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Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) referred to me earlier, so I shall explain why I spoke on this sensitive subject in Committee. As will be made repeatedly clear in our debates, there were two reasons for the original design of leaseholds. First, they were designed so that a leasehold house might be sold in a similar fashion to a freehold. The second reason was to enable the house to return to the freeholder after a short periodbut more than 21 years.
The hon. Lady also said that there might be consultation in about six months, but that period may quickly disappear. I hope that the Minister will review the formula that my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) mentioned, although I noticed a little frown sneak across her face when he raised the issue. I look forward to reassurance from the Minister so that we can count down to the time when the formula will be reviewed.
Ms Keeble: Members on both sides of the House have recognised the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) in securing this amendment. The whole House recognises her long track record on campaigning on the leasehold issues affecting her constituents. We shall later debate other provisions that she has played a large part in securing. She has performed a real service to her constituents. We all knowshe has often told usthat many of them are elderly people who live in leasehold houses. The points that she made about personal representatives and the interests of family members are very profound and real.
I want to clarify a point about the provision of information on the valuation basis. I have a feeling that the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) was talking about the formulaic assessment of the valuation that he has often mentioned, so I should clarify the remarks that I made in Committee. Under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, we already have powers to prescribe the form and content of the landlord counter-notice, and we will consult on proposals to require information about the basis on which the landlord's counter-offer has been calculated. That will form part of our consultation on the secondary legislation that will implement the Bill. We have to consult on several issues in order to take the Bill forward. However, I note that the hon. Member for Solihull has not held his breath; he is no longer in his place.
'(a) after paragraph (a) insert
"(aa) the tenancy was granted for a term of years not exceeding 80 years".'.
'(1A) Nothing in the omission from section 16 of the 1967 Act provided for by subsection (1)(a) above shall prejudice the operation of any provision of a private Act by which an interest in property
Amendment No. 62 was tabled by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Roger Casale). Although it is interesting, I am not sure how it connects with amendment No. 88. I shall be interested in the hon. Gentleman's explanation, not least because I am curious to learn what type of private Acts the amendment refers to. He may reveal interesting facts about how the private Acts that he has in mind will operate.
I return to the gravamen that led my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold to seek to amend the Bill. For a variety of reasons, it is a racing certainty that my hon. Friend will not be able to return to the House to deal with this issue, but I can do just that for him. His constituent Mr. Mason lives in Adlestrop in Moreton-in-Marsh, a place that I know well. As chairman of the Adlestrop residents' association, Mr. Mason has set out with great clarity his concerns about enfranchisement, which, as he says,
The pattern that was followed in Adlestrop is that long leases were granted on a number of properties in the early 1970s at a rent which was not a low rent. Subsequently, during the period between the mid 1970s and the late 1980s, leases appear to have been granted with Prince of Wales Clauses."
Mr. Cash: The Minister may be able to help, because I am not sure. As I understand it, a Prince of Wales clause is a special provision in Acts to save the rights, properties, privileges and liabilities of the Prince of Wales. [Interruption.] Would the Minister be good enough to repeat what she has just said from a sedentary position? Obviously not, and in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold, I am afraid that I can only take a stab at it. Perhaps we can elucidate such matters in due course.
In each case the properties were sold at a premium by the trustees. The only reason for the sale of the properties on long leases, rather than by way of the sale of the freehold, was to enable the freeholder to retain control over the development, character and amenity of the village. There is no prospect that the freeholder will wish to resume possession of any of the properties on expiry of the leases. In each case a substantial premium was paid on the grant of the lease which would have been broadly equivalent to the price on the sale of the freehold (reflecting the length of the lease). In layman's parlance, the properties were effectively sold. In most cases, the properties were in very bad repair or involved the sale of a building plot which was subsequently developed by the lessee. The lessees have therefore expended considerable sums on the properties.
The control of the development, character and amenity of the village can of course be met equally through an Estate Management Scheme. An Estate Management Scheme was introduced in 1998 in anticipation of the eventual enfranchisement of a number of properties within the village."
The problems of Adlestrop were the subject of the debate in the House of Lords prior to enactment of the 1996 Act which resulted in introduction of the rural exemption provision. I understand that this was intended to avoid enfranchisement of country properties which had been let for more than 21 years at a rent in excess of the
The end result so far as Adlestrop is concerned is that some properties are enfranchiseable whereas others are not."