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Departmental Studies

Volume 401: debated on Wednesday 19 March 2003

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To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what studies have been undertaken of the options for (a) commercialising the Public Records Office and (b) rationalising the offices of the Land Registry; and if she will make a statement. [102873]

The Public Record Office (PRO) was subject to a Quinquennial Review in 1997–98, which concluded that its core functions in relation to its oversight of records management in other government departments and its custody of historical public records can only be carried out from within government. The PRO established a commercial arm, PRO Enterprises, eight years ago. Since the ways in which revenue is raised via the commercial exploitation of the Office's holdings and sites have expanded steadily.Income is raised through a flourishing retailing operation, (two shops and an internet bookshop); a successful publishing house; and an image library which provides expert services in supplying images to commercial customers including publishers and broadcasters. We are also developing a range of licensing projects based on the commercial use of PRO-held images. Revenue is generated through arrangements with licensees from the worlds of social stationery, gift merchandise, homewares and ceramics and also through concluding licences with on-line content providers for the commercial use of PRO images of interest to the genealogical and academic communities.Income has grown from £642,646 in 1998–99 to a projected £900,000 in 2002–03. Revenue raised via commercial activities can be retained to fund Office-wide projects.The Report of the latest Quinquennial Review of the Land Registry (published in June 2001) recommended that the Registry should plan to retain the present regional office structure, without major change, for the foreseeable future. The Report considered that the Registry's District network of offices had been a considerable success, the tangible benefits being staff units of an optimal size; the ability to recruit more able staff; improvements in performance through benchmarking throughout the network; and convenient units for piloting new processes.

Most of the Registry's work takes place in 24 District Land Registries and other units located outside London. The Land Registry's policy is to provide and maintain sufficient good quality accommodation with first class working environments to enable business operations to be carried out efficiently and effectively.