§ MR. ONSLOW
asked the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, Whether it is a fact that the condition of the Japanese Exhibition had been brought to the notice of the Metropolitan Board; if so, what action was taken; and, whether, if it is true that the premises are to be rebuilt, he will guarantee that sufficient protection will be afforded to the public against fire, both as regards the construction itself and also for proper means of exit?
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
In reply to my hon. Friend, I beg to inform him that the attention of the Metropolitan Board was called, at the end of January last, to the state of the building in which the Japanese Exhibition was held, and that previous to that time communications had taken place between the Board's Superintending Architect and the District Surveyor on the subject. In the result, the owner of the hall was summoned by the District Surveyor before the magistrate, in order to obtain an amendment of certain irregularities in the construction of the hall, and the magistrate made an order that the works should be amended in accordance with the requirements of the District Surveyor. This order was not, however, complied with; and subsequently the Board was informed that the owner had obtained a licence for music from the Justices of Middlesex, although the Board had not issued a certificate that the building had been completed in accordance with their regulations, as required by the Building Act of 1878. Proceedings were accordingly taken to recover penalties against the proprietor of the Japanese Exhibition, and the case was heard at the Westminster Police Court on April 23; but at the bearing the owner of the hall 1836 put himself forward as, in fact, responsible for keeping open the entertainment, and, under these circumstances, the magistrate dismissed the summons. I may add that the Board had prepared a series of requisitions for remedying the structural defects of the building, which would have been served in a few days but for the recent fire, which has shown conclusively that the Board has throughout been right in its contention that the building, until amended in accordance with the requirements, was totally unsafe and unfit for a place of public entertainment. With regard to the latter part of the Question, I can assure my hon. Friend that, in the event of the premises being rebuilt, the Board will spare no effort to secure proper protection for the public, both as regards construction and exit.