HL Deb 06 July 1988 vol 499 cc298-319

6 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Scottish Homes.]

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 13, at end insert— ("( ) assessing the extent of the need for, and promoting and developing the provision of, housing for community care throughout Scotland in conjunction with relevant bodies.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is to give Scottish Homes a specific strategic or national role in promoting and developing housing for community care projects.

At the Committee stage of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, said: We are not arguing that Scottish Homes should not play a part in this. I am arguing on the point that was put to me: that it should play a central role". [Official Report, 25/4/88; col. 86.] The amendment does not suggest that Scottish Homes should take the overall lead for community care development in Scotland. It recognises that housing is a basic resource necessary for community care. Health and social work services depend on housing as a basic and principal community resource. Scotland, frankly, has a very poor record on developing a co-ordinated and concerted approach to community care. The situation is considerably worse in Scotland than it is in England. The establishment of Scottish Homes gives us the opportunity, which I think we should take, to tackle a part of the problem.

It is extremely important that housing providers should become involved in any national initiatives. Health board and housing authority areas normally do not coincide with both board and individual long stay hospitals covering several district council areas geographically. The world is not a perfect place. It is therefore appropriate that Scottish Homes, which has responsibility throughout the whole of Scotland, should have the role of taking an overview to complement the work of local authorities and health boards merely in order to make them aware of what is required.

It may be that because there is not currently an active housing association in a particular area, local needs are not fully addressed. Local needs are met more in response to the level of activity of local housing associations and voluntary groups than on the basis of an objective overview of an area's housing needs. Such an overview would best be undertaken on an all-Scotland level. We believe that Scottish Homes is an ideal partner to assist the many other bodies involved in the network which is necessary for effective planning of community care.

The amendment is fully supported by a very large number of organisations in Scotland which are involved in community care. I shall not read out the names of all the organisations, but there are about 20 ranging from the Social Services Research Group, Age Concern Scotland, Dr. Barnado's Scotland, the Psychiatric Nurses' Association, Richmond Fellowship, etc.

We are not trying to place a particularly heavy load on Scottish Homes. We are saying merely that it is the body to undertake that role. One of the good things that could come out of the Bill when it becomes an Act would be if there were one body with responsibility for taking an overall view and directing the other bodies into the correct channels to avoid duplication of effort. Perhaps more energy could be put into some of the areas than at present if Scottish Homes took that overall view. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, the amendment was debated in some detail during Committee consideration of the Bill. I am aware of the concern of the Scottish Council for Single Homeless, and others, that the development of community care policies in Scotland should not be ignored by those bodies that are best able to promote those policies.

There is no danger of Scottish Homes ignoring community care. The issue raised by the amendment is whether Scottish Homes should be given a statutory role which would give it greater responsibility for community care than the health and social work authorities.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, talked about a central role. I am afraid that the amendment could not do other than give Scottish Homes a central role. It would be the only agency with a statutory duty of that kind, which would inevitably push it into the lead.

I can assure your Lordships that the Government have every intention of pursuing wholeheartedly the care in the community policy which has enabled many people to live within their families and their communities rather than be confined to long term residential establishments. But the factors of primary importance to this policy are the availability of carers in the community and of adequate care support services. In many cases those support services are of a specialist nature. It is therefore important that the policy is co-ordinated by those who are best able to judge and to provide for the needs of the people involved. The health boards and social work authorities have already a sophisticated and effective system of establishing their requirements, in co-ordination with other bodies as appropriate. It would be misguided to force change in that system by making the role of the health and social work authorities subordinate to that of Scottish Homes, as this amendment would undoubtedly do.

The establishment of Scottish Homes, as a single door through which housing inquiries can be made and housing advice given, will be a valuable contribution to this co-ordinated approach to care in the community. But we consider that it is important for the leading statutory responsibility to rest firmly and clearly with the health and social work authorities. It will not assist those who need better arrangements for care in the community to confuse the picture by giving the impression that a housing agency is better placed to bring about improved arrangements than the health and social work authorities.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, will be assured of the Government's intention that Scottish Homes will play its proper part in community care without the need for specific statutory references, and that he will therefore seek leave to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, if the amendment is withdrawn, will Scottish Homes provide an assessment of the extent of the need—in other words, say what is really needed? Will it give a picture in its annual report of what it considers should further be provided, whether for special care or for other purposes?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, with the leave of the House, the remit of Scottish Homes is very wide. In this particular case we are talking about the problems relating to community care. As the successor to the Housing Corporation, Scottish Homes will have a part to play. Where the Government are at odds with the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, in respect of this amendment is that we do not believe that Scottish Homes should have a central role.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, my point was simply whether Scottish Homes will make a report as to what is wanted. How many more houses are required, here, there and elsewhere is what people would like to know. Will something of that sort happen?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, again with the leave of the House, we are in the process of setting up Scottish Homes. After the Bill becomes an Act, and once it is in being, I am certain that the matter to which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, alludes will be one of its priorities.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply and even more grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, for pointing out the approach that Scottish Homes could give. I think that it is not like any other body that has ever been established, which is something of which I am sure the Minister is proud. Scottish Homes has a special role, in that it will be the one body outside the local authorities which will know exactly what is happening in Scottish housing. I hope therefore that, when it is set up, it will take on that social responsibility that we spoke of in the debate on British Steel earlier today and that it may widen its sphere. I think that it will need to build up its reputation, which may prove very important to it.

I was also interested when the Minister spoke of the idea of having a single-door approach. I think it should be on the record that we hope that Scottish Homes will ultimately become a single-door approach. I know of social workers in Scotland who spend all day for several days on the telephone trying to obtain accommodation for individuals. It would be wonderful if, incidental to their major job, there was the way of simply approaching Scottish Homes.

I hope that between the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, the Minister and myself we have been able to lay down some aims for Scottish Homes which it may find itself only too pleased, in the nature of its work and in order to improve its image, to implement or at least to investigate. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [General functions of Scottish Homes]:

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 2: Page 4, line 19, at end insert— ("( ) Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976 (local authorities: general statutory duty) shall apply to Scottish Homes as it applies to a local authority.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Section 71 of the 1976 Race Relations Act places local authorities under a statutory obligation to carry out their duties with regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups. The Government agree wholeheartedly with the terms of this section and consider that the new housing agency, Scottish Homes, should be subject to the same provisions. I commend this amendment to your Lordships and I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for having tabled this amendment and for taking on the duties that are already on the shoulders of local authorities. Perhaps in Scotland we pretend that we have better community relations than in fact is the case. There are, however, great hopes in that direction. I myself had a constituency with a very mixed community whose origins lay in all parts of the world and all parts of Scotland. I can assure the Minister that it is very important that in this respect we continue to do everything we can and do as much as possible by statute. Statutes make that much easier what is perhaps the most important function in this field—convincing people and educating their minds. I am very pleased that the Minister has seen fit to include this provision in the Bill.

Lord Hughes

My Lords, as we are discussing Clause 2, I notice that subsection (1) states that: Scottish Homes may do anything, whether in Scotland or elsewhere, which is calculated to facilitate or is incidental or conducive to the discharge of its general functions". and at the end of the clause it is stated in subsection (10) that: The Secretary of' State may give Scottish Homes directions". If it should prove desirable to do something along the lines which my noble friend Lord Carmichael sought to do in the previous amendment, on which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, intervened, and if it proved necessary to draw attention to community care, would it be possible for the Secretary of State to handle this matter under those two provisions of Clause 2?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, with the leave of the House, we have spoken earlier this afternoon about the powers of the Secretary of State to intervene. In this case I am perfectly certain that, if he felt strongly that Scottish Homes was not carrying through one of the main objectives—for instance that community care was falling by the wayside and something of a policy nature had to be undertaken—the answer would undoubtedly be yes.

Lord Hughes

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.15 p.m.

Clause 4 [Regulation of housing associations in Scotland and transfer to Scottish Homes of certain property, rights, liabilities and obligations of Housing Corporation]:

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 3: Page 5, line 27, after ("with") insert ("— (a) ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 3 I should like also to speak to Amendment No. 4. These amendments have been tabled to correct an omission and are principally of a technical nature.

The Bill as it stands transfers to Scottish Homes all rights, liabilities and obligations relating to registered housing associations to which the Housing Corporation is entitled or subject, in cases where an association is based in Scotland.

However, the corporation also has certain obligations in relation to land held by unregistered housing associations and these obligations should also be transferred to Scottish Homes in cases where the land is in Scotland. These amendments will have that effect. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 4: Page 5. line 28. after ("applies") I nsert (": and

(b) land in Scotland held by unregistered housing associations:).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 (Security of. tenure):

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 5: Page 10, line 40, after first ("subsection") insert (", subsection (1) of section (Right of succession of spouse) below.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords in moving Amendment No. 5, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 18 and 20, the latter amendment having been tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove and Lord Morton of Shuna.

When we introduced this Bill we felt that succession rights, like other terms of a tenancy, should be left to be negotiated between the tenant and the landlord. We still hold that to be the right approach in general, and I am sure that many landlords letting on an assured tenancy will be ready to include such terms in their leases.

However, the Government have listened very carefully to the arguments of noble Lords, Members in another place, and other individuals and organisations, that the spouse of a tenant is in a particularly vulnerable position following the death of the tenant. That is why, as I announced during our debate in Committee, we are providing a statutory right of succession in those circumstances. The right is limited, and I should explain to your Lordships three important characteristics.

First, it will only apply when the spouse was occupying the house as his or her principal home immediately before the death of the tenant. Secondly, normally, of course, if someone inherits a tenancy the landlord will be entitled to invoke Ground 7 of Schedule 5 to gain possession of his house following the tenant's death. But when a spouse succeeds to the tenancy, either under this new provision, or by the will or intestacy of the tenant, Ground 7 will not be available for use.

Finally, the right of succession by the spouse will be limited to the spouse of the original tenant rather than the spouse of someone who had, himself or herself, succeeded to a tenancy. This limitation is necessary to ensure that the landlord does not find his property being passed on several times because surviving spouses re-marry.

The Government believe that this new provision for succession by spouses improves the Bill through recognising in a fair and reasonable way the rights of both landlords and tenants. The amendment in the names of the noble Lords opposite would extend succession to assured tenancies too far, and I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, that I cannot support it. I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove and Lord Morton of Shuna, will feel able to withdraw it. That is for them to decide, but I hope that your Lordships will agree that the Government's approach, in trying to reach a fair result, strikes the right balance. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, we could not but be grateful to the Minister for at least extending the right of succession to the spouse, although it was an appalling omission from the Bill originally. The idea that the spouse is vulnerable is a matter of which we are all very much aware but I think that our Amendment No. 20 extends just a little further the statutory right of succession from an assured tenant to a member of the tenant's family who has been living with the tenant in cases in which there is no spouse who could succeed. The new clause is based largely on the existing legislation of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, which limits succession in the public sector including housing association tenancies.

I must emphasise that the effect of our amendment is to allow one succession and one only. We accept that there will still be difficult cases. We accept the Minister's point that succession could go on indefinitely if it were merely a question of the spouse remarrying. We are not suggesting that. We believe that would be wrong. However, in allowing that position, there might be one or two difficult cases. We are concerned with one succession only to an assured tenancy. Our amendment would allow the right of succession to the spouse in the first instance, but, if there is no spouse, to a member of the tenant's family who has lived with the tenant for a year preceding the tenant's death.

This amendment will not alter the principle of a single succession which has been accepted by the Government. But it will enable other close relatives of a tenant to benefit from the peace of mind which the Government—quite rightly, and I think very humanely—acknowledge as desirable at the time of a tenant's death.

It would be quite inappropriate to guarantee a statutory right of succession to spouses of tenants but not, for example, to brothers or sisters. We all know of families where unmarried brothers and sisters live together for many years. The Minister is suggesting—though I am sure his heart is not so hard—that, if one of them dies, the other be turned out into the snow. I hope that the Minister will be able to push what he has given us that little bit further. We are not saying that there should be another step in the tenancy. We are saying that, if the spouse dies, there should be a succession to the remaining spouse and that, if the close relative of the family is the successor, he or she should be given the tenancy and it should then stop. There is no attempt to try to move it on. It stops at that point, no matter what happens.

I hope that the Minister will take this issue on board. If he cannot do so now, pehaps he can consider it again. We have the privilege in this House that further consideration can be given at Third Reading.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend. There is a point that one has to consider. Very often a son or daughter will have been living at home. First the mother dies. Then the father dies. This person will have been caring for an elderly parent for a considerable number of years. He or she may have given up many opportunities of working and have become a full-time carer for his or her elderly parents. Does that mean that on the death of the last parent there will be no chance of succession for that person? He or she will have saved the local authority or hospital service, or whatever it may be, a great deal of money by caring voluntarily for parents in the proper way that we all like to think children do. We should like to understand that such people will have a succession to the tenancy after such service.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, is describing a scene which occurs quite often. However, as I understand the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, someone could move in a year before the tenant died and could inherit the lease. Was it for one year?

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, only once would someone be able to move in, and that would be it.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. I understood that. It seems absolutely admirable and necessary that the spouse should be able to inherit. That is a different issue altogether. However, for somebody to be able to move in for one year and then to have the tenancy for the whole of his or her life—which could happen very often—frees the position too much and militates against what the Bill is trying to achieve. It is going too far. One has to draw the line somewhere.

From the point of view of a caring son or daughter who is living with the parents, he or she will know that that is the position. They will not be surprised by it. It will be quite plain that that is the position. In a more open market,which we hope we shall gradually develop, it may be possible to negotiate a new lease of the same house.

I believe that the line is drawn in the right place. I know that it has never been the view of the party of the noble Lord to see the position in that way, and it is a legitimate point of view. However, in the context of what this Bill is trying to achieve, for the spouse, but not the children to be able to inherit is the correct position. I hope that the amendment will not be pursued.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, I hope that the remarks of the noble Baroness will be read widely in Scotland. The number of children, especially women, who look after aged parents for years and who, under this Bill and the provision that the noble Baroness supports, would be thrown out—is tremendous. I hope that what the noble Baroness has said will receive wide publicity.

Lord Hughes

My Lords, the second part of Amendment No. 20, which my noble friend has spoken to refers to, where the tenancy was held jointly by two or more individuals, a surviving tenant where the house was his only or principal home at the time of the tenant's death". Obviously, if the joint tenants are husband and wife, on the death of one of the joint tenants, the spouse's right would cover that. But it is not uncommon for a house to have been occupied for many years by two spinster sisters. They are joint tenants. Do I understand that the effect of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, would mean that the second sister would not have the assured tenancy which she had enjoyed jointly with the sister during these preceding years?

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I was greatly impressed by the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, when she drew attention to the possibility of people moving in and then obtaining a tenancy. It seemed that she was right in suggesting that there was a problem there which somewhat weakens the amendment of my noble friend. However, his amendment refers to a member of the family moving in. It is not just anybody moving in. That puts a gloss on the matter which is totally different from what the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, was saying.

I am sure that my noble friend Lord Carmichael has the right position in essence. Whether he is right in detail on the point raised I am not sure. But it is certainly wrong that someone in the second generation beyond the spouse who has for a lengthy period regarded as his or her home a house held on a tenancy should be seriously deprived in this way. This is something which cannot merely he left to the bargaining of the market. I do not think that that is right. I believe that my noble friend's amendment ought to be accepted in general terms. If there are details in it which are not quite right they could be ironed out. As my noble friend said, there is Third Reading to come. At Third Reading a compromise situation could be arrived at which would give justice to this second generation without distorting entirely the principle of the Bill.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I merely wish to say that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, said it all and did the right thing when he suggested that the onus of consideration of this situation of two sisters or a devoted daughter who may have been there for a long time should be thrown at a sympathetic Minister who is doing rather well in listening to the Opposition. I believe that is right and I am content to leave the matter to the Minister.

Lord Kirkhill

My Lords, I confine my intervention to one remark. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, alleged that my noble friend Lord Carmichael, although his point of view was tenable, had drawn the line at the wrong point. The Government's position draws the line in the wrong place and is another example of the thrust of this Administration: their sheer lack of compassion and humanity is a diabolical disgrace to a civilised community. This is another example of it.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to reply to some of those remarks. I had thought that in Committee the importance had been recognized—as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, recognized—of the amendments that were put forward. As the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, will know, as regards rented accommodation one has to seek a balance. There is nothing to stop succession, as was referred to, such as two sisters or a brother or a sister living together, being written into a tenancy agreement. As my noble friend Lord Selkirk said at Committee stage, it is up to the Government to publicise the new rules on tenancy. That is indeed the Government's priority. There is nothing to stop a joint tenancy agreement being written—an agreement between the landlord and the tenant—which answers the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, about a joint tenancy agreement with another member of the family.

In answer to those various points, there is a remedy to the undoubted fear that some noble Lords opposite have that the ground is shifting too much. I must say that there is an answer to which we shall come later. The Government have accepted that a written lease is important and the terms of the written lease are most important. Indeed, that will answer the fears that have been expressed, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in this debate.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, from our point of view it would be silly to vote down this amendment in case we were not able to win Amendment No. 20, which I feel sure the House will be sufficiently kindhearted enough to support. I propose that we accept this amendment with the opportunity of voting later on Amendment No. 20.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17 [Fixing of terms of statutory assured tenancy]:

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 6: Page 11, line 16, after ("below") insert ("in the prescribed form").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 6 I also speak to Amendment No. 10 which is in similar terms.

Clauses 17, 24 and 31 all allow for applications to be made to the rent assessment committee. Clauses 17 and 24 apply to statutory assured tenants, and Clause 31 to short assured tenants. However, as currently drafted only Clause 31 specifies that applications to the committee should be in a form prescribed by regulations. In order to make it easier for tenants and landlords to know how to go about submitting an application, we believe that it would be helpful to set out in regulations the details required under Clauses 17 and 24 as well. I hope that your Lordships agree. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19 [Notice of proceedings for possession]:

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 7: Page 13, line 28, at end insert— ("(7) A notice under this section shall cease to have effect 6 months after the date on or after which the proceedings for possession to which it relates could have been raised.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a relatively straightforward amendment designed to ensure that both tenant and landlord are clear that when a landlord gives notice that he intends to seek possession, he must then apply to the court under that notice within a reasonable period of time. When this issue was discussed in another place. my honourable friend, the Scottish Office Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment explained that, normally, the Government would expect notices of proceedings for possession to lapse in any case after a time, since the circumstances giving rise to them would have ceased to apply. However, on reflection we have concluded that it is better to provide in the Bill for a fixed time limit. This will ensure that landlords are not misled into thinking that a notice served some time before can be relied on to raise proceedings at a much later date; and it will also give tenants certainty at any given time about whether they may face proceedings.

We have set the limit at six months from the earliest date on which proceedings could be raised. This is the same as the limit applying to notices served on public sector tenants under Section 47 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987. Effectively it means a maximum lifespan for a notice of eight months, since a period of two months or two weeks, depending on the ground for possession specified in the notice, must elapse before proceedings can begin.

I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that it is true that a landlord could issue a series of notices, and so, as it were, keep a tenant under constant threat of proceedings. But, if a landlord is so minded, at least this amendment puts him to the trouble of issuing a notice every six months. It would not be possible simply to prohibit the issue of a new notice, because there are many circumstances in which issuing a new notice would be perfectly reasonable—for example, if the tenant falls again into rent arrears, or indeed in general where a ground for possession applies, ceases to apply, then comes to apply again.

I hope nevertheless that your Lordships will agree that this amendment does improve the tenant's position even slightly and therefore deserves support. I beg to move.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, the difficulty has been pointed out by the Minister that the notice can be given by the landlord time and time again on whatever specious grounds he may put it. Therefore he can threaten the tenant all the way through by always having a notice available. There are landlords who are not quite as straightforward as I have no doubt the Minister would be if he were a landlord, but we have to deal with that situation. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will look again at this to see whether he can tighten up the amendment so that the landlord's right to serve a notice expires at six months on that ground and he has to start again on a new ground with a new notice. I believe that could be done by careful drafting and I hope that the Minister will consider that again.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I can say that I am prepared to look at this. I understand exactly what the noble Lord. Lord Morton of Shuna. is attempting to achieve. I shall certainly look at it in that way and if there is any way of tightening it up I shall certainly see whether we can oblige.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 20 (Extended discretion of court in possession claims):

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 8: Page 14. line 3, leave Out ("rights of occupation under-) and insert ("occupancy rights under section I or 18 or).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 8 I shall also speak to Amendment No. 9. During the Committee stage of the Bill, my noble friend Lord Selkirk, having in mind the ease of use and clarity of the Bill, tabled an amendment designed to make more specific the reference in Clause 20 to the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981, by identifying the particular sections of the Act which confer occupancy rights.

I agreed at the time to give consideration to the matter and I have concluded that the Bill should be amended along the lines he suggested. Amendment No. 8 therefore introduces a reference to Sections I and 18 of the Act. They are the only two sections which need to be mentioned as they are the only two which confer occupancy rights. I am grateful to my noble friend for his suggestion.

Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 replace the term "rights of occupation", which is an English term, with "occupancy rights" which is a Scottish term. I am sure that your Lordships will approve the step to protect the integrity of Scottish legislation. I beg to move.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord because he has done a great deal for the Bill. This House has done far more for the Bill than the other place was able to do. For that reason, I believe that we should warmly thank the noble Lord for the attention that he has given to the remarks that we have made in this House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 14, line 12, leave out ("rights of occupation") and insert ("occupancy rights").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24 [Increases of rent under assured tenancies]:

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 10: Page 15, line 29, after ("committee") insert ("in the prescribed form).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment. It was spoken to with Amendment No. 6.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 11: Page 15. line 33. leave out subsection (4) and insert— ("(4) Where a notice is served under subsection (1) above but the rent under the tenancy has previously been increased (whether by agreement or by virtue of a notice under subsection (1) above or a determination under section 25 below) the new rent shall take effect not earlier than the first anniversary of the date on which that increase took effect.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is designed to plug a loophole in Clause 24. As it currently stands, Clause 24(4) allows a landlord to serve a notice proposing an increased rent only once every 12 months. This was intended to ensure that rent increases under this procedure could be obtained only once a year.

On reflection, the Government have decided that it is more straightforward to make that intention explicit, instead of relying on a control over the issue of notices. That is what the amendment achieves, and I commend it to your Lordships.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25 (Determination of rent hr rent assessment committee]:

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 12: Page 16. line 19. at end insert— ("(3A) Where any rates in respect of the house concerned are borne by the landlord or a superior landlord, the rent assessment committee shall make their determination under this section as if the rates were not so borne.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 15 and 22. The Government are now working on the basis that Part II of the Housing (Scotland) Bill may come into force well before 1st April 1989, when domestic rates are to be abolished. From that date of the coming into force of Part II of the Bill the standard form of new letting for private sector rented housing will be the assured tenancy or short assured tenancy.

However, as currently drafted, there are no references in the Bill to rates. The possible earlier introduction of Part 11 means that some references to rates are necessary. They are important in relation to the provisions concerning the determination of rents by the rent assessment committees. Amendment No. 12, which introduces new subsection (3)(a), requires the rent assessment committee to make its determination of a market rent, exclusive of rates. That is in line with practice under the existing rents legislation and ensures that a tenant will not find himself paying an element attributable to rates after domestic rates are abolished.

Amendment No. 15 ensures that during the period up till 1st April 1989, a tenant whose rent has been determined by a rent assessment committee may also he required by his landlord to pay the rates for the house. I hope that your Lordships will support the amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 13: Page 16, line 19, at end insert— ("(3B) in any case where—

  1. (a) a rent assessment committee have before them at the same time the reference of a notice under section 17(2) above relating to a tenancy (in this subsection referred to as "the section 17 reference") and the reference of a notice under section 24(1) above relating to the same tenancy (in this subsection referred to as "the section 24 reference"); and
  2. (b) the date specified in the notice under section 17(2) above is not later than the first day of the new period specified in the notice under section 24(1) above; and
  3. (c) the committee propose to hear the two references together, the committee shall make a determination in relation to the section 17 reference before making their determination in relation to the section 24 reference and, accordingly, in such a case the reference in subsection (1)(b) above to the terms of the tenancy to which the notice relates shall be construed as a reference to those terms as varied by virtue of the determination made in relation to the section 17 reference.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in most cases where a rent assessment committee is asked to make a determination of a market rent for an assured tenancy under Clause 25 it will be quite clear what tenancy terms should be taken into account under Clause 25 (1)(b). However, it is possible that at more or less the same time as a tenant is seeking a rent determination from the rent assessment committee either the tenant or the landlord may have referred proposed and disputed changes in tenancy terms to the rent assessment committee under Clause 17. Obviously it makes sense for the committee to hear the two references together.

In such cases, the committee should resolve the issue of what variation in tenancy terms is appropriate before considering the level of market rent to be determined. Therefore the amendment makes it clear that whatever notice is received first, the committee should first determine the terms of the tenancy and that the subsequent rent determination should take account of the revised terms. It is arguable that this could be left to common sense; but, on balance, we believe that it is better to have the position on the face of the Bill so those who are involved are clear from the outset. With that brief explanation I commend the amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 14: Page 16, line 20, leave out ("(2)") and insert ("(1)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 14 corrects an error of drafting. A reference under Clause 25(4) should be a notice served under "Section 24(1)" and not "Section 24(2)". I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 15: Page 16, line 22, after ("committee") insert ("(together with. in a case where subsection (3A) above applies, the appropriate amount in respect of rates)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment when speaking to Amendment No. 12. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 16: Before Clause 27, insert the following new clause:

("Prohibition of premiums etc. on assured tenancies.

. Sections 82, 83 and 86 to 90 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 (which make it an offence to require premiums and advance payment of rent in respect of protected tenancies and make related provision) shall apply in relation to assured tenancies as they apply in relation to protected tenancies (including protected tenancies which are regulated tenancies), but with the following modifications—

  1. (a) section 83(5) shall not apply; and
  2. (b) section 88(1) shall apply as if for the references to 12th August 1971 there were substituted references to the date of commencement of this section.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 16, is the new clause which I am proposing. It has a similar aim to that proposed in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. It is to continue the prohibition on charging premiums in connection with residential tenancies in Scotland which has effectively been in force since 1920.

During the Committee stage I was impressed with the obvious strength of feelings among your Lordships in respect of this issue. It is in response to that and to other representations that we have received from a wide range of opinion throughout Scotland that we are bringing forward the amendment. It applies the relevant provisions in Part VIII of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 to assured tenancies in addition to regulated tenancies. We believe that this is the right way to achieve our aim. Prohibition on premiums for regulated tenancies is well understood and so it seems sensible to us to continue the same arrangements for the new assured tenancies.

The amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, appears to have the advantage of simplicity, but it would not fully achieve its purpose. Although it would make it unlawful to charge a premium, it does not define what is a premium nor does it prescribe any penalty for a landlord who charges a premium. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will agree to the Government amendment, and that the noble Lord will be prepared not to pursue his amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for producing what he says is a better amendment. I am sure that he is right. It is an example of how he should always continue to improve our amendments. He has done extremely well and we are grateful for that.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I should like to ask whether this is the final death of key money.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I recall that in Committee I moved an amendment similar to that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie. I should like to take the opportunity of echoing the sentiments of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, in so far as the Minister has listened to the argument and made an appropriate amendment. I am sure that it will be welcomed by all the bodies in Scotland which made representations to me and to the Minister. I appreciate it.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, the Scottish Council for the Single Homeless was kind enough to write to me about the matter. I believe that it represents the interests of a number of other bodies. Although the amendment is somewhat different from that which it was backing —that of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie—I am sure that it will be most pleased to find that key money will be illegal.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 17: After Clause 28, insert the following new clause:

"Duty of landlord under assured tenancy to provide written tenancy document and weekly rent book.

.—(1) It shall be the duty of the landlord under an assured tenancy (of whatever duration)—

  1. (a) to draw up a document stating (whether expressly or by reference) the terms of the tenancy;
  2. (b) to ensure that it is so drawn up and executed that it is probative or holograph of the parties; and
  3. (c) to give a copy of it to the tenant.

(2) On summary application by a tenant under an assured tenancy, the sheriff shall by order—

  1. (a) where it appears to him that the landlord has failed to draw up a document which fairly reflects the existing terms of the tenancy, draw up such a document or, as the case may he, adjust accordingly the terms of such document as there is; and
  2. (b) in any case, declare that the document (as originally drawn up or, where he has drawn it up or adjusted it, as so drawn up or adjusted) fairly reflects the terms of the assured tenancy;
and, where the sheriff has made such a declaration in relation to a document which he has drawn up or adjusted, it shall be deemed to have been duly executed by the parties as so drawn up or adjusted.

(3) A tenant shall not be required to make payment in respect of anything done under subsection (1) above.

(4) Where, under an assured tenancy, rent is payable weekly, it shall he the duty of the landlord to provide a rent book.

(5) A rent book shall contain such notices which shall be in such form and shall relate to such matters as may be prescribed and otherwise shall comply with such requirements as may he prescribed.

(6) If, at any time, the landlord fails to comply with any requirement imposed by or under subsections (4) or (5) above he and any person who on his behalf demands or receives rent in respect of the tenancy shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a tine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.

(7) Where an offence under subsection (6) above committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or a person purporting to act in any such capacity, he, as well as the body corporate. is guilty of an offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the Committee stage of our deliberations I announced that we would bring forward an amendment on Report to ensure that tenants under assured tenancies are entitled to a written tenancy document setting out the conditions applying to the tenancy. This new clause fulfils that commitment and also provides that, if under an assured tenancy rent is payable weekly, then the landlord must provide the tenant with a rent book.

I am sure that this new clause will meet with your Lordships approval. In an ideal world there would, I suggest, be no need for legislation to make it a duty on a landlord to provide a written document. As my noble friend Lady Carnegy said during the Committee stage, most responsible landlords would provide a written statement as a matter of course. However, as has been stressed by many organisations concerned with housing matters, and some noble Lords, not every private landlord is as responsible as he should be, and therefore the Government agree that there is a need to make it clear that a landlord has a duty to provide the tenant with a written statement of the terms of the tenancy which will he drawn up at no cost to the tenant. This provision will give private sector tenants a similar right to that of public sector tenants.

Although the right to a written statement of the terms of the tenancy— which will include rent —should provide adequate protection for tenants, the Government have also given further consideration to the question of rent books. Again, there has been a strong body of opinion that tenants should have the added protection of a rent book recording the amounts of rent they had paid. On reflection we have decided that there is a good case for giving the right to a rent book to the same group of tenants who are so entitled under the existing Rent Act; namely, those who pay weekly. Subsection (4) to (7) of the new clause provide that right.

I hope your Lordships will find this new clause acceptable. I beg to move.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, I rise only to say that we are very grateful. It is an almost unique experience in this Government to find a Minister who is prepared to listen and then act on what he has listened to. It is a very encouraging habit.

Lord Hughes

My Lords, I agree with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Morton of Shuna and I hope that it does not have the effect of making the Minister an endangered species.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, when one talks of a written lease, does that also include the legal terms of the lease; that is, the whole question of succession? Will that be included in the lease or will it be left out?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, with the leave of the House, we are talking about the actual written document between landlord and tenant. However, I feel I should explain the matter as I know of my noble friend's interest. We have not required the landlord to give the tenant a written lease but a document setting out the terms of the tenancy.

If we required a written lease to be provided for every assured tenancy, there would be a danger that an unscrupulous landlord—and unfortunately there are some—would deliberately fail to provide a written lease and, as a result, the tenancy would be void and the tenant would lose the protection, particularly the right to security of tenure, provided by the Bill. I believe the approach in the new clause avoids this potential difficulty. I hope that that explains to my noble friend why we are formulating the clause in the way in which we have. I feel that that is essential.

As to the wider question of succession, we shall be talking about that under Clause 43 and Schedule 6 and trying to write the relevant matters into the Bill in as plain English as we can. Subsequent to that, we hope to be able to provide guidance to people in a form which they can readily understand, and we shall widely publicise that.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I apologise to the House for rising at this late stage in the Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, raised a point to which the Minister replied. My memory is that often conditions were written onto the rent hook, and that raises the question of whether there is a definition of a rent book. I have seen some fairly tatty rent books bought in a corner shop which gave no feeling of security to the tenant. Those circumstances could apply to the type of person about whom the noble Lord was talking and who it is important to catch. Perhaps some thought could be given to that matter.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I raise this matter because many tenants will not have read this statute and have no idea what is an assured tenancy. I believe that that should be communicated to them and the place in which to do that is either the rent book or some other document which is to be drawn up.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, perhaps I may say to my noble friend that the document will include the terms of the tenancy including any matter relating to succession, which I believe was the point he was making.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, this amendment deals with the important question of tenants' rights. Your Lordships may recall that in Committee an amendment was moved in relation to the publicity and explanations which would be given to the public so that they may understand their rights under this Bill.

We did not table an amendment today but we emphasised that this is a complex Bill. It involves new relationships in this sphere and we in this House find it difficult to understand all its implications. We asked for assurances from Ministers that citizens' advice bureaux, which give a great deal of advice in this area, could be adequately staffed and financially supported so that tenants understand their rights under the Bill. At this stage I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that the matter of tenants' rights will be communicated to the people in Scotland who are affected by this legislation so that they understand it. I further hope that advice through the CABs and other channels will be discharged effectively.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, with the leave of the House, this is a very important point whether those concerned are citizens' advice bureaux, Scottish Homes or whatever. The Government are well aware that tenants' rights are a very important aspect and are not always understood. They are sometimes deliberately misunderstood and particularly by some landlords, as we have said, as to what the assured tenancies will be. I give the noble Lord my assurance that the Government are well aware of this matter and that it is necessary to explain, once the Bill has become an Act, what has happened so that everyone understands what are their rights.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 18: After Clause 28. insert the following new clause:

("Right of succession of spouse.

.—(1) in any case where—

  1. (a) the sole tenant under an assured tenancy dies; and
  2. (b) immediately before the death the tenant's spouse was occupying the house as his or her only or principal home; and
  3. (c) the tenant was not himself a successor as explained in subsection (2) or (3) below,
the tenant's spouse shall. as from the death and for so long as he or she retains possession of the house without being entitled to do so under a contractual tenancy, be entitled to a statutory assured tenancy of the house.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a tenant was a successor in relation to a tenancy—

  1. (a) if the tenancy had become vested in him either by virtue of this section or under the will or intestacy of a previous tenant; or
  2. (b) if he was a statutory assured tenant by virtue of section 3A of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984; or
  3. (c) if at some time before the tenant's death the tenancy was a joint tenancy held by him and one or more other persons and, prior to his death, he had become the sole tenant by survivorship; or
  4. (d) in the case of a tenancy hereinafter referred to as ("the new tenancy") which was granted to him (alone or jointly with others) if—
    1. (i) at some time before the grant of the new tenancy he was, by virtue of paragraph (a), (b) or (c) above, a successor to an earlier tenancy of the same or substantially the same house as is let under the new tenancy; and
    2. (ii) at all times since he became such a successor he has been a tenant (alone or jointly with others) of the house which is let under the new tenancy or of a house which is substantially the same as that house.

(3) No order for possession under Ground 7 of Schedule 5 to this Act shall be made—

  1. (a) in relation to a case to which this section relates by virtue of subsection (1) above; or
  2. (b) where the tenant's spouse succeeds to the tenancy under the will or intestacy of the tenant.

(4) For the purposes of this section a person who was living with the tenant at the time of the tenant's death as his or her wife or husband shall be treated as the tenant's spouse.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 20: After Clause 28, insert the following new clause:

("Passing al assured tenancy.

.—(1) On the death of a tenant under an assured tenancy, the tenancy shall pass by operation of law to a qualified person, unless—

  1. (a) there is no qualified person, or the qualified person declines the tenancy under subsection (4); or
  2. (b) the tenancy is terminated by operation of subsection (5).

(2) For the purposes of this section, a qualified person is—

  1. (a) a person whose only or principal home at the time of the tenant's death was the house and who was at that time either—
    1. (i) the tenant's spouse; or
    2. (ii) living with the tenant as husband and wife; and
  2. (b) where the tenancy was held jointly by two or more individuals, a surviving tenant where the house was his only or principal home at the time of the tenant's death;
  3. (b) where there is no person falling within paragraph (a) or (b), a member of the tenant's family who has attained the age of 16 years where the house was his only or principal home throughout the period of 12 months immediately preceding the tenant's death.

(3) Where there is more than one qualified person, the benefit of the provisions of q subsection (1) or, as the case may be, of subsection (6) shall accrue—

  1. (a) to such qualified person; or
  2. (b) to such two or more qualified persons as joint tenants. as may be decided by agreement between all the qualified persons or failing agreement within 4 weeks of the death of the tenant, as the landlord shall decide.

(4) A qualified person who is entitled to the benefit of subsection (1) may decline the tenancy by giving the landlord notice in writing within 4 weeks of the tenant's deah, and—

  1. (a) he shall vacate the house within 3 months thereafter;
  2. (b) he shall be liable to pay rent which becomes due after the said death only in respect of any rental period (that is to say, a period in respect of which an instalment of rent falls to be paid) during any part of which he has occupied the house after the said death.

(5) An assured tenancy which has passed under subsection (I) to a qualified person shall not, on the death of a tenant (or one of the joint tenants) so pass on a second occasion, and accordingly the assured tenancy shall be terminated when such a death occurs; but the provisions of this subsection shall not operate so as to terminate the assured tenancy of any tenant under a joint tenancy where such a joint tenant continues to use the house as his only or principle home.

(6) Where an assured tenancy is terminated by operation of subsection (5) and there is a qualified person, he shall be entitled to continue as tenant for a period not exceeding 6 months on terms agreed between himself and the landlord.").

6.58 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 20) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 67; Not-Contents, 97.

Airedale, L. Dean of Beswick, L.
Ardwick, L. Dormand of Easington, L.
Avebury, L. Ewart-Biggs, B.
Blackstone, B. Falkender, B.
Blease, L. Falkland, V.
Blyth, L. Fisher of Rednal, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Fitt, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Gallacher, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Galpern, L.
Carter, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Grey, E.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Grimond, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Oram. L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Parry, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Peston, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Hughes, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.[Teller.]
Irving of Dartford, L.
Jay, L. Robson of Kiddington. B.
Jeger, B. Serota. B.
Jenkins of Hillhead. L. Shackleton, L.
Kilbracken, L. Stedman, B.
Kirkhill, L. Stewart of Fulham. L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Longford, E. Taylor of Gryfe. L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Underhill, L.
McNair, L. Wallace of Coslany. L.
Masham of Ilton. B. Walston, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Whaddon. L.
Morton of Shuna. L. White. B.
Mulley, L. Willis, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Nicol, B.
Abinger, L. Lauderdale. E.
Ampthill, L. Layton, L.
Arran, E. Lindsay. E.
Ashbourne, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Astor of Hever, L. Long, V.
Beaverbrook, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Belstead, L. Lyell, L.
Blatch, B. Macleod of Borve, B.
Borthwick, L. Marshall of Leeds. L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Merrivale, L.
Brabazon of Tara. L. Mersey, V.
Broxbourne, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Butterworth, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Caccia, L. Nelson, E.
Caithness, E. Newall, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom. L. Norrie, L.
Campbell of Croy. L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Orkney, E.
Cathcart, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Coleraine, L. Oxfuird, V.
Cowley, E. Pender, L.
Cox, B. Platt of Writtle, B.
Craigavon, V. Rankeillour, L.
Cross, V. Redesdale, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Rodney, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Dilhorne, V. Sanderson of Bowden. L.
Dundee, E. Selkirk, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Sharpies, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Slim, V.
Elton, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Faithfull, B. Strange, B.
Fortescue, E. Strathclyde, L.
Gainford, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Glenarthur, L. Sudeley, L.
Goold, L. Swinfen, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Swinton, E.
Greenway, L. Teviot, L.
Gridley, L. Thomas of Gwydir. L.
Hacking, L. Torrington, V.
Havers, L. Trafford, L.
Hesketh, L. Trefgarnc, L.
Hives, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Holderness, L. Windlesham, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Wise, L.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Young of Graffham, L.
Kinnaird, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

The Earl of Dundee

My Lords, your Lordships may feel that we have reached a suitable moment at which to break with a view to returning to the business not before 8.5 p.m. If so, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.