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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman does not take too much account of sedentary comments, of which the occupant of the Chair does not approve. While I am on my feet, I also remind him that he is now in danger of repeating himself more than once.
Ms Keeble: I am told that of 244 minutes of debate this evening, the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) has occupied 132. He probably spent about a quarter or a third of that time on new clause 13, in a contribution that was probably the least constructive that he has made, and certainly of the debate.
The new clause is intended to deal with very practical issues around access to railway tracks when major works are needed. As the hon. Gentleman said, the identification of ownership is a major issue in that regard. At the start of his contribution, he spoke about his experience of how difficult it can be if it is not possible to determine where ownership rests.
The hon. Gentleman spoke at length about estate management schemes, but I advise him that the new clause does not deal with such schemes; the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) had it rightit is about enfranchisement. I also remind him that there is a need for major infrastructure works on the railways and the underground. The purpose of the new clause, as I thought I had made clear previously, is to ensure that we deal with issues of land ownership in relation to the work that is needed. It has also been made clear to us that the Railways Act 1993 did not make adequate provision for cases in which flats had been built over railway tracka point that deals with the questions about properties located on top of the Circle line. The new clause refers to blocks of flats that are built on top of a bridge or tunnel under which a railway runs.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about the definition of track. The description set out in the new clause is clear. The definition is based on that which is contained in existing railway legislation. He said that the provisions were very complex and again referred to his experience in the 1960s. Of course, legislation has been amended and introduced since then. Clearly, it would be unhelpful if the definition in the new clause was different from that used in other railway legislation.
Mr. Cash: If the definition of track has been lifted from current legislation, why does not the provision say so? It could merely say that "track" means whatever is stated in existing legislation. That is the normal way of dealing with such matters. I do not have the legislation immediately to hand, but I would not be surprised if there
Ms Keeble: The hon. Gentleman asked a question and he has got the answerit seems merely that he does not like it. There is a lot of clarity in the definition and I am told that it is based on the definitions in existing railway legislation. That seems the best possible approach.
The hon. Gentleman asked about differences in numberings. I understand that the use of Roman numerals is no longer practised. He will notice that the passage that he claims to be different from the 1993 Act is not part of the substance of the new clause. We are not inserting that into legislation; it is a parenthesis and is purely descriptive. The passage in inverted commasthe new clause itselfis perfectly accurate and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
I have said openly that the new clause was tabled at a late stage in response to questions about potential problems relating to access to track and other requirements for carrying out work on railway lines. Given the current importance of infrastructure work on both overground and underground railways, we must ensure that we do not in any way complicate or frustrate that through any lack of clarity as regards land ownership. That is the purpose of the new clause. It is extremely helpful and constructive, and I commend it to the House.
'(1) Paragraph 8 of the Schedule to the 1985 Act (right to challenge landlord's nomination of insurer) is amended as follows.
(2) In subparagraphs (1) and (2), after "nominated" insert "or approved".
(3) In subparagraph (4), after "nominate" (in both places) insert "or approve".'.[Ms Keeble.]
Ms Keeble: New clause 14 and the amendments are purely technical. The new clause is important in that it builds on amendments that were tabled in Committee by ensuring that their intent is properly carried through. I hope that it will assist certain groups of people.
As hon. Members may recall from previous debates, some leases provide for insurance to be taken out with a nominated insurer. Some landlords have abused that right by insisting that their leaseholders take out insurance with a company that charges inflated premiums so that they can secure a large commission. Several hon. Members referred to the disgraceful scams that have taken place and the hardship that has been caused to many people.
Mr. Cash: The Minister is completely right to say that the new clause is an important provision. We had a useful debate in Committee about the implications of the matter. Several issues are raised by the manner in which certain landlords put tenants at a disadvantage by requiring that they accept their insurance company, with which they, the landlords, may themselves be involved. The Minister rightly described that as a scam. It raises questions of conflict of interest and of uberrimae fidei, which lie at the heart of insurance contracts. It also raises questions about the extent to which there is a free market and whether a monopoly may arise, albeit in relatively constrained circumstances. Some of the very large estates represent a vehicle for acquiring vast amounts of commission, which can be generated on the back of a simple requirement to nominate an insurer.
On the face of it, the new clause makes an extremely simple amendment to paragraph 8 of the schedule to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which deals with the right to challenge the landlord's nomination of insurer. Nevertheless, it is, by any reasonable standards, a considerable step forward that will come as a considerable relief to many people who have been taken for a ride in the past. The sums involved may be important as well, but the downstream consequence of being landed with a bucket-shop insureror even a big insurersimply because the landlord has the power to insist on it has always struck me as an extraordinary state of affairs. It is almost nothing to do with the landlord, in the sense that what is done in the flat in question relates to compliance with covenants of repair, and so on. It could be argued that, if the tenant or leaseholder did not properly insure, other people in the premises could be at risk.
Mr. Wiggin: I am curious as to what would happen if a tenant claimed to have insuranceor perhaps ran his own insurance businessbut it turned out to be inadequate. What sort of protection would the freeholder have from a rogue tenant who claimed to have insurance but in fact could not insure himself?