HC Deb 06 August 1980 vol 990 cc509-11
10. Mr. Milan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has yet received Professor Halliday's report on the arrangements under which Robroyston hospital and its surrounding land were sold; and if he will make a statement.

21. Mr. Michael Marlin

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the report of Professor Halliday concerning the sale of Robroyston hospital.

Mr. Younger

I have received the report, and copies have been placed in the Library. The report confirms that the initial purchasers of the land made a considerable profit out of the transaction, realised very soon after the purchase, and for this reason the transaction has attracted criticism. It confirms that the sale of the land at Robroyston was carried out regularly in accordance with the prescribed procedures, and that the responsible officials performed their respective duties conscientiously and with care. It finds that the relevant decisions of the regional and district councils on the planning applications made to them were made with care and a due sense of responsibility. The report criticises the dispersal of responsibility for conducting sales of property occupied for Health Service purposes and makes recommendations for changes in procedure. I shall give these careful consideration.

I should like to thank Professor Halliday, and Mr. Ryden who assisted him, for the thoroughness and expedition with which they have completed this most useful review.

Mr. Millan

I am glad that Professor Halliday found that there were no improprieties and that the recognised procedures were carried out, but will the right hon. Gentleman take note that I believe very strongly that those procedures need amendment now? In particular, proper formal application should be made to planning authorities about the planning position, because the excessive profit in this case was made because there were changes later in the views of the regional council and the district council about the planning for the particular areas of the land concerned. We must make every effort—I accept that this case happened under my administration—to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

Mr. Younger

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I shall consult colleagues to see how we can implement the recommendations in the report.

Mr. Martin

Will the Secretary of State ensure in future that no land is handed over or sold to a company that has been created only a matter of weeks before the application is made? Will he also ensure that any company involved in a transaction does not acquire a further number of companies so that it can evade the development land tax? Will the right hon. Gentleman also ensure that the farmland that is now in the ownership of the company at Robroyston is not developed, as it is first class farmland and is the only green belt that we have in the Springburn area?

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I know his close interest in the matter. The matters raised in the first part of his question will have to be looked into with regard to the recommendations in the report. The hon. Gentleman's second point I think, is, primarily a matter for the planning authorities involved, but I shall look into it.

Mr. McQuarrie

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Professor Halliday's report has vindicated the purchasers of the land, who were the subject of a vicious attack but who, although they made an excellent profit, did an honourable deal with the authority concerned?

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. There is no suggestion in the report that anything dishonourable was clone by the purchaser or anyone else.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the Secretary of State recall that when this matter was raised some months ago at Scottish question time his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) made a disgraceful, scandalous and filthy attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan)? Will the Secretary of State repudiate that attack and ask his hon. Friend to withdraw his statement?

Mr. Younger

I think that the hon. Gentleman exaggerates somewhat. That was a normal exchange in the House.

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