Leasehold and Commonhold Reform — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West 4:00 pm, 2nd October 2019

That is the sort of remark I can survive, and I am grateful for it.

I will say, as I try to in each of the debates on the issue, that I am a leaseholder of a small flat in my constituency, and with the other five leaseholders we bought the freehold. We had a good freeholder, good managing agents and we have had no problem whatsoever, and we know how the system can work. In effect, we are commonhold now, but we were originally freehold. Ground rents were low and we did not have the problem of ground rents doubling every 10 years.

We also did not have the kind of crooks, such as Martin Paine, who came in and gave informal leases, which really made a mess of people’s lives. We did not suffer from the Tchenguiz interests, which were responsible—both in the retirement field and in other fields—for some of the worst excesses. Frankly, the public authorities, such as the fraud people, the economic crimes people, the police and the Competition and Markets Authority people failed, and the Tchenguiz-controlled business got away scot free, when the people in that business should have been sent to jail and fined millions of pounds. The millions of pounds would have made up for the losses of the ordinary leaseholders who were failed by them.

I also pay tribute to Martin Boyd and Sebastian O’Kelly, chief executive and trustee of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, who have done so much, and they have now joined members of the National Leasehold Campaign and Bob Bessell, the former director of social services in Warwickshire, who in his retirement built 1,600 retirement homes without a single ground rent.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for coming down on a fast train from Manchester, where she has given distinguished service over the past two days. I ask her to review whether it is sensible, necessary or right to allow ground rents in retirement properties. I look on the Churchill Group as the son of McCarthy and Stone, which was, with Peveril, at the foundation of some of the problems that hit previous generations. To any Treasury civil servant who reads the report of this debate, I would say that if we get leasehold and commonhold right, the value of homes will go up, not down, and the income to the Treasury will go up.