§ 27 Major LANE-FOX
asked the First Commissioner of Works(1) which hotel was vacated prior to moving an Air Force staff to 4, Thurloe Place, the floor space of the building vacated, and the floor space of the building commandeered in exchange; whether the hotel vacated has since been utilised;(2) whether his Department or that of the Office of Works was responsible for the commandeering of 4, Thurloe Place for the use of the Royal Air Force after the premises had been sold by the Office of Works to a crippled Army officer, in view of the fact that responsibility for this transaction is repudiated by both Departments; (3) on what date 4, Thurloe Place was taken over by the Royal Air Force; and on what date, and upon whom was notice of the intention to do this served on the owner of the premises by either the Air Ministry or by the Office of Works?
§ Mr. PRATT (Lord of the Treasury)
The Covent Garden Hotel and four other buildings were vacated by the Air Force on removal of the Headquarters of the South Eastern Area to Thurloe Place. The net floor space available at the hotel and these buildings for office accommodation was about 20,000 square feet, that at Thurloe Place 39,000 square feet, of which about one-half is temporarily occupied by the National Health Insurance Commis- 548 sion. I understand that the Covent Garden Hotel is being prepared for reopening. The Air Force occupy these premises by virtue of an Order under the Defence of the Realm Act, which was originally issued by the War Office for the purpose of housing the Central Prisoners of War Committee. I would add that the Air Ministry have acted throughout in this matter in consultation with the Office of Works. The sale of the premises was effected not by the Office of Works but by a controller appointed under the Board of Trade in whom the premises being enemy property had been vested. The Air Force took over these premises from the Central Prisoners of War Committee on 25th March, 1919. As the case was one of continuance of Government occupation under an existing Order no notice of requisition was called for.
§ Major LANE-FOX
May I ask whether it is not a fact that the present owner of these premises was allowed to purchase them without previous notice that commandeering was going to take place, and may I also ask why it is necessary for larger premises to be taken for the Air Force, in view of the obvious curtailment of their activities?