Clause 26 - Protection of disponees

Land Registration Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 11 December 2001.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General 12:15, 11 December 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 12, line 11, leave out ''seven'' and insert ''fourteen''.

Although it may be the objective to reflect limitations of owners' powers on the register, if a qualification is omitted from the register by mistake, it must be against public policy to legitimise dispositions that legislation has made void. There are restrictions on dispositions by local authorities and by charities. Subsection (3) appears to mean that someone could otherwise acquire a good title. The Bill seeks to protect people who take a transfer of registered land when it is apparently valid on the face of the register. While that is certainly useful, it must be against policy that it should overrule statutory restrictions imposed on particular landowners.

The register would normally reflect such restrictions, but in practice one has to deal with the cases in which that safeguard falls down. Restrictions are placed on certain disposals by charities, local authorities and registered social landlords. In those cases, we believe that it is extremely important that human error may be allowed for. In a nutshell, it is our view that is simply wrong to write off a qualification of an owner's powers on the register in the event that the registrar makes a mistake.

Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I am afraid that again I must resist this amendment. One of the overriding principles on which confidence in the land register is currently based is that the register is conclusive about an owner's powers. This contributes substantially to the ease with which the conveyancing process operates and benefits the economy as a whole. This will become even more important as the fundamental objective of the Bill is achieved. It must be possible to investigate title to land online, with the absolute minimum additional inquiries and inspections. Any limitations on the power of the owner to deal with the land or a charge must be the subject either of entries on the register or of limitations imposed by the Bill itself. That should be the case whether those limitations arise by agreement with third parties or by the imposition of statute.

If this amendment were made, however, people dealing with any title would need to consider what statutes might impose a limitation on the owner's powers, and then investigate to see if that is the case. That would in turn detract from the completeness and clarity of the register of title in a way that we find unacceptable. That is why the Government prefer the simplification of the existing law effected by the Bill.

Under the Bill, any limitation on the owner's powers can be recorded by restriction. This is often done in practice by the Registry automatically where it is apparent that statutory limitations apply. The purpose of these provisions is simply to protect the buyer of the land. They reflect the current law, we believe that they strike the right balance between the competing interests that can arise in such situations. They do not prevent the selling owner from being held to account for exceeding his or her authority, nor do they prevent an interested party from applying for a restriction to be entered as a precautionary measure. I hope that that explanation provides some comfort to the hon. Gentleman and that he can now withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General

In the light of what the Minister said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General

On a point of order, Mr. Illsley. I have decided not to move amendment No. 29. For reasons related to what I said earlier, I do not intend to move any amendments to clauses until at least, at present reckoning, clause 55, and I may not do so to even later clauses. I therefore seek your guidance on a technicality, which I accept that you may not be able to avoid. Rather than repeat whether a clause is to be debated each time, I could tell you in advance that I do not intend to resist or move amendments to those clauses and we could deal with them in one fell swoop, thus making dramatic progress.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

I have taken advice on the point raised by the hon. Member for Stone, and—unfortunately for me—I am required to put the Question on every clause in the event that an hon. Member wants to speak in a clause stand part debate. I must therefore continue, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion.

The Chairman proceeded to put the Questions on clauses.

Clauses 27 to 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.