§ (1.) General rules under section one hundred and eleven of the principal Act shall be made by the Lord Chancellor with the advice and assistance of the registrar, a Judge of the Chancery Division of the High Court to be chosen by the Judges of that Division, and three other persons, one to be chosen by the General Council of the Bar, one by the Board of Agriculture, and one by the Council of the Incorporated Law Society.
Amendment made: In Sub-section (1) at beginning, insert:—
Regulations may be made by the Lord Chancellor, under section one hundred and six of the principal Act, altering or adding to the official styles of the registrar and other officers of the registry, for the purposes of this Act."—(Attorney General.)
§ SIR H. FOWLER
As an Amendment to the Attorney General's New Clause (Provision for the Yorkshire registries of deeds), line 13, after "agreement" moved to insert "but no sum shall be payable for compensation in respect of any future loss of fees consequent upon such transfer." As matters stood, if the County Councils of Yorkshire should assent to the land registries being transferred to the Land Registry and should say that we should have had more fees if we had not assented to this, they might claim to be compensated out of the Consolidated Fund at the expense of the other taxpayers in the country for a benefit which was conferred upon the county of York alone. He submitted 332 that that was radically unsound, and would be an entirely new precedent which ought never to be instituted, and it would militate against any reforms in future it might be desirable to make in the law. The answer to this case was that the county of York under the clause need not have this registry unless it chose; it could not have it unless it was asked for. The County Council had no business to make any profit out of the registry at all. It was established in the interests of the freeholders of the county to be a self-supporting institution, as it had been during a long course of years. They had no right to tax the ratepayers for an institution which ought to be self-supporting; and he wanted to guard against their being entitled to claim compensation in respect of future loss of fees consequent on such transfer. He did not wish to interfere with the status quo. The County Council had to pay a considerable pension to the retired registrar, and he did not wish to impose an additional burden on the County Council. If the Government did not yield to his view he must take the opinion of the House, because it was a dangerous precedent to establish.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman as to the principle mentioned. He did not agree, however, with the Amendment and he should vote against it. The right hon. Gentleman's Amendment came in at the end of the third sub-section which applied to the case of the final agreement being made between the Government and the Local Authority. There was no suggestion in that sub-section that there should be any compensation paid in respect of the loss of fees, nor was such a suggestion made in the transference of registry in 1891. The next sub-section to which the argument of the right hon. Gentleman applied had nothing to do with the sub-section with which they were now dealing. If the proposed registry was set up alongside the registry of fees which existed now, it was obvious that the staff of the registry of fees would have to be maintained. The new registry working alongside the old might take 333 away a considerable part of their profits, and the result would be a considerable loss to the county.
§ SIR H. FOWLER
said that if the new Order came into force the registry of deeds would cease ipso facto, and they could not have the two systems going on side by side.
§ CAPT. BETHELL
said that for a certain time at any rate the two systems would be running side by side, and there would be two sets of officials. If they left it an open question, it was just at any rate that the county, having been at the expense during a long time to set up these establishments, to carry out the views of the State, ought not to be damnified by the fact that the State was now setting up a new system side by side with the old, until a final agreement was made therefor, and if the county lost money by the arrangement, then it ought to be compensated.
§ MR. W. L. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)
hoped that the Government would adhere to the clause inserted in the Bill. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman object to the application of the principle in this case to the County of York, because he was under the impression that a similar principle was inserted in the Local Government Act for which the right hon. Gentleman was mainly responsible. The right hon. Gentleman was fearful that the Treasury would suffer, but the Treasury had agreed to the clause, and this fact was sufficient evidence to prove that in the opinion of the Treasury it was only a reasonable protection for the interests of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Amendment would be in effect restrictive of the discretion of the arbitrator as to the amount he should award.
§ MR. BUTCHER
wished to support the clause as drawn by the Government. He believed that in the East Riding there was a loss on the fees, but in the West Riding a small profit, and he understood that what the Government proposed was that the ratepayers of the West Riding should not be deprived of the small advantage they gained from the existing system, while the intention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir. H. Fowler) was that the arbitrator should be bound to exclude from his consideration any profit of this kind.
§ MR. J. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W.R., Keighley)
said he was sorry to differ from his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, whose experience of Parliament and legal matters he respected, but at the same time he had a right to speak, knowing as he did something of the West Riding of Yorkshire. He hoped that the clause which had been proposed by the Attorney General would be incorporated in the Bill. Under the circumstances there was no guarantee that Yorkshire would not be interfered with in the future, because it only required somebody to object and then the Act would soon be made to apply to Yorkshire, or there might come a time when the County Council itself would apply to put the compulsory part of the Bill in operation. Although he was not old enough to know the circumstances under which the Wine and Coal Dues of London were purchased, he was told that the circumstances of the London Bill were not by any means analogous to the circumstances of this present Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to the registration fees charged in Yorkshire, and about which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton was in such trouble, it would be very difficult to so regulate them under this Bill, either to insure a profit or to save a loss. Indeed, at the present moment in the East Riding there was an actual loss. The fees were very small, ranging only from 1s. to 7s. 6d., and upon a transaction of £1,000 the fee would only amount to a 200th part of one per cent. ["Hear, hear!"] To make a reduction on that could only be a reduction from 1s. to 10d. and he did not think that 2d. would be an appreciable relief. And these fees, such as they were, were taken from the county as a whole and went back to the county. The fees were statutory fees and the whole thing had been arranged without an attempt at earning a profit. These Registries in Yorkshire had been carried on for at least 200 years, and Yorkshire was justified in asking that the fees paid should be the same as in the past. There had been a loss for many years and what little profit now went into the county fund for the West Riding was only obtained by skilful management and energetic work. Under the new arrangement, if this Bill passed into law, the 335 profit would be transferred to the Consolidated Fund, and the nation would receive the benefit instead of the county. He appealed to the House whether it was fair that the enterprise and intelligence of Yorkshire, which as a county had done so much for this question of registries and had incited the Government to adopt the system for the whole country, should be mulcted in the way proposed. It ought rather to be rewarded for the example it had set to the rest of the country. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said everybody would be glad to recognise the action taken by the great county of York in dealing with this question of land transfer. He thought they owed the county a debt of gratitude for the energy and public spirit it had shown, and for the steps it had already taken to advance to a rational solution of this question. ["Hear, hear!"] But, though he held that opinion and had no desire to run counter in any way to the powerful representation which the county of Yorkshire had, and deservedly had, in that House, he must confess that he did not appreciate the force of one of the arguments used by the hon. Member for the city of York. He said that there was a loss on the registration work in the East Riding and a gain in the West Riding, and he said that it would be very unfair to deprive the West Riding of this gain, and that full compensation should be given out of the Treasury. If that argument had any value, he presumed that it would be equally fair to ask the East Riding for a contribution to the Treasury for saving it from loss by the operation of this Bill. He did not know whether or not the argument of his hon. Friend carried him to that conclusion. He was not arguing the point, but he must say that he did not see that any answer could be made to the claim that might be put forward by the country in the case of the East Riding if the views of his hon. Friend were sound. But he did not think they need go into these matters in detail. There had been a great alteration in the position of this question since the Amendment introduced by the Attorney General in Clause 20 by arrangement between both sides of the House last night. When the new clause they were now discussing was put on the Paper it rested with the Lord Chancellor 336 and the Privy Council to compel the county of York to adopt the new system. It may have been right, and probably it was right, to say that under those circumstances, if such compulsion were exercised, the county of York should be compensated for any loss it sustained in consequence. But now the matter was entirely voluntary. It rested with the county of York alone to say whether or not it would adopt the new Bill, and before it decided to adopt the new Bill it could make itself acquainted with all the terms of arrangement which the Treasury were prepared to make in connection with the taking over of the existing system. ["Hear, hear!"] The whole matter, both as regarded the adoption of the Act and the terms of arrangement, had been modified from beginning to end. He did not think, therefore, that under the circumstances, they ought to press too far an argument which, if it had any weight, would lead them not only to compensation for loss of profits, but to contribution for relief from losses. The Government were not bound in this matter to exercise any pressure one way or other on the House; but individually, if the matter went to a Division, he should vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 78; Noes, 14.—(Division List, No. 375.)
§ First Schedule—
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
moved an Amendment providing that Section 18 of the Principal Act (various rights and liabilities not to be "incumbrances") should include "Estate Duty."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Bill Read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.