HC Deb 27 June 1938 vol 337 cc1518-9
31. Sir William Davison

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the decision permitting a reduction of ground rent in respect of certain Crown land property leased to Rex and Regent Theatre Company, Limited, for use as offices, from £1 to 15s. per square foot, approximately; and whether, in view of the hardship to those who provide and let offices in the building on the adjacent site, where the ground rent charged averages 21s. per square foot, the Commissioners of Crown Lands will consider a similar reduction of ground rent in respect of this latter site?

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

The effective ground rents in the former of these cases are considerably higher than the amounts stated, and the circumstances are entirely different from those obtaining in the latter case. In the former case an alteration was made in the authorised user of the premises, and consequently in the rate of ground rent, before new buildings were erected or the lease signed, in consideration of the fact that unforeseen circumstances would inevitably prevent the lessee from carrying out his proposed contract. In the latter case the building was erected and the lease signed a number of years ago, and no ex gratia remission of the legal ground rent could, therefore, be considered save in accordance with the general scheme of relief to Regent Street tenants which was explained in my answer of 25th May to my hon. Friend the junior Member for Brighton (Sir C. Rawson) and which only applies to ground rents exceeding 25s. per square foot.

Sir W. Davison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the ground rents attached to these new leases in Regent Street were adjusted in the boom period after the War and bear no relation to the rack rents of these premises; and will he be good enough to have an independent committee set up to inquire into the whole matter?

Mr. Morrison

This matter was recently reviewed with the assistance of an informal committee of Members of this House, and I see no reason at the present time to re-open it.

Mr. Macquisten

Are not the ground rents charged on Crown lands a public scandal? No private landlord would ever charge them.

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