HC Deb 30 October 1975 vol 898 cc1924-6
Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 10, in page 5, line 16, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may take Amendment No. 11, in page 5, line 17, leave out from 'register' to end of line 23.

Mr. Page

I think that the clause will be found to be very useful, but I hope that the amendments will be accepted to make it even more useful. The clause deals with the case in which a local authority or other public body expends money, or is in the course of expending money, which may eventually become a charge on the property. The authority may register a general charge before it knows the amount of money that will make the specific charge. Again, I hope that the purchaser, by searching, will find that there is this specific charge in anticipation at a very early stage—that is to say, the local authority should register a general charge when it starts to spend this money. The authority may do so. It is permissive for it to do so under the clause as drafted. My amendment would make it obligatory on the local authority, immediately it starts spending that money, to put a general charge on the register against the property.

The cases that come quickly to mind are those involving road charges. It is only when the whole of the money has been spent, the procedure has been completed, the end of the road has been made up, and everybody knows what the figure is that there is an obligation to register the charge against the property, but a purchaser buying in the meantime will want to know whether there is the possibility of a charge accumulating which may land on the property after he has bought it. Road charges are not the only example. Suppose the local authority has stepped in and repaired a listed building. It has the right to put the expenditure as a charge on the property.

I hope that in all those cases where a local authority starts spending money which may eventually become a specific charge on the property, and it has the right, in its discretion, to register a general charge, the Bill will place an obligation on the local authority to register that charge at that time so that any purchaser knows full well that this is a charge occurring on the property.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

I appreciate the motives behind the amendment, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the need to give the maximum information to the purchaser, but he will know that under subsection (2) the registration of a general charge is discretionary. There is a reason for that. A local authority may not wish to enforce such a charge against particular land— for instance, in a case in which road works are carried out for the benefit of the general public and not for those fronting on to the road. Indeed, the works may not be for their benefit at all; they may be very much to their inconvenience. In those circumstances, the local authority would not wish to enforce the charge.

In such circumstances, the amendment would achieve a blight which could affect the sale value to the occupier of a particular house. It would be wrong if, as in many cases, the local authority had no intention of enforcing such a general charge, to say that it must register it. For those reasons, I must resist the amendment and ask the right hon. Gentleman to ask leave to withdraw it.

Mr. Graham Page

I do not understand the Minister's argument. He says that the local authority may not intend to enforce the charge. It will not enforce it if the money is paid before it becomes a specific charge, but if it is not paid, it will undoubtedly bite on the property. It will be made a charge on the property so that in the end the local authority can get its money out of the property. One might say that any land charge will be a blight on the property. Of course it will, to that extent. A purchaser wants to know whether it will be blighted before he enters into a purchase. I cannot accept the Minister's argument and I cannot withdraw the amendment. I shall have to leave it to be negatived.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Graham Page

It may be helpful if I indicate that I shall not move Amendments Nos. 13 and 14.

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