Government concedes Land Registry sale will struggle to make it through Parliament

The government’s controversial plans to sell off the Land Registry are not likely to get Parliament’s blessing, according to George Freeman MP.

Speaking during a debate in the commons, the minister for life sciences conceded that with the slim government majority “it does not require many people to take a different view… in order for us to assess the likelihood of getting a measure through.”

In May, a consultation on proposals to transfer the Land Registry’s operations into private ownership closed, prompting concerns from a number of property professionals and the public about threats to the integrity of the register and potential conflicts of interest.

During the debate in Parliament, Labour MP David Lammy, accused the government of “looking to sell off the family silver to turn a short-term profit, to try and make their sums add up”. He noted that satisfaction with the agency is currently running at 96 per cent.

“Far from being a basket case of public sector inefficiency, it is a shining example of a successful public service being run efficiently and effectively. I must state in the clearest possible terms that privatising it would be daylight robbery and a national scandal.”

He was joined by Conservative MP and former solicitor Will Quince who said the government had “misunderstood what the Land Registry is fundamentally about.”

“It is more than just a data provider or an authority for recording title. It registers title, guarantees rights to land and provides guarantees pre and post completion searches.

“The reliability of the register is vital to the property market, and any loss of confidence in the register would significantly affect the property and mortgage markets and, therefore, the economy as a whole.

“While the Land Registry can, at times, feel clunky and hugely frustrating for property professionals, at its heart it is based on the principles of integrity and impartiality and I fear it is that, that we put at risk if we accept the proposals to privatise.”

George Freeman concludes that he had “no idea what those currently looking to form the new administration will want to do when they are in office but anyone reading this debate… will have seen loud and clear the views of those who have spoken on all sides of the house.”

A petition against the proposals has so far received thousands of signatures since it was created and the plan has received a backlash from campaign groups and a growing number of professional legal organisations have shown that the proposal is not widely supported.

The sale of the Land Registry may cause additional issues for clients further down the line, particularly if its integrity is called into question. This may lead to an increase in land disputes, which can often be a costly practice for clients.

Whilst the future of the proposals is not clear – particularly after the country’s decision to leave the EU – it is important to be prepared for future changes which may impact on your finances. At Moore Thompson, we can help you review your finances and plan for the future to ensure your practice maintains growth. To find out more about our services for legal professionals, please contact us.