HC Deb 06 November 1978 vol 957 cc489-90
13. Mr. Kinnock

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the operation of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 in Wales.

Mr. Alec Jones

Many thousands of leaseholders have successfully acquired their freeholds under the provisions of the Act, which has conferred great benefit in Wales. I am aware of the difficulties which some leaseholders in Wales have experienced and am considering carefully the implications of these.

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said in part of his reply. I know that he understands the problems in Wales. However, is it not now time to make progress in changing the current legislation so that legal aid is made available in cases that come before the Lands Tribunal?

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the Lands Tribunal could be replaced by local valuation courts to give greater access to those who require to buy their freeholds, that there should be automatic enfranchisement in the case of 999-year leases and that at the expiration of an eight-week period from the time that a tenant states that he is willing to buy his freehold the ground landlord should be required to reply, if he has not already done so? Would not these steps greatly relieve the thousands of people who are facing leasehold difficulties in South Wales?

Mr. Alec Jones

I shall attempt to answer my hon. Friend's supplementary questions. It has been suggested that some people in Wales are somewhat reluctant to go to the Lands Tribunal. Only three cases in Wales have reached the Lands Tribunal. The tribunal has recently changed its procedures to enable it to consider cases on the basis of written submissions. I hope that this in itself will encourage more leaseholders to make use of the tribunal. I welcome the suggestions put forward by my hon. Friend and others in the House so that we can ensure that if the Act is not perfect—it is no good pretending that it is perfect—any deficiencies are remedied.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Has the Minister had reports to the effect that exorbitant sums are being demanded for the sale of freeholds? If he has received such reports, will he consider amending the Leasehold Reform Act to confine such sums to, say a figure of £400?

Mr. Alec Jones

It is certainly true that some of the figures which have come to my attention suggest that fairness in negotiations has not been achieved. If we contemplate taking any steps to change the Act, we shall take fully into account the difficulties which the Welsh people are experiencing.