Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £81,840, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for Expenditure in respect of Public Buildings Overseas.''—[Note.—£46,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 11.56 p.m.
§ Mr. VIANT
I notice that there are new works and alterations in respect of the Paris Embassy to the amount of £5,262, and an expenditure of £9,000 on the Athens Legation for improved accommodation by the provision of additional bedrooms, etc. The expenditure proposed to be incurred on the Paris Embassy must, of necessity, mean that a considerable amount of work is to be done. We should like to know the nature of the work and the method to be adopted in carrying it out. Is it to be put out to contract to be carried out by a British firm or a French firm? Is the work at the Athens Legation to be carried out by a British or an Athens firm? What is the nature of the work at Cape Town amounting to £27,500, and by whom is it to be done? We should like similar information with respect to work at Pretoria amounting to £15,500. I hope that the First Commissioner of Works will be able to give the information for which I have asked.
§ 11.58 p.m.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The original system of central heating provided at the 1059 Paris Embassy was only partial and was obsolete. The improvement has been deferred for many years owing to the inevitable disturbance that would be involved. The Paris Embassy is a picturesque old house formerly occupied by Princess Pauline of Borghese and has old associations. The improvement could no longer be delayed, and work was put in hand last summer. It was found that extensive deterioration of the structural woodwork had taken place, and it was necessary to incur considerable additional expenditure on the work. Provision is required to cover the expenditure of money on this work. All these contracts have to be carried out by local workpeople in the various countries where we have embassies and legations. Athens is, I agree, a formidable business. The existing Legation building has for many years been considered inadequate and unsatisfactory, and in 1929 a new site was purchased for the erection of a new Legation. Successive Ministers were opposed to the idea of building on this site, and as the district in which it is situated has failed to develop on the lines originally anticipated, it is to be disposed of at the earliest favourable opportunity. Having regard to the high cost of any alternative site and the present financial conditions in Greece, it is proposed to improve and renovate the existing not too satisfactory building pending the return of more satisfactory conditions. The explanation about bedrooms, I agree, is inadequate. The scheme contemplated was the complete reconstruction of the Chancery, the renovation of all the kitchen and service quarters, the provision of three additional bedrooms, the installation of electric light and heating, and overhaul of the drainage system, which is badly needed. I am surprised that we were going to get out of it for £9,000. It is virtually a new building so far as the offices and out-buildings are concerned.
Regarding Cape Town, the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs will answer any detailed questions. The High Commissioner of South Africa is now the representative of His' Majesty's Government in Great Britain, and he has 1060 taken over duties formerly performed by the Governor-General and his staff in looking after Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland. He has to have offices in close contact with the. Union Government at Pretoria and Cape Town, and we have to acquire new sites and new offices. The new office at Cape Town is in connection with the proposed demolition and reconstruction scheme initiated by the South African Government. The High Commissioner's office is at present accommodated in 83, Parliament Street, Cape Town, and is the property of the Union Government. The Union Government intend to demolish these premises and the whole of the upper part of that street, to make way for new and much larger South African Government offices. The site which we have accepted for our new office building comes within this scheme of development, and the new building will be in harmony with the new South African Government handing. That is the cause of the expenditure there.
The provision for Pretoria is required to cover one-half of the £10,000 to be paid to the Union Government for a site in Pretoria which forms part of the estate where an office is required for the representative of our Government in the Union, in close connection with the buildings of the Union Government.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.