HL Deb 24 March 1843 vol 67 cc1408-10
Lord Campbell

presented a bill to alter the law upon the subject of the conveyance of freehold property; and he hoped it would meet with the approbation of their Lordships, as he believed it would cause a great public benefit. The object of his bill was to obviate the enormous expense which was now incurred in the conveyance of freehold estates. Perhaps the most effectual course for accomplishing his object, would be to establish a general registry for deeds. That system existed in almost every country in Europe but England; and he believed, that no country which had once tried the experiment had repented of it. But there existed in England so strong a feeling against the system of registration, that he could not at present venture to bring forward any such proposal. The bill he now proposed to submit to their Lordships, he trusted would be favourably received by them; it was a bill prescribing a very short, a very effectual, a very sure, and a very safe form in the conveyance of freehold property from vendor to purchaser. In ancient times, deeds for this purpose were extremely short. There was a deed of feoffment which, in the reign of Edward 1st, did not consist of a document longer than the small piece of parchment which he then held in his hand (about the size of a bank note). This small deed would convey property of the largest amount. There then followed what was called "livery of seisin," and that constituted a perfect and effectual conveyance, and particular words being then held to have a particular effect by way of covenants, rendered the prolixity of subsequent ages wholly useless. But he supposed the lawyers of later times thought this form of conveyance was too short, simple, and cheap, and therefore they resorted to another form of conveyance, called a "lease and release." These consisted of two deeds: the lease was a deed of rather considerable length; it was technically called a lease, or bargain and sale for a year, and it was supposed to possess some mystical virtue by which the legal possession of the property was vested in the lessee, reserving to the lessor a reversionary interest which he could release to the party in possession, without the actual livery of seisin. This release recited the title of the party conveying the property, and almost from the time of Richard 2nd, it enumerated the parcels (or premises, the land and houses conveyed) with the most inconceivable verbosity, and contained such a vast number of covenants, that the deed was sometimes of that enormous extent, that the parchments were sufficient to cover the whole of the property conveyed. [The Lord Chancellor: In value or extent?] In surface. [The Lord Chancellor: Then they would cover a hide of land.] The object of the bill was to remedy this evil, which was a very serious one; and he proposed to do so by having a short form, to which, by act of Parliament, a certain effect should be ascribed. The deed he proposed would be as short as that used in the reign of Edward 1st. It was in a tabular form, containing the names of the grantor, the grantee, the parcels that were to be conveyed, and the consideration for the conveyance. That was all; and by the bill he had the honour to propose, that short deed would have all the effect of a lease and release. The bill would give to certain words a certain effect. He would just give a single specimen of the verbosity which would be obviated by the bill. According to the present form of conveyance, when a man had to convey a piece of ground, after stating that he conveyed a piece of land, the deed went on in this manner:— Together with all and singular houses, outhouses, edifices, buildings, barns, dovecotes, stables, yards, gardens, orchards, ways, paths, passages, waters, watercourses, timber and other trees, woods, underwoods, and the ground and soil thereof, feedings, commons, commons of pasture and turbary, and other commonable rights, hedges, ditches, fences, mounds, bounds, liberties, privileges, profits, commodities, advantages, and appurtenances whatsoever, to the said messuages hereby released, or to any of them, or any part thereof, now or at any time heretofore belonging or appertaining, or deemed, taken, used, occupied, possessed, and enjoyed, as part parcel, or member thereof, or of any of them respectively, or howsoever otherwise, the same messuages now are, or heretofore were tenanted, called, known, or described, situated, lying, being abutted, bounded, divided, or distinguished. Now, by the bill he proposed to their Lordships, it was provided, that when the grantor should have executed the form prescribed, it should be held and considered to inclose all houses, outhouses, and the whole of those things that were enu- merated in the long rigmarole which he had just read. Then, with regard to covenants, his noble and learned Friends were aware, that the deed of release at present contained covenants for title, for quiet enjoyment, for further assurance, and various other covenants that ran to a most enormous length. Now, he proposed an enactment, declaring that when the deed was executed according to the form prescribed, all those covenants should be considered to be involved in it, and that the purchaser should derive all the benefit which he could now obtain from the enormous and prolix forms at present used. He was not aware, that any objection could be made to his bill. He believed, that the lawyers, with that liberality which belonged to them, would highly approve of it. If the stamp duty should be a matter of consideration, it would be quite competent for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when the bill should reach the House of Commons, to insert a provision which should secure to the revenue the same amount of duty as now—by substituting an additional ad valorem duty for the tax which was now paid for the mere use of words. To any such clause, he for one should not object. But while the amount of stamp duty would thus be the same, an enormous saving would be made in lawyers' expenses. Probably some of his noble Friends might object to it, on the ground of its being the introduction of a piece of improved machinery, by which a number of hands would be displaced. There might certainly be in the first instance a number of lawyers' clerks turned out of employment, but it might give them some consolation to know, that owing to the great reduction of expenses, transactions of this kind would be so much multiplied, that they might fairly expect to be fully compensated. He trusted, from this explanation, that their Lordships would give the bill a favourable consideration. It had been prepared by his learned Friend, Mr. James Stewart, and it had been approved of by many other eminent conveyancers. He would on this occasion merely move that the bill be read a first time, and, in order to give ample time for its due consideration, he would not move the second reading until after Easter.

Bill read a first time.