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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

CMA challenges government over Land Registry privatisation

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has challenged the government over its renewed attempt to privatise the Land Registry.

Last week's Queen's Speech revealed that the proposed sale of the Land Registry is to be part of the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. 

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is currently running a consultation on the proposed sale.

The CMA has now posted its response to the proposed sale in the form of a letter to Lizzie Dixon, Assistant Director at BIS, authored by the CMA's senior director, John Kirkpatrick.

The letter states that readily available public sector information holds value and that public and wide-ranging access to Land Registry data is beneficial for the economy. 

It uses the example of popular property apps which use Land Registry data. 

"We believe that consumers and the economy would be best served by a model that promotes wide access to Land Registry data at cost-reflective prices, encouraging its use and commercial exploitation by a range of individuals and businesses," writes Kirkpartick.  

The competition watchdog goes on to warn that it does not believe a private Land Registry would maintain or improve access to its data.  

It argues that a private Land Registry may in fact degrade access to its 'monopoly data' in order to weaken competition to its own commercial products. 

"While these risks are not unique to privately-owned monopolies, our view is that they may be sharpened by the introduction of a profit motive," reads the letter.

The letter goes on to suggest that it can be 'very difficult and time-consuming' to solve problems that arise from privatisations, giving rise to anti-competitive market structures.

In the event of privatisation, the CMA urges the government not to narrow the pool of bidders for the privatisation, setting market rules and usability standards and to avoid structuring the privatisation in a way that gives the provider of the Land Registry data 'excessive incumbent advantage'. 

It says carrying out these steps, among others, could mean that taxpayers and consumers' interests are better served by a privatisation. 

Kirkpatrick writes that the CMA's principal concern is that attaching higher prices to Land Registry data would harm consumers as well as 'restricting innovation and choice in the flourishing app and website markets that rely on this as an input'. 

The letter concludes by challenging the government to publish a detailed assessment of how fees and data costs might vary under different privatisation models and what impact this might have for consumers.

The government's consultation on the sale of the Land Registry – which has been criticised for being launched just before the Easter Bank Holiday weekend – is due to end on Thursday May 26.

During the consultation period, a petition against the privatisation of the Land Registry has received over 225,000 signatures

The Land Registry employs almost 5,000 staff and has recorded the ownership of all land and property in England and Wales since the 1860s.

An attempt to sell the Land Registry by the last government was halted by Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats. 

You can view the CMA's letter in full here.

  • Rob Hailstone

    No, not quite 250,000 signatures. Your signature will help get there though:

    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-privatisation-of-the-land-registry

    Algarve  Investor

    Thanks. Just signed.

    Shocking that the government are trying to do this on the sly, without anyone noticing. I've not seen one good reason put forward for privatisation. This is ideology, pure and simple. Or, if I'm being really cynical, the chance for some rich person to get even richer.

    Hopefully, in the light of all this opposition, they will think twice. But I wouldn't bet on it.

     
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    Selling to get cash,for short-term benefit results in future loss to country when eventually fall into foreign ownership,no taxes paid,prices soar,eg water went from state owned to privatised,to French then Chinese.Very dangerous for future especially when no competition as monopoly.Crazy not to learn,and why not nationalise again,or tax at source

  • Algarve  Investor

    Ridiculous plan. Let it be. It's doing fine without being sold off to the highest bidder.

    This government needs to get it into its head that not everything is for sale. Some things do work best when they are state-funded.

    Daniel Roder

    Just had a look on the petition website. Suggests the Land Registry is self-funding - and costs the public purse nothing. In fact, it returns almost £100m to the Treasury per year. But that doesn't seem to matter to the government, who were more than happy to sell East Coast to Branson as soon as they got the chance.

    As things stand, the Land Registry is seen as impartial and a respected source when it comes to property matters. It can also be held accountable by government. Put it into private hands and that reputation would be tarnished. What's the point?

     
  • Daniel Roder

    Agree that privatisation of the Land Registry is totally unwarranted. Pointless, unnecessary and only being done to line the pockets of some already stinking rich private companies.

    From what I've seen, the Land Registry does a fine job and is seen as a respected source when it comes to house price data and the like. Whenever you see research that has been compiled by the Land Registry, or using Land Registry data, you automatically place a great deal of trust in it. If it was privatised I don't think that would be the case.

    I've not heard anyone complaining about the Land Registry - or anything to suggest that it's a drain on public finances - so privatisation in this case would be purely dogmatic. Let's hope it's resisted.

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