This is a very short and very simple Bill. It is a Bill of five clauses and its purpose is as follows. It aims at providing that mortgages in favour of the Agricultural Credit Corporation shall take priority over equities, but shall not take priority over any other charges registered on the folio. That is the whole crux of the Bill. Some Deputies may not grasp quite clearly the significance of that.
When land is bought by the Land Commission and vested in the tenant purchaser, after vesting it is registered under the Local Registration of Title Act, 1891. Of course, there are a very large number of holdings registered every month. Every farm purchased under every Act since 1903 and vested has been registered. The aim of the Registration of Title Act was to simplify land tenures. It was realised that the land of Ireland was passing over from the owners, who held under all sorts of tenures, fee-farm rents, fee simple, long leases and so on, and was being passed to the tenants under a tenure which was fee simple. It was provided under the Act of 1891 that, after vesting, the title should be registered under the Local Registration of Title Act, 1891. The effect is that if any farmer whose land was vested wanted title he got his solicitor to write to the Registration of Title Office and got the folio, which set out that the land was situate in such a place and that it was of a certain acreage, and it also set out any charges which were registered subsequent to the vesting. Take a case where there was no such charge, where the tenant purchased the land and it was vested in him in fee-simple, and where there were no dealings in the land since purchase. The folio in that case would set out the area of the land and the description of it. That document, known as a folio, is evidence in any court. There is attached to it a map, which sets out the exact boundaries, easements, etc. If a tenant had a dispute with his neighbour as to a right of way or as to a portion of a field, all he has got to do is to get a copy of the folio, hand it to the judge in court, and it must be accepted for what it sets out on its face. It is final and conclusive. It was realised that all sorts of rights might possibly attach to lands which were vested. In the case I mention, the simple case of a tenant purchaser who purchased his land under any Act since 1903, and whose land is vested and registered in the Registration of Title Office, it is realised that various persons might have claims on that land.
The tenant purchaser's father might have died five years previously. There might be two of his brothers in America, one in a shop in the town, and another somewhere else in the country. The father might have died without making a will and all the sons are entitled to claims on the land. It was rightly considered at the time that it would be impossible to investigate all possible titles. They got over the difficulty by having the lands registered subject to equity. The idea was that fee simple was a graft on the tenancy, and any claims existing against the tenant should be put against the fee as registered under the Local Registration of Titles Act. The Agricultural Credit Corporation has been in operation for some time and has received a large number of applications for loans. In all the circumstances they can only take one form of security from small farmers. That is a mortgage on the land. The applicants generally are people who hold land in fee simple. The Corporation, when they get applications for such loans, apply to the owner for title. He sends up a copy of his folio and the Corporation then find, for instance, that the applicant is registered subject to equity. The position for them is that they have either to take a mortgage on that land and register it on the folio as security, or they must ask the owner of the land, the tenant purchaser, to discharge equities and to show that there are no prior claims which existed on the land before it was purchased and vested. In the case of a small farmer it takes anything from £5 to £7 to discharge equity and it takes a couple of months to complete it. Searches have to be made, deeds have to be investigated, and so on, and it is found, as a result of that experience, that it is not worth while for a small farmer to go to the trouble and expense of discharging equities to get a loan. That difficulty is holding up the operations of the Credit Corporation. They are in a position to make a large number of loans if they get the security they want, which is a first mortgage on the land against which there are no other claims. While that note as to equities remains on the folio they do not know what claims may be against the land. It is provided by this Bill that a mortgage in favour of the Credit Corporation shall take priority not to other mortgages registered on the land, but to equities. That is the effect of the Bill. It is an important provision. It will mean that if it is passed speedily the Credit Corporation can begin operations almost on a wholesale scale.