Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:19 pm on 9th December 2016.

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Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative 12:19 pm, 9th December 2016

My Lords, I rise to support the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, in his Second Reading, and I hope the Bill makes its way on to the statute book. It is disappointing to see the House so empty. It was full a moment ago, and I had thought that all the noble Lords who came in had come to listen to this important Bill. It is sad that they are not here to participate.

I declare an interest: I was a chartered surveyor, and I was a court witness when it came to a boundary dispute—I remember the case extremely well. It was a case that should never have gone to the courts and that could have been solved by exactly the sort of mechanism that the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, proposes in this Bill. The sadness is that, having got the court to make the decision that it did, one party was offended for life. If I can perhaps generalise, that does not matter so much in an urban area, but it matters like mad in a rural area. It is highly divisive. The situation in question came about from some incorrect mapping. As the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, said, it was perfectly evident on the ground: one had only to walk the back boundary to see quite clearly where it was. It was not on the OS map, as one party was relying on a digital OS map and the other on the old-fashioned OS map. It is a pity that it happened like that, and it left me with an abiding thought: could not we change the system a little for the better? I hope that the noble Lord, who has changed the Bill substantially from its previous Second Reading in order to meet the concerns of the Government, might make more progress this time.

How nice it is to see my noble friend Lord Henley back on the Front Bench—I have not had a chance to say that yet. He has a background as a lawyer and he might not wish to allow us, as surveyors, to take some of the work away from the courts. However, I hope that he will take a fresh look at this and give it a fair wind. I have to say to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, that I fear that the Government will not, but let us persevere and try to get a little sensible change in this area.