Sale of Public Assets December 2016
Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the sale of public assets and the related campaign from We Own It.
I appreciate the concerns you raise. Indeed, in December 2015, figures from the House of Commons Library showed that since 2010, the current Government and previous coalition Government had privatised at least £37.7 billion of state assets, including, for example - and at a loss to the taxpayer - the Royal Mail. Furthermore, the figures showed that the Government intended to privatise £20 billion more of assets by the end of this year.
The Government argues that asset sales help achieve stronger public finances, reduce national debt and encourage economic growth. However, as We Own It and the New Economics Foundation have highlighted, national assets such as the Land Registry, Channel 4, Ordnance Survey and NATS are all examples of publicly owned services that are delivering lean, efficient and profitable business models. If the Government has any interest in long-term growth and stability, it should hold on to those assets, not sell them off. Securing the annual revenue these bodies provide is the economically responsible approach at a time when we lack the certainty on which the economy and business depend. The Government should take a long-term view to addressing its debt, rather than trying to meet artificial targets by short-term initiatives such as asset sales.
As you may be aware, the Government has now decided to keep the Land Registry under public ownership. This comes after significant opposition to the Government's proposed privatisation, including a petition signed by over 320,000 people and criticism from various organisations, as well as pressure from the Opposition in Parliament. I have also written to the minister responsible for this matter several times urging him to not go ahead with the privatisation. The Land Registry returns millions of pounds in profits to taxpayers and has a 98% customer satisfaction rate. Privatisation could have undermined confidence in its data, jeopardised its service to homebuyers, and undermined conditions for its staff. I am therefore pleased that the Government has dropped this unnecessary proposal.
However, I am concerned at reports that the Government is still considering the privatisation of Channel 4. The Channel 4 model of public service broadcasting has brought an innovative and unique approach to the media landscape. If Channel 4 were privatised, money would be diverted to shareholders and the broadcaster could become simply a platform for showing content produced elsewhere, probably outside of the UK. I do not believe there is anything to be gained from privatising the channel. In fact, there is a lot to be lost. I hope the Government will see sense on this issue.
I can assure you I will continue to monitor this issue and to oppose the unnecessary, un-evidenced and unwanted sale of our national assets. Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views on this issue.