Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill

I broadly support new clause 1 and have received constituency representations to that effect. The Government’s main argument in justifying retention of marriage value seems to be that abolition would be confiscatory. Almost all popular legislation since 1967 and perhaps even before then is confiscatory in the sense that it compulsorily intervenes in what would otherwise be a free market for what the Parliament of the day considers to be the broader social interest.

It has been argued that the open market value of the freehold interest is greater to the leaseholder than to anyone else and that the cost to the leaseholder should reflect that. Hon. Members on both sides have expressed concern about the logic of that argument.

The view has also been taken that the leaseholder would gain an unjust windfall at the freeholder’s expense. That concern could be overcome by a covenanting provision similar to that introduced under the right-to-buy legislation of the 1980s so that there should be further compensation if someone who bought a lease made a sale within a specified period.

We must ensure that, as far as we can, we expedite the succession of leasehold tenure. We must clarify and simplify those procedures. I hope that is the long-term aim of the Bill. However, the retention of the half share of marriage value remains a controversial and uncertain element in the cost equation. That will continue to be a significant barrier to the proposed progress of enfranchisement.

The abolition or at least the watering down of marriage value would thus contribute substantially to the achievement of the aims of the measure. It would be widely welcomed not only by the groups which have been campaigning on the subject but by a great number of lawyers and other professionals who have to deal with the practicalities.