I believe that, where the Government can help achieve its goals of a strong economy by not spending more than we can afford and reducing the national debt through selling public sector assets, without detriment to delivering public services, it makes sense to do so. That said, however, I do think this debate in this case is by no means settled, and I will listen to both sides with interest. While arguments about the use of private sector companies in prisons and hospitals were hotly disputed initially but have now been shown to be more than viable, that does not necessarily mean that privatisation is always the best option.
The Land Registry continues to be an essential part of land and property ownership in England and Wales, supporting an effective and functioning property market by providing assurance to those who have an interest in land and property and a state-backed guarantee to title. In this way, a well-functioning Land Registry underpins housing supply, home ownership and economic growth.
Those functions remain crucial, but as long as the right protections are put in place, including keeping the statutory register under government ownership, there is no reason for all of the functions Land Registry carries out to be undertaken within the public sector. Indeed, Land Registry could have more freedom in the private sector to continue to evolve into a high performing, innovative business, delivering for customers and the wider market in a 21st century, digital economy.
I believe it therefore makes sense to explore a move of Land Registry into the private sector that could maximise a sizeable return to Government to reduce debt, and provide a more suitable environment for the future of the organisation. Rest assured, however, high quality Land Registry services and confidence in the property market will remain a priority for Government throughout this process.
The Government’s consultation on the future of land registration operation recently closed, and Ministers are now considering all submissions. I look forward to its response in due course.