Karen Buck MP

Working tirelessly for Westminster North

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My response to Land Registry privatisation

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I share the concerns of many constituents about the government’s plans to move The Land Registry into the private sector - and am pleased to confirm that I was a joint signatory to the letter published  recently in the Guardian :

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/03/scores-of-mps-demand-land-registry-privatisation-be-called-off

As you may be aware, the Government announced its plans during the Autumn Statement in November 2015, as part of its wider aim of securing £5 billion of corporate and financial asset sales by 2020. The Government recently consulted on these proposals and is currently analysing the feedback received. In 2014, the Coalition Government consulted on very similar proposals but abandoned its plans. Only 5% of respondents to the Coalition Government's consultation thought that privatisation would boost efficiency and effectiveness. Despite deciding against privatisation only two years ago, the current Government is again planning to sell off the Land Registry.

I appreciate there are widely held concerns about the Government's proposals - from across the House of Commons, from the Public and Commercial Services Union and also from the Competition and Markets Authority and the former Chief Registrar at the Land Registry. I am also aware that over 301,000 people have signed a 38 Degrees petition calling for the Government to drop its plans for selling off the Land Registry. This clearly shows the strength of opposition to the Government's proposals. In addition, 65 MPs from across the House have signed a letter calling on the Government to drop its plans.

I strongly oppose the sell-off of the Land Registry. I believe that privatisation is unnecessary, un-evidenced and unwanted. I am also concerned that this short-term privatisation will have long-term consequences. For example, I believe it could undermine confidence in Land Registry data, jeopardise its independence from commercial interests, and erode pay, terms and conditions for Land Registry staff. In addition, I believe privatisation will undermine the trust of homeowners, mortgage lenders and solicitors, and put at risk the essential neutrality, quality and transparency that the Land Registry offers. Privatisation would result in charges for property data and a new private monopoly that will only drive up costs for consumers.

Integrity, impartiality and accountability are all at risk of being overridden by profit. I am also very concerned by reports that the companies considering bidding for the Land Registry have links to offshore tax havens.

Land Registry is a well-run organisation which regularly receives a customer satisfaction rate of well over 90%. It provides an important public service and returns millions of pounds in profits to taxpayers. Indeed, the Land Registry has made a surplus in 19 of the last 20 years, and it paid back £120 million to the public purse last year. The proposed sell-off is therefore a short-termist measure that will hit public finances in the long term.

I hope that the Government will listen to the concerns that have been raised about its proposals. My colleague, the Shadow Housing Minister, has pledged to oppose the privatisation when it is brought forward as part of the Government's Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill.

I will follow this issue closely and continue wherever possible to oppose the Government's plans.

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