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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman does not take too much account of sedentary comments, of which the occupant of the Chair does not approve. While I am on my feet, I also remind him that he is now in danger of repeating himself more than once.

Mr. Wiggin: I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall leave my comments at that.

Ms Keeble: I am told that of 244 minutes of debate this evening, the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) has occupied 132. He probably spent about a quarter or a third of that time on new clause 13, in a contribution that was probably the least constructive that he has made, and certainly of the debate.

The new clause is intended to deal with very practical issues around access to railway tracks when major works are needed. As the hon. Gentleman said, the identification of ownership is a major issue in that regard. At the start of his contribution, he spoke about his experience of how difficult it can be if it is not possible to determine where ownership rests.

The hon. Gentleman spoke at length about estate management schemes, but I advise him that the new clause does not deal with such schemes; the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) had it right—it is about enfranchisement. I also remind him that there is a need for major infrastructure works on the railways and the underground. The purpose of the new clause, as I thought I had made clear previously, is to ensure that we deal with issues of land ownership in relation to the work that is needed. It has also been made clear to us that the Railways Act 1993 did not make adequate provision for cases in which flats had been built over railway track—a point that deals with the questions about properties located on top of the Circle line. The new clause refers to blocks of flats that are built on top of a bridge or tunnel under which a railway runs.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the definition of track. The description set out in the new clause is clear. The definition is based on that which is contained in existing railway legislation. He said that the provisions were very complex and again referred to his experience in the 1960s. Of course, legislation has been amended and introduced since then. Clearly, it would be unhelpful if the definition in the new clause was different from that used in other railway legislation.

Mr. Cash: If the definition of track has been lifted from current legislation, why does not the provision say so? It could merely say that "track" means whatever is stated in existing legislation. That is the normal way of dealing with such matters. I do not have the legislation immediately to hand, but I would not be surprised if there

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were differences between the existing definition and that which is used in the new clause. If there is no such difference, why should it be set out again?

Ms Keeble: The hon. Gentleman asked a question and he has got the answer—it seems merely that he does not like it. There is a lot of clarity in the definition and I am told that it is based on the definitions in existing railway legislation. That seems the best possible approach.

The hon. Gentleman asked about differences in numberings. I understand that the use of Roman numerals is no longer practised. He will notice that the passage that he claims to be different from the 1993 Act is not part of the substance of the new clause. We are not inserting that into legislation; it is a parenthesis and is purely descriptive. The passage in inverted commas—the new clause itself—is perfectly accurate and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

I have said openly that the new clause was tabled at a late stage in response to questions about potential problems relating to access to track and other requirements for carrying out work on railway lines. Given the current importance of infrastructure work on both overground and underground railways, we must ensure that we do not in any way complicate or frustrate that through any lack of clarity as regards land ownership. That is the purpose of the new clause. It is extremely helpful and constructive, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 14

Extension of right to challenge landlord's choice of insurer

'(1) Paragraph 8 of the Schedule to the 1985 Act (right to challenge landlord's nomination of insurer) is amended as follows.
(2) In sub–paragraphs (1) and (2), after "nominated" insert "or approved".
(3) In sub–paragraph (4), after "nominate" (in both places) insert "or approve".'.—[Ms Keeble.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Ms Keeble: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 52 to 55.

Ms Keeble: New clause 14 and the amendments are purely technical. The new clause is important in that it builds on amendments that were tabled in Committee by ensuring that their intent is properly carried through. I hope that it will assist certain groups of people.

As hon. Members may recall from previous debates, some leases provide for insurance to be taken out with a nominated insurer. Some landlords have abused that right by insisting that their leaseholders take out insurance with a company that charges inflated premiums so that they can secure a large commission. Several hon. Members referred to the disgraceful scams that have taken place and the hardship that has been caused to many people.

Existing leasehold law gives leaseholders the right to challenge their landlord's choice of nominated insurer. Clause 161 further provides that where the terms of a

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lease on a house require the leaseholder to use a nominated insurer, it will be sufficient for them to take out insurance with any insurer authorised to carry on business in the UK, subject to certain conditions being met. However, some leases provide that insurance must be taken out with an insurer who is approved by the landlord. We are concerned that it could be argued that that is not quite the same as a requirement to take out insurance with an insurer who is nominated by the landlord. Although we do not think that such an argument would be likely to succeed, for the avoidance of doubt we thought it important to amend the relevant provisions to make it absolutely clear that they also apply to approved insurers. I am sure that that will be especially welcome to my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) and for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Crausby), who led the charge on the matter in Committee and beforehand.

Amendment No. 55 ensures that the new clause tabled in Committee on nominated insurers—now clause 161—applies to Crown land.

I commend the new clause and the amendments to the House.

Mr. Cash: The Minister is completely right to say that the new clause is an important provision. We had a useful debate in Committee about the implications of the matter. Several issues are raised by the manner in which certain landlords put tenants at a disadvantage by requiring that they accept their insurance company, with which they, the landlords, may themselves be involved. The Minister rightly described that as a scam. It raises questions of conflict of interest and of uberrimae fidei, which lie at the heart of insurance contracts. It also raises questions about the extent to which there is a free market and whether a monopoly may arise, albeit in relatively constrained circumstances. Some of the very large estates represent a vehicle for acquiring vast amounts of commission, which can be generated on the back of a simple requirement to nominate an insurer.

On the face of it, the new clause makes an extremely simple amendment to paragraph 8 of the schedule to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which deals with the right to challenge the landlord's nomination of insurer. Nevertheless, it is, by any reasonable standards, a considerable step forward that will come as a considerable relief to many people who have been taken for a ride in the past. The sums involved may be important as well, but the downstream consequence of being landed with a bucket-shop insurer—or even a big insurer—simply because the landlord has the power to insist on it has always struck me as an extraordinary state of affairs. It is almost nothing to do with the landlord, in the sense that what is done in the flat in question relates to compliance with covenants of repair, and so on. It could be argued that, if the tenant or leaseholder did not properly insure, other people in the premises could be at risk.

8.45 pm

Mr. Wiggin: I am curious as to what would happen if a tenant claimed to have insurance—or perhaps ran his own insurance business—but it turned out to be inadequate. What sort of protection would the freeholder have from a rogue tenant who claimed to have insurance but in fact could not insure himself?

Mr. Cash: The short answer to that is that there are some very complex laws on assets under various Acts

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relating to insurance companies. These laws require that any insurer must have a certain degree of viability. It is certainly true that a number of other insurers, who could fall into the category of being involved in scams, would not have that degree of proper insurance. I seem to remember an enormous insurance scandal about 25 years ago.

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