HC Deb 14 February 1882 vol 266 cc633-4

asked the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, What powers that body holds to insist upon adequate means of exit and proper precautions against fire in the various theatres (new and old) of the Metropolis, and what steps that body has taken with a view to that object since it received the letter referred to by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and with what result; and, whether theatres still exist in London which are unsafe, and where further steps should be taken to insure the safety of the public against fire?


In answer to the Question of the hon. Member, I have to state that the powers possessed by the Metropolitan Board of Works with regard to old theatres are confined to requiring structural defects to be remedied, provided that the work can be done at a moderate expense, and subject to the liberty of appeal given to the owner. As regards new theatres, the powers of the Board are more extensive, and regulations have been made for protection from fire which, I think, are satisfactory. With regard to the steps taken by the Board since the date of the letter from the Secretary of State, to which the hon. Member refers—namely, December 24, 1881—a sufficient time has not elapsed to enable me to show any large results. But the Fire Brigade Committee was instructed on the 13th of January last to report as to the actual condition of the London theatres in respect of security from fire; and the Buildings Act Committee, on the same day, was instructed to report as to the additional statutory powers required to enable the Board to deal more efficiently with the whole question. The necessary orders have been given to the superintending architect and the chief officer of the Fire Brigade; but the hon. Member must be aware that, owing to the number of theatres, the inspection will take some time. With the information at present in my possession, I should hesitate very much to declare any theatre unsafe, although I have no doubt that in many cases improvements and alterations may and will be effected. I can assure the hon. Member that the best exertions of the Board and its officers are being directed to this important question.


In consequence of the answer I have received from the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, clearly showing the great risk that exists to the theatre-going public in the Metropolis, since a fire may break out any day whilst the Committee is sitting, I shall on Friday next repeat my Question of last Thursday to the Home Secretary.