§ 3.7 p.m.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to inform the Portsmouth City Council of their proposals:
- (a) for the early release of the three sites in Hilsea, the "Rugby Camp" and land south of Norway Road comprising some 61 acres of land surplus to Ministry of Defence requirements; and
- (b) for the further phased release of the nine remaining sites in Portsmouth with a total area of some 377 acres, also surplus to Ministry of Defence needs.
My Lords, there are at present six sites in Portsmouth, comprising some 27 acres, which are with the Property Services Agency for disposal. As Portsmouth City Council were told on 14th September, 1981, these now include a three-acre site at Hilsea Lines and a site at Rugby Camp. My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces has written to the local authorities concerned about the method of disposal of these properties and others in the area which may become surplus in the future. None of the remaining sites referred to by the noble Lord are at present surplus to defence requirements.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, while thanking the noble Viscount for his very constructive reply, may I ask him whether Her Majesty's Government will do everything possible to expedite the procedures in this case? There is sometimes a tendency for them to be 434 very slow. Is he aware that the people of Portsmouth have made tremendous efforts since the end of the war to rehabilitate their city, which was one of the blitzed cities? Will he bear in mind that there is the prospect of some 16,000 extra unemployed due to the proposed phasing out of the dockyard activities, and will he continue to press as much as he can for the expeditious treatment of all these matters in collaboration with the Portsmouth City Council?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his interest and kindness towards the people of Portsmouth. I can assure him that my right honourable friend will do all that he can through the Property Services Agency to speed the sale or hand-over of these sites to the council or to who else is interested. Of course, the interesting part of the noble Lord's supplementary question related to helping unemployment in the area. This is the reason why Her Majesty's Government have gone into consultations with the council to release this land, perhaps for factories or otherwise.