Cost of damage caused by fire will be met by ticket receipts from visitors

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The Independent Online

Fire investigators were last night still trying to determine the cause of the blaze which damaged an unoccupied apartment at Buckingham Palace.

The final bill for the damage caused by the fire is expected to be met by ticket receipts from visitors to the Palace.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said that the fire detection systems implemented after the Windsor Castle blaze in 1992 had helped to prevent more serious damage.

The final bill for the restoration of Windsor Castle was £40m, most of which was also met from visitor ticket sales to both the Castle and Buckingham Palace. Sunday's blaze is nothing like as serious but serves as a reminder of the constant threat of fire to all the uninsured palaces.

The Palace said that three valuable paintings, including one by Joshua Reynolds and one by Benjamin West, which were in the flat at the time of the blaze, had escaped smoke or flame damaged and described the final cost of repair to the flat above the East Gallery as "minimal."

Simon Walker, the director of communications at Buckingham Palace, said: "The fire was controlled rapidly and covered a small area within the Palace. There is no damage to any works of art or furniture. There is a bit of flood damage to the carpets but it will not take that long to put that right."

Asked about the cause of the blaze, Mr Walker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we do know is it is nothing to do with the concerts or any of the arrangements to do with the jubilee. It is in a part of the Palace that is not being used."

A National Audit Office report in 1994 confirmed that none of the occupied palaces is commercially insured. The Government's policy is that insurance should be taken out only when it is cost-effective.

Critics argue that this means the palaces are not forced to comply with the rigorous safety standards insurance companies demand.

The Palace has made it clear that yesterday's concert and other jubilee arrangements were not to blame for Sunday's incident and fire officials ruled out foul play.

Pop stars including Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Brian May had to be evacuated along with royal staff as smoke and flames billowed from a glass roof near the Palace ballroom at dusk yesterday, during rehearsals for the concert.