Below is the text of Mr Major’s written Parliamentary Answer on the Belfast Stamp Office on 10th May 1990.
Mr. John D. Taylor To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what consultation there was with the staff of the Belfast stamp office for registration of deeds and with the legal profession before the decision to transfer its work to Scotland and England;
(2) what is the income and expenditure of the stamp office for deeds in Belfast; if he will make a statement on its cost to the public Exchequer; and what savings he estimates arising from its closure;
(3) how many people are presently employed in the stamp office for deeds in Belfast; how many will be offered posts (a) elsewhere in Northern Ireland and (b) at the stamp offices in England and Scotland when the Belfast stamp office is closed;
(4) how long there has been a stamp office for deeds in Belfast;
(5) by what means he announced the proposed closure of the stamp office for deeds in Belfast;
(6) what arrangements are being made to acquaint the staff in the stamp office in Scotland and England with the differences in property law between Northern Ireland and elsewhere in Great Britain.
Mr. Major I have been asked to reply.
The Board of Inland Revenue’s intention to close the Belfast stamp office in 1992 was notified to the staff on Budget day; the Law Society of Northern Ireland was informed by letter. Prior consultation would have been incompatible with Budget confidentiality for my decision to abolish stamp duty on shares.
There has been a stamp office in Belfast since about 1922, but with a revenue of about £12 million and costs of about £190,000 in 1989–90, the cost of collecting stamp duty in Northern Ireland is now more than three times greater than the average cost in similar offices throughout the United Kingdom. Closure is expected to save about £160,000 a year at current prices.
The office currently employs eight staff. Apart from one person on secondment, all staff will, wherever possible, be offered jobs in line with their preferences. Any necessary guidance to staff in England and Scotland on differences between the property law of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom will be given nearer the time of closure.