HL Deb 26 March 1874 vol 218 cc318-34



My Lords, a Notice of Motion with regard to the Transfer of and Title to Land in this country has generally been the prelude to a very long speech, and I am afraid that I myself a number of years ago was in that respect a considerable offender in the other House of Parliament. But I think I may undertake to assure your Lordships that on this occasion I can compress in a very small space all the observations I desire to make. My Lords, I can do that the more readily because I know my noble and learned Friend who lately occupied the position I have now the honour to hold (Lord Selborne), made in the course of last Session a speech by no means too long, but most able and comprehensive, in which lie went through the history of the attempts at legislation already made in respect of this subject. My Lords, therefore, without any prelude, I shall proceed to the legislation which I shall ask your Lordships to enter upon. I shall not stop to argue upon the advantages of a cheap and easy mode of transfer of land. Upon that point I think we are all agreed—and I think we are also agreed upon the blot which has hither to existed in our system of law by reason of the complexity, delay, and expense which at present surround all the dealings with regard to real property. My Lords, for the purpose I have in hand I will ask your Lordships to look to four different dates, and the attempts at legislation which were made on those occasions. I will refer for a moment to the years 1859, 1862, 1867, and last Session. In 1859, it was my duty, as Solicitor General of the Government which then existed, to introduce in the House of Commons two measures which were founded mainly upon a Report of a Royal Commission. Those measures were on the subject of the registration of titles to land. My Lords, the phrase "registry of title to land" is very frequently used without adequate precision as to meaning, and therefore I must ask you to allow me in a few sentences to explain what it really is; and I can best do so by asking you to note the difference between a registry of the title to land and a registry of deeds and assurances of land. The latter may be thus stated—Every deed connected with the property is placed upon the register—it is either transcribed at length or described in a succinct and formal manner, and the consequence is that the register becomes an historical narrative of all the deeds of every kind connected with the property. It is obvious that a register of that kind may add security to the title to land, but it by no means facilitates the transfer of land. On the contrary, it has quite the opposite effect, because a mass of deeds is placed on the register; and if a person purchases land he has not only to ask for an abstract of the title and examine the original deeds, but he has also to go to the register and see that the entries there correspond with the deeds themselves. We now come to the registry of the title to land. In the registry you will have no deeds whatever. You will have on the register a description of the property—where it is, how it is called, and as far as possible its boundaries; but beyond those particulars you will have nothing except the name of the proprietor of the land. Let us see now that will work in practice. The owner of a foe-simple estate with a perfectly good title contemplates selling it in lots for building purposes—say in 50 lots. Well, as the law at present stands, when he comes to deal with the purchaser of the first lot he must make out a title and give an abstract of all the dealings with the property for 40 years back. Great expense is incurred in the case of this lot; but the matter does not end there, because the same course has to be gone through in the case of every one of the other lots into which the property is divided. Now, under a registry of title, the land would be placed on the register with a simple description of the situation, and the name of the proprietor. That being done, every one of the fifty intending purchasers has nothing to do but come to the register and satisfy himself that the person to whom he is about to pay the purchase money is the person whose name is inscribed therein, and that the piece of land he is about to purchase is the same as described in the register. The limitation of time and expense would be as great as can well be conceived when we compare that process with the one which has at present to be gone through. The establishment of a registration in that sense was the object of the Bills which I introduced in 1859. At that time the proposal was novel; but I am bound to say it met with very considerable favour both from the profession and the public. The Bills were read a second time; but a Dissolution of Parliament having come on shortly after, the subject was allowed to slumber. In the year 1862—the second of the epochs to which I am desirous of calling your Lordships' attention—the late Lord Westbury, as Lord Chancellor, introduced in your Lordships' House a Bill on this subject, which was subsequently carried through Parliament. It was based on the principle of a "registry of the title to land," so far as the term; but it was not a measure for the registry of land in the sense I have endeavoured to explain it. It was a registry which, under the name of a registry of land, was a registry of deeds; and, in my mind at least, it was a registry of deeds of the worst kind, because it was a system under which the person registering had the power to place on the register, not the deeds themselves, but a statement of what he conceived to be the effect of the particular deeds. In the House of Commons I took the liberty of objecting to that system on two grounds. The first was the ground I have just stated; the second was that the Bill provided that in the registration of the estate the boundaries of the estate should be settled irrevocably by a judicial decision, the probable consequence of which would be disputes as to boundaries among all the adjacent owners. However, the Bill passed into law, and a Registry Office, with a Registrar and staff, was established in London with a view of carrying the measure into effect. A certain number of proprietors brought in their properties for registration in the office under that Act, but the number was so small as compared with the aggregate of proprietors of land in this country, that the Act is generally regarded as a failure. I now ask your Lordships to come on with me to the year 1868. At that time I filled the office which I have now again the honour to hold, and I was unwilling that the subject of the transfer of land should be allowed to remain in its present position. Accordingly a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the working of the Act of 1862. That Commission was composed of men well qualified for the duties they had to discharge in connection with it. Besides several of the Law Lords, it included several eminent barristers, conveyancers, and solicitors. My noble and learned Friend (Lord Romilly) was Chairman of the Commission, and the late Lord Justice Giffard and Mr. Walpole were members. I may venture to commend the Report of that Commission to any of your Lordships who may not have read it, as a very interesting piece of reading, and one which throws much light upon the present state of the law. It enters into the history of what was done in 1862, and states that, in the opinion of the Commissioners, the Act of that year had proved a failure. It then states what, in the minds of the Commissioners, had been the causes of its failure. I think the most conspicuous of those are the causes which I have already stated—its mode of dealing with boundaries, and its want of simplicity in placing what I may call the title-deeds on the register. The Commissioners assigned some other causes of failure also. They recommended that another system should be adopted—that there should be recurrence to the principle on which the Bills of 1859 had been framed. Five of the Commissioners recommended a literal reproduction of the Bills of 1859; the other Commissioners recommended that the principle of those Bills should be adhered to. I now pass from the Report of 1868 to the last Session, when my noble and learned Friend who then occupied the Woolsack (Lord Selborne) brought in a Bill which was mainly founded on the Report of the Commissioners, and which adopted, I venture to think, the true principle of the registry of the title to land. There were two differences between the Bill of my noble and learned Friend, and the Bill of 1859. My noble and learned Friend proposed to utilize the Office of the Land Registry in London, created by the Act of 1862, as the registry to which titles wore to be brought; whereas the Bill of 1859 provided for the establishment of a Landed Estates Court similar to that which exists in Ireland. He also proposed that after a time there should be a compulsory registration of land, whereas the Bills of 1859 had left the registration entirely voluntary. Your Lordships will recollect that in the last Session you were very much engaged in the consideration of the Judicature Bill, which occupied a very considerable time. It was obvious when my noble and learned Friend first introduced his Bills on the subject of land there would be much difficulty in considering them before a Select Committee, and yet it was obvious that the provisions required to be minutely inquired into. Under those circumstances, I recommended my noble and learned Friend not to proceed with the scheme, but to refer it to some distinguished conveyancer in the interval between the two Sessions, that it might have the benefit of his revision. My noble and learned Friend adopted that suggestion, and placed his Land Titles and Transfer Bill before Mr. Hall, now Vice Chancellor Sir Charles Hall, who was then practising at the Bar. My Lords, I must pause here to say that I think, if my noble and learned Friend had appealed to the profession at large as to the person best qualified to deal with a matter of this kind in a manner safe and satisfactory, there would have been an unanimity of opinion that he could not have made a more judicious selection; and I further think that it is of the greatest possible advantage that the matter has been considered by a person so experienced in the law of real property as Sir Charles Hall. I must also pause to say another word with regard to my noble and learned Friend. A short time before the change of Government, but when that change was said to be impending, my noble and learned Friend communicated to me that it might possibly be my duty to introduce a measure on this subject, and he handed over to me the papers connected with his measure, that I might have the fullest possible opportunity of considering it and making any alterations that might appear to me to be necessary. I thanked him in private, and now I thank him in public. I regard what he did as not only courteous to myself personally, but useful to the public; because under no other circumstances would it have been in my power, within a week after the commencement of the Session, to place before your Lordships the Bill which I have now the honour of submitting; for your consideration.

My Lords, I will now explain what it is I propose to do. It will not be necessary for me to go through all the provisions of the measure; but there are questions which will naturally occur to the minds of some of your Lordships, and will also occur to the public out-of-doors, and those questions it may be convenient for me to anticipate and answer. One question that, no doubt, will be asked is this—What is the kind of title you are going to register; is the title, once registered, to be thenceforth indefeasible? My Lords, under this Bill I propose that there may be a registry of three kinds of title—namely, a title absolute or indefeasible; a title limited—that is to say, a title certified to be good from a particular date, but not beyond it; and a simple title of the proprietor in possession and alleging himself to be owner. We should then have a title certified to be absolute, a title certified for a limited date, and a title not certified. I know it has been proposed that what is called, in popular phraseology, "a good holding title" should be allowed to be certified by registration as absolute and indefeasible. I am not able to make that proposition. "A good holding title" is not an uncommon phrase, but it is not a legal phrase; it has no legal precision, and cannot be defined in legal terms. Quite the contrary—because it must be remembered that what may be in the opinion of one conveyancer "a good holding title," may be in the mind of another conveyancer a title surrounded with difficulty and doubt, and for that reason a title which he would not allow his client to accept. There can be no doubt that in the dealings with land such a title is very often accepted—particularly under "conditions of sale"—but it is always one which the purchaser accepts at his own risk, and if the title turns out to be bad, the loss is his. It would be a very different thing to allow by law a registry of such a title as that, with the view to a legal certificate that it was indefeasible. But I propose to do that which, I think, will do full justice to those who wish to deal with good holding titles. I propose that if persons come before the Registrar with a title which is marketable and good, but in which, by reason of some incident, there is a theoretical imperfection—such as a covenant to produce a deed, or similar requirements—the Registrar is to be at liberty to state that incident to the Court, and if the Court is satisfied that it may be waived and disregarded, it is to be at liberty to act on that opinion and certify the title as indefeasible, or limited as the case may be. I propose to go further, and to introduce what I think a useful change. No title is now considered by the Court of Chancery as marketable which has not its root 60 years back. I propose that, under this Bill, the Registrar may accept titles having their root only 40 years back, providing there be nothing to lead him to suspect that there are imperfections in the earlier period of the title. I also propose that he shall be at liberty to receive as facts recitals of deeds 20 years old at the time of registration. With these qualifications and with well-drawn conditions of sale, and with these powers in the Registrar, all that is safe and desirable in passing an Act—good holding titles—will be attained. The next question is—What do you propose to do about boundaries? I have stated that an objection to the Bill of 1862 was that it required the boundaries to be settled. I propose that the boundaries shall not be settled. I propose that the Registrar shall describe the boundaries in the best way he can, but that he shall not be charged with the duty of deciding questions of boundary as between adjoining owners; and I make that proposition on this principle:—It was shown before the Royal Commissioners of 1868 that in practice boundaries never create any difficulty in the buying and selling of property; that questions of boundary were managed quite easily on the spot, and never came before counsel at all. In the next place, my objection to a settlement of boundaries by the Registrar is this—that it would bring forward disputes and lead to litigation. On many estates there have boon unsettled questions of boundary for hundreds of years, but they have been allowed to remain in abeyance, and never have caused any difference among the owners of adjoining estates. They have gone on very well for a hundred years, and may go on very well for the next hundred without discussion. But if the duty of settling the boundary is devolved on the Registrar that satisfactory state of things may be put an end to; because if you raise doubts, and force the owners to have their boundaries settled, the parties may refuse mutual concession, and thus you will give rise to a course of litigation—which would be very objectionable. I am of opinion, therefore, that this settlement of boundaries would be a means of creating unnecessary difficulties. But there is a still further reason against it. It would be impossible for the Registrar to decide as between adjoining owners unless he had all the adjoining owners before him; but when John Smith comes before him to register his title to White-acre, how is the Registrar to know the boundaries of all the owners of property on both sides of Whiteacre? The Registrar if he wore to settle the boundaries of John Smith of Whiteacre would have to enter into an examination of all the titles of the adjoining owners, in order to satisfy himself that he had all the real owners before him. All that, for the objects we have in view, is unnecessary. It is disregarded in the practical dealings with land, and is a tiling nobody asks for. I cannot present this view bettor than it was presented by the late Mr. Waley to the Royal Commission of 1868— The relinquishment of the practice of determining the boundary of registered lands …. will leave the registered owner subject to the possible claims of his neighbours, so that an indefeasible title will mean a title beyond question by any except adjoining owners. To this I think that there is no practical objection. The possible lights of adjoining owners may be classed with the rights of way and other rights the liability of which is practically consistent with indefeasible ownership. Then, the next question which will be asked is this—What interests in land do you propose to have a registry of? My Lords, I propose to register fee simple estates, leaseholds of a certain length, and charges, including mortgages, on the estate. Then comes the extremely important question—Is the registry to be compulsory or is it to be voluntary? I propose that for three years after the commencement of the Act there shall be no compulsion in any form. I myself am very sanguine that it will be found that if this measure should have your Lordships' approval and become law, a great deal of business will have been transacted under it, and a great quantity of land will have been registered before the expiration of three years. I say so for this reason:—This is a subject on which the public mind has been maturing for 15 years; the attention of the profession has been directed to it, and the attention of the public has been directed to it, and I think that almost without exception there has been an opinion universally expressed in favour of a registry of title such as I have described it. A registry of land such as I have described brings up land as far as can be to the analogy of ships and stock. It is that the public ask for, and the public desire to have. Moreover, we have the advantage derived from the experience of the failure of the Act of 1862. We know the causes which led to the failure of that legislation and we are able in these proposals to avoid thorn. I am therefore sanguine enough to hope that without any compulsion we shall have a very largo amount of business transacted in the registration of title within the course of three years. I know it has been stated—and stated very strongly sometimes—that the solicitors will oppose a measure of this kind and prevent it from succeeding. I do not think so. I have had some experience of solicitors; and without adverting to what is obvious—that even in a matter of self-interest whatever improves the law and gives greater facilities for dealing with land must be a benefit, and not an evil to the profession—without adverting to that consideration, I speak from my own experience of solicitors when I say of the great mass of them that I believe there is not in the kingdom a body of men more intelligent, more liberal in their views, more desirous of improvement in the law, and more anxious to avail themselves of such improvement when made. But that does not depend upon my testimony; because if your Lordships refer to the evidence given before the Royal Commission, you will find a great deal of testimony on this point; and the Commissioners say that there is evidence to show that after the passing of the Act of 1862 there was the greatest anxiety among the most eminent solicitors to take advantage of that enactment, and to induce their clients to register their land under it; and that it was not until the working of that Act broke down, and that the expenses under it were found to be much greater than under the old system, that they found themselves obliged to cease resort to that Act. Your Lordships will find it was no opposition of the solicitors that caused the failure of the Act of 1862; and therefore, unless I much deceive myself as to the advantages of this measure, I do not think it is one which will have to encounter the opposition of the profession. I propose, then, my Lords, that for three years after the passing of the Act there shall he nothing in the shape of compulsion. But I propose that after that time, whenever a sale of land is made, there shall he an obligation to register the title. If such registration be not effected the sale shall not be void, but the purchaser shall only obtain an equitable title. A legal title he shall not obtain till he registers. That mild kind of compulsion will not be put in operation till we have had three years' experience of the working of the registration system as a voluntary one. Well, then, the question will be asked, "Who is to register the title? I take the office which already exists—the Office of the Land Registrar. I own—it may be, perhaps, a partiality for my own offspring—that I should have been better pleased to have established in this country a Landed Estates Court after the fashion of the Irish Landed Estates Court; but there is the difficulty of having an Office which has been already created, and which I wish to utilize. In addition to that consideration there is the fact of the passing of the Judicature Act of last year, the principle of which is to amalgamate all the principal Courts of the Kingdom into one great Court—it would be somewhat at variance with the provisions of that Act to establish afresh Court outside. But I am not without hope that if this measure turns out successful, we may have at some future period a conveyancing Judge whose Court would form apart of the Supreme Court under the Judicature Act, and be charged with the duty of registering titles. But I take the Land Office as it stands, and the Registrar at the head of that Office will be the Registrar under this new Bill. He will act under the Supreme Court of Judicature, or under whatever Judge of that Court to whom the duty may be assigned of dealing with any questions which may be referred to the Court under the measure which I am about to introduce. I must say a word on a point respecting which a question will be asked—"Are you going to have local registries, or is the London Registry Office to do the work of the whole Kingdom?" That appears to mc to be a question of some difficulty. It is one on which there is a great deal to be said on both sides. It sounds very plausible to say that, on the same principle which makes us hold that justice should be brought home to every man's door; so also the law relating to dealings with property should be brought as close as possible to the property dealt with—and that, especially in the case of small properties, it is very desirable that there should be a local office for doing the business on the spot. But, on the other hand, you must bear in mind what is to be said on the other side. I do not suppose that the strongest advocate of local registries would go further than to suggest that there should be a registry in every county of England. But take the case of a largo county, 60 or 80 or 100 miles long, and have but one office in each county. The consequence will be that persons will often have to go as great a distance to the registry in their own county as they would to come to the Chief Registry in London, and perhaps the communications, as to locomotion, would be more difficult. In addition to that, you must bear in mind that while the local registries are in operation a very large amount of dealings with property will be going on in London. Dealings of this kind will always go on to a very large extent, because of the greater facilities for them that are to be found in the Metropolis. The consequence will be that persons from London will have to go down to the country and make examinations at the local registries. What I propose to do is to proceed tentatively. I propose that the London Registry should have within its own office, district divisions, and that it shall commence and continue arranged according to districts. Should it be found that for any district, of the country the transaction of business is so largo as to afford a good prospect that a registry established in that district would be self-supporting, there will be a power vested in the proper authority to order the establishment of a local registry in that part of the country. I believe that arrangement will meet the first requirements of the case. I have now gone through the questions likely to be asked upon the subject of the Land Titles and Transfer Bill, to which I ask your Lordships to give a first reading to-night.

My Lords, I have two other Bills to introduce to your Lordships' notice, which are connected with this subject, but are of a more limited scope than the one to which I have been referring. One of them deals with the question of the Limitation of Claims, Actions, and Suits regarding real property. By it I propose an alteration of the Act 3 & 4 William IV., which at present regulates the limitations in respect of suits relating to real property. There are various provisions in that Act by which these limitations as to the bringing of suits in respect of real property extend to 20 years, while in some cases the period is 10 years. It has been for some time felt as a crying evil that these periods should be so long. They are felt to be unnecessarily long; but it is very hard to say what should be the periods of limitation. I propose to take the periods which have been adopted in recent legislation in regard to India, to shorten the period of 20 years in the Act of William IV. to 12 years, and the period of 10 years to 6. The limitation in respect of succession claims, which stands at 40 years, I propose should not go beyond 30 at the utmost. The third of the Bills relates to Vendors and Purchasers. It is wholly irrespective of the question of the registry of titles—its object is to facilitate transactions between vendor and purchaser. By it I propose that there should be a change in some parts of the laws, which at present are felt to be in a very unsatisfactory state. I propose that if there be no stipulation to the contrary in the contract, 40 years' title shall be sufficient to show. I also propose that the purchaser shall not be entitled to attested copies of deeds except at his own expense; that the purchaser of a leasehold should not be entitled to call for the lessor's title; that a purchaser who can get an equitable title to the production of deeds should not have a right to call for the legal covenant; that the purchaser should be obliged, in the absence of any stipulation to the contrary, to pay the expenses of deeds and covenants for which he asks; that the recital of facts and documents 20 years old, and of statutory declarations 20 years old should be admitted as sufficient evidence; and that an executor or administrator where the mortgage has been paid off should have power to convey the legal fee on the mortgage property. These are all matters in which great expense and difficulty are now incurred, and I propose to remove them in all cases where there is no stipulation to the contrary. Both these latter Bills are independent of the Registry Bill, though, of course, connected with the transfer of land. I commend all three measures to your Lordships' attention, and I will venture to hope that they may find favour with your Lordships and become the law of the laud. I do so in view of the interests concerned, and because I believe that by passing them your Lordships will respond to an expression of hope contained in Her Majesty's gracious Speech. The present system has long been a discredit to our law, and I would ask your Lordships to abolish and remove it.

Then the—

REAL PROPERTY LIMITATION BILL. [H.L.] (No. 16.) A Bill for the further Limitation of Actions and Suits relating to Real Property: Also,

LAND TITLES AND TRANSFER BILL. [H.L.] (NO. 17.) A Bill to simplify Titles and facilitate the Transfer of Land: And also,

VENDONS AND PURCILASERS OF LAND BILL. [H.L.] (NO. 18.) Were severally presented by The LORD CHANCELLOR.


My Lords, among the consequences that have resulted from the late change of Government, there is none I am less disposed to regret than that the conduct of these measures through Parliament should have fallen into the hands of my noble and learned Friend; because, if any man in this country has given long and close attention to these subjects, and thoroughly understands them, it is certainly my noble and learned Friend. In one sense, the subject is peculiarly his own, because it was his fortune in 1859 to be the first to lay on the Table of the other House of Parliament practical and well-developed measures applicable to these subjects. I was thankful to my noble and learned Friend last Session for the approval he then expressed of the leading principles of my Bills, and also for the suggestions he then made, as to the course which it would be wise to pursue with a view to success in a future Session; and I am glad—but not at all surprised—to hoar the approbation he has so kindly expressed of the choice I made of the gentleman who discharged the very important duty of revising the Bills which I then introduced. I believe the opinion my noble and learned Friend has expressed on that point will be generally endorsed by all acquainted with the subject. No man could have been bettor fitted to discharge that duty than the present Vice Chancellor (Sir Charles Hall), and I am sure my noble and learned Friend will admit that the duty could not have been better fulfilled, I am glad to avail myself of this opportunity to thank the learned Vice Chancellor for the assistance he rendered me in respect to this subject. This is not the time, nor, indeed, is it necessary, to go into the points of detail which my noble and learned Friend was quite right to explain, and on which there is some variance between the Laud Transfer Bill of my noble and learned Friend and that which I laid upon the Table of your Lordships' House last year. In the Bill of last year there were three points which I thought cardinal ones:—The first was that of facility for the registration of all possessory titles, as well as for those which might be established as indefeasible. The second was power to relax the strictness of the present requirements for a marketable title, when the title is to be accepted either as absolute altogether, or for a limited period of time. The third was the introduction of compulsory registration after a reasonable lapse of time from the passing of the Act. On all these points I am happy to think that, as between my Bills and those of my noble and learned Friend, there is not anything that deserves to be called a substantial difference. It may be that in the mode in which I proposed to relax the strictness of the requirements for a marketable title I erred on the side of too much laxity. My noble and learned Friend proposes to define more exactly the extent to which relaxations will be allowed; and I am perfectly willing to consider whether his may not be a better way of accomplishing the object than mine. I am sure, at all events, that the proposals of my noble and learned Friend would be a very valuable improvement on the existing law. With respect to compulsion, the difference between my noble and learned Friend and myself is the difference of a single year, and I think I may pass that over. Upon the subject of local registration, I quite concur in the view expressed by my noble and learned Friend. There can, I think, be no doubt that as the measure works it will be found that local facilities will become necessary, and will require to be afforded; but my present impression is that it is a safe principle, not only as to local registries under this measure, but also as to other matters, when it is important to afford reasonable local facilities, to measure the reasonableness by the cost; and where the amount of business will probably be sufficient to pay its own expenses, in such a case a very strong claim may be established for local facilities. On the other hand, where the amount of business is so trifling that the establishment of local registries might tend to throw a serious charge upon the public at large, then I think the burden of proof will lie very strongly upon those who would advocate their establishment. I am glad also to find that my noble and learned Friend has accepted the principles of the Bill of last Session with respect to limitation, although he has adopted the periods of 12 years and 6, instead of 10 and 5, which I proposed last year. There may, no doubt, be some reasons in favour of the slightry longer periods which my noble and learned Friend proposes; but, at all events, his proposal substantially accomplishes the main object I had in view. The third Bill, which is quite new, belongs altogether to my noble and learned Friend. So far as I understand its provisions, it aims at accomplishing a desirable object, and I have no doubt that it will give rise to little difference of opinion in your Lordships' House. I am happy to think that we now have a real opportunity of taking a very great step—I hope a final and adequate step—towards an object of the greatest possible importance to the public; one which will relieve our commercial and business transactions, in dealings with land, from difficulties, delays, and expenses, which, I venture to say, are both a very great annual pecuniary loss to the country at large, and a disgrace to our present system of jurisprudence.


said, he was happy to think, from the manner in which the Bills had been introduced and received, that the time had at length arrived for which many who had grown gray in the profession had ardently longed, in which some improved system of conveyancing would be established and some intelligible means of placing title on record afforded. The extreme importance of this step, both as regarded the increased value of property to those who hold it and to those who might desire to raise money upon it, could not be exaggerated. An enormous advantage would also arise to those who desired to acquire small parcels of laud, but who, owing to the present state of the law, were absolutely precluded from doing so, except through the medium of joint stock companies formed for the purpose of purchasing large estates with a view of selling them again in small lots. He would only mention one instance of the great expense of acquiring small portions of land. A certain company purchased a cottage and a couple of acres of land on which it stood, and the cost of the conveyance exceeded the purchase-money—amounting to about £130. From the second Bill mentioned by his noble and learned Friend, whereby the time for making claims was further limited, a material advantage would be derived by all owners of property, and it would besides tend to promote the success of the larger measure. Up to the present time it was found most difficult to create a feeling in favour of the registration of title, owing to the long period of years which should elapse before the benefit to be derived from it could be completely felt. Pew people cared for an advantage the full effects of which could not be enjoyed until a period of 60 years had elapsed. He remembered one case in which the assignees of a bankrupt disposed of property which had been enjoyed for 58 years, and in which case the purchaser lost his money. The property in question was derived from a person who had made a will believing himself to be owner in fee-simple. The property, however, as it turned out, was held for three lives, and the last of the lives dropped within two years of the purchase from the assignees. The length of time to which he had referred had, beyond doubt, operated as an immense obstacle in the way of a general registration of title. The details of the Bill would be carefully considered in Committee, but meanwhile he heartily concurred with his noble and learned Friend (Lord Selborne) in wishing them all possible success.


was understood to say that he anticipated the best possible consequences from the operation of the Bills, and to suggest that they should be referred to a Select Committee.

Bills read 1a; and to be printed.

House adjourned at half-past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.