HL Deb 13 July 1995 vol 565 cc115-6WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the triennial review of Her Majesty's Land Registry.

The Lord Chancellor

Her Majesty's Land Registry, a separate department of government since 1862, was established as an Executive Agency in July 1990 and a government trading fund in April 1993. Under its statutory powers it guarantees and grants legal title to property rights in England and Wales and provides the statutory machinery for the creation and transfer of these secured rights The department, wholly financed from fees paid by those using its services, makes no call on public funds.

An evaluation report, the results of which were made known to the House on 14 July 1994, concluded that the Land Registry had benefited considerably from its move to agency status. It has been a major enabling factor in promoting sound public sector management. By the achievement of progressively improving performance targets and a successful computerisation programme, the Land Registry has made a major contribution to the simplification of conveyancing in England and Wales, particularly through the development of faster and easier access to the public land register. It reduced fees by 10.6 per cent. in October 1994.

In order to supplement this evaluation, consultants were appointed to carry out a "prior options" review to consider a range of options for involving the private sector in delivering the services provided by the Land Registry. They confirmed that the present status arrangements would ensure the continuing credibility of the Land Registry consistent with a cost effective, high quality service likely to result in lower land registration fees to the public.

The consultants identified scope for private sector partnerships in a number of important Land Registry initiatives. This includes further development of electronic access to the public land register, taking forward the National Land Information System promoted by the Citizen's Charter, and the potential conversion of the title plans of England and Wales to computer format. Consultants also saw scope for the Land Registry, in partnership, providing specialist advice to those overseas governments seeking to establish stable private property rights, secured lending and inexpensive systems of property transfer.

I have concluded that it is right for Her Majesty's Land Registry to continue as an Executive Agency and Trading Fund. The Land Registry will concentrate on its existing plans further to simplify and reduce the cost of conveyancing in England and Wales by meeting the financial, productivity and developmental targets set for the next five years and by continuing its full market testing programme, all set out in its corporate and efficiency plans. The registry will also actively pursue private sector partnerships for the important initiatives identified. It will continue to capitalise on the scope for contracting out where this contributes to its strategic aims and objectives. A new framework document is being drawn up to cover the next five years and on completion will be placed in the Library of the House.