HC Deb 24 February 1920 vol 125 cc1528-9W
Viscount CURZON

asked the First Commissioner of Works what progress has been made towards returning to their owners and rendering fit for habitation the various hotels occupied by Government Departments during the War; how many hotels, museums, public buildings and private houses in the London area will still be occupied by Government Departments on 31st March next; what will be the cost of the rent of these buildings on that date; what is the cost of compensation paid for the use of buildings in the London area occupied by the Government up to date; if any estimate can be given of the total amount of compensation that will have to be paid when all public buildings are surrendered; if the premises occupied by the Air Ministry in Kingsway have been taken over by the Government; and, if so, at what cost?


asked the First Commissioner of Works whether all the upper Egyptian and Assyrian galleries of the British Museum, including the mummy room, and the whole of the prints and drawings department, including the students' room, and two of the rooms of Greek and Roman art, are still occupied by 128 members of the staff of the Registry of Friendly Societies, and have been closed to the public since March, 1916; whether in 1913 947,000 visits were made to the British Museum and that, owing to the closing of the departments and rooms mentioned above, many of the troops from our Dominions and Dependencies and from the United States were deprived of their only chance of visiting those unique collections; how many hotels, public institutions, town halls, and other public buildings have been restored to their proper uses since the Armistice; and whether, in the interest of the general public and the large body of students, he will without further delay find other premises for the housing of these 128 members of the staff of the Registry of Friendly Societies, and thereby enable the British Museum to be restored to its normal and legitimate uses?


So far as my Department is concerned, eighteen hotels in London were requisitioned during the War, of which ten the most important have now been released, and two more will be vacated by the 31st March next. On that date the Government will be partly in occupation of four museums and galleries (of which, however, three will be vacated in a few weeks' time), two hotels, two public institutions, and eighty private houses, at a rent approximately of £61,000 per annum. I am not in a position to state the total cost of compensation paid for the use of buildings in the London area, nor to give an estimate of the total amount that will have to be paid when all the premises are surrendered. The premises in Kingsway occupied by the Headquarters of the Air Ministry have been leased by the Government, but it would not be in the public interest for me to disclose the amount of the rent. As regards the British Museum, other premises have been found for the Registry, and it is hoped to remove the staff from the Museum by next Easter.