HC Deb 25 January 1995 vol 253 cc351-2
9. Mrs. Ewing

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects work on the land register for Scotland, as defined by the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979, to be completed.

Mr. Stewart

The operation of the land register in Scotland is being progressively extended to cover all counties by 2003.

Mrs. Ewing

Given that the Minister must be aware of the criticisms contained in the 46th report of the Public Accounts Committee, which indicates quite clearly that there was a 14-year delay in completing land registration in Scotland, will he tell the House why that delay has occurred, particularly as there will be conveyancing cost benefits to many people when it is completed? Will he also tell me why no county north of Stirling has yet been subjected to land registration, given that the land issue in the highlands and islands and in the north-east of Scotland is very topical—indeed, even contentious—at times, against a background of Scottish islands being won in German game shows?

Mr. Stewart

The timetable was announced in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) in June 1992. If there is any delay, it is the hon. Lady's delay of two and a half years before complaining about it.

Our response to the report of the Public Accounts Committee will be published shortly.

Mr. Wilson

Can the Minister tell me any good reason why instead of a 14 or 20-year process to find out who owns the land in Scotland there should not be a fixed date on which every land owner, irrespective of nationality, is required to produce title deeds and thereby register his ownership of the land? Is it possible that one of the reasons why that is not done is that many of the grand old Scottish lairds, clan chiefs and all the rest of that social detritus might have great difficulty in providing title deeds?

Mr. Stewart

That is the usual load of nonsense from the hon. Gentleman. The process of extending the land register was announced two and a half years ago and it is going ahead as announced in the original programme.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

Does my hon. Friend find it rather strange that the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) chose to raise her question, when her own party's administration in Grampian region has recently sold off large tracts of Aberdeen to an English company and is refusing to sell it to the Aberdeen tenants?

Mr. Stewart

The House will note with interest what my hon. Friend says. I have always understood the policy of the Scottish National party to be independence in Europe, which, in principle, means that Scottish land can be sold—and should be sold—to anybody in the Community, including the English.

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