HC Deb 25 November 1959 vol 614 cc358-9
34. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for War what decision has been reached with regard to Eaton Hall, near Chester, in view of the long period his Department have not been able to find a use for the mansion.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)

I am afraid that I cannot yet make a statement, but I shall seek an opportunity of doing so as soon as a decision has been reached.

Mr. Dodds

Will the right hon. Gentleman be a little forthcoming about this, in view of the long time that this place has not been used and the mounting costs for dry rot? Will he explain why it has taken so long to come to a decision?

Mr. Soames

I must tell the hon. Gentleman that this is a matter which is exercising my mind very much and it has done so for a number of months now. This house was taken on a 99-year lease in 1947 at a time when the Army was very much larger than it is now. What we have to decide, now that we have no need for it as an O.C.T.U., is whether we are to alter the terms of the lease and put another unit in or whether we should endeavour to reach agreement with the estate to abandon the lease. Both of these courses involve very considerable expenditure. I am aware that it costs a considerable amount to keep and maintain the buildings while they are empty, but it is nothing compared with what the eventual decision will cost one way or the other. I am anxious that we should take the right decision. I am afraid that I must ask for a little more time before reaching a decision.

Mr. Fernyhough

Has the right hon. Gentleman ever considered consulting the Minister of Education? There are many people who think that this building would make an admirable teacher training college, and, as such facilities are needed, will he consult his right hon. Friend to see whether it could be used for that purpose?

Mr. Soames

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have not been backward in consulting my colleagues about the future use of this place.

Forward to