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Viscount Thurso: My Lords, at Second Reading I gave the Bill a very warm welcome. However, I had certain reservations. I reiterate that welcome. It is a measure that will generally take care of the problems it was intended to deal with. The particular concerns I raised were addressed by the Minister. I am most grateful to the noble Earl for having answered all my questions. The question that remained was that of reasonableness, as referred to in the amendment tabled at Committee stage by the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar.

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I am very grateful to the Minister for his letter to me in which he stated:


    "we will be issuing comprehensive guidelines to local authorities aimed at ensuring that licensing boards implement the provisions in Clause 1 of the Bill reasonably and effectively".
I was very grateful for that, and I accept it.

At Second Reading I also mentioned my belief that the time was approaching for a general revision of licensing legislation. Today, by a fortuitous coincidence, the British Hospitality Association launched what it is pleased to call its "election manifesto". I hope that does not mean that hoteliers will be standing for Parliament everywhere! I believe it relates to provisions that the British Hospitality Association would expect from this Government or any future government. That document calls for a review and revision of licensing law in England, Scotland and Wales. I very much hope that the House will have the possibility of debating that subject on a future occasion.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for the general welcome they have continued to give to the Bill. The rest of the House will be grateful for the expert scrutiny that they have applied from their various backgrounds as the Bill has passed through its various stages. I also include my noble friend Lord Balfour and the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, who I regret is not in his place, for the help that they gave us.

The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, was quite rightly concerned about the exact definition of "community action". I reiterate the statement in my letter. We see the action against under-age drinking and abuse by those who are under age of all products with which they should not be in contact as very important, and also as involving all players. It is not just a matter for central government, local authorities or the voluntary sector; it involves communities and the industry itself. As the noble Earl so rightly pointed out, it involves all of us as adults. We must help as well.

Whether Mad Dog 20/20, Buckfast and other refreshments which I have yet to experience should be included is a matter that I shall pass on to my colleagues. The Committee was certainly grateful when the noble Earl gave an expert lecture on recreational drugs. We all learnt a lot that night.

The noble Viscount asked about the review and revision of the whole licensing framework. The House would benefit if, through the usual channels, he brought this matter to the Floor of the House for general debate, especially given his background in this field.

I turn to the two main points set out by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and touched upon today and at earlier stages by the noble Viscount and the noble Earl. The first involves the licensing board acting reasonably. As I stated in my letter,


    "it is without doubt incumbent upon a licensing board, or indeed any other public body, to act reasonably in the discharge of any function given under legislation. If a licensing board unreasonably discharges the functions which the Bill will confer then that is a matter which can be subject to judicial challenge",

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either under Section 39 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 or by way of judicial review. We also recognise that one can perhaps prevent such actions by issuing sensible guidance. As the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, quoted from my letter to him,


    "we will be issuing comprehensive guidelines to local authorities aimed at ensuring that licensing boards implement the provisions in Clause 1 of the Bill reasonably and effectively".

The last point relates to the ability of a licence holder to be represented at a hearing before a licensing board. I remind the noble Lord that there are other provisions in the 1976 Act relating to the holding of hearings by the licensing board. As I stated,


    "An example, which I gave in Committee, is section 31 of the Act which provides for the holding of a hearing when the licensing board is considering whether to suspend a licence following receipt of a complaint. That provision says that the board shall not suspend the licence without hearing the licence holder. It does not expressly say that the holder can, for that purpose, be represented. However, it is a long established practice that a holder can be represented for that purpose".
It is our intention that that long-established practice should continue. Guidance on that point could always be issued should it appear to be threatened.

I hope that, with the further assurances that I have been able to give tonight, noble Lords will continue to support the Bill as it goes forward to enactment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his explanations. I hope he will agree that it was rather important to have those points stated on the Floor of the House so that the House knows exactly what was intended. While it was very kind of him to write to certain Members, the whole House should know about these matters. I am grateful to him for making the effort to explain to the House exactly what was meant by the comments in his letter.

On Question, Bill passed.

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.15 p.m.

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

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.28 to 8.15 p.m.]

Housing Bill

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 150:


Before Clause 104, insert the following new clause--

Low rent test: nil rateable values

(".--(1) In section 4(1) of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 (meaning of "low rent")--
(a) in paragraph (i) (cases where rent limit of two-thirds of rateable value on later of appropriate day and first day of term applies), for the words from "or (where" to "that date" there shall be substituted ", or on or after 1st April 1990 in pursuance of a contract made before that date, and the property had a rateable value other than nil at the date of the commencement of the tenancy or else at any time before 1st April 1990,",

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(b) in paragraph (ii) (other cases), for the words from "is entered" to "1990)," there shall be substituted "does not fall within paragraph (i) above,", and
(c) in paragraph (a) (definition of "appropriate day" by reference to section 25(3) of the Rent Act 1977), there shall be inserted at the end "if the reference in paragraph (a) of that provision to a rateable value were to a rateable value other than nil".
(2) In section 4A of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 (alternative rent limits for the purposes of section 1A(2) of that Act)--
(a) in subsection (1)(b) (cases where rent limit of two-thirds of rateable value on the relevant date applies), for sub-paragraph (ii) there shall be substituted--
"(ii) the property had a rateable value other than nil at the date of commencement of the tenancy or else at any time before 1st April 1990,", and.
(b) in subsection (2), for paragraph (b) there shall be substituted--
"(b) "the relevant date" means the date of the commencement of the tenancy or, if the property did not have a rateable value, or had a rateable value of nil, on that date, the date on which it first had a rateable value other than nil;".
(3) In section 8 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (leases at a low rent)--
(a) in subsection (1)(b) (cases where rent limit of two-thirds of rateable value on the appropriate date applies), for sub-paragraph (ii) there shall be substituted--
"(ii) the flat had a rateable value other than nil at the date of the commencement of the lease or else at any time before 1st April 1990,", and.
(b) in subsection (2), for paragraph (b) there shall be substituted--
"(b) "the appropriate date" means the date of commencement of the lease or, if the flat in question did not have a rateable value, or had a rateable value of nil, on that date, the date on which the flat first had a rateable value other than nil;".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 150, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 161. Amendment No. 150 deals with the treatment of properties which have hitherto been unable to meet the low rent test for leasehold enfranchisement because they had a nil rateable value on the relevant date. The problem was raised in Committee by my noble friend Lord Carnock, for which I thank him, and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. The matter has also been raised outside Parliament with the Department of the Environment.

As noble Lords pointed out, the problem is quite widespread and has generally arisen in one of two ways. For houses, leases were granted at a reduced premium on damaged or derelict properties which were not fit for human habitation (and so had a nil rateable value) on the understanding that the lessee would restore the property to a good standard. For flats, leases were granted in conversions off the drawing-board; again, the property had a nil rateable value because it was not complete at the time.

Amendment No. 150 looks complex but it has a very simple effect. If the property had a nil rateable value on the date that would have been chosen for the low rent test, then the relevant date is the first subsequent date before 1st April 1990 when the property did have a

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rateable value. Noble Lords will recall that the domestic rating system was abolished on 1st April 1990, which is why that date is significant.

Amendment No. 161 is consequential in that it recasts Section 1(1)(a) of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, which sets out the dates on which the rateable value limits are effective, to conform to the wording in Amendment No. 150. The amendment removes a potential lacuna in the current wording of Section 1(1)(a) as well. I beg to move.


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