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Any payments or allowances paid to councillors for duties performed as councillors shall be index linked to gross local government salary and wage scales.'.-- [Mr. Matthew Taylor.] Brought up, and read the First time.
The new clause is designed largely to express anxiety about the Government's intentions to change the method of paying allowances to councillors and to cap funds available for the purpose. It is ironic that the Government's changes will penalise the most hard-working councillors and reward those who are slothful. The vast majority of councillors are hard-working and unrewarded for it, but a few are not. The irony lies in the fact that the Government incessantly talk of incentives for hard work.
Column 1079The new clause ensures that hard-working councillors who will lose out anyway under the changes will at least be protected against inflation. I hope that the Secretary of State will accept the new clause as a sign of good faith to them.
Mr. Gummer : I cannot possibly agree with the hon. Gentleman's attitude to allowances for councillors. Being a member of a council is a voluntary job, not a paid one. The idea that payment should be organised to reward these people is wholly foreign to the concept that the Government have put forward.
The Government believe it reasonable that there should be some expenses, and we are looking for a form of flat rate allowance to get away from the present system, in which more and more meetings are held so as to claim more and more allowances.
I have no sympathy with the proposal, which betrays a failure to understand how local government should work. We oppose paying councillors, and to link their allowances with the pay increases of local government officers would mean that we were in favour of paid councillors. I hope that the House will reject the proposal.
Mr. Taylor : Nothing that the Minister has said convinces me that he has any intention even of protecting councillors against inflation. He did not answer my point that that rewards sloth. It is therefore difficult to convince me, even at this late hour, that I should withdraw the motion-- [Interruption.] As Conservative Members say that I should not do so, I shall press the matter.
Question put and negatived.
In section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, the following subsection shall be added after subsection (5)--
"The court shall not make an order for possession on Ground 6 in Schedule 2 to this Act if the landlord is a person approved under section 94 of this Act and the dwelling-house was acquired by the landlord under Part IV of this Act".'.-- [Mr. Simon Hughes.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
The new clause would secure protection from eviction in cases in which an approved landlord takes over property under the Housing Act 1988, under what is called tenants' choice. I pursued this suggestion in Committee and on the Floor of the House in the last Session. I continue to pursue it because it is important that tenants whose properties are taken over by private landlords should not be worried that they will be evicted because a landlord wants to develop their homes.
The former Minister with responsibility for housing, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), in the last Session described as a "terrifying prospect" the idea that landlords could evict tenants from council properties they had taken over because they wanted to redevelop them. In an answer given me on 9 November 1988, the Under-Secretary of State suggested that the Government would re-examine the matter. He said that although they intended to require the Housing Corporation to require new landlords not to avail
Column 1080themselves of ground 6 of schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 as a method of gaining possession, none the less they might consider that that would be better dealt with by statute than by contract. 3 am
That raises the issue of which would prevail--the contract or the statute. It is important for the matter to be clear beyond doubt in statute so that it stands no risk of being overruled, if in statute, eviction is permitted. Secondly, as Housing Ministers have admitted to me, there is precedent elsewhere in legislation. Section 34 of the 1988 Act makes clear that statute would overrule a contract. Therefore, it is logical to suggest that in this case the same would apply. If the Government want to be consistent they should amend the statute rather than presume that it would have no force.
Tenants remain highly suspicious that the powers of a new landlord who might take over from the council might be excessive and could easily be abused. In areas such as north Southwark and north Lambeth close to central London and the City, there is no doubt that council housing would be of great interest to landlords wishing to redevelop property for up-market renting or sale with little or no regard for existing tenants.
I hope that after reflection over several months the Government can now accept that to amend statute would remove any possibility of landlords exploiting a dangerous possibility under existing legislation. I hope that the Government will take this opportunity to give tenants complete security, which is what the new clause seeks to achieve.
Mr. Trippier : I shall be brief. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) has accurately described the undertaking that I gave him and the House in November. As the hon. Gentleman knows, in the past the Government have been reluctant to move an amendment to the former Act because we thought that that was unnecessary. However, on reconsideration and bearing in mind the complexity of the matter that the hon. Gentleman has outlined, he will be pleased to learn that we have concluded that an amendment to deal with it and the point in statute is the best course. If he will withdraw his new clause, the Government will prepare a suitable amendment in another place. Our intention is to provide that ground 6 would not be available where the landlord seeking possession has acquired the dwelling house in question under part IV of the Housing Act 1988, where possession is sought from a tenant who prior to acquisition was under part IV a tenant of a public sector landlord.
Mr. Hughes : I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Tenants will be greatly relieved to learn that the Government are willing to amend the law. I look forward to the introduction of an appropriate amendment in another place before long. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed : No. 60 in, page 150, line 27, at end insert--
Column 1081(3A) At the end of paragraph 10(1) (winding up) there shall be added "or, as the case may be, section 221(5)(b) of that Act (winding up of unregistered companies)".'.-- [Mr. Trippier.]
Question put, That the amendment be made :
The House divided : Ayes 108, Noes 17.
Division No. 245] [3.03 am
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Boscawen, Hon Robert
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Emery, Sir Peter
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Morrison, Sir Charles
Moynihan, Hon Colin
Shaw, David (Dover)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. Alan Howarth and