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Mr. Cash: I am intrigued that new clause 12(1)(b), as drafted for the Government by parliamentary counsel, refers to "Chapter 4" while the 1993 Act contains "Chapter IV". The point may seem trivial, but can the Minister explain that? Chapter IV contains important provisions, and if amendments are being made to it in such a way, who is to say that they may not contain other similar mistakes?
Mr. Cash: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am surprised to hear the Minister say that she does not have the 1993 Act in front of her. I do not want to make a meal of the point, but it is impossible for her to give the explanation that I have asked for unless she has the 1993 Act. Indeed, the Minister has not explained the point, except by a vague reference to reasonableness. We cannot
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): The hon. Gentleman is experienced enough to know that that verges on the matters for debate and is not a point of order for me. I can recall, however, that we have managed, with greater disability, to debate matters in the past.
Amendment No. 35 is necessary to ensure that our proposals do not have unintended consequences. We want to ensure that it continues to be possible to request consent for the making of an application for the approval of an estate management scheme. With that explanation, I urge the House to support the Government new clause and amendment, and I ask those who tabled the new clause 4 and amendment No. 25 to withdraw them.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has been a Member of the House for long enough to appreciate that we do not have stand part debates on consideration. They are a feature only of deliberations in Committee.
'In section 4 of the 1993 Act (premises in the case of which right does not apply) insert at the end
"(5) This Chapter does not apply to premises falling within section 3(1) if the freehold of the premises includes track of an operational railway; and for the purposes of this subsection
(a) "track" includes any land or other property comprising the permanent way of a railway (whether or not it is also used for other purposes) and includes any bridge, tunnel, culvert, retaining wall or other structure used for the support of, or otherwise in connection with, track,
We have already had a long and detailed debate with many references to clauses and subsections. The aim of presenting new clauses is also to give hon. Members some idea of our general intent, and this new clause is intended to deal with a pressing and practical problemwhat to do about railway tracks and properties.
It has recently been brought to our attention that the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 did not adequately provide for cases in which flats are built over a railway track, such as the case in which a block has been built on top of a bridge or tunnel under which the railway runs. Nothing in existing law prevents leaseholders living in such flats from buying their freeholds. Freeholders have the right to take out 999-year leases on the commercial parts of the building when leaseholders buy their freeholds, but there is reason to doubt whether that would apply to land over which a railway runs, as that does not form part of the block itself. That could clearly lead to serious difficulties.
The new exemption would prevent leaseholders from exercising their right to enfranchise if the freeholds that they would otherwise be entitled to buy would include land over which a railway track runs or where it would include structures used for the support of the railway. It would ensure that the right to enfranchise cannot be exercised under circumstances in which it could seriously hinder the continued operation of a railway. That is a practical amendment.
Mr. Cash: I have no doubt that the Minister regards the new clause as extremely important. On the face of it, it seems to cover many matters of considerable interest to those affected by chapter I of the 1993 Act. The new clause states:
Why does the new clause not describe section 4 of the Act? It is certainly not the same description as the one in my copy of the Act. For some reason the words have been changed. "Premises excluded from right" is not the same as
That is the second point that I have had to raise as regards the drafting. My points may seem trivial but there seems no reason for the changes. At the very least, the drafting is sloppy. That is not the way to legislate. It is extraordinary that although parliamentary counsel and the
(a) 'track' includes any land or other property comprising the permanent way of a railway (whether or not it is also used for other purposes)".
There is thus a double problem. The first is that the word "track" is apparently defined as including "land or other property" and we do not know what that other property might be, because property ejusdem generis with land cannot refer to any property that is not land. The second problem involves the use of the word "track". It is used twice; it is defined in one case but not in the other.
That raises some serious questions. For example, to introduce a substantive issue, there might be a difficulty as regards the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act 1845. That Act contained rights of pre-emption with which I am extremely familiar, because for many years I had to examine such questions. The Act also contains provisions on surplus lands.
I was involved in the passage of the British Railways Act 1968 and we held some extremely difficult discussions with people who had acquired land and subsequently wanted to develop it to increase its value. That was an extremely contentious issue. Much of the problem turned on the question of whether the land was subject to rights of pre-emption or surplus land.
The railwayland developments were considered important because they increased the value of the property available to British Rail, but unfortunately they gave rise to a great deal of litigation. Under the rights of pre-emption and of surplus land, it became necessary to determine who owned the land, which introduced the difficult question of the limits of deviation. The railways were provided for under enactments going back to about 1830, and the question of who owns land, including the land within the limits of variation, is directly linked to the determination of what comprises the permanent way of a railway.
The permanent way can in fact go much wider than the track, within the limits of deviation, to take in land that has now become very valuable because properties have been built on it. Because in those days there was no land registration and no clear way of knowing what the limits of deviation were, other than looking at the maps and plans deposited in Parliament, it was hard for conveyancers to determine what was within the land management of the railway system. Properties built along railway lines could well fall within the estate management scheme in the Bill.