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Baroness Hamwee: I am sure that many professionals will find that explanation helpful, as do I.

Lord Avebury: Before my noble friend withdraws the amendment, the Minister said that it is important that the provisions should be well understood. Of course I absolutely agree, because the effect of withdrawal of those rights might be that the tenant starts to behave himself. It is probably clear, but so as to get it on the record, what provision is there in the Bill or otherwise for the tenant to be told verbally that the effect of his continuance in the conduct that is causing the landlord to consider the measure will, among other things, be that he will lose the right to buy?

If it is physically explained to him, that may have a more salutary effect than if it is simply information contained in leaflets available to someone who goes to

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ask for them from the local authority, as an entry on the local authority website, or in any other form of publication of which the tenant may be unaware. If it is explained verbally to him, that may be the most effective way to ensure that it has the impact for which the Minister hopes and which we all consider to be the objective of the clause.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, supports the intention behind the provision. We intend to ensure that the impact of demoted tenancies and of the loss of accrual of rights is well understood. We have had a long discussion about guidance and whether things should be stated in the Bill or made explicit in guidance. We certainly intend to spell out the policies and procedures in guidance, and clarifying and making crystal clear to tenants what a demoted tenancy implies in terms of rights and loss of rights will form part of that. So be pleased that we intend to make that explicit; that will help us and others affected by anti-social tenants to understand the impact and import of that change.

Baroness Hamwee: My noble friend stated much more clearly what I rather rushed over: the need for tenants to have an explanation of the effects. He was absolutely right to draw the Committee's attention to issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 64:

    Page 54, line 39, leave out from "possession" to end of line 40 and insert "if it is satisfied—

(a) that conduct under the inserted section 153A or 153B of the Housing Act 1996 has taken place since the making of the demotion order, and
(b) that the procedure under the inserted sections 143E and 143F has been followed"

The noble Lord said: This little group of amendments deals with proceedings for possession and, among other things, is intended to ensure that, under the Bill, at least, possession can be sought only for matters that relate to anti-social behaviour. Amendments Nos. 64 and 65 refer to new Section 143D to be inserted into the Housing Act 1996. Amendment No. 64 would specifically ensure that proceedings for possession were not commenced on a procedure-only basis, but that the court would have to have regard to the conduct of the tenant and would need to be satisfied that anti-social behaviour had occurred, rather than just ensuring that the procedure was correct. We are again dealing with the question of security. Amendment No. 65 would insert a test of reasonableness. Amendment No. 66 concerns new Section 143E, which deals with notice of proceedings for possession. It would ensure that, again, grounds for possession are related to anti-social behaviour and possession is not granted for rent arrears, and so on.

Amendment No. 67 is a good, common-sense amendment. It is hoped that it will dissuade landlords from using the legislation too freely, as it requires continued good behaviour.

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I do not wish to give the impression that all landlords will abuse their position and try to get rid of tenants frivolously; the vast majority will not. When push becomes shove in this area, on occasion, you are dealing with human relationships, which are fallible on both sides—tenants and landlords. We tabled the amendments, not with the specific intention of protecting the tenant, but also to protect the landlords—in both cases, from themselves rather than from each other. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am sorry to say that we have been over this territory when dealing with the amendments grouped with Amendment No. 61, so I have not much more to add. I do not want to get into the habit of useless repetition. The amendments would require all landlords to return to court to prove again that there has been further anti-social behaviour. Earlier, I ran through the reasons why I felt that that was unnecessary.

Noble Lords opposite, when considering the outcome of this Committee, might wish to think about these amendments. If we had to run with them, it would make possession proceedings extremely time-consuming and costly. Those are important considerations. I do not think that the local government sector would welcome additional costs being lumbered on it in this regard when trying to make good use of something on which it is very keen; namely, demoted tenancies.

Perhaps the noble Lord would reflect on that point before Report stage. On those terms, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendments.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I was aware that we had gone over the ground. Speaking simply as a farmer, this year the ground is particularly hard and requires a great deal of tilling. I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I let a little of that rub off on him. We will take care to study the Minister's reply. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 65 to 68 not moved.]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 69:

    Page 60, line 28, at end insert—

"( ) In section 171B (extent of preserved right to buy) after subsection (1) there is inserted the following subsection—
"(1A) A person to whom this section applies ceases to have the preserved right to buy if the tenancy of a relevant dwelling-house becomes a demoted tenancy by virtue of a demotion order under section 6A of the Housing Act 1988.""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 70:

    Page 60, line 37, after first "of" insert "section 20B of the Housing Act 1988 or"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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[Amendment No. 71 not moved.]

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Demoted assured shorthold tenancies]:

[Amendment No. 72 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Proceedings for possession: anti-social behaviour]:

[Amendments Nos. 73 to 74A not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 75 not moved.]

Clause 18 [Parenting orders under the 1998 Act]:

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 77:

    Page 17, line 10, leave out "for a concurrent period exceeding three months" and insert "during that time"

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 77 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 78, 81, 82, 88, 90 and 99, all of which relate to issues concerned with parenting, parenting orders, contracts and the counselling and advice services offered under such orders and contracts.

Amendment No. 77 is in fact a minor amendment, the main purpose of which is to question why it is laid down by statute that the counselling and guidance programme under the parenting order shall not exceed three months. On the face of it, one would have thought that a programme ought to go on longer. Many parents find it very helpful to have advice and help with parenting, and the longer it goes on, very often the more helpful they find it. In any case, subsection (4)(b) also provides that the programme shall be as specified by the responsible officer. My reaction would have been to expect it to last not less than three months. Why, therefore—perhaps the Minister can explain this to us—should the programme and advice not exceed three months?

Amendments Nos. 78 and 88 both seek to specify that the counselling and support offered to parents in these circumstances should be appropriate. Again, it is a minor amendment, but one that seeks to ensure that local authorities take this role seriously. We know from the experience to date that parenting classes have in fact proved a very useful and effective tool in helping to fight anti-social behaviour among young people. Some parents get intimidated even by their own children and either fail to control them at all or respond to violence with violence. Helping such parents learn how to manage their own children helps them and helps their children. However, it is important that thought is given as to what sort of help is appropriate. In effect, the amendments are saying, "Not just any old parenting classes that happen to be going on in the locality but the sort of advice and counselling that is geared to their needs and to their families' needs".

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Amendments Nos. 81 and 82 pick up the issue of family needs. Clause 19 relates to cases where a child has been excluded from school and is also a persistent truant. The aim is to use the parenting contract to try to turn the situation around. Here the aim is to ensure that before embarking on a parenting contract, the school and the LEA have investigated the case and made an attempt to get to the root of the problems. A parenting contract is not, for example, of much use if the fundamental issue underlying truancy is bullying at school. So, again, what this amendment is saying is, "Be careful". Parenting orders are not necessarily panaceas for all behavioural problems. Make sure that it is an appropriate one.

Amendment No. 90 is appropriate in a week in which we have had the Green Paper on children. It is asking for a recognition that parenting problems are part of a wider pattern of family breakdown that requires attention not just of schools but also of the social services and the housing and the health authorities. The issues are frequently complex and require the co-operation and working together of all these authorities. It is no good just relying on the LEA to institute parenting classes; it has to be a co-operative effort. So what I am hoping the Minister will acknowledge is the need for this co-operative effort, as indeed the Green Paper lays down; I also hope that he will recognise that it is sometimes useful to reinforce the message by writing it on to the face of the Bill.

Finally, Amendment No. 99 seeks to ensure that parents themselves are given some say and are provided with information about the range of counselling and advice services available in their area. Once again, it is a question of not just trying to fit square pegs into round holes—not to push them into any old parenting class—but to let them know the range of advice services available and let them choose or at least play some part in choosing what is appropriate to their needs.

It is the old principle of choice and ownership. If we expect people to give up their leisure time to attend and make use of classes and advice sessions voluntarily, it makes sense to give them a choice in the sort of sessions in which they participate. I beg to move.

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