The Law Society has added its voice to a chorus of concern over government plans to transfer Land Registry operations, saying the registry 'is not a commercial operation which can be easily privatised'.
In its formal response to the government's consultation, published today, Chancery Lane says that it is not convinced that the plan contains sufficient safeguards to protect the register from threats including conflicts of interest, corruption and fraud.
'Without solid reassurances on these issues, the Land Registry should remain in public ownership,'
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: 'Whatever the political and ideological debates around privatisation, the Land Registry is not a commercial operation which can be easily privatised. Placing the Land Registry in private hands presents unique challenges and risks, which would have to be addressed should any form of sale proceed.'
Concerns raised by the Society in its response include:
- Privatisation could hinder efforts to combat the laundering of illicit funds through the property market in England and Wales;
- The risk of fee increases to generate profits for private owners, at the expense of property buyers;
- Loss of the potentially huge future value of the information held by the registry; and
- The difficulties of ensuring a newly privatised natural monopoly could act in anti-competitive ways.
The Society has also set out legislative safeguards that would be necessary to protect the public interest should the agency be sold. 'With so many problems, costs and risks to the public to be carefully managed, it's pleasing to hear the government say that they intend to listen to concerns raised during this consultation,' Smithers said.