HL Deb 20 March 1951 vol 170 cc1167-9

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government how much money has been spent since the war upon the construction or conversion of buildings for use as offices: (1) by Government Departments; (2) by nationalised undertakings; and how much further expenditure has so far been decided upon.]


My Lords, it is estimated that the amount of money spent upon the construction or conversion of buildings for use as Government offices between the end of the war and the present time is approximately £27,000,000. This average of £5,000,000 a year compares with present investment in housing of approximately £290,000,000 a year. The figure of £27,000,000 includes the cost of work already carried out on offices which are being erected by private developers for lease to the Ministry of Works and will cost approximately a further £5,000,000 to complete. The building programme for 1951–52 is set out in the Class VII Estimates, which have been published since the noble Lord gave notice of his Question. These include approximately £3,000,000 for office buildings most of which are already started. The programme for future years is being reviewed in the light of the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on February 15, that when the present requisitioning powers expire the Government will seek Parliamentary authority for their extension; new requisitioning will take place, if necessary, under existing powers, and land and buildings now held will be retained if necessary to meet Government requirements and to avoid new building.

With regard to the Government offices, noble Lords should bear in mind that during the period in question not only have 11,500,000 square feet of property being used as offices been released from requisition, including 4,800 houses and flats, but 1,000 offices have had to be provided for the National Insurance scheme alone. Noble Lords will appreciate that it is impossible to expand the social services to the extent that His Majesty's Government, and apparently His Majesty's Opposition also, consider appropriate, without pro-viding premises in which these services can be carried on. I regret that com-parable figures in respect of nationalised undertakings are not obtainable without undue expense of staff time.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his comprehensive and helpful reply, may I ask whether he can give the House any indication as to how the £3,000,000 forecast for 1951–52 is to be expended?


Part of the total cost of construction of the following projects is included in the £3,000,000 which I mentioned: new Government offices in Glasgow, in Whitehall Gardens and in Whitehall Place, the new Colonial Office, some Inland Revenue offices and local offices in London, and some miscellaneous work on offices, including adaptations. Work at Carlton House Terrace has been excluded, because no expenditure for this, other than the cost of acquiring the site, has been included in the 1951–52 Estimates. As I think I have already indicated to the noble Lord, the whole building programme is under review.


My Lords, may I ask a supplementary question? The figures the noble Lord gave me in answer to a not dissimilar question some months ago included a substantial sum for work done by private contractors on behalf of the Government. Are those totals included in the figure which he has now given?




My Lords, in view of the fact that the noble Lord was not able to give any figures for nationalised industries, can he say what is the free limit per building below which nationalised industries can build without licence?


Not without notice.


Does the noble Lord really mean that the nationalised industries do not know how much they have built, or that the Government has not bothered to ask them?


I do not think that is the answer. I am sure noble Lords would not desire an inordinate amount of labour to be expended in trying to obtain this information. The noble Lord should bear in mind that in regard to, I think, all the nationalised industries, no new headquarters had to be provided at all: they were already in existence.


I was not suggesting the use of a large amount of labour; I was suggesting a simple message to the Coal Board, the Transport Executive, and others, asking how much they had done. I am sure that would not need much labour.


I will certainly see whether I can obtain any information about that matter.


The Princes Hotel, Hove, at present occupied by the Southern Electricity Board, is entirely a requisitioned building. That does not tally with the noble Lord's answer.