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National Land Information System

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) what (a) representations and (b) external advice she has received on the operations of the National Land Information System; what assessment she has made of its compliance with competition regulations; and what plans she has to review the governance arrangement of NLIS; [114366](2) what plans she has to review the operation of the National Land Information System; and what role she envisages for the private sector in the future operations of NLIS; [114367]

(3) when she last met board members of the National Land Information System; and if she will publish minutes of the meeting; [114368]

(4) what representations she has received from local authorities concerning the operation of the National Land Information System; [114369]

(5) when the Department last reviewed the National Land Information System business plan; and what assessment she has made of the viability of its future operations. [114370]

The National Land Information Service (NLIS) is ultimately intended to be a one stop electronic shop for information about land and property in England and Wales. It was developed and piloted in the 1990s by a group of public sector bodies led by the Land Registry. The work was then taken forward by the Local Government Information House Limited (LGIH), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Improvement and Development Agency.NLIS is now financially independent and receives no state aid. It comprises LGIH; a hub operated by Macdonald Dettwiler Associates (MDA); and three competing service channels, operated by NLIS Searchflow, Transaction Online and TM NLIS Search respectively. There is no NLIS board. Central Government were not a party to the contract and licence negotiations between LGIH and the hub and channel service providers and are not a party to NLIS now.Following criticism of the governance arrangements for NLIS in the Quinquennial Review of the Land Registry in June 2001, a Central Government Stakeholder Group (CGSG), chaired by the Land Registry, was set up to provide such assistance as central Government could to help NLIS become an established feature of the conveyancing process and to provide a means of communication between the NLIS partners and those stakeholders. We are reviewing the role of the CGSG. But the operation or governance of NLIS, the business plans of the NLIS service providers and their future viability are not matters for government. Any questions of possible infringement of competition law should be pursued with the Office of Fair Trading in the normal way. The Government continue to encourage local authorities to transfer their land and property information to electronic local land and property gazetteers so as to improve access to information.Since September 2001, when the commercial NLIS service was launched, neither I nor my ministerial colleagues at the Lord Chancellor's Department have received any external advice on the operation of NLIS or any representations from local authorities about its operation. In the same period, we have received a small number of letters from Members of Parliament and others commenting on a range of matters relating to the operation of NLIS.