I have written a letter to Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP, signed by over 65 fellow MP's, expressing my opposition to the Government's plans to privatise the Land Registry.
The Government has said that it is determined to clean up the UK property market but the privatisation of the Land Registry would significantly reduce transparency and accountability, exacerbating the problem of offshore ownership and money laundering.
You can the read letter in full below, or read an article written by The Guardian here.
The public interest should come before short-term profit I will continue to fight to save the Land Registry from privatisation.
Re: Privatisation of the Land Registry
Dear Secretary of State,
I write to you to express my grave concern at the imminent privatisation of the Land Registry and to urge you to reconsider this decision.
Earlier this year the Prime Minister declared that “there is no place for dirty money in Britain… London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash”, yet the privatisation of the Land Registry would make the London property market even more opaque and open to abuse.
Following so soon after the Prime Minister hosted an anti-corruption summit and committed the Government to delivering greater openness and transparency when it comes to foreign ownership of British property, there appears to be an extremely worrying gap between the Government’s rhetoric and action on this issue.
I am sure that you would agree that openness and transparency is a crucial pre-requisite to cracking down on corrupt and dirty money that is flooding the London property market via offshore jurisdictions, and I am particularly concerned to read reports that the companies bidding for the Land Registry are directly linked to offshore tax havens.
It is clearly not the public interest for the Land Registry to be bought up by organisations with a direct interest in reducing transparency and enabling trusts and shell companies registered in tax havens to purchase properties and land in the UK.
The Government has itself acknowledged that “property can provide a convenient vehicle for hiding the proceeds of crime” and that London property “presents an opportunity for criminals to launder considerable sums of money”. I therefore fail to see how this can be tackled if money launderers are able to continue to operate in secret, hidden behind offshore arrangements.
Selling off the Land Registry to the highest bidder may help the Chancellor’s sums add up next year but the public interest, transparency, impartiality and accountability should not be sacrificed for profit in the short term – particularly given the fact that the Land Registry has made a surplus in 19 of the last 20 years and paid back £120 million to the public purse last year.
As a country we are faced with grave and related challenges in the form of a housing crisis and large-scale institutional tax avoidance of the type brought to light by the Panama Papers leak.
We need a Government that is determined to take serious steps to make it harder for shady offshore entities to buy up property in this country and also make it harder for them to shield themselves from scrutiny and investigation. The privatisation of the Land Registry would achieve the opposite.
David Lammy MP