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Land Registration Bill Hl

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1987

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8.21 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD HAYTER in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [ Open register]:

Page 1, line 12, at end insert ("(other than leases or charges or copies of leases or charges)").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment is moved with the knowledge and approval of the Land Registry and would bring into play the same practice as is now employed. It is not the practice of the Land Registry when granting inspections with the authority of the proprietor to make available office copies of all the lengthy mortgages and leases. The amendment will enable the Land Registry to follow that practice when the registry becomes open. I beg to move.

The Government support this amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman. It does not represent any departure from the Law Commission's policy as stated in its report. It simply clarifies the Bill so as to reflect the position that the commission meant to take up. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for introducing this clarification.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Page 1, line 13, leave out ("but not referred to in the register") and insert ("relating to any land or charge but not falling within subsection (1)(b) of this section").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment is merely to clarify the position so that the documents which can be inspected are documents relevant to titles and do not, for example, include documents compiled by the Land Registry for unrelated, internal purposes. I beg to move.

I do not in any way oppose the amendment in principle. My difficulty is the wording of this subsection, as it will be, read with subsection (1)(b) with which we have just dealt. Subsection (2) will provide that the inspection is to be available for,

"Documents in the custody of the registrar relating to any land or charge but not falling within subsection (1)(b) of this section".
"Relating to any land or charge", relates to documents referred to which were in the custody of the registrar other than leases or charges or copies of leases or charges. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord is quite clear what that means and that one can work it out but it is not the simplest language, if one has to go round in circles. I wonder whether, before the next stage of the Bill, the draftsman might apply his mind to a simpler and easier to understand form of wording.

I support the amendment as it has been put down. I think it is fair to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, to say that he had the assistance of parliamentary draftsmen in the preparation of these amendments. No doubt, he would like parliamentary draftsmen to have an opportunity of reconsidering the position in the light of the noble and learned Lord's comments.

I am obliged. I am always mystified by the drafting of Acts although when they have been drafted and I have been asked to construe them, I do so without any difficulty at all. I acknowledge the difficulty raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin of Dulwich, and will take further advice. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 19, at end insert—
("(3) References in this section to documents include references to things kept otherwise than in documentary form.").

The noble and learned Lord said: The amendment is designed to bring us into the age of the computer. Documents now include articles stored on a computer and therefore it is necessary to widen the normal meaning of "documents" to make sure that we can get at the computer, as well as any written document. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 2, at end insert—
("(e) section 52 (4) of the Housing Associations Act 1985 (inspection of register etc. for information relevant to reduction, suspension or reclaim of housing association grant);
(f) section 33 of the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 (inspection of register etc. for the purpose of drug trafficking investigation);
(g) paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 (inspection of register in connection with exercise of power to vest former diplomatic or consular premises in the Secretary of State).").

The noble and learned Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, perhaps I may deal with this amendment together with Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 which make additions to the schedule to the Bill. Amendment No. 4 and the other two amendments are additions to the schedule. The amendments bring the Bill up to date. Alas, a good deal of water has passed under the bridge since the Law Commission recommended this Bill. In the interim, there were one or two nibbles at opening the register partially from time to time for various favoured classes of examinees. Now that we are taking the plunge and making the register open to everybody, it is logical to get rid of the minor exceptions and it is with that object that I move Amendment No. 4, and speak to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

I support Amendment No. 4 and in due course I shall support Amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [ Short title, commencement and extent]:

moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 6, leave out from ("force") to end of line 7 and insert ("on such day as the Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment is designed to give effect to the undertaking which I gave on Second Reading; namely, that in order to avoid the Land Registry being swamped with work too early, the commencement of the Bill should be postponed:

"on such day as the Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument appoint".

On that occasion, I expressed the hope which I now repeat, that the Bill may be brought into force within a year or two and that we shall not have a very lengthy postponement.

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for proposing this amendment to which, of course, I am happy to agree. The considerations set out on Second Reading support the reason for the amendment. I hear what my noble and learned friend says about the desirability of bringing the Bill, once it becomes an Act, into force as soon as possible. I share his aspirations and we shall certainly do our best to fulfil them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Schedule:

Page 3, line 36, at end insert—

("1985 c. 69.The Housing Associations Act 1985.Section 52(4).
1986 c. 32.The Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986.Section 33.")

The noble and learned Lord said: As I indicated, this is one of the tidying-up processes and gets rid of the sections in the Housing Associations Act and the Drug Trafficking Offences Act which open the registry to certain limited classes of persons. I beg to move.

I am reminded that I forgot to put the Question, That Clause 3 stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Part 3, line 42, at end insert—

("1987 c. 46.The Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.In Schedule 1, paragraph 2."

The noble and learned Lord said: Amendment No. 7 is proposed for the same reason.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.