Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,197,440, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for Expenditure in respect of sundry Public Buildings in Great Britain, including Historic Buildings, Ancient Monuments, and Brompton Cemetery."—[NOTE: £598,000 has been voted on account.]
I have no desire to detain the Committee, but I am much interested in the Estimate. What does Item "H" mean? Why for the first time this year are we to find £1,100 for the protection of Chequers? No protection was necessary under the late Government. What is this item? The hon. Gentleman who represents so ably his Department may have an explanation, and I think the House ought to have it.
As a matter of fact I was rather afraid this 1692 question might be raised; therefore I took the opportunity of looking more closely into it. It is perfectly true that an endowment was provided for Chequers out of which it was presumed that all costs were going to be met. The Committee will, perhaps, realise that Chequers is full of very valuable works of art and every single year those works of art are becoming more and more valuable. A picture which 10 years ago was worth, perhaps, only £100 might be worth £1,000 in a very short time. Chequers is very full of these works of art. I think Lord Lee's endowment was merely intended to provide for the maintenance of the structure and provide for the general building. I do not think it was ever intended to find protection for works of art.
It is merely a question of three police constables. Their duty is to protect the place from burglary.