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Clause 3—(Commission To Maintain Register Of Crofts)

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 5 July 1961

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I beg to move, in page 2, line 43, after "location", to insert "rent".

There seems to be an unfortunate omission from the Clause. It provides for the maintenance of a Register of Crofts. Subsection (2) states that
"(2) There shall be entered in the Register of Crofts—
  • (a) the name, location and extent of every croft;
  • (b) the name of the tenant and of the landlord of each croft; and
  • (c) such other matters …"
  • I am concerned with paragraphs (a) and (b). An extremely important consideration in respect of a croft is the amount of rent. A croft is defined by reference to its area and to the rent for the land. It is odd that we should leave out from the information contained in the Register the amount of the annual rent of the croft.

    Clause 2 (1, b) states that the Bill applies to a holding which may be made a croft of which the area does not exceed 75 acres or a holding of which the annual rent does not exceed £50. Therefore, the annual rent is an important consideration in determining whether the Bill applies to a holding. In the circumstances, it seems regrettable to omit from the particulars to be maintained in the Register of Crofts any reference to rent. I hope, therefore, that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to accept the Amendment.

    When we considered the question of the Register of Crofts in Standing Committee, there was criticism that, perhaps, too much information was being asked for. I agree, however, with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser). At present, the Register includes this information in regard to rent. The point made by the hon. Member is a good one and on behalf of the Government I am happy to accept the Amendment.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 3, line 6, at the end to insert:

    "and shall send a copy of any new entry inserted by them after the commencement of this Act, or of any entry altered by them after such commencement, to the landlord and the tenant of the croft concerned, and shall intimate the omission of any entry to the owner and the tenant (if any) of the land concerned.
    (3) The Commission shall, on a request for an extract of any entry in the Register of Crofts being made to them by a person who, in their opinion, has good reason for desiring an extract of the said entry, furnish that person with such extract certified by the person for the time being acting as secretary to the Commission; and a document purporting to be an extract of an entry in the Register and to be certified as aforesaid shall be sufficient evidence that the Register contains such an entry".

    I think that it would be convenient for the House to take with this Amendment the following one, in line 7, to leave out subsection (3).

    Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. These two Amendments fulfil undertakings which I gave in Standing Committee during discussion of Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

    The purpose of the first of these two Amendments is threefold. It provides that when the Commission alters or omits an entry from the Register of Crofts or includes a new entry, they will notify the landlord and tenant concerned. The Commission has been doing this in the past, but it has not been expressly obliged to do so.

    Secondly, the Amendment makes it clear that any person who has a good reason for wishing to obtain an extract of an entry in the Register of Crofts may do so on application to the Commission. This will enable a person who claims, for example, to be the heir to a crofter to obtain an extract giving information about the croft. This point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan).

    Thirdly, the Amendment makes it plain that when an extract from the Register of Crofts has been certified by the Secretary of the Commission, no further proof will be required that there is such an entry in the register. That will not mean, however, that a certified extract from the Register will be conclusive of any of the information it contains. If any person thought that any of that information was incorrect, nothing could prevent him from challenging it, and if he could not get satisfaction in any other way, he could ask the Land Court to decide the matter under Clause 4 of the Bill.

    The second Amendment, in line 7, is consequential on the first. It deletes the existing subsection (3) of Clause 3, which is to be superseded by the new subsection (3) in the first Amendment.

    I should like to thank the Government for these Amendments, which meet the point of two Amendments which I had put down on the Committee stage. I should like also to congratulate them on having recovered from the bout of recalcitrant totalitarianism from which they suffered earlier.

    I take it that the new subsection (3) will provide a method by which in a legal case, whether in the sheriff court or the Land Court, we can get the Register produced; that is to say, that it will not only cover the case mentioned by the Joint Under-Secretary, in which somebody wants to refer to the Register and establish the possibility that he is the heir to a croft, but also will be a means of getting the Register When it needs to be produced in a court of law. It seems to be a rather ingenious way of covering both these points, and in a way which will safeguard the crofters against unjustifiable intrusion into their private affairs. A good deal of anxiety was expressed about this in Committee, and we did not want to leave the door too wide open to busybodies looking at the Register on a wet afternoon in Inverness. I think that we have adequately safeguarded against that danger.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In line 7, leave out subsection (3).—[ Mr. Maclay.]