Mr. Clifton-Brown: There is a problem in the Land Registry. Under voluntary registration arrangements, owners of properties that are not currently registered have the option to apply for registry; compulsory registrations are those that must take place when a property is sold. They are being put on hold because the Land Registry cannot cope with the amount of work. I understand that the Bill will not come into operation for two years, but if a substantial number of properties have still not been registered under the new system at the Land Registry, that could make it much more difficult to provide local authority searches on time to put properties on the market where they are not registered. Will the Minister address that problem or at least give the Committee an idea of when he expects all houses in England to be registered?
Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Gentleman has made a fair and good point and I undertake to look into the matter and write to him. It is certainly our wish that the Land Registry should be operating as efficiently and smoothly as possible as soon as possible to provide the swift and seamless service that we want to be available for quick clarification of the information required for searches. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member for Eastbourne will agree to withdraw the amendment.
Mr. Waterson: I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Waterson: I beg to move amendment No. 36, in page 6, line 24, at end add
I am afraid that the amendment will require a more substantial debate than we have had on others, Mr. Gale, but I do not see myself seeking to catch your eye for any stand part debate on clause 7. I hope that that is helpful.
On the face of it, the amendment may seem rather innocuous, but it raises serious and worrying issues. It makes the eminently reasonable point that, before making any regulations under subsection (1),
We have received quite a lot of advice from certain organisationsI am not saying that others are not properly involved. The Law Society, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the National Association of Estate Agents and the Independent Association of Estate Agents are only major examples of groups that have made representations. I think that we have all seen releases and briefings from the CML in particular.
It is important that three groups of professionals are fully signed up to the proposals. One group is the Law Society, whose comments and reservations I have quoted on several occasions, including Second Reading; I do not see the need to do so again. The society is deeply concerned about some aspects of the Bill and has made a number of criticisms of the Bristol pilot scheme as relied on by the Government as a basiswe would say an unsound onefor the legislation.
Another group is, of course, estate agents. It is fair to say that the NAEA is broadly in favour of many of the Government's proposals, but it has concerns and they have been expressed in our debates. Indeed, a number of estate agents have concerns. I remember addressing a year or so ago the annual meeting of the Team group of estate agents, which has serious reservations and is very concerned about the effect of the Bill on their profession. With estate agents, I shall group surveyors, who of course also have a view on the legislation. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in particular has been helpful in proposing amendments and making comments.
The third big group that must sign up to the legislation if it is to stand any chance of success is the mortgage lenders and particularly the CML, which represents more than 98 per cent. of the mortgage-lending sector. Its press release of November 2000 was scathing, saying that:
All members of the Committee have probably recently received the CML briefing paper setting out its concerns, for example, about the need for lenders to be able to rely on the home condition report and asking whether they have comments on the certification processa matter to which I may return on another occasion. It is interesting that as recently as December, when the Minister attended its annual conference, members of the CML expressed major worries and opposition to the legislation. Originally, the CML strongly and publicly opposed the Government's proposals to use criminal sanctions to impose the so-called seller's packs on house sellers. As I have said, it also expressed concerns about the Bristol pilot.
Through the good offices of Money Marketing, I have obtained a copy of an internal CML document in which director general Michael Coogan reports, referring to the meeting on 23 November 2000, that
Mr. Waterson: The Ministerthe one with the third-class law degreesays that that is very sensible, but I do not agree, nor do I think that it is very democratic. It is obvious what has been going on: the CML, which represents more than 98 per cent. of the mortgage-lending sector, has been got at by Ministers or their officials. It has been persuaded that it is not in its commercial interests to continue a high-profile campaign against the legislation. All the talk about working ``behind the scenes'' and adopting a ``less high profile and critical approach'' to the SIP proposal, reflects the CML's recognition of the fact that Ministers are determined to bash on regardless of any opposition. They intend to take no prisoners and certainly do not intend to do any favours for the CML and its members if they have the temerity to continue publicly to oppose the legislation.
Mr Gale, you do not need me to tell you that it is a vital part of our democratic process that interested bodies such as the CMLfew bodies have a more legitimate interest in the Billcan comment on and criticise legislation during its passage through Parliament. Many Committee debates are informed by that sort of comment and criticism. Hard-pressed Opposition members, who do not have access to the lavish back-up enjoyed by Ministers, are often grateful for the briefings, proposed amendments and meetings with bodies such as the CML that are often made available during Committee stage. Therefore, it is all the more disappointing that the CML has chosen to haul up the white flag.
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