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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his response. I cannot say that it comes as either a great surprise or a great pleasure. I believeand I hope that this matter will be taken up in another placethat there should be a provision on the face of the Bill to allow the Government to introduce, by regulation, a proper system of regulating managing agents. I very much hope that my noble and learned friend's department will reconsider the matter. I hope that when the Bill comes before another place the Government will produce a coherent and sensible provision to meet the concerns that have been expressed in this House. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the course of the Report stage of the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, undertookgenerously, but perhaps rather rashlyto come back to the House at Third Reading to let your Lordships know the timetable for the Law Commission's work on land obligations. In fact, I have received a reply not from the noble Lord, but from the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, in the course of which she states:
I recall that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, expressed his extremely creative views on positive obligations in relation to freehold land as long ago as 196536 years ago. I suppose that the distance between now and 2003 is somewhat shorter than that. However, the noble Baroness has told us only that the Law Commission will be going out to consultation at that time. What matters to this House is when we shall see a Bill that will at last put into the law of the land all the work that the noble and learned Lord did so long ago. That is why we have tabled this amendment on flying commonholds.
The Bill as it stands forbids flying commonhold. The amendment seeks to remove that prohibition, so that if someone is possessed of the jurisprudential or engineering ingenuity to resolve the problems, that person is not prevented from using this new tenure. It is a permissive amendmenta new approach to the problemand I hope that the noble Baroness will find herself in a sufficiently generous mood to concede this very contentious point. I beg to move.
The scheme of land obligation will, if accepted, replace positive and restrictive covenants and the disadvantages attaching to the present position. As the noble Lord knows, in its Eighth Programme of Law Reform, a copy of which is in the Library, the Law Commission stated that it is working on a project that will consider both easements and analogous private law rights, particularly profits à prendre, together with a further consideration of land obligations. We know that that will be an extensive and detailed investigation, and one that is long overdue.
The Law Commission makes the point that the work on the land obligationsas the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, rightly saysis to some extent contingent on the outcome of Part 1 of this Bill. With that and other priorities in mind, it does not expect to go out to consultation before 2003. But your Lordships will have noted that the Law Commission has been dealing expeditiously with these issues and we want more than anything to have this matter dealt with in a comprehensive and holistic way.
I ask the noble Lord to take couragewe waited for some 75 years for the Land Registration Act, but it is now with us. The Law Commission has been energetic in that regard. Therefore, I hope that in the circumstances the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Your Lordships should know that, throughout our debates on the Bill, those of us who have borne the heat of the daynot all of us have worked on the Bill through its previous stage and this onehave now debated nearly 1,000 amendments, if we include the proceedings prior to the general election. Much as we have enjoyed our often lively debates, I am sure that all noble Lords will be as relieved as my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and I that we have at last reached the final amendment at this stage of the Bill's progress. It would be an appropriate and "fitting sweet" birthday present for my noble and learned friend, whose birthday it is today, if we could close our deliberations on a harmonious note.
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, the noble Baroness will not be surprised to hear that I am disappointed with her reply. I can see no harm in a permissive amendment that would permit the lawyers to test the courts on these issues. The common law has proved a very creative instrument in this country over the centuries. Why should it not do so in respect of this matter? Who knows? The judges may relieve the legislature of the heavy burden of yet another Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act, with another seven or eight occasions upon which the issue of flying commonholds was debated. However, I will respect the fact that it is the birthday of the noble and learned Lord today, and therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Brightman: My Lords, perhaps I may take this opportunity to applaud the draftsman for including in this Bill an index of defined expressions. This is a most helpful device which saves the reader much time.
Your Lordships will find in Clause 68 an index of all the expressions which are specially defined in Part 1 of the Bill. Column 1 lists all the defined expressions in Part 1. Column 2 lists the sections in which the definitions are to be found. In addition to saving the reader much time in tracing a definition section, an index also avoids the risk that the reader may overlook the fact that a word in common use has a special meaning. There is a similar index in Clause 111 which covers Chapter 1, Part 2 of the Bill.
Let me briefly illustrate the value of such an index. Clause 91, for example, relates to information which has to be given to an intending managing company. There is a requirement in Clause 91 relating to information recorded in a document. The question at once arises, does the word "document" have its dictionary meaning or a special meaning, including perhaps a tape-recording or a floppy disk? If it has a special meaning, where is that meaning to be found? Both questions are answered immediately by the index in Clause 111. Column 1 of Clause 111 includes the word "document", so that the reader knows immediately that the word has a special meaning. Column 2 tells the reader where that special meaning is to be found.
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, has congratulated the Government on Clauses 68 and 111, but I am sure that your Lordships would wish to congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, on the contribution he has made in making Clauses 68 and 111 possible.
For the past five years the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, has been a persistent critic of the Government's normal refusal to provide such definition sections. It is a great tribute to his persistence that the Government now, in this difficult and complex Bill, have produced the answer that he wanted. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, is one of the greatest legal draftsmen of modern times, and the fact that he has paid the Government the compliment he has is indeed a very great compliment.
I would like to congratulate the Government on getting their Bill. It is the second time that they have got their Bill, because they got it just before the general election. Your Lordships very nearly lost it for the second time, had it not been for the unscrambling of an arrangement which we all thought would take place a week before the general election.
I would urge the Government to produce, at the earliest possible moment, a consolidation of leasehold legislation. It is now desperately needed. Although consolidating legislation is politically unglamorous, from the point of view of the citizen it would be of huge benefit. May I therefore ask the noble and learned Lord and his team to urge those who decide legislative timetables to give this matter their most serious consideration?
I hope that the Government will also monitor closely the progress of the commonhold legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and his colleagues on the Liberal Front Bench and my colleagues on my Front Bench are sad that the Government were not able to find a way of enabling blocks of flats to be converted to commonhold by less than the unanimous decision of the leaseholders. I hope that the Government will be right about the attractions of commonhold, but I suspect that more will have to be done if this imaginative and worthwhile new form of land tenure is to become the habit rather than the exception.
In conclusion, I should like to thank those many members of the Chancery Bar, not necessarily of my political persuasion, who have lent their time and skills to assist the Opposition in its loyal work.
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