HC Deb 17 November 1982 vol 32 cc269-70
10. Mr. George Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the disposal of the former Hamilton college of education buildings.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

As announced on 10 November, agreement has been reached on the sale of the halls of residence complex for £410,000 to Millers Homes (Northern) Ltd., and on the sale of the teaching block and playing fields for £270,000 to Christian Schools (North West) Ltd. Two other offers for the premises were received. These were considered to be unacceptable because of the conditions attached to the offers.

Mr. Robertson

What conceivable justification can there be for the Government's almost gifting to the private education sector and a property developer 52 acres of land and buildings, constructed 16 years ago for £2 million and now worth over £12 million, for a trivial £680,000, especially since it is clear that the Minister accepted the lowest, not the best, offer? Is that not political incompetence compounded by malice?

Mr. Fletcher

We accepted the best offer—the one with no strings attached. The strings attached to the other offers were unacceptable. The hon. Gentleman should try to prove that the halls are worth £12 million. I offer him a bargain. I shall sell him the halls for a quarter of that price if he cares to make an offer.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that property is worth only as much as someone will pay for it? A large building in Scotland, whether it is an educational establishment or a commercial building, will attract only the market value, which is what people are prepared to pay.

Mr. Fletcher

My hon. Friend is correct. The market value was well tested by the amount of advertising of the property.

Mr. O'Neill

Bearing in mind the Prime Minister's strictures at the Guildhall recently about the desirability of following the policies of sound domestic financial management, does the Minister agree that if he were to sell his own house on that basis, his wife would be upset to see the property sold at a knock-down price in a depressed market?

Mr. Fletcher

We accepted the best unconditional offer that was made to us. In answer to what the hon. Gentleman said about financial prudence, now that the property has been sold, the saving in the current year will be more than £500,000, and in future years more than £1 million will be saved as a result.

Mr. George Robertson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply and of the grotesque offer that the Minister has made to me, I give notice that I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment.