HC Deb 26 March 1968 vol 761 cc1131-3
1. Dr. David Kerr

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how much land is now in the ownership or under the control of the Land Commission; and what return on the capital value of the land as assessed by the Commission is now being received.

23. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how long the Land Commission has been fully in operation; and how much land it has acquired.

39. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how much land has been supplied by the Land Commission to private builders since its inception.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Niall MacDermot)

The Land Commission came into operation on 6th April, 1967. Since then, it has carried out a valuable survey of land availability. It is at present negotiating for the acquisition of some 1,500 acres, 1,200 of which are for disposal to private housebuilders. None of these has yet reached completion.

Dr. Kerr

Will my hon. and learned Friend take it that, while we acknowledge the work which the Land Commission is doing, we feel that it could move a little more quickly; and will he tell the House what the nature of the survey to which he referred is likely to be and to what ends it would be devoted?

Mr. MacDermot

The survey has been concentrated primarily on the pressure areas, and it has tended to confirm that most of the available land in these areas is already in the hands of builders. We are, therefore, proceeding to discuss with the local planning authorities, together with the Commission, a programme for the orderly release of more land for development. I hope that hon. Members will realise that it is in this sort of way that the Land Commission can make a constructive contribution to the bringing forward of land for development, and it should not be judged simply on the acreage of its acquisitions.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does not the negligible quantity of land acquired by this large organisation underline that it is no more than a cross between a white elephant and a sacred cow?

Mr. MacDermot

Certainly not. It is evident that the right hon. Gentleman had prepared his supplementary question before he had heard my Answer.

Sir G. Nabarro

Has not the Minister noted that Question No. 39 asks him to say how much land has been supplied to private builders by the Land Commission, which he has not answered? As it was supposed to be a primary purpose of the Land Commission to furnish land for development, and it has not so furnished any land throughout its first year, is not my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) perfectly right, and is not the Land Commission a total flop?

Mr. MacDermot

I had thought that the hon. Gentleman would be able to draw the inference that land could not be disposed of before it had been acquired. He should not jump to hasty conclusions. There is evidence that the Land Commission's interest in lands which previously have been held back has undoubtedly contributed to those lands being brought forward for sale to private developers.

Mr. Rippon

Is the Minister aware that, since the Land Commission Act was passed, the price of land has risen faster than ever before? Will he agree that, since the passing of the Act, the cost of the land for a 3-bedroomed house has risen, according to the Financial Times, by £200.

Mr. MacDermot

No, Sir. Again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's assumption is quite mistaken. The rate at which land prices rose last year was rather slower than in recent years.