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Building Licence, Lancashire

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 November 1950

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asked the Minister of Works what were the circumstances that actuated him to increase the extent of the licensed work by £5,000, to enable the unlawful work carried out by Lord Peel on his residence "The Hyning" to be taken advantage of.


asked the Minister of Works if he will make a full statement on the circumstances under which officers acting for his Department visited a residence known as "The Hyning," Warton, near Carnforth, Lancashire, and subsequently submitted a report stating that building work was being done in and about such residence outside the limits of the existing licence; and if he will give details as to the reasons why, following the submission of such report, his Department approved the granting of a building licence of approximately £5,000 in order to complete building work held to be unlawful.

Licences were issued by the local authority in January, 1949, for the rehabilitation of this house, but, when officers of my Department visited the house in January this year, they found work in progress which was beyond that authorised. Although the house was virtually uninhabitable in its existing state, all work was stopped, so that, apart from the question of taking legal proceedings, immediate consideration could be given to the minimum amount of work needed to make the house habitable again, to remove danger and to avoid waste of materials.

The greater part of the value of the licences then given was accounted for by the price of antiques valued at over £3,000 which were to be fitted into the fabric and had already been bought. If their installation had not been allowed, ordinary building materials would have had to be used. It is my Department's normal practice in these cases to allow, without prejudice to possible proceedings, the minimum amount of work necessary to make the building usable, in order that building materials and labour already expended may not be wasted.

Is it the intention of my right hon. Friend to take any further steps, in view of this case, to prevent the excessive use of urgently needed building materials in other directions?

We do our best. We assume that, when licences are granted, people will play the game, and I really cannot afford to keep an army of snoopers watching what they are doing.

In view of the gravity of this case, does my right hon. Friend consider it proper policy that a prosecution should be gravely handicapped by the fact that his Department had granted a licence for the completion of what was already known to be illegal work? Will he study the comments of the learned judge in that connection?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for putting that question, since, in point of fact, the Director of Public Prosecutions was consulted before the further licence was issued and approved its issue.

Owing to the extraordinary confusion, which appears to be general, as to what kind of work calls for a licence, would the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of taking steps to enlighten the public on that matter?

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the attention of the court was drawn to the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions had been consulted in the way he now informs the House, and, if so, whether that information was brought to the notice of the court before the allegation of condonation by the Minister had prejudiced the matter?