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Lord Bassam of Brighton: I do not think I have very much to add. I thought that in dealing with Amendment No. 49 I had made it plain that in using the term "tenancy agreement", we included any agreement for the occupation of residential accommodation. I rather hoped that that covered the noble Baroness's point. Perhaps she would like to reflect on that; she has said that she wants to think more about how that issue is covered in the legislation. I thought, too, that I had already covered the points she raised in my response to Amendment No. 48. I am not sure or confident that I can offer her any further elucidation.

I think I am right in saying that I am a victim of the way in which these amendments have been grouped, as I responded to one which was not in the group. My comments on Amendment No. 50, which stands on its own, were included in my commentary. I got rather carried away, I confess. If I do not say very much on the next amendment, noble Lords will appreciate why. This has been a useful debate in teasing out the various issues.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 39 and 40:

    Page 10, line 21, at end insert—

"( ) a person with a right (of whatever description) to reside in or occupy other housing accommodation in the locality of the housing accommodation mentioned in paragraph (a);" Page 10, line 22, leave out "visiting the housing accommodation or otherwise"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 42:

    Page 10, line 24, at end insert "mentioned in paragraph (a)"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 43 to 49 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 50:

    Page 12, line 19, leave out "three years" and insert "one year"

The noble Lord said: I was slightly surprised to hear Amendment No. 50 tripping from the Minister's lips in the previous group. Perhaps he would give it a little more attention when he hears my reason for moving it.

One phenomenon, which is not unknown, is for property to be purchased for things such as highway improvements which then do not take place for some years. In that circumstance, they are in the possession and usually come within the responsibility of the local authority, sometimes as landlord, and it can be for a period of less than three years, perhaps for as little as one year. None the less, this provides a very useful housing facility for housing authorities in certain circumstances. Such properties can be used for particular tenants or as short-term student accommodation—there are a host of reasons.

That is what lies behind my suggestion that a period of one year was rather better than three. One gets these peculiar short-term occupations and ownership of property by local authorities that are less than the three-year term defined by the Bill. Such short-term use should not be excluded from the Bill, as it is at present by the restrictions it contains. If the Minister will simply confine himself to saying that he will look at that, I should be quite content. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I would be more than happy to do as the noble Lord suggests, if it were not for my punchline that the amendment is unnecessary. It is unnecessary because the definition that we use has been commonly used, particularly in Section 56 of the Housing Act 1985. In any event, Clause 13 allows social landlords who own or manage properties the power to apply for the injunctions introduced by virtue of that clause. Even if the social landlord is not classified as the owner of that particular property, he will still be the manager and therefore able to use the powers.

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I understand the noble Lord's point. I can think of housing that may not have been subject to the three-year category for which it may be wished to use the powers. However, that eventuality is covered. The noble Lord is astute to make reference to property on highways land as often falling within those circumstances. That is quite right—I can think of several good examples within his own county of Essex.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful for that reassurance. I shall consider the matter again but I am quite happy now, in the circumstances, not to press it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 51 not moved.]

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14 [Security of tenure: anti-social behaviour]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 52:

    Page 13, line 34, after "house" insert "at the invitation of the tenant"

The noble Lord said: The amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 57, which has the same point in mind.

The Bill refers to anti-social behaviour by visitors to the property. The problem is how to define a visitor. That is an important point because if tenants occupying a property invite someone in, they clearly have some responsibility for that person. I have no difficulty with that, which is why we have used the words,

    "at the invitation of the tenant".

However, one may get unwanted visitors, such as salesmen. One might be visited by a jilted lover, who might simply want to raise Cain and cause trouble. One might be visited by a divorced spouse with the same ambition, particularly if he or she knows or thinks that it would be possible to get away with it. It is necessary to make a distinction between those who are invited and who are therefore clearly the responsibility of the tenant and those who are not invited and may be there with the deliberate intent of mischief-making. That is an important point that should be in the Bill for the protection of perfectly good and responsible tenants. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The noble Lord touches on a slightly tricky issue—there is no question of that. Whether the amendment is the right way in which to deal with it, and whether it is something that could be dealt with by drafting, is an open question.

The aim of Amendments Nos. 52 and 57 is to prevent a demotion order being granted based on the actions of a visitor, except where the visitor comes to the dwelling house at the invitation of a tenant. That is the exeat that the noble Lord is trying to introduce. The amendment may have arisen from concerns that a tenant should not be held responsible for the actions of a person whom he has not invited to the property. However, the amendment is unnecessary, and I shall briefly explain why.

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A demotion order cannot be granted unless the judge considers it reasonable to do so. Considerations of reasonableness will include looking at the relationship that the tenant has with the visitor and the reason for the visitor's presence in the property. It would not be right to grant an order if it was unreasonable for the tenant to have any responsibility for the actions of the visitor, whether that visitor is a salesman or saleswoman, a drug dealer or a party political canvasser—although I cannot imagine circumstances in which anyone would take fright at that. The judge will take account of reasonableness, and the order will not be granted if the judge feels that it would be unreasonable for the tenant to have responsibility for the actions of the visitor.

The amendment could have harmful effects, allowing tenants to escape demotion merely by offering the explanation that they had not, on that particular occasion, invited that particular visitor. Friends and family may not expect or require a specific invitation, but they are visitors none the less.

The noble Lord is properly motivated in introducing the amendment, but we do not believe that it is necessary. The amendment could have unfortunate and unintended consequences that would undermine the demotion order, which is extremely important to the whole construct of the anti-social behaviour legislation.

Lord Dixon-Smith: The Minister's arguments are seductive but, if my amendments are not accepted, another unfortunate consequence might result that would be the match of the one that he described. Some poor unfortunate may finish up in court before a judge, before the judge can make a judgment and reject the case. That is all very well, but for most ordinary people the thought of appearing before a judge is terrifying. We really do not want unnecessary cases to go before judges because someone has arrived at a house who is genuinely not a member of the household, may have raised trouble and may have done so persistently—despite the lack of need for that word.

I am not wholly convinced by the Minister. I accept that there is a possibility of difficulty arising but if we could have some discussion between now and a further stage of the Bill, we might be able to reach an accommodation. However, as I say, I am not wholly convinced that the Bill as it stands is satisfactory.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: There is a test of reasonableness in practice. It may help the noble Lord to consider how the provision works in the exercise of ground two possession proceedings under Schedule 1 to the Housing Act 1985. The noble Lord will be familiar with that legislation. In 18 years there have been few problems with regard to the way in which the test of reasonableness is exercised. The noble Lord has set me the challenge of continuing to think about the matter. We shall do so but it may help him to consider how the provision has operated with regard to ground two possession proceedings.

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