About 572,000 acres are owned by the Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom. The corresponding figures for 1970 and 1971 are 558,000 and 539,000 acres respectively. Some 50,000 acres were transferred from the Ministry of Aviation Supply following its amalgamation with the Ministry of Defence in May, and this more than accounts for the apparent increase between 1971 and 1972.
My hon. Friend knows that I will consider those figures with great interest. Does my hon. Friend recognise that 1 per cent. of the total land area of the United Kingdom is in the ownership of his Ministry and that there are desperate and competing demands for land in this country? Will he give an assurance that he will have a personal and continual review of service land which could be released by his Ministry for other needs?
I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said. I recognise his close interest in the matter. However, between the financial years 1961–62 and 1971–72, 191,000 acres were disposed of, and the general trend is now towards further reduction.
The progress made in that direction is recognised. However, does the hon. Gentleman accept that there are urban communities in the vicinity of large defence establishments which are desperately short of land for housing and other social purposes? Will the hon. Gentleman look particularly at their needs and make whatever further progress is possible?
The hon. Gentleman will know that Lord Nugent's committee is now reviewing defence land. We expect that the committee's report will appear either at the end of this year or early next year. It is our firm policy to limit our land holdings to the minimum necessary, bearing in mind, amongst other factors, the one which the hon. Gentleman has just mentioned.