asked the Secretary of State for War how much was paid for a plot of land known as Tal Basal at Delimara, Malta, which was purchased by the War Department in February, 1942, for use as a machine-gun post; to whom the land has been sold subsequently; what price was paid for it; and whether the former owners were given the opportunity of repurchasing.
This land, purchased from a private seller in 1942, was sold this year to Mr. Nicholas Scerri by open tender. It is contrary to Government practice to disclose the prices paid for land bought from a private seller or obtained for land if sold by tender. The former owners were given facilities to tender for its purchase, but were unsuccessful.
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that in cases such as this the person from whom the land was compulsorily acquired should be given an opportunity to buy it back and that these people were, in fact, prepared to pay a considerably larger sum than that which they received? Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that in the future he will see that people are reasonably treated in these matters?
I would not say that my hon. Friend's constituents were not treated properly, because the land was bought freehold and was not requisitioned. At the same time, we gave the owners an opportunity to repurchase the land. There was no reservation of pre-emptive rights in the original sale, and my Department is, of course, bound to get the best value it can in the current market.