Schedule 6 - Registration of adverse possessor

Part of Land Registration Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 13 December 2001.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General 2:45, 13 December 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 72, in page 58, line 14, after ''5'', insert ''(2) and (3)''.

The amendment seeks to limit the applicable conditions to exclude the conditions set out in paragraph 5(4). I do not know whether all hon. Members have looked at the amendment, but it arises under the general heading of the effects of registration.

Paragraph 9(3) states that where a squatter—for a moment I thought that I might get a glimmer of interest from the other side of the Committee—is registered as proprietor, he takes the property free from any mortgage that is registered against it. Paragraph 9(4) goes on to specify certain exceptions; in other words, cases where the squatter will take the property subject to any existing mortgage. Such situations could crop up quite easily; a lot of squatting goes on in relation to land, so I hope that we will get a coherent response, of the sort to which we are used, from the Minister. The question is whether a squatter should take subject to a mortgage when paragraph 5(4) applies.

One of the requirements is that the squatter reasonably believes that the land is already his. With the greatest respect to squatters, I have to say that they often believe that the land is already theirs, for reasons that, I suspect, have much to do with the arguments that we heard during debates on new clauses 2 and 3. Irrespective of whether or not land is actually owned by someone, a belief is prevalent in certain parts of the world that it should belong to everyone. Squatters fall into that category. They are sometimes driven to illegal occupation of land in circumstances in which many people are sympathetic to their plight. However, I suggest that, in most cases, they have a reckless disregard for the land that they are invading.

In this case, a requirement is that the squatter reasonably believes that the land is already his. That requirement exists to cope with genuine boundary confusions. I shall give an illustration of what is likely to happen. It sounds a little like the questions put to me in my Law Society final examinations, so the Committee must forgive me if I read it with some nostalgia. A takes out a mortgage on his house and large garden. Unknown to him, the deeds include, and therefore the mortgage covers, a strip of land at the edge of the garden actually occupied by his neighbour, B. B thinks that that land is his. When he discovers that it is not, he successfully applies the registration of his title acquired by adverse possession. That only confirms the position that has existed for at least 10 years.

In such circumstances, why, asks the examiner—and the official Opposition—should B be saddled with a slice of A's mortgage? I see that the student Minister is passing a note to his tutor to ensure that we get the right answer. I do not say that with any disrespect, because I am sure that we need, and will get, the right answer. The amendment would exempt B. Will the Minister please comment?