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Mr. Greg Knight: If there are only two participating members and one dies, and if the survivor is a personal representative of the deceased, does my hon. Friend think that there is one participating member, or two?

Mr. Cash: That question reminds me of the Schleswig-Holstein succession problem. It was said that only three people knew the answer to that, and that one was dead, one had forgotten, and one was mad. My hon. Friend can take his pick as to which description fits him, but it is certain that a participating member who is a personal representative will be able to perform his functions in relation to a dead person. We can assume that that person will have to be mad, or that he has forgotten. I hope that that answer helps my right hon. Friend as much as his question helped me.

Mr. John Taylor: Surely the situation is perfectly clear? The one who is mad would be represented by a

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receiver in a court of protection, and the one who is dead would be represented by his or her executor or personal representative. I do not see a problem with that.

Mr. Cash: My hon. Friend is a solicitor, and has the advantage of much more experience of trusts and wills—although, of course, I had to pass the requisite papers on such matters in my examinations many years ago. If we continue this dialogue, my hon. Friend and I will not be forgotten, but one of us will go mad.

Mr. Knight: I am troubled by my hon. Friend's earlier reference to the execution of a conveyance. I am not happy with the proposed wording. My hon. Friend will know that lawyers can have a conveyance executed, but can then hold it to the order of their client, until the time has come for completion. Does my hon. Friend agree that the amendment could be defective, as the words

may not mean what the Minister intends?

Mr. Cash: The support of so many hon. Friends from the legal profession leaves me feeling like a wagon train surrounded by red indians. I know what the words "in escrow" mean, but the Minister must satisfy the House that the words proposed would be appropriate in all circumstances, as it is possible that the conveyance would be invalid. The serious point underlying the banter is that it is essential that all conveyances covered by the amendments are valid.

Government amendment No. 39, would replace "a" with "the" in line 20, page 61. I shall not confuse the House by arguing about that substitution. I will now pass on rapidly to the next amendment, having noted that, for the benefit of those who read Hansard, we did not miss the fact that "the" has been substituted for "a" in the amendment.

6 pm

Government amendment No. 40 to clause 121 is much more substantial. The clause deals with RTE companies, entitlement to be members of the companies, the nature of their relationship to one another and the procedures that must be followed. The amendment states:

my hon. Friends, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight), will notice those important words—

One marvels at the knowledge of those who draft these Bills.

The Minister seems uncertain as to whether I am referring to a clause that is covered by this group of amendments. I am talking about Government amendment No. 40 and, just in case she has not read it, it stands in her name on the amendment paper. I merely mention that in passing.

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The participation notice and the question of validity remain at the heart of the problems that we face.

Mr. John Taylor: Does not this amendment share some of the characteristics of the Brandt report—he may have written it but he undoubtedly had not read it?

Mr. Cash: That also applies to the Maastricht treaty and a number of others. I am quite sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the last thing you want is for me to go down that route. I shall simply say very briefly that there was a certain famous Chancellor of the Exchequer—or perhaps it was Foreign Secretary—who seemed to claim with pride that he had not read it. At all events, one or other of them did not read it, and that is very unwise. I shall read the Bill and make sure that what the Government are doing goes on the record. I know that the Minister will not mind because she has been giving a very good truncated explanation of what is involved. For our part, we intend to explain just what is involved in this group of amendments.

Mr. Greg Knight: It is rather hard on my hon. Friend to have to perform part of the Minister's duties without being in receipt of her salary. What does my hon. Friend understand by "gives" in proposed subsection (a) of Government amendment No. 40? Does it mean when the company draws up and dates the notice or when the notice is served?

Mr. Cash: I am intrigued by my right hon. Friend's point. Proposed subsection (a) refers to

That suggests that it means the moment when there is a transmission of that notice. Whether that transmission under section 13 follows the drawing up of the notice, there can be no doubt—one can give something only after it has been in one's possession or it has been established that it exists. Therefore, it has to be after the date of transmission—notice would be impossible to give if it had not been drawn up. Therefore, "gives" is the right word in this context, and I congratulate the Government on getting that right.

Government Amendment No. 41 takes us deep into the territory of schedule 8. Again, I congratulate the Government on improving the Bill on Report. They have come to the conclusion, after the Bill has been through the process about five times, that these words need to be changed. I am sure that they are right, but I still raise the point about a binding contract. I admit that I would not have wanted to raise that point but for the fact that what is or is not a binding contract is tied to validity and the date of notice is tied to whether or not there is a binding contract.

Government amendment No. 41 refers to

Proposed paragraph (b) states:

The Government's intentions are clear. I am still concerned about whether a contract could be known to be binding. That raises serious problems about timing.

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Having said that, and assuming that the Government are as close as possible to getting it right, I think that we would be able to support that amendment.

Government amendment No. 42 relates to clause 125, which deals with the separate questions—at least, so it seems to me—of purchase price and valuation date. The amendment proposes introducing a new subsection (2), which would be added to another amendment to the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, which we have discussed on a number of other occasions. Clause 125 states:

The Government propose to add the words:

these are the most important words—

Madam Deputy Speaker, I am sorry that it has taken me some time to go through the provisions, but I am sure that the House will appreciate not only that I have tried to put them in context but that I have complemented the Minister's short remarks by a more adequate explanation. I have also drawn attention to concerns about the validity of the contracts. Throughout this group, we can see that shining star—the question whether a contract is binding or whether a conveyance will take effect at a given point in time.

I hope that my explanation of those important matters has not taken too much of the House's time. At least, the record will show exactly how the pieces fit into the jigsaw. We may be no wiser than the mad person who could not work out the Schleswig-Holstein succession, but at least some people will be able to make sense of the provisions that we have been discussing.

Mr. John Taylor: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) not merely on his forceful advocacy—to which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) has referred—but on his comprehension and lucidity. He gave a master class which was greatly appreciated by those of us who had the privilege of listening to him. I look forward to the day when he is indeed our Attorney-General. We shall look to him with confidence to resolve problems such as the Schleswig-Holstein question.

I should declare an interest, since I am involved in the management committee of a splendid block of apartments in Solihull. We shall have to wrestle with problems such as those we are discussing. For reasons unknown to me, my fellow residents sometimes look to me for elucidation, so I shall give them all copies of Hansard and draw their attention to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone. They will then understand the issues. If they make me their chairman—as is threatened—I shall have Hansard ready at all times to show them what our learned friend said today.

It is not possible for me to leave the Schleswig-Holstein question as easily as my remarks may have suggested. Conservative Members will recognise in those three central characters the first three people to speak from the floor at any meeting of the 1922 Committee.

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I am especially interested in the parts of the Bill that relate to RTM and RTE companies. We live in an age where we are beset by acronyms. RTM and RTE are not particularly elegant, although I suppose that we shall learn to live with them; but this is the country of Milton and Shakespeare and we ought to be able to do slightly better than that. I am reminded of phrases such as "sustainable scenarios" that emerge from our planning departments.

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