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Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for that response, which I shall study with great care. The whole purpose of today's procedureif it has one at allis to tease out from the Government exactly what they mean and how they intend the Bill to work. This has been a useful follow-on discussion from the previous one. There is no point in pursuing the matter particularly hard. I shall study that explanation in the
The aim of Amendments Nos. 38, 39, 40 and 42 is to clarify who is eligible to be protected by injunctions under new Section 153A of the Housing Act 1996. We want to support landlords who wish to do more than manage or protect their own tenants and take action to tackle anti-social behaviour more generally in the neighbourhoods in which their properties are situated. We do not of course expect social landlords to carry out general policing of their areas. That is why we have said that there must be a link with their housing management function.
Our policy intention throughout has been that social landlords should be able to apply for injunctions to protect tenants, leaseholders and anyone else who occupies property owned or managed by a relevant landlord; to protect staff providing housing management and related services on behalf of the landlord; to protect visitors engaged in lawful activity in the locality, including operatives working there; and, finally, to protect other residents in the area, including owner-occupiers and tenants of other landlords.
However, concerns have been expressed that the wording originally used in the Bill was too similar to that in Section 152 of the Housing Act 1996 which, in some cases, has been given a narrower interpretation than our policy intention by the courts. These amendments clarify our intentions. They will ensure that where the courts judge it necessary, all the groups that I have mentioned can be protected by a new Section 153A injunction.
Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 also ensure that injunctions are available to protect residents in the area even if they are temporarily absent from their homes. So, for example, if someone has been forced out of their home by racial or sexual harassment, an injunction under new Section 153A should be available to protect them if they wish to return. It is for those reasons that I shall seek to move Amendments Nos. 38, 39, 40 and 42.
Amendment No. 41 seeks to provide absolute precision about the area within which injunctive protection can be given to visitors and others. At the moment, judicial discretion in each individual case determines "locality". That is as it should be. Replacing this with a fixed distance could have some strange and anomalous consequences. Perpetrators could wait for someone to step over an imaginary line in the pavement, knowing that the person's protection
The effect of Amendment No. 44 would be that protection could be given only where the anti-social behaviour happened in the housing accommodation or its locality. This would have a series of undesirable consequences.
It is not our intention that social landlords should police the activities of perpetrators of anti-social behaviour wherever they are, regardless of the circumstances. Where behaviour happens outside of the locality, there must be some link to the housing management function. However, there are numerous incidents where such a link is easy to establish and where it is perfectly reasonable for a landlord to seek to protect the victim.
For example, our intention is that a housing officer who has refused a tenant a transfer could be protected if the aggrieved tenant later sees him in a supermarket some miles away and attacks him. The effect of the amendment would be that such protection would not be available. Similarly, if, following a neighbour dispute, a tenant assaults another tenant outside her child's school, the victim should not be refused the protection of an injunction with a power of arrest simply because the violent conduct took place away from her home. The dispute clearly related to the landlord's housing management function.
Amendment No. 48 reflects concerns as to whether an injunction to exclude someone from his or her normal place of residence has to meet the criteria in new Section 153C(1)that is, that the conduct involves violence, threatened violence or a risk of harm. I can assure the Committee that new Section 153E is supplementary to new Sections 153A to 153D. The power to exclude in new Section 153E(2) applies only if the criteria in new Section 153C(1) are met. I hope that the noble Lord is following this. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.
Amendment No. 49 has no practical effect. New Section 153D already provides that "tenancy agreement" includes any agreement for the occupation of residential accommodation. Accordingly, a licence to occupy is already covered and a further definition is unnecessary.
New Section 153E(10), to which Amendment No. 50 refers, defines a landlord as the "owner" of a property if the landlord's original lease of the housing accommodation was for longer than three years. This definition is used because it mirrors the definition of "owner" used in various other statutory provisions, including Section 56 of the Housing Act 1985.
I know that the noble Lord has not yet spoken to his amendments but I hope that, when he comes to do so, he will not feel it necessary to press them. I thought I should cover his amendments when speaking to the government amendments, which are in the same territory. I beg to move.
Lord Dixon-Smith: We always have procedural difficulties when opposition amendments are grouped with government amendments. The Minister is correct to attempt to cover all the points before we have an opportunity to say whatever it is we want to say.
I shall confine myself to saying that the purpose of Amendment No. 41 was to probe the Government and to tease out of them what is the intended meaning of the word "locality". I accept that if a feud between tenants extends out to the neighbouring supermarket, cinema or pub, which might be some distance away, there is a problem. It may well be that you will want to take out an injunction against both parties because, if you get to that situation, obviously anti-social behaviour has been going on for some time.
Amendment No. 44 follows on from a point that I raised earlier. We are here dealing with an "immaterial" issue. The Minister himself said that the provision did not matter. If it is immaterial and does not matter, what are we doing putting immaterial provisions that do not matter on the face of the Bill? I cannot claim to have won the previous argument but we need to consider the drafting of the legislation. This issue has been raised in other contexts and it seems that putting immaterial provisions into Bills is not the best use of everyone's time, including the draftsmen's time.
It is for those reasons that I have tabled the amendments. It has not been an entirely wasted effort. The Minister may wish to add a few words to what he has said, but I shall forgive him if he does not feel the need.
Baroness Hamwee: Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 in this group are in my name. Amendment No. 48 is a probing amendment and follows a point made in the Commons Standing Committee by my honourable friend Matthew Green. In moving a similar amendment, he was told by the Minister:
With regard to Amendment No. 49, I declare an interest. I have been involved over a long period with the domestic violence charity Refuge, but I have not had the opportunity of discussing this with it. The amendment is drawn from my experience and may not be precisely right, but I would like to explore the point. It provides that for the purposes of new Section 153D a licensor of housing accommodation is also the relevant landlord and that the provisions of new Section 153D would apply to its licensees.
Refuge will not be the only organisation that licenses hostel accommodation but does not fall within the definition of "landlord". I have seen these licence agreements. Under the licence agreement it can deal with evicting a tenant who displays anti-social behaviour but may not be able to deal with the partner of a tenant who follows the womanit is usually the male partnerand may threaten violence in the refuge. That is a problem for the individual woman. It is also very distressing to other women in the refuge and their children.
I have not had the opportunity to discuss this with Refuge, although I would like to. It will be one of many licensors of hostel accommodation. If we are addressing the use of this legislation to extend beyond tenants to those with whom they associate, I would like to use the opportunity to explore whether there is another little area of difficulty which ought to be addressed when we have the legislative opportunity. That is my reason for tabling the amendment.
I am not sure whether I have described the problem as adequately as I might have done. If a word outside the Chamber would assist, I would be happy to oblige.
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