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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for moving the amendment in that way and giving us an explanation of the thinking behind it. I am also grateful to her for putting on record her reflections on the effect of the demotion orders on right-to-buy. It is refreshing to know from where colleagues are coming on that issue.

The amendments would prevent the court granting a demotion order unless an anti-social behaviour injunction is already in force against the tenant. They would encourage the use of injunctions over the use of demotions. Demotion and injunctions are intended to be free-standing options which the social landlord would be able to use separately or in combination depending on what was most appropriate in the circumstances. I think that the noble Baroness understands that we are trying to use powers that fit the purpose and match how the problem is perceived by the victims. It may often be a good idea for landlords to seek injunctions before taking other action.

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In cases of low-level, persistent anti-social behaviour, however, a demotion order may be more appropriate than an injunction—the loss of the right to buy may mean more to some anti-social tenants than the imposition on them of an anti-social behaviour injunction, especially if they were about to send in their right-to-buy application form. It would not be helpful for landlords or those suffering from anti-social behaviour if the power to obtain demotions were restricted in the way suggested in the amendment.

Demoted tenancies are a new measure that act as a punishment but are also used—as the noble Baroness said—as a last chance. We know that tenants hold their security dear. They have argued ferociously for it in the past and rightly obtained it, but sometimes only the threat of the loss of that security can make them alter their behaviour. The amendments make achieving demotion a two-step process, which is in no one's best interests. It could lengthen the amount of time a community has to suffer from a particularly unpleasant form of anti-social behaviour and would waste landlords' and the courts' time and resources. That is not a sensible approach when it is already possible for a landlord to seek both remedies when it is appropriate to do so.

Finally, it would make demotion orders harder to obtain than possession orders. In those circumstances most landlords will choose to ignore demotion orders and apply for possession orders which would lead to more evictions and could increase levels of homelessness. I do not think that the noble Baroness intends that, but that could fulfil the unintended law of consequences. Having heard that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will reconsider her amendment and feel happy to withdraw it.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, before the Minister sits down—I thought that he was looking a bit pained, but I genuinely want information on this point—is there anything in the Bill that requires the local authority or social landlord to serve notice on the tenant that they intend to issue a demotion order, so that the deterrent effect of the order might be felt by the tenant without having to serve it?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am not sure whether that is specified in the Bill, but it may be set down in rules of procedure. If the noble Lord will bear with us, we will take that point away and make sure that he is furnished with a more precise answer.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have a feeling that, if I talk for a moment, we may have the answer—perhaps not.

The Minister said, and I hope that I wrote this down correctly, that with low-level anti-social behaviour, demotion may be the more appropriate response. I am puzzled by that. In an earlier debate, he talked about the distinction between an injunction and a possession order. He said that an injunction is not a sanction in the same way—it is not a penalty. I am not sure that what he has said on this occasion is entirely consistent. However, my noble friend raised an interesting point

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about how the procedures flow. We will wait for the response and examine the whole package. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 23:

    Page 13, line 41, at end insert—

"(4A) A demotion order may contain conditions for the landlord to provide or secure the provision of support and rehabilitation services as appropriate to the tenant or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house who has engaged or has threatened to engage in conduct to which section 153A or 153B of the Housing Act 1996 (anti-social behaviour or use of premises for immoral or unlawful purposes) applies."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 23, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 25. The first applies to a secure tenancy and the second to an assured tenancy. The purpose of both is to give the courts discretion to include the provision of support and rehabilitation as part of the conditions of a demotion order.

In Committee in the Commons, the Minister explained—they were his words before they were mine—that the policy intentions behind demoted tenancies were to give the tenant a last chance to change behaviour. I had absorbed that without realising and it is only now when I look at my notes that I see where that phrase comes from. At the last stage in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said that the proposed amendments linked too closely the provision of support with the demotion order. He said that they were linked, "too closely for us". He was worried that the court would refuse a demotion order if the landlord did not have a support package in place.

There is nothing in the amendments to prevent the court from granting a demotion order without support if the court feels that that is the right thing to do. However, if it thinks that support or rehabilitation is appropriate, a mechanism should be in place to ensure that it is provided. My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones referred to people whose behaviour is the outcome of bad health or other problems. This amendment would give people who are the subject of his remarks a fair chance to alter their conduct with the support that would be needed in that situation. The approach is in line with what I understand to be the Government's aims. As we know and as Shelter has powerfully illustrated, there are some social landlords who do not exempt vulnerable tenants from possession action.

Reference was made this afternoon to the guidance that the Government will issue. Will the Minister, if he is not minded to accept the amendments or something like them, assure the House that the range of intervention work and the circumstances in which a landlord should work with a demoted household or individual tenant will be dealt with in the statutory guidance?

I must also ask a question that properly reflects the concern of the Local Government Association, whose briefing for today I have read. I received the briefing only today, so I have not had an opportunity to check with the association. It is concerned that tenancy

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conditions applying to the original secure tenancy—for instance, clauses on acceptable behaviour—will be applied to a demoted tenancy. Will there be a read-across of such tenancy conditions? Can the Minister confirm that? If he cannot do so today, I ask him to write to me about it. We must find a way of ensuring that those who need to know do know. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the amendments would allow a court to include provisions in a demotion order requiring a landlord to provide support and rehabilitation services to the tenants.

I think that I made it plain earlier that we saw support and preventive work as crucial in tackling the causes of anti-social behaviour. The noble Baroness has acknowledged that. Good practice in such circumstances is to work with the tenant or other members of the household or extended household to help them amend their behaviour. That is what we are trying to effect. In many cases, that will remove the need for legal proceedings. That is an important objective. However, making the consideration of a support package a statutory requirement before a demotion can be used will act as a disincentive for social landlords and others and encourage them to go straight for a possession order.

Before going to court, landlords would need to establish, in every case, whether the tenant would be willing to engage in support, whether the support is readily available and whether the funds required are available. All of that could delay proceedings and leave the victims of the anti-social behaviour angry and distressed. They will not understand why there is what they will regard as a delay. They could understandably and, perhaps, rightly feel that the law put more emphasis on ensuring that the perpetrator of anti-social behaviour is looked after than on their need to live free from its adverse and unpleasant effects, which, as the noble Baroness will recognise, have an impact on their daily life.

We must understand that, as well as being a "punishment", the demoted tenancy is intended to be a preventive homelessness tool. It is intended, as we are agreed, to give the tenant a last chance. If an outright possession order is seen to be easier to obtain than a demotion order, that is what landlords will use, leaving more people homeless.

I shall make the point again because it is important: the amendments could lead to unnecessary legal challenges. I am sure that the noble Baroness will appreciate that, being a lawyer. For example, if the landlord failed to have a complete support package in place at the time of seeking an order, the courts could refuse the order. There would be further delay, more obfuscation and more confusion for those affected by appalling behaviour. Similarly, landlords need the flexibility to change the type of support offered during a demoted tenancy, if the tenant is not responding well. I am sure that that point is well understood. If things are not going according to plan, one needs to adjust one's strategy and make sure that one is doing things that are more appropriate and effective. Ultimately,

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we are trying to achieve a change in behaviour. We must ensure that we do the things that will make that change take place.

The noble Baroness asked specifically about guidance. She knows that we will not give ground on the amendment. Our intention is that there will be guidance on policy and procedures. Best practice will be flagged up. As I said, we expect that best practice will be adopted. I hope that that helps the noble Baroness to accept our arguments and that she will withdraw her amendment.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I will withdraw the amendment, but, before I do, I observe that we seek to avoid a situation in which the problem is shifted, rather than solved. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree. We are talking about demoted tenancies, under which the tenant would stay on the same premises but on different terms, but the point applies generally.

I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Avebury. While we deal with the detailed terminology, he is sitting a couple of rows back thinking about real life and how the system will apply. He did not put it to me this way, but we cannot expect those whose behaviour is the subject of the Bill necessarily to be converted on the road not to Damascus but to Acacia Avenue or a flat in High Point. That will simply transfer the problem to their new neighbours.

The noble Lord said that the amendments would open the way to legal challenge. He said something similar last time. The provisions are intended to be discretionary. If the noble Lord thinks that we have a point, I am not too proud to welcome help with the drafting of the amendments. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 not moved.]

Clause 15 [Demoted assured shorthold tenancies]:

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