HC Deb 13 May 1892 vol 4 cc878-91
(5.53.) MR. CHAPLIN

I beg to move to insert the following clause:—

(Registration of title to small holdings, 38 & 39 Vict. c. 87, s. 118.)

"(1.) When a County Council have sold a small holding to a purchaser under this Act, they shall apply for his registration as the proprietor thereof under 'The Land Transfer Act, 1875,' and thereupon the purchaser shall, without further inquiry, be registered under that Act as proprietor of the land with an absolute title, subject only to such incumbrances as may be specified in the application; but such registration shall not affect the remedy against the County Council of any person claiming by title paramount to the County Council; (2.) rules under 'The Land Transfer Act, 1875,' may (a) adapt that Act to the registration of small holdings, with such modifications as appear to be required; and (b) on the application and at the expense of a County Council provide, by the appointment of local agents or otherwise, for carrying into effect the objects of this section."

New Clause brought up, and read the first and second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."

*(5.54.) MR. HOBHOUSE

I am sure all of us who are interested in the registration question are very much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for having acceded to our request, and put a clause of this kind in the Bill. But I would appeal to him whether he thinks it really advisable to put the County Council to the expense and trouble of making special applications, and to the expense of paying for local agents. It is clear to most of us that some local machinery will have to be provided, if this part of the Land Transfer Act is to work at all.


Does the hon. Member make any Motion?


Yes, I beg to move, in the new clause, to leave out the words "on the application and at the expense of a County Council."

Amendment proposed, in new clause, to leave out the words, "on the application and at the expense of a County Council."—(Mr. Hobhouse.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed new Clause."

(5.55.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)

I am not sure that I agree with my hon. Friend who has just spoken. I rather think the clause as it stands is quite right. There are two alternatives which might be adopted. You might take the general provisions under the Act which enables you to create district registries, or you might take the Act as it works in London, and make special provisions for applying it to the local districts by making the local offices have the duty of transferring everything to London. And the latter alternative is what the Government have adopted. Before I sit down I should like to say a word about this clause. I am sure we all feel that it is a very good step in advance so far as it goes, because it is the first time that registration of title in England has been made compulsory. The Act of 1875 did not work because of its voluntary character, and the right hon. Gentleman has taken a great step in advance in making registration of title compulsory under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman is doing nothing revolutionary, because last year in a case under the Irish Land Bill there was a supplementary Act passed introducing compulsory registration into Ireland. This clause is an immense improvement, and a great advance on anything we had, and I think the Committee is under an obligation to the right hon. Gentleman, and also to the hon. Member for Stamford, who was the person who first put this subject down on the Paper. The hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Cust) took the alternative mode of making use of the Act as it exists in London, without the creation of district registries, and in that way without any change of machinery providing for transfer at a very small cost. I understand that a transfer can take place under this arrangement at a cost of about something like a shilling an acre, which is a very great improvement on existing regulations. Therefore, I think we must all regard this as a great step forward in the conveyancing law of this country.


I quite agree with my hon. and learned Friend that we are under an obligation to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done. Not being a lawyer, I wish to ask one question. Am I to understand that under this clause no proprietor will be obliged to go to London and employ a lawyer to register and transfer his title; and are successive owners to be compelled to register their titles?


Having raised this question on Clause 5, I, for one, am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman on account of having done so much as he has done, and I think we must all regard this Registration Clause as very satisfactory. But I do not see anything in the clause which will enable the original purchaser to transfer his land free of cost, except through a new conveyance, unless rules are made. If at the present time there are no rules in existence, unless such rules are made there is nothing in the clause which will enable the original purchaser to transfer his land free of cost when the property changes hands.


With reference to the first part of the question of the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Rathbone), and in reply to the non, Member for Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse), who has moved this Amendment, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane), has stated, there were two alternatives which might have been adopted in this matter; either to create district registries under the general provisions of the Act, or to take the Act as it worked in London, and make special provisions for applying it to the local districts. We have adopted the latter alternative. If there is not a large number of applications there will be no necessity for making any special rules. I conceive that the right course has been followed. In every instance the County Council is to provide the local machinery contemplated by Sub-section B of the Land Transfer Act. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), as to the expense required to be incurred in the case of a second or third transfer, that, of course, will depend upon whether the original owner of the land has in any way dealt with the land in the way of burdening it or mortgaging it, or anything of that kind. It is necessary, as hon. Members will understand in a scheme of this kind, that in the first place the transfer should be registered. The first owner of the land is to be bound to register as the proprietor, and then he will have for all practical purposes an absolute title. Then, if there is any more done in the way of the transfer of that land, of course it will be done without the intervention of a lawyer; and rules would be provided whereby the questions of form would be settled at once. As to the question of expense, I think it would be unwise to leave out a portion of Sub-section B of the Act, as has been suggested.

SIR H. DAVEY (Stockton)

I think we are all very much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the course which he has taken in this case. With reference to the questions raised by the hon. Member for Carnarvon and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby, I suppose what will happen will be this: If any owner wishes to transfer his land he will have to go to the local agent of the Land Transfer Department, and the local agent of the Land Transfer Department will see that his transfer is registered in London in the proper registry. That appears to me to be just as good a course to take, though, of course, it may not be as speedy, as if statutory district registries were established for the purpose in the country. I am not very fond of legislating by rules, and though I do not wish to make any Motion or Amendment at this moment, I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the point, and I think he will agree with me that if it should be necessary—though I do not say at this moment it is, for I do not know—that a rule should be framed, it should in some way be in accordance with the Act.


I did not quite understand whether the second part of my question had been answered. I understand that rules will be made, but will those rules provide that the successive owners shall be compelled to register their titles?




The Act of Parliament does it.

MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the point, for we have a system of registration in Scotland which I believe is more advanced than the system in England.


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would be possible to provide by rules for an Ordnance map being recognised for the purpose of land registration?


With regard to Scotch registration, I would ask to be allowed to speak to the Lord Advocate upon the point. I have some general knowledge of the registration law of Scotland, but I am not au fait with the details. I rather understood from what I was told that no alteration would be required, but I will communicate with the Lord Advocate on the matter. With regard to the question put to me by my hon. Friend behind (Sir R. Paget) as to the use of the Ordnance map, I will say that I think the time is coming, and approaching very rapidly, when an Ordnance map will be recognised officially, and will be used for the land registry and for land surveying. But I think it is too much for me to say that the rule shall make an Ordnance map, without the sanction of Parliament, sufficient evidence. I think that would be an instance of which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Davey) would have reason to complain of the rules going too far. Of course, use can be made of an Ordnance map already to some extent; but to ask that it should be made final and conclusive evidence would be going too far.


I think some words are necessary providing that it should not apply to Scotland. It is a perfectly general scheme at present.


I think there is no objection to insert the words "County Council in England."


There is a point on which my right hon. Friend has not answered the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I, therefore, beg again to ask him the question. In paragraph B of Sub-section 2 of the clause it is provided that rules may, On the application and at the expense of a County Council, provide by the appointment of local agents or otherwise for carrying into effect the objects of this section. What we want to ask is this: Do the Government undertake that in every case they shall provide some means by which the registration may be taken locally, because the clause does not say so


I entirely agree that it is better that the clause should remain as it stands under existing conditions, although in theory I think it might be better it should be amended. It is quite obvious from this discussion that a great deal of the value of this clause will depend upon the nature of the rules made under this Act. It may be possible, on account of our Parliamentary usage, that the rules made by the Lord Chancellor may not be laid on the Table before the passing of the Act, and I would ask whether it is not possible for the Attorney General or the President of the Board of Agriculture, by some means or other, to communicate to this House, before the Report stage, what the nature and what the purport of those rules may be.


It would be very rash to give any such promise as that. The rules will require to be carefully considered. They must be analogous to the well known rules now existing, and I cannot help thinking to endeavour beforehand to give their general scope and purport might lay us open to the observation that we did not communicate some necessary part. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, it is distinctly an intention that the registrations shall be carried out locally, and if these words do not restrict the clause to that, my right hon. Friend will certainly see that proper words are inserted. "Locally or otherwise" might mean that the agent need not be a person appointed ad hoc. Some difficulty might arise in the case of the County Council not having sufficient work to be done to justify the appointment of a local agent.


My suggestion was not that the exact words of the rules should be placed before the House, but that the general purport should be placed before it.

(6.15.) VISCOUNT EBRINGTON (Devon, Tavistock)

Is there anything in the proposed rules to provide for the cost of the transfer of land? It is very important that the cost of transferring these small holdings by any future deed should not be heavy.


In the Land Transfer Act there is provision for fees. The fees for transfer after the first registration are extremely small, and I never heard any one complain of them.


After the discussion that has taken place, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."


It is possible that laymen like myself may be under a misapprehension as to this clause, and I therefore would ask the Attorney General whether it will be necessary after this registration of the land for all fresh mortgages to be entered upon the register? If it is possible to do that by rules, then I think it should be done.


I am afraid that in answering another hon. Member on the opposite side of the House I have not clearly replied to my hon. and gallant Friend. The clause states: The purchaser shall, without further inquiry, be registered under that Act as proprietor of the land with an absolute title, subject only to such incumbrances as may be specified in the application. Therefore subsequent dealings with the land by way of mortgage must be registered in order that the mortgage may be valid. Of course it is quite possible that a man may attempt to deal with his land without registration, but there would not be effective security without registration. All legal mortgages and proper incumbrances should appear on the register.


I gather from my hon. and learned Friend that the charges made after the first transaction will be very small, and that there will be very little necessity for the intervention of a lawyer. That leads me to ask this question about mortgages: Will a mortgage upon the land be valid if it is not registered?


I think it would not be valid unless properly registered. What I desired to say about the intervention of a lawyer was this. I do not mean to say that under all circumstances no lawyer would be required. There might be deaths, there might be intestacies, there might be an uncertainty as to the person entitled to the property, there might be a variety of matters about which I am the last person in the world to suggest that there should be no intervention by a lawyer; but the intention of the Government is that under ordinary circumstances of transfer the simple registration will be carried out locally and at comparatively small expense.


I see that the Lord Advocate is now present, and I should like to repeat my question about the application of this clause to Scotland. It is quite obvious that it is inapplicable as it stands to Scotland, for the Land Transfer Act, 1875, does not apply to that country. It is highly desirable that this expeditious form of registration of title should exist in Scotland to facilitate the transfer of land, and we should all welcome a similar clause for Scotland. That can be done on Report. But I will in the meantime move to add at the end of the new clause these words, "This clause shall not apply to Scotland."


Order, order! The Question has been put, "That this clause be added to the Bill," and it is now too late to move that Amendment.

(6.20.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I would point out that the question has been put, and the discussion has come to an end. I will, however, promise that if the clause should be found inapplicable to Scotland, it shall receive careful consideration hereafter.


I am sure the Attorney General will admit that the system introduced into this Bill is practically non-existent in this country, and that those who are best entitled to speak upon it are opposed to legislation by rule.

(6.22.) SIR R. WEBSTER

I do not think I can make any such admissions as the hon. Gentleman desires. There are rules in existence at the present time which were framed under the Land Transfer Act, and all that the Committee have to do is to make such additional rules as are necessary to enable the transfer to be carried out locally. The new rules could not, however, be framed before the Report. I think this matter may properly be left to the rule-making authorities.


I share the dislike that has been expressed by the hon. Member for Scarborough to legislation by rule, and so far as it lies in my power I will protest against it. On the present occasion, however, I think that the clause, which is a very important one, should be passed. I hope that my Friend the Attorney General will look into the matter, as I myself intend to do, with the object of ascertaining before the Report stage of the Bill what is the extent of the rulemaking power. If he cannot then satisfy the House upon the subject, and I am unable to do so, I will take the liberty of calling attention to it again on Report.

Question put, and agreed to.

New Clause—

(Register to be kept by County Council.) Every County Council shall keep a register of the owners and occupiers of small holdings sold or let by them, and a map or plan showing the size, boundaries, and situation of each small holding so sold or let, —brought up, read the first and second time, and added to the Bill.


moved— In page 4, after Clause 6, to insert the following Clauses:—

(Public Inquiry by County Council where glebes offered for sale.)

"Where notice shall be given by the Board of Agriculture of the intended sale of any glebe under the Glebe Lands Act of 1888, the County Council within whose district the glebe is situate shall direct a public inquiry to be held in the parish in which such glebe is situate as to the suitability of the same for sale or leasing in small holdings under this Act, as to the need of small holdings in such parish, and the desire of the cottagers, labourers, and others to purchase or hire plots of lands for such purpose, and also in the event of the land being unsuitable for such purpose, as to the possibility of exchanging it for other land in the neighbourhood suitable for such purpose.

If the County Council after public inquiry shall be of opinion that any glebe which the Board of Agriculture shall propose for sale within their district is suitable for small holdings, or may be exchanged for other land suitable for such purpose, and that there is a demand for the same in the parish or district in which the glebe is situate, they may inform the Board of Agriculture that they desire to purchase the glebe, and the Board of Agriculture shall thereupon sell the glebe to such County Council for such price as may be agreed upon between them, being not less than the fair value of the same, and if no agreement shall be come to, then for such price as may be determined on under the Land Clauses Act.

Where a County Council shall have acquired any glebe with the object of exchanging the same for any land suitable for small holdings, they may hold the same until they are able to effect the exchange, and the cost of effecting the exchange shall be part of the costs of acquisition of such land for the purpose of this Act."

This is a question which has often occupied the attention of the House. I find that out of 131 cases in which glebe land has been offered for sale, in not fewer than 112 instances has it passed into the hands of the powerful landowners of the district. Only three plots have been sold to labouring people. Thus the intention of the Glebe Lands Act, 1888, has not been carried out. I have taken pains to ascertain why this failure has occurred, and it appears that not sufficient notice has been given of the intended sales to enable the people of the district in which they were to take place to come forward as purchasers. The only information previously given, so far as I am aware, is by means of notices posted on the church doors and at the post offices. I have been told by many people that numerous cases have occurred in which no inquiry has been made, and no notice given to the people of the district in which the sales were to take place. It is to rectify this, to facilitate the creation of small holdings, and to see that the Act of 1888 is carried properly into effect, that I move the insertion of the clause.

New Clause brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

*(6.33.) MR. CHAPLIN

I am bound to admit that only a small number of the glebes sold since the passing of the Glebes Act has gone into the hands of the class of small holders. The right hon. Gentleman attributes the failure of the Act entirely to the fact that there was not sufficient pub- licity given to these sales; but I can state this as a positive fact, that in accordance with the terms of Clause 8 of the Act, in every single instance the glebes have been offered in the first instance in small parcels for the very purposes in question, or to the Local Authority for the purposes of allotments. What further publicity could be given I do not know. The right hon. Gentleman proposes, in the first of his new clauses, that there shall be a public inquiry; and in the second, that if upon that inquiry there is found to be a demand for small holdings, the Local Authority are to inform the Board of Agriculture that they desire to purchase the glebe, and that the Board shall—not may—thereupon sell the glebe to the Council at a price agreed upon between themselves. Suppose they do not agree on the price what is to happen then? It appears to me the effect of the clause will be either to limit the market, and therefore to injure the sale of the glebe, and to injuriously affect the income of the incumbent, or else the clause will have no effect whatever. Then, again, I am afraid that the inquiry called for by the right hon. Gentleman would be very expensive, and by whom is this expense to be borne? Is it to be borne by the glebe, or by the Local Authority, or by whom does the right hon. Gentleman propose the expense shall be borne? I admit the object he has in view is a good one; it is unfortunate that glebes when sold should not be used in larger proportion for this particular purpose, but I do not see anything in the clauses of the right hon. Gentleman which would remedy that state of things. I am rather inclined to believe that if we were to pass the clauses in the form they are presented they would not encourage the sale of the land for this purpose—they would have a contrary effect. The mere fact of this Bill passing will probably have the effect that people will have far greater opportunities for the acquisition of land for this purpose than ever has been the case before, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be well to allow the Bill to pass without these new clauses, that we should see the effect of it, and then if we find that further reform is desired in regard to glebe lands I shall be very glad to consider a proposal on the subject.


From my own knowledge I can confirm what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has said that the failure of the Glebe Lands Act, in so far as it was intended to promote the creation of small holdings, has been largely due to the manner in which sales have been effected. The clause proposed by my right hon Friend would be most valuable; it would allow a County Council to take glebe where the parson wants to sell, and has expressed to the Board of Agriculture his readiness to sell, and if that land should not be exactly suitable for small holdings, the Council may acquire it and then, by exchange, get land which is suitable for the purpose. From our point of view, I see no objection to the clause. It might possibly diminish the price of the land, says the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin). What, diminish the price to bring in another competing purchaser in the shape of the County Council? How could you diminish the price by increasing the demand? I think it will be much more likely to promote the sales of glebe, and at the same time further the object of this Bill, for land is often more likely to be acquired in this way than by asking a landowner to split up his estate. I hope my right hon. Friend will persevere with his proposal, and take the opinion of the Committee upon it.


The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) has discussed the second clause as well as the first. I only discussed the first clause. The first and most important point is that there should be a public inquiry in the parish prior to the sale of the glebe—an inquiry in which the whole circumstances of the land and the condition of the people would be investigated, and in which the labourers in the district would be adequately informed of the intentions of Parliament and the offer of the sale of the land for the purposes of this Bill. That I hold to be of the highest importance. I do not think there need be any expense whatever. All that would be necessary would be that an agent of the County Council should go to the parish and hold an inquiry, inform the people of the intended sale, explain the provisions of the Glebe Lands Act, and of this Bill when passed into law; give, in fact, full explanation of the facilities offered under the two Acts for the acquisition of glebe for the purpose of creating small holdings. There would be no expense whatever to the Local Authority, beyond that involved in sending a single agent to hold a single inquiry. That is all that is proposed by my first clause, which of course, if the Committee accepts, I shall follow up with the next clause. But this first clause has simply for its object a public inquiry and explanation from the labourers of the district of the intentions of Parliament in relation to the sale of glebe lands. At present the people have no information; the whole thing is conducted in a "hole-and-corner" manner; the glebe is sold without any public inquiry or the people for whom the sale was intended having any knowledge of the sale or any opportunity of bidding for the land.

MR. ARTHUR H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)

Is the only objection of the President of the Board of Agriculture on the ground of expense? He must be aware that inquiries, such as are contemplated, can be conducted at very little expense. I do not see that he has made any objection to the first clause but the expense. Is that so?


I think I may meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman in this way. Whenever there is a sale of glebe, notice shall be given by the Board of Agriculture to the Local Authority, and the Local Authority being aware that the sale is about to occur, it will be perfectly within its competence to conduct such an inquiry as the right hon. Gentleman proposes. If that will meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman I shall be prepared to agree to a clause of that kind.


I think inquiry ought to be obligatory on the part of the Local Authority. In the past glebe lands have been sold, and they are now being sold without the people of the parish having any notice of the sale or of the intention of Parliament. It must be the duty of the Local Authority to direct an inquiry on the spot and supply all information. I should not feel satisfied with a merely permissive clause.

COLONEL GUNTER (Yorkshire, W.R., Barkstone Ash)

A notice is posted on the church door, and the matter comes before the local Sanitary Board, who are bound to inquire into the particulars before any sale can take place. I speak from experience as Chairman of a Sanitary Board, and I know that every possible information is given to labourers and everybody around before glebe land is sold. There is no difficulty in any person interested finding out all about it.


The answer to that is that there are Boards of Guardians who are known to be intensely hostile to the carrying out of the Allotments Act, and have not performed their duty in the past in respect to glebe lands.


If the right hon. Gentleman were a little more acquainted with the manners and customs in rural parishes, he would be aware that if there is one thing which is spread abroad and becomes known in every village household it is the fact of glebe land being about to be sold. I defy anybody, if he desired, to conceal the information—it becomes known at once. It would be an altogether useless expense to insist upon a County Council inquiry in every case as to whether the land is suitable, and if there is any demand for small holdings.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 106; Noes 183.—(Div. List, No. 128.)

It being after ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.