HC Deb 23 September 1915 vol 74 cc548-9
6 and 7. Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether he will explain to the House what specific steps are being taken to impress upon householders the necessity of keeping their blinds drawn when using artificial light; whether he is aware that in many instances the blinds used are made of the usual thin material and in no way prevent the light being visible from outside, and that more especially is this the case at the West End of London in houses where the lower rooms are temporarily unoccupied by the owners; can he see his way to remedy a condition of things which might imperil the security of persons living in the near vicinity; and (2) whether he is aware of the skylights and glass domes in London through which artificial light is visible often at a late hour, that not only is this the case in buildings with large rooms for entertainments but also in building with long staircases; and, in view of the assistance this gives to enemy aircraft, whether he will issue more stringent rules in the matter than those now existing?


The regulation of lighting in the Metropolitan area, with a view to minimising risk from air raids, has been most carefully studied by the expert officers of the Admiralty, and the scheme adopted by the Home Office and the police authorities is based on their advice and is the result of repeated observations alike from the air and from the ground. The main object to be aimed at is uniformity rather than absolute darkness, and it is a matter of great importance that the scheme should be applied equally in all parts of this area, exceptional darkness being as likely to prove a distinctive mark as exceptional brightness. Private citizens and local authorities have shown themselves generally willing to accept the application of the scheme and the Lighting Orders made to give effect to it, but as some cases of local departure from the scheme have come to my notice, I am proposing to make a fresh Order defining more exactly some of the requirements, as, for instance, in the matter of the lights in private houses, and giving the police increased power to enforce it.


Are the Orders at present in force permanent Standing Orders, or are they varied from time to time? Have the police any discretion with regard to the enforcement of the Orders? Can they go to a private house and say, "Your light is too bright," and to another, "Your light is all right"? Are the Orders regular Orders?


The Lighting Orders made by the Home Office are made under statutory authority, but they can be varied from time to time. They are, however, of general application.


But are they of general application?


They are, but they can be varied, and I propose to vary in some respects the Order at present in force. As regards the action of the police, in the end we must rely on the co-operation and good sense of individual citizens, as London is far too big a place for a policeman to be told off to look after each individual house. Speaking generally, the public have acted perfectly well. The instructions to the police are that they may warn anybody who seems to have a light which might offend the Statute, and if their warning is disregarded proceedings can be taken.


Are we to understand that a private citizen has the right to ring the bell of a house where he sees too bright a light and when there is no policeman about?


I do not think anybody could prevent his ringing the bell. But, generally speaking, I think the best course for the public would be, if they think they have a well-grounded case, to communicate it to the police. Instructions are being sent to secure that such communications shall receive proper attention.

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