asked the Secretary of State for War how many properties are still held under requisition by his Department; if he will order a new investigation into the circumstances of each case; and if he will direct that prior consideration be given to the original owner, or owners, whenever a sale is contemplated.
Six hundred and eighty-three properties are held under requisition under Defence Regulation 51. When no longer required, they are returned to the owners. It is the aim to do this as soon as possible.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that these figures are fantastically large? Does he also agree that it seems to be the natural tendency of bureaucracy to keep what it has and that the recent Crichel Down case suggests that an investigation on the lines indicated would be beneficial and, in any case, could do no harm?
Considering the amount of requisitioning during the war I do not think that these figures are large. They have fallen from over 1,000 in August last year to 683, and our object is to get rid of these requisitions altogether as soon as possible.
The right hon. Gentleman said that land is handed back to the original owners. Is that done regardless of agricultural considerations?
I am answering only for my Department. So far as we are concerned, requisitioned land is always handed back to its owners.
As the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has suggested that the fault lies with what he describes as bureaucracy will the right hon. Gentleman repudiate any allegation of any sort or kind against his staff? He must accept responsibility.
I am answering only for my Department, and I repeat that it is my object, and I am confident it is my staff's object, to get rid of these requisitioned properties as quickly as we can.