HC Deb 12 November 1968 vol 773 cc188-9
4. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many persons are now employed in the Land Commission; what is the total cost of the Commission in 1968–69; what estimate he has made of aggregation of betterment levy collected in 1968–69; what is the aggregate acreage of land acquired to date; and what arrangements he plans for a reduction in the cost of the Commission's activites and staff.

Mr. K. Robinson

The total estimated cost of the Commission for 1968–69, as given in the Civil Estimates is £3.7 million. The estimate of levy to be collected in 1968–69 is £8.3 million. The area of land acquired to date is 46 acres, and negotiations for the acquisition of a further 1,900 acres are in hand. The staff of the Commission on 28th October, 1968, numbered 1,256, 210 less than at the beginning of the year, and the review which enabled this reduction to be made is continuing.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the Minister realise from these statistics, given for the first time today, the astronomical cost of this swollen bureaucracy? Could he not expedite progress towards disbandment of the Land Commission, recognise that he is wrong, adopt Tory policy and chuck it overboard?

Mr. Robinson

The House will not be surprised to know that I do not accept either the hon. Gentleman's views nor his extravagant language. The Land Commission is carrying out two very important functions entrusted to it by this House. Although inevitably it got off to a slow start, both the pace and scale of its activities are now growing at a very satisfactory rate.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will my right hon. Friend not be deterred in any way from supporting the important work of the Land Commission in its future activities? Will he remember that the answer is not to go back to Tory profiteering?

Mr. Rippon

Will the Minister agree, as far as the two vital tasks are concerned, that in 1968–69 it cost £5 for every £1 of levy to be collected? On his figures it will still cost a very high proportion of each £1 collected. Will he tell the House what acreage of land which the Commission has now acquired could not have been acquired through the ordinary compulsory purchase and planning procedure?

Mr. Robinson

It is obvious that I could not give an answer to the second half of that question without notice. On the earlier part of the question, clearly the cost of collecting the levy will fall rapidly, and will continue to fall, as the amount of levy collected increases. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, there were considerable transitional exemptions.