HL Deb 04 June 1940 vol 116 cc465-7

4.40 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I have to stand before your Lordships with another Bill of a technical character which I must also briefly explain. As its title shows, it is a Bill to provide for the closing, for all purposes, of the Middlesex Deeds Register and for granting indemnities in respect of losses which may arise from the closing thereof. The Middlesex Deeds Register has existed since the time of Queen Anne. The effect of the Statutes on the subject was that anyone who acquired an interest in land in the County of Middlesex protected his title by registering a memorial of the deed or conveyance in the Registry. That is the old system. In contrast with this ancient system of registering deeds, two modern methods have developed in this country and also in the Dominions—one, the registration of title to land, and the other the registration of charges upon land. Your Lordships will appreciate that a complete system of land registration really means this: it aims at providing, as it were, a complete map of the area, together with all the necessary information as to the ownership of, or charges upon, each piece of land in the area. On the other hand this ancient system dating from Queen Anne, requiring the registration of deeds, besides having other defects, has this shortcoming, that it only records the contents of individual documents. It does not necessarily show how the land which is dealt with in one deed is geographically related to another.

Accordingly, when on January 1, 1937, registration of title to freehold and leasehold land, on sale, became compulsory in the County of Middlesex, as it did under an Order in Council made under Section 120 of the Land Registration Act, 1925, the County of Middlesex found itself under two dispensations—the old and the new—and it was manifestly desirable to arrange by stages that it passed entirely under the new arrangements and shed the old altogether. In consequence of the Land Registration Act, 1936, the Middlesex Deed Register became closed for future transactions, and since then the Register has not been resorted to except for the purpose of investigating title to land depending on the existence or otherwise of deeds executed before that date. What does the Bill propose? It proposes to close the Middlesex Deeds Register for all purposes, and when that has been done the County of Middlesex will enjoy the benefits of the new system without any remaining admixture of the old. During the period of transition certain technical difficulties may arise which are provided for with much precision in the clauses of the Bill.

I would refer your Lordships especially to Clause 3, which deals with the unlikely, but not inconceivable, case where the closing of the Register may lead to conflicting claims for the same piece of land. If such a case did occur, and fell within the conditions of Clause 3, the person suffering loss would, under the terms of that clause, be indemnified from public funds. Indemnification from public funds is necessarily an anxious matter, but I am informed that the Treasury which at all times exerts itself to protect public funds from unjustified burdens, is satisfied that the arrangements proposed in Clause 3 are entirely justified, especially as considerable annual loss is now being incurred by public funds through the expenses of staff and the like connected with searches of the Middlesex Deeds Register, which will be in substance avoided when the new system is com- pletely established. I am aware that this is all very technical, although it is of great importance to many who will be affected by it. In a word, land in Middlesex is now passing from an old and, indeed, antiquated system to a new system which all competent authorities regard as immensely to be preferred. At present Middlesex suffers from the inconvenience of living under two overlapping régimes made up of these two systems and, since no one would propose that they should both continue to exist side by side, I can advise your Lordships with confidence that the proper course is now to move completely into the new system. That is what this Bill proposes should be done, and I beg to move the Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.