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Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 168A

Page 81, line 19, at end insert ("; or
(c) in a case where the authority have adopted the tenancy, a regulated tenant or an assured tenant (otherwise than under an assured short hold tenancy) of the same dwelling-house.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment would add a further exception to the short list of exceptions contained in Clause 119(2) which deals with introductory tenancies. The clause establishes introductory tenancies preventing a tenant of a local housing authority becoming a secure tenant. Subsection (2) sets out two exceptions. However, why should a regulated tenant of a dwelling, for example, which is compulsorily purchased or otherwise acquired from the private sector--perhaps under threat of a CPO--lose his security of tenure if he has lived in the dwelling for a long period? It is the property that has changed, not the tenant.

I suspect that the amendment would be likely to apply only in a relatively few cases. However, it has been drawn to my attention--and I apologise for the fact that this is another starred amendment--that this is a group of people to whom it would be unfair not to give the equivalent protection to that already afforded to those protected under subsection (2). I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, we may be discussing another starred amendment, but the noble Baroness has explained its meaning with admirable clarity which, if I may say so, is something which is entirely usual in her case. A similar amendment was discussed during the Committee stage in another place. I should emphasise that one of the principles behind the introductory tenancy regime is that all tenants should be subject to the trial period, and that there should be no picking and choosing. But we looked very closely at who should be exempt from the new arrangements and have provided exemptions only for established tenants of either a local authority or housing association. Private sector tenants are not subject to the same housing management regime as social landlords. We did not feel that we could therefore make comparisons between a tenant of a local

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authority or registered social landlord and one who has come from the private sector where his or her track record may be difficult to establish.

Introductory tenancies are designed to deal with problems that local authorities and housing action trusts face in their role as social landlords. Therefore it must be right that people with existing social housing tenancies of a secure nature should have the benefit of that continuity. However, where people come from different sorts of tenancy there can be no objection to their being asked to serve the trial period required under an introductory tenancy. As I explained under the previous amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that is required of everyone coming into the system. As the Government have always said, good tenants have nothing to fear from introductory tenancies, and this applies equally to the small minority of tenants who have their tenancies adopted by the local authority. We are sure that in this as in other cases the vast majority of introductory tenancies will become secure. I therefore urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, if I were a tenant in this situation I would object to the slur in that I should not like to be asked to serve time, as it were. However, the Minister has explained the Government's thinking. It is another occasion where we beg to differ. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 168B not moved.]

Clause 120 [Duration of introductory tenancy]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 169:

Page 81, line 31, leave out from ("which") to ("entered") in line 32 and insert ("was").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 170:

Page 81, line 37, leave out from ("which") to ("adopted") in line 38 and insert ("was").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 122 [Proceedings for possession]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 171:

Page 82, line 38, at end insert ("or it is unreasonable to make such an order").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 172. The amendments again are concerned with introductory tenancies. Their purpose is to give the courts discretion not to grant an order for possession if doing so would be unreasonable to the tenant, and to give additional protection to tenants by allowing the court to judge whether in seeking the order the landlord is behaving in an unfair or discriminatory manner.

The Government have made it clear that they accept that local authorities which establish introductory tenancies will need to have fair procedures for dealing with them. The problem is that the individual who may be the victim of these procedures will have no

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legislative defence if it is judged by the individual that the procedures are not fair. His only safeguard to make certain that the local authority is following fair procedures is that the courts should be given an element of discretion.

The issue of introductory tenancies and the way in which they will operate has caused a great deal of concern, as the Minister will know. I rely again on the citizens advice bureaux which have already reported instances where tenants have been threatened with eviction for anti-social behaviour where the full complexity of their situation has not really been considered. That is why there is a fear that these proposals may reduce the security of tenants in a way which is unfair to tenants. It is best to illustrate this by way of one or two examples. There was an instance from Dorset where an 80-year old tenant of a housing association had a son who suffered from manic depression. He lives in accommodation without a bath and visits his mother regularly in order to use her bath. Neighbours complained about his behaviour, and the housing association has threatened to take legal action to evict her if he continues to visit. So an elderly mother has a son with a severe depressive state; the son visits his mother; neighbours complain, and there is a threat that the mother will be evicted because of the son's visits.

I have an example from South Wales. A couple live in a council flat; they have an adult son with a mental health problem. Neighbours have complained about the son's behaviour, and the local authority wanted repossession. When the CAB visited the housing department, it said that it would rehouse the couple but not the son. Quite naturally and understandably, the parents did not want the family split up.

Some examples of threats concern racial harassment. For example, a client in Greater Manchester has five children of mixed race. Since moving into her present home she has been subject to verbal and written abuse. But the police and local authority have told her that they can do nothing. Again there is a danger that if this were an introductory tenancy that would lead to eviction.

I give another example. In south London an elderly Caribbean man was evicted from his council flat for making himself a nuisance to neighbours. However, he believed that he had been racially harassed and strongly contested the allegations made.

These and other examples demonstrate that there are ways in which, at least on the face of it, people can be under pressure. They may well be innocent parties, yet they face eviction. The vulnerable position of introductory tenants means that that could happen all too easily.

I have many other instances that I could cite. What is needed are better procedures for demonstrating complaints of nuisance. I accept that nuisance can exist. I do not say that there are not instances where it is absolutely right that action should be taken against a tenant who behaves in a very anti-social way and makes neighbours' lives miserable. But one needs a balanced approach. One needs to ensure that one is behaving fairly to these people.

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If the courts were to have an element of discretion not to grant an order of possession, they would be able to look into these matters and arrive at a fairer and more balanced conclusion. There may be pressure, and a mistaken and unfair decision may be made to remove a tenant. The courts would provide the necessary safeguard. They would not protect tenants who behave in an anti-social manner but would protect tenants who were the victims of a misunderstanding or of neighbours who complained without all the facts being understood. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I support the amendment. It is odd that the court should not have the power not to make an order if it considered that to do so would be unreasonable. If the court has to make the order whether it likes it or not, as appears to me to be the case, that is not proper justice.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I entirely agree with the last comment.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, we visited this matter at Committee stage with a similar amendment, if not the same one. I have not a great deal to add to what I said then, although if noble Lords wish I can repeat it. It is several pages long and is available in Hansard, but noble Lords present will remember what I said.

We appreciate the point being made but I am sure noble Lords also appreciate that we are not prepared to go down the road proposed by the amendments. They would effectively destroy the utility of introductory tenancies by opening up every case to trial in court in the way that existing ordinary tenancies have to be terminated. They would bring an end to the advantages we seek to gain through introductory tenancies of a quick and simple process.

In the following amendments, my noble friend Lord Swinfen proposes a different route and one which we might explore more fruitfully at this time of night. If noble Lords opposite wish me to go through the full arguments, I shall, but I hope that they understand that I have nothing to say other than what I said in Committee. The needs of vulnerable people whom the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, used to illustrate his argument are important. It is a matter of great moment for us that local authorities and others should take appropriate and sensitive decisions and look after the needs of those people as well of the communities of which they form part. I covered all that at Committee stage and I have nothing else to say.

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