HC Deb 20 March 2001 vol 365 cc176-7
3. Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston)

When he plans to bring forward legislation on leasehold reform. [152909]

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

The Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill, which was introduced in another place on 20 December last year is currently making good progress through its Committee stage.

Maria Eagle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the feudalism that underlies land law in this country is an inappropriate basis on which to deal with the law of property in the 21st century? Given that his Bill is languishing in the other place, which has a more recent affinity with feudalism than this democratic House, will he confirm that his Department will prioritise it when considering whether there is time to debate it here?

Mr. Raynsford

I have to tell my hon. Friend that it is not for me to determine the allocation of time when the Bill comes to this Place. However, I am pleased to tell her that that important measure, which gives effect to the Government's commitments to achieve fundamental reforms in the antiquated and unsatisfactory leasehold tenure, is making good progress in Committee in the other place. I hope that, with a fair wind, it will complete that stage in the near future.

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman remembers saying in 1996: Labour in Government will have no hesitation in introducing a comprehensive leasehold reform package including commonhold legislation"? Does he agree with the Campaign for the Abolition of Residential Leasehold that his Bill fails in at least 10 areas to address the needs of the 2 million leaseholders in this country? Why has he introduced a Bill so late in this Parliament that it cannot possibly receive proper parliamentary scrutiny before the forthcoming general election? Why has he failed so comprehensively to redeem that clearest of pre-election pledges, and why should he be trusted on the issue at the next election?

Mr. Raynsford

That is pretty rich coming from a party that spectacularly failed to honour its pledge to introduce commonhold in the previous Parliament. We will take no lessons from the Conservative party on leasehold reform and commonhold. The Bill is the most comprehensive measure for several years on the subject. It gives new rights to leaseholders to take over the management of their homes if that is unsatisfactory, extends their opportunities to buy the freehold of their homes and introduces a new commonhold tenure to enable current leaseholders in flats to own the property collectively. It is an important reforming measure that shows the Government's commitment to leasehold reform, in contrast to the abject failure of the Conservatives.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned an organisation that has been campaigning on this matter. Many of its alleged facts are inaccurate. I do not accept its criticisms; nor do the vast majority of leaseholders, who recognise the enormous progress that the Government are making.