HC Deb 11 March 1942 vol 378 cc1035-7
16. Sir Frank Sanderson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings whether he is aware of the serious damage which is being sustained to property in Ealing and district through the careless manner in which railings are being uprooted; that they are being removed merely by the use of sledge-hammers in unskilled hands; and, in view of this, will he consider making it compulsory for railings to be removed by acetylene burners so far as practicable, and in all other cases that contracting by the ton should be dispensed with, and replaced by contracting on a time basis?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings (Mr. Hicks)

I am aware that damage has been done, in Ealing and elsewhere, and that in some cases this has been due to careless or unskilled workmanship. In all such cases the contractor is required to make good the damage; but there is inevitably some delay before this can be done. I regret that the burning off of railings is not practicable as a general rule, as the available supplies of gas and acetylene burners are urgently needed for war work of great importance. Various bases of contracting have been considered, but I am satisfied that the alternative of carrying out this work by prime cost contracts should not be adopted.

Sir F. Sanderson

Is my hon. Friend aware that as long as contracts on the present basis are continued, the contractors' only interest will be to collect the maximum amount of railings in the minimum amount of time, and that householders and property owners will have to suffer as a result; and will he not consider a more equitable means for the removal of railings?

Mr. Hicks

The question of other forms of contracts has been considered, but the necessity and urgency of getting this metal has been the condition which has decided in favour of these contracts. I hope that at a not too far distant date the property will be restored, I hope to the satisfaction of the owners.

Mr. Leslie Boyce

Will not the Department make representations to the contractors that they should not destroy property as carelessly as they are doing at the present time, when the removal of a few shillings' worth of railings causes many pounds' worth of damage?

Mr. Hicks

That representation has been made to them, and their hearts have been appealed to, but some of them are rather stubborn.

Sir Herbert Williams

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the Ealing district gates of artistic value are taken away without the owner being given any opportunity to appeal?

Mr. Hicks

That is not true. Notice has been given and published that anyone who wants to make an appeal against the taking of any railings or gates of artistic or historic merit can do so.

Sir H. Williams

Has the hon. Gentleman read the letter which I sent to him, giving a case of gates valued at £12 being smashed, without any such opportunity being given, to obtain scrap valued at 1s 1¼d.?

Mr. Hicks

I have read the letter and replied to it, and I hope the hon. Member will be satisfied with the reply.

21. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings whether he will instruct the local authorities, particularly in London, not to remove iron railings guarding the basements in front of houses, in view of the serious danger of accidents to pedestrians in the black-out and to children at all times?

Mr. Hicks

The direction to local authorities clearly states that no railings should be scheduled that are required for the safety of the public. If any railings to basement areas have been removed in consequence of undetected errors in scheduling, alternative protection is being provided.