Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 - Motion for an humble Address

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:57 pm on 23rd September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour 1:57 pm, 23rd September 2020

My Lords, I believe that the right to shelter is just that—a fundamental human right. Incidentally, in the light of recent remarks, I also think that that right comes even before someone’s right to buy to let. That said, I understand the property right, but the crucial thing here is that in a pandemic, of all times, we do not need people to be rendered homeless, whatever the reasons for that homelessness. Therefore, it is my belief that the Government should enact emergency legislation after this debate to ensure that no one is homeless during the pandemic. How will it be possible to enforce further local or national lockdowns, or to deal with this catastrophic crisis of social mixing, before there is a vaccine if we cannot guarantee that everyone has basic shelter and that no one is homeless?

At the moment I am minded to support the regret Motion rather than the fatal one, and not just because of constitutional conventions, significant though they must be in the context of an unelected House. Can the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, explain in a little more detail in her summing up the legal effect of annulling retrospectively Civil Procedure Rules that have granted eviction protection for the past month? It is a concern about throwing that last month’s protection and legal certainty into doubt that gives me real pause for thought about the fatal Motion.

Therefore, as I said, at the moment I am minded to support the regret Motion, but not just as a debating point. Your Lordships’ House is not the Oxford Union or Cambridge Union; it needs to have more teeth than that. I am not a great fan of this Government but the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is a fantastic representative of them and a distinguished Member of this House. However, this is not just about adjudicating fairness between landlord and tenant. If we are to be fair to both, there is no problem with the Government stepping behind landlords and tenants, and providing the finances to make sure that no one need lose out or become homeless in this crisis. That can be done with emergency legislation to ensure a basic income, including the rent payments that people need and, where necessary, emergency social housing.