§ 22. Mr. W. Benyon
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many acres of vacant and under-utilised land belonging to the Government currently appear on the register; and what plans he has for disposal.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
Land registers contain details of 3,685 acres of land owned by Government Departments, health authorities and other Crown bodies. Of this total, 614 acres are held by the Property Services Agency. The Government's policy is to dispose of land which they do not need as soon as it is declared surplus to requirement.
§ Mr. Benyon
Is not progress on this whole issue painfully slow? Will my hon. Friend consider raising disposal orders on other Government Departments, or on his own, to get things moving?
§ Mr. Shaw
I am well aware that it is for the Government to take a lead in disposing of the land that is surplus to their requirements. That is one of the policies that the PSA vigorously pursues. We are ensuring that nationalised industries' holdings and our own are disposed of as rapidly as possible.
§ Mr. Dobson
Why have the Government changed the arrangement under which any surplus land to be disposed of by a Department was first offered to local authorities? Authorities could then decide whether it was of any use for, for example, housing, or play areas—which might benefit the local community—before that land was offered to the parasites and vultures who hover over the registers of public land.
§ Mr. Shaw
My hon. Friend is being grossly unfair, because the Government have taken the initiative to set up land registers to do just that. We shall certainly use our powers under the Act to force disposal if it can be shown that a local authority is denying the right to put land into productive use.