sides at Committee stage: the noble Lords, Lord Harmar-Nichols, Lord Sandford, Lord Evans, Lord Hylton, the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, have all spoken in support. Today I have another supporter in the shape of the Prime Minister. No doubt noble Lords have read what she said which was quoted in The Times today:
She insisted that changes of home and changes of job were fundamental to the survival of the country … Frequently, investment goes where there are skilled people wanting work. But there must be some mobility of labour. If people today are not willing to move as their fathers did, the economy cannot thrive ".
§ I hope that with this good start I shall have a friendly reception from the other side of the House. At the Committee stage I withdrew this same amendment partly because it was after midnight when I moved it, and partly because I wanted to read what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said to see whether I found it as unsatisfactory as I then thought it to be. I am afraid that I did.
§ He explained the start of the voluntary national mobility scheme announced in March by Mr. Stanley in another place. He said this voluntary scheme had been approved by the AMA, LBA and the ADC. What he did not say was what would happen to the scheme if some of the local authorities decided not to operate it, as has happened in London with the inter-borough nomination scheme, where Barking, Hillingdon and Redbridge have refused to take part. This IBN scheme was drawn up in April 1978. This has had two years in which to be tried. None of the authorities in the scheme has made lettings on the agreed scale: as I said in Committee, about 1,300 a year instead of the target of 4,000; and those three 154 authorities that I have mentioned have not co-operated.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said that he wanted the national scheme to be given a chance. But if a similar scheme —a regional one—has been tried and found wanting in the London area, it is most unlikely that there will not be difficulties elsewhere. Some local authorities are bound to opt out. I understand so far that only three non-metropolitan counties and one conurbation have already drawn up proposals, so that does not look too good for a start.
§ There seems unanimity that mobility is devoutly to be wished for because of getting the right workers to the right place at the right time, and for social reasons, too. Here is our opportunity to make sure it happens. All this amendment seeks is to reinforce the effectiveness of the voluntary arrangements the Secretary of State is discussing and developing with the local authority associations. It asks for a statutory underpinning; a power which of course the Secretary of State would not need to use if all was going well, and he would not butt in unless asked to do so by a local authority association.
§ Considering the powers which the Government are handing to the Secretary of State in this Bill, this seems a very mild one indeed. We shall not know in the course of the next fortnight whether the scheme is being successful or not, and the Bill within that time will become an Act. So if we do not agree this amendment we shall have lost a very easy opportunity to make sure that we get what we all want. But I do hope in this case that the Minister can be helpful, because I think that it is an extremely simple and easy thing that we are asking. I beg to move.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, I am becoming confused and it certainly is not by the hour because, as my noble friend Lord Teviot (who is not in the House now) said, as far as I am concerned we are here for a long session yet. There are important matters which need the maximum discussion. I do not think it is particularly late anyhow—by some standards it is very early, really. Even so, I confess to some confusion. On the one hand we are being assailed very much from the opposite Benches for our rigidity, 159 would wish to detail some of the cases. However, the Minister has them, and they should make the case for legislation. One cannot provide full statistical material in this kind of time, but it is a problem which both sides recognise to be undesirable. I hope that the amendment can now be accepted.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, despite what the noble Lord has said, we as yet have no reason to believe that many local authorities in England and Wales now make it a condition that a spouse's rent arrears should first be repaid before a new tenancy is granted. This practice was understandably strongly criticised by the local ombudsman in two cases dating from 1976 and 1977. I referred also, as did my noble friend Lord Belstead, in our discussion of a similar amendment in Committee to the documents issued by the Department of the Environment—a circular on the housing of one-parent families, issued in 1977, and a report from the Housing Services Advisory Group, issued in 1978, which have explained why arrears should not be treated as a disqualification for housing in the circumstances of a family break-up.
The honourable Member for Holborn and St. Pancras wrote to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State shortly after our consideration of this matter in Committee, giving details of certain cases where he claimed the practice this amendment would stop had happened. I have also heard today from the noble Lord, Lord Gifford. The department will certainly look very carefully into the cases which he has submitted. I know he will understand that they arrived only today, and therefore we would hardly have had a chance to do with them that which I am sure he would wish and which I undertake we will do with them. The new clause would not, of course, bite in a number of circumstances. In accepting a joint tenancy, each of the parties has also accepted a responsibility for the obligations of the tenancy, such as paying rent; and in fact most authorities, even in these circumstances, do use their discretion in deciding how much is to be reclaimed from each of the parties. And, really, is a wife required to pay more than half?
I have before me quite a lengthy speech, if that is the right word, which sets out 160 the counter-arguments, but I suspect that the most helpful thing I can do in this matter is to undertake, as I will, that we will go very carefully into the cases the noble Lord has submitted and see what they really show. If it should prove to be the case that in time action is called for, then he has to accept from me that we will be concerned in a way that one hopes would be helpful. The noble Lord knows that I cannot go further than that now. We do not want to run away at all from this matter.
§ Lord HYLTON
My Lords, the practice at which this amendment is aimed appears to be a quite indefensible one. I am grateful for what my noble friend the Minister has said in reply. He mentioned a circular of 1977. Does this not show how, quite often, circulars do not get put into practice? Can the Government keep on drawing the attention of recalcitrant local authorities to the shortcomings of their ways?
§ Lord GIFFORD
My Lords, the reply by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, shows a spirit which has been all too lacking so far from the Government Front Bench, but I wholeheartedly accept it on this amendment and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 47 not moved.]
§ 10.33 p.m.
Lord MONSON moved Amendment No. 47A:
Page 35, line 36, at end insert—
("(3) A licence granted in pursuance of section 3(4), 4(3) or 5(6) of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 is not a secure tenancy.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the unavoidable absence of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, I beg to move this amendment. The purpose of this amendment is to establish a clear distinction between, on the one hand, a tenancy granted by a local authority to a straightforward tenant, and, on the other hand, a licence granted to a person living in short-stay temporary accommodation who has been housed by a local authority 161 under the provisions of the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act. A considerable problem has arisen in a number of local authority areas because persons housed in short-stay accommodation while awaiting rehousing in more permanent accommodation will become secure tenants under the provisions of this Bill after they have been in residence for one year—and surely that is contrary to the Government's intentions—unless a distinction is made between them and those who are allocated housing accommodation as tenants in the normal way.
§ An example of this problem occurs in the borough of Hillingdon, where a number of homeless families, who are also extended families with a large number of children, have been housed in temporary accommodation which comprises large houses compulsorily acquired by the previous council. It is very difficult for the council to rehouse these short-stay tenants in less than one year because very often there quite simply is no suitably large accommodation for them. Alternatively, it can take more than a year to settle them in permanent housing due to arbitration or to discussions with another local authority which it is thought may have responsibility for their welfare. Frequently, it is the case that the courts will not distinguish between a person who is a tenant and a person who occupies a home under licence, not, of course, because of any wilful wish to flout the intentions of Parliament but simply because they find the whole position rather unclear. Consequently, it seems to us to be vital to clarify the position by inserting this amendment into the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Baroness FAITHFULL
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has asked me whether I would speak to this amendment as I have had experience in this area. It is just a small amendment to clarify the difference between licensees and tenants. I know from my own experience that courts are not at all clear as to the difference between the two. If it is a tenancy it is often regarded as a secure tenancy and causes a great deal of trouble when people coming into an area as homeless under the Homeless Persons Act are given a secure tenancy and therefore keep other people off the waiting list. Of course they are entitled to great consideration 162 and thought, but it causes difficulty if the difference between licensee and tenant is not made clear.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, we believe that this amendment would be unfairly discriminatory against people who have come to a public sector landlord as homeless. Clause 48 of the Bill puts licences granted by public sector landlords on a par with tenancies granted by them, except where the licence has been granted to someone who originally entered as a trespasser—a squatter, in other words. We believe this is right in all other cases, including that of homeless people.
Paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 already provides that a tenancy (and therefore also a licence) granted in pursuance of the sections of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act mentioned in the amendment shall not be secure until one year after the local authority has notified the tenant of its decision on the various matters to be decided. This period was extended in another place to one year from six months following requests from local authorities. Where a permanent liability for rehousing arises, this year gives sufficient time, I believe, for the landlord to make permanent rehousing arrangements. Once that period has elapsed, there really is no reason why the tenant should not have the same rights as any other tenant of his landlord. The fact that he was originally housed as a homeless person is no justification for leaving him without security and other rights. This is what the amendment potentially would do.
Where the decision of the authority is that there is no permanent rehousing liability, or that the tenant has a local connection elsewhere, it is only in the most exceptional circumstances that those concerned will still be in the same accommodation one year after its decision has been made. I do not think that these isolated cases justify a departure on a much wider front from the present rightly argued exclusion. Where the landlord continues voluntarily to house the family in question, the same arguments I advanced in relation to those to whom the authority does have a liability apply; there is no reason why security and the other rights in the Bill should not apply. My Lords, I fear we cannot accept this amendment.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his explanation of why he does not feel able to accept the amendment. It was not my impression that the Government had intended to treat tenants broadly in the same way as licensees, but now that he has explained that such is the case, of course there is no answer to it. However, it does appear that certain boroughs—Hillingdon in particular—have difficulty even in meeting the extended period of one year which has recently been granted and therein I think the difficulty lies. However, as the Government have obviously made up their minds on this, I can only beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 48 to 52 not moved.]
§ Clause 53 [Right of tenant to terminate protected shorthold tenancy]:
§ 10.40 p.m.
Lord MONSON moved Amendment No. 52A:
Page 38, line 26, leave out ("two years'') and insert ("thirteen months").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I will, with the leave of the House, speak at the same time to Amendment No. 52B, which is a manuscript amendment. To add to the confusion, Amendment No. 52A on the supplement to the Marshalled List appears to be in the name of someone who comes from a long way north of the Arctic Circle, but it is in fact myself.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, if Amendment No. 52B is a manuscript amendment, I think the noble Lord should read it.
§ Lord MONSON
Indeed, I take the noble Lord's point. It is, in fact, exactly the same as Amendment No. 52A, except that it is "page 38, line 27". The words are precisely the same. It is simply a consequential amendment.
This amendment relates to shorthold tenancies, and when we were debating it I drew the Committee's attention to the fact that there appeared to be an anomaly whereby shorthold tenants who had tenancies of up to two years could give unilateral 164 notice to their landlords of a mere one month, whereas those with short-hold tenancies of between three and five years had to give at least three months' notice. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, explained that the purpose was to cater for students, and also I believe he implied that it was normal in tenancies of over two years to pay quarterly, although I must admit I can find no evidence of the latter.
So far as students go, of course students do not want to rent accommodation for two years at a stretch. What they really want is accommodation for eight or nine months, so under the provisions of the shorthold tenancies they will rent a flat or accommodation of some sort for one year and then give their landlords or landladies notice in the seventh or eighth month. I certainly do not object to that. That seems perfectly legitimate: in fact, it is about the only way that students can make use of this valuable shorthold provision. But there seems no justification with tenancies of between one and two years for the tenants being able to give their landlords a mere one month's notice.
I have said 13 months rather than 12 months because there is a possibility that the landlord might, whether by accident or design, agree a tenancy for a year and a day and a student or young person might thereby be caught out accidentally and find himself having to give three months' notice when thinking he only had to give one. Thirteen months would get round that completely and solve the problem. I do feel if the Government are serious about wanting to arrest the decline in the private rented sector they would do well to accept this amendment.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, after that exciting display of calm and bravery on your Lordships' and your Ladyships' part—following that fall of debris—I think we can congratulate ourselves on our calm. No bombs have exploded, no firearms have gone off. My only sadness is my noble friend the Chief Whip was about to wrap himself up in a blanket. He has got it out. I do not know what he is going to do with it.
This amendment, as the noble Lord said, follows up the amendments he 165 moved in Committee. The amount of notice that the tenant should be required to give the landlord if he wants to leave before the end of the shorthold is a matter of judgment. I regret to say that it seems that the Government's judgment differs on this matter from that of the noble Lord.
What the noble Lord's amendment is designed to achieve is that any shorthold tenant who has a shorthold term that is longer than 13 months—that is, anything significantly longer than the minimum period of one year, should have to give three months' notice if he wants to leave before the end of the fixed term. The Government have provided that the short-hold tenant should only be required to give three months' notice in these circumstances if the original fixed term was for more than two years.
I think that two years is a more logical point at which to change this requirement than thirteen months. It also seems to me that a tenancy that lasts for 13, 14, 15—or even eighteen months—is still a relatively short-term letting where the tenant may not know three months in advance exactly when he would be leaving. On the other hand, a letting where it is agreed at the outset that it should last for at least two years seems to me to be a longer-term letting, where longer notice is appropriate.
I hope noble Lords will agree with this, and accept that what the Government are proposing is about right. As we said in Committee, it seems to me that any landlord who is abroad would have an agent in this country who would be able to arrange for a new tenant in his absence. Requiring the tenant to give three months' notice in these circumstances would not seem to me to help the landlord much. I would, therefore, ask the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment, and ask your Lordships not to accept it if my noble friend Lord Monson presses it.
§ Lord MONSON
The noble Lord says that it is a matter of judgment. I am afraid to say I think the Government's judgment is wrong. I wonder whether the Government have consulted with any organisations representing landlords or potential landlords; I do not think they can have done so. If they want to encourage the revival of the private rented 166 sector, I think they should try to tilt the balance a little more in favour of the landlord; it is tilted so heavily against him at the moment. It may not seem an important point, but it is symbolic of the Government's attitude, and I do not think it is going to give landlords any encouragement at all. If I were contemplating becoming a landlord for the first time, I would be extremely reluctant to let on that basis, if I have to give a two-year tenancy and the tenant could give one month's notice at any point and leave me high and dry. I think the Government are right to encourage short-term tenancies: I know how difficult it is for students and young people to find accommodation. This is one of the few pieces of legislation, if it goes through, which will actually add to the sum of human happiness; one cannot say that about a lot of legislation that goes through Parliament. I may be alone, but I feel I cannot withdraw this amendment. It is a matter of principle so far as I am concerned.
§ On Question, amendment negatived.
§ [Amendments Nos. 52B and 53 not moved.]
Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 54:
Page 42, line 26, leave out from ("where") to ("before") in line 28 and insert (",on the determination or confirmation of a rent by the rent officer, the rent determined by him is registered, or his confirmation is noted in the register,")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor amendment and of no substantive effect. The intention of the Bill is that the new two year minimum period between rent registrations will apply to all registrations after the relevant provision comes into force. The present drafting of Clause 60 is not as clear as it might be on this. This amendment seeks to remove any doubt. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 55:
Page 42, line 30, leave out from beginning to ("there") in line 36 and insert ("(3) In Schedule 6 to the 1976 Act and in Schedule 8 to the 1977 Act (phasing of increases in registered rents)")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is simply a paving amendment for a series of later amendments to Clause 61 concerning the "effective date" of rent 167 registrations (Nos. 57 and 59 to 67). I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 10.50 p.m.
Lord JANNER moved Amendment No. 55Z:
Page 42, line 35, at end insert—
( )No rent shall be registered which increases the rent previously registered by a percentage in excess of the percentage increase in the Tax and Prices Index over the period since the last registration of rent.
( )In determining a fair rent in accordance with s. 70(2) of the Rent Act 1977 no account shall be taken of any evidence that the number of similar dwelling-houses in the locality on the terms (other than those relating to rent) of the regulated tenancy is greater than the number of tenants who are seeking dwelling-houses in the locality on such terms.".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am sorry that it is so late at night, because the amendment I have to move is one which affects a very large number of amendments of your Lordships' House, as well as the average citizen who has been living in premises for many years and who finds himself, in consequence of speculation by speculators, in a position where he cannot afford to pay the rents which are being assessed, in my view illegally, by land tribunals.
§ The position is an extremely serious one, particularly from the point of view of those whose incomes are not linked in any way with inflation or any other method of assessing how much increase there should be in relation to the expenses that individuals have to pay. It is a very shocking position and thousands of people in this country are being affected by it. Therefore, I make no excuse at all for raising it, even though it is at this late hour.
§ What has been happening? We are now facing a similar position as was faced at the time of the Industrial Revolution when an opportunity was taken of creating leaseholds which were intended to remain in the landlord's family after the tenants themselves had created a value, after they had built houses, after they had created a tremendous increase in value by paying the rates, by creating very fruitful districts, and at the end of the period having to hand over to the landlord finally the house including the whole of the advantages that had been obtained purely from the money 168 spent by the tenant. My Lords, that was the position that produced the Leasehold Reform Act.
§ We have precisely the same thing here. We have tenants who have lived in a house or flat for 40 years and instead of their salaries or pensions being linked with an inflationary position, they are no longer able to meet the demands which have been created by the speculators. Let me give you a simple illustration. I must declare an interest; at present unfortunately I have not got that particular interest. But let me say at once there are people in places such as around the Albert Hall. the Albert Hall Mansions, the Albert Hall Court, where they are literally being forced out of their places; people of 95 in many cases are being forced out of their residences which they have been occupying all that time, merely because landlords have speculated on the property. They have purchased these properties at a certain price, they are obtaining millions of pounds in increases because of the sales. The rent tribunals were supposed to have taken into consideration the question of scarcity value, the scarcity value having been created by the very people who are demanding the higher rents. That has been interpreted in a manner which I, for my life, cannot understand at all.
§ This is one of the most atrocious—and I use very strong words—situations that has been created, not only by residents of this country, but by people who have come from abroad, who have offices in other countries, who do not pay taxes and who purchase these places and later sell them at enormous profit. I am sure that none of your Lordships can imagine that such a state of affairs could possibly exist or continue to exist.
§ What will happen to the thousands of tenants—aged people who have lived in these places for 20, 30 or 40 years—who have to turn out of houses because the speculators have managed to create a market value which is enormously high and exorbitant? I know that quite a number of Members of your Lordships' House live in flats, and this particular aspect of private tenants' occupation is a matter of enormous importance. It is a pity that they are not present to speak this evening. Like myself, they have to move out of such places because it is impossible to pay the 169 rents that the rent tribunals are setting, rents which your Lordships must understand are created because the market value of the particular area has been increased by the speculators demanding very large profits. This cannot go on.
§ We are talking about a section of the community which must be protected. We have been talking about protecting the tenants under local authorities, but who will deal with a person whose rent has been assessed, in some cases, as much as 500 per cent. above what he was paying previously because of this speculative business?
§ This is not a simple matter. That is why it is very unfortunate that we do not have present, to speak for themselves, the people who are actually suffering this situation. I hope that when they read Hansard tomorrow they will realise that this is not a matter that can be neglected any longer. It is vital that some kind of restriction should be placed upon the rents that can be extorted from these tenants because of the profits that are being gained by those who buy today, and sell tomorrow at 100 per cent., and sometimes much more over their original price.
§ I have tried to put the matter in a form which I hope will be considered by the noble Lord the Minister. I am sure that the Minister knows that people, especially those living in fiats, are absolutely at their wits end to know what to do. They do not know what to do because they cannot find homes. They do not have the means to find homes, and I say that from personal experience. I have had to leave my home after about 30 years. I could not possibly afford to pay a 300 per cent. increase in the rent which I had been paying.
§ It is obviously too late at night to go into the details of this, but I should like the noble Lord the Minister to let me know whether he is prepared to consider these two points, which are preliminary points in regard to this matter, and whether he will take steps between now and the Third Reading to improve that position. Let him go to any residents' association, particularly in London, and ask them what their position is. He will find that what I have been saying is by no means an exaggeration; on the contrary, it is putting the position in a very minor form.170
Probably some noble Lords have not had an opportunity of reading the amendment. It says that:
()No rent shall be registered which increases the rent previously registered by a percentage in excess of the percentage increase in the Tax and Prices Index over the period since the last registration of rent".
Surely that is reasonable and would prevent people entering into speculatory buyings. The second part says:
( )In determining a fair rent in accordance with Section 70(2) of the Rent Act 1977, no account shall be taken of any evidence that the number of similar dwelling-houses in the locality on the terms (other than those relating to rent) of the regulated tenancy is greater than the number of tenants who are seeking dwelling-houses in the locality on such terms".
I hope that noble Lords will take it seriously to heart, will speak to their tenant's associations and find out what it is all about. If on Third Reading some move has not been made by the Government to the satisfaction of those who are imperilled in their lives and homes by the situation as it stands at present, I hope that they will join me in passing appropriate amendments which will meet the position. I beg to move.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, apart from hearsay, I have very little knowledge of the large, impersonal, mainly foreign landlords described by the noble Lord, Lord Janner. From what I have heard I have little doubt that they are every bit as bad as the noble Lord claims they are. I can speak only as a small landlord. I can assure the noble Lord that on the first part of his amendment, every small landlord would be absolutely delighted if rents were to go up in line with the cost of living index. I would happily support him in his plea that rents should go up—
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, I would gladly support the noble Lord in any plea that rents should increase no higher than the cost of living index, provided that he in turn would support an amendment of 171 mine at Third Reading to ensure that they went up no less than the cost of living index, with annual adjustments; then we should all be happy.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, with respect, this manuscript amendment was put down in the dinner break. How can one possibly be expected to consider this properly? Having said that, I would have to say that in fairness to the noble Lord all the points that he has raised were not new. He is not presenting something to us that we have not heard before. I do not know how many times I have tried to answer this at this Dispatch Box. I asked my noble friends who were answering the noble Lord before I arrived, because I am sure that the same questions were being asked. I say that in no disrespectful way; the noble Lord knows that I would not do that.
I fear that I cannot accept the amendment. First, to have what amounts to a review of the whole basis of the establishment of this section of the Rent Acts is something I cannot undertake to do as part of dealing with this Bill. I know that some of the problems that the noble Lord mentions have validity. Clearly they have. Conversely, I also know that when we talk about increases in rents as percentages, you need to know the base from which you start, because in many cases you start very low and 100 per cent. is still very little. I do not want to make a meal of it. I only want to say that at this time I cannot be as helpful as the noble Lord would like me to be. I cannot give him the undertakings he wants. There are so many involvements and complications. When we start talking of scarcity, and so on, it is a whole review of the Rent Acts. I am sorry to have to say that there is no way I can satisfy the noble Lord on this.
I need hardly say that I appreciate what the noble Lord has said. At the same time, he must realise that it was not just rushed on the House. As he said himself, he knows exactly what I have been driving at for a long time. In the circumstances, while I am going to ask noble Lords to allow me to withdraw this amendment, as I feel at present this matter must nevertheless be 172 raised at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 11.7 p.m.
Lord MONSON moved Amendment No. 55A:
Page 43, leave out lines 13 to 17.
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment would have the effect of deleting paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 60(6). We discussed this briefly at Committee on an amendment which was to some extent similar and which was withdrawn. Since then I have had a look at it, and it becomes increasingly clear that there are no circumstances whatsoever in which the periods mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) could effectively be reduced. It just would not work in practical terms. They could only be increased.
§ Therefore, leaving these paragraphs in is going to give the green light to a future Government of the extreme Left as soon as it gets into power to increase the phasing period and the period between rent registrations by order before there is any question of waiting for a Housing Bill. In other words, leaving these paragraphs in the Bill has absolutely no use so far as the Conservative Party or anybody remotely in favour of free enterprise is concerned; it can only be of use to people who have a totally different political philosophy. I therefore hope that the Government will accept this amendment.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, this amendment would delete paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 60(6). These paragraphs empower the Secretary of State to make an order reducing or increasing the two-year phasing and registration periods introduced by Clause 60. The two-year period is appropriate for the present situation but it will not necessarily remain so in future. These subsections therefore provide a valuable element of flexibility—and I emphasise that word—which allows the Secretary of State to adapt the rent registration system to future situations more easily. This amendment would remove such flexibility—again I emphasise that word—and would leave the new system with no defence against changing 173 circumstances. This would, I believe, be more unwise in the light of the fact that the registration procedures have so clearly failed to reflect the changes of circumstances which we have experienced since first introduced in 1965.
The noble Lord is perhaps concerned that the powers might be used by a future Government to increase rather than reduce the new two-year period between registrations. I do not share his pessimism on this matter. And I think that if we are to introduce greater flexibility for the future—as we must—it would be wrong for the power to be capable of being used in only one direction. I hope that, on reflection, the noble Lord will think about the matter again and will not press the amendment.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, I have thought extremely clearly about this issue. Surely the Minister is not suggesting there will be enough rent officers to go round and review rents every year? It would be a wonderful thing if it happened and it would create much better relations between landlords and tenants, because people adjust much more easily to annual increases. It will be difficult enough for rent officers to cope with the 50 per cent. increase in their workload, with the registration period reduced from three to two years, let alone to treble their workload by reducing it to one year, and I do not see how that could happen.
As for phasing, does the noble Lord seriously suggest that the phasing period could be reduced below two years? Are we to have six months at one rent and then another six months at a higher one? I cannot see that happening in practice. I suggest the Government have not thought this out thoroughly. By leaving in paragraph (c) the Secretary of State still has power to abolish phasing altogether, as has been done in the equivalent Scottish Bill, and I should have thought that it was quite adequate for the Government. I believe that, if the Government put their mind to the matter before Third Reading, they might find themselves coming to agree with me; and, with that hope and prediction, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.174
§ 11.12 p.m.
Lord MIDDLETON moved Amendment No. 55B:
After Clause 60, insert the following new clause—
§ ("Schedule 12 to the 1977 Act is amended as follows:
- (a) in paragraph 2(1) for the words "fourteen days" there are substituted the words "seven days";
- (b)in paragraph 2(2)(a) and in paragraph 2(2)(b) for the words "fourteen days" there are substituted the words "seven days";
- (c) in paragraph 5 for the words "fourteen days" there are substituted the words "seven days"; and
- (d) in paragraph 6(1)(a) and paragraph 6(1)(b) for the words "fourteen days" there are substituted the words "seven days".")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government have written a number of safeguards into the Bill for occupiers under protected shorthold tenancies. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Bellwin said in Committee, what more safeguards could one practically give without destroying the scheme before it starts? The Committee was then about to approve the additional safeguard now in Clause 52(1)(c) and this provides that fair rents will apply from the start of the tenancy by obliging an owner, where there is no existing registered rent of a dwelling-house, to get, before letting, a certificate of fair rent under Section 69 of the Rent Act 1977. He can then not charge a rent in excess of the rent officer's figure. After letting, the owner must apply within 28 days for the rent to be registered.
§ I am sure the procedure now laid down in the Bill will not destroy the scheme, but we are approaching the point when an owner would hestitate to embark on offering a shorthold tenancy, because he might think the procedure was too cumbersome or because he might think that he would have to wait a long time to get a fair rent certificate; and certainly there might well be delay at the outset of a scheme like this, which must entail now an additional responsibility for rent officers. When my noble friend introduced the amendment that is now Clause 52 in Committee, he referred to the registration of a fair rent after the start of the tenancy and he then spoke of the possibility of no fair rent being registered for perhaps three months; so your Lordships 175 may wonder what kind of delay there might be in getting a certificate before a house can be let and how such delay can be minimised.
§ I fully support the desire of the Government to get shorthold tenancies off to a fair start. I have referred often enough in this House to the logjam that exists in the private rented sector. I know my noble friend is aware of the difficulties and delays that might arise and which might possibly deter owners from taking advantage of these provisions. I had hoped therefore that the Government might have tabled an appropriate amendment for this stage of the Bill, but it seems they have not been able to do so. Therefore, I tabled this amendment in the hope that it might provide an acceptable way of doing something to speed things up.
§ The fair rent procedure referred to in the Bill is set out in Section 69 of the Rent Act 1977, and Schedule 12 to that Act, which my amendment seeks to amend, is latched on to that section. Section 12 says how an application for a fair rent certificate has to be made, on the prescribed form and so on. It also sets out a timescale for a series of actions an owner can take where he is not satisfied with what the rent officer is doing. Each step in this series of actions has a 14-day time limit. It is a slight oversimplification in a rather complicated schedule. I am sure my noble friend will agree that this is substantially what Schedule 12 does. What my amendment does is to substitute, for 14 days for this procedure, seven days. It may do a little to speed up the process. I beg to move.
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, we are anxious, as is my noble friend, that this important safeguard, the certificate of fair rent for shorthold tenants, should not impose undue procedural constraints on the landlord or cause any delay in getting property lets. Shorthold apart, there is a strong case for improving the certificate of fair rent procedures in Schedule 12 to the Rent Act, in the same way as registration of fair rent procedures in Schedule 11 to that Act have already been improved by amendments in another place. We have been discussing with the Institute of Rent Officers what can be done to streamline the certificate of fair 176 rent procedures and have agreed with them a number of improvements. The rent officer will be given more flexibility in dealing with applications and in particular cases would not automatically be referred to the rent assessment committee simply because the landlord did not provide enough information in his application.
Unfortunately, except for very minor amendments to Schedule 25 to the Bill, it has not been possible to bring these changes before your Lordships' House in time for Report stage. I can, however, assure my noble friend that if it does not prove possible to do so during the remaining stages of the Bill—and that seems unlikely—we shall propose the necessary amendments by statutory instrument as soon as possible after Parliament returns from the summer recess. The Secretary of State already has powers under Section 74 of the Rent Act to make procedural changes of this kind. The regulations would be subject to Affirmative Resolution. Of course there is nothing to stop anyone applying for a certificate well in advance if he has an empty dwelling and is planning to let on shorthold once the provisions are in force. In view of the assurance I have given, and the fact that we share my noble friend's concern to streamline the certificate of fair rent procedures, he might on reflection agree not to press his new clause.
§ Lord MIDDLETON
My Lords, I quite understand the pressure of time and, in view of the assurances my noble friend has given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 61 [Effect of registration of rent, etc.]:
§ [Amendment No. 56 not moved.]
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 57:
Page 43, line 34, leave out from ("(1)") to end of line 9 on page 44 and insert—
("The registration of a rent for a dwelling-house takes effect—
(2) If the rent for the time being registered is confirmed, the confirmation takes effect—
(3) If (by virtue of section 67(4) of this Act) an application for registration of a rent is made before the expiry of the period mentioned in section 67(3) and the resulting registration of a rent for the dwelling-house, or confirmation of the rent for the time being registered, would, but for this subsection, take effect before the expiry of that period it shall take effect on the expiry of that period.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, if, in speaking to Amendment No. 57 I inform your Lordships that I am also speaking to Nos. 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66 and 67, it might help to speed up the proceedings a little. Amendment No. 57 is concerned with the effective date of the rent registration. It is closely related to Amendments Nos. 59 to 67 and also to Clause 61, and it might be convenient if I speak to them all together. There will be later consequential amendments to Schedules 10, 24 and 25, which I shall mention very briefly when we reach them.
§ The main purpose of these amendments, which arise from further consideration of our proposals in Clause 61, is to simplify the effective date rules for rent registrations in cases which go to rent assessment committees on appeal. They provide that the date of the committee's decision will always be the "effective date". The new rent will be payable from then; the second phasing instalment will be payable a year later; and the rent cannot be reviewed until two years later. The amendments also ensure that proper transitional provision is made for the new rules and that they apply equally to housing association and Rent Agriculture Act registrations. I beg to move.
§ 11.20 p.m.
Lord MONSON moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 57, Amendment No. 57A:
Line 3, after ("registered") insert ("or the date three months after the date of application for registration, whichever is the earlier").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it seems that once more we have the same 178 problem as previously of the Government not having consulted thoroughly the professional and other organisations representing those involved with property, as well as landlords generally. When Clause 61 was first introduced, it was claimed at Second Reading, and no doubt in another place, that it would help landlords; it would be an incentive to landlords to put their properties on the market and thereby fulfil the Government's intentions of making available more rented accommodation.
§ However, all the information that I have received from organisations representing property owners and landlords indicates that it will have precisely the opposite effect. The reason is that most registrations are not new registrations; they are re-registrations, and therefore by the nature of things they will nearly always be upwards. Clause 61, either as it stands, or as amended by the Government's amendment, No. 57, will effectively delay the date of re-registration.
§ With the leave of the House, I shall speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 57B, 59A and 59B, because they are more or less consequential. The effect of the amendments would be to reduce the maximum effective delay in re-registration to three months. That still leaves the landlord rather worse off than he would be for the most part if Clause 61 had been deleted altogether, but it would be better than might otherwise be the case, given that the workload upon rent officers is to be so great. It is quite possible that rent revisions rather than taking place at two-year intervals, will take place at intervals of 2½ years or even 2¾years. So we would be back almost to square one, to the three-year period.
§ This is a question of the very heavy workload upon rent officers who are already very busy. They are particularly busy in London and in certain other parts of the country, and they simply will not be able to revise the rents at two-year intervals, as the Government intend. These amendments which I propose would limit the delay to a maximum of three months. That is not ideal, but it is certainly better than leaving the clause as it stands, or as it would be amended 179 by the Government's amendment, No. 57. I beg to move.
§ Lord GIFFORD
My Lords, in speaking to these amendments may I also speak to Amendment No. 58, which stands in my name, and which I think would fall if Amendment No. 57 were accepted. What the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, said in relation to the block of amendments does not meet a very fundamental point that was raised in Committee by me and some of my noble friends. In fact, the point comes rather close to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, in his proposed amendments. The noble Lord said, quite rightly, that there will be delays in the registration of a rent which could cause hardship to landlords if the rent were increased. Equally, there will be delays in the registration of a rent which could cause difficulties to tenants on a first registration, if the rent is reduced, particularly since the delays can sometimes stretch over many months when there is an application to the court.
We raised this matter in Committee. We were told that these points would be carefully taken into consideration; yet there had been no response, either in writing or in debate in the House. It seems that unless provision is made to deal with the cases where there are long delays in registration, Clause 61, as it stands and as it is sought to be amended, will be seriously defective and will cause to tenants on first registration hardship which can amount to hundreds of pounds when they are charged exorbitant rents, which later are reduced on registration, but which have to be paid over the months which elapse. I think we shall have to come back to this on Third Reading, but I hope that some indication can he given that the points made on Committee have been taken seriously into consideration, or that, if they have not been, then they will be.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, I think that the purpose of the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, to the Government's amendment is really basically the same. It is to provide that rent registrations will be effective retrospectively in those cases 180 where the rent officer takes more than three months in dealing with an application. I have sympathy, obviously, with the noble Lord in wanting to avoid delay for landlords—and, indeed, tenants—in getting a fair rent registered. But I would suggest to him that his amendments are possibly not the best way to set about it. They would reintroduce much of the complexity which, in Clause 61, we are now trying to remove.
This is because they would alter the date on which the registered rent is theoretically effective, but not the date on which it is actually payable. Section 45 of the Rent Act provides that rent increases cannot be recovered without a notice of increase, and the notice of increase cannot take effect before the date of registration. The noble Lord's amendments would not alter this situation. So, in a case where the rent officer took, say, four months to register a rent, the landlord would still have to wait until the end of the four months before getting his increase. The only difference in such a case would be that the two-year period before the rent could be reviewed would commence from a date three months after the application, rather than on the date of registration. Thus we would keep the existing Rent Act problem, which the Bill removes, of the review period starting on a date which is different from that on which the rent actually becomes payable.
It might be that the noble Lord's intention was different, and that in cases of delay he intended the date of payment as well as the beginning of the review period to be the date three months after the application was made; but that also would be unacceptable to the Government, as it would involve retrospective payment of increases in the registered rent. Clause 61 gets rid of retrospection for rent reductions, and we do not want to reintroduce it, whether for increases or reductions. Far better that the rent is always payable from the date of registration.
However, as I have indicated, the Government entirely accept the need to avoid delay in rent registration procedures. Our aim should be to avoid there ever arising the situation dealt with by the noble Lord's amendment; that is, a situation where an application takes more than three months to process. This is 181 what we wish to do. We do not want to have delays, and I am sure my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is going to do everything he can to ensure that the courts speed up these procedures.
The present situation is by no means all that bad. On average, registrations are made by the rent officer 11 weeks after the date of application. But there are, I have to admit, a minority of cases which take rather longer, and we should certainly like, want and are determined to see an improvement. A working party of rent officers and Department of the Environment officials have examined what might be done. They produced a report in April, on which the Government have consulted the Institute of Rent Officers. As a result, a number of changes to existing registration procedures were agreed which should make them speedier and more flexible, while safeguarding the interests of both landlord and tenant. Some of the changes—for example, on inspections—will be introduced administratively, but others require statutory change, and the Housing Bill was amended by the Government in another place to give effect to these. The amendments are now Clause 59 and Schedule 6 to the Bill.
These are important changes which I believe do much to meet the noble Lord's concern about delays. In the light of them, and of the explanation I have given about the effect of his amendments, I hope that he will agree to withdraw his amendments. I hope I have given the noble Lord satisfaction. Our intention is to give the landlord as fair a deal as he would wish.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that detailed explanation. Clause 61 is an extremely complex one. I did not draft the amendments myself. I took professional advice and even they could not get it right, so extremely complex is the whole business. In view of the fact that these amendments would not have the effect intended, it would be ridiculous to go ahead with them. I am pleased to hear of the steps taken to expedite the rent registration procedure: I maintain that it is particularly bad in certain parts of the country. Eleven weeks may be the average but there are areas waiting a good deal longer than 11 weeks. This is 182 where the injustice lies and these may be the areas where the need for more rented accommodation to come onto the market is greatest. Therefore it is all the more important to try to create incentives for landlords to let. With the assurances given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendments.
§ Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 57B not moved.]
The DEPUTY SPEAKER
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, indicated, if Amendment No. 57 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 58.
§ On Question, Amendment No. 57 agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 58 not moved.]
Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 59:
Page 44, line 25, at end insert—
("(1A)For subsections (4) to (6) of section 13 of the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 (effect of registration of rent) there are substituted the following subsections—
§ "(4) The registration of a rent in the said part of the register takes effect—
- (a) if the rent is determined by the rent officer, from the date when it is registered, and
- (b) if the rent is determined by a rent assessment committee, from the date when the committee make their decision.
§ (5) If the rent for the time being registered in the said part of the register is confirmed, the confirmation takes effect—
- (a) if it is made by the rent officer, from the date when it is noted in the register and
- (b) if it is made by a rent assessment committee, from the date when the committee make their decision.
§ (6) If (by virtue of section 67(4) of the Rent Act 1977, as applied by subsection (2) above) an application for registration of a rent is made before the expiry of the period mentioned in section 67(3) and the resulting registration of a rent for the dwelling-house, or confirmation of the rent for the time being registered, would, but for this subsection, take effect before the expiry of that period it shall take effect on the expiry of that period.
§ (6A)The date from which the registration or confirmation of a rent takes effect shall be entered in the said part of the register.
(6B)As from the date on which the registration of a rent takes effect any previous registration of a rent for the dwelling-house ceases to have effect."
(1B) In Part VI of the 1977 Act (rent limit for dwellings let by housing associations, housing trusts and the Housing Corporation)
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment with Amendment No. 57. I beg to move.
§ [Amendment No. 59A (an amendment to Amendment No. 59) not moved.]
§ [Amendment No. 59B not moved.]
§ On Question, Amendment No. 59 agreed to.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendments Nos. 60 to 67:
§ Page 44, line 38, leave out ("by the rent office")
§ Page 44, line 42, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 45.
§ Page 45, line 6, leave out from ("from") to end of line 7 and insert (""means" to the end there are substituted the words "means—
- (a) if the registered rent has been confirmed by a rent assessment committee, a period beginning with the date from which the registration of the rent took effect and ending one year after the date on which the committee took their decision; and
- (b) in any other case, a period of one year beginning with the date from which the registration took effect." ")
§ Page 45, line 12, leave out from ("(iii)") to "there") and insert ("before the definition of service element")
§ Page 45, line 14, leave out from ("date") to end of line 31 and insert("means in relation to a registered rent—
- (a) if the rent was determined by the rent officer (and whether or not it was confirmed by a rent assessment committee), the date on which the rent was registered by the rent officer; and
- (b) if the rent was determined by a rent assessment committee, the date on which the rent officer registered the rent determined by him or, as the case may be, noted in the register his confirmation of the rent for the time being registered;
- (c)for paragraph 4 there is substituted the following paragraph—
§ "4. Where the registration of a rent takes effect in a period of delay which began by reference to an earlier registration, then—
- (a)from the date on which the later registration takes effect the limitation under that period of delay shall cease to apply; and
- (b)a fresh period of delay shall begin by reference to the later registration."; and
§ (d) paragraphs 7 (in Schedule 6) and 8 (in Schedule 8) are hereby repealed.")
§ Page 45, line 35, leave out from ("and") to ("was") in line 36 and insert ("of the date on which it").
Page 45, line 36, at end insert—
("(5A) Subsections (1) to (3) above do not apply in any case where, on the determination or confirmation of a rent by the rent officer, the rent determined by him is registered, or his confirmation is noted in the register, before the commencement of this section.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to Amendments Nos. 60 to 67, with Amendment No. 57. With the leave of the House, I beg to move the amendments en bloc.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER
My Lords, the Question is that Amendments Nos. 60 to 67 be moved en bloc. There is a minor alteration in Amendment No. 60: "by the rent office" should read, "by the rent officer".
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Lord DENHAM
My Lords, it was agreed that this might be a convenient moment for the House to adjourn. If that is the case generally felt, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.