I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 195 together.
Applications under Section 49 of the Registration of Title Act 1964 for registration of title acquired by possession are governed by a detailed and complex area of land law. The title to be shown to allow the registration to proceed must be based on "adverse possession" under the Statute of Limitations Act 1957. The circumstances of each case dictate the nature and the processing time of each individual application. Such applications require careful examination and the exercise of judgement of a high level.
The process involves the issue of notices to any party who may have an interest in the property in respect of which a Section 49 application has been lodged. There will routinely be ongoing and detailed correspondence between the Property Registration Authority and other parties. I am advised by the Authority that by their nature such applications, of necessity, may take a long time to process and it is not therefore possible to give an average turnaround time for these types of cases. However, every effort is made to ensure that unnecessary delay is avoided. I understand that there is currently an arrear of 2,278 of these cases pending. Of these, 1,256 cases have been queried and cannot be proceeded with until a satisfactory response has been received. This leaves a net arrear of 1,022 cases. Where requests are made to expedite cases for particularly urgent reasons, the Authority will always endeavour to deal with such cases promptly.
The Property Registration Authority has a total number of 52,310 dealings on hand on 30 September 2013. This represents a very significant reduction of 76% compared with the highest level of dealings on hand which was recorded at 220,192 in March 2008. The Authority has since this time been engaged in an active arrear clearance programme which, it is envisaged, will be substantially completed in 2014. It is worthy of note that this reduction over a five year period has been brought about whilst the Authority has reduced its cost base by in excess of 33% and its staff levels by 25%.
Of the 52,310 dealings on hand at end September 2013, 12,587 are the subject of queries and cannot be proceeded with until a satisfactory reply has been received. The net arrear at 30 September 2013 was therefore 39,723 cases. A large element of this arrear is comprised of recently received cases and therefore represents the normal expected level of cases pending. During 2012, 75% of all applications for registration lodged that did not involve a change to the map, and were in order for registration, were completed with 10 working days. I am pleased to able to inform the Deputy that the overall level of cases pending, at 52,310 is the lowest level of arrear of cases in the Land Registry since 1997.