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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: The amendment would slow the whole process down and extend it possibly to great length, instead of the tenancy terminating on the appropriate day of the fixed term to which the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, referred. I speak as an Australian and we are all pretty devious. We, as tenants, particularly those who are devious, would go to the trouble of complaining at the appropriate moment to be certain of ensuring our continuing interest. It is a delaying process. It is also risky in that if the tenant succeeds--as he might in a few cases--there is a parallel with the present Asylum and Immigration Bill and whether one wishes to draw things out for a long time. If we do so because of the introduction of court proceedings, we risk damaging the whole assured shorthold process.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal: I wish to ask the noble Baroness whether we are talking about devious tenants but perfect landlords. To me, it is one-sided, as though all tenants are out for what they can get and all landlords are willing to be the benefactors of those who suffer homelessness.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I am not saying that at all. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has already suggested that there is a small minority of bad landlords, so there is probably a small minority of bad tenants. The question is whether the clause would be of benefit to the letting and availability of properties in this country or whether it would be damaging. Those are the grounds on which I oppose the amendment.

Lord Dubs: I listened with interest to the noble Baroness's remarks. She reminded the Committee of the days when she and I faced each other across the political divide on Westminster City Council. I know that the noble Baroness has a lot of experience of the housing situation in our cities. But I am bound to say that on this particular occasion I differ from her assessment as to the effectiveness of this amendment. I believe it would help to tip the balance just a little more towards tenants and away from landlords, thereby giving them a little more of a level playing field. The amendment would give people living in such tenancies a little more security. That is desirable. In the circumstances, I wish to take the opinion of the Committee.

4.11 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 242C) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 135.

13 Jun 1996 : Column 1848

Division No. 1

Division No.


Addington, L.
Annan, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Avebury, L.
Berkeley, L.
Birk, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carter, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
David, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Ezra, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Greene of Harrow Weald, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hooson, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lockwood, B.
Longford, E.
McNally, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Meston, L.
Methuen, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L. [Teller.]
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury, L.
Sandwich, E.
Seear, B.
Shaughnessy, L.
Stallard, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wallace of Coslany, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Winston, L.


Aberdare, L.
Addison, V.
Ailesbury, M.
Ailsa, M.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Alport, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Berners, B.
Birdwood, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Brentford, V.
Bridge of Harwich, L.
Brigstocke, B.
Burnham, L.
Caldecote, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Coleraine, L.
Colwyn, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Crickhowell, L.
Cross, V.
Cuckney, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gainford, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gisborough, L.
Goschen, V.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Halsbury, E.
Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Harrowby, E.
Henley, L.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Howe, E.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Ilchester, E.
Inglewood, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Knollys, V.
Lauderdale, E.
Layton, L.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Macleod of Borve, B.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newall, L.
Nickson, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Pender, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prentice, L.
Quinton, L.
Rathcavan, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rees, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodney, L.
Romney, E.
St. Davids, V.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B.
Selsdon, L.
Shannon, E.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strafford, E.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Suffolk and Berkshire, E.
Swansea, L.
Swinfen, L.
Tenby, V.
Terrington, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thurlow, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Westbury, L.
Wilcox, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Wise, L.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

13 Jun 1996 : Column 1849

4.19 p.m.

Clause 89 [Tenancies which are assured shorthold tenancies]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 242D:

Page 61, line 6, after ("tenancy") insert (", subject to a written tenancy agreement,").

The noble Lord said: When we come to debate the Question that Clause 89 stand part of the Bill, that will be the better occasion on which to discuss all the principles as regards shorthold being the default tenancy. It would make more sense if we left that point until then. Therefore in speaking to this amendment I shall simply confine myself to the narrower point, which is that the shorthold should not automatically be the default tenancy where there is a written and signed tenancy agreement. The danger is that landlords who do not care very much and are not very effective will not bother to give written tenancy agreements. But they provide some protection for the tenant. Under the Government's scheme the default tenancy will automatically be the shorthold tenancy and the landlord would not even give proper notice that that had happened.

The effect of the amendment would be to ensure that the tenancy would not become a shorthold tenancy unless there was a written and signed agreement to that effect. So the landlord would have to take some steps to ensure that the tenant was properly informed of the

13 Jun 1996 : Column 1850

situation. That provides a small safeguard because it means that the landlord has to do the minimum to give effect to achieving the tenancy--which the landlord may or may not want--in the default position. Therefore, it provides something of a safeguard. However, I should like to keep my main arguments on this matter for the debate on the clause as a whole. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I shall try to do the same and keep our arguments on the main points of principle in this clause until the debate on whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill. That is quite difficult to do because the amendment now before the Committee is almost the equivalent of voting against the whole clause. So I shall attempt to shorten the argument, knowing that we shall have the same discussion again in a few minutes.

The amendment seeks to exclude tenancies from being assured shorthold tenancies where there is no written agreement. A prudent landlord would, of course, want to have a written agreement. It provides a clear statement of who is responsible for what. It can also put the landlord in a much stronger legal position if anything should go wrong or he needs to seek possession. A landlord can only recover his property using the accelerated possession procedure if he has a written agreement with the tenant.

However, my difficulty with the amendment is that it would create exactly the same procedural trap for landlords as the clause itself proposes to remove. There is no reason why a landlord should face the disproportionate penalty of having a shorthold tenancy converted into a fully assured tenancy simply because he has not provided a written tenancy agreement.

We do believe, however, that tenants with oral agreements with their landlords should have a right to evidence of the main terms of the tenancy in writing if they want it. It is for that reason that we listened to concerns raised in another place and introduced Clause 90, which places a duty on the landlord to provide the tenant, on request, with written details about the important terms of the tenancy relating to rent and security of tenure. That will provide a safeguard against the minority of landlords who might seek to exploit the rights of their tenants. Where a landlord fails to comply with his tenant's request within a period of 28 days, and there is no reasonable excuse for his failure, he will be liable on summary conviction to a fine.

With the explanation that Clause 90 gives tenants the right to ask for a written agreement and puts on the landlord the obligation to provide that written agreement, perhaps we can delay the main argument on the whole principle of Clause 89 until later.

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