§ 17. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the disposal of defence lands.
§ Mr. Bennett
Will the Minister accept that the Ministry of Defence acquired large areas of land in Britain during the first and second world wars and has been reluctant to give up that land ever since, despite the fact that the Nugent committee report in the 1970s recommended that a great deal of land should be released? In particular, much of the northern Pennines, which are no longer used for military purposes, are still not available for public use.
§ Mr. Lee
I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's first point. Since 1973, when the Nugent committee reported, we have disposed of about 50,000 acres of land — 7.6 per cent. of the total. That has produced receipts of nearly £400 million. A further 6,000 acres are with the PSA for disposal. We allow as much public access for recreational purposes as other priorities allow and co-operate closely with the national park authorities.
§ Mr. MacKenzie
How many acres of land are held by the Ministry in Gibraltar? Is that land required for defence purposes? If not, will he ensure that it is handed over to the civilian population of Gibraltar as soon as possible in order that that part of the country may be economically viable?
§ Mr. Lee
The right hon. Gentleman and I were at the Gibraltar heritage conference earlier this morning. The Ministry of Defence has played its full part in releasing whatever land and buildings it can to help Gibraltar develop, particularly its tourism, and, obviously, we are reviewing other areas. We are anxious to help, but I must make it clear that Gibraltar has a substantial continuing strategic and military role.