HC Deb 24 April 1873 vol 215 cc962-5

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Lord Advocate.)


said, he might call this Bill the fourth edition of the measure introduced by the Government on the subject of land rights and conveyances in Scotland, and yet without one single word of explanation, the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate asked the House to assent to its second reading. But there was another Bill having reference to the same subject—the Land Rights and Conveyancing (Scotland) Bill—which was also down for that night, and it seemed to him that the proper course to follow would be that either a Commission should be issued to inquire into the whole subject, or that both Bills should be referred to the same Select Committee. In Scotland the system of the tenure of land was in connection with an excellent system of registration, called the Register of Sasines, which provided for the security of titles and disclosed all the burdens which affected land. In 1833 a Commission was appointed to consider the desirability of certain changes in the law of registration—it reported in 1838, and the Commissioners recommended a number of improvements in the existing law with regard to titles, and also with the view of saving expense, and all those recommendations save two had been carried out. When he (Mr. Gordon) had the honour to hold the office of Lord Advocate he introduced a Bill for consolidating all these statutes; but he found it impracticable to frame such a measure without greater consideration than he had been allowed to give to it; he had therefore introduced a Bill in the present Session which showed the manner in which the recommendations of the Commissioners of 1833 could be carried out. The Report recommended the continuance of the present system with certain modifications for the better security of titles, and the diminution of the expense: but the present Bill of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, though it did not profess to abolish the feudal system dealt with the rights of the superiors as if they were real burdens upon the rights of property, and not the rights of property themselves; for it would deprive the superiors of valuable rights which they at present possessed as proprietors. But the question arose what benefit would be derived by the vassal by this departure from the recommendations of the Commissioners, and changing the superior's right as a right of property, and converting it into a right of mere security? None whatever. It did not make the proceedings any cheaper; it did not effect any economy in the matter; and therefore they were asked needlessly to change a system which was well understood by setting up a new system which depended upon a statutory enactment. The expenses of titles in Scotland were not so great as one might suppose—for the reason that solicitors were not paid by the length of their conveyances, as in England, but by ad valorem fees, less in amount than the fees paid to a stockbroker for the transfer of stocks and shares, and the agent employed became liable for the security of the title. Some of the provisions of the Scotch law which the Bill proposed to abolish were of the highest value—such as the inquiry into the rights of heirship and the matter of services, as to which professional men in England had often expressed to him their admiration. He thought that a Commission ought to be appointed to report upon the whole subject, or that both Bills should be referred to a Select Committee who should be empowered to take evidence.


said, that he had heard the speech of his right hon. and learned Friend with some surprise. The question before the House was that the Bill should be read a second time; but his right hon. and learned Friend had not used one single argument against the second reading, but had only discussed a number of things relating to the details of the Committee, and which it would be very proper to take into consideration while the Bill was in Committee. Upon several points to which his right hon. and learned Friend had referred, he had unfortunately been so obscure that he (the Lord Advocate) had been unable to catch his meaning, Some alterations in the law no doubt were proposed; but for the most part the remedies of the superiors were left much as before. The provision for abolishing services was not introduced by this Bill for the first time, for it would be found in the Bill of last year, and had been received with great approbation by all the legal bodies in Scotland.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


said, he thought the proposal of the Government conferred a great boon upon the feuars in simplifying their title and enabling them to convey property easily and cheaply. But the Bill itself was open to criticism, and would have to be much modified before it would meet the rights of the different interests involved.


complained that the Lord Advocate had abstained from any explanation of the provisions of the Bill, and gave notice that, if it should be read a second time, he would move that it be referred to a Select Committee.


thought that some change in the existing law was demanded by all Scotland. It seemed to him that the two Bills ran much alongside each other and he did not see why they might not be fused together in Committee of the Whole House without sending them to a Select Committee.


said, that he had originally intended to support the Bill, but within the last 24 hours he had received such strong representations from Scotland, that he intended to support the Motion for a Select Committee.


said, he was surprised to find the Scotch Members, who were ready to complain of the difficulty of finding time for the transaction of Scotch business, should be so anxious to see this Bill talked out. He hoped the House would support the second reading, and that they should not hear any more of going to a Select Committee upstairs. When they got into Committee of the Whole House, whatever Amendments were necessary could be made.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.