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Departmental Land

Volume 471: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons his Department transferred 50 acres of land at East Blockhouse, Augle, Pembrokeshire to QinetiQ on 27 March 2002; how much was received by his Department for the land; and what covenants (a) existed and (b) were placed on the land at the time of the transfer. (181865)

The land at Augle, formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence, was transferred on 1 July 2001 to QinetiQ as part of the operational estate of the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency which was privatised on that date. Releasing individual valuations could adversely impact on potential disposal receipts should QinetiQ dispose of the site in the future. For information, the value of all property in the overall transaction as reported in the QinetiQ opening balance sheet was £342 million for land and buildings plus £98 million for surplus properties.

Regarding covenants, the sale would have transferred all those in the original conveyance of 1901 that were still applicable, together with those usually included in any property transaction. In addition there were certain specific covenants applying to all the sites included in the privatisation, including responsibility to repay a proportion of excess profits, over an agreed value and subject to a sliding scale, by way of clawback clause. There was also obligation to consider the Crichel Down rules in relation to any future disposal.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of his Department’s compliance with the Crichel Down rules in the disposal of 50 acres of land at East Blockhouse, Augle, Pembrokeshire on 27 March 2002. (181866)

The Ministry of Defence transferred the former Augle site in Pembrokeshire to QinetiQ on 1 July 2001. The Crichel Down rules only apply to land acquired from 1935 onwards. As the site was acquired by the MOD in 1901, the rules did not apply. The transfer was also made under exemption 14 (6) of the 1992 version of the Crichel Down rules in use at that time.

It is understood that QinetiQ have subsequently sold the site as part of their rationalisation process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether a defence contractor to which his Department’s land has been transferred to is subject to the Crichel Down guidance when disposing of that land. (181867)

Where Government land is transferred to another body (for example a defence contractor) which is to take over some or all of the obligations of the Department that currently owns the land, the transfer itself does not constitute a disposal for the purposes of the Crichel Down rules. Likewise, disposals for the purposes of Private Finance Initiatives/Private Public Partnership projects do not fall within the rules and the position of any surplus land would then be subject to the PFI/PPP contract.

A defence contractor, having bought MOD land on the open market, would not be subject to the Crichel Down rules when disposing of that land.