|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, Amendment No. 4 standing in my name and in that of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, is an alternative to that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and supported by my noble friend Lord Kingsland. Before I speak to that amendment, perhaps I may say how sorry I was to miss the Committee stage of the Bill. I should like to have taken part in it but I was abroad. I believe that it is probably right that I declare my interest as a surveyor and state that some of my friends and acquaintances will be affected in some shape or form by the Bill. Many of the people with whom I work will also be affected by the Bill.
I read with care what the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, said in Committee. As she explained to me, she set out in some detail the Government's thoughts on commonhold and the reason for their position. I have to tell the noble Baroness how very disappointed I was. She has been so good at grasping opportunities, but on this occasion she was totally negative. She thought of every conceivable excuse not to seek the opportunities that commonhold offered but to decry them. As my noble friend Lord Kingsland has just said, many of us are concerned that commonhold will not catch on if there is no opportunity for it to be available to existing tenants.
Two different types of amendment are before your Lordships. I am very happy with that of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I believe that it is probably better than the amendment in my name and in that of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. However, at the end of the day, we are trying to help the Government to get commonhold off the ground. If, from now on, it is confined entirely to new build, it will not be a great success. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, explained carefully the correlation that exists with the RTE companies, where an 80 per cent vote in favour will be required. That leaves out 20 per cent. Surely the same thing can apply to commonhold.
Of course, another important point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, is that that is the expensive part for the tenants. Once they have reached that stage, surely it is not an impossible step, and certainly not a terribly expensive one considering what
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I say straight away that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, was correct when he said that this is, indeed, the fifth time that we have discussed this issue. We were delighted to discuss it twice under the old Bill; we were intrigued by the discussion at Second Reading; we were entranced by the further in-depth trammelling of these issues in Committee; and now here we are at Report. Therefore, it seems that one can never play a good tune too often or too loudly.
We have listened with great care to everything that has been said by all noble Lords, both today and, indeed, at every stage until today. We sympathise with the motivation of noble Lords who are persisting in their attempts to persuade us to ameliorate the effects of the 100 per cent consent rule. We share their regret at the inevitable result of its imposition in terms of the potential difficulty for those who wish to convert. I reassure the noble Earl that it was not negativity that drove us to come to that conclusion but inevitability and logic.
However, as I say, I am afraid that very little in our discussion today is new and capable of convincing us that the need is any less great than it was when I spoke at length on the matter in Committee. I am afraid that I can do no better than to refer your Lordships to the Official Report for 16th October, which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. I am also grateful for noble Lords' forbearance on that occasion. With interruptions, I believe that in responding I took up approximately half an hour of your Lordships' time in the hope that we would explore fully all the issues that were there to be explored.
Perhaps I may explain briefly how we view the matter. We believe that it is necessary to balance the desirability of allowing those in long leasehold circumstances to convert to commonhold easily with the significant difficulties that we envisage in the conversion process and, more importantly perhaps, with the difficulties of running the eventual development. We believe that the balance comes down overwhelmingly in favour of the relativeI emphasise: relativesimplicity of the 100 per cent consent scenario, both in terms of the conversion process and future management.
Of course, I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, says in relation to the complexities of the drafting. I am sorry that he now departs from us in terms of accepting those complexities. I reiterate that we never said that it would not be possible or that it could not be done; rather, we believe that it should not be done because of the nature of the commonhold which would be left. Of course, it is true that conversion from RTE to commonhold would be a
As I said on the previous occasion when we debated this issue, the scheme outlined in the amendments set down by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, contains the kernel of a workable proposal to get through the conversion process. Having said that on the previous occasion, I note that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, now supports that scheme as he has added his name to the first and third amendments. I am somewhat puzzled that he seems to have spurned the second amendment, although I am sure that he has his reasons for doing so. These amendments do not address the difficult problems and potentially considerable extra costs which will arise in dealing with remaining leaseholders in the commonhold context.
The amendment that was tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who I am delighted to see is back in his place, and by my noble friend Lord Williams of Elvel suffers, as it did previously, first, from the fact that it would allow conversion to go ahead without a majority of leaseholders being in favour. Secondly, it would perpetuate the existence of long leases, in that lease extension would continue to be available. Thirdly, it says nothing about the difficulties that I outlined today or when I previously spoke on the matter, somewhat exhaustively, in Committee.
I should say, in line with the usual courtesies, that the Government will table several tidying-up amendments at Third Reading that arise from continued consultation and which will take account of the parallel progress of the Land Registration Bill through your Lordships' House. They will clarify such matters as the liability for extinguished leases and how interests in and dealings with part units will work. That will involve four very minor drafting amendments, for one of which we must thank the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. We make it clear that, in a compulsory purchase, the commonhold association is not required to consent.
We would have wished to assist if we could. We have considered the matter exhaustively. We have come to the conclusion that the balance relating to the way in which the Government have framed the current regulations is right. Now that we have, for the fifth time, debated this matteragain, quite extensivelyI invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I think that we have in fact debated this matter either four or six times. There have been two debates at Second Reading, during the two Committee stages and, on this part of the Bill, during the two Report stages. I am extremely sorry that those six discussions have entirely failed to shift the Government's position. No issue of principle is involved; it is simply an issue of practicality. We think that the Government are taking an unnecessarily negative view but we do not intend to press the
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have spoken to Amendment No. 5 on, I believe, five occasions so far. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who I suspect will reply to this debatehe has done on previous occasionswill be relieved to hear that I am not going to repeat the remarks that I have made so often hitherto. The main objection to the amendment, as I understand it, has been the failure of any government since 1965 to take forward the thinking of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, who is in his place this afternoon and who produced such ingenious solutions to so many intractable problems such a long time ago.
I seem to recall that in one of the Minister's replies to meI fear that I cannot remember which onehe ventured to suggest, in very broad terms, a timetable for the likely development of the Government's thinking in this area. I think that it is fair to say that the noble Lord accepts, as a matter of principle, that it would be desirable for flying commonholds to be part of our law. It was, he added, only a question of getting around the legal niceties. I shall certainly not press the amendment today. Perhaps, when he respondsI am sure that he will do so telegraphicallyhe might venture an arrow about when the Government are likely to return to the issue. I beg to move.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page