MP Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the public administration committee, is the latest to raise concerns at the possible privatisation of the Land Registry.
A bid to privatise the Registry in 2014 was vetoed by the then Business Secretary in the coalition government, Sir Vince Cable. However, documents released at the end of the Autumn Statement in November last year confirmed earlier speculation that the issue was once again being considered by then-Chancellor George Osborne, with the Rothschild investment bank asked to consider options.
Official consultation on possible privatisation options started over the Easter period. Some reports say that the Registry, which now employs 4,500 people and has had a monopoly on recording land and property information in England and Wales since 1862, could be worth £1.2 billion.
Now Publictechnology.net reports that Jenkin, who chairs the cross-party Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, has written to ministers to say that Land Registry data “must remain in state ownership” as a way of ensuring data is available to the public.
“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 achievement of the objectives of open data” writes Jenkin.
In recent months a number of MPs from different parties have raised worries over the proposal to sell-off the Registry; in addition, the National Association of Estate Agents says the idea risks reversing work on making information more transparent.
“This is a crucial time for housing, with demand greatly outstripping supply and an urgent need to reshape Britain’s housing mix. We worked closely with the previous administration to increase transparency in the UK property and sector and remain very supportive of the need for a beneficial ownership register” says the NAEA.