Tuesday, 28 June 2005
Registration of Deeds and Title Bill 2004: Report and Final Stages.
Before commencing, I would remind Senators that a Senator may speak just once on Report Stage, except the proposer of the amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage, each amendment must be seconded. Government amendments need not be seconded.
As amendment No. 1 and amendments Nos. 4 to 9, inclusive, form a composite proposal, they will be discussed together.
The House may recall that on Committee Stage I announced my intention to examine the existing provisions dealing with the compulsory registration of title in the Registration of Title Act 1964 with a view to introducing amendments on Report Stage that would promote and increase the rate of registration of land. This is all the more important now because promotion of registration of ownership will be one of the primary functions of the new property registration authority. Amendments Nos. 1 and 4 to 9, inclusive, are the result of the examination conducted in conjunction with the Land Registry.
Section 24 of the 1964 Act currently provides for the extension of compulsory registration. It allows the Minister, by order, to extend compulsory registration to any county or county borough. Only one order has been made to date. It was made in 1969 and it extended compulsory registration to three counties, Meath, Carlow and Laois.
What I am proposing for the future in amendment No. 8 is that the extension of compulsory registration will not be determined solely and exclusively by geographical criteria. I intend to retain the geographical dimension, which will mean it will be possible to designate a specified area such as a county, and to add two further criteria. First, it will be possible in future to extend compulsory registration to specified types of land, for example, multi-unit apartment buildings either generally or in a specific area. Second, I propose to introduce a new subsection into section 24 of the 1964 Act which will allow the Minister to extend, by order, the type of disposition to which compulsory registration will apply. At present, when registration becomes compulsory, it applies in the case of freehold land to a conveyance on sale and, in the case of leasehold land, to a grant or assignment on sale of such an interest.
The new subsection (2)(a) provides that an order under the section may extend compulsory registration to other types of disposition, for example, succession or gifts inter vivos, that is, between people who are alive. The new subsection (2)(b) is a standard provision which will allow an order to be amended or revoked. Amendment No. 1 provides that all such orders shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Amendments Nos. 4 to 7, inclusive, are drafting amendments to section 23 of the 1964 Act, which take account of the changes made in section 24. They insert references to the new subsection (2)(a) in section 23. Amendment No. 9 is triggered as a result of these amendments. It substitutes a new clearer text in section 25 of the 1964 Act. The current text contains an ambiguity in regard to the date after which registration becomes compulsory.
While the new compulsory registration possibilities to which I referred will come on stream following the enactment of the Bill later this year, I am anxious in the meantime to make progress on compulsory registration under existing provisions in the 1964 Act. I, therefore, sought the views of the Land Registry regarding the possibility of extending compulsory registration to a number of additional counties. Following receipt of the registry's views, I will consider whether making such an order would be feasible.
The amendments tabled make common sense in regard to making progress on compulsory registration. My party supported the Bill from its inception and it supports the amendments tabled by the Minister in this regard. The whole area of land reform, which I spoke about on Second Stage, requires radical proposals to be implemented and this legislation is only the first step in the process. We support the Minister's amendments.
'25.—A person shall not acquire any estate or interest in land under a disposition specified in subsection (2) or (2A) of section 24 after the date on which registration of ownership of the land becomes compulsory in relation to the disposition unless the person is registered as owner of the estate or interest within 6 months after the execution of the disposition or at such later time as the Authority (or, in case of refusal, the court) may sanction in any particular case, but on any such registration the person's title shall relate back to the date of such execution, and any dealings with the land before the registration shall have effect accordingly.'".
I am grateful to the House for its timely consideration of this measure. I thank the Members and officials in my Department for speedily getting this legislation through at this stage of the legislative process.
It is my intention to put the Register of Deeds and the Land Registry on this new footing as soon as possible. I also wish to speed up the modernisation process in this area. This is why the additional amendments were made today, in response to the remarks made in the Seanad on Committee Stage.
On 13 July, I will visit the Law Reform Commission and launch a fairly fundamental document. New legislation to deal with all land law in Ireland, changing it from a feudal concept of ownership to a republican concept of ownership, will sweep away much medieval law and replace it with a thoroughly modern statutory format. I pay tribute on this occasion to Professor John Wylie, the author of many land law textbooks and a distinguished academic, for the work he and officials from the Law Reform Commission and my Department carried out as members of the working group to bring this draft legislation to an advanced stage.
We welcome this legislation. The complexity of land law and its reform is known to everybody involved in the system. This Bill will speed the process in some areas. E-conveyancing will eventually come about.
The Minister was correct to mention Professor Wylie. He attended a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights and is an authority in the area. He was worth listening to. I thank and compliment the officials involved in this matter on their work on this progressive Bill which is just the first, albeit important, step along the road to improving land law. Everyone involved is to be commended.
I join with Senator Cummins in complimenting the Minister and his officials. Much legislation has come from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and this is a welcome addition. The Register of Deeds and the Land Registry are areas that will be improved by this Bill. I also welcome the Minister's commitment to the House that further legislation will be brought forward to modernise land ownership law and eliminate some of the medieval provisions that exists. I wish the Minister well in that task and look forward to seeing an appropriate Bill in due course.