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Shona McIsaac: I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman says. At the eighth sitting of the Committee, I introduced new clause 13, which dealt with rural exemption. The Minister responded by saying that there is some sympathy with the desire to create a level playing field, but that she would need to consult first. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can convey that to the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown).
Mr. Cash: In a vicarious fashion, and given the charm of the hon. Lady's intervention, I am glad to endorse her comment. It is clear that there is a problem which the Minister may be prepared to address.
There is, however, a further difficulty in relation to Adlestrop:
According to Mr. Mason's letter, he suggested at that meeting
I suggest that the position of Adlestrop, and any other similar situations, can be met by a simple amendment to Section 1AA(3) of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 by the addition of paragraph (d):
'(d) The tenancy was granted for a term of years certain not exceeding 80 years'."
Such an amendment would mean that all properties within Adlestrop would be enfranchiseable on the same terms. If such an amendment is not introduced there would be a continuing distinction between properties which are or are not enfranchiseable. Such a situation is clearly inappropriate in a small village such as Adlestrop.
The amendment would not only address the present anomaly but would also do away with the current lack of clarity as to the status of certain properties in Adlestrop. However, it would not prejudice properties in rural areas which were let for less than 80 years and which would continue to be excluded by Section 1AA(3).
There may be other similar situations to Adlestrop which would also be addressed by the amendment . . . I would hope that the Government would consider it appropriate to include such an amendment in the Bill."
We do not think that it would be right to amend the law to meet the particular concerns of one class of interested party without first consulting all interested parties. Therefore, it is not something that we could realistically resolve at this late stage in the Bill's proceedings."
The Minister's letter concludes as follows:
Shona McIsaac: I have listened carefully to the concerns of the residents of Adlestrop, but does the hon. Gentleman consider the Adlestrop question or the Schleswig-Holstein question the more difficult?
Mr. Cash: I am pleased that the hon. Lady has asked such an incredibly perceptive question. In doing so, she has introduced a completely new dimension to the Schleswig-Holstein question, which establishes three categories of person: one who is dead, one who has forgotten, and one who has gone mad. However, it is not clear which category is relevant to this case. As I do not represent Cotswold, I do not know the details of this case, other than what is contained in Mr. Mason's extremely erudite letter on behalf of the Adlestrop residents' association. I am therefore unable to add anything to what my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold could have contributed himself.
Mr. Greg Knight: Is there not a danger that the current residents of Adlestrop will themselves be dead before the matter is resolved? As I understand it, a meeting with the Minister took place 14 months ago, in January 2001. How much more time must elapse before the consultation period is brought to an end?
Mr. Cash: I have great sympathy with what my right hon. Friend has just said. The Department is well aware of the issue, which has been discussed extensively for a long time. The Minister had to admit that, despite the sympathy expressed by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, the Leasehold Advisory Service was unable to deal with the issue. However, I consider the reasons given thoroughly unconvincing.
Ms Keeble: The original intention was that the Leasehold Advisory Service might advise leaseholders on their individual circumstances, not that it should advise on the drafting of an amendment.
Mr. Cash: That is no more convincing. The more the Minister comes to the Dispatch Box to answer my pointsand the more she sits and shakes her headthe more concerned I become. I am determined to divide the House on this issue, because it is very strange.
Ms Keeble: If the hon. Gentleman had been so concerned, he could have met the constituents of the