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Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 39:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 213 [Article 95 alerts: transitional provision]:

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 40:

    Page 122, line 12, leave out "and 50(3)(b)" and insert ", 50(3)(b), 191(3) and 192(2)(a)"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor drafting amendment which is consequential on government amendments that the House agreed on Report. I apologise for the fact that the omission was not picked up then. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

The Bill is longer and better than it was when it entered the House by almost 250 amendments. I thank all Members of the House who have contributed to the process. We had a good Committee process and some proper challenges. I pay particular tribute to noble Lords on the Front Benches opposite, who worked purposefully on the Bill, and to the officials who have supported us. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Filkin.)

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Anti-social Behaviour Bill

6.19 p.m.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, before the Deputy Speaker calls the next group of amendments, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that, Her Majesty having been informed of the purport of the Anti-social Behaviour

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Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Bill read a third time.

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

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 14, line 21, at end insert—

"( ) Section 83 of that Act is amended as follows—
(a) in subsection (1) for the words from "the possession" to the second "tenancy" substitute "an order mentioned in section 82(1A)";
(b) in subsection (2)(b) for the words from "an order" to "tenancy" substitute "the order";
(c) after subsection (4) insert—
"(4A) If the proceedings are for a demotion order under section 82A the notice—
(a) must specify the date after which the proceedings may be begun;
(b) ceases to be in force twelve months after the date so specified.";
(d) in subsection (5) for "or (4)" substitute "(4) or (4A)"."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at Report, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised the issue of whether landlords were required to issue a notice to tenants informing them of the intention to seek a demotion order.

Demotions seek to be a preventive tool, as well as a final warning to tenants. In some cases, only the threat of loss of security of tenure is sufficient to make tenants realise the seriousness of their actions. Receiving a notice of the landlord's intention to seek demotion will impress upon the tenant that the landlord means business. In some cases, it may be sufficient on its own to bring about a change in behaviour and enable the landlord to avoid legal action altogether. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, therefore, require landlords to serve notice before issuing demotion proceedings and specify the information which the notice should contain.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for bringing this matter to our attention and enabling the Government to bring forward these amendments.

I shall refrain from making any comments on the amendments grouped with Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 until they have been spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I must apologise to the House regarding Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. I noticed last night that, in translation, an error had crept in. I was about to ask for them to be withdrawn but there was a conversation with the Bill team and I understand that the Minister has an answer to what the amendments should have been. Given that this is the last stage of the Bill, I am grateful for his help. However, I apologise to all concerned. The amendments should say "should only" instead of "shall"—it makes rather a difference.

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The amendments are to the clause covering proceedings for possession. They were tabled to make a request for guidance to the effect that fast-track eviction proceedings available for demoted tenancies should be used not for any reason other than for further anti-social behaviour.

We referred to this issue at Report; I expressed concern that tenants whose tenancy had been reduced to a demoted tenancy could, at the next stage, lose their homes as a result of a breach of more stringent tenancy conditions such as rent arrears. I am told by Shelter that this happens in the case of tenants placed on introductory or starter tenancies, where there are many parallels.

At Report, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, suggested that a landlord who put his energy into seeking a demoted tenancy would do so because it would be a real chance to work with the tenant to improve behaviour. Of course, we all hope that that would be the effect of demotion. The noble Lord said that that kind of landlord would not subsequently seek to end the demoted tenancy on a whim. I am told by Shelter that it would like to share the Minister's view but, on the basis of its experience, it is unable to do so. So I am asking for an assurance that guidance will make it clear that final possession of a demoted tenancy should be sought only for further behaviour capable of causing nuisance or annoyance.

It is easy for landlords to evict tenants under the parallel introductory tenancy regime. The court there has no discretion and the landlord simply follows the fast-track procedure. I hope that the Minister can provide some assistance at this late stage.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for listening to what we said about demotion orders. I thank the noble Baroness in particular for the two letters she wrote on the subject—one to myself on 5th November and one to my noble friend Lady Hamwee on 11th November. They set out very clearly how the Government saw this development occurring and how the threat of the demotion order would, in many cases, be quite sufficient to enable the tenant to comply with reasonable conduct and not to need the imposition of the demotion order.

As a result of the Government's amendment, we very much hope that many tenants who would otherwise have received demotion orders will be heedful of the notice which will precede it and it will never become necessary to serve the order. We are most grateful to the Government for the consideration of the arguments that were made on Report.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his kind words. I pay tribute to the noble Lord for the way in which he has conducted himself during the course of the Bill's proceedings in raising important and sharp points.

I shall now respond to Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. I suppose, in a sense, I am agreeing with the noble Baroness that her amendments are defective. They

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would not achieve their aim, which appears to be that demoted tenancies might be ended only for a further instance of anti-social behaviour.

Placing the amendments in Clause 16 is an error. Clause 16 deals with the discretion a court may exercise, while the amendments seek to deal with the discretion that a landlord may exercise. Clause 16 deals with the court's discretion to grant a possession order on the existing grounds of nuisance under Section 84 of the Housing Act 1985 in respect of secure tenants or under Section 7 of the Housing Act 1988 in respect of assured tenants.

The amendments are rather curious in respect of local authority demoted tenants, because Section 84 of the Housing Act 1985 does not apply to the ending of a demoted tenancy because demoted tenants are not secure tenants. Section 7 of the Housing Act 1988 does apply to demoted assured shorthold tenants but, if the landlord was seeking possession using ground 2 of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988, he would already need to provide evidence of anti-social behaviour. It would then be a matter for the court to decide whether to exercise its discretion to grant the possession order.

Irrespective of the drafting issues, I can see that the noble Baroness is seeking to require landlords to act in accordance with statutory guidance to the effect that the landlord should seek possession of a demoted tenancy only where there has been a further instance of anti-social behaviour rather than for any other reason, such as rent arrears.

The Government do not support such an approach in any event. A demoted tenancy is just that—a lesser form of tenancy where the tenant has forfeited certain rights. Once those rights are forfeited, it is our intention that tenants can regain them only by proving that they are responsible enough to be in receipt of those rights. That includes a general obligation to maintain their tenancy responsibly.

Landlords seeking to end a demoted tenancy do not need to use the "nuisance" grounds for possession in any event. Both local authority demoted tenancies and demoted assured shorthold tenancies can be ended without proof of anti-social behaviour. In the case of local authority demoted tenancies, the landlord has to follow the procedure set out in the new Sections 143D, 143E and 143F, introduced into the Housing Act 1996 by Schedule 1 of the Bill.

In the case of demoted assured shorthold tenancies, registered social landlords are automatically entitled to a possession order if they have given a required notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1998. That is usually a two-month notice. For the demoted tenancy to have a deterrent effect, tenants must be under no illusion that the effect of demotion orders is that they receive a very insecure form of tenancy. The onus is then on them to prove to their landlord's satisfaction that they are responsible tenants. If the landlord is not satisfied for any reason, including the accumulation of rent arrears, the tenancy may—and "may" is the important word—be ended swiftly.

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I hear what the noble Baroness says on the matter. There is a disagreement between us, but in this grouping we have gone some way to helping noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I am grateful to our colleagues from the Liberal Democrat Benches for their support in part of what they are doing, but there are areas of policy in which we frankly disagree; and this is one of them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 15, line 1, at end insert—

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