HC Deb 02 March 1921 vol 138 cc1803-4
52. Major NALL

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the building of new Employment Exchanges was deferred in deference to Parliamentary opposition to the expenditure, and that since that date it has been the practice of other Departments to purchase premises before the money for the same has been voted; and whether the Government will stop this unconstitutional practice?


I presume the hon. and gallant Member has in mind the acquisition of the premises at Hollinwood for the Stationery Office? The premises were erected as an aircraft factory by the American Government in 1917, it is understood, at a cost of £477,000. As they were eminently suitable for meeting urgent requirements of the Stationery Office in the Manchester district, a lease of them was taken in April, 1920, for a period of eighteen months at a rent of £12,000 per annum, His Majesty's Government having an option to purchase within that period at £185,000. In connection with a general settlement of outstanding claims between His Majesty's Government and the United States Government in November last, under which a net cash payment of nearly £3,000,000 was made to this country, the Disposals Board agreed to take over this property from the United States of America with the intention of selling it to the Stationery Office. Parliamentary authority for the purchase by the Stationery Office has been sought at the earliest practicable opportunity in the Supply Estimate recently passed in Committee of Supply. It is not the case, therefore, that the Office of Works purchased in advance of Parliamentary authority.

Major NALL

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no direct reference in this question to the premises at Hollin- wood; and that the question directly raises the issue of Parliamentary control of expenditure; and will he please answer the question on the Paper?


Is it correct that the Oldham Chamber of Commerce, or an official connected with it, had these premises at Hollinwood offered to them for £40,000 while the Government has bought them for £180,000?


I have no knowledge of the point just raised by the hon. Member. With regard to the question of my hon. Friend (Major Nail) I must apologise to him because I have not answered the question as he expected. If he will be good enough to put it down again I will try to do so; but as this case was the only one within my knowledge that had recently been before the House, I thought he referred to that and I felt that it was only courteous to him to give full details.

Major NALL

Is it not a fact that in the Supplementary Estimate which, included the Hollinwood premises several other buildings were included, and is not this question relevant to those cases as well as the Hollinwood case?


The hon. Member had better repeat his question. The Government reply does not seem to be very relevant to the question now.