HC Deb 29 June 1939 vol 349 cc619-20
80. Mr. Thorne

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information in connection with the fire at the offices of Messrs. Schenkers, shipping agents, Queen Victoria Street, on Monday, when a young girl lost her life; and whether there were proper iron escape staircases at the back of the building?

Mr. Peake

I understand that the coroner is investigating this case, and I am not in a position to make any statement at present.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

(by Private Notice) asked the Home Secretary whether he can account for the series of fires in London during the past few days; whether there is any reason to believe that they are the work of foreign agents; and what steps he is taking to prevent further outbreaks in the immediate future?

Mr. Peake

Exhaustive investigations are being made with a view to ascertaining the causes of these fires; but I am informed that a series of fires such as has recently occurred in the City of London is not unprecedented in the London Fire Brigade area. It would not be proper for me to make any further statement as to the causes of these fires to-day, as they may be the subject of fire inquests by the City Coroner in pursuance of his powers under the City of London Fire Inquests Act, 1888.

Mr. Stewart

Can the Under-Secretary say whether the City Police have called in the services of the Special Branch, and since all these fires have occurred within the danger zone of the City, will he not consider, in addition to the Coroner's inquiry, setting up a special commission to inquire into this special problem with a view to the better safety of London?

Mr. Peake

We already have in the City a special form of procedure into these matters, and I can assure the hon. Member that the Commissioner of Police is giving this question his personal attention.

Mr. Lawson

Is there any precedent for so many fires in so short a time?

Mr. Peake

Other outbreaks of fires have occurred in the past in the City in somewhat similar circumstances.

Mr. Thorne

Is the Under-Secretary aware that I paid a visit to Guildhall this morning and made a personal inquiry, and I was assured that the City authorities are going to make a thorough investigation into the cause of these fires?

Mr. Peake

That is so. There is to be an inquiry by the Coroner of the City of London, but, owing to the exceptional circumstances in this case, Scotland Yard are giving their assistance.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is it not a fact that warehouses are not under the supervision of the London Fire Brigade with respect to things like sprinklers and fire alarms? Would it not be a good thing if warehouses were put under the same regulations as other buildings?