The Bill imposes a duty to register title to a registrable estate, but that duty seems somewhat toothless, because on the face of it, there appears to be no direct sanction. The Minister is studying his notes carefully as I speak, and I imagine that he has an answer to my point. I regard this as a probing amendment, but I hope that he will come up with such a sanction, because it is an extraordinary state of affairs if that duty is toothless.
The position is the same as at present. If a title that should be registered on the first registration is not registered, the transaction comes to nothing and the buyer who fails to register does not get the title to the property that he would expect to have. The amendments suggest rewording that is consistent with a reasonable approach of encouraging people to undertake the duty, rather than waving a non-existent sword. In practice, if a buyer applies for first registration out of time, the registrar makes an order permitting registration as a matter of course. I am informed that the Law Society, with all its experienced conveyancers on its specialist committee, cannot recall any case in which that has ever caused a difficulty.
As the hon. Gentleman has said, these are essentially drafting amendments and are apparently intended to make clause 6 more accurately reflect the nature of the obligation to apply for first registration. As a matter of drafting, I am unsure whether having until a specified time to do something is different from having to do something before such-and-such a time, which means that the amendment would not achieve its aim.
More importantly, accepting the amendment, which would change the wording established in the Land Registration Act 1997, would send the wrong signals about the Government's commitment to registration and could cause confusion. There should be no doubt about the fact that the Government want more land on the register. Since 1925, the effect of failure to register appears to have been sufficient encouragement to bring about registration. We want more land on the register, and the Bill is designed to bring that about. I see no need for the amendment and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw it.