Solicitors pointed to the dangers of hiving off a natural monopoly.
The ‘will they, won’t they’ saga of Land Registry privatisation has mercifully concluded. For now. Two U-turns in two years and we’re back where we started. LR was and is run efficiently (on the whole), and can boast exceptional levels of customer satisfaction.
Not that this is ever enough. Consider the fate of East Coast, the rail franchise that thrived under public ownership but was hastily parcelled off to Richard Branson simply because its success embarrassed the Treasury.
Solicitors were in the vanguard of opposition to the privatisation model envisaged by BIS, pointing to the dangers of a natural monopoly being handed to an entity driven purely by profit. In reality, though, it was hard to find anybody in favour but the potential contractors who stood to clean up. Organisations as diverse as firebrand trade union the PCS and the City of London Law Society made common cause.
Following consultation, it was decided (this time) that LR should focus on becoming a more digital data-driven registration business, and to do this would remain in the public sector.
It would be comforting to think the government had weighed the responses carefully and come down on the side of common sense. Perhaps it did. But judging from parliamentary debates on the subject, it’s equally likely that ministers realised they would never get the measure through the House.