Registration of Title (Amendment) Bill, 1997: Second Stage.

Wednesday, 9 July 1997

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 480 No. 2

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Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

The decision to decentralise part of the Land Registry to Waterford was announced by the then Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, on 4 November 1992. I am honoured that it falls on me as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to introduce the legislation to provide the necessary legal framework for this decision to be brought into effect.

It is hardly necessary for me to stress the importance of a proper system of land registration. The importance of proper legal title to land is something to which Irish people are greatly attached. We have one of the highest rates of home ownership in Europe. For the vast majority of Irish people the purchase of their own home ranks as their highest priority. In rural Ireland, the need for accurate recording and registration of holdings is of great importance.

It is a tribute to those who work in the Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds and the professional way in which business has been done over the years that public confidence in the institution has never wavered and that possession of title deeds verified by the Land Registry is accepted by all as valid proof of title.

As a person who has practised as a solicitor I know of complaints of delays in the Land Registry in processing dealings and I was pleased to learn as part of an overall briefing on the operations of my Department that delays have been substantially reduced in recent years. For example, in 1990 the average time for processing applications for registration was approximately six months, whereas in April 1997 the average time was down to two months. When considering that since 1990 the annual number of transactions lodged in the Land Registry has increased from approximately 220,000 to approximately 300,000 the improvements can be clearly seen.

I take this opportunity to place on record the appreciation of all users of the registries — solicitors and the public — for the work done by the Registrar of Titles and her staff and for the improvements which have taken place. It is appropriate for me to pay tribute to the Registrar and her staff for the high level of expertise, efficiency and competence which they bring to bear on their work, which can sometimes be complex. The fact that 565 members of staff dealt with approximately 222,000 applications in 1980 and that today 515 members of staff deal with 300,000 bears ample testimony to their selfless dedication and commitment.

[181] The service has not alone improved but it continues to improve. These improvements have taken place with the co-operation and whole-hearted involvement of staff at all levels in the registries. I would not want it to be thought that the improvements which have taken place represent the end of the matter — far from it. The Registrar of Titles and her staff, together with the interim board, have plans and proposals in place which will bring about further improvements in the position and improve the service to the public.

The Government is determined to ensure progress is made in creating a customer driven environment in the public service generally and the achievements of the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds will be a headline for others to follow. The future status of the registries has to be considered by the Government. The interim board, registrar and staff have done a great deal of work on proposals for a new status. I will be examining these proposals with a view to early discussion with my colleagues in Government and as soon as a decision is taken I will make a public announcement of the Government's intentions.

The Land Registry operation in Waterford will, in all, involve about 140 staff transferring there to deal with work concerning Counties Kerry, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Tipperary, Wexford and Kilkenny. The transfer of staff will take place on a phased basis beginning during the month of August and will be completed in September. Staff are being trained at present and I know that the professional standards to which I have already referred will be maintained.

I am aware that some members of the legal profession are uneasy about the change and their concerns have been conveyed to me.

Debate adjourned.

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