Lord Lisvane debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities during the 2019 Parliament

Residential Leasehold for Flats

Lord Lisvane Excerpts
Thursday 30th November 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I can reassure noble Lords that it is the Government’s intention to bring forward clauses to ban the sale of new leasehold houses within this Bill. We intend to bring forward those clauses during the Commons stages. When it comes to flats, on the other hand, reform is more complicated. They have shared fabric and infrastructure and therefore require some form of arrangement to facilitate management. This has traditionally been facilitated by a lease. Therefore, banning leasehold flats is inherently more complicated. We will be taking forward, at a later date, reforms to the commonhold system to allow that to replace the leasehold system.

Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane (CB)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Does the absence of these clauses lead the Minister to draw a conclusion which has general application—that Parliament is asked to consider far too much legislation, to be proceeded with at far too great a pace?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not draw that conclusion. Leasehold reform is complex. We have consulted widely and are taking time to get things right. I understand the desirability of bringing forward these clauses as soon as possible for Parliament’s scrutiny and that is what the Government intend to do.

United Kingdom: The Union

Lord Lisvane Excerpts
Thursday 23rd June 2022

(2 years ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Moved by
Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane
- Hansard - -

To move that this House takes note of the stresses upon the Union of the United Kingdom.

Relevant document: 10th Report, Session 2021-22, from the Constitution Committee

Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to raise once again the issue of the integrity of the union of the United Kingdom and its resilience against increasing stresses. I am afraid I cannot emulate the wonderful brevity of my noble friend Lord Morse in introducing the first debate this morning, but I do not intend to take up the whole of the very generous allocation of time I have been given. I am very sorry that this is to be the valedictory speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, and I look forward very much to hearing what he has to say during the debate.

I was fortunate to secure a debate on the same subject in January 2019. The union was then faced with a number of uncertainties—principally, perhaps, the effects of Brexit. As your Lordships’ European Union Committee said at the time,

“the European Union has been, in effect, part of the glue holding the United Kingdom together”.

More than three years later, those uncertainties remain, and in some respects they have become more threatening. Brexit is done, we are told. I have no wish at all to return to those damaging and divisive times in our history. We have to make the best of things but the present situation is, to say the least, untidy.

A brief survey will suffice. There is the extraordinary behaviour of the Government over the Northern Ireland protocol, which they negotiated and which the Prime Minister trumpeted with such enthusiasm. Now the Government wish to take powers to renounce significant parts of the protocol. This is against the background of Sinn Féin becoming for the first time the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the movement towards a border poll that might, in due course, thereby come closer. In the meantime, there is no functioning Executive, and the clock is ticking on the 24-week deadline for the Secretary of State to appoint a date for new Assembly elections.

In Scotland, the devolved Administration’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution has said that a second independence referendum is planned for October 2023. Whether that is possible in any form which would be legally binding without a Section 30 order is yet to be determined. That seems unlikely, but the prospect of an advisory referendum is one which Mrs Sturgeon will want to keep constantly in the public eye, if only as a distraction from her Administration’s less than perfect delivery of public services. The UK Government have set their face against a second referendum, which is a conflict that Holyrood will try to use to its advantage. The opinion polls seem to be a little less favourable to independence than they were, but the hazard remains.

In Wales, the Welsh Government have established the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales to consider and develop durable options for fundamental reform of the constitutional structures of the UK and to strengthen Welsh democracy. The co-chair of the commission, Laura McAllister, has said that the commission

“has a licence to be radical”

and that it will

“explore options for governing Wales as a distinct nation within the UK”,

and also, significantly,

“the options for a future for Wales outside the Union.”

The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, who is unable to be in his place this afternoon, asked a Question for Short Debate in Grand Committee on 9 June on the possibility of a new constitutional relationship for the four parts of the United Kingdom. He listed reasons why Wales was becoming less in sympathy with the current constitutional settlement, including the ignoring of recommendations such as those of the Silk commission for devolved police powers and those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, for changes in the legal framework; he also alluded to a perceived unfairness in the deployment of structural and social funds. Of course, the noble Lord spoke from his Plaid Cymru point of view, but as a Welshman by birth and title, I can appreciate the force of those points and their unhelpful bearing on the cohesion of the United Kingdom.

In that debate Lord Wigley proposed a confederal approach in which the three nations and the Province agree to pool their sovereignty for certain purposes. This has something in common with the approach of the Constitution Reform Group, convened and chaired by the Marquess of Salisbury, a former distinguished Member and Leader of your Lordships’ House. The group produced the Act of Union Bill, an earlier version of which I introduced in the previous Parliament, and an updated version of which was published last year. This seeks to replace the present top-down method of devolution with an approach in which the constituent parts of the United Kingdom would decide which powers they wished to pool for greater solidarity and effectiveness. This is to suggest not a new written constitution but a way of dealing with what I describe as the imperial condescension of Whitehall towards the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

For as long as the concept has existed, doing devolution has been difficult, requiring as it does the accommodation of ancient national pride and aspiration within structures of robust and effective co-operation. Some of the problems were set out with great clarity by your Lordships’ Constitution Committee in its excellent report Respect and Co-operation: Building a Stronger Union for the 21st Century, which is tagged on the Order Paper for this debate.

Incidentally, if I may digress just for a moment, I noted that the committee depended for its definition of parliamentary sovereignty—strictly, legislative sovereignty—upon the words of AV Dicey, even though his definition was almost the same as that of my learned predecessor Thomas Erskine May in the first edition of his Parliamentary Practice in 1844, when Professor Dicey, although no doubt precocious, was only nine years old.

The inherent difficulties of devolution have been exacerbated by the way in which devolution has been done, and this reflects our approach to constitutional change. Administrations of both colours have adopted a short-term, patchwork approach, in which changes are made with inadequate forethought and preparation, and, more especially, without consideration of wider effects and often, later, with buyer’s remorse. So it is with relationships between the different parts of the United Kingdom. A theme of the Constitution Committee’s report might be summarised as “mutual respect”; in other words, an end to the imperial condescension in which Whitehall knows best and decides how any cake is to be cut.

As to the future, there are a few—a very few—reasons for restrained optimism. It is possible that improved intergovernmental relations, drawing on the excellent work of the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, might be a factor, but that depends crucially on political will, and, as the Constitution Committee says,

“achieving shared objectives, rather than simply managing—or taking opportunities to accentuate … differences.”

Interparliamentary co-operation, in which our own Lord Speaker has taken a leading role, has a part to play. It may not have executive power, but it can bring powerful influences to bear on those who do, and if it can improve mutual understanding and make differing approaches compatible, it will be very well worthwhile.

However, what is needed above all from the Government is steadfast, clear direction and genuinely co-operative working in a constitutionally stable environment. That is exactly what we do not have, and it seems that we have precious little hope of it. The last two and a half years have been desperately difficult in so many ways, and the economic and cost of living crisis seems likely to be with us for some time. But it is precisely in such circumstances that we look to government for calm proportionality and fixity of purpose.

Instead, we have government by announcement; frequent policy U-turns, sometimes within the span of a single day; constant shoot-from-the-hip legislation, with sweeping powers given to Ministers for often unspecified purposes; shredded standards of conduct, as was clear from the earlier debate; an unlawful Prorogation; the taking of powers to override international law and solemnly concluded international agreements; and wild and ignorant suggestions, such as your Lordships deploying to York, which was roundly and rightly condemned by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, and others who spoke in his debate last week.

At the same time, our fears are meant to be assuaged by news such as the return of imperial measures—perhaps to go with the imperial condescension I mentioned a moment ago. Incidentally, I should tell noble Lords that I have been drinking excellent Herefordshire cider in imperial pints for very many years, EU or no EU.

If any theme can be made out in this maelstrom, it is one of greater centralisation and indeed presidentialism—although the fact that the Prime Minister is also Minister for the Union may strike your Lordships as one of those things which are beyond parody.

Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, we may have had a sneak preview of the Minister’s reply to this debate, as he spoke on this subject on 9 June. I hope that it will not be exactly the same, tempting as that may be, because in its centenary year and in its present form, much more has to be done to preserve the union and all that it can deliver for the citizens of this United Kingdom. That is a task of which the Government have to show themselves not only worthy but capable. I beg to move.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I shall not attempt a retrospective of this afternoon’s debate—given the scope of opinion and experience involved, that would be an entirely impractical idea—but I am very happy to thank the Minister for his detailed reply. Like other noble Lords, perhaps I may single out the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. I entirely endorse the eloquent words earlier of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. When the right reverend Prelate leaves us, perhaps to embark on a new career as stellar as his present one, he will know that he takes with him the warmest good wishes of every Member of this House.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and to my Cross-Bench colleagues who voted for this as one of the topics to be debated. I hope that your Lordships will see fit to approve the Motion.

Motion agreed.