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Lord Bassam of Brighton: It would be wrong of me to go so far as to say that there will be a specific requirement. I was hoping that I had created the impression that we want to foster and to encourage more positive and proactive work because we see that as being a very important part, as the noble Baroness said, of a holistic strategy.

4 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Perhaps I may give the Minister another shot on the question of the distribution of information. I accept that if a local authority produces a policy vis-a-vis anti-social behaviour it is in a sense guiding itself if it then gives it to its housing department. Of course it is useful background for any social landlord within its area. That is a good thing. I return to the question of the distribution of information. New Section 218A(5) states:

which is really what the policy will become—

    "must be available for inspection at all reasonable hours at the landlord's principal office; must be provided on payment of a reasonable fee to any person who requests it. The landlord must also . . . prepare a summary of its current policy and procedures",


    "provide [that] without charge to any person who requests it".

Tenants, in particular, should have the words in full and prospective tenants should be aware of their obligations before they become tenants.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, mentioned what can be put in a tenancy agreement. He went on to say that there had unfortunately been a certain amount of reluctance—on too many occasions perhaps—to enforce terms of tenancy agreements. We should make

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sure that these policies are fully and clearly understood by all involved; not on payment of a fee by tenants or people looking to become tenants, but as of right. It is essential information for them to have in order to know their proper obligations.

We are all searching for an appropriate form of words. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. We need to think carefully about the provision, which I do not think is adequate. We shall have to think quite hard about the issue before we come to the next stage of the Bill.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I want to correct an impression given by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. In his response he said that a copy of the statement published under subsection (3) or (4) must be available at all reasonable hours and on payment of a reasonable fee. He should have gone on to the following subsection, which states:

    "The landlord must also prepare a summary of . . . current policy and procedures; [and] provide without charge a copy of the summary".

My guess is that the "without charge summary" will probably provide the accessible information and details for which most of us are searching.

Good landlords in the social sector—I include my former authority—provide their tenants with a good-quality folder with much information. In it tenants will be advised of their responsibilities. Prospective tenants will also, I am sure, receive similar information on making an application. I reinforce that by making the point, which I think I made earlier, that where the legislation refers to "any person", it will definitely cover prospective tenants. We see it, as does the social housing sector, as being critically important that all those who have or are likely to have a tenancy fully understand the obligations that such a tenancy carries.

Tenancies carry very important obligations. I spoke earlier of the difficulties I had in the eighties in trying to put issues relating to premises being used for drug abuse and so on into tenancy agreements. There was resistance because people did not feel that that was appropriate. I did feel it was appropriate because I believed it to be a very important issue for tenants. Tenants were seeking relief from those who abused public housing stock and premises in the ways we have discussed today.

This is the intent of our policy. This is exactly where we are going. We want people positively to understand these things and to understand their responsibilities.

Lord Dixon-Smith: If I was being mischievous—perish the thought—I would suggest that what is happening is that a great deal of time is being spent producing unintelligible statements of policy, which then need further documents, information and pamphlets to explain them to the people who actually have to understand the original documents.

There is complete agreement in principle about what we want to achieve on this issue. The differences between the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and I

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are questions of degree and interpretation. We need to think about this matter again. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 23 to 28 not moved.]

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 29:

    Page 9, line 34, at end insert—

"(10) The policy and procedures shall be in accordance with the duties on the landlord under Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (c. 50) and shall take into account the need for reasonable adjustments for a disabled person under that Act."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 29, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 47, 51 and 59. As the Minister will remember, I raised the issue of discrimination at Second Reading very much in response to representations made by mental health organisations such as MIND and organisations representing those with autism and the parents of those with autism, such as the National Autistic Society (NAS). They were concerned about the operation of the Bill in total, but particularly about housing and anti-social behaviour orders. They were concerned about the context in which those with autism, those with mental health conditions and, indeed, other conditions such as Tourette's Syndrome, operate within society and the level of understanding that people do or do not have about them and the way that that behaviour is expressed. For example, a person with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) can sometimes display challenging as well as obsessive and ritualistic behaviour. There is no doubt about that. Quite often that kind of behaviour can be interpreted as being anti-social.

NAS and others are concerned that the provisions in the Bill could lead to people with autism being wrongly treated. It is too much to say "actually criminalised", but certainly wrongly treated in those circumstances. That could equally apply to those with schizophrenia, other mental health conditions and other challenging conditions.

The noble Baroness—I am grateful to her for her courtesy—wrote me a full letter on a number of aspects that I raised at Second Reading. She also dealt with the issue of the Disability Discrimination Act, which these amendments are designed to introduce explicitly into this part of the Bill.

I suspect that I am really after assurance from the Minister rather than actual amendments. I am sure she is correct that, if one correctly interprets the Disability Discrimination Act, housing issues, services provided and so on are provided for and therefore this aspect falls within the ambit of that Act. However, at the end of the day, it is a matter of judgment for the judge as to the evidence he takes and the interpretation that he puts upon it. I very much hope that we can read into the debates of the Chamber at least some guidance about how the Disability Discrimination Act will operate in these circumstances.

The landlord has duties under Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act not to discriminate against tenants and to make reasonable adjustments in managing the property.

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The aim of the amendments is to ensure that any challenging behaviour, or behaviour that is perceived as challenging, that arises from a disability is treated with care and that all alternatives are tried before a person is demoted. It cannot be in the public interest nor in the interest of the demoted tenant with mental health problems for him to be made homeless by the Bill. All reasonable avenues of support need to be explored before such a step is taken. The prevalence of discrimination against disabled people, including those with autism, mental illness and other conditions, makes the reverse all too likely. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: I shall briefly support my noble friend. He is talking about groups with hidden disabilities. The argument on disability has moved on slightly because we have got over the idea that the wheelchair symbolises everything. I could mention dozens of groups—for instance, people with learning disabilities—who might be regarded as being threatening to, shall we say, the uninformed—the bigoted, if we are to show them in their true colours. Anything that we do not understand or do not want to understand can be perceived as being frightening.

We have discussed that in relation to every single piece of human rights legislation. The fact that we need to address it in law means that people are not prepared to address it in their own spare time; it is much easier simply to say, "Go away". Unless we have a provision that specifically says, "You must not do this; you cannot do this", people will try to misuse the law. Unless we have some way to say specifically, "This is not able", the provision will be abused.

I know that the noble Baroness received a copy of the letter that my noble friend cited. We are trying to ensure that we can refer to something that says, "This is not the type of group to which we are referring". Let us take the example of someone with learning disabilities who smiles too much and says hello to everyone in the street. When the level of ignorance which we discovered when the child abuse stories were going round, which meant that paediatricians had their houses burnt down, is prevalent, such people are in danger of being persecuted. Can the noble Baroness assure us that something, somewhere will ensure that the Bill cannot be used for such vexatious attacks?

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