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Land Registry

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2011

The findings of the feasibility study of the options for greater private sector involvement in the delivery of Land Registry services have now been reported to Ministers. Given the registry’s importance in the housing market, we must give thorough consideration to those findings before making any decisions or announcements about its future direction.

The Land Registry provides a state guarantee of title for land ownership covering registered property worth more than £2.5 trillion across England and Wales. Can the Secretary of State confirm that previous reviews conducted by both Conservative and Labour Governments have found the registry’s public sector status to be crucial to the impartiality and integrity of its work? Will he agree to meet me to discuss the future of this vital service, which is a cornerstone of the housing market and the wider economy?

I agree that the registry’s state guarantee of title to land and property is essential, and that it must be retained in any arrangements that we make. Previous investigations of the registry have featured all the options that we are considering now, including the possibility of involving private sector partners—indeed, I have the original operational efficiency programme for 2008, which refers to private sector opportunities. We will, however, proceed with great care.

I know that the hon. Lady has a constituency interest because there is an important branch of the registry in Leicester. I, or one of my colleagues, will meet her in due course, once she has given us a little time to consider the findings of the feasibility study.

I recently met local representatives of the Public and Commercial Services Union from the Nottingham branch of the Land Registry. Unsurprisingly, they expressed concern about not only their own futures but the future of the service. What discussions is the Secretary of State having with staff trade unions to ensure that their valuable expertise and experience are taken into account in shaping the future of the service?

We will certainly take account of all staff comments, and we hope to include the staff in our consultations. If there were any question of any change in the registry’s status, we would embark on a full and careful consultation before taking action. We are pursuing the same objectives as the last Government: guaranteeing title, improving efficiency, lowering costs, and taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the Land Registry system to offer further service to the public.