§ Lord Bruce-Gardyne
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will make a Statement about the fire at Hampton Court Palace on 31st March.
§ Lord Elton
Her Majesty's Government greatly regret the loss of one life, and the severe fire damage to the King's Audience Chamber and the Cartoon Gallery, and apartments on the second and third floors of Hampton Court Palace on Monday 31st March. I must however express my heartfelt thanks to all those who were responsible for preventing any further loss of life, containing the damage to this major historic building and saving almost all the invaluable works of art.
The coroner and the fire brigade will be mounting their own investigation into the fire.
Temporary weather protection is now being erected over the damaged part of the Palace. The courtyards and those parts of the Palace which are safe were reopened to the public yesterday. Experts from the Property Services Agency and the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England are urgently assessing the extent of the damage and undertaking essential archaeological investigations. It is our firm intention to restore the damaged structure, but it is too soon to be able to say exactly how long that will take or what it will cost.
My right honourable friend has launched an inquiry into the discharge of his department's responsibilities, to see what lessons can be learned for the future. This will be undertaken by Sir John Garlick.
The terms of reference for the inquiry are:
To report on the discharge of the functions of the Secretary of State for the Environment in relation to Hampton Court Palace in the light of the events of 31st March 1986 with particular reference to:
- (i) maintenance;
- (ii) fire precautions; and
- (iii) the action taken when the fire was discovered and to make recommendations.