HC Deb 19 June 1833 vol 18 cc1001-10

Mr. William Brougham moved the Order of the Day for the second reading of the General Registry Bill. As he had explained its details at great length, on a former occasion, he would not now trouble the House with any further remarks upon it.

Mr. Ayshford Sanford

said, that it appeared to him that the learned Gentlemen practising in London, and supporters of the present Bill, had not looked to the manner in which business was transacted in the country. They were acquainted with the practice of the Metropolis, but knew little or nothing of that of country practitioners. Those who brought forward the Bill, therefore, did not take into account the additional expense and inconvenience that would be occasioned in the country by a plan such as the present. Equitable mortgages would be impeded by means of it, and he did not think it advisable to throw obstructions in the way of agriculturists obtaining temporary loans. Many persons would be unwilling to seek for loans, if the present privacy with which they could be effected should be destroyed by a registry. They would be apprehensive of their credit suffering, and refrain from accepting accommodation. He thought that the evils of a want of a general system of registration had been greatly exaggerated. If a registry of landed property had been made at an earlier period, before the great subdivision of land, it might have been attended with advantage, but now it could only produce vexation and inconvenience. Suppose that an accident occurred by which the index to the registry should be out of order, the effect would be to throw all the landed property of the country into inextricable confusion. He had gone into the Select Committee to which the Solicitor-General's Bill on this subject was referred, with every disposition to give the plan his support, but his opinion changed in consequence of the information he had acquired, and he found himself compelled to oppose the Bill. It was presumption, perhaps, in him to do so, but his opposition was backed by that of the highest legal authorities, to whose opinion that House had often bowed. As he considered the measure dangerous to the property of the agricultural classes in particular, he should move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Hodgson

seconded the Amendment, and said, that the subject would not suffer much by the delay of another year. He would, in one respect, prefer local to metropolitan registers; namely, that in case of riots or insurrection no buildings would be more likely to be attacked by the mob than that which contained the muniments of the nobility and gentry of England. It was easy for hon. Members to say, that the expense would be but small, but he had never heard any of those Gentlemen give an estimate of the expense. He was sure it would not be less than 1,000l. a year to each county in England; and he would ask if Parliament was prepared, in the present state of the finances, to vote such a sum of money in order to forward a measure that would benefit the landed proprietors only? But did the landed proprietors call for such a measure? On the contrary, all the petitions that had been presented on the subject were against the measure, and none of them were in favour of it.

Mr. Pryme

said, that the first objection he had to the measure was the expense to which it would expose the public; but his principal objection to it was, that individuals would be put to great expense in transactions in which the sums concerned were very small. The Bill was opposed by all the solicitors in the country, who were good judges of its probable effects. It was part of a system for having all the business of the country transacted in London; a system which he thought erroneous in policy, as he considered it much better that the county towns should be the centres of the business of the district in which they were situated, forming as it were small metropolises, instead of having one central place, to which everything should be carried, and every sort of business, either by agency or otherwise, transacted. He would give the Bill his most decided opposition.

Lord Morpeth

merely rose to ask his hon. and learned friend opposite a question on the subject. This Bill rested upon authorities so high, and was supported by arguments many of which he was ready to admit were very strong, that his opposition to it would be in a great degree regulated by the answer he should receive from his learned friend to the question he was about to put. He begged to ask his learned friend, if he should persist in pressing this Bill through in the present Session, in which at such an advanced period it was hardly likely to pass, whether he would consent to except from its operation the counties of the northern circuit? In Yorkshire, they had a registry with which they were very well contented. It was true, that the other five counties had not a registry, but it was to be recollected that it was from this part of England that the most vehement objections had been made to this Bill, and that the most vehement opposition to it had proceeded. He hoped, therefore, that those counties would be excepted from the operation of the Bill, while it might be tried as an experiment in the other parts of England.

Mr. Gilbert Heathcote

most earnestly hoped that no experiments would be made in other parts of England, for the benefit of Yorkshire. If the three or four counties forming the northern circuit were excepted from the operation of the Bill, he hoped he should be allowed to put in a claim of exemption for the county of Lincoln, in which there was also a strong feeling of opposition to the measure. In many of the districts of that county, the opposition was very strong; and it was strongest among those classes who were best acquainted with its probable operation.

Mr. Lynch

supported the Bill, as necessary for the protection of purchasers. The highest law authorities, both ancient and I modern, were in favour of such a measure I as this, and it was one that was absolutely I necessary for the protection of purchasers. One great advantage attending the establishment of a general registry was, that it would secure the evidence of title-deeds, for, when they were lost at present, estates became unmarketable. At present the law afforded no security to the purchaser of lands against the operation of Crown debts; by this Bill that security would be afforded, inasmuch as the Bill provided that all Crown debts should be registered, as well as other liabilities affecting property. The purchaser at present could know nothing of the liabilities to which the property might be subject; but this convenience would arise from the provisions of the measure now before the House; namely, that the purchaser would be empowered to lodge a caveat with the registrar, which would prevent the registration of any new deed that might interfere with the rights of the purchaser, with reference to the property sought to be affected by it. As to mortgage transactions, "a man entitled to an estate worth 50,000l. borrowed a sum of 20,000l. upon mortgage, and gave up possession of the title-deeds, and stipulated not to pay it off for five years. He wanted another sum of 10,000l. in the mean time; the estate in question was ample enough for the purpose, but no one would lend it to him, no one would lend, because no one could have security if he did. He could not have the legal estate—he could not have the deeds all that he could rely on was a notice to the first mortgagee. That notice might be lost; but what was more, the owner of the estate might go to a third person—might prevail on that person to lend him another sum, without informing him of the second mortgage. The third mortgagee might afterwards discover the second mortgagee. He went to the first mortgagee, paid him off", got the legal estate, and squeezed out the second mortgagee. He would only ask, ought such a system as this to be allowed to continue? AH this would be remedied and cured by the registry. With respect to the protection afforded by assignments of terms of years, created out of the estate, and kept distinct from the inheritance by being assigned to a trustee, the purchaser (where there are such terms) could not be certain that he had got the assignment of the oldest term, and, if he had not, the intervening incumbrancer might even after the purchase, obtain such assignment, and oust him. He could not be certain, that the term had not become merged in the inheritance by the union of the term with the inheritance in the same person. He could not be certain that he had got an assignment from the proper representative of the person in whom the term was vested. Questions arose daily, as to whether the probate of the will or letters of administration to the estate of the person in whom the term was vested, had been taken out in the proper Ecclesiastical Court, for, if not, the assignment was of course invalid. He could not be certain that the Judge before whom the cause was tried might not direct the Jury to presume a surrender of the term; and if the purchaser should get over all those difficulties, he might be deprived of the benefit of the term by having notice of the intervening incumbrance, not merely direct or express, but constructive notice. It had been urged against this measure that its operation would be liable to errors, but he must remind the House that no such errors as had been suggested, could in the least degree affect the title to an estate; the title would remain the same. The whole system of indexes proposed by the Bill was perfect, and it was impossible that any error could arise. The argument as to the expense which would be incurred from the adaption of the proposed plan could not be maintained, as he was convinced that any expenses which might arise would be considerably less than had been anticipated and estimated by the opponents of the measure. On the whole, he hoped the House would consent to the second reading of the Bill, and that at least it would be allowed to go into Committee.

[The Gallery was cleared for a division, but none took place. While strangers were out, a short debate took place. Mr. Harvey declared that he was friendly to any system which would simplify the transfer of property. At the same time, he could not consent to the second reading of the Bill, unless the hon. and learned Member who had charge of it, would consent that its further consideration should he postponed. This view was supported by the Marquess of Chandos, Mr. Tennyson, and Mr. Strickland, and it was opposed by Sir Robert Peel, the Attorney General, and the Solicitor General.]

On readmission to the Gallery,

Mr. Tooke

was addressing the House. The hon. Member objected, at this period of the Session, to a Bill of so much importance being proceeded with. He conceived that it was impossible at this period, that a measure of this nature could be so matured as to lead to any beneficial results. By a postponement of the question until the next Session, some time would be afforded for a conversion of the opponents of the measure, by a further consideration of its merits, and to such a conversion he was perfectly open. He must, however, avail himself of this opportunity of disclaiming the animadversion which had been thrown upon that branch of the profession, to which he had the honour to belong, namely, that their opposition to the measure originated in interested motives. He denied on behalf of the profession, the justice of any such imputation, and he would most humbly throw into the scale his practical knowledge and experience in making this declaration. He would also suggest to the hon. and learned Member opposite, and to the House, that the measure was not one which pressed on them and further, that if good could be anticipated from it, that benefit would improve by delay, and he could not but think, that the House would act with an improvidence unworthy of it, if it came to a decision in favour of the principle of a Bill, which it was obvious, from what had transpired, was not yet sufficiently matured.

Mr. Tennyson

objected to the Bill being proceeded in with precipitancy, and maintained, that the landed interest of the country ought to have time to know and understand its proposed provisions, before it should be permitted to pass into a law. The landed interest ought to be communicated with, and with this feeling, if the hon. and learned Member, who had moved its progress, would consent to its being now read a second time and sent into Committee, then to be reprinted and widely circulated through the country, and brought: forward in the next Session, he would support the hon. and learned Gentleman's motion; but if the Bill was to be persisted in during the present Session, he should oppose the second reading.

The Solicitor General

said, that the simple question before the House was, whether the Bill should be now read a second time; and as he had looked with some anxiety as to what would be the result of a Reformed Parliament, he regarded with some solicitude the present question. Indeed, he should be much mortified if the Reformed Parliament should declare itself against and reject a measure which experience had proved to be beneficial all over the world; or, in other words, to reject that which had been tried, and found beneficial to the public interests in Scotland, Ireland, France, and the colonies. Without entering into the details of the Bill, he would come at once to the objections which had been suggested. It had been said, its provisions were not sufficiently known, and that, therefore, it ought to pass to another Session. That was not the just way to get rid of the subject. No further delay could be necessary; the Bill had already been brought forward in three Sessions of Parliament; it had been most extensively circulated amongst the Magistrates at Quarter Sessions; it had been openly discussed at public meetings, convened for the purpose in various parts of the country; its merits and demerits had been fully discussed; petitions had been sent up and presented to the Legislature against it, and the House was now as fully competent to judge of it as by possibility it could be in another Session. He therefore would entreat his hon. and learned friend not to abandon at the present stage this Bill, which he hoped, before the present Session closed, would receive the assent of that House, of the House of Peers, and of his Majesty.

Mr. Strickland

was opposed to the Bill. He had been upon the Select Committee up-stairs; and though he would admit, that there had been a majority in the Committee, yet a great diversity of opinion prevailed upon the provisions of this Bill. The county he had the honour to represent would be materially affected by the Bill. In that county, after much labour and expense, a registry had been completed, and all that labour and expense would be thrown away by the operation of the present Bill, and the system, which had been found to work well, would be made to give way to all the inconveniences which were presented in the measure now before the House. The present measure was full of inconveniences, and differed entirely from the system of registration which had been pursued, and found to work well in Yorkshire, in Middlesex, and in Dublin. The Bill contained the monstrous proposition, that all men's title-deeds were to be placed in London, for the inspection of every man who should make it his business to attempt to discover flaws in them. Would that House pass a measure which would compel a man, in making a settlement of his estate, to submit his title-deed for public inspection at Charing-cross?

Mr. Pease

was of opinion, that a Member should support the views of his constituents, and he was happy to be able to support the views of those who sent him to that House. He had presented petitions against the measure from all the towns of the southern division of Durham, and he could assert that nine-tenths of the freeholders of that division were against this measure. The evils to be guarded against were precarious and distant, the evils of the Bill itself were certain, and would immediately arise. The whole expense of the building would have to be paid by fees, the Clerks would have to be paid by fees; the expense would be great; and if one of these Clerks should make a mistake by taking the wrong John Brown out of ten thousand John Browns, and an estate of 10,000l. or 15,000l. were to be lost, who would pay for that? In his opinion, the injury it would cause would be incalculable. All the title-deeds would be sent to London; but were hon. Members aware that parcels were sometimes lost? Then again, let the House see the expense of that. Some provision was made for the postage; but he should like to know what the postage would come to of a set of title-deeds, such as he received a few days ago, which filled the whole box of a gig? The country would never be satisfied with the enormous expense. He spoke not so much of the Gentlemen present—many of whom might willingly pay a few pounds for security—but of the great number of small landholders in the community. To the small freeholders it would be a positive injury. He had lately had something to do with executing conveyances, and more than 100 had passed through his hands, in not one of which the fee-simple was more than 30l. There was not one petition in favour of the Bill. It was said, that the opposition to it in the country had been got up by country Solicitors. If it was meant that they did not like to lose their business, he thought their objections perfectly proper. He believed that Gentlemen there did not know how country Solicitors carried on their business; but he could say, that in general, when they assured their clients that a title was good, the clients took it, and it was better to take a title under those conditions, than endeavour to vitiate it. No evil in practice resulted from that. The whole of the county of Durham protested against the Bill. It was alleged that it was calculated to prevent fraud—he did not say it was not; but there were other and more simple means, and the evil which it was by its cumbrous machinery to guard against was of such rare occurrence, that a respectable Solicitor of Durham had stated, at a public meeting at Durham, that he never knew an instance of fraud.

The Attorney General

supported the Motion. The Bill was only to establish the general principle of registration, which they all seemed to agree in. Even the hon. member for Yorkshire liked registration in Yorkshire, and why should not that which was good in Yorkshire be extended over the whole kingdom? The present Motion only went to sanction the principle, and all the details might be discussed in the Committee.

Mr. Duncombe

reminded the House that the general principle of the Bill, which the second reading would sanction, was the principle of metropolitan registration. The whole of his constituents were against the Bill, and he should give it his most decided opposition in that stage.

Mr. Murray

supported the Motion. The principle of registration had been tried in Scotland for upwards of 100 years, and been found to give great satisfirction. They were not then to decide on the details, but only on the general principle, to which even the hon. member for Yorkshire was favourable.

Mr. Cayley

was determined to oppose the Motion, because he knew that every one of his constituents considered him pledged to oppose it.

Lord Sandon

had a petition to present against the Bill from Liverpool, most numerously and respectably signed. For his own part, he approved of the general principle of registration, but objected strongly to making it metropolitan. He did not like concentrating wealth and business in London; on the contrary, he thought it was better to diffuse them as equally as possible through the country. He should prefer a district registration. At the same time he should vote for the second reading, with a determination on his part to make it into a scheme for a district registration, in the Committee.

Mr. Wason

was sure that it would not be possible to do anything with the Bill this Session.

The House then divided on the Question that the Bill be read a second time—Ayes 69; Noes 82: Majority 13.

List of the Ayes.
ENGLAND. Adam, Admiral
Althorp, Lord Agnew, Sir A.
Baring, F. Bannerman, A.
Barnard, E. G. Colquhoun, J. C.
Campbell, Sir J. Dalrymple, J. H.
Childers, J. W. Ewing, J.
Evans, G. Fergusson, R. C.
Ewart, W. Gillon, W. D.
Fort, J. Hay, Sir J.
Forster, C. Jeffrey, Right Hon. F.
Grey, Sir G. Johnston, A.
Grote, G. Johnstone, J. J. H.
Hall, B. Kennedy, T. F.
Hawkins, J. H. Maxwell, Sir J.
Heathcote, G. J. Maxwell, J.
Horne, Sir W. Murray, J. A.
Hyett, W. H. Oliphant, L.
Kennedy, J. Oswald, R.
Lamont, Captain Oswald, J.
Langston, J. H. Stewart, R.
Leech, J. Stewart, E.
Lefevre, C. S. Wallace, R.
Lennard, T. B. IRELAND.
Lushington, Dr. Browne, D.
Ord, W. H. Fitzgerald, T.
Potter, R. Lamb, Hon. G.
Romilly, E. Lynch, A. H.
Romilly, J. Maxwell, T.
Sandon, Lord Perrin, L.
Scholefield, J. PAIRED OFF.
Stanley, Rt. Hon. E. Hume, J.
Strutt, E. Kerry, Earl of
Thicknesse, R. Peel, Sir R.
Troubridge, Sir T. Pendarves, E. W.
Vernon, G. Penleaze, T. S.
Walker, R. Rippon, C.
Warburton, H. Whitbread, W. H.
Whalley, Sir S. TEILERS.
Wood, Alderman Brougham, W.
SCOTLAND. Buller, C.
Abercromby, Rt. Hn. J.
List of the Noes.
Aglionby, H. A. Divett, E.
Attwood, M. Duncombe, Hon. W.
Bethell, R. Fenton, Captain
Blamire, W. Fielden, J.
Boss, J. Finch, G.
Castlereagh, Viscount Gaskell, J. M.
Cayley, Sir G. Gaskell, D.
Cayley, E. S. Goring, H. D.
Chandos, Marquess Halcomb, J.
Chapman, A. Hardy J.
Chaytor, Sir W. Harvey, D. W.
Chetwynd, Captain Hay, Colonel
Cobbett, W. Heathcote, G.
Cornish, J. Henniker, Lord
Curteis, E. B. Hodges, T. L.
Curteis, H. B. Howard, P. H.
Darlington, Earl of Ingham, R.
Ingilby, Sir W. Todd, R.
Jermyn, Earl Tooke, W.
Jervis, J. Tynte, C. J. K.
Johnstone, Sir J. V. B. Tynte, C. K. K.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Tyrell, C.
Lister, E. C. Villiers, Viscount
Lowther, Lord Vyvyan, Sir R. R.
Lowther, Colonel Wason, R.
Marshall, J. Wilks, J.
Parker, J. Williams, W. A.
Parrott, J. Williams, Colonel
Pease, J. Wood, Colonel
Pelham, Hon. A. C. Yorke, Captain
Philips, M. Young, J.
Phillips, C. M. TEILERS.
Pryme, G. Hodgson, J.
Richards, J. Sanford, E. A.
Ridley, Sir M. W. PAIRED OFF.
Ross, C. Gladstone, W. E.
Ryle, J. Herbert, Hon. S.
Sheppard, J. Lambton, H.
Staunton, Sir G. T. Lincoln, Earl of
Strickland, G. Molyneux, Viscount
Talbot, J. Ossulston, Viscount
Tennyson, Rt. Hon. C. Ramsden, J. C.
Thomson, P. B.