HC Deb 26 February 1946 vol 419 cc1721-4
13. Major Wilkes

asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that I, Lancaster Place, the London office of Thomas Hedley and Company, Limited, New-castle-upon-Tyne, was requisitioned at the beginning of the war for the Ministry of Aircraft Production; that this company has now been informed that these premises are to be occupied by the Inland Revenue on an apparently long-term basis; that the manufacturing owners of these premises are handicapped in their work through having to spread their central office over four separate addresses throughout Shepperton and London; and whether he will consider handing over this office so that the firm may undertake the peacetime expansion of their business.

Mr. Tomlinson

I much regret the necessity for assigning these premises to the Inland Revenue Department. As my hon. Friend will understand, the difficulties as regards accommodation in London are such that, in allocating it, it is almost impossible to avoid causing inconvenience in one direction or another.

Major Wilkes

While one agrees that the necessities of war sometimes make it necessary to hand over the property of industrial firms to a Government Department, has not the time arisen when all firms, only too anxious to restart peacetime production, should have their premises requisitioned by a Government Department only in the most exceptional circumstances?

Mr. Tomlinson

I would point out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the results of the war are not yet over though the war is over; and that only in exceptional circumstances are requisitioning powers now being used.

18. Mr. Gilzean

asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that the Ministry of Food continues to occupy the College of Art in Edinburgh, that this college is a most important centre for the training of teachers, including ex-Service men and women who have been preparing for their art diploma; and will he take steps to find alternative accommodation for the food office.

Mr. Tomlinson

I can assure the hon. Member that every effort is being made, having regard to the urgency of surrendering these premises for their normal purposes, to secure alternative accommodation, but in view of the acute shortage of office premises in Edinburgh, I am unable at present to hold out any prospect of an early release.

Mr. Gilzean

Would the Minister turn his attention to the possibilities of the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh, which for a long time now has been used for practically nothing but sporadic exhibitions?

Mr. Tomlinson

I will certainly look into it.

19. Sir Harold Webbe

asked the Minister of Works how many self-contained flats in London are under requisition and being used as one-room hostels for civil servant trainees.

Mr. Tomlinson

There are no single-room flats used as hostel accommodation for Civil Service trainees. As a temporary measure a block of 35 flats in South Kensington is being used as a hostel for the accommodation of some 150 civil servants who were brought back to London last year There is no intention of retaining requisitioned accommodation to provide permanent living accommodation for civil servants.

Sir H. Webbe

Could not these particular civil servants have been accommodated on a hostel basis in one or more of the large houses in London which cannot be used for the accommodation of small families?

Mr. Tomlinson

They were not available at that time.

Sir H. Webbe

Who had them?

An Hon. Member

There are hundreds.

20. Sir H. Webbe

asked the Minister of Works how many square feet of office space in Westminster of which he has been informed, are under requisition; what was the average number of people employed there during each of the last three months; and how soon it will be possible to derequisition this office accommodation.

Mr. Tomlinson

About 12,000 square feet of office space is held on requisition in the premises in question. The staff in occupation was at one time approximately 200, but about a month ago this staff was reduced to about 160 and now numbers about no. Proposals are under active consideration to re-occupy the vacant space, and it is not possible at present to say when the accommodation will be derequisitioned.

22. Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that owners or tenants of hotels or residential clubs whose properties are requisitioned for the services of the' B.B.C. at a fraction of the commercial rent, are frequently unable to obtain even an approximate date for derequisitioning; that they are unable to take other premises as they do not know their position, and, meanwhile, have lost their means of livelihood; and what steps he proposes to remedy the position.

Mr. Tomlinson

No, Sir. The settled practice observed by requisitioning Departments is that, whenever possible, advance information as regards approximate dates of release is given to owners of hotels and similar establishments. In addition, local meetings are held from time to time with owners, hotel associations and other local interests, for the purpose of arranging programmes of release, and these programmes are kept under constant review.

With regard to the hon. and gallant Member's assertion, which I cannot accept, that the compensation rental of requisitioned premises only amounts to a fraction of the commercial rent, I would remind him that by the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, and the Treasury Order made thereunder, an owner may submit a claim for the revision, as from 24th February, 1946, of any compensation rental which is lower than both the rent now ruling and the rent obtaining in 1939.

Sir J. Lucas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Order has only been in practically two days, and, secondly, when the Ministry is unable to state within a term of years how long the requisitioning is to be continued, will they purchase the lease by arbitration, if the tenant so desires?

Mr. Tomlinson

I will look at any case to see if that could be done.