Tag Archives: consultation

Blue Badge changes were forced on Tories by court case – and they lied about it

This is sterling work from John Pring’s indispensible Disability News Service.

It turns out that the government’s much-trumpeted changes to the list of those who qualify for blue disability badges were forced on the Tories by the courts – and they lied about it to cover up the fact.

The changes mean people with invisible impairments should find it much easier to get a blue badge, which gives concessions to disabled people when they have to pay for parking.

They were heralded as the biggest overhaul of the system in 40 years, following a public consultation – but nobody mentioned the fact that this had been ordered by the courts after a judicial review on behalf of an autistic man with learning difficulties.

According to DNS, the man, who has since died, “had had a blue badge for 30 years but was told by his local council that he no longer qualified because of new [Department for Transport] rules.

“His family took legal action against the government and his local council because of new guidance issued by DfT in October 2014, after the government had begun to replace disability living allowance (DLA) with the new personal independence payment (PIP) disability benefit the previous year.

“DfT was forced to settle the judicial review claim in 2016 by agreeing to review the new blue badge guidance.

“It was that review that led to this year’s consultation – which heard from more than 6,000 individuals and more than 230 organisations – and the announcement of changes to the scheme this week.”

The cover-up was aided by disability charities including the National Autistic Society (NAS), which was quoted in the DfT press release expressing its support for the government and saying it was “thrilled” with the move, according to DNS.

“The support of charities like NAS was then reported by mainstream media including the Independent, the Observer/Guardian online and the BBC, most of which repeated the government’s line that the announcement was the biggest overhaul of the system in 40 years,” the news site dedicated to issues facing disabled people stated.

There’s a big push, at the moment, to have social media sites labelled ‘fake news’, so the mainstream media – like the Independent, Observer/Guardian and the BBC can maintain their supremacy as “reliable” news sources. I wonder how many people would have realised these “reliable” news sources were in fact peddling fake news in this case?

DNS is currently struggling to remain financially viable – but without the site’s excellent work, the government would be able to keep hidden the facts about stories like this.

Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS by visiting the source article (link below) and clicking on the ‘Donate’ button at the bottom of the story.

Source: Charities help government with cover-up over blue badge changes

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Tories u-turn on ivory trade – now they want to ban it again

Apologies if the image shocks, but the Tories have spent seven years dithering about whether to ban ivory trading, while the UK remains the world’s main exporter of ivory.

The Tories promised to ban ivory sales in their 2010 and 2015 manifestos, and did absolutely nothing about it.

In 2017, they dropped all pretence – possibly at the urging of a certain third party – and didn’t bother mentioning it in their manifesto.

Meanwhile, in its own 2017 manifesto, Labour introduced a promise to ban ivory sales.

So the Tories had to u-turn, didn’t they?

Environment Secretary (God help us) Michael Gove has launched a 12-week consultation, ending on December 29. It suggests a series of exemptions, detailed below.

But This Writer isn’t sure anybody needs to be worried about that.

Who reckons the Tories will kick it into the long grass again, before quietly u-turning one more time when nobody’s looking?

The UK will impose a ban on ivory sales to help bring an end to the poaching of elephants, under plans announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

The proposals will protect elephants and help combat poaching by removing opportunities for criminals to trade illegally-poached ivory. Today’s plans will be subject to a 12 week consultation and cover items of all ages, not only those created after a certain date.

In line with the approach taken by other countries, the government is proposing certain narrowly-defined and carefully-targeted exemptions for items which do not contribute to the poaching of elephants and where a ban would be unwarranted.

The consultation proposes four categories of exemptions:

  • Musical instruments;
  • Items containing only a small proportion of ivory, a de minimis exemption;
  • Items of significant historic, artistic or cultural value;
  • And sales to and between museums

The government will work with conservationists, the arts and antiques sectors and other interested parties through the consultation period on exactly how these exemptions can be defined, implemented and enforced so as to ensure there is no room for loopholes which continue to fuel the poaching of elephants.

Source: Government sets out plans for ivory ban – GOV.UK


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Why is the Conservative Government hiding the results of its consultation on the future of the BBC?

Will Chris Davies MP pay any attention to VP's request for action over the BBC consultation? Will your MP? Have you asked them?

Will Chris Davies MP pay any attention to VP’s request for action over the BBC consultation? Will your MP? Have you asked them?

This Writer just sent an email to Brecon and Radnorshire’s Conservative MP, Chris Davies:

“When will Parliament publish the results of the consultation on the future of the BBC?

“I was one of the huge number of people who responded to the consultation.

“Is the government withholding the results in order to hide the true extent of public support for the BBC? There seems to be no other reason for the delay.

“The government needs to be reminded that the BBC is a hugely important part of the UK’s culture. Its contribution to the arts is unparalleled anywhere in the world, and this is largely because, thanks to the licence fee, it is not constrained by commercial concerns.

“The only area in which the BBC lets the public down is its newsgathering and reporting, which is unreasonably biased towards the Conservative Party. This is because the BBC news operation is packed with either Conservative supporters or members of the Conservative Party. That must stop.

“There is, of course, absolutely no reason for the government to cut the BBC any further – unless it is to advance the ambitions of the Conservative Party’s friends in the commercial media? You will be aware that the Conservative Government’s unreasonable demand that the BBC should fund free TV licences for pensioners has already placed a huge, politically-motivated financial burden on our public service broadcaster, and that is why I say the Conservative Government must impose no FURTHER cuts on BBC funding.

“Please ask John Whittingdale to publish the results of the consultation immediately. No government should hide the results of a public consultation from the public.

“I look forward to hearing from you. I will want to know that you have taken action on this matter.”

It will be interesting to see if Mr Davies pays this matter any attention at all.

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Freedom of Information Act consultation a ‘full frontal attack’, says actor Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen is another celebrity who is a hero of Vox Political.

He supported This Writer’s Freedom of Information request on the DWP deaths and now he is supporting our right to know.

We need more high-profile people speaking out against the Conservative Government’s plans, but for now, let’s all be grateful for Mr Sheen and his words.

The independent Commission on Freedom of Information launched a call for evidence on the government’s proposals to restrict freedom of information requests, on October 9. You may not have heard of it because it does not appear to have been publicised widely at all.

Only 16,000 responses have been received and the deadline to submit evidence is midnight today (November 20).

You can make your response heard:

  • online
  • by email: [email protected]
  • in writing: Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, 9.54, 9th Floor, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ

Actor Michael Sheen has added his voice to calls for the Freedom of Information Act to be protected, warning it is under “full frontal attack” by the Government.

The Welsh star said the public’s right to know should “transcend the political rivalries and jostling that make up the daily cut and thrust of the Westminster bubble”.

The comments come as a cross-party commission considers changes to the legislation, potentially including more charges for access to material.

Sheen, who has portrayed former Prime Minister Tony Blair on screen, said: “The public right to know is a principle that transcends the political rivalries and jostling that make up the daily cut and thrust of the Westminster bubble.

“You don’t need to look too far afield to find examples of nations where citizens are denied this right, and to see the consequences for those people.

“When the public right to know is not upheld, government, at both a national and local level, becomes opaque and removed from the very people it is meant to serve …

“The consultation on the Freedom of Information Act, currently being undertaken by an ‘independent commission’ appointed by the Government, is nothing short of a full frontal attack on these principles.

“If the politicians and civil servants behind this assault get their way, then the right of you and I to understand the workings of our democracy will be seriously damaged.

“Newspaper journalism, whether local or national, has used FOI to hold the government to account on everything from MPs’ expenses to staff shortages in the NHS.

“It is an essential medium for making sense of the wealth of information which the Freedom of Information Act provides access to.”

Sheen said he was a “passionate” campaigner, and “a strong NHS with the ability to provide excellent healthcare to citizens is particularly close to my heart”.

“Without a strong FOI Act, it would be much harder for me and those like me to see and understand the effects of Government policy on this vital service,” he said.

“That’s why I am voicing my support for a strong FOI Act which should be extended and strengthened rather than weakened.”

Source: Freedom of Information Act consultation a ‘full frontal attack’ – Michael Sheen – BT

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Public consultation or ‘concentrated attack’? With TTIP it’s all the same

Facepalm: When Karel de Gucht [pictured] offered to hold a public consultation on proposals for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, he clearly did not expect to receive 150,000 responses. Now he is calling the public reaction a "concentrated attack".

Facepalm: When Karel de Gucht [pictured] offered to hold a public consultation on proposals for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, he clearly did not expect to receive 150,000 responses. Now he is calling the public reaction a “concentrated attack”.

Isn’t it a shame about Karel de Gucht?

The European Union’s trade commissioner launched a public consultation on the hugely controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership back in January – as reported in this blog – but has now changed his tune.

After receiving more than 150,000 submissions from EU citizens – raising concerns about proposals to restrict our freedoms in multiple ways – he described the unprecedented response as a “concentrated attack”, according to an email circulated by SumOfUs.org.

Perhaps somebody could send the following message to Mr de Gucht, to help him understand something fairly fundamental about his position:

When hundreds of thousands of people voice opposition to a political plan, that isn’t an attack; it’s called democracy.

Apparently it’s quite a popular concept in Mr de Gucht’s home country of Belgium, where they’ve been struggling to form an effective government since 2007. Perhaps that’s why he seems to have a problem with it…

Mr de Gucht seems keen to forget about his consultation so, faced with this opposition from a man who clearly thought an ill-informed public would support TTIP – or would not care about it – SumOfUs has launched an alliance with more than 150 partner organisations to create a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) calling for TTIP negotiations to be halted.

For this to work, these groups must collect at least one million signatures in seven European countries. The ECI can request a legislative act from the European Commission, repealing the European Union’s negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade Investor Partnership (TTIP) and not concluding the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – and can force a hearing at the European Parliament.

At the same time, country-specific quorums must be achieved in at least seven EU member states, with a minimum number of signatures required to achieve that quorum. In the UK, that minimum is 54,750 signatures.

Inevitably there is a price to pay for this kind of democracy and SumOfUs is seeking donations to pay for the two full-time staff who are coordinating the European-wide campaign work, developing a software to collect the signatures online, and planning to print and send thousands of packages with information material and signature lists “so that TTIP is an issue on every market stall in even the remotest village in Slovenia”.

To contribute a quid towards this project, click here.

It might be one of the most important pounds you’ve ever spent.

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Data retention debate: The lies they tell to steal your rights

Haggard: Theresa May looked distinctly ruffled as she responded to criticism of her government's undemocratic actions. Some of you may wish to abbreviate the first word in this caption to three letters.

Haggard: Theresa May looked distinctly ruffled as she responded to criticism of her government’s undemocratic actions. Some of you may wish to abbreviate the first word in this caption to three letters.

It is ironically appropriate that an Act of Parliament guaranteeing government the right to invade the private communications of every single citizen in the UK, ostensibly in the interests of justice, should be justified by a web of dishonesty.

This is what an indecisive British electorate gets: A government that can lose every major debate in the chamber – and look shambolic while doing so – and still win the vote because all its members have been whipped into place.

We all knew the government’s case for providing itself with a legal ability to snoop on your telephone and Internet communications was paper-thin, and by failing to produce any new justification, the government confirmed our suspicions.

Introducing the Data Retention and Investigatory Bill earlier today, Minister for Security and Immigration James Brokenshire said the three-month delay since the European Court of Justice judgement that allegedly necessitated the legislation was because the Coalition had “sought clarity” on it.

He went on to say that “There is a risk in relation to co-operation on the use of the powers; indeed, there may be legal challenge. The House must face up to the prospect that the powers we use—they are constantly used by our law enforcement agencies—are at potential risk, and we are seeking to address that risk.”

Michael Meacher suggested a more persuasive reason for the three-month delay: “Panic or a deliberate attempt to blackmail the House into undiscriminating compliance.”

He said the argument that foreign phone and Internet firms were about to refuse UK warrants, demanding the contents of individual communications, was another red herring: “It has been reported that communications service providers have said that they did not know of any companies that had warned the UK Government that they would start deleting data in the light of legal uncertainty. Indeed, the Home Office, according to the Financial Times, instructed companies to disregard the ECJ ruling and to carry on harvesting data while it put together a new legal framework.”

So Brokenshire was lying to the House about the potential effect of inaction. That will be no surprise to anyone familiar with the workings of the Coalition government. At risk of boring you, dear reader, you will recall that the Health and Social Care Act was based on a tissue of lies; now your privacy has been compromised – perhaps irrevocably – on the basis of a lie.

MPs could not limit the extension of the government’s powers until the autumn, Brokenshire said, because a review of the power to intercept communications had been commissioned and would not be ready by then.

According to Labour’s David Hanson, the main Opposition party supported the Bill because “investigations into online child sex abuse, major investigations into terrorism and into organised crime, the prevention of young people from travelling to Syria and many issues relating to attempted terrorist activity have depended on and will continue to depend on the type of access that we need through the Bill”.

Mr Hanson’s colleague David Winnick disagreed. “I consider this to be an outright abuse of Parliamentary procedure… Even if one is in favour of what the Home Secretary intends to do, to do it in this manner—to pass all the stages in one day—surely makes a farce of our responsibilities as Members of Parliament.”

He pointed out – rightly – that there has been no pre-legislative scrutiny by the select committees – a matter that could have been carried out while the government sought the clarification it said delayed the Bill. “This is the sort of issue that the Home Affairs Committee and other Select Committees that consider human rights should look at in detail,” said Mr Winnick. “None of that has been done.”

The Bill did not even have the support of all Conservative MPs. David Davis – a very senior backbencher – said: “Parliament has three roles: to scrutinise legislation, to prevent unintended consequences and to defend the freedom and liberty of our constituents. The motion undermines all three and we should oppose it.”

Labour’s Tom Watson, who broke the news last Thursday that the Coalition intended to rush through this invasive Bill, was more scathing still: “Parliament has been insulted by the cavalier way in which a secret deal has been used to ensure that elected representatives are curtailed in their ability to consider, scrutinise, debate and amend the Bill. It is democratic banditry, resonant of a rogue state. The people who put this shady deal together should be ashamed.”

Plaid Cymru’s Elfyn Llwyd said Parliament was being “ridden over roughshod”.

Labour’s Diane Abbott made two important points. Firstly, she called the Bill an insult to the intelligence of the House. “We have had a Session with a light legislative programme, and for Ministers to come to the House and say, ‘We’ve only got a day to debate it’, when weeks have passed when we could have given it ample time is, I repeat, an insult to the intelligence of MPs.”

Then she turned on her own front bench: “I believe… that those on the Opposition Front Bench have been ‘rolled’ [one must presume she meant this in the sense of being drunken, sleeping or otherwise helpless people who were robbed]. All Ministers had to do was to raise in front of them the spectre of being an irresponsible Opposition, and that children will die if they do not vote for the Bill on this timetable, and they succumbed.”

Despite this opposition – not just to the way the Bill had been tabled, but to its timetable and its content – MPs voted it through, after a derisory nine hours of debate, by a majority of 416.

So much for democracy.

So much for MPs being elected to protect their constituents.

When Hansard publishes details of the vote, I’ll put them up here so that you can see which way your own MP voted and use that information to inform your actions during the general election next May.

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See if YOUR objection is mentioned in the Surveillance Bill debate!

internet-surveillance

It seems Parliament’s discussion of the Data Retention and Investigatory Bill, also known as the Surveillance Bill, will now take place tomorrow (Tuesday) rather than today (Monday).

This works better for Yr Obdt Srvt, who has carer-related business today and would not have been able to watch the debate.

Hopefully, many Vox Political readers – if not all – have emailed or tweeted MPs, calling on them to speak and vote against the Bill which, while only reinstating powers the government has already been using, is a totally unacceptable infringement of our freedom that is being imposed in a totally unacceptable timeframe.

As has been discussed here previously, the Bill enshrines in law Theresa May’s ‘Snooper’s Charter’, requiring telecommunications companies to keep a complete record of all your telephone and Internet communications for examination by politicians.

The information to be kept includes the location of people you call, the date and time of the call, and the telephone number called.

It seems the Bill is intended to be a response to a European ruling in April, making the valid point that the government’s current behaviour is an invasion of citizens’ privacy. Clearly, therefore, the Coalition government is determined to continue invading your privacy.

The judgement of the European Court of Justice is being overridden and the Conservative-led Coalition is making no attempt to find a reasonable compromise between the need for security and the right of privacy.

The fact that David Cameron has waited more than three months before putting this on the Parliamentary timetable, during a time when MPs have had very little to discuss, indicates that he wanted to offer no opportunity for civil society to be consulted on the proposed law or consider it in any way.

Cameron wanted to restrict our freedom to question this restriction of our freedoms.

Another reason given for the haste is that foreign-based Internet and phone companies were about to stop handing over the content of communications requested by British warrants – but service providers have confirmed that this was a lie. No companies had indicated they would delete data or reject a UK interception warrant.

Ignoring the fact that this does nothing to support your privacy, at least it does completely undermine Mr Cameron’s case for rushing through the legislation.

He is offering concessions – but they are not convincing and nobody should be fooled into thinking that they make this Bill acceptable. However:

A possibility of restrictions on retention notices is not clarified in the text of the Bill, and is therefore meaningless; and

The ‘sunset clause’ for the Bill’s provisions does not come into effect for two and a half years, by which time (we can assume) the government is hoping everybody will have forgotten about it and it can be renewed with a minimum of fuss. This is how your freedoms are taken away – behind your back.

If you have not yet contacted your MP, you are advised to do so.

If you lose your right to privacy – especially to this government – you won’t get it back.

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The security services are already snooping on us – why aren’t we out in the streets about it?

A Snooper: This woman has been allowing police and security services to monitor your phone and Internet communications - illegally. Now her government wants to rush through a law to make it legal, without proper scrutiny.

A Snooper: This woman has been allowing police and security services to monitor your phone and Internet communications – illegally. Now her government wants to rush through a law to make it legal, without proper scrutiny.

No matter what Nick Clegg might say, the Coalition government will be reintroducing – and rushing into effect – Theresa May’s long-cherished Snooper’s Charter on Monday.

This is her plan to ride roughshod over your right to privacy by requiring telecommunications companies to keep a complete record of all of your telephone and Internet communications. While the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill does not include the content of the calls or messages, it does include the location of the people called, the date and time of the call and the telephone number called.

Theresa May’s Snooper’s Charter would have called on telecoms firms to record the time, duration, originator and recipient of every communication and the location of the device from which it was made.

Anybody who cannot see the similarities between these two would have to be blind and stupid.

Apparently the move has been necessitated by a European Court of Justice ruling in April saying current laws invaded individual privacy.

This means that the government has been doing, already, what it proposes to enshrine in law now.

But hang on a moment – this court ruling was made in April. In April? And they’re just getting round to dealing with it now?

Perhaps they were busy. But no! This is the Zombie Parliament, that has been criticised for muddling along with nothing to do, so it can’t be that.

It seems far more likely that this Bill has been timed to be pushed through without any consideration by, or consultation with, civil society – in order to restrict our ability to question what is nothing less than an attack on our freedom.

Cameron is desperate to justify his government monitoring everything you do: “The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK.”

It isn’t about fighting any threat from criminals or terrorists, though, is it? It’s about threatening you.

Has anybody here forgotten the disabled lady who received a midnight visit from the police, at her home, in relation to comments she had posted on Facebook about the Department for Work and Pensions’ cuts?

She told Pride’s Purge: “They told me they had come to investigate criminal activity that I was involved in on Facebook… They said complaints had been made about posts I’d made on Facebook.”

Facebook is an internet communication, not a telephone communication – so you know that the security services have already been overstepping their mark. This was in 2012.

There’s always the good old postal service, embodied in the recently-privatised Royal Mail – which has been examining your correspondence for decades. You will, of course, have heard that all your correspondence with HM Revenue and Customs about taxes, and all your correspondence with the DWP about benefits, is opened and read by employees of a private company before it gets anywhere near a government employee who may (or may not) have signed the Official Secrets Act. No? Apparently some secrets are better-kept then others.

If you want proof about the monitoring of letters, I’ll repeat my story about a young man who was enjoying a play-by-mail game with other like-minded people. A war game, as it happens. They all had codenames, and made their moves by writing letters and putting them in the post (this was, clearly, before the internet).

One day, this young fellow arrived home from work (or wherever) to find his street cordoned off and a ring of armed police around it.

“What’s going on?” he asked a burly uniformed man who was armed to the teeth.

“Oh you can’t come through,” he was told. “We’ve identified a terrorist group in one of these houses and we have to get them out.”

“But I live on this street,” said our hero, innocently. “Which house is it?”

The constable told him.

“But that’s my house!” he said.

And suddenly all the guns were pointing at him.

They had reacted to a message he had sent, innocently, as part of the game. They’d had no reason to open the letter, but had done it anyway and, despite the fact that it was perfectly clear that it was part of a game, over-reacted.

What was the message?

“Ajax to Achilles: Bomb Liverpool!”

Neither of these two incidents should have taken place but many more are inevitable if this legislation goes the distance and allows the government to legitimise its current – illegal – actions.

One last point: It should be remembered that this is a government composed mainly of a political party with one member, still active, who managed to lose (or should that be ‘lose’) no less than 114 files on child abuse – files that could have put hugely dangerous people behind bars 30 years ago. Instead, with the files lost, it seems these individuals were permitted to continue perpetrating these heinous crimes.

Now, this government is launching an inquiry into historic child abuse by high-profile people, headed by a woman who is herself tainted by association with some of the accused, and by some of the attitudes she has expressed.

It is a government that should put its own House in order before it asks us to give up our privacy and let it look inside ours.

Or, as Frankie Boyle tweeted:

140711surveillance

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Latest privatisation/corruption plan is halted as government reluctantly scraps Land Registry sale

Still in public ownership: According to reports, the sale of the Land Registry has been cancelled.

Still in public ownership: According to reports, the sale of the Land Registry has been cancelled.

A little-known plan to sell off one of the government’s best-performing and self-financing organisations has been scrapped – not because of fears that a new system would be prone to corruption but apparently because it was “too complicated” and would have necessitated “new legislation”.

The change of heart – for whatever reason – has been taken by the PCS Union as a victory for its campaign against the sell-off, which included a two-day strike against the privatisation proposal, which members described as “secret”.

Commentators including Vox Political pointed out that the public consultation process received hardly any publicity at all and was closed before most of us even knew it had taken place.

Among the Land Registry’s many functions are quasi-judicial decisions on ownership and transfers, granting title and, crucially, guaranteeing legal rights on behalf of the state. This is not just of fundamental importance to homeowners, but an essential feature of our economy. The backbone of the system is its freedom from outside influence and commercial interest,” the article stated.

In its article on the subject earlier this month, Vox Political warned that, clearly, privatisation would put the Land Registry entirely under threat of outside influence and dominated by commercial interest.

It quoted a report in The Guardian stating: “The agency is also currently bound by government policy on procurement, designed to assist small and medium-sized businesses to compete against the oligopoly of large suppliers. But BIS [The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] has identified this as a problem, claiming greater flexibility in the private sector to buy goods and services. In a truly astonishing move, a government agency faces being changed into a commercial company so it can avoid the very controls the government brought in to protect small businesses.”

The article also warned of “massive job losses and office closures” and said the government had “flatly refused” to publish and fully consult on these plans.

And the plot thickened considerably when it was revealed that the Infrastructure Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech would transfer responsibility for the local land charges register to the national Land Registry – away from local councils. This means it would profit from the sale of the information – while councils fear they would still have to employ staff to do the work.

All in all, the sale was shaping up into a plan to put big business – the ‘This is Money’ article suggested private equity firms and outsourcing companies – in control of a system that had been freed of any obligation towards small and medium-sized businesses, and whose work would be done by local authorities – at a cost to the council, not the Land Registry.

For any new shareholder, it would have been a licence to print money.

The PCS has already declared its delight that the sell-off has been called off. A statement released yesterday (June 29) reads: “This would be a victory for the thousands of Land Registry staff who campaigned with industry professionals against the plans, and very welcome news for millions of people who rely on it to provide a reliable, impartial and hugely important public service.

“We want the Land Registry to work with us on our proposals to strengthen the agency in future, but serious questions must be asked of senior officials and ministers who tried to push through what would have been a very damaging and totally unnecessary sell-off.”

Indeed. First among these would be: Who paid them to do it?

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Did the Tories tell anyone at all they were privatising the Land Registry?

140610LandRegistry

Did you know about this?

According to a petition on the 38 Degrees website, the government closed – closed – a public consultation on proposals to privatise the 152-year-old Land Registry on March 20 this year.

“There has been no publicity or attempt to inform the public of this radical change to an organisation that is vital to the UK property market,” the text of the petition states.

While this is not strictly true, it would be accurate to say that the plan has not been well-publicised. Not at all.

The government put out a press release on January 23, saying a consultation was taking place on plans “to help Land Registry deliver more efficient and modern services”. That’s no way to announce a privatisation – and the plan to create a private company was only revealed several paragraphs into the text.

Why is this important?

Well, the Land Registry is one of the largest property databases in Europe, guaranteeing title to registered estates and interests in land, recording the ownership rights of freehold properties and leasehold properties where the lease has been granted for longer than seven years.

It is self-financing; its income generated by registration and search fees. You pay to access certain information.

Last month, 3,000 PCS Union members went on a two-day strike over the “secret” privatisation proposal. A report in The Guardian said the government had failed to explain what problem is was trying to fix, or what benefits would be gained by privatisation.

“Key among the organisation’s many functions are quasi-judicial decisions on ownership and transfers, granting title and, crucially, guaranteeing legal rights on behalf of the state. This is not just of fundamental importance to homeowners, but an essential feature of our economy. The backbone of the system is its freedom from outside influence and commercial interest,” the article stated.

Clearly, privatisation would put the Land Registry entirely under threat of outside influence and dominated by commercial interest.

Also: “The agency is also currently bound by government policy on procurement, designed to assist small and medium-sized businesses to compete against the oligopoly of large suppliers. But BIS [The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] has identified this as a problem, claiming greater flexibility in the private sector to buy goods and services. In a truly astonishing move, a government agency faces being changed into a commercial company so it can avoid the very controls the government brought in to protect small businesses.”

The article also warned of “massive job losses and office closures” and said the government had “flatly refused” to publish and fully consult on these plans.

Prepare for a thickening of the plot: The Infrastructure Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech last week would transfer responsibility for the local land charges register to the national Land Registry – away from local councils. This means it would profit from the sale of the information – while councils fear they would still have to employ staff to do the work.

The petition states that “another consultation on giving the Land Registry wider powers in the control of data essential to the sale and purchase of property closed earlier with the majority of the public not being aware if it’s existence.”

It seems our attention is being directed away from another Tory-led plan to sell one of our best-performing and most efficient public services off to create more profit for private business – most notably big business, at the expense of small and medium-sized enterprises – while forcing the public sector to do all the work for nothing.

It isn’t too late to register your disgust at this proposal. Sign the petition right now.

And for goodness’ sake, tell everyone you know.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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