Committee Chair responds to Land Registry privatisation consultation

Tory MP and Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has expressed concerns over the potential privatisation of Land Registry.

Whilst stating he is not generally opposed to privatisation as a whole, the MP for Harwich & North Essex, Bernard Jenkin states he believes Land Registry’s data should remain within the state.

Writing in response to the now-closed consultation on the body’s future, he said: “While I am not opposed to the general principle of privatisation, the Land Registry must remain an essential arm of the state, the data must remain in state ownership, and the quality of service provided to the public by Land Registry must of course have priority over attempts to maximise capital gain and transfer risk from the Government’s balance sheet.

“This means not only ensuring that an accurate record of land use and ownership is maintained in public hands but also that the Land Registry’s core services are protected from any real terms price rises and that their quality does not suffer as a result of any sale.”

He continued: “The future owner or owners of privatised land Registry operations must therefore be committed to long-term yield and be prepared to invest in the organisation to achieve this aim.

“The proposals must include a full assessment of what has happened in other countries where the Land Registry service has been privatised.

“The proposals reiterate the Government’s commitment to making data available on a free and open basis and improving the UK’s data infrastructure. In particular they commit to a privatised service delivery organisation a) maintaining current open data products; b) releasing more open data; c) improving ease of access and keeping data delivery up to date with technological developments; and d) exploring how to enable the public sector to have free at the point of use access to Land Registry data.

“These principles are essential. However, there is a real and unavoidable tension between the profitability of privatised Land Registry operations, which relies on charging the public for access, and the access, and the achievement of the objectives of open data.

“Nowhere else has the privatisation of a public sector asset resulted in greater access to its open data for the public at large.”

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