HC Deb 05 May 1964 vol 694 cc1085-7
1. Mr. Abse

asked the Attorney-General how many counties and how many county boroughs have requested that the compulsory registration of land should be extended to their areas; when it is anticipated that their requests will be granted; what steps are being taken to train adequate staff to man the needs of the Land Registry; whether he will initiate a training programme of suitable clerks and map makers for the Land Registry; and whether he is aware that if the Land Registry system were extended solicitors would be able to reduce conveyancing fees.

The Attorney-General (Sir John Hobson)

Six counties and 12 county boroughs have requested that the system of compulsory registration of title on the sale of land should be applied to their areas. The system will be applied to those areas as soon as the necessary additional staff can be recruited and trained and the accommodation provided for them and I cannot give firm dates today.

The recent rapid increase in the volume of conveyancing work throughout the country has thrown a very heavy load on the Land Registry, where the staff is already being expanded at the rate of some 10 per cent. per annum. The recruiting problems are, however, serious. The training of recruits is at present undertaken on the job, but a further review of training methods and other procedures and of the recruiting arrangements is now under urgent consideration.

I am, of course, aware that transactions in registered land are cheaper than transactions in land which has not been registered and it is the Government's policy to extend the compulsory registration system as rapidly as practicable, having regard to the staff and accommodation problems involved.

Mr. Abse

Is it not a fact that many of the 18 areas have been waiting for years? Is it not most unfortunate that the most that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can say in giving this nebulous reply is that the extension and training are under urgent consideration? What does that mean? Does it mean that after all these years of growing house purchase lawyers have to endure a system which compels people to pay more than they need? Is it not time that this Government started thinking about house purchasers?

The Attorney-General

This is the responsibility, of course, of my noble Friend and the Treasury. As I have told the House, there is a planned expansion of 10 per cent., but the amount of actual conveyancing has increased very substantially. The fact still remains that voluntary procedure by registered title is available for the whole country. The only question that we are discussing here is the extent to which it should be expanded compulsorily to all areas of the country, because any owner of property can make the title to that property a registered title even though it is not in a compulsory area.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is now 40 years all but one year since the system of what was then called the new conveyancing was enacted by Parliament, and that although a registration system was not then made compulsory it was regarded as being experimental with the idea that gradually it could cover the whole country, making a simpler and cheaper process and one more convenient for everybody? Is it not time, after 40 years' experience of the advantages of the registration system, that something should be done to make it applicable throughout the country as a whole?

The Attorney-General

As I have said, the Government's policy is to press forward within the difficulties that exist of recruiting the technical staff and providing the accommodation. I certainly accede to the proposition that we should increase the number of areas which are subject to compulsory registration as rapidly as follows.