HC Deb 02 December 2003 vol 415 cc361-2
20. Jim Knight (South Dorset) (Lab)

What progress has been made with putting the Land Registry online. [140728]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie)

Many of the Land Registry's key services are already available online. My Department is also increasingly enabling customers to make land registration transactions electronically, which I hope will culminate in a full electronic conveyancing system from 2006.

Jim Knight

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. As he knows, the Land Registry is the second largest employer in Weymouth, in my constituency, with high quality jobs. It is a tribute to the Land Registry and to the Government that they can run such a successful agency and even manage a successful IT procurement, which seems quite unusual for government. Can my hon. Friend give some reassurance to those who work at the Land Registry in Weymouth and elsewhere that the development of IT will not result in deskilling and redundancies at the agency?

Mr. Leslie

My hon. Friend rightly identifies the fact that the Land Registry, being one of the largest databases of its kind in Europe with more than 90 million titles registered, is a significant operation. Moving to an electronic basis for business-to-business activities and for providing information to the public will be the right way forward I am told that the strategic plan at the Land Registry does not involve any major changes in employment levels in the foreseeable future. I think that its business will be expanding, which is good news for my hon. Friend's constituents, particularly those in Weymouth where I know the registry is a big employer. My hon. Friend has been a good advocate on his constituents' behalf in raising the success of the Land Registry today.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

The Minister will be aware from various written questions that I have tabled to him that people in my constituency who are involved in online conveyancing businesses are interested in how the national land information service is working. Does he recognise that there is still concern about the difficulties for local authorities dealing with searches online? Does he recognise also that there is great concern about the Government's decision to reintroduce the concept of home information packs? The Government tried to introduce them earlier and then, humiliatingly, had to withdraw. Will the Government carefully examine some of the issues that went wrong before in terms of the links between home information packs and online conveyancing?

Mr. Leslie

The hon. Gentleman highlights an issue. Issues will always arise in shifting from paper-based processes to electronic conveyancing. I believe that the Land Registry has managed to cope with the issues admirably. The national land information service is on track. Although it is aimed at conveyancing professionals it will have a big impact on the wider market. I think that e-conveyancing will help with the seller's pack—the home information pack development—as the hon. Gentleman says. I am fairly confident that the progress being made is adequate and that we should be on course with the plans that are already published.