HC Deb 07 April 1976 vol 909 cc399-400
1. Mr. Sainsbury

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total number of man-days that have been spent by staff in his Department in connection with land acquisition and management schemes submitted by local authorities.

The Under Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Gordon Oakes)

This work has been carried out by my Department's staff as part of their normal duties. No record has been kept of time spent specifically on land acquisition and management schemes.

Mr. Sainsbury

Will the Minister say how much time would have been saved in his Department if more time had been allowed to local authorities to prepare these schemes or if some local authorities had not had these schemes imposed on them by the Department?

Mr. Oakes

I can say that no Ministry staff are engaged and that if work on the land schemes was not going on the land availability problem bequeathed to us by hon. Gentlemen opposite would not simply have gone away, and no doubt just as much staff effort would have been needed for any other land policy devised to deal with the problem.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will my hon. Friend say how many staff would have been saved if the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) had not tabled such Questions as this?

Mr. Graham Page

Does the Minister not think this is an awful waste of time? However many people have been put on it, only 13,000 acres will be acquired by the local authorities in the next three years, and by that time the Community Land Act will have been repealed.

Mr. Oakes

If the right hon. Gentleman is referring to my hon. Friend's question about a waste of time, I tend to agree with him. If he is talking about the Community Land Act, I can say that this is a major part of the Government's policy and I doubt very much whether Members of the party opposite, in three years' time—were they to be in office, which I doubt—would be allowed by their own authorities to sweep it away.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Anthony Crosland)

That was a very suitable answer.

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