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Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 76:

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 76 and 77 together simply allow for any regulations made under Clause 58(3) which relate to compulsory purchase to be made jointly by the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 77:

    Page 26, line 5, at end insert--

("( ) Regulations under this Part shall be made--
(a) in the case of regulations under section 58(3), by the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State acting jointly, and
(b) in any other case, by the Lord Chancellor.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 79:

    Page 26, line 13, at end insert--

("(3) Regulations shall not be made under sections 3(1)(e), 3(2)(f) or 19(4) unless a draft of the instrument containing them has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(4) The first regulations under section 31 and paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 shall not be made unless a draft of the instrument containing them has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(5) Subject to subsections (3) and (4), regulations under this Part shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: I shall be very brief. The amendment is by no means the most important we will look at, but an enormous quantity of material will be published and will no doubt frequently be revised. It is essential that commonhold associations act on the basis of the best, current and up-to-date information. I recognise that in practice the best way of doing this is electronically; and no doubt there will be a website where these regulations will be maintained.

It is worth raising the point that it will be essential for information to be brought to the attention of the commonhold association. One practical way of doing that would be by ensuring that all of them--they can all equally be identified from the Land Registry--receive copies of the regulations free of charge. as soon as they are made or, in the case of draft regulations from the affirmative resolution procedure, before they come into force. I beg to move.

Lord Bach: This amendment would result in commonhold associations being provided at public expense, with documents published for sale by the Stationery Office. It has to be admitted that it would apply only to regulations issued after the first commonholds were set up but not to the first raft of publications because we expect to have those out well in advance of implementation of the Act. In the early stages there will be very few such organisations to be supplied. However, we have to consider the cost to the taxpayers of providing such material free of charge to companies which will levy commonhold assessments on their unit-holders for the very purpose of, among other things, covering the costs of managing the commonhold.

We are prepared to consider this amendment and will make inquiries between now and Report, at which time I will come back with a more definite answer. It may not be a positive answer, but we would like to consider the point in this amendment, and I invite the noble Lord to withdraw it today.

Lord Goodhart: I am very grateful for having received more encouragement than I had expected on this point. There are other later amendments which raise similar points in terms of publication of booklets and so forth to inform various groups and RPL organisations what they are going to be saddled with. I think it is important that these complicated matters should be brought to the attention of the CHAs. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 61, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 62 to 65 agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Commonhold: consequential amendments]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 81:

    Page 77, line 17, at end insert--

("Housing Act 1985 (c. 68)

. At the end of section 118 of the Housing Act 1985 (the right to buy) there shall be added--
"(3) For the purposes of this Part, a dwelling-house which is a commonhold unit (within the meaning of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2001) shall be treated as a house and not as a flat." ").

The noble Lord said: This amendment makes a change to Section 118 of the Housing Act 1985, which relates to a tenant's right to buy from a public-sector landlord. Broadly speaking, if a dwellinghouse is defined as a flat, the only right to buy is the right to buy a long lease. If it is defined as a house and the landlord is a freeholder, there is a right to buy the freehold or a long lease. As it will not be possible to have a long lease of a commonhold unit, it is necessary to ensure that all such units are classified as houses for the purposes of the right to buy provisions, and that is what this amendment seeks to do. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 66 [Interpretation]:

[Amendment No. 82 not moved.]

Clause 66 agreed to.

Clauses 67 and 68 agreed to.

Clause 69 [Premises to which Chapter applies]:

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 83:

    Page 29, line 25, at end insert--

("( ) they consist of individual houses and blocks of flats comprised in an estate management scheme,").

The noble Baroness said: I ought to declare an interest because I acquired the freehold of my property under enfranchisement, but it was a long time ago and has had no great effect since, except to make me much happier. This Bill needs to tidy up all the aspects of enfranchisement and leasehold reform. There have been enough Bills over a number of years, and I hope that this is the one that will finally do the deed. If it is going to do that, it needs to include all elements where there can be a right to manage. One of those areas needs to be those properties which have been enfranchised and are on an estate. That does not exist at the present time. There are estate management schemes, but the right to manage does not exist under those schemes.

This amendment and Amendment No. 190 are designed to ensure that properties enfranchised by their owners, the owners then have the right to manage on the estate. This will probably include areas where there are flats with leasehold, but those owners should not be deprived of the rights of tenants under the Landlord and Tenant Act.

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Many promises have been made during the passage of the Bill. One was made, I believe, by the Minister for Housing, when he conceded some time ago that this measure would be appropriate. I therefore have no doubt that the amendment will be accepted by the Minister. I beg to move.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My noble friend Lord Richard is unable to be present--he is attending the funeral of Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos in Anglesey--and therefore my noble friend Lady Gibson of Market Rasen and I shall be moving the amendments standing in his name on the Marshalled List.

Amendment No. 83A is self-explanatory. It is an attempt to extend the right to manage across a whole estate. Within the present definition, where RTM is contemplated for an estate comprising, say, six separate blocks of flats, each building must satisfy eligibility and make application separately. This is unnecessarily bureaucratic, more expensive in legal costs and could cause problems in the management of common areas in estate-wide contracts if only one or two of the blocks proceed.

It may be convenient if I speak also to Amendment No. 89A, which attempts to define an "estate" for the purposes I have mentioned. The Minister will be aware of the problem and be sympathetic to it, but there will be difficulties in compiling a watertight definition of an estate that will not end up encompassing all the properties in a landlord's ownership. We propose that an "estate" should relate to the service charge for buildings and lands which together comprise 100 per cent of the charge levied.

The second issue arises from concerns expressed by the Association of Retirement Housing Managers about the possible effects of the exercise of RTM on flats on retirement estates which comprise both flats and bungalows and which have shared facilities--a warden, a common room, a laundry and so on. Again, the application must be estate wide for proper or possible future management.

Lord Kingsland: I rise to support both the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Richard. As your Lordships are well aware, the amendments would extend the right to manage to cover estates of buildings. At present it applies only to blocks of flats. The estate is defined as having an appropriate degree of commonality in arrangements and service charges. The buildings must make up the entire estate. Leasehold houses are only included where the estate is designated as a retirement estate.

Under the Bill as drafted, blocks of flats on estates of linked buildings will not be able to exercise the right to manage as a group. Individual blocks will only qualify for RTM if the common areas, services and service charges can be disaggregated. This mirrors the position in relation to enfranchisement. The crucial question is the degree of commonality between the buildings-- that is, the extent to which they share arrangements, areas and services--and the ease with which these can be separated.

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The amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, define the estate so that it applies to estates where the commonality is such that the individual buildings cannot be separated. Even as the Bill stands, there will be estates where there will be blocks of flats able to exercise RTM, leaving the landlord compelled to retain the management of the surrounding houses. If the management of the common areas and services of the estate are linked in such a way that it is unreasonably difficult to disaggregate them, it should be possible for the entire estate to exercise RTM. A whole linked estate would need to achieve the appropriate majorities among the leaseholders. It will be important to clarify whether the qualification and majorities required should be assessed for each individual block or across the entire estate. Otherwise it is conceivable that confusion could arise where there is not a majority for RTM in any individual block but that there might be across the entire estate.

Our concern with allowing RTM to apply to estates is that it may have a seriously adverse impact on the ability to manage an estate as an estate, particularly if the concept of commonality were drawn widely. This could have a significantly adverse effect, for example, on some of the London estates where, arguably, the ability of the landlord to manage the estate has been an important factor in maintaining the quality of the area, establishing a sense of place and community and preserving and enhancing the value of the leaseholders' assets.

6 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): As the Committee will have noticed, we have now moved on to the part of the Bill which is the responsibility of my department on the leasehold side. These amendments attempt to extend the people and premises to which the rights to manage apply, from those outlined in Clause 69, to estates or people who are subject to an estate management scheme. They should have the collective right to take over the running of that scheme.

I have some sympathy with the concerns behind this proposal and with the suggestion as regards the problem that it addresses. Indeed, the noble Baroness is correct to say that Nick Raynsford himself made some general statements recognising that it might be desirable to move in this direction--although he stopped short of giving a specific commitment that it would be possible to do so in this Bill.

I fear that the Committee will hear me say on a number of occasions that although these extensions may well be desirable they would be extremely complex to implement. It would be very difficult to implement them in the terms of the amendments before us and to resolve the matter in time for measures to be brought forward in this Bill.

Estate management schemes are intended to preserve arrangements for the management of an estate where leaseholders exercise the right to enfranchise either individual leasehold houses or

27 Feb 2001 : Column CWH1262

blocks of flats. In the absence of positive covenants which might run with the land, they are needed to enforce binding obligations on those who own the freehold of their property in order to contribute to the upkeep of common facilities within the estate as a whole. We are therefore left with a mixed community of the original landlord, freehold tenants of individual buildings on the estate and the leaseholders.

The problem facing us is that we need to consider very carefully the respective rights and obligations of all these parties and how they might inter-relate within what is intended to be quite a simple structure of an RTM company. This is an extremely complex issue. The fact of the matter is that we have not been able to address this within the time available. We would certainly be prepared, as a Government, to consider it in the longer term in the light of experience on the more straightforward premises and rights in this Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Lea, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Richard, proposes a more general right to allow the right to manage to be exercised for an estate of properties of all descriptions. Many of the points I have already made relate to this--we have given careful thought to the possibility of creating a right to manage applying to more than one property. That was raised very substantially during the consultation in August and we had to face a number of practical difficulties which, although potentially soluble, could not be satisfactorily resolved in time for measures to be brought forward for this Bill.

The first and most obvious question was that of the definition of "estate" for these purposes. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, makes a helpful suggestion, but there are other issues that would need to be resolved. As has been said, there are estates which consist of a mixture of flats, of maisonettes and of houses. A retirement estate is a clear example of this in many parts of the country. There will be differences between the rights of leaseholders of houses and leaseholders of flats--some as a result of historic accidents and others for more substantive reasons. We need to address both.

We have to recognise that on a complex estate the question of which services apply to which premises is also complex. Some services may apply to the estate as a whole and all residents contribute to service charges; others may apply only to a particular block, individual buildings or groups of buildings. To make sense of that, we would need rather more complicated amendments to the Bill than are proposed in these clauses. We agree that this is an important issue and that it may be desirable for the right to manage to be capable of being extended to people in these situations. However, one cannot simply extend the rights which apply to people in single properties to those who live on estates. That would be a matter for complex amendment or, in our judgment, a later Bill, by which time we would be able to take account of the experience of the more straightforward application of RTM in individual buildings. I, therefore, hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue the amendment.

27 Feb 2001 : Column CWH1263

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