Land Registration Bill [Lords]

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The Chairman: With regard to the membership of the Committee, there has been some confusion as to the attendance of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington. Obviously, no one objects to his presence, but unfortunately the Chairman has to abide by the Committee of Selection's choice of members, and because his name does not appear on the list, I cannot accept his being in the Room. It is not a question of whether anyone objects.

On the issuing of cards, again it would appear that there may have been some confusion as to the membership make-up of the Committee. I will ask that that be looked into, in the hope that it will be rectified for the future.

Mr. Cash: Further to that point of order, Mr Illsley. In all my 18 years in Parliament, I have sat on a vast number of Committees, and I have never witnessed this before. I must say that I am beginning to get quite used to some fairly unusual things happening in Committee. I need not refer in detail to what happened on my first outing as an Opposition spokesman, but on that occasion the order was withdrawn, at any rate for the time being. I am told that it was then rectified, although I am not convinced about that. This time the matter cannot be rectified, at least for the time being. The appearance, sans tie and no doubt armed to the teeth with intellectual vigour, of the ex-member for The Daily Telegraph, now the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, caused a certain amount of amusement when he arrived extremely late, even though he thought that he was expected to be here.

I have for many years been captain of the Lords and Commons cricket team, and I have played many a game with less than the prescribed 11. Given the vast superiority of the firepower on the other side, in terms of numbers if not quality, I am sure that the Government will continue to win the votes, but we shall continue to press our case.

The Chairman: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments. We are involved in a unique situation. Is he prepared to resume debate on the amendment?

Mr. Cash: I would be absolutely delighted to do so. I do not want to delay this any longer than is necessary, for all the reasons that I have already given. I will take up where I left off, and repeat what I said just before this rather unusual suspension.

The amendments are restricted to a reversionary lease to a tenant whose existing lease is not subject to registration. We accept that a tenant who is within the registration system can fairly be required to register a renewal. When the tenant is not already within the system, we think that the balance is on the side of the amendments.

I have picked up the threads of what I was saying before, because I am not sure how much got on the record the first time round. A tenant renewing a comparatively short lease may well do so without specialist advice. The Bill as it stands would create a very significant trap. If the renewed lease is registrable, but unregistered, it will always be ridden by a disposition of the landlords interests, not only before it falls into possession, but at any time during the renewed term.

Paragraph 1(a) to schedule 3 will stop a registrable reversionary lease from ever being an overriding interest in the common situation in which the landlord's interest is registered.

Mr. Wills: I should say in defence of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington, who has just departed, that he did not receive a card inviting him to attend the Committee, and his lateness was due to the fact that he was informed only shortly beforehand that he was expected—erroneously, as it now appears. That may have had something to do with his tieless state, to which the hon. Member for Stone referred. He was probably in such a hurry to get here that he did not want to delay by putting on a tie. On the other hand, it may have been a fashion statement. He will have to answer for that himself.

The provisions that would be altered by the amendments are based on a recommendation in the Law Commission and Land Registry's joint consultative document. Everybody who responded to that recommendation supported it.

The amendments would place intending buyers in an unreasonable position, because they could not tell from the register whether the land was subject to the reversionary leases that the amendments would exempt from registration. That is, they could buy the land only to discover that the existing tenant had a right to a further lease, which could very well be for a considerable time. Obviously, that could significantly reduce the value to them.

Under the Bill, intending buyers would not have to inquire of an existing tenant whether the tenant also held a reversionary lease covered by the Bill. Under the amendments, they would, even if the proposed seller had produced a copy of the tenant's lease and the lease did not contain, say, an option to renew the lease.

Moreover, the first two amendments do not require the renewed lease to be granted to a tenant in occupation, so if the tenant's existing lease is some sort of reversionary lease, inquiry of the tenant in occupation would not be of the right person. If the proposed purchase involved a large portfolio of properties, for example as part of a large estate, the intended buyer's problems would be even greater.

If we accepted the amendments, the Bill's objective of making the register as comprehensive as is reasonably possible would be damaged. A less comprehensive register would affect e-conveyancing, because for that to work effectively a buyer will need to be able to rely on the register entries to the fullest extent possible and have to make only a few inquiries. Those inquiries should not be about whether the land is subject to the type of reversionary lease covered by the Bill.

I hope that in the light of that explanation the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Cash: As ever, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. In the expectation that we will be able to consider these matters in further detail as we proceed, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Cash: I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 4, line 2, at end insert—

    'subject to subsection (3), ''transfer'' has the same meaning as ''convey'' in the Law of Property Act 1925 (c. 20);'.

The amendment relates to a dealing with unregistered land under which any such dealing that leads to compulsory registration of title can still be done in the old form of a conveyance rather than a transfer. I should make it clear, however, that compulsory registration would still follow. Traditionally, land then unregistered was transferred by conveyance. The abbreviated modernised transfer form was introduced to registered land and has recently been redesigned. To encourage modernisation, it has for a long time been the case that unregistered land that would be registered immediately after a transfer transaction can be transferred by using a transfer registration form.

Under the Bill, it will continue to be in order for unregistered land to be transferred by conveyance, even though compulsory registration of title will follow. It therefore seems necessary to make it clear that when the Bill refers to a transfer in terms of dealing with the levers of compulsory registration, that includes a conveyance.

Mr. Wills: I am afraid that I must resist the amendment, which was also moved in another place. It is a drafting amendment intended to clarify the meaning of the word ''transfer'' in clause 4.

There is no doubt that it will still be possible to use conveyance rather than transfer to pass a legal estate in unregistered land. I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, but the amendment is unnecessary because the Bill does not prevent the use of conveyances in such cases. Moreover, it implies that ''transfer'' is used as a verb in the clause, but, as my noble Friend Baroness Scotland made clear in another place, it is used as a noun. It refers to the event of the transfer, not to the type of Land Registry form known as a transfer.

I hope that that clarification will assist the hon. Member for Stone to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Cash: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Power to extend section 4

11.30 am

Mr. Cash: I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 4, line 20, at end insert 'the Rule Committee and'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 74, in clause 116, page 40, line 15, at beginning insert—

    'In addition to the consultation required by section 125(1A),'.

No. 77, in clause 125, page 42, line 7,at end insert—

    '(1A) Before making any order under any provision of this Act, the Lord Chancellor shall consult the Rule Committee.'.

Mr. Cash: The amendment would require the Lord Chancellor to consult the Land Registration Rule Committee in addition to other people whom he considers to be appropriate. It is imperative that all interested parties are properly consulted, especially those on whom the Government are relying to implement the system. The Rule Committee should be consulted before the Lord Chancellor exercises the power to amend section 4. It is important that where he does exercise that power, the order should be approved by each House of Parliament. If the Lord Chancellor decides, for whatever reason, to invoke his powers under clause 5, why not consult the Rule Committee in addition to other people whom he considers to be appropriate?

The matter was discussed at some length in the other place both in Committee and on Report, but we are having to make the same point yet again. It is a simple point about consultation. As Baroness Buscombe said in the other place:

    ''It remains our contention that if we are to have a rule committee, we should have a committee that has broad powers and a strong remit in order to allow it to be used to good, practical effect by the Lord Chancellor of the day to ensure that the right decisions are made.

    I echo the words of the Minister''—

that is, Baroness Scotland—

    ''when she said in Committee,

    'Confidence in the system is necessary. Once that confidence has been established, it will be possible for the Lord Chancellor of the day to look again at whether a further reduction is merited, but that would be done at a time that was in line with what the market, the profession and the registry could tolerate with ease'.—(Official Report, 17/07/01; col. 1395.)

    We believe that the rule committee would be ideally placed, given its constituents, to signal to the Lord Chancellor when that time may be right.''—[Official Report, House of Lords, 30 October 2001; Vol. 627, c. 1314.]

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