HC Deb 05 August 1924 vol 176 cc2742-4

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the ether factory at Gretna, owned by the Government, has been disposed of for less than £20,000; whether he will state the amount of the highest bid for this property at the recent sale in Carlisle; the total amount spent by the Government on the factory; and whether he is aware of the keen disappointment felt in the Gretna and Carlisle districts at the sale of the factory?


I would refer the hon. Member to the replies given on the 29th and 31st July to my hon. Friends the Members for Springburn and Govan. The highest bid at the recent auction was £18,000.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the greater part of the land used for the Government factories in the Gretna district has been reacquired by the company or persons who sold it to the Government; whether he will state the price at which the land in question was purchased by the Government, and the price at which it has been resold to the present owners; and whether he will state the reserve price placed on the property by the Government?


The statement in the first part of the question is not correct, the greater portion of the undamaged land at Gretna, amounting in all to about 4,600 acres, having, prior to the recent auction sale, been sold to the Board of Agriculture for Scotland for the land settlement scheme, and, so far as can be ascertained without elaborate search, there has only been one case of the kind described. In that instance the Government originally purchased 1,510 acres for £53,000—part of this price representing an allowance for severance, etc. Out of this total 416 acres were, before the auction, sold back to the firm in question, because they were the tenants, for a sum of £15,000. One thousand and eight acres were put up to auction at a reserve price of £11,850 and sold for £13,600. Out of these 1,008 acres, 908 were very much damaged and cut up by buildings, railways, roads, excavations, etc. On the two transactions, therefore, 1,424 acres in all, of which 908 were damaged, were sold at a price of £28,600.


Can we have an assurance that the Government will not part with any more land or buildings at Gretna unless by explicit direction of the Government itself?


The Government have decided that no further sales shall take place until an opportunity is given for a thorough investigation as to whether it is possible to use any property for Government schemes.


Would my right hon. Friend say whether the whole of the sales are in the Scottish part of Gretna or in the Cumberland part?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government have made assiduous efforts since they came into power to dispose of Government property to private buyers, notably in the case of Sheerness? Is it the policy of the Government to dispose of Government property to private firms?


As far as I am aware, the whole of the property sold at Gretna is on the Scottish side of the border. In regard to the second question, the Government, in whatever decision they take, are always actuated by the desire and the determination to do what is best for the public interest.


Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavour to see that for any land purchased by municipal authorities the purchase price to be paid is universally £13 per acre, which is what was received by the Government in this sale?