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4.15 pm

The other rule-making power that I mentioned is that relating to the fees of the adjudicator. As I explained in the Second Reading Committee on 29 November 2001 at column 9 of Hansard, the adjudicator provisions are designed to establish a new and independent judicial officer to determine registration disputes between individuals. Responsibility for the administrative arrangements for the new office will lie with the Lord Chancellor's Department, not the Land Registry. It is not appropriate to jeopardise that independence by subjecting the adjudicator rules or the fees order to the scrutiny of the Land Registry's own rule committee.

Of the three administrative order-making powers under the Bill, only one should fall within the scrutiny of the rule committee, and the Bill as drafted achieves that already.

I turn to the second category of order-making powers, which cover a number of rather disparate areas. First, there will be orders to extend beyond the changes introduced by the Bill the triggers for compulsory registration of land in general, and for demesne land. Then there are orders to adjust the period after which upgrading of title can occur. Finally, there will be orders to extend the system to cover submarine land, and to adjust the qualifying term of leases for compulsory registration of title. All these order-making powers are subject to the negative resolution procedure.

As the powers involve not the running of the land registration system, but adjustments to the statutory framework under which it operates, it is Parliament rather than the rule committee that should direct the order-making process.

The changes that will be brought about by orders made to extend triggers for compulsory registration of title and to reduce the length of leases requiring registration will have a particular impact on the operation of the property market. The relevant clauses therefore impose duties on the Lord Chancellor to consult before exercising those powers.

The Government made a commitment in another place to consult the rule committee during the consultation process under those clauses, a commitment which I was happy to repeat during Committee debates. The rule committee members will, however, be consulted as individuals who have useful background knowledge and expertise to add value to the discussion, but the responsibility for the scrutiny of the orders remains with Parliament.

With regard to these more fundamental order-making powers, the Government believe that the involvement of the rule committee members is already ensured when and where it is of value, and in a way befitting their role in that order-making process.

Given my explanation and the importance which I know the hon. Gentleman attaches to scrutiny by Parliament, I invite him to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Cash: As usual, the Minister has gone to some length to explain the Government's arguments, and I am

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grateful to him for his competent explanation of their approach. I believe that it is still desirable for the provision to be included in the Bill, but I gather—I would be grateful if the Minister could at least nod, if he thinks that I have got the message right—that for practical purposes, the rule committee will be engaged in a proper consultative process, notwithstanding the fact that he does not want that to be set out in the Bill.

Mr. Wills indicated assent.

Mr. Cash: I was a little concerned when I heard the Minister say—I do not want to misquote him—that perhaps it would be more appropriate for the matter to be left to Parliament than to dealings with the rule committee. Enthusiastic as I am about the democracy that lies at the heart of our system and on the Floor of the House, having served for some years on the Statutory Instruments Committee—a burden that I was invited to sustain by the Whips of the time, which gave me an opportunity to see the workings of that Committee, and the manner in which statutory instruments then move inexorably to the Floor of the House and receive such detailed examination, as we all know—I would have much more faith in the Minister's assurance that the rule committee would be involved in the consultative process, in the knowledge that its members have their feet on the ground and would deal with these matters in a practical manner.

The issues will indeed crop up and will be far better dealt with by those who are engaged in professional practice and who have hands-on dealings with the consequences of the matters covered by orders and regulations. I would not mind betting that I will turn out to be right, and that a good deal more consideration will be given to these matters by the rule committee than would ever be contemplated by the great authority of the Statutory Instruments Committee or by Members of Parliament. Without wishing to be cynical, I would qualify what the Minister said. In practice, these matters will be sorted out on the ground with the rule committee. I am glad that he has indicated that that is how he thinks it will work in practice, and I hope that he is right.

On the basis that the Minister and I have arrived at something of a mutual understanding, and that there will be a degree of consultation in practice, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 5

Land Registry Network

Amendment made: No. 6, in page 55, line 9, after "provide" insert—

', or arrange for the provision of,'.—[Mr. Wills.]

Schedule 8


Mr. Cash: I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 61, line 23, at end insert—

'(i) the exercise by the court of its powers under section 46.'.

The amendment relates to schedule 8, which deals with indemnities and the entitlement to them. In turn, the schedule is connected with clause 102. The reason for the

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amendment boils down to the fact that there appears to be an omission in respect of those circumstances in which a person should reasonably be entitled to be indemnified by the registrar if he suffers loss. Under the schedule, those circumstances include

Those things really happen. We may not be overwhelmed by the attention of many hon. Members this afternoon, but they would be deeply concerned if they found that a mistake in an official document affected their home, and they might all come flooding back into the House.

Mr. Wills: I wish that they would all turn up.

Mr. Cash: So do I.

Other circumstances include

Alternatively, there might be


Let us imagine that happening in the Whips Office. There might also be a

We propose that there should be a further category of entitlement to indemnity in circumstances in which the power of the court to order entry was involved. To the provisions whereby a person would be entitled to be indemnified by the registrar if he suffered loss because of the other matters to which I have referred, the amendment would add:

As I said, that refers to the power of the court to order entry. Under clause 46, that could arise

The court could then

Such circumstances could give rise to a mistake or something similar.

Clause 46(2) adds:

Although the court may exercise its power subject to such terms and conditions as it thinks fit, that power would not extend—I do not think that the Minister would argue that it would—to a person having the entitlement to being indemnified by the registrar if that person suffered as a result of the court exercising its powers under clause 46.

The object of the amendment is to ensure that priority of interest is maintained in all but the most extreme circumstances. In circumstances in which priority is lost, the person involved should be entitled to indemnity. At present, the Bill contains insufficient safeguards for the public, but the amendment would help to rectify that

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problem. At present, there is an absolute right for a person whose position has been prejudiced to receive an indemnity, but citizens will be powerless unless that point is clearly spelled out.

If the Bill is enacted in its current form, will the position of a totally innocent person be prejudiced? Will the person who has priority on the search have locus standi in the subsequent proceedings? That is the key question, because that person must be heard. If he is not, that would be against the rules of natural justice and human rights.

Just in case the Minister wants further reassurance from those who may be able to amplify the points that he wishes to make, I repeat my questions. Is it intended that the person who has priority on the search will have locus standi in the subsequent proceedings? Is it not right that that person be heard? If he is not, is that not against the rules of natural justice and human rights?

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