Report: Government Delays Decision Over Land Registry Privatisation

A decision over privatisation of the Land Registry – a move which the News Media Association fears  could lead to journalists facing greater barriers when investigating who owns Britain – is being delayed, according to reports.

The Financial Times reported that the government has “quietly postponed” the proposed privatisation of the Land Registry citing sources close to government as confirming that it had decided to delay a decision.

In a leader, The Times said it opposed privatising the Land Registry, highlighting its importance in enabling journalists to hold powerful companies and institutions to account.  

It said: “Journalists and corruption campaigners use that information to expose special interests and questionable financial arrangements. A private company, driven by the need to make a profit, could raise the cost of doing so.

“Worse, it may not be bound by the obligations of the Freedom of Information Act, restricting legal access to the data. Citizens’ ability to hold the powerful to account would be diminished.”

In its response to the consultation setting out the plans, the NMA argued that privatising the Land Registry would put a large amount of important information beyond the press and the public’s right to know.

A privatised Land Registry could be removed from Freedom of Information laws and would have no commercial incentive to continue to make available large datasets on land values and ownership as it does at the moment. 

The NMA also expressed concern that the sell-off plans do not explain how a privatised Land Registry could be required to continue to increase the information it puts into the public domain, and also noted that the consultation does not preclude subjecting additional data releases to higher fees or restrictive licences.