HC Deb 08 March 1944 vol 397 cc2029-31
10. Mr. Keelinģ

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that in an early Georgian house of great beauty, which he requisitioned three years ago, his department have recently smashed the seventeenth-century tiles, Chippendale girandoles, other fixtures and brickwork, and removed the staircases and mantels without giving any opportunity for their preservation; and whether those responsible have been dismissed or reprimanded.

Sir A. Sinclair

It was urgently necessary last autumn for structural alterations to be made to this property and I very much regret to say that the valuable nature of certain fixtures and decorations was not recognised at the outset of the work. The officers concerned acted in good faith and no disciplinary action was called for. Representations were made by the owner at an early stage and work was immediately suspended and a competent architect was charged with arranging, in consultation with the owner's surveyor, for the panelling, walls, ceilings and fittings to be taken down as carefully as possible, and as much as possible of what bad already been taken down to be properly stored. A letter of apology was sent to the owner and further instructions were immediately issued which will, I hope, prevent such mistakes in future.

Mr. Keelinģ

Can my right hon. Friend explain how it is that after all the experience he has had of this sort of thing in the first four years of the war, it is still going on? Will he say, quite definitely to all those who may be concerned in the future, that very severe steps will be taken if it happens again?

Sir A. Sinclair

My hon. Friend asks me to explain how it happened in this case. This property had been taken over for a long time before it was found necessary to make the structural alterations for operational reasons. Unfortunately, the officers who had to make them were not aware of the importance of these fittings. That is how this very deplorable destruction came about. I hope that the instructions which I have issued since, will have the effect which my hon. Friend wants.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the same solicitude and generosity be afforded to those working-class people who have been "blitzed" out of their humble homes?

Sir A. Sinclair

Of course, Sir. We try to do all we can to have regard to the convenience of people, irrespective of whether they are rich or poor.

Mr. Leach

Is there anything really very beautiful about an early Georgian house?

Hon. Members


Mr. Granville

May I bring to the notice of the Minister the destruction of houses of a similar character in other parts of the country, particularly in East Anglia? Will he see that the owners get the some treatment and consideration as have been given in this case?

Sir A. Sinclair

I shall be very glad if the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member, will bring to my notice such cases.