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22 May 1996 : Column 931

Party Wall Bill [H.L.]

8.20 p.m.

The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [New building on line of junction]:

The Earl of Lytton moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 10, leave out ("wall) or the external wall of a building") and insert ("wall or the external wall of a building)").

The noble Earl said: Perhaps I may explain that the large number of amendments on the Marshalled List arises primarily because of the need to modernise the language of the Bill and to correct drafting errors. The intention remains, as always, that the Bill will follow as closely as possible the London building Acts which are its role model and the precedents and practice which have been established for inner London over a long period of time.

I must pay a brief tribute to the efforts of the DoE and its officials and lawyers and to parliamentary counsel who drafted the amendments. I thank them all most sincerely for their patience and attention to detail. I am also thankful, as ever, for the expertise and assistance of the working party, and, in particular, to Mr. John Anstey who heads it. The period since Second Reading is related directly to the time and effort devoted to the Bill. Finally, I must declare an interest as a chartered surveyor with some involvement in party wall matters, although not very great at the moment, and since Second Reading I have been made an honorary member of the Pyramus and Thisbe Club, which is an association of party wall surveyors and others interested in party wall matters. So I declare also that non-pecuniary interest.

With Amendment No. 1, I should like to speak to a number of other amendments. They are slightly different from the groupings on the list, in the sense that I should like to pull into the first group Amendment No. 22, which at the moment is grouped with Amendment No. 3, and Amendment No. 78, which is grouped with Amendment No. 17. So with Amendment No. 1 I am speaking also to Amendments Nos. 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 22, 23, 27, 29, 32, 33, 39, 40, 51, 54, 65, 70, 76, 78, 79 and 80.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: Would you kindly repeat that?

The Earl of Lytton: I shall gladly provide the noble Lord with my spare list if he would like it. All the amendments are minor drafting amendments to correct and improve the form of the Bill or amount to no more than textual amendments requiring the insertion of

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different words. Some of them are due merely to errors which have crept into the text, while others improve the sense.

Amendment No. 1, for instance, is a bracket in the wrong place. The amendment serves to replace it in the position originally intended. Amendment No. 2 removes the definite article where it should be the indefinite article. Nothing hangs on the amendments. They merely restore the text to what was originally intended and clarify it without altering the effect. I beg to move.

The Earl of Kinnoull: I congratulate the noble Earl on his dexterity in speaking to so many amendments so briefly and on the great care and attention that he and his advisers have clearly given to the Bill which on Second Reading was generally agreed to be a useful and valuable Bill. I am sure we all very much welcome the presence of the Opposition Chief Whip at our debate.

I am also delighted to learn that the noble Earl has been selected as a member of the Pyramus and Thisbe club--the Mecca of the party wall experts--and has been recognised in that distinguished company. To move 102 amendments to a Private Member's Bill must be almost a parliamentary record. I am sure that he will handle the formidable task of moving all these amendments with dexterity and speed.

Some of us will have been a little confused to have received yesterday a brief from the Law Society questioning the Bill's very purpose. I am glad that, on reflection, following a meeting, the Law Society has withdrawn its brief. No doubt the noble Earl will be in touch with it before the Bill's next stage to iron out any specific worries it may have.

Lord Lucas: I agree with the noble Earl that these amendments are all minor. As he said, there has been close liaison between the noble Earl and officials in my department. We are content that the amendments improve the drafting of the original Bill.

When the Bill was given its Second Reading, the noble Earl said that he would need to move a number of amendments to remove textual errors. These amendments are welcomed in that they achieve that objective. All the amendments tabled by the noble Earl have government support. I do not propose to speak to further amendments unless I have a specific point to make.

The Earl of Lytton: I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. I say again how appreciative I and the Bill's promoters are for his department's help. I am extremely grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for his support. The Law Society's views have been made known to me. I am glad to know that there may be a

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degree of acceptance of some of the Bill's provisions. I can confirm that it is my intention to meet the Law Society to iron out any remaining difficulties that there may be.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lytton moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 13, leave out ("the") and insert ("a").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lytton moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 14, leave out ("serve notice of his desire on the adjoining owner describing") and insert (", at least one month before he intends the building work to start, serve on any adjoining owner a notice which indicates his desire to build and describes").

The noble Earl said: With this amendment I shall speak also to another extensive group of amendments comprising Amendments Nos. 4,30, 31, 34, 35, 36, 42, 45, 46, 55, 57, 67, 72, 75, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88 and 90.

I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, for that roll-call. I needed to make clear with which amendments we are involved. These are broadly technical amendments, all similar to one another, concerning time limits and the service of notice. They are all merely a re-ordering of the wording of the Bill as it now stands. They restore the original intentions of the Bill's promoters and improve and clarify what is intended.

A general provision about serving notices in Amendment No. 90 refers to notice in writing being unnecessary. I shall return to that point at the appropriate time. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8.30 p.m.

The Earl of Lytton moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 16, leave out ("the adjoining owner consents in writing") and insert ("an adjoining owner serves on the building owner a notice indicating his consent").

The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lytton moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 1, line 22, leave out ("having") and insert ("in such proportion as has").

The noble Earl said: This amendment is simply a rewording to make it clear how the question of the proportion of costs being split between parties is to be addressed. Again, the original sense of the Bill is unaltered. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lytton moved Amendments Nos. 6 and 7:

Page 1, line 26, leave out ("the") and insert ("an").
Page 1, line 27, leave out ("in writing") and insert ("under this subsection").

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The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to these amendments together with Amendment No. 1. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Lytton moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 2, line 4, at end insert--
("and consent under this subsection is consent by a notice served within the period of fourteen days beginning with the day on which the notice described in subsection (2) is served.").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 8 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 9 and 10. Amendment No. 8 removes an area of possible doubt by making it clearer how the recipient of a notice of proposed works can consent to the proposals referred to in the notice. The recipient must respond by a notice and within a time frame, but there is no special form of notice. That is what the Bill's promoters intend and the amendment removes uncertainty. It should also be noted that the Bill defaults to dispute procedures, so if the response from the adjoining owner is equivocal or late, that owner is protected. Late agreement is, of course, always possible under the procedures to be set in place by this Bill.

Amendment No. 9 is a technical amendment, again to remove doubt about what is intended. It does so by inserting a timescale. The sense of the clause as printed is retained apart from this.

With regard to Amendment No. 10, this again is technical. It merely clarifies the timescale already set out in the Bill in which a building owner may carry out works following the service of notice, but the overall effect remains unchanged. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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