HC Deb 17 April 2000 vol 348 cc692-3
22. Sir Sydney Chapman. (Chipping Barnet)

If he will estimate the total square mileage of land owned by his Department (a) 10 years ago, (b) five years ago and (c) now; and how much of this land is surplus to requirements. [117901]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie)

The total area of land owned by the Ministry of Defence was 240,600 hectares in 1990, 240,300 in 1995 and 238,800 in 1999. That equates to 928.96 square miles in 1990, 927.80 in 1995 and 922.01 in 1999. The figure for the total area of land in disposal is not maintained centrally. However, I will write to the hon. Gentleman once that information has been collated, and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Sir Sydney Chapman

I am immensely grateful for those numbers, which I shall try to remember—I may have to consult Hansard tomorrow. However, the Minister did not deal with the fourth part of my question, about land surplus to requirements. May I take it that some of us have scored a 100 per cent. successful campaign in ensuring that the Ministry of Defence no longer holds any land that is surplus to requirements? Is not the central point that we must be flexible about the land we retain, especially for training purposes, in view of a development that the Minister might be able to confirm, which is that significantly less land is now available in Germany for training our armed services?

Dr. Moonie

In the riveting excitement of reading out the figures, I overlooked part of the hon. Gentleman's question. Land in disposal is, by definition, land surplus to requirements. Such parcels of land come up fairly regularly at present, and this year we are on target to meet the sales requirement that we have placed on ourselves. We retain land only to support the delivery of operational capability and for other essential purposes. We keep the size of the estate under constant review, to ensure that it is no larger than is required for those purposes. However, it is true that, because of the change in distribution of our armed services, we have been putting greater pressure than we did formerly on much of the land that we use in this country.

Mr. Peter L. Pike. (Burnley)

What is the target for disposal of land? Large areas of land, including many beauty spots, have been held for many years for training purposes. How much land is surplus to training requirements?

Dr. Moonie

We dispose only of land that is genuinely surplus to our requirements. We use land in national parks because that is, and will remain, essential to our requirements. Our target is to sell £700 million worth of land from the estate by 2001–02, and I am happy to say that we are now ahead of target.

Mr. Gerald Howarth. (Aldershot)

If Major-General Palmer's review of training establishments leads to a reduction of training establishments in Aldershot and the surrounding area, will it be the Government's intention to contract the Aldershot garrison and to sell off some of the land that falls inside the garrison premises?

I have just seen the consultation document about the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. If DERA is to be cut by three quarters, will it be the Government's intention to maintain the headquarters of the new public-sector operation at Farnborough, where £70 million has recently been expended on brand-new buildings?

Dr. Moonie

On the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the answer is yes. On the former part, we have made no plans yet for the disposal of land at Aldershot, nor for reconfiguration of our forces there. However, as I have said, that is under constant review.

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