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Line 59, leave out ("within") and insert ("before the end of").
Line 81, leave out ("within") and insert ("before the end of").
Line 116, leave out ("within") and insert ("before the end of").
Line 134, leave out ("within") and insert ("before the end of").
Line 182, leave out ("within") and insert ("before the end of").
Leave out lines 400 to 404.
Leave out lines 739 to 742.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for accepting the principle of Amendments Nos. 102 to 106 and for his undertaking to reintroduce them in a slightly different form in another place. I am very grateful to him.

[Amendments Nos. 102 to 108, as amendments to Amendment No. 101, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 101 agreed to.

17 Jul 1996 : Column 967

Schedule 6 [Schedule 1A to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 109:

Leave out Schedule 6.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 27. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Low rent test: extension of rights]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 110:

Page 171, line 16, leave out ("fifty") and insert ("thirty-five").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 110 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 111 and 112.

It gives me particular pleasure that the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, might be put into effect using a Henry VIII provision, his ancestors having been there to watch Henry VIII in action and having then taken something of a holiday before resuming service in 1916, as I understand it. Since the noble Lord can look that far back in his ancestry, I am sure that he will appreciate the irony or the pleasure of it.

Turning to the amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, quite rightly decided to leave the tidying up to the Government after his victory at Report stage. These three amendments carry on the work that he started by amending the figure 50 to the figure 35 in three places. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, felt that he had better things to do than getting round to tabling such amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, as I was also involved with this matter, perhaps I may say how grateful we are to the Government for meeting us half way and for accepting these compromises.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 111 and 112:

Page 171, line 29, leave out ("fifty") and insert ("thirty-five").
Page 171, line 33, leave out ("fifty") and insert ("thirty-five").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Viscount Caldecote moved Amendment No. 113:

Page 171, line 47, at end insert (", and
(d) the freeholder satisfies the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal that the house is integral to the management of the estate concerned and has been leased on terms related to that purpose.
An application to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal in accordance with paragraph (d) above shall be made by the freeholder within two months of his receipt of the relevant notice of this leaseholder's claim to enfranchise under the terms of this Act.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the purpose of Amendment No. 113 is to give the right of enfranchisement to tenants in rural areas similar to those given to all other tenants subject--it is very important--to exclusion from those rights for tenants of houses which are integral to the management of the estate.

17 Jul 1996 : Column 968

According to the Oxford English Dictionary "integral" means, "necessary to the completeness" of the management of the estate, which well illustrates the objective of the amendment.

That would exclude from the right of enfranchisement inter alia all houses occupied by employees and retired employees, managers and advisers to the estate, and the principal house on the estate normally occupied by the owner of the estate which might in special circumstances be let on a long lease. All such houses are clearly concerned with the responsible stewardship of the estate and, therefore, should not have the right to enfranchisement.

At Report stage in the debate on an amendment which I moved with similar objectives, though this amendment is more limited, my noble friend Lord Lucas said,

    "I believe that we should be looking at the relationship between the house and the estate of which it is part, not the relationship between the leaseholder and freeholder".--[Official Report, 10/7/96; col. 379.]
That is exactly what the amendment provides.

My noble friend also said at col. 376:

    "We do not believe that it would be wise to permit the break-up of rural estates".
I entirely agree. The amendment provides full safeguards against that happening.

My noble friend Lord Hamilton of Dalzell said, at col. 378, that I would,

    "not be satisfied until every single house in the country which was previously leasehold is taken over by the leaseholders."
As I pointed out at the time, that is a travesty of the truth, for I want to see country estates preserved as much as my noble friend does. It requires that certain houses should not have the right to enfranchisement, as I have already explained.

I also wish to ensure that long leaseholders in the country are fairly treated as a whole and not excluded from the rights to enfranchisement when exclusion serves no useful purpose. I emphasise the words "as a whole", for it is misleading for the CLA to suggest, in its briefing opposing such an amendment, that,

    "it attacks the fundamental, and accepted, principle of stewardship of properties in rural areas for the apparent benefit of some residents in a single parish".
The amendment has a far wider application than that. But there is a need for the previous freeholder to continue responsible stewardship when some houses in a village have been enfranchised, so as to ensure that the amenities and appearances are preserved for the benefit of the local community as a whole. In large urban estates, as in London, it is common practice to achieve that by setting up management schemes approved by the leasehold valuation tribunal, so no difficulty arises in that respect.

Finally, the amendment may be criticised because it encourages further litigation. But already ownership of property is subject to many Acts of Parliament. The existing law relating to enfranchisement involves litigation, as witness the arguments which have arisen in urban estates. The Bill itself includes clauses creating new offences, some of them criminal offences, all with the objective of creating a more equitable situation

17 Jul 1996 : Column 969

between freeholders and leaseholders. This simple amendment is no different in that respect and has the same objective, with minimal prospects of additional litigation in the courts because it uses the relatively simple and economical procedure of the leasehold valuation tribunal.

I submit that this is a well balanced amendment which makes a valuable contribution towards removing unfairness to many tenants in rural areas and gives very adequate protection to owners of estates so as to prevent their break-up. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Hamilton of Dalzell: My Lords, as I have been accused of making an allegation about the motives of my noble friend Lord Caldecote, I wish to apologise to him if it was untrue. However, at the time of the previous debate I also asked: who was he to judge whether the property was part of the integral management of an estate?

His amendment totally ignored the family interest in an estate. I have lived in three houses on my estate. With the first, I required a cottage while living in London which was subject to enfranchisement under the 1967 Act. Conveniently, the tenant died and we were able to buy the residue of the lease. My family lived in the cottage for a while but it became too small. A larger house on the estate was vacated by an American who was returning to America, it was also on a long lease so we were able to buy the lease.

However, it is impossible to look ahead and assume on behalf of generations unborn what the demands of an estate will be. To have to prove to a leasehold valuation tribunal what future family plans are or to look ahead to the generations unborn is unreasonable. The amendment would cause the dismemberment of estates, just as the CLA believes it would.

Lord Coleraine: My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment and adopt all his arguments. My noble friend Lord Hamilton referred to his remarks last week which he repeated today. He asked how my noble friend Lord Caldecote could judge what is or is not subject to the leasehold exclusion. The answer is that my noble friend is trying to put on the face of the Bill a definition which will adequately differentiate between freehold properties which should be enfranchised and those which should not.

At the moment, the Bill provides for the cut-off point to be found in the provision as to whether the freehold of the house is owned, together with adjoining land which is not occupied for residential purposes. It would be difficult to imagine a more generalised and ad hoc definition. It does not in any meaningful way define a property on an agricultural estate, a property such as my noble friend and I would not wish to be able to enfranchise. It could well be that a dowerhouse not surrounded by residential land was on one side of the road and was not able to be enfranchised. On the other hand there is the case of the village of Adlestrop, where a number of houses which, for all intents and purposes,

17 Jul 1996 : Column 970

have been treated by the freeholder as not required for his estate and the tenants are apparently unable to enfranchise just because they are surrounded by non-residential land in the ownership of the estate.

The answer given in the past by my noble friend Lord Lucas has been that the owners of the houses in Adlestrop will be in no worse a position after the Bill is passed than they were before. That can be said of all applications for enfranchisement. It is the argument that we have had to meet all along the line. It is irrelevant to our discussions.

Given the basis on which the Government appear to be legislating, it is my opinion that the legislation is faulty and will ultimately provide a very clear example of the unintended effect. The information that the Government had was supplied by the Country Landowners' Association; that is, that 200 to 300 houses may be excluded under the rural exclusion provision. However, that does not in any way differentiate between houses that should be excluded on the grounds that are common to most of us and those that should not be excluded. There will almost certainly be other cases outside the cognisance of the Country Landowners' Association where the rural exclusion will operate unfairly and return to plague us. The Country Landowners' Association is very well aware of the position affecting landed estates, as it should be. But there will be other cases of which neither it nor the Government will be aware, where houses have, for example, been built on leasehold land and it has been necessary to grant long leases. The Bill does not in any way help such lessees, if such lessees there be.

As my noble friend Lord Caldecote impressed upon the House, what we really need is a proper definition as to what is a house on an agricultural estate. At the moment that definition is not on the face of the Bill. I hope that at this stage my noble friend will accept this amendment and, if the drafting needs improvement as I feel it probably does, return with a fuller and more completely drafted clause when the Bill comes back from another place.

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