HC Deb 23 March 1908 vol 186 cc1074-6
MR. BOTTOMLEY (Hackney, S.)

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Coach and Horses Inn at Portsmouth was recently sold by the War Office for the sum of £10,000 shortly before the introduction of the Licensing Bill, and that the purchaser complains that had he been aware of the intention of the Government to attach a time limit of fourteen years to all licences he would not have purchased the property at the price he paid, and that the profits of the inn are inadequate to enable him during the contemplated time limit to provide the necessary sinking found for the redemption of his licence; and whether, in these circumstances, the Government will consider the justice of either annulling the contract for the sale or returning a substantial portion of the purchase price.


No complaint has reached the War Office. I am unable to give any explanation further than that already afforded to the House in reply to previous Questions on this subject. The Government do not propose to annul this contract.


Before the Government fixed a reserve price in this case, had its own valuer placed the value of the licence of this house at £7,500?


Before he concluded the sale of this property, was the right hon. Gentleman personally acquainted with the terms of the Licensing Bill?


The property was put up in the ordinary course. It was well known to the public that the Government proposed to deal with the whole question of licensing.


Is it usual for purchasers of Government property under the War Office, when they make a bad bargain, to expect compensation?

MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the intention of the Government to impose a time-limit should have had a material effect in this transaction, and that its failure to disclose this fact was not a material omission; and under the circumstances, does the right hon. Gentleman consider it fair that the War Office should retain the whole of the purchase money, while it is quite clear that the purchaser—[Cries of "Speech," and "Order."]


I have already said that no complaint has reached the War Office from the purchaser, and if there had been any complaint he would have found it very difficult to formulate it in any intelligible language.


Has not the right hon. Gentleman, in common with other Members of the House, received a printed complaint from the purchaser?


I have received an immense mass of printed matter about the Licensing Bill, but none from this purchaser.

MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

Has the purchaser definitely asked to be relieved of his bargain?


Not that I am aware of.

MR. STANLEY WILSON (Yorkshire, E. R., Holderness)

If he does ask what will the right hon. Gentleman do?


That is a hypothetical Question.