HL Deb 23 March 1926 vol 63 cc732-5
Enactments to be amended. Amendments.
Settled Land Act, 1925.
S. 13 For the words "without notice "of any settlement" there shall be substituted the words "without notice of such tenant for life or statutory owner having become so entitled as aforesaid."

THE MARQUESS OF BRISTOL moved, after the reference to Section 13, to insert the following new paragraph: S. 31……at the end of subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following paragraph:— Where there are trustees for the purposes of this Act of the instrument under which there is a tenant for life or statutory owner but there are no trustees for those purposes of a prior instrument, being one of the instruments by which a compound settlement is constituted, those trustees shall, unless and until trustees are appointed of the prior instrument or of the compound settlement, be the trustees for the purposes of this Act of the compound settlement.

The noble Marquess said: The object of my Amendment is to enable a tenant for life of settled estate to comply with the requirements of the Law of Property Act, 1926, with as little expense as may be. After the passing of the Law of Property Act, before the owner can deal with any of his land, by sale, enfranchisement or anything of that sort, he has to ask his trustees to put him in possession of his property by executing a vesting deed. In many cases before the deed of settlement was executed the land which is comprised in that deed of settlement was by previous deed subject to various charges. When this has occurred what is called a compound settlement is constituted and before a vesting deed covering the whole property can be executed it may be necessary for the owner to make application to the Court to appoint trustees who can act under the Settled Land Acts, far the purpose of the Law of Property Act, 1925. I am told that it would usually be found that the trustees of the settlement would be the trustees to be appointed for these prior deeds.

That is the, real reason why I have brought in this Amendment, for under it, without any extra cost to the owner, and without unnecessarily having to employ counsel to go to the Court, and, further than that, without unnecessarily taking up the time of His Majesty's Judges in Chambers to settle who those trustees ought to be, under this Amendment I believe the trustees of the settlement will be enabled straight away to execute the necessary vesting deed. Great expense has been put upon the owners of property in order to comply with the Law of Property Act, and it does seem to me that at the present time the less these expenses are put upon the owners of property the better. If we can reduce the costs that are at the present time put upon them by the Act of 1925, surely it should be done and done as soon as possible. I have been in communication with a good many solicitors, and it has been astonishing to me to find the unanimity with which all of them have blessed me for bringing in this Amendment.

One would naturally have thought that the legal profession would have been pleased to get the chance of bringing a, lot of legal work to hear, because it would give them extra remuneration, but in this case it seems that, so far as solicitors are concerned, their ideas as to how this sort of vesting deed should be carried out have been so upset that they are in a great quandary as to how to carry on. People do not seem really to know what ought to be done. In one ease a solicitor wrote to me to say that in regard to one settled property no fewer than six prior deeds would have to be taken to Court to determine what trustees would, in the ordinary course, be able to give the owner this vesting deed. That particular property has no income, and yet before anything can be sold that property will have to find the money for very large costs, unless this Amendment goes through. I should like to thank the noble Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, for the help which I have received from his Department in drafting my Amendment, and I only hope it may appeal to your Lordships arid go through. I beg to move.

Amendment moved.— In the Schedule, page 5, line 12, at end insert the said new paragraph."—(The Marquess of Bristol.)


I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess. I can speak very feelingly on this Amendment, because I am one of the sufferers from the land legislation passed within recent years, and because I myself am in the happy—or unhappy—position of having no less than half-a-dozen settlements on my property. It is absolutely necessary in these cases that we should have some sort of statutory power whereby the trustees of an existing settlement should also be trustees, unless others are appointed, of a prior settlement. In my own case—and I know of others—there are instances of settlements made very nearly 100 years ago which are still kept alive by reason of a jointure or other annuity charge on the settled estates, under some power contained in a very old settlement which would have otherwise come to an end. There may be several legal instruments in existence owing to settlements or re-settlements, made from time to time, and all those legal instruments may still live, owing to these annuitants still drawing the rent charges or annuities.

I must take this opportunity of again thanking the noble and learned Viscount for the sympathetic way in which he has met the demands of those who are interested in this subject. There are many more cases of this kind, perhaps, than he dreams of, though the sufferers may not yet have found out their misfortunes, as some of us have. It is extremely difficult to persuade trustees to retire, and extremely expensive, too, and it is almost impossible to carry on the management of landed properties in these days when they bring in no income, when expenses are increased by having two or three or possibly more different sets of trustees.


I am sure we all sympathise with the woes of noble Lords who are possessed of large estates, and I am only too anxious to help them in every way that I reasonably can. The noble Marquess has made a proposal which is, I think, a very helpful one. He is dealing with a case which only happens on large estates, where there is a whole series of settlements succeeding one another. There may be two or three or even more settlements of the same property made by different generations, and a little bit of the earlier settlement is left, and so it continues, and the whole series make up what is called a compound settlement. Of course, every settlement must have trustees, otherwise the land cannot be safely dealt with. The noble Marquess puts forward a case where there are trustees of the last settlement, but no trustees of the preceding one, and in such a case, as the law stands, you must get trustees appointed of the preceding one, or of the compound settlement as a whole, before you deal with the land. That must, of course, lead to delay and expense, and the noble Marquess proposes that in such a case the trustees of the last settlement shall be the trustees of the whole until new trustees are appointed, either of the earlier settlement or of the whole. It seems to me a very reasonable proposal and one which will save time and trouble, and I hope the House will accept the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.