On 23rd September 2020 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020.
Two Motions were also debated alongside the Rules. The first to annul them “because they will permit evictions of individuals who have been served a notice of eviction between 23 March and 28 August before Parliament has had an opportunity to debate the impact of the Rules on (1) homelessness, and (2) the spread of COVID-19”.
The second “that the House regrets that they…will not continue to protect tenants from eviction, and calls on the Government to amend the Housing Act 1998 to give courts temporary discretion on evictions, including on evictions arising from rent arrears”.
The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate and supported the motion to regret.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, it is always good to follow the noble Lord, Lord Best, with his knowledge of this area. I am aware of the importance of this matter for both landlord and tenants. I am grateful for many of the measures that have been in place hitherto and many of the protections and mitigations which will continue under these rules. However, to pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Best, I am concerned about those who may now find themselves in significant arrears, not least because of the pandemic. I think we will find there are many more in this situation than there were some months ago. This will disproportionately affect those from the most vulnerable groups in our midst, including migrants and those with mental health conditions.
A few months ago, the Everyone In initiative was in very many ways an astounding success and something of which the Government and others can, rightly, be proud. I would not want to see that being reversed by the effects of what is now being proposed, whether intended or not. My anxiety is that, just as infection rates may be rising, so evictions could reverse the good work that was done by putting people back on the streets. I will listen carefully to the debate. I hope for reassurance from the Minister but I have an inclination to vote for the regret Motion to give judges greater discretion in this matter.