Consumer Rights Bill — Report (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 26th November 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative 9:45 pm, 26th November 2014

I must thank those who have spoken on this issue and pay credit to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, who got her amendment through on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. That was extremely valuable and will be most important for many people.

The statement that I welcome most in what the Minister has just said is that she will be in touch with the Justice and Communities departments, because the lack of connection between the two has been a great problem. Whenever I have tabled a Question for one, it has been answered by the other one. Even when the previous Lord Chancellor told me exactly how to word it—he told me, “Justice has to answer that”—it did not do so; Communities answered it. The Minister at that time said, “They just said, ‘You’ve got it, we don’t want it’”. So we really need to bridge those two departments to get anywhere with this matter.

I want to comment on the Minister’s suggestion that my amendment could in any way restrict the landlord from ever recovering his costs. That is not so at all, and I think that if her department looks carefully at the amendment’s wording she will see that it is only when the landlord has lost his case. The tribunal can always award costs in any case. But in a case where it has decided strongly against the landlord, and he has even perhaps gone through an appeal and it has denied that as well, I think it would be very wrong. Disguising costs as a service charge would also be very wrong.

That leads me to the point that those who have been following this matter think is so essential: the need for greater transparency. I think that the Minister did suggest that the Government would be willing to try to ensure that people understand. Again and again we have heard reports that people who buy a lease have no idea what their obligations and commitments are, or what they are really getting for their money.

It is late at night, and there is hardly a living soul left in the Chamber, but I can tell your Lordships that I will persist. I think it was Lord Stanley, from Oxfordshire, who taught me that in Parliament you treat everything you fail to achieve as a brick wall, and if you keep bashing your head against it long enough and your head is tough enough, eventually it will give way. We look forward to more to follow on this subject. I emphasise how valuable the round table meetings held by the Department for Communities and Local Government have been in bringing together people involved in all the different aspects of leasehold. Often, hearing the views of someone else has made a big difference to everyone there.

At this time of night I would not consider putting the amendment to a vote—partly because there are hardly any of us here; I am not sure whether we would even be quorate. This whole debate has gone on for a long time, but it has been interesting and informative, and I feel that hope has come out of what the Minister has just said to us. As I said, I shall not be giving up, and I hope that she will not, either. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 50G withdrawn.

Clause 88: Power to make transitional, transitory and saving provision

Amendment 51

Moved by Baroness Neville-Rolfe

51: Clause 88, page 48, line 12, at end insert “or 3A”