Amendment 13

Part of Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords am 5:00 pm ar 22 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of The Earl of Devon The Earl of Devon Crossbench 5:00, 22 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I too was unable to speak at Second Reading, and I apologise for that. However, I was able to attend much of the debate and to listen to a number of your Lordships’ speeches. I noted the numerous times in which leasehold tenure was described as “feudal”; we have heard this many times today. It is used as a pejorative term, which I do not strictly agree with, being a feudal Member of your Lordships’ feudal House, serving our feudal sovereign. It seems a somewhat discriminatory term to use. I also note that not all feudal rights are bad; we laud the Magna Carta, the right to trial by jury, and the rights of habeas corpus, all of which are essential feudal rights. I would hazard that leasehold tenure is similarly a feudal right that we should be particularly proud of, like your Lordships’ feudal House.

That said, I realise that the days of leasehold are numbered, but we should not remove such an important element of our residential housing market without ensuring that there are at least adequate alternatives that are fit for purpose. There currently are not. I believe it a mistake to dismantle leasehold tenure without ensuring that the commonhold alternative is fit for purpose.

Here I note my interests: in 2003, as a junior property barrister, I was a contributing author to a handbook on the exciting new tenure of commonhold. Since then, and despite our best hopes, the book has sold barely a copy, and I understand that commonhold has been adopted by hardly anyone. In 2015, and again more recently, the Law Commission has explored the shortcomings of commonhold, and has, as we have heard, identified numerous ways in which the law could be amended to make it better. I believe the Government are therefore wrong not to have grasped the nettle and made commonhold fit for purpose at the same time as, if not before, introducing this piece of legislation.

For this reason, I support the probing amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, with respect to the publication of a commonhold strategy. Without that viable alternative, I am particularly concerned that the leasehold reforms will have the unfortunate effect of decreasing the available housing stock, and will drive up the price of housing, which will decrease the number of homes that are affordable. I note my interests as a member of the Devon Housing Commission, ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Best, which is exploring why there is so little housing available in the county for people who actually live there.

I have a question for the Minister: have the Government sought to measure the likely impact of the Bill on the availability of new housing, and the willingness of freeholders to make land available for development?