Yes. Following the Admiralty decision of July last not to acquire some nine acres previously included in the scheme for the dockyard extension, I recently received a further deputation from the Plymouth Council. Discussion between us is still going on. In the meantime, the transfer to the council of a number of properties not now required has been brought under negotiation.
I thank my hon. Friend for seeing this deputation. In recent years the Government have handed back more than 27½ acres. May I ask my hon. Friend whether he realises that the derequisitioning of this land in the city by the Government is completely wrecking the economy of Devonport, and that there are now more vacant spaces than after the bombing and that it is a dreary and desolate place? Has he considered the petition from traders and householders for compensation? Will he consider also building Admiralty dwellings on this land instead of at St. Budeaux?
I could not for one moment accept the suggestion that the whole economy of Devonport has been ruined, but, as I told the deputation when they came to see me, we have very great sympathy with the citizens of Devonport who have suffered from this uncertainty. It was to try to ease the difficulties which the council foresaw that the deputation came to see me.
In view of the fact that we are told that this very expensive wall, which costs £12 an inch to build, is really necessary, and as we have 3 per cent. unemployment in Devonport over and above the national average of 1·5 per cent., and as most of the unemployed are building operatives, can my hon. Friend undertake forthwith to employ some of those men on this necessary wall?