HC Deb 30 October 1975 vol 898 cc1919-21
Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 3, line 1, at end insert: 'of general application in the area of the authority by whom those bye-laws are or have been made'. The House will recollect that the opening words of Clause 2 are: The following matters are not local land charges… One of the matters referred to is …a prohibition or restriction embodied in any bye-laws". A local authority has power to make byelaws for the whole of its area or for any part of its area. In that statutory provision for a local authority, there is no restriction on the smallness of the part. It could be a byelaw affecting one property. Certainly it could be a byelaw affecting one street.

One would not expect a byelaw relating to the whole of the district to be registered as a land charge against one property, but if there is some form of selection in that byelaw against some property or properties it should be registered, and only those which are of general application in that area of the authority by which the byelaws are or have been made should be excluded from the discussion of local land charges.

The Law Commission, on page 41 of its Report, explaining why the provision was put in this form, said: This exclusion is for the avoidance of doubt. It has never been supposed that particular prohibitions or restrictions imposed by statute should be registrable, and byelaws come within that principle. I am not quite sure that they do. To say that a byelaw is the same as a statute applying to the whole of the land is stretching the meaning of "byelaw" very much.

The Law Commission went on: Notice of matters so imposed is presumed to be general. It is already found generally over the whole area, but it is possible for byelaws to discriminate against one property or another. It would put the matter beyond doubt and be of great benefit to purchasers if byelaws not of a general nature but affecting specific properties or streets or squares or a small area were registered against those properties.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Again I appreciate the notives behind the amendment but I cannot accept it. First, as the right hon. Gentleman appreciates, byelaws are legislation and the public receive notice of such legislation. For instance, there is provision in Section 246 of the Local Government Act 1972, which he knows well, for the deposit and inspection of byelaws in districts and parishes and communities to which they apply.

The right hon. Gentleman said earlier that he has regard, as I know he does, to the fact that local authorities are being urged to spend less and cut out waste. No one in this House wants to add to the burdens and costs of administration of local government. It would be wasteful and contrary to long-accepted principles to register legislation.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that under the 1972 Act all byelaws can be inspected free of charge. The amendment would increase registration costs and fees at the expense of either the ratepayer or the purchaser, although the relevant restriction could easily be ascertained free of charge outside the local land charge register. The right hon. Gentleman would not wish to add expense and cost in that way.

As adequate notice of byelaws is already available, and as the right hon. Gentleman would not want to add the extra administrative work of singling out individual legislative restrictions on the use of land, or unnecessarily to burden or clutter up local land charge register, I ask him not to press the amendment.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

This is an example of where the Government have utterly failed to use the Bill for a good purpose. The way in which these provisions would be beneficial to those dealing with property would be by moving as much as possible on to the local land charges register so that, when searching it, one really did get to know the legal condition of the property. The Government have, however, resisted any improvements of this sort, and this is yet another occasion on which this proposal has been resisted.

The whole point of any reform of the local land charges register is to give a purchaser as full information as possible without having to search for it elsewhere. We have been told that we must search the register of planning applications. That is bad enough and will increase the costs of conveyancing. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary has tried to find the byelaws of a local authority. If not, I should point out that, after considerable time and trouble in getting to the right person and as there is no complete copy of byelaws in most local authorities, he will have to collect the amendments and tuck them into the right places.

I do not wish to press the amendment further. I merely make the point that the opportunity has been lost of improving the position regarding the sale and purchase of property. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 6, in page 3, line 3, leave out from 'was' to 'deemed' in line 4 and insert 'granted at any time before the commencement of this Act or was or is (at any time)'.—[Mr. Arthur Davidson.]

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