Government under fire over sneaking out Land Registry privatisation plan

Posted On: 
24th March 2016

The Government has come under fire after sneaking out plans to sell off the Land Registry just before a two-week parliamentary recess.

The Land Registry is responsible for registering all property in England and Wales.
Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Ministers published a consultation on possible privatisation at 5pm today, just before MPs take a break for Easter.

It suggests turning the Land Registry into a body operated by a private company on behalf of the Government – otherwise known as a ‘GovCo’.

Law Society warns against Land Registry privatisation

The consultation proposes “a contract between government and a private operator, with all the core functions transferred out of the public sector, but with key safeguards for Land Registry customers and government being maintained”.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said keeping government ownership would “ensure the sale of public assets benefits the wider economy”.

The registry is currently a non-ministerial department responsible for cataloguing the ownership of land and property in England and Wales.

The coalition government tried to push through privatisation in 2014, but the announcement was shelved following a 48-hour strike by staff.

A consultation on the changes found that “across virtually respondents” it was agreed there was not a case for a change for selling the registry.

The PCS union, which represents civil servants and public sector staff, has vowed to oppose any sell-off tooth-and-nail.

“Homebuyers and owners rely on the Land Registry to provide an impartial professional service and it must remain under public control, free from any profit motive and conflict of interest,” said general secretary Mark Serwotka.

Mr Serwotka, who recently rejoined the Labour party, was strongly critical of the timing of the announcement.

“It is utterly disgraceful that the government waited until the end of the day before MPs break for Easter to publish its consultation, but is a sure sign ministers know the strength and breadth of opposition they will face.”