HC Deb 01 March 1900 vol 79 cc1452-3

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury what was the nature and extent of the action which at the request of the Chancellor of the Exchequer he, in conjunction with the First Lord of the Treasury, took to check the financial aspect of the question of the purchase of land by the War Office for manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain including the estate of Notheravon; did such action extend to any examination into the nominal or real rental of the property; did it extend to the estimation of the value of the property as compared with the price to be paid; did it extend to the nomination of one or both of the arbitrators, Mr. William Sturge, of Bristol, and Mr. Elias P. Squarey, of Salisbury, who fixed the price of Notheravon; and did it extend to any other properties besides Netheravon.


Perhaps I can best satisfy my hon. friend by stating the course pursued in the valuation and purchase of land by the War Office for manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain, including the estate of Netheravon. The selection of the land required was carried out by a Committee consisting of the Financial Secretary of the War Office, the Adjutant General, the Quartermaster General, and the Inspector General of Fortifications. The Committee dealt with all proposals referring to the acquisition of land and any questions arising therefrom, assisted by Messrs. Rawlence and Squarey, of Salisbury, who were selected to carry out the various negotiations on account of their local knowledge and experience. The valuations were made in all cases by Messrs. Rawlence and Squarey, and wherever the Committee thought it desirable a separate valuation was made on behalf of the War Office by Mr. Elwell, their professional surveyor. The Committee thought it desirable in the case of the Netheravon Estate, and Mr. Elwell valued it at £95,000. As regards this estate, it was considered, in view of 22 Geo. III., c. 45, and of the decided case of "Royse v. Birley," that if land belong- ing to a Member of Parliament was taken by agreement a question might be raised as to whether the transaction were not within the prohibition of the statute. Accordingly it was decided by the Committee that the purchase should be effected under the Defence Act, 1812, which authorises compulsory acquisition of land—a notice to treat under that Act was served on Sir Michael Hicks Beach and the case proceeded to arbitration to determine the compensation to be paid. Of the two arbitrators, one, Mr. Squarey, was selected by the Secretary of State for War, the other, Mr. Sturge, by Sir Michael Hicks Beach, and an umpire, Mr. C. Oakley, was appointed by the arbitrators in usual course. No difference of opinion, however, arose between the arbitrators as to the terms of the purchase, and the umpire's services were not required. The House will see that in these circumstances no question arose in which the intervention of the First Lord or of the First Lord of the Admiralty was called for.