HC Deb 15 October 1969 vol 788 cc508-11
The Solicitor-General

I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 15, line 13, leave out from and ' to end of line 21 and insert: 'where the purchaser of the estate or interest in question has incurred expenditure for the purpose— (a) of securing that the estate or interest is no longer affected by the registered land charge or is so affected to a less extent; or (b) of obtaining compensation under this section; the amount of the compensation shall include the amount of the expenditure (so far as it would not otherwise fall to be treated as compensation for loss) reasonably incurred by the purchaser for that purpose'. This is a purely drafting Amendment which meets a point raised by the hon. Gentleman in Committee. It is designed to emphasise that an award of compensation under the Clause must include both any expenditure incurred in seeking to relieve the land of land charge—for example, the costs of an application to the Lands Tribunal for the discharge of a restrictive covenant—and any expenditure incurred in applying to the Chief Land Registrar for compensation.

The Amendment alters the structure but not the substance of subsection (4), which at present provides that compensation is to include the purchaser's expenditure of securing that the interest is no longer affected by the charge or of obtaining compensation under the Clause. As altered by the Amendment, the subsection will provide that where the purchaser has reasonably incurred expenditure for the purpose of securing that his interest was unaffected by the charge or of obtaining compensation under the Clause, the compensation is to include the amount of that expenditure.

Mr. Graham Page

I rise only in the hope that this harmony between the two sides will extend to further Amendments in my name on the Notice Paper. I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for this Amendment, which improves the drafting of the Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 15, in page 16, line 24, after 'completion', insert: 'means the date on which the relevant estate or interest in land vests in the purchaser and'. One has to refer back to the beginning of the Clause to understand the purpose of the Amendment. Subsection (1) provides that compensation is payable in the case of loss due to undisclosed land charges if the date of completion of a purchase was after the commencement of this Act.

"Date of completion" is a phrase which is variously used in practice and therefore requires some definition here to show what is meant by it in the Bill. Sometimes it means the date fixed in the contract for purchase as the date for completion. At other times it means the date when the conveyance of the property is completed. To remove any doubt, I seek to insert these words in the definition of "date of completion".

As it stands, the definition of the phrase in subsection (10) relates only to the case of an acquisition by the Land Commission under a general vesting declaration, which is a very special type of occasion, and it does not relate to the normal practice of the transfer of land. I want to define clearly what is meant by "date of completion", and I hope that I have done so in my Amendment.

It is not one which will be effective in law for any great length of time. We are dealing with a transitional period of a contract before the Act and a conveyance after the Act. It is a small point, but one which should be cleared up while we have the Bill before us.

The Solicitor-General

The Amendment seeks to amplify the definition of the expression "date of completion" in Clause 24. The existing definition in subsection (10) applies only to certain statutory vesting declarations. The Amendment would extend the definition so as to cover the ordinary conveyancing transaction in which a contract is completed by a conveyance. It defines the date of completion as … the date on which the relevant estate or interest in land vests in the purchaser … The hon. Gentleman foreshadowed this Amendment in our consideration of the Bill in Committee. We feel that what he proposes adds an unnecessary refinement to the Bill. He has acknowledged that this is a transitional matter and that a very small number of cases will be affected. On balance, we think that it is better to leave the language of the Bill in its present form. The date of completion is referred to in the Clause only for transitional purposes, and the number of cases involved will be minute.

8.30 p.m.

In the context of the Clause we take the view that it is reasonably clear that "date of completion" means the date on which completion took place, a meaning which is entirely consistent with the existing definition in subsection (10). The definition in the Bill does nothing to derogate from the generally recognised meaning of the term. My advice to the House is to reject this Amendment.

Mr. Graham Page

I protest at the argument which the Solicitor-General has put forward, not only against this Amendment but an earlier one, namely, that only a small number of cases may be affected. That may be so, but one or two of those cases may be very big involving large sums of money. In Committee I said that it was not very sound to use the argument that the child was only a very small one against an Amendment of this sort. If there are only a small number of cases involved, we should provide for them. In those few cases there is no harm in a few extra printed words in the Bill. I would have hoped that in this case, merely to remove ambiguity, without damaging the interpretation, construction or application of the Bill when it becomes an Act, this Amendment could have been accepted.

The Solicitor-General

I recognise the argument that the hon. Member has put forward, but it seems that the issue is to balance the desirability of dealing with a comparatively small number of cases on the one hand with the disadvantage of elaboration of language in that Bill on the other. I do not under-estimate the importance of this, but in considering the matter in that light the Government have come to the conclusion I have indicated.

Amendment negatived.

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