§ 7.20 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Peter Rawlinson)
I beg to move, Amendment No. 1, in page 6, line 37, leave out paragraph (a) and insert :(a) by reason of any discrepancy between—It may be for the convenience of the House if I refer to the second of the two Amendments, which is in the same words and refers to Schedule 1.
- (i) the particulars which are shown in a certificate under this section as being the particulars in respect of which the search for entries was made, and
- (ii) the particulars in respect of which a search for entries was required by the person who made the requisition; or,
In effect, these are drafting Amendments designed to clarify Clause 5(7) of the Bill. They arise from comments made with force and perspicacity by the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. Douglas-Mann) supported by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin). The hon. Gentleman drew attention to this matter in Committee. While accepting the intention and principle of the Clause, he indicated with some force that it did not make abundantly clear what should be the liability when there was an error by the computer. He pointed out that we should be able to see what the position was.
The Clause intended that there should be liability and responsibility which could be avoided, but not wherever an error is made in a search. The Amendments are designed to make the intention of the Clause abundantly clear. They seek to redefine the discrepancy between questions which are posed instead of between searches. I think that was the confusion 107 which then existed. This discrepancy is re-defined, first, as betweenthe particulars which are shown in a certificate under this section as being the particulars in respect of which the search for entries was made, and(ii) the particulars in respect of which a search for entries was required by the person who made the requisition".It will be up to the person who gets the information to check that the answer he sought has been given. If it is clear that another question has been answered, it is the responsibility of that person to see that that has happened and to seek the further question and get the answer thereto. It is to clarify this position that the Amendments have been moved.
Again, I thank the hon. Member for Kensington, North for having drawn the attention of the House to this matter. I hope that the proposal we have made will make the situation clearer and effect what he sought to have done.
§ Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Kensington, North)
I am grateful to the Attorney-General for moving the Amendment. It will greatly improve and make clearer the intention of the Clause.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman did me too much credit, in that the matter was initially raised in the Second Reading Committee by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin). There was undoubtedly a query as the Clause was drafted. This was, to a certain extent, less apparent to the layman than to the lawyer who tends to use the word "search" to mean both the question and the answer. The Amendment deals with the problem most satisfactorily, and I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for presenting it.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
I also thank the Attorney General for moving the Amendment. I know that the Government have thought deeply about this difficulty and come forward with one or two proposals which did not quite seem to meet it. However, the Amendment which has been moved should remove that difficulty.
It is important to make clear what the difficulty is and where it hits. I am not sure that the Attorney-General directed his opening remarks in the direction in which I am advised the difficulty lies. I 108 understand that the problem does not so much affect the person who puts the search into operation; it arises as a result of the provisions of Section 17(3) of the principal Act which is set out in the Schedule on page 12 of the Bill :In favour of a purchaser or an intending purchaser, as against persons interested under or in respect of matters or documents whereof entries are required or allowed as aforesaid, the certificate, according to the tenor thereof, shall be conclusive, affirmatively or negatively, as the case may be.I understand that the effect is that somebody who might not know that a search is being made may find that, as a result of some error made in the process of the search, his rights as a mortgagee are removed from the title. He was the person whom we were seeking to protect when we raised this matter in Second Reading Committee and in Standing Committee. I think that the Amendment protects him. The expression now used contemplates a situation where a search is made about one property and the computer prints out an answer relating to a totally different property. A person who had some charge on the property in respect of which the search was intended to be made would not be affected, because the result of the search would, on its face, relate to a totally different property. It seems, therefore, that the Amendment secures the result of protecting this innocent third party. That is the whole basis of what we were seeking to achieve.
In the circumstances, like my hon. Friend, I welcome the way in which the matter has been dealt with.
§ Amendment agreed to.