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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, joint and several liability?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I understand the phrase and I know the implications of it. The only comfort that I can give to the noble Lord is that it has been in statute for a while. As noble Lords may have had cause to know, it is a severe provision if one is caught by it. As regards "documents of any other description" and "alerting the tenants" in paragraph 8D(2)(b), we believe that those phrases mean exactly what they would mean in ordinary straightforward English. As regards page 29 of the amendment--

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, does that mean e-mail as well?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the noble Lord asks an interesting question. I certainly understand it to mean e-mail. I shall return to the noble Lord as to whether that would mean the same to a lawyer.

I return now to the last question asked by the noble Lord about paragraph 9A on page 29. As regards the form of the notice and how the landlord becomes aware, I have no answer to give the noble Lord. I am quite clear that, on the many points made by the noble Lord, I or my officials and colleagues will have some writing to do to the noble Lord in fairly short order so as to give him full and proper answers to the questions raised. I am sure that this is a matter which will be studied in some depth in another place.

I appreciate that that is the great disadvantage of tabling such an extensive amendment at this late stage. But, as noble Lords can see, it has been quite a major work to get this matter into a state where we believe it to be suitable to present to your Lordships. Despite the late stage of the Bill, we believe that this is an important and essential change to make to the Bill. Therefore, we shall proceed with the amendment.

Perhaps I may also thank my noble friend Lord Selsdon for the support that he gave to this amendment and to the Bill generally. I hope that I can also give comfort to my noble friend Lord Bathurst that the iniquities of Smith's Charity are one of the principal reasons for us instituting this part of the Bill and that they are iniquities to which we very much hope we shall put an effective end.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 28:


After Clause 90, insert the following new clause--

Procedure for exercise of rights of first refusal

(".--(1) Part I of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 (tenants' rights of first refusal) is amended in accordance with Schedule (Amendments of Part I of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987).

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(2) The amendments restate the principal provisions of that Part so as to--
(a) simplify the procedures for the exercise of the rights conferred on tenants, and
(b) apply those procedures in relation to contracts and certain special cases.
(3) In Schedule (Amendments of Part I of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987)--
Part I sets out provisions replacing sections 5 to 10 of the Act (rights of first refusal),
Part II sets out provisions replacing sections 11 to 15 of the Act (enforcement by tenants of rights against purchaser),
Part III sets out provisions replacing sections 16 and 17 of the Act (enforcement of rights against subsequent purchasers and termination of rights), and
Part IV contains consequential amendments.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have just spoken to Amendments Nos. 28 to 30. I spoke to Amendment No. 31 with Amendment No. 24. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 91 [Part I of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987: procedural changes]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 29:


Leave out Clause 91.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 92 [Part I of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987: other amendments]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 30:


Leave out Clause 92.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 93 [Duty of new landlord to inform tenant of rights]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 31:


Page 68, line 32, at end insert--
("( ) In section 32(1) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (provisions not applying to tenancies within Part II of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954), for "sections 1 to 3" substitute "sections 1 to 3A".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 32:


Before Clause 94, insert the following new clause--

Extension of certain rights to tenants of registered social landlords

(" . In Chapter I of Part I of Housing Act 1988 (assured tenancies) after section 19 (restriction on levy of distress for rent) there shall be inserted--
"Extension of certain rights to tenants of registered social landlords.
19A.--(1) Unless otherwise stated, references in this section to a section or a Schedule are references to a section or a Schedule of the Housing Act 1985.
(2) The provisions of sections 87 to 90 (succession on death of tenant) shall apply on the death of an assured tenant of a registered social landlord as if he were a secure tenant and section 17 of the Housing Act 1988 (succession to assured periodic tenancy by spouse) shall apply in such cases.

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(3) The provisions of sections 91 to 94 (assignment, lodgers and subletting) shall apply to an assured tenant of a registered social landlord as if he were a secure tenant and section 15 of this Act (limited prohibition on assignment etc. without consent) shall not apply in such cases.
(4) Sections 96 to 101 (tenant's improvements) and section 105 (consultation on matters of housing management) shall apply to an assured tenant of a registered social landlord as if he were a secure tenant.".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I hope that this is a less complicated matter. I apologise for the late tabling of the amendment, although I did warn the Minister that I was proposing to do so. I told him of the question that I would be asking on the back of it. This amendment is about extending certain rights of tenants of registered social landlords. At the last stage of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to the rights being provided as a matter of contract under the tenant's guarantee so that a statutory provision was not necessary in the Government's view. He referred to possible recourse to the housing ombudsman. He said,


    "If there is a dispute about the facts of any particular case, there can be recourse to the independent housing ombudsman who under the Bill will have power to determine such matters and require them to be put right".--[Official Report, 10/7/96; col. 310.]

I commented at that point that I wondered whether the ombudsman's powers in dealing with maladministration leading to an injustice were adequate to deal with the matter. I felt that it was appropriate to ask the Minister to explain a little further the powers of the ombudsman to deal with disputes on matters of fact. Since Report stage, inquiries have been made of the Housing Corporation ombudsman. The response that I have seen indicates that, if the problem is one where some matters of fact are in dispute, the ombudsman would expect one of the parties to seek independent professional assistance. The ombudsman cannot decide on a dispute, but may be able to appoint an arbitrator if the parties to the dispute agree to refer the matter to arbitration. The comment was made that the ombudsman can engage the services of consultants if he needs expert advice.

In the light of all that and in a spirit of inquiry, I shall be grateful if the Minister can take the opportunity to expand on the point that he made at Report stage in his assurances that my amendment was not in fact necessary. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I very much hope that I can give the noble Baroness the comfort that she desires. The housing ombudsman's powers will be primarily concerned with issues of maladministration, but they may go wider. He may consider any complaints. He may be required to consider what are the facts of the case. The terms of membership of an ombudsman scheme will be that the landlord has his own complaints procedure, which would also encompass determining matters of fact. Finally, if there were an issue which was outside the ombudsman's terms of reference and it concerned succession rights, that would be a matter which the Housing Corporation could look at as it might constitute a failure to comply with the tenant's guarantee. It could take action. It could, for instance, make an appointee or institute an inquiry if that were warranted.

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I am sure that the noble Baroness understands our basic position. The tenant's guarantee is the right way, in general, to approach such questions where housing associations are concerned. I am sure that the noble Baroness understands that we stick to that principle. Nonetheless, I appreciate her concerns and hope that I have given her sufficient answer to reassure her that such matters will, in practice, be dealt with.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am not sure about that. The noble Lord says that he hopes that he can give me what I desire. I expect that he, like probably all other noble Lords in the Chamber, including myself, desires at least a tea-break. However, the interests of the nation take precedence.

I am not sure that the noble Lord has answered my points, but at any rate honour is satisfied. I have had another go. It may be that, as a result of reading what has been said, further help will be available in the future. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 33:


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