HC Deb 02 April 1928 vol 215 cc1729-31

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £889,180, 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, 1929, for Expenditure in respect of Customs and Excise, Inland Revenue, Post Office and Telegraph Buildings in Great Britain, certain Post Offices Abroad, and for certain Expenses in connection with Boats and Launches belonging to the Customs and Excise Departmet." [Note: £444,600 has been voted on account.]

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir Vivian Henderson)

This Estimate may be divided into three parts, the Customs, the Post Office and the Revenue buildings, and these Estimates show a decrease of slightly over £60,000. The first part of the Estimate deals with the Customs and Excise buildings required for the accommodation of the Customs and Excise Department not only at the headquarters but also for local offices. The Vote for new works is a small one for the provision of new offices at the West India

Dock, which is necessary owing to the demolition of the existing premises due to an improvement which has taken place on the Dock Estate. Another section of the Vote provides for the Inland Revenue buildings in London and the provinces and local offices throughout the country. This expenditure is required in connection with the Inland Revenue Valuation Department and the staff of the Taxes Department, the estimate for which is anticipated to amount to £11,229, and the number of districts dealt with is 710. So far as the Land Valuation Department is concerned, there is a total staff of approximately 754, and there are 104 local offices.

The section relating to Post Office buildings applies to the provision and maintenance of Post Office, telegraph and wireless buildings, and the maintenance only of telephone exchange premises. In regard to new premises, there are four general grounds which have to be shown before new premises are built, and the Treasury has to be satisfied on one or other of those four grounds. One is that the premises are insecure so far as tenure is concerned; a second is that there is danger to the health of the staff in using the existing premises; a third is that, in the case of combined postal and telegraph buildings, that there are telephone requirements; and the fourth is that the present buildings are not adequate owing to an increase of Post Office development. Considerable progress has been made during the last few years in regard to the standardisation of Post Office buildings and equipment, and, in accordance with the recommendations of a Committee which sat some years ago, not only are building plans standardised to a large, extent, but also the accommodation and fittings. In certain cases it has been necessary to make a re-vote for some Post Office buildings, owing partly to adverse weather conditions, partly to difficulties in obtaining supplies, and partly to delays in completing drawings and tenders. As I think the Committee will realise, in connection with the erection of a large number of buildings all over the country it is almost impossible to avoid delay. For that purpose it has been the custom to make a certain lumpsum deduction from the Post Office Buildings Vote, and that has been done this year to the extent of £27,000.