Local Authorities (Land Holdings)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th January 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Mr. John M. Taylor:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received regarding the introduction of a compulsory requirement for local authorities to schedule and publish their land ownings.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

My right hon. Friend has received a number of representations from my hon. Friend and others on this subject.

Mr. Taylor:

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that local authorities are trustees of ratepayers' assets? Does he further agree that this register should not be voluntary, but should be compulsory?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

I agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question. He asks that the register be made compulsory. We are presently awaiting the outcome of a working group made up of CIPFA, the local authority associations and the Audit Commission. They are considering this matter and we intend to await their conclusions before taking any further decisions.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

What about a register of Government-held land? For example, the Ministry of Defence is holding land like some sort of medieval land baron. It has over 500,000 acres. What efforts is the Minister making to put pressure on some of his colleagues, such as the Secretary of State for Defence, so that land that is not necessary for such Departments is released for more useful social purposes?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

The Ministry of Defence has particular needs which lead to its land holdings, and the Government are taking every step to ensure that it does not hold any land that it is not necessary and desirable for it to hold.

Photo of Mr Martin Brandon-Bravo Mr Martin Brandon-Bravo , Nottingham South

In our campaign for inner-city regeneration the availability and ready development of land is an important component. While local authority land is important, surely inner city land held by statutory undertakings and by private owners is equally important. Perhaps a register giving an overall picture would go a long way towards helping us in the campaign to regenerate our cities.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

I am sure that my hon. Friend will not overlook the role of market forces in making that land available. As time goes on we expect more and more of that land to become available.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Does the Minister accept the overwhelming case for a land register of all land held by all private and public bodies? That was recommended by the Law Commission and there is a Land Registration Bill in the other place proposed by Lord Templeman. One way for everybody to know what is available, to prevent speculation and to develop the inner cities is open access to information about the identities of landlords. Will the Government say that they are willing to support that principle and do something about it?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

The Government support the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I have written to him today on that very subject.