HC Deb 11 June 1973 vol 857 cc987-9
43. Mr. Tugendhat

asked the Attorney-General whether he is satisfied with the regulations regarding access to the Land Registry; and whether he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

The Law Commission is considering this matter and until it reports I must reserve judgment.

Mr. Tugendhat

Despite that answer, I wonder whether my right hon. and learned Friend can say why in the past, and indeed at present, the Land Registry should be so confidential whereas the Companies Register is relatively open. Does he agree that the situation in England differs substantially from that which obtains in Scotland? Is he aware that there is concern that confidentiality of the Land Register enables owners to let and sublet their premises for disreputable purposes? Will he assure the House that the present procedure does not impede the police in the progress of their inquiries into disreputable activities?

The Attorney-General

Scotland does not have a system of land registry similar to that which exists in this country but has a system which involves registration of deeds. Land registration applies to less than half the properties in the country. The contents of the register have been kept confidential with access limited to certain people because they set out many private matters, including the credit reputation of particular persons, the mortgages they may hold and the bankruptcies they may have sustained, all of which go to a person's credit and are private matters. Therefore, it is for consideration whether this should be given access to by anybody who wishes to look at a particular registration. The Law Commission is looking into this matter among others.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

The Attorney-General said that less than half the land is subject to registration. Can he assure the House that his choice of words does not mean that he has any less enthusiasm for the task of bringing all land under registration than had the Labour Government who commenced the policy?

The Attorney-General

The Law Commission was given this task to consider and published a working paper in September 1970; it is expected to give a final report covering all aspects of land registration. Among these aspects will be whether it should be right for people to be be able to see what bankruptcies the property owners have sustained, or what mortgages they have. This is a complex matter which goes into various wide fields affecting the law of privacy, if there is such a thing.