HC Deb 05 March 1934 vol 286 cc1584-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £28,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Commissioners of His Majesty's Works and Public Buildings.

5.48 p.m.


This Estimate arises out of the necessity of adding to the technical staff of the Office of Works this financial year in order to prepare for increased Post Office expenditure in the main, and a certain increase of expenditure on other building Votes next year. If you are to spend more money on buildings in the following financial year, you cannot wait until that financial year in order to get your staff ready. Drawings and similar things have to be prepared beforehand. As a result of the carrying out of the Bridgeman Committee's recommendations for the Post Office, and of the energy of the Postmaster-General, Post Office work, particularly in the direction of new telephone exchanges, is going ahead faster than was anticipated when the original Estimate made in January, 1933, was approved. We have to do now extra work in the Office of Works in preparing for new works for the Post Office next year. In this financial year the Postmaster-General has arranged for the acceleration of 26 of these schemes, and preparation is required now for 36 additional schemes for next year, all of which means that the agency work of the Office of Works has to be expanded. Consequently, in the last few months of this financial year, the Office of Works has had to take on 55 new draughtsmen in the Chief Architect's division and six assistants in the Chief Quantity Surveyor's division. Their salaries form the greater part of this Supplementary Estimate. There is a small item for increased travelling owing to the fact that, particularly in the early stages of these schemes, various sites have to be inspected and gone over and the architects and their staffs have to see them and settle matters connected with them, and that means extra salary.

The second item that causes the Estimate to be brought before the Committee arises owing to the fact that the Postmaster-General has not paid me for the agency services quite as I expected he would. The principal reason for this is probably not what would appear on the face of it, but that work that we expected to be paid for in this year was paid not in this financial year but in the last financial year. The Postmaster-General last March paid £7,000 which we had anticipated would be received in April. Owing to the system of annual accounting, that meant that there was a windfall to the Exchequer last year, and that makes a deficit of the £7,000 which I expected to get in this accounting year. Apart from that, the remainder of the £12,000 is due largely to the fact that several of the Post Office schemes for which we had expected payment of agency fees in this financial year have not fallen due in this financial year. The principal case, for example, is that of the new Mint Telephone Exchange. That is not exactly the fault of the Postmaster-General. He needed very large accommodation, and the only way we could provide it was to erect a building of exceptional height. There has been a good deal of talk in the public Press and elsewhere about new buildings in London going up to an undue height, having regard to their immediate neighbours. Before allowing the Postmaster-General to go on with the scheme as it was drawn, we decided to refer the matter to the Royal Fine Art Commission for its opinion. It made certain recommendations and modified the proposed building, and that involved a certain amount of delay in the erection of the building, and I have not got the money from the Postmaster-General that I expected in this accounting year. That explains how this Supplementary Estimate has arisen.

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