§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. HADFIELD
, in moving the second reading, said, that the object of the measure was to make the law concerning judgments applicable to real estate in the same way that it now was to personal property. If a person purchased Consols or shares in a railway company, he was under no obligation to make a search into the title of the seller, for that appeared in the entry in the books of the Bank of England or of the railway company, nor was he required to make a search for judgments. In the manner proposed by the Bill, he hoped to some extent to cheapen and facilitate the transfer of land. At present, if a person bought land or houses, he might pay his money and receive the title deeds, and then find that some person had recovered a judgment against the seller which amounted to more than the amount paid for the estate, and the purchaser lost the estate he had purchased. The object of this Bill was to prevent that injustice from being committed. He dared say the Attorney General would tell the House of the large amount of the sums for which judgments had been recovered, namely, £16,000,000; but that included the amount which had accumulated from the beginning of the world to the present time. The fact was that the greater proportion of these judgments were for very small sums. Out of 3,000 judgments entered up in one year and ten months, 1,343 were judgments for less than £100 each, and only 370 were judgments for sums exceeding £1,000. Yet, as the law now existed, every purchaser of real property, in all parts of England, must search for judgments at considerable expense, or run the risks he had mentioned. Lord St. Leonards, who had written an excellent work known as Sugden's Law of Vendors and Purchasers, which was in the library of every professional man, advised that a search should be made for judgments in every case of purchase up to the very day that the purchase was completed. Why, they might as well search up to the very hour, and to carry out this advice 703 would require a telegraph in every attorney's office in the kingdom. His object was not to prevent the creditor from recovering his debt, but to prevent bonâ fide purchasers of real property for valuable consideration being put to the trouble and expense of searching for judgments, and incurring the risk they now ran of judgments being in existence which might not be discovered when the search was made. To obviate all objection, he was willing to abandon so much of the Bill as proposed to affect existing judgments. Let them, as men of business, put an end to a system at once so vexatious, so unnecessary, and so expensive. His object was to protect the honest purchaser and save expense.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. HUMBERSTON
seconded the Motion. It was a great hardship upon a purchaser that after paying his money the judgment creditor came in before him. It was also a great hardship on the solicitor. As far as he could see, there was no advantage in continuing the present system.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that the objections which he felt to this measure remained unaltered. The effect of the measure, should it become law, would be to introduce important changes into the existing law, and he sought in vain for any good grounds for the introduction of such changes. The course which his hon. Friend asked the House to sanction was opposed to the policy, with respect to judgments which had been for the last twenty years pursued by Parliament with the approbation of the country. And what, he would ask, was the evil which it was proposed by the Bill to obviate? It was alleged that as things at present stood the bonâ fide purchaser of land had no adequate protection against those who might have special claims upon it, and therefore it was sought to give him and the mortgagee that protection, but at the expense of the judgment creditor. He must, however, repeat that such a proposition ran counter to the course of legislation which we had hitherto adopted, as was proved by a reference to various Acts of Parliament by which the operation of judgments as a charge upon land was extended, while a system of making proper entries of such charges was enforced; so that a prudent purchaser might 704 with very little difficulty institute a search and satisfy himself of their existence before he bought the land. The expense of making such a search was, however, alleged as the great grievance of the existing law; but that was an evil which could scarcely be said to operate in the case of London solicitors, who might easily send their clerks to the office where the entries were kept; while even in the case of those who lived at a distance the expenses of the inquiry could not be said to be very great. Now, why should the judgment creditor be deprived of the advantage which the law now gave him in order to effect so trifling an object? Was he to be sacrificed, and the purchaser placed in a position to set his claims at defiance, merely to save a few shillings to the seller? The argument of his hon. Friend was, that the judgment creditor on land should have no right which the creditors on other species of property had not. But the measure would have the effect of depriving the judgment creditor on land of a right which he at present possessed, for an object which with a little trouble, and at small expense, could be effected under the law as it stood. But it was not alone the judgment creditor who had an interest in the decision of the House on this point. It was also a matter of considerable importance to the landowner that a convenient and inexpensive mode of obtaining money by giving his creditors the security of his land for their repayment should not be set aside. If this Bill became law, the owner of land could never obtain the loan of a sixpence without the expense and inconvenience of mortgaging his property. For these reasons he thought the House ought not to pass the Bill, and he would move that the second reading be postponed to this day three months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he would not, at that period of the Session, put the House to the trouble of dividing, but he must say that in his opinion the hon. and learned Gentleman had given no sufficient answer to the arguments he had put forward in favour of a change in the law.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn; Bill withdrawn.