LCD – COMMONHOLD AND LEASEHOLD REFORM – 11 March 2002
Dr Julian Lewis rose –
[Michael Wills: I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. I am glad to see that he has joined us for the latter part of these proceedings. I was about to say that, as there is such concern among Opposition Members, I shall explain the arguments again in the hope that they may finally penetrate.]
Dr Lewis: I thank the Minister [Michael Wills] for giving way. In case he has not noticed, I was present for the earlier part of the proceedings; there was merely a slight intermission. Does he accept that the import of his remarks is an admission that the Government are accepting the fundamental point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (William Cash) because they cannot get round the problem? Are they not admitting that the benefits of the Bill will apply only to people in new properties and not to those in existing leasehold properties, with hardly any exceptions?
[Michael Wills: No, I do not accept that. The truth is that nobody in the House has any idea of exactly what will happen in future. As we have always said, the market will decide the issue. As the hon. Gentleman will no doubt be aware, the market, by its very nature, cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty. None the less, I shall go on to reassure him about some other matters that have not fully percolated into Opposition Members' consciousness.]
Dr Lewis: May I remind the Minister of the point that I made in Committee when another Minister was dealing with the Bill? If a freeholder does not want leases on his property to be converted to commonhold, is it not a racing certainty that he will take either personally or by proxy a single lease on one small part of the property so that he can block conversion? Is not that an absolute certainty that does not depend on the vagaries and unpredictability of the market?