HC Deb 13 April 1937 vol 322 cc905-7

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £121,720, 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 3rst day of March, 1938, for Expenditure in respect of Public Buildings Overseas."—[Note.—£60,000 has been voted on account.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Viant

We should like a few details about this Vote. I want to ask the hon. Member in charge of the Vote to look at page 62. One of the first items is connected with the purchase of a site and erection of new offices for the High Commissioner at Cape Town. There is an estimated expenditure of £30,000 towards the sum. We should like to know just what the cost of the site is and what is the type and amount of accommodation which is being provided. Further, we should like to know whether the building has been started, and, if so, when is it likely to be finished? The next point is in connection with the item allocated to Nanking, the erection of an Embassy at an estimated expenditure of £190,000. That is rather a considerable sum, although we are voting only £10,000 of that this evening. We should like to know the numbers and what is the amount of accommodation that is being provided, and whether the site has been acquired. On page 63 there is an item of £20,000, and it is suggested, according to the Estimate, that there we are to erect or purchase a residence, I do not know which, for the High Commissioner. We are to vote £20,000 for that purchase. I hope the hon. Member will be able to give the particulars I am asking for and the reasons why we should have to embark on the expenditure for an embassy and, in the other case, for a residence for the High Commissioner, and to state whether it would not be possible to throw the two together. There may be good reasons why they cannot be housed under one roof.

10.6 p.m.

Mr. Hudson

With regard, first of all, to the question of Cape Town, last year in return for the surrender of certain free services, the South African Government arranged to pay His Majesty's Government in this country a sum of £40,000 on the understanding that the money would be used for the purchase of a site in Cape Town, and subsequently one in Pretoria. The total sum for the sites would be £10,000, the site in Cape Town accounting for £7,500. The cost for the High Commissioner's building in Cape Town is going to amount to about £22,500, and part of that work is already in progress. The High Commissioner's staff numbers something like 25 or 30, I believe, and he not only deals with matters as the representative of this country in South Africa, as far as the Union Government is concerned, but he also has some work to do, I think, in connection with the natives. He is at present accommodated in a house on the outskirts of Cape Town—seven miles out—for which we pay rent of £840 a year. We have endeavoured to find a more suitable house, because it is too far out to be convenient. We have found a house which, it is believed, will be satisfactory in the residential district of Wynberg Hill. The second item to which the hon. Member refers is for the purchase of that house and the necessary adaptation, the adaptations amounting to a cost of about£2,500.

Now we come to Nanking. The money that is being asked for is in order to complete the purchase of the site. Provision was originally asked for in a Supplementary Vote for £13,000. The total cost of the site, including road charges and so forth, will be about £15,000. The hon. Member asks why should we have an Embassy at Nanking. The answer is that in the general opinion of the House and also of our commerical community in China it is essential that His Majesty's Ambassador in China should have an official residence in the town which is used as the capital by the Republic of China; therefore Nanking had to be selected. The hon. Member asked why such a large expenditure as £190,000 was anticipated. The answer, of course, is that His Majesty's Embassy in China comprises a comparatively large establishment. You have the Ambas- sador, you have the Counsellor, the various diplomatic secretaries, and you have also the consular officers, the Ambassador's Far Eastern staff, and interpreters, typists, wireless operators and so forth, all of whom it was considered desirable to accommodate in this building. The site is one of 16 to 17 acres. The hon. Member will realise that, in providing a modern building, having regard to the arrangements that have to be made for reasonable comfort for the people doing work under very difficult circumstances, the cost is not excessive. And because the amount has to be spread over five years the actual amount to be voted in any year is not very large.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again to-morrow.