There has been coverage in the press about the way the government sneaked out the information that the Land Registry could be up for privatisation. This is an office of state that fulfills an essential function both as a basic source for government and a vital part of our legal system.
Also, it charges for its services and said to make a profit, perhaps not much of a one, but it is not in the same cost category of other types of government record or activity. But the margins of profit or loss are not the major consideration in this. It is a key service and has been for a very long time.
There are one or two questions. If it is made private then who eventually will own it, a few financial operations later? If the recent past is any guide it could be, probably will be, in foreign hands for whatever purposes they might choose. If they could not make it work they might close it down.
The information in this service is critical to the property market. This currently is one of the key parts of the UK economy. If there was a major foul up or disruption to the Registry or problems and it was beyond the government to deal with it, what then? Not least is the scope it could give for corrupt or criminal activity.
Has anyone in Westminster ever hear of something called "unintended consequences". If you are looking at anything then the Land Registry must rank as one of the most vulnerable to misuse and outright perversion of function.
If this can be done, why not other features of government? HMRC might well get a good price from a Chinese consortium. The Foreign Office might gain some valuable insights after being taken over by Russian oligarch's, never mind free tickets to Chelsea games. Gulf State rulers would like to run the Department of Transport.
This is not a question, as Macmillan once put it, of selling the family silver. It is selling the key to the safe at a scrap price.