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British Author's Flat, Florence (Restoration)

Volume 439: debated on Monday 30 June 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that a flat at 24, Lungarno delle Grazie, Florence, Italy, the property of Mr. Norman Douglas, has been occupied at a nominal rent since 1941 by Italian Fascists; that repeated notices to quit have been unavailing, despite an assurance given to Mr. Douglas on behalf of the property adviser to the British Embassy, Rome, that the flat would probably be restored to him last March; that considerable inconvenience and hardship are thus caused to a distinguished author who is, moreover, debarred from access to his own library; and if he will take steps to secure the return of this property at once.

Yes, Sir. It is the responsibility of the local authorities to evict tenants. Under the existing law, the legal process to effect this cannot be commenced until reconsignment of the property has been completed. In Mr. Douglas's case a request for reconsignment was made to the Italian authorities last January, but the formalities were not completed by the Italian authorities till 5th May. His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome has repeatedly drawn the attention of the Italian authorities to the difficulties and delays which British subjects are experiencing in recovering their properties, and in Mr. Douglas's case has pressed for his flat to be restored to him.

While thanking my hon. Friend very warmly for his reply, may I ask if he will bear in mind that this most distinguished writer will be 80 years old next birthday, and that this flat and its contents are the only modest piece of property which he has to leave to his sons, who are in various parts of the world, and will he, therefore, intensify his representations?

I agree with the spirit of the supplementary question. I will do all I can.