HC Deb 20 May 1965 vol 712 cc1659-60
Q2. Mr. Hamling

asked the Prime Minister which Minister is responsible for the release of Service land for house-building and other purposes.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. Hamling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in one notable case it took the Army 10 years to decide to give land back to civilian use? Will he ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to use a lot more speed than right hon. Members on the other side of the House used when they were in office?

The Prime Minister

Yes, and I am sure he will. Of course, the rehousing programme in Woolwich, which my hon. Friend has in mind, is an enormous one, and there are quite a lot of details to be settled, particularly in relation to the Greater London Council, and it will not be possible immediately to work out all the details, but so far as Service control of land is concerned, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will do what he says.

Mr. Woodburn

Would my hon. Friend institute an inquiry into the various offices about the sale of public land for development? Much of this land is ripe for development, and it would be a bit of a scandal if public land were handed over to private developers who could proceed to make fortunes by reselling it.

The Prime Minister

This has been a problem in recent years. Some changes in the law a few years ago make it more difficult for local authorities to get land within their areas for important developments. This is a question which will come up when we come to the Land Commission Bill. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the point he has in mind will be looked after then.

Mr. William Hamilton

Could my right hon. Friend say whether any calculation has been made of the extent of the land owned by the Service Departments which can be developed for housing? Could he give an indication of the amount which was released by the Departments in each of the last two or three years, for example?

The Prime Minister

I should want notice to give my hon. Friend the figures, but a good deal has certainly been done, and done recently, in releasing Service land in the centres of towns for housing and other purposes. Of course, a good deal of land held by Service Departments in the more remote areas would not be relevant to the housing situation.