HC Deb 23 November 1920 vol 135 cc262-3W

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he agreed, on behalf of the Government, to purchase from the Duke of Bedford the site at the rear of the British Museum for the University of London for the sum of £425,000 without making any inquiries as to previous negotiations in 1911 and 1912 between Lord Haldane, a Member of His Majesty's Government, Chairman of the Royal Commission on University Education in London, and Sir Francis Trippel, who had obtained an option for the purchase of a portion of the site now agreed to be purchased by the Government; whether he is aware of a letter dated the 15th December, 1911, from Lord Haldane to Sir Frances Trippel, subsequently published in the Press, in which Lord Haldane stated that he had laid the proposal before the Prime Minister, who entirely approved of the same; and whether he can inform the House as to the area of the land which was then proposed to be purchased, the price asked for the same, stating the price per acre as compared with the price per acre of the land now agreed to be purchased, so that the House may have these material facts before it when considering the agreement which has now been entered into with the Duke of Bedford by the Government?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative; the answer to the last two parts is in the negative. Any tentative negotiations which Lord Haldane may have entered into at the somewhat remote dates mentioned did not result in any engagement or agreement which in any way bound either the Government of which he was a member or their successors in office. The action of the present Government in making their offer to the University in April last was decided upon solely as the result of their own independent consideration of the needs of the University as they found them at that time, and, as the hon. Member has already been informed, was not in any way determined by anything which took place in 1911 and 1912.