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Leasehold Property

Volume 669: debated on Monday 13 January 2020

We are committed to reforming the leasehold market so that it is fairer for consumers and the abuses that we have seen in recent years are addressed. To achieve this, we have a comprehensive programme of reform, and we are moving forward with legislation, beginning with the Bill set out in the Queen’s Speech banning new leasehold houses and reducing ground rents on future leases to zero.

The Secretary of State says he is committed to reform. Since 2015, I have come across countless cases of people trapped on iniquitous terms in relation to ground rent, cladding—you name it—and unable to extend without paying through the nose. In that same time, however, the Government have had seven consultations, and there is no concrete legislation about anything they are actually going to do. Can he tell us when he will end this feudal hangover, which is unique to England, once and for all?

The hon. Lady is incorrect. The Queen’s Speech made it clear that we will be bringing forward legislation. We intend to publish a draft Bill shortly, which will take the first steps that I have just described. We are also awaiting the next report of the Law Commission. We have just received one on enfranchisement. It is a very important issue, and I certainly want to take forward its recommendations to ensure a simpler and fairer system. The next report of the Law Commission will be on commonhold. Again, we will be paying close attention to that. At our encouragement, the Competition and Markets Authority is now looking into the mis-selling of leaseholds, which is another important issue. Be under no illusion: we will be taking forward leasehold reform, and soon.

I thank the Secretary of State and his predecessors for the work they have done in commissioning work from the Law Commission that will provide a guide to the way forward. May I put it to the Secretary of State that, as his representatives at the all-party group meeting last week will confirm, there is a whole range of strong issues—the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) mentioned them—and that the Government, the Select Committee and the whole House need to make sure there is action, not just good intentions?

I thank the Father of the House for the work he has done over many years on this issue. I campaigned on this before I became a Minister. I have seen a number of abuses with respect to leasehold properties, and we want to take action. Now is the time for action. We have the first report from the Law Commission. There will be a further one. There will then be the report from the CMA. Together with the evidence, we will take this into careful consideration and move forward to reform leasehold and put it on a more sustainable footing for the future.

As many of us heard at a meeting here on Thursday night and many of us know from our case load, so many people are caught in really difficult circumstances because of the issue of cladding. Those leaseholders are mortgage prisoners or their properties are valued at zero. Will the Secretary of State give them some assurance that the Government are taking this seriously and will act fast, because people’s lives are unable to move on while they await a decision on the second type of cladding?

I appreciate the issue the hon. Lady has raised, and I read about the meeting of the all-party group the other day. This is a very serious challenge; I am aware of a number of leaseholders who are struggling to find the finance required to make the necessary changes to their homes. We are giving this careful consideration. We have already provided £600 million for those living in high-rise buildings with ACM cladding so that that work can now proceed at pace, and I will certainly meet with any of the hon. Lady’s constituents who might wish to discuss what further steps the Government can take to unblock this important issue.

May I press my right hon. Friend: will he reassure leaseholders in North West Leicestershire and across the country that the Government will set up a mechanism for them to seek proper redress for their genuine grievances?

The Secretary of State rightly refers to action, but when? That is the key question my constituents are asking in the Winnington part of Weaver Vale and Sandymoor. We have had consultation upon consultation; when will there be action? We need action now, not careful consideration.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s remarks, and the north-west has been particularly badly affected by this. The statistics suggest that new-build homes in the north-west peaked at as high as 71% of all new homes being built in 2017—in the first quarter of that year. That has now fallen very considerably as a result of the actions and the statements of this Government and the general anger across this House and across the country at the abuses; that has now fallen to as low as 8%, but we will be legislating and we will outlaw these practices.