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Lord Dubs: My Lords, I do not wish the Minister to repeat exactly what he said at Committee stage. The hour is late. Normally one thanks a Minister for a concession that he has just made. I cannot do that because he has not made one, but I intend to thank him in advance for the concession he is about to make to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendment No. 172 not moved.]

Clause 124 [Right to request review of decision to seek possession]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 173:

Page 83, line 18, leave out ("a") and insert ("an impartial").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was prophesying. In moving Amendment No. 173, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 174. They are very similar to amendments I moved at Committee stage. This time I seek to ensure that introductory tenants have the safeguard of an impartial review before they are evicted. At Committee stage I sought an independent review.

Under the proposals in the Bill, during the period of the introductory tenancy a landlord will be able to evict a tenant at any time. The landlord will have to obtain a possession order from a court but there will be no defence to the possession proceedings and the landlord will not have to prove to the court that tenancy conditions have been broken. There is nothing in the Bill to indicate on what grounds a landlord would issue such proceedings but debate around the Bill has indicated that the introductory tenancy is intended as a method to enable the speedy eviction of anti-social tenants.

The concern about the introductory tenancy is that it gives considerable power to landlords to make decisions about which tenants are behaving anti-socially and gives the tenant no defence against proceedings which may be unreasonable. There are particular concerns among representatives of disability organisations that people whose behaviour is unusual due to mental illness or disability may find themselves summarily evicted by a landlord who is under pressure from other residents or who is unwilling or unable to try to resolve problems in a more constructive fashion.

The only safeguard given to an introductory tenant faced with possession proceedings is that he is entitled to a review of his case. The Bill proposes, however, that such a review should be carried out by the landlord. Clearly, a review carried out by the landlord who has instigated possession proceedings is unlikely to be impartial and is certainly unlikely to be seen as such by the tenant.

When this issue was discussed in Committee, my noble friend the Minister stressed that there is the option of a judicial review open to tenants who are not satisfied with the internal review carried out by the landlord. This, however, is a very lengthy and costly procedure. If the local authority has to defend a number of judicial review hearings this will take up valuable staff time and cost public money. The tenant involved might also be entitled to legal aid, which would again be a drain on the public purse. Such a review is also unsatisfactory because it takes considerable time. In the meantime what will happen to tenants threatened with eviction? Will they be homeless, or will they be able to remain in their home, perhaps continuing their anti-social behaviour?

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I noticed when reading the account in Hansard of our proceedings last Monday that my noble friend Lord Ferrers moved Amendment No. 18, which lays down a review procedure in Part VI of the Bill. I wonder whether he will bring forward a similar amendment at Third Reading to lay down such an impartial procedure for this part of the Bill if he is not prepared to accept my amendment this evening. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I do not wish to leave my noble friend wondering for too long. Clearly, he will understand that, whatever review procedures we have, we wish to avoid the pitfalls we felt were opened up by the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, introducing delays into the procedure which made introductory tenancies no longer useful in the way that we wish them to be.

At the same time it is essential to ensure that the tenant is treated fairly throughout the process. There will have been negotiations between tenant and landlord in an attempt to resolve matters before the eviction stage is reached, and impending eviction should not come as a surprise to the tenant. Even so, the landlord will be obliged to notify the tenant in writing of his intention to seek a possession order. At that stage the tenant will also learn of his right to request a review of the decision. Such a review must then be completed by the earliest date on which the proceedings against the tenant could begin, which would be 28 days after the notice had been served.

The Government are confident that local authorities will act fairly and impartially at all stages of this procedure. Local authorities are well practised in handling these kinds of problems among their tenants. The Department of the Environment will also be issuing detailed, firm advice to local authorities which will cover all stages of the tenancy, including deciding when to take action, what evidence is required to seek eviction and how a review should be handled.

To supplement the advice on the handling of the review, the Government have decided to bring forward at Third Reading amendments which will provide the Secretary of State with a power to make an order to lay down requirements for the review. We would certainly wish the order to provide that the person who made the original decision to evict should not be involved with the decision-making process in the review. Other matters to be dealt with might be when written or oral representations might be appropriate and whether the tenant might be represented and, if so, by whom. The local authority associations and other interested bodies, including tenants' representative bodies, will be consulted on this.

The Government believe that this strikes the right balance between giving the tenant a fair opportunity to have his case heard and the local authority effecting a prompt eviction in those cases where it has become necessary. We do not consider that to set up an independent review, whether it be styled after the Housing Benefit Review Panel or the child support reviews, is warranted. The additional bureaucracy and

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expense could not be justified when a perfectly good and impartial system of review can be offered through the local authority. We do not believe that there will be many introductory tenants who face eviction, and even fewer will have grounds to dispute their landlord's decision. Within the framework which the secondary legislation will provide such cases will receive a fair hearing. The secondary legislation will also give us the advantage of being able to change the arrangements in time if it proves that any of the worst fears expressed by noble Lords are realised and if partiality is creeping into the decisions being made on introductory tenancies.

I hope that will be sufficient comfort to enable my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I shall certainly withdraw the amendment because those are comforting words indeed. I look forward to seeing the amendment my noble friend proposes to table for Third Reading and hope that I shall not feel it necessary to improve upon it by moving amendments to it. However, at this stage of the Bill and at this stage of the night, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 174 not moved.]

Clause 127 [Cases where the tenant is a successor]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 175:

Page 84, line 35, after ("proceedings)") insert ("or section 17(1) of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (property adjustment orders after overseas divorce, &c.)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendments Nos. 175 to 177 with Amendment No. 5, and to Amendment No. 178 with Amendment No. 168. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 128 [Succession to introductory tenancy]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 176:

Page 85, line 16, at end insert--
("(b) section 17(1) of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (property adjustment orders after overseas divorce, &c.), or
(c) paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 (orders for financial relief against parents).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 129 [Assignment in general prohibited]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 177 and 178:

Page 85, line 23, at end insert--
("(ii) section 17(1) of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (property adjustment orders after overseas divorce, &c.), or
(iii) paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 (orders for financial relief against parents).").
Page 85, line 25, at end insert--
("(3) Subsection (1) also applies to a tenancy which is not an introductory tenancy but would be if the tenant, or where the tenancy is a joint tenancy, at least one of the tenants, were occupying or continuing to occupy the dwelling-house as his only or principal home.").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, having spoken earlier to these amendments, I beg to move them en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 130 [Right to carry out repairs]:

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