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Earl Russell: The Minister suggests that allowing two weeks for the people to find somewhere else to live might drag out the proceedings. Might it not be preferable to drag out the proceedings rather than to drag out the tenants?

Lord Swinfen: I feel that the notice to tenants should be given in some way that they have a record of it. I agree that it is not always appropriate to do it in writing. It may be necessary to use an alphabet sign language for people who have profound hearing problems or a tape for those who have visual problems. There should be some record that they can have in front of them if they need it.

10.00 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I support that. I cannot believe that a local authority would not give notice in writing. It may be that the Government will cover this

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matter through a code of practice or guidance. However, if there is any doubt, it should be written onto the face of the Bill.

Lord Lucas: I shall certainly consider what has been said.

Baroness Hamwee: On the basis that it will be considered, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 261 to 262A not moved.]

Clause 115 agreed to.

Clause 116 agreed to.

Clause 117 [Persons qualified to succeed tenant]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment Nos. 262AA:

Page 75, line 20, leave out ("resided") and insert ("been normally resident").

The noble Earl said: I hope that we can dispose of this briefly. In moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 262AB, which basically covers the same point.

This concerns the conditions for a successor tenant. The Bill states that a person is qualified to succeed the tenant if:

    "he is another member of the tenant's family and has resided with the tenant throughout the period of twelve months".
It occurred to me that that may tend to rule out a child of the previous tenant who was, at the relevant time, a student. That is why I seek to insert the words "normally resident" and to substitute the word "during" for the words "throughout". It may be that my concerns are unnecessary and, if so, I should be happy to be told that. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: I had not addressed myself to the particular concern raised by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. As a matter of general principle, if a particular place is a person's main residence, he is resident there despite the fact that he may be on holiday or away for short periods of time. Obviously that will depend on the exact circumstances.

However, as I said, I had not addressed myself to the question of whether a student away at university would or should qualify for those purposes. I hope that the noble Earl will allow me to write to him on that matter.

Earl Russell: That is precisely the reply for which I had hoped. I am aware of the point which the Minister made about main residence. In view of the way in which my children have been treated in relation to the electoral register, I am aware that people are in great confusion as to whether they normally reside with us or at their universities. That confusion has become much greater over the past five years.

I am merely concerned to suggest that succeeding one's parents in a tenancy is not improper. Therefore, I shall await with great interest the Minister's answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 262AB not moved.]

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Clause 117 agreed to.

Clause 118 [Cases where the tenant is a successor]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 262B:

Page 75, line 33, leave out subsection (2) and insert--
("(2) A tenant to whom the tenancy was assigned in pursuance of a family order is a successor only if the tenant who assigned him the tenancy was a successor.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 263, 263ZA, 263ZAA, 263ZAB, 263ZAH, 263ZAJ, 270C and 270D, and, for good measure, although it is not in the grouping, Amendment No. 276A.

The explanation is probably shorter than reading the list of amendments. They are designed to cover transfers of tenancies in all forms of matrimonial and family proceedings where the effect of the transfer is to assign the tenancy from one spouse or former spouse to another, or from a parent for the benefit of a child under the Children Act 1989, or from an estate.

These are drafting amendments intended to provide a comprehensive definition of "family order", although my noble friend suggests that once the Family Law Bill completes its passage there may need to be yet another revision of the matter. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: These amendments seek to extend references to cover assignments made under other pieces of matrimonial and family legislation which Amendment No. 270C defines under the heading of "family order". I do not propose to dwell on the detail of these amendments now. Amendments with a similar intention but restricted to the Children Act 1989 were debated in another place. An undertaking was given to introduce amendments to this effect at a later stage. As we pointed out then, and as the amendment demonstrates, there are several complex pieces of legislation involved. We wish to ensure that each of these and the consequential effect on both this Bill and existing housing Acts is correctly reflected in any amendment which we bring forward. We will be tabling amendments on Report and in doing so we will reflect on the amendments. I hope that is sufficient reassurance for the noble Baroness to be able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: Of course, I am perfectly happy to return to the matter at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 263 not moved.]

Clause 118 agreed to.

Clause 119 [Succession to introductory tenancy.]

[Amendment No. 263ZA not moved.]

Clause 119 agreed to.

Clause 120 [Assignment in general prohibited.]

[Amendment No. 263ZAA not moved.]

Clause 120 agreed to.

Clause 121 [Right to carry out repairs.]

18 Jun 1996 : Column 278

On Question, Whether Clause 121 shall stand part of the Bill?

Earl Russell: I assure the Committee that my concern with this clause is only probing. I have no objection whatever to the carrying out of repairs. In fact, I am strongly in favour of it. My concern is with the effect of the one year introductory time limit on the carrying out of repairs. It is my experience--and it may be that of some others among Members of the Committee--that builders are occasionally dilatory. If we require people to conduct repairs, perhaps in the last three months of their tenancy, they will be conducting repairs which will be completed in time for the arrival of a new tenant. We may find people showing a little reluctance to repair a property at great expense in ways in which only their successor will benefit. There will be a good many technical problems in pro-rating the cost and, indeed, on occasion in dividing the responsibility which may exercise people quite considerably.

I put down the opposition to the clause in order to find out whether these problems have been foreseen. If they have been foreseen, I wonder whether there is any solution prepared for them, or whether the Government will suggest that it will all be all right on the night. Alternatively, I wonder whether they are going to take the line that this is all the responsibility of the local authorities and that somehow they are bound to solve it. I should like to think that there were some constructive ideas available on how this should be done.

What was once described by the former leader of another place as the process of osmosis, by which information reaches a Minister in this House, is occasionally rather slow in operation so one does have to exercise one's soul in patience. I wait with great interest to know what the Minister is going to say about this. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: I hope I can give some rapid comfort to the noble Earl. On the first point--the effect of the one year period--we expect the vast majority of introductory tenants to go on to secure tenancies. Secondly, what we are dealing with in the right to repair, as at present envisaged, is concerned with things like blocked sinks, unsafe power or light fittings and toilets that do not flush--items that have to be repaired very quickly. The time-scale given for some of those is of the order of 24 hours and really quite short even in relation to an introductory tenancy.

Earl Russell: That is a reassuring reply but if the noble Lord has found that items that have to be repaired quickly are always repaired very quickly he has been luckier than I have, and I congratulate him. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 121 agreed to.

Clauses 122 and 126 agreed to.

Schedule 12 agreed to.

Clause 127 [Index of defined expressions: introductory tenancies]:

[Amendment No. 263ZAB not moved.]

18 Jun 1996 : Column 279

Clause 127 agreed to.

Clause 128 [Extension of ground of nuisance or annoyance to neighbours, &c.]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 263ZABA:

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