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Lord Carter: My Lords, I remind the House that the Companion states that the Motion that the Bill do now pass is usually moved formally and is not normally debated.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, the Bill has not only been welcomed by these Benches but also by citizens of what will be the British Overseas Territories. We have only two areas of complaint. The first concerns the term "British Overseas Territories citizens" and the second relates to what is happening to the Chagos islanders who won a court case to prove that some years ago they were illegally removed. Will that affect government policy? Those issues will be raised in another place. Those points aside, we welcome the Bill.

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Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I also welcome the Bill and wish it a speedy passage in another place. The overseas territories are tiny territories. A Bill responding to their express wishes, as this Bill does, is necessarily reassuring. I make a further point on the need for reassurance. Recently there has been a great deal of press comment about the Government's discussion with Spain over the future of Gibraltar. That makes the people of Gibraltar understandably nervous. The preamble to their constitution gives them the right to self-determination and successive governments have always stood by that. Will the Government reaffirm their commitment to that right to self-determination? All the overseas territories would like to see that right enshrined in their constitutions for the avoidance of any doubt. I recognise that this matter is outside the scope of the Bill. I also recognise that I may well be out of order in making these points. However, a government's work is never done. I mention this matter now to put down a marker for future action. I support the Bill.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I believe that I shall be excused for saying just a few words. I congratulate the Government. This is a good Bill which will be warmly welcomed. I do not entirely agree with my noble friend when she says that it will not have any effect on people who remain in their own territories; it will have two important effects. First, I believe that it will reinforce their loyalty to Britain and, secondly, it will assure them of a warm welcome at our ports of entry. That is very important indeed.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Land Registration Bill [HL]

3.15 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 3 [When title may be registered]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 2, line 24, at end insert "and if the final period of right to possession expires more than fourteen years after the date of the application under subsection (2)"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 7, 22, 33 and 78. These amendments relate to non-continuous leases and situations when title may be registered. The purpose of the amendments is to achieve consistency and to avoid clogging the register. We believe that non-continuous leases should only be registrable if they are to last for at least 14 years. A discontinuous lease is one granted, for example, for a fortnight each year. A number of timeshare developments have been documented in this way, but the system could conceivably be used in other ways, for example, to let out a site for a regularly visiting fair. In a VAT case it was held that the length of a lease for a week a year for 80 years was a lease for 80 weeks.

The Bill provides that all discontinuous leases should be registered. This threatens to clog the register to no good purpose. On the other hand, to apply the

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general time qualification, even if it is as low as seven years, would exclude almost all such leases from registration. Our suggestion, therefore, is to consider how distant is the final date when the tenant would be entitled to take possession; that is, the beginning of the last week or fortnight. If that is as distant as the normal period of qualification for registration, the non-continuous lease would be registrable. There is an additional reason for making this amendment. If, contrary to policy, the parties to a lease wanted to register a lease for less than 14, or, indeed, seven years, they could do so by creating a lease with a short break in it, for example, one day. That would make it non-continuous and, on the current proposals, registrable. Again the register would be unnecessarily and unjustifiably clogged.

It was common to let grazing tenancies for just less than a year to avoid the effect of the Agricultural Holdings Act. Theoretically the tenant was not entitled to occupy during the gap between two tenancies. Nevertheless, it was far from unknown for animals to remain on the fields continuously. Who can say that mid-tenancy breaks inserted to make a lease registrable would not be treated with the same disregard?

Without Amendment No. 33 very short leases, for example, a cottage rented for a week at Easter or at half-term, should be registered--a situation which is surely not intended. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, the amendments deal with discontinuous leases. But I wonder whether the noble Baroness is labouring under some misapprehension. There is no compulsion to register a timeshare lease granted out of unregistered land unless the lease is a lease for more than seven years which would make it compulsorily registrable under Clause 4.

Amendment No. 1 seeks to reduce the number of timeshare leases which can be voluntarily registered by imposing the condition that the periods let by the lease must continue for over 14 years before registration is allowed. That would not only complicate the Bill, but would reduce its helpfulness, as no one would be compelled to register a discontinued lease of less than seven years. It would create further and more serious complications by introducing an arbitrary distinction between leases that qualified for registration and those that did not, given the enormous range of permutations of the time allocation.

Amendment No. 7 would amend Clause 4 to apply the compulsory registration provisions to discontinuous leases that continue for more than 14 years. Amendment No. 78 would make the necessary parallel change in relation to grants by the Crown for demesne land. We suggest that the amendments are not needed to clarify how the length of timeshare leases are calculated, because the basis of calculating the length of discontinuous leases

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has already been judicially determined in the now well known case of Cottage Holiday Associates Ltd v Customs and Excise Commissioners.

That case made it clear that if a property was let for a holiday every year for 80 years, the length of the lease was determined by totalling the periods of entitlement to occupy the property. Amendments to Clauses 4 and 15 are therefore unnecessary to clarify the legal position.

As to whether a longer period is needed for registrable leases, in those cases in which a lease is employed in timeshare arrangements, it normally involves the letting for a set number of weeks each year over a period of years. If the letting period is, say, half a year, the lease will need to exist for 14 years to be compulsorily registrable. If the letting were for three months, it would need to last for 28 years to be compulsorily registrable. The shorter the letting period in the year, the less likely it is for the existence of the lease to be readily discoverable by inspection, yet the longer the duration of the arrangement entered into by the parties.

We think that there is already a robust scheme in being that would mean that such leases would not be compulsorily registrable, although they could be voluntarily registered if that is what was needed.

The noble Baroness said that Amendment No. 22 was needed to address an inconsistency in the drafting of the Bill. I hope that I shall be able to convince your Lordships that the amendment is not necessary.

On Amendment No. 33, so far as leasehold estates are concerned, the requirement to register an interest created out of unregistered land under Clause 4 takes effect when the lease is granted for more than seven years and applies whether or not the lease is discontinuous. The amendment would amend Clause 4 to apply the compulsory registration provisions to discontinuous leases granted out of unregistered land that continue for more than 14 years. The timeshare arrangements normally involve letting for a set number of weeks each year over a period of years. As I said earlier, if the letting period is, say, half a year, the lease will need to exist for 14 years to be compulsorily registrable. The compulsory registration requirement for discontinuous leases granted out of unregistered land will bite when the period let under the lease exceeds seven years.

I suggest that the Bill strikes the right balance between voluntarily registrable timeshare leases and those that must trigger the registration process. I understand the concern of the noble Baroness about the register becoming clogged up, but we do not believe that it will, because of the way in which the registration will operate, with voluntarily registration for any period, but compulsory registration for the specific period of seven years. A lease that ran for one week a year would need more than 100 years before it became compulsorily registrable. That may well help the noble Baroness to understand that we have struck a proper balance between the two. I hope that she will not feel it necessary to press her amendment.

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