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Lord Wise: My Lords, I thank all those who have supported the amendment. From the support from all round the Chamber, it is very evident that it has been very worthwhile. Indeed, in many ways I am heartened by my noble friend's remarks. The points that he made on voluntary work are indeed most welcome. I certainly welcome his assurance that the Government will consult with the main representatives of the voluntary sector before the drafting of the JSA regulations. That is indeed a very good thing.

With regard to part-time study, that would be only one way in which a claimant could seek work. Indeed, a claimant would have to show other evidence that he was actively seeking work. So this a modest amendment, primarily designed to promote a positive attitude by employment officers.

Having said that, there is no point in putting this amendment to a Division at this late hour. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I should like to make a short business statement. It has been agreed through the usual channels that we should now adjourn proceedings on the Jobseekers Bill until 8.35 p.m. It has also been agreed by all those who have put down their names to speak on the Land Registers (Scotland) Bill, that the Second Reading should be taken during that dinner break. If no noble Lord objects to this proposal, I hope that we can proceed as I have proposed. I beg to move that proceedings after Third Reading of the Jobseekers Bill be now adjourned to 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Child Support Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Land Registers (Scotland) Bill

7.50 p.m.

The Earl of Dundonald: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Perhaps I may say, first, how delighted I am to be speaking to this Bill as I recently joined the Advisory Council to the Scottish Records Office, whose task it is to make representations or submit proposals to the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Lord President of the Court of Session on questions relating to the public records of Scotland and, in particular, to the custody, preservation and cataloguing of

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those records and to questions of access. Therefore, although not directly related, it is fair to say that I have some small experience with records in Scotland.

The Land Registers (Scotland) Bill has a single purpose; that is, to make prepayment of the appropriate statutory fees a condition of acceptance of writs for recording in the Register of Sasines and of applications for registration in the Land Register of Scotland. The Bill enjoys all-party support in Scotland. It is also supported by the Law Society of Scotland.

The Keeper of the Registers of Scotland is keen to move from post-payment to prepayment of fees for a number of reasons. First, the current system of invoicing customers, who are mainly solicitors, after the work on registration or recording has been completed, is both time-consuming and expensive in pursuing outstanding fees. In recent years the level of outstanding fees has risen significantly. By early 1994 the level of outstanding fees over 30 days old had risen to the equivalent of some 15 per cent. of the annual income of the agency. A determined drive by the agency, supported by the Law Society of Scotland, managed to reduce that figure to about 8.5 per cent. Nevertheless, at the end of April 1995, over £2.8 million of fee income was outstanding for 30 days or more. A move to prepayment of fees is seen as the only long-term solution to this problem.

Secondly, a move to prepayment would bring the agency into line with the position in England and Wales. Finally, it will assist the agency in putting its finances on a firmer footing, something which will become increasingly important for the agency as it moves to trading fund status from April 1996.

A move to prepayment is not possible without existing legislation being amended. Section 6 of the Land Registers (Scotland) Act 1868 provides inter alia that payment of fees for recording writs in the Register of Sasines should take place after recording. There is no similar restriction in the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979, which provides for the successor land registration system in Scotland, but the Keeper would not have the power to reject an application for registration on the Land Register without an amendment to Section 4 of that Act. The Bill therefore provides for the necessary amendments to be made to those two Acts.

The proposed change is not in any way controversial. There are no adverse cost implications for solicitors or purchasers of property, including house-buyers. I therefore hope that your Lordships will support this Bill and I commend it to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(The Earl of Dundonald.)

7.55 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, the House should be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Dundonald, for introducing this Bill, accepting the fact—I am not sure that he will—that land law in Scotland is archaic and a great deal of fundamental work has to be done on it at some time.

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As it stands, I am informed by all the people I consulted that this is a helpful piece of legislation and that, as the noble Earl mentioned, the conveyancing committee of the Law Society of Scotland believes that the Bill will represent an improvement on present procedures. Until an opportunity is given to produce a major Bill on Scottish land law, it would be wrong of me to do other than appreciate, accept and welcome the modification of the amendment suggested by the noble Earl. I hope therefore that the Bill is given a Second Reading without any dissent.

7.56 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Dundonald, on his introduction of the Bill. I welcome the Bill as I believe that it will put the financing of the Records Office on a better footing and, in so doing, do away with the substantial backlog of late payments which has built up.

At a general rate of £11 per £5,000 of property, the prepayment will not pose undue problems in most transactions of a domestic nature. It is likely that solicitors will have to pay in advance of the actual transfer of funds, but I am sure that a way round that will be found. That aspect will be more serious when considering large, multi-million pound transfers.

I foresee a possible problem being caused by the legislation in the rare circumstance that a purchaser agrees a sale and then dies. As the land sale registration would have been prepaid, it would not be cancelled, with the result that the deceased's executors would have to pay again for the re-registration of the non-sale back to the vendor's possession. Finally, as I welcome the Bill, I hope also that noble Lords opposite will consider bringing forward legislation to establish a comprehensive register of land ownership in Scotland which can be easily accessed by everybody and which will be widely welcomed by the Scottish people.

7.58 p.m.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend on the able and lucid way in which he presented the Bill. It is a very narrowly focused Bill; however, it is important in ensuring that the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland can undertake his statutory duties in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

There are no additional costs involved for customers of the agency, but it will enable the agency to make savings of around £500,000 per annum on the collection of fees. Those savings will assist the agency in carrying forward the extension of the land registration system to cover the whole of Scotland by no later than the year 2003.

The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, asked what would happen in the rare circumstance that he described; that is, a purchaser agreeing a sale and then dying. If an application to register a title on the Land Register or record a deed on the Sasine Register is withdrawn, the Registers of Scotland Fee Order 1991 provides for a fee to be charged to reflect work undertaken on the application. That fee would be subtracted from the fee submitted under prepayment and the balance returned to

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the applicant. However, the Keeper of the Registers has a discretion to waive fees under certain circumstances, such as the death of the applicant. A full refund of the prepaid fee would therefore be made in such cases. I hope that that explanation reassures the noble Earl.

As my noble friend has shown, this is an uncontroversial Bill. It has all-party support and is also supported by the Law Society of Scotland. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

8 p.m.

The Earl of Dundonald: My Lords, I thank all concerned for participating in this debate, whom I can name directly as there are only four of us—the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, and my noble friend Lord Lindsay. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.35 p.m.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8 to 8.35 p.m.]

Jobseekers Bill

Proceedings after Third Reading resumed.

Clause 9 [The jobseeker's agreement]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 12:


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