§ MR. BROOKFIELD
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the practice prevails in some parts of the United Kingdom of holding inquests as to the cause of fires which may have taken place; whether this practice has been attended with advantage in the City of London; and whether, in view of the large number of fires which now take place, he will carefully consider any measure which would require inquests to be held in all serious cases of fire throughout the Kingdom?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I am not aware that this practice prevails elsewhere than in the City of London, where, as my hon. Friend is aware, it is authorised by a Private Act passed in 1888. Thirty-eight cases have been reported to me under this Act. In 30 cases the jury found the cause of the fire unknown; in seven cases they found that the cause was accidental; and in one case that the fire was caused by an unknown incendiary. I am informed, however, by the authorities of the City that in their belief the power to hold fire inquests acts as a deterrent against arson and fraud on Insurance Companies; and I am 1426 prepared to give my careful attention to any proposal which my hon. Friend may make in the direction of extending the measure throughout the country.