Gretna (Sale of Government Property).

Oral Answers to Questions — League of Nations. – in the House of Commons on 28th July 1924.

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Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

22.

asked the Prime Minister why the Government has permitted the sale of Government houses and other property at Gretna?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

It was decided to dispose of Government property at Gretna because it was surplus to Government requirements.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

Have the Government made investigations as to the possibilities of the productive power of these plants for national needs, such as the supply of fuel for aeroplanes and other things connected with national defence?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

Yes. I can assure my hon. Friend that the whole circumstances were considered, and after reviewing all the facts the Government decided that the sale could not be postponed.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

Is it not a customary thing to suspend or postpone a sale? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the auctioneer who was carrying out the sale pointed out that so many people thought the sale was suspended that they had not turned up? Why did not the Government suspend the sale until they had had full investigations as to the possibilities of the plant?

Photo of Mr Daniel Somerville Mr Daniel Somerville , Barrow-in-Furness

Is it the intention of the Government to let the houses if they are unable to sell them; or what is the programme?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

In reply to the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), I am afraid I can only repeat that it was the decision of the Government and I cannot add anything to what I have said. As regards the houses not being sold, it would be impossible for me to make any statement as to what is to be done with them. I am afraid it would be impossible to find tenants in that isolated spot.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

Why do the Government want to sell land belonging to the nation, seeing that we stand for nationalisation and the reconstruction of industry?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

We cannot now discuss the matter.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

I beg to give notice that I will raise this question on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr Daniel Somerville Mr Daniel Somerville , Barrow-in-Furness

66.

also asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the average price received for dwelling-houses sold at the Gretna sale and the average price it cost to build them?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

The average price received for brick houses sold was £324 4s. 6d. at Gretna and £315 10s. 6d. at Eastriggs. The wooden bungalows sold in both townships averaged £43 10s. each. I regret that the average cost of building these brick houses and wooden bungalows is not available, but, if it can be obtained from the accounts for the years 1916–1917 without serious labour, I will let the hon. Member have the figures.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

Is it the case that no reserve prices were placed upon the valuable property arid plant disposed of at Gretna; and is it a fact that £2,850 was received for the steam laundry which the auctioneer himself said was only the scrap value of the plant?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

I understand that reserve prices were placed on all the property at Gretna, but I could not offhand without notice give details of any individual item.

Photo of Mr Daniel Somerville Mr Daniel Somerville , Barrow-in-Furness

If over £300 each was paid for these dwelling-houses, is it not curious there was no demand for letting these houses, since there were purchasers who desired them to live in?

Photo of Sir Patrick Hannon Sir Patrick Hannon , Birmingham Moseley

As there is obviously great loss to the taxpayers in these sales will the hon. Gentleman institute some inquiry to satisfy the public as to how they are being conducted?

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

Were offers made to let these houses to villagers in the neighbourhood of Gretna?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

If I remember rightly, some time ago, every effort was made to let these houses, but in fact, at that time, applications could not be obtained, and it was then arranged to sell the property. As I have already mentioned, in point of fact the prices obtained for the, small houses were surprisingly large. In reply to the question by the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Somerville) I could not offhand say what is the intention regarding the letting of the houses, but I imagine that they must have been bought for occupation.

Photo of Sir Patrick Hannon Sir Patrick Hannon , Birmingham Moseley

May I have an answer to my question?

Photo of Dr William Chapple Dr William Chapple , Dumfriesshire

Has any of the property which did not obtain the full reserve since been sold, and has it reached the reserve privately?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

I cannot say whether any of the house property has been sold since the sale, but, one plant was sold subsequent to the sale. As regards the question of an inquiry, the position will be reviewed by the Government almost immediately. I ought to state to the House that while more than £100,000 was realised at Gretna, only a small fraction of the property was sold.

Photo of Mr John Simpson Mr John Simpson , Taunton

How many houses were sold?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

I am afraid I could not say offhand. I do not know that I have the actual number sold.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

Is it not a fact that this factory was put up during the War at inflated prices, and that there is, therefore, bound to be a loss to the taxpayers?

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

(speaking from the Opposition side, near the seat of the Sergeant-at-Arms)

Is there any truth in the statement which has appeared in some of the papers that the Government are selling these houses, in order to get money to pay the subsidies for the brick boxes not yet built?

Photo of Viscount  Curzon Viscount Curzon , Battersea South

On a point of Order. Is it in order, or in accordance with custom, for a Member of the party opposite to ask questions from these benches here?

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

I am waiting here, to get a ticket for the Members' gallery.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I have often seen it done.