Housing Bill

Clause 27 – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 9th November 1988.

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Lords amendments again considered.

Question again proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng , Brent South

It is like the scene in "The Devil's Triangle" in which the sea captain throws a lifejacket to a drowning man as the sharks begin to circle and at the same time throws in a bucket or two or offal. Nothing is more certain to attract the speculative sharks infesting the landlord and tenant sea than the smell of blood. This legislation has given them the smell of blood. We seek to substitute a raft for the lifejacket. That is all that we seek to do, but we commend it to the House.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) has adequately explained the problem. I shall not delay the House long, as we need to vote on this important matter.

The Government have based the legislation on the belief that they could revive the rented sector. To try to protect themselves from the charge of Rachmanism, which has given them so many problems in the past, they claim to have put in strong safeguards against harassment. We argued throughout the Committee stage that that was not so and we believe that we have proved the point.

Here, I pray in aid one whom I would not normally wish to have on my side—Mr. Hoogstraten, who, in the famous "World in Action" programme, said that he regarded the Bill as a step in the right direction. When I wrote to the then Minister pointing that out, he replied that he did not think that Mr. Hoogstraten understood the Bill. I believe that Mr. Hoogstraten understands the Bill very well, and I assure the House that his solicitors understand it perfectly. As a result of this legislation, they will be able to get evictions far more easily than ever before. With an assured tenancy, all they have to do is to tell the tenant that they intend to carry out major works. They can then get an eviction just like that—no court case, nothing.

The Minister intervened on my point about legal aid. Some Conservative Members believe that the relationship between landlord and tenant should be a simple legal relationship and that, if either side feels that the other is not acting according to the contract, they should go to law. My point to the Minister was that legal aid would not be available in all such cases, particularly in view of the impending changes, and that in many cases the person would not even get to a solicitor in the first place. The Government do not begin to understand how serious that is, nor how varied are the practices involved.

I cite just one example—a constituent of mine who describes himself as well placed to look after himself, well educated, and so on. In that instance, the absentee landlord deliberately failed to pay the mortgage, thus inciting the mortgage company to foreclosure and eviction. The landlords sent messages to the mortgage company indicating that they knew that the bailiffs would be calling and did not intend to oppose any eviction—all the while concealing the fact that there was a protected tenant in occupation of the premises.

My constituent states: It was only by luck that I was at home when the mortgage company's agent arrived which allowed me and my solicitor to negotiate a way out of this situation by informing the mortgage company that I was in situ. That man was paying a rent of about £480 a month, he was represented by a solicitor and he was well able to speak for himself. Despite that, he was advised that it was becoming increasingly common for a landlord deliberately to foreclose on a mortgage and set up an illegal eviction by keeping quiet about the existence of a tenant. Once that luckless tenant is out on the street, the landlord steps forward and pays the mortgage arrears to the mortgage company, thereby re-establishing himself with full control over the premises, having successfully short-circuited all protection given by the law to the tenant.

If the Government were genuinely concerned about dealing with eviction, they would give local authorities, tenancy relations officers, law centres or some other group in society the power to act on behalf of individuals. They have not done so. Indeed, they are taking away those powers and there will be an increase in the number of evictions. The majority of landlords are very good and have good relationships with their tenants, but there is a large minority of bad landlords. The Government have the cheek to criticise some local authorities that may be bad managers, but they never seem to worry about the Hoogstratens and Rachmans of the world. That is a damaging indictment.

It is a fact of life that such people exist and we know that those who will be most at risk are generally the disadvantaged—those least able to speak for themselves or to put their case to a lawyer. We urge the Government, even at this late stage, to accept what we believe their Lordships intended, which was to tighten the law relating to the Rachmans and Hoogstratens. I believe that eventually the Government will have to go even further, because if they do not, in years to come there will be hideous stories of abuse by individual landlords against tenants who cannot stand up to them in a court of law because they will have neither the resources nor the ability to do so. That is the problem, and that is why we shall vote against the Government.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I shall put the Question on Lords amendment No. 20.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood that the Government were intending to reject the amendments. We certainly wish to vote against Lords amendments Nos. 22, 23 and 24.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I have received no such indication.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 21, 22 and 23 agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 24, in page 19, line 34, at end insert— and for the purposes of paragraph (a) above, proceedings to enforce a liability are finally disposed of on the earliest date by which the proceedings (including any proceedings on or in consequence of an appeal) have been determined and any time for appealing or further appealing has expired, except that if any appeal is abandoned, the proceedings shall be taken to be disposed of on the date of the abandonment

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.—[Mr. Trippier.]

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 237, Noes 188.

Division No. 481][10.8 pm
AYES
Adley, RobertBurt, Alistair
Aitken, JonathanButcher, John
Alexander, RichardButler, Chris
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelButterfill, John
Allason, RupertCarlisle, John, (Luton N)
Amos, AlanCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Arbuthnot, JamesCarrington, Matthew
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Carttiss, Michael
Ashby, DavidClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Aspinwall, JackColvin, Michael
Atkins, RobertCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Couchman, James
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Cran, James
Baldry, TonyCurrie, Mrs Edwina
Batiste, SpencerDavis, David (Boothferry)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyDorrell, Stephen
Bellingham, HenryDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bendall, VivianDurant, Tony
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bevan, David GilroyField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Body, Sir RichardFookes, Miss Janet
Boscawen, Hon RobertForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Boswell, TimFox, Sir Marcus
Bottomley, PeterGarel-Jones, Tristan
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGlyn, Dr Alan
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bowis, JohnGorman, Mrs Teresa
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGow, Ian
Brazier, JulianGower, Sir Raymond
Bright, GrahamGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonGregory, Conal
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Grist, Ian
Budgen, NicholasGround, Patrick
Burns, SimonHamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Moss, Malcolm
Hampson, Dr KeithMoynihan, Hon Colin
Hannam, JohnNeedham, Richard
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Nelson, Anthony
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Neubert, Michael
Harris, DavidNicholls, Patrick
Haselhurst, AlanNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hayward, RobertOppenheim, Phillip
Heddle, JohnPage, Richard
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Paice, James
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)Patnick, Irvine
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hill, JamesPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hind, KennethPawsey, James
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Holt, RichardPorter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hordern, Sir PeterPorter, David (Waveney)
Howard, MichaelPortillo, Michael
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Powell, William (Corby)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Price, Sir David
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyRaffan, Keith
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Renton, Tim
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Riddick, Graham
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hunter, AndrewRidsdale, Sir Julian
Irvine, MichaelRoe, Mrs Marion
Irving, CharlesRossi, Sir Hugh
Jack, MichaelRost, Peter
Jackson, RobertRowe, Andrew
Janman, TimRumbold, Mrs Angela
Jessel, TobySackville, Hon Tom
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyShaw, David (Dover)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Key, RobertShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Kilfedder, JamesShersby, Michael
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Sims, Roger
Kirkhope, TimothySkeet, Sir Trevor
Knapman, RogerSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Knowles, MichaelSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Latham, MichaelSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lawrence, IvanSquire, Robin
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelStanbrook, Ivor
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Stanley, Rt Hon John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSteen, Anthony
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Stevens, Lewis
Lilley, PeterStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Stokes, Sir John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Lord, MichaelSumberg, David
Luce, Rt Hon RichardTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Lyell, Sir NicholasTaylor, John M (Solihull)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Maclean, DavidTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
McLoughlin, PatrickTemple-Morris, Peter
McNair-Wilson, Sir MichaelThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Madel, DavidThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Malins, HumfreyThurnham, Peter
Mans, KeithTownend, John (Bridlington)
Maples, JohnTrippier, David
Marland, PaulTrotter, Neville
Marlow, TonyTwinn, Dr Ian
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Viggers, Peter
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Waddington, Rt Hon David
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Walden, George
Mawhinney, Dr BrianWaller, Gary
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinWard, John
Meyer, Sir AnthonyWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Mills, IainWarren, Kenneth
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Watts, John
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Wells, Bowen
Moate, RogerWheeler, John
Montgomery, Sir FergusWhitney, Ray
Morris, M (N'hampton S)Widdecombe, Ann
Wiggin, JerryYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Winterton, Mrs Ann
Winterton, NicholasTellers for the Ayes:
Wood, TimothyMr. David Heathcoat-Amory
Woodcock, Mikeand Mr. Michael Fallon.
Yeo, Tim
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeGarrett, John (Norwich South)
Alton, DavidGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Anderson, DonaldGordon, Mildred
Archer, Rt Hon PeterGould, Bryan
Armstrong, HilaryGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Ashdown, PaddyGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackGrocott, Bruce
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Hardy, Peter
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Haynes, Frank
Barron, KevinHeffer, Eric S.
Battle, JohnHinchliffe, David
Beckett, MargaretHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Bell, StuartHolland, Stuart
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHome Robertson, John
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Bermingham, GeraldHowells, Geraint
Bidwell, SydneyHoyle, Doug
Blunkett, DavidHughes, John (Coventry NE)
Boateng, PaulHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bradley, KeithHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Bray, Dr JeremyHughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Illsley, Eric
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)John, Brynmor
Buchan, NormanJohnston, Sir Russell
Buckley, George J.Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Caborn, RichardJones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Callaghan, JimKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Kennedy, Charles
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Kirkwood, Archy
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Lamond, James
Clay, BobLeadbitter, Ted
Clelland, DavidLeighton, Ron
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cohen, HarryLewis, Terry
Coleman, DonaldLitherland, Robert
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Livingstone, Ken
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Livsey, Richard
Corbett, RobinLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cox, TomLofthouse, Geoffrey
Crowther, StanLoyden, Eddie
Cryer, BobMcCartney, Ian
Cummings, JohnMcLeish, Henry
Cunliffe, LawrenceMaclennan, Robert
Cunningham, Dr JohnMcNamara, Kevin
Dalyell, TamMadden, Max
Darling, AlistairMahon, Mrs Alice
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Marek, Dr John
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)Meale, Alan
Dewar, DonaldMichael, Alun
Dixon, DonMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dobson, FrankMichie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Doran, FrankMoonie, Dr Lewis
Duffy, A. E. P.Morgan, Rhodri
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Morley, Elliott
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fatchett, DerekMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Faulds, AndrewMowlam, Marjorie
Fearn, RonaldMullin, Chris
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Murphy, Paul
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Nellist, Dave
Fisher, MarkOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Flannery, MartinO'Neill, Martin
Flynn, PaulOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelParry, Robert
Foster, DerekPatchett, Terry
Foulkes, GeorgePike, Peter L.
Fraser, JohnPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Fyfe, MariaPrescott, John
Primarolo, DawnSteinberg, Gerry
Quin, Ms JoyceStott, Roger
Radice, GilesStraw, Jack
Randall, StuartTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Redmond, MartinTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Richardson, JoTurner, Dennis
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)Vaz, Keith
Robertson, GeorgeWalker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Rogers, AllanWall, Pat
Rooker, JeffWallace, James
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Walley, Joan
Rowlands, TedWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Ruddock, JoanWareing, Robert N.
Sedgemore, BrianWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Sheerman, BarryWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWilson, Brian
Short, ClareWinnick, David
Skinner, DennisWise, Mrs Audrey
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Snape, PeterTellers for the Noes:
Soley, CliveMrs. Llin Golding and
Spearing, NigelMr. Ken Eastham.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

On a point of order, Mr.Speaker. Can you confirm that the decision on the procedure that you adopted immediately before the last vote was exactly the same as that adopted at 9.51 pm last night before Division No. 478?

Mr.Speaker:

I was not present at 9.57 last night. There was some slight confusion, but I think that we got it right in the end.

Lords amendments Nos. 25 to 33 agreed to.