§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that no measure had conferred greater benefit on the proprietors of land in Ireland than the Act of 1848, commonly called the Incumbered Estates Court Act. Under it immense sales of incumbered land had taken place—to the amount, it was computed, of £23,000,000. But the Act had this defect, that after the incumbered land was sold and a Parliamentary title given, the function of the Act ceased, and there was no provision for preventing the title to land becoming again involved in complications and embarrassments, similar to those from which it had just been cleared, arising out of subsequent transactions. This defect was pointed out by the Commission of 1857, in whose Report it was stated—Great as are the benefits which the Incumbered Estates Court has conferred upon titles in Ireland, it is a remarkable circumstance that there is no provision for perpetuating and continuing as to future transactions the Parliamentary title obtained upon a purchase from that Court. The title is unimpeachable as to all transactions prior to the time of purchase, but immediately after the purchase the transfer of the land becomes subject to the general law; and as to all transactions taking place after the purchase, the title is liable to become again involved in complications and embarrassments similar to those from which it was relieved by the sale under the Incumbered Estates Act. Permanent simplification of title and simplicity of transfer are not attained by the Act, and retrospective investigation of the title becomes again necessary… The system, therefore, which we have recommended is required not less for Ireland than for this portion of the United Kingdom, while at the same time the facilities for its introduction there are much greater than in this country.Unfortunately, in 1858, when the present Landed Estates Court was established, though many improvements were introduced, yet the particular improvement referred to was not allowed to find place, and there was no machinery by which the title and subsequent transactions might be recorded and kept in a simple state. The difficulty in this respect was removed in respect to England by the Act he (the Lord Chancellor) introduced in 1862, and the object of the present Bill was to adapt 1454 to Ireland the machinery and regulations of that Act so far as they related to the record of title. Before he proceeded to explain the manner in which this was to be done, it would not be unreasonable for him to refer to the operation of the Act of 1862, which, although it met with serious opposition at its introduction, was now-working in an advantageous manner, and there was every reason to expect that those who availed themselves of it would become more numerous every year. From the 15th of October, 1862, to the 1st of March, 1864, the date of the last Return to the House of Lords, there were 65 applications. These applications comprised about 5,000 acres of land, consisting largely of very valuable building land, of an estimated value exceeding £1,500,000. From the 1st of March, 1864, to the 30th of April, 1865, the applications had been 216, making together 281. The number of acres comprised in the 216 applications exceeded 25,000, and he had no hesitation in saying that the value very considerably exceeded the value of the 65 cases, making the total value exceed £3,000,000. There was no difficulty in working the measure—one complaint only had been made; but, on inquiry, it was found that the delay was occasioned by the agent and not by the office. Their Lordships were aware that there was an Association in Dublin, presided over by a noble Duke, and entitled the Registration of Title Association. In an address presented to the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, that Association stated—We feel that the insecurity, delay, and expense incident to the present system of conveyancing are a hindrance in the transaction of our private affairs, seriously reducing the value of landed property in Ireland, and obstructing the free investment of capital in land and landed securities. We are of opinion that the Landed Estates Court, though affording some alleviation in the case of large estates, fails to provide an effectual remedy for many of the evils complained of. Titles which, at considerable expense and delay, have been cleared of complexities by being passed through that court, are left to be dealt with subsequently under the same system of conveyancing which induced those complexities, and consequently in a short period of time become embarrassed and deteriorated by similar accumulations. We, therefore, think that the Landed Estates Court Act requires to be supplemented by some measure which will enable future dealings with land to be conducted with security, expedition, and economy.The Court had been conducted with so much wisdom, care, and prudence, that there had been hardly a single mistake in its proceedings. This Bill was simple as 1455 compared with the measure of 1862. The proceedings which were contemplated by this Bill commenced as soon as the Landed Estates Court made a conveyance or mode a declaration of title. The Bill proceeded to direct that forthwith the title should be entered upon the record, and that every one of the subsequent transactions should be endorsed upon the minute. The Bill extended the powers of the Landed Estates Court so as to enable it to make a conveyance or declaration of title of every description of estate and interest, including partial estates and leaseholds; and their powers would be extended to leases and agreements for leases, but so that the declaration of title should not give any guarantee to the title of the lesser. The Court would gather in every instrument which created any description of interest, and there was machinery which would enable the officer of the Court to investigate, ascertain, and declare the result judicially, and thereby the title to every description of estate would be simplified, and it would be rendered capable of being transferred with the greatest ease and economy. The Bill further provided that all transfers should he brought into the Court, and completed in the Court, the transfer being made by the party himself either in the Court, or by conveyance in the country, and then reported to and recorded in the Court. Thus every interest in land when brought into the Landed Estates Court would be relieved from the necessity of registration in the Deeds Registration Office. The registration of deeds in Ireland had been productive of great inconvenience, and in this respect the introduction of this Bill would afford a great relief. The Bill further contained provisions respecting the registration of judgments, which would place the Irish registry in a superior position to that of England; and also respecting the transfer of charges and mortgages, which would be effected with much greater ease and facility than before. He anticipated that great advantage would result in Ireland from such a record of title as the Bill proposed, and to prove that the system was appreciated, he would only refer to the case of South Australia, where the number of voluntary applications for registering titles had increased from 184 in 1858 to 1,138 in 1864. When the mode of dealing with land, which he had described, became generally known, and the advantageous nature of the transactions within the Court was contrasted 1456 with the transactions which took place outside it, he predicted with the utmost confidence that the increase of business would be probably in a greater ratio than that to which he had already referred. He trusted, then, there would be no objection to the second reading of the Bill, but that the measure would be received as the necessary complement of that useful institution—the Landed Estates Court. He begged to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD ST. LEONARDS
said, the cases of Ireland and England with regard to the transfer of property were entirely different. In Ireland there was a Landed Estates Court, in which estates were sold by public auction, and an indefeasible title given to the purchaser. Besides that there was a General Registration Act, which had been long in operation, and which had been attended with very beneficial results. The Landed Estates Act in Ireland governed the whole country, so that either the Irish owner or his creditor might take the estate into the Court and there obtain an indefeasible title. In these respects England stood upon a very different footing. We had no general registration throughout this country. All that we had here as general measures was this—that all charges which were likely to be made, independently of the actual execution of deeds, were all, under different Acts of Parliament, brought into one office where, at an expense of only 1s., these charges could easily be ascertained, and it might be easily seen whether the title was clear. Lands passed by actual conveyance, and though there were means of acquiring an indefeasible title, it was not necessary for anybody to go into the Land Transfer Office unless he thought proper. Then there were means for receiving applications for registration of title in England; but the number of such applications was very small. Now, the nature of the Bill might be described in a very few words. It was a measure to destroy all conveyances and dealings with property and ownership in Ireland, as between the owner and his ordinary professional advisers; it was to put a stop to the whole transfer of property as it was now conducted in order to take it into a Court which had been constituted for other purposes, and had enough to occupy its time, and which would have this 1457 additional burden thrown upon it, and thus would become the great Conveyancing Court of the country. He (Lord St. Leonards) conceived nothing more injurious to Ireland than this measure. In Ireland at present a man might get a declaration of an indefeasible title; but having got it, if he wished to deal with it out of Court, he must employ a solicitor, and pay him in the regular way. What would their Lordships say to a measure striking at the entire profession of solicitors and attorneys throughout Ireland? This Bill placed both devisees and heirs at law in a position which would expose them to delay, expense, and litigation, to which they were not now subject, and it contained several highly objectionable provisions. No one had been more anxious than himself to further measures for the simplification of the law regulating the transfer of property in Ireland, but he did not think this Bill either a wise or well-considered step in that direction.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said, he wished to remind his noble and learned Friend that the Bill was not a compulsory measure. It had been carefully considered, and was regarded as highly beneficial by the landed interest of Ireland.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said, that the Incumbered Estates Act had been of great use in regard to titles; but that in a few years, in consequence of the charges and incumbrances incident to landed estates, matters would fall into confusion without some such measure as the present. He should warmly support the Bill, as being calculated to render a great service to the proprietors of land.
THE EARL OF BELMORE
My Lords, before the question is put I wish to say a few words, and to join with my noble Friend who has just down (the Marquess of Clan-ricarde) and my noble Friend near me (the Earl of Donoughmore) in supporting this Bill. Some time ago an association was formed in Ireland, as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has stated, for the purpose of promoting this measure. That association was composed of noblemen and gentlemen of every shade of political opinion, and I believe the greatest attention has been paid to the Bill, with a view of making it as perfect as possible, I therefore give it my most hearty support.
§ Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next