§ 3.17 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.
Moved, That the Commons amendments he now considered.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ COMMONS AMENDMENTS
§ [The page and line refer to Bill 48 as first printed for the Commons.]
§ 1 Clause 69, page 25, line 10, at end insert—
- "(3) The registrar may—
- (a) arrange for the provision of information about the history of registered titles, and
- (b) authorise anyone who has the function of providing information under paragraph (a) to have access on such terms as the registrar thinks fit to any relevant information kept by him."
§ 2 After Clause 93, insert the following new clause—
§ "Electronic settlement
§ The registrar may take such steps as it thinks fit for the purpose of securing the provision of a system of electronic settlement in relation to transactions involving registration."
§ 3 Clause 101, page 36, line 27, after "section" insert "69(3)(b) or"
§ 4 Clause 104, page 37, line 2, after "provide" insert ", or arrange for the provision of,"
§ 5 Page 37, line 4, after "section" insert "by the registrar"
§ 6 Page 37, line 5, leave out "the registrar" and insert "he"
§ 7 After Clause 104, insert the following new clause—
§ "Incidental powers: companies
- (1) If the registrar considers it expedient to do so in connection with his functions under section 69(3)(a), 92(1), (Electronic settlement) or 104(1) or paragraph 10 of Schedule 5, he may—
- (a) form, or participate in the formation of, a company, or
- (b) purchase, or invest in, a company.
- (2) In this section—
- "company" means a company within the meaning of the Companies Act 1985;
- "invest" means invest in any way (whether by acquiring assets, securities or rights or otherwise).
- (3) This section is without prejudice to any powers of the registrar exercisable otherwise than by virtue of this section."
- 8 Clause 134, page 45, line 17, leave out subsection (5)
- 9 Schedule 5, page 55, line 9, after "provide" insert ", or arrange for the provision of,"
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 1 to 9 en bloc. These are all technical amendments. In general terms they make clear that the Chief Land Registrar may secure the provision of an electronic settlement system in connection with electronic conveyancing and that the Chief Land Registrar may delegate this and certain other functions to third parties, including a company in which he is involved.
I shall briefly describe the effect of each amendment. Amendment No. 1 clarifies the power of the Chief Land Registrar to delegate the provision of historical information. Amendment No. 3 is consequential on Amendment No. 1. The Lord Chancellor will not prescribe the fees to be charged by third parties for historical information. Amendment No. 2 introduces a new clause enabling the Chief Land Registrar to secure the provision of an electronic settlement system for electronic conveyancing.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 9 make clear that the Chief Land Registrar may delegate both the provision of consultancy and advisory services and the provision of education and training in connection with the Land Registry network. Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are consequential on Amendment No. 4.
1324 Amendment No. 7 inserts a new clause clarifying the power of the Chief Land Registrar to form, or participate in the formation of, or purchase, or invest in, a company in connection with the provision of: historical information (Clause 69(3)(a)); the Land Registry network (Clause 92(1)); an electronic settlements system (Amendment No. 2); consultancy and advisory services (Clause 104(1)) and education and training in relation to the use of the Land Registry network (paragraph 10 of Schedule 5).
Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 1 to 9 en bloc.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)
§ Lord Goodhart
My Lords, I have tried as hard as I can to find some way of objecting to the amendments but, at the end of the day, I have found myself unable to do so. They are all fairly minor amendments but they appear to add some improvement to the Bill. In particular, it is plainly desirable that the registrar should be able to take steps to facilitate electronic completion of the electronic settlement, which is clearly an integral part of electronic conveyancing. For that reason, I am happy with the amendments. It seems to me that this is a highly useful Bill which will do much to improve and simplify the system of conveyancing. To a limited degree, the amendments enhance it further.
§ Baroness Buscombe
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her explanation of the Commons amendments. I have only two points to make. The first is in relation to Amendment No. 2 concerning the electronic settlement system. We also agree that this is a very good idea. It all seems to make good sense in principle and, indeed, we hope very much that the system will do so in practice.
However, with regard to piloting the system, we suggest that it may make sense to pilot, first, the e-conveyance system. Once that is shown to be working, we should allow it to come into full operation before piloting separately the electronic settlement system. Electronic conveyancing is an enormous leap forward and one which we welcome. However, a number of variables can go wrong. In that sense, we believe that it would be advisable to take a step at a time in order to minimise error.
My second point is in relation to Amendment No. 7. That amendment seeks to empower the registrar, if he considers it expedient to do so in connection with his functions, to form, or participate in the formation of, a company or purchase or invest in a company. Again, in principle we do not have a problem with the registrar forming a company in order to expedite his functions in relation to electronic settlement, the collection and dissemination of historical material, the provision of consultancy or advisory services and the provision of education and training in relation to the registry network. We consider that to be a very good idea.
However, while we can see the practical advantages of setting up separate, institutionally distinct operations, we question, particularly in relation to the 1325 electronic settlement system, what would happen in, we hope, the remote event that the company found itself in financial difficulty. Can the Minister reassure us that in such a situation the Government would be required to bail out that company?
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, first, I thank both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for responding in the way that they have. I thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for finding no error. I should like that noted for the record; it must be a first.
In relation to the question posed by the noble Baroness as to whether electronic settlement must be carried out at the outset, the answer is: no. The existing system will suffice but a settlement would obviously improve operations. We hear what she says in relation to roll-out. The noble Baroness will know that it is our intention to pilot the electronic conveyancing system with great care in order to ensure that the mechanics of the system work very well.
In relation to the noble Baroness's second point concerning the financial system and what would happen if a difficulty arose, I am not in a position to make a commitment. Of course, at present it is a wholly hypothetical issue. However, we hope that the system will work primarily for financial institutions and that it will work well. We shall obviously keep the matter under review, but we note what the noble Baroness said in relation to such a situation.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.