I am satisfied there will not be a reduction in the level of service provided and that, with the use of modern technology and means of communication, any difficulties can be kept to a minimum. The Registrar of Titles has communicated regularly with members of the legal profession practising in the counties concerned to keep them informed of the position and I am sure any teething problems which might arise will be promptly dealt with.
For the information of those members of the legal profession who have expressed misgivings because of the possible inconvenience of travelling to Waterford rather than Dublin, I have no doubt the policy of decentralisation is correct. While there might be some minor change to work patterns, I am satisfied the benefits for everyone involved — staff moving to decentralised locations and existing communities — are enormous. The revitalisation of communities and the increased economic activity are extremely beneficial to all. I invite anybody who has any doubts about this to visit my constituency of Kerry South, where about 140 staff of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform are based in Killarney, to see the operation there for themselves. The facilities there are first class and no difficulty has arisen with work being done there which was previously done in Dublin. I ask people who have misgivings to co-operate fully with the change. If there is any doubt about the willingness of civil servants to fully co-operate with decentralisation, the fact that more than 1,000 applications for transfer to Waterford were received should dispel these doubts. Future decentralisation of parts of Departments from Dublin should take place and I intend to vigorously pursue opportunities for further decentralisations.
The Bill is short. Its main purpose is to amend the Registration of Title Act, 1964, to provide the necessary legislative basis for the decentralisation of part of the Land Registry to Waterford.
The law relating to the registration of land is governed by the 1964 Act, section 7 of which provides that there shall be a central office located in the county borough of Dublin and a local office in each county other than Dublin. This central office is to be the office for registration of all land in the State.
Following on the Government's decision to decentralise certain operations of the Land Registry to Waterford, it becomes necessary, to provide a clear legal basis for the move, to amend section 7 of the 1964 Act. The necessary amendments, which the Bill before the House will effect, will essentially provide for the establishment of constituent offices of the central office which will carry out the work currently performed by the central office under the 1964 Act. The result of this change will be that the functions currently carried out by the central office of the Land Registry will be regionalised through the establishment of constituent offices in Dublin and outside Dublin.
While the Land Registry will continue to consist of a central office and local offices, the Bill's effect will be that the central office will not be a physical entity but will be made up of constituent offices to be located in Dublin and in any county so designated by an order made by me, as Minister. This will permit the designation of Waterford as an area within which a constituent office may be located.
I will briefly deal with each section. Section 1 amends section 7 of the 1964 Act in two respects. First, it provides for the substitution of a new subsection for subsection (1) to provide that the central office of the Land Registry will consist of one or more constituent offices to be located in Dublin and in any other area which the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may, by order, designate. There will continue to be local offices in each county other than Dublin and any county where a constituent office is located.
Second, by the addition of a new subsection, subsection (5), the Minister is given the necessary power to make or revoke an order designating any county as an area within which a constituent office will be located. Because the Dublin office will service the greater Dublin area there will be no need to establish a local office within any of the three administrative counties of South Dublin, Fingal or Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Neither will it be necessary to have one in any county where there is a constituency office.
Section 2 of the Bill deals with transitional provisions so that the central office of the Land Registry, at present located in Dublin in accordance with section 7 of the 1964 Act, will become a constituent office under the terms of the amended section 7. The section states that the central office of the Land Registry, which is located in the county borough of Dublin, after the passage of this Bill will become a constituent office or constituent offices of the central office in the county borough.
Section 3 of the Bill simply provides that the short title will be the Registration of Title (Amendment) Act, 1997, also stating that it will be construed as one with the 1964 Act.
Those are the terms of this short but important Bill without which the proposed decentralisation of parts of the Land Registry to Waterford could have given rise to the need for cumbersome and expensive procedures to ensure compliance with the 1964 Act vis-à-vis the location of the central office. That would also have raised doubts about our commitment to genuine decentralisation by requiring certain operations in relation to the registration of land in the counties to remain in Dublin. With this Bill we will ensure that there is genuine decentralisation and a proper legal base therefor.
I commend the Bill to the House. Given the commitment, expertise and vigour of the staff involved, I am confident that the decentralisation of part of the Land Registry to Waterford will be a success.