I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to extend the right of enfranchisement to resident leaseholders of properties excluded by reason of their rateable value
As I do not think that this is a very controversial proposal, I shall make my remarks as brief as I can.
When Parliament passed the important Leasehold Reform Act 1967, it conferred the right of home ownership on residents in houses let on leases of 21 years or more and gave the benefit of home ownership to many hundreds of thousands of people in all parts of the country. But the Act contained an anomaly. It excluded a substantial number of people living in the most expensive properties. After the new rating assessments which were made in 1973, these properties were those in the Greater London area whose rateable value was in excess of £1,500 and elsewhere in excess of £750. Therefore, there are now still thousands of people in inner London and, I would imagine, a considerable number of people in other parts of the country—[Interruption.]
There are thousands of people in inner London and a considerable number of people, I believe, in other parts of the country who are deprived of the right of home ownership because their properties have this high rateable value.
I calculate that in Kensington, which I have the honour to represent, there are hundreds of properties which are affected by this exclusion from the right of enfranchisement. I think that the House will agree that this is a totally unfair and unreasonable form of discrimination. Indeed, I am sure that no one would wish this situation to continue. The object of my Bill, therefore, is to remove this barrier of the upper limit which is set in relation to the rateable value.
I should like, briefly, to make three points. There is no fear that if my Bill were passed it would result in sudden, drastic changes in the appearance of areas which Londoners value as they are because— certainly in Kensington and, I think, in other parts of London where the Bill would apply—the local authorities have already declared conservation areas: I do not think that the objection which concerned Parliament in 1967 any longer has any force.
On the question of valuation, I should like to make it perfectly clear that I am not proposing any element of confiscation. The Bill which I hope to introduce will contain a formula which I think should be based on highly qualified professional advice and which will be scrupulously fair to both the parties. There is no question of the owners of the freehold being obliged to part with their property on unreasonable terms.
Thirdly, I should like to say to those who fear that the passing of my Bill would mean the end of long leasehold as a form of tenure, that I do not regard that as a matter for very deep regret. The time has come to stop playing Normans and Saxons with regard to home ownership. Everyone should be entitled to own the home in which they live and I am not content that there should be large numbers of people living in Kensington— and other parts of inner London—who are second-rate citizens in that respect. We do not want any second-rate citizens in Kensington or in any other part of the country.
Everyone should be entitled to the benefit of home ownership. I hope, therefore, that the House will give me leave to introduce my Bill.
Question put and agreed to.