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Mr. Wiggin: Yes, 100 per cent.

8.15 pm

Mr. Cash: I am very glad to hear it.

Why on earth is it necessary to use a double negative to define what is operational? Would not it be simpler to say "used"? It is very strange.

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The new clause says:

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire): The definitions have been troubling me somewhat and I wonder whether my hon. Friend can help. Does he think that "operational" in new clause 13 would cover a tourist attraction that is a railway but not in the sense that it carries passengers from one city to another?

Mr. Cash: That is another extremely important point. It so happens that the Severn Valley railway operates very near where I live in Shropshire. I have just realised that I ought to declare an interest, because I have one share in the Churnet Valley railway in my constituency, which is a railway of the kind that my right hon. Friend describes.

The Minister has certainly not explained to us what is in the Railways Act 1993. Some of us would be extremely grateful to be enlightened about that. Further complication is added when we are told that the term is

If I look at a tree, for example, under its wider meaning could it not also be a bush? We do not know what the wider meaning could convey, and that could be extremely important in dealing with an estate management scheme.

The vagueness of the drafting does not allow us to determine exactly what "railway" means. That reminds me of Humpty Dumpty telling Alice that words mean whatever he chooses, and

That characterises the drafting. The definition in the new clause leaves open the question of what the wider meaning is, and that is problematic.

I have already exposed, as a matter of logic and law, a whole series of internal contradictions and uncertainties in provisions that the Minister has declared are very important. That certainly does not help the House or those who will soon be affected by the provisions. That problem should concern us at such a late stage in our proceedings. As the Minister said, there were five opportunities to examine the Bill in the other place and we have had the chance to discuss it in Committee and on Report. Yet the explanation for the provision is vague and uncertain.

The new clause refers to section 4 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993. It is all very well to jam in at the bottom of a provision something that is so vague and uncertain, but it must be related to the relevant provisions of that Act.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman may have unintentionally diverted himself on to a loop line and may therefore take longer to reach his destination. He would do the House a service if he focused more directly on the new clause.

Mr. Cash: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that guidance. However, I do not believe that I have departed from the new clause. I have explained its vagueness, contradictions and uncertainties. It is not possible to explain it in full without going into the manner in which it impinges on the 1993 Act.

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The new clause is to be inserted at the end of section 4 of the 1993 Act. It says:

of that Act. In other words, the whole Act applies to the Bill for the purposes set out in the new clause. It is not necessarily a loop line; it is more a case of taking us through a tunnel into another Act. That is the point of the new clause. The Minister has made no attempt to explain the situation. She is looking for the first time at the 1993 Act. That is important, because without doing that it is not possible for the House or the people who need to refer to the legislation subsequently to understand the relevance.

The provisions of section 4 are amended by proposed new subsection (5). It is a substantive provision that relates to premises including so-called railway track, and states:

which are

The chapter does not apply to premises

which gives rise to the difficulties of the definition.

Section 4 of the 1993 Act says that the chapter does not apply to the premises that I have just outlined if

I would have thought a railway track would not be regarded as something that was occupied or intended to be occupied for residential purposes unless it was part of the railway development schemes, which give rise to complicated questions about pre-emption and surplus land if they apply under the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act 1845. Section 4 goes on to say that the chapter does not apply to premises if they are

Furthermore, it states that it does not apply to premises if

We have had almost no explanation of the interaction between the different pieces of legislation. In the last Session, however, before programme motions came into effect, we had a fuller explanation.

The Minister referred to different premises that could be covered by new clause 13. Section 4 goes on to say:

those excluded from the right—

It would be one thing if we were merely talking about an estate management scheme, but we are not: the provision relates to the railway track business—not to mention

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Railtrack business, which I shall not go into. The problem is that it is difficult both for those who are involved in estate management schemes and for tenants to interpret the legislation.

New clause 13 will not give enough assistance to remove the doubts that have been raised. There is much more to this than meets the eye, and there are serious difficulties to resolve. Although it has taken time to explain, the problem has to be properly considered and I look forward to hearing the Minister's explanation of what the new clause means in the context of the 1993 Act, the 1845 Act and all the other matters to which I have referred.

Mr. Wiggin: The new clause is bizarre. It has arrived at a late stage in our proceedings and relates to part I of the 1993 Act which is entitled "Collective Enfranchisement in Case of Tenants of Flats". I cannot understand why anyone would think that people who live above an underground railway line or the tube might think that that is relevant to them. Section 4 is entitled "Premises excluded from right" and does not apply to premises falling within section 3(1). I am aware that the Minister does not have a copy, so I shall briefly go through it.

Subsections (1)(a) and (b), (2), (3) and (4) of section 4 refer to "premises" and nothing else. To me, and perhaps to other lay people, the word "premises" implies something in which people could live, and could not refer to a railway line. That is why I find the new clause bizarre. I am afraid that I cannot dissect it in detail and with the same skill as my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), but I feel that it is wholly inappropriate in respect of leasehold and commonhold reform.

8.30 pm

Why would the Government suddenly want to introduce a provision relating to railways in the middle of a Bill that relates to people's homes? It is extremely odd. Without wishing to fuel conspiracy theories, I could suggest that this might be another instance of the Government burying a strange amendment for use on another day. I do not see why the new clause is crucial to the Bill. The idea that tourist railways, the underground or indeed any sort of railway would be property that a commonholder would want to own is bizarre. The fact that the railways are currently in receivership makes it even less likely that anybody who wants to be included in a commonhold arrangement would consider suggesting that the underground line over which they live might be part of their property. I find that proposition extraordinarily naive.

I hope that the Minister will give us some assurances that the new clause has snuck on to the amendment paper by accident. I hope also that she will seek to withdraw new clause 13—an unlucky number on no small scale in this instance—as it is so out of character with the rest of the Bill. It strikes me as extraordinary that we are expected to believe that people who want to enfranchise will also hope to claim a small part of the Circle line. It must be an accident or even a mistake, so I look forward to hearing that the Minister will seek to withdraw the new clause as it is wholly inappropriate, especially in light of the 1993 Act.

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One can see that garages, parking spaces, storage areas and so on are proper premises. It would be possible to convert a garage or parking space—presumably a covered one—into a home of some sort, but the idea that people would live on any part of the Circle line in a tunnel strikes me as out of order and bizarre. [Interruption.] The Minister appears to be saying that there are people who live in the underground.

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