§ 2.38 p.m.
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is the case that in calling for the deferment of public expenditure on capital projects, the Minister of Transport asked local authorities to defer expenditure on advance acquisition of land.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF POWER (LORD LINDGREN)
My Lords, the advance acquisition of land for road schemes in the forward road programme was specifically exempted from deferment. Local authorities were asked to defer as far as possible expenditure on other advance acquisition of land.
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord if he recalls that on February 16, in the debate on Roads, I quoted Mr. Durie, of the Automobile Association, who regretted the fact that the Government had placed a curb on the advance acquisition of land, and that the noble Lord, in replying to the debate, said that this statement was untrue? I gather that, in fact, the statement was correct; and, in fairness to Mr. Durie, I think it would be helpful if that could be made clear.
§ LORD LINDGREN
No, my Lords. The statement was incorrect. The noble 897 Lord made a reference to postponed schemes under the Chancellor of the Exchequer's "six months" proposal. I then replied that, as regards those schemes, the acquisition of land and the necessary statutory procedures that follow would not be held up. I will, if I may, read the specific paragraph in the circular that was sent out by the Ministry of Transport on August 19, 1965, and which was in fact paragraph 9 of that circular. The heading was, "Land in advance", and it read:Authorities are asked to defer as far as possible expenditure on advance acquisition of land, except where this is clearly required for programmed classified road schemes and is thus eligible for grant under Circular Roads Number 21 /62.What was stopped was what is referred to in local government circles as opportunity purchases of land. That is the purchase of land for road schemes that are not even in the pipe-line, which sometimes becomes available to local authorities and which they purchase in anticipation of likely use. But, on actual road programmes, the deferment meant no cessation of the programmed development and general procedures of acquisition.
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord if he is aware that, in a statement to the Press by the Ministry of Transport on August 19 of last year, it was stated:Authorities are also asked to defer where possible expenditure on advance acquisition of land"?I was referring to the acquisition of land in anticipation. Would the noble Lord agree that Mr. Durie was also referring to that, and that that may hold up the road programmes for quite some time?
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, if a scheme is not even in the pipe-line it cannot be held up. If land becomes available on the market, and if local government think it will be likely to be required, they will sometimes acquire it. In the circumstances of last July the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that sanction would not be given for advance purchases of land for schemes not yet approved.