HC Deb 15 February 1937 vol 320 cc841-3
57. Commander Locker-Lampson

asked the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, in view of the increased financial aid to be made available for Defence, whether the first aim of the Government will be to make the position of this country paramount in the air; and whether grants will be made to large industrial centres, such as Birmingham, to perfect their plans for protection against hostile aircraft?

The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence (Sir Thomas Inskip)

The basis of the Government's re-armament policy remains as stated in the White Paper (Cmd. 5107) and the object of the financial arrangements which have been outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to implement that policy. With regard to the second part of the question, as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) on 1st February, the question of the general incidence of financial responsibility for air raid precautions is now under review in the light of representations which have been made to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the subject. A memorandum on the subject of emergency fire brigade organisation and a circular indicating the extent and the conditions of Exchequer assistance will be issued very shortly.

Mr. Thorne

Has the right hon. Gentleman ever read the theatrical play "The Road to Ruin"?

63. Mr. Duncan

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the experimental refuge-room at the air-raids precautions training school at Falfield is constructed like an ordinary worker's dwelling and in such a way that on a windy day the volume of air which can enter or leave the room in 15 minutes, when made gas proof, is equivalent to the volume of air in the room at any particular moment; and whether he is satisfied as to the efficacy of the gas-proofing?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

The recommended methods of gas-proofing houses are taught at the Civilian Anti-Gas School at Falfield, and gas is discharged against a number of wooden structures which have been erected on the range there for demonstration purposes. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative. With regard to the last part of the question, my right hon. Friend is satisfied that the recommended methods of gas-proofing would be effective in affording a very great measure of protection against any type or concentration of gas which might be expected in the event of gas attack from the air.

64. Mr. Duncan

asked the Home Secretary whether a room rendered gas-proof by the method used at the Falfield air-raids precautions training school is effectively protected if a quantity of phosgene gas be liberated three miles to windward to drift down-wind upon the building?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes, Sir.

65. Mr. Duncan

asked the Home Secretary whether the gas-masks now being produced by his Department can be worn by children and old persons without discomfort and with adequate protection against gas?

Mr. Lloyd

The respirator intended for the civilian population has been specially designed to provide less resistance to breathing than the respirator issued to the Services: and for this and other reasons it can be worn without discomfort by elderly persons and by children over four or five years. For infants and very young children, a special device is being designed which will take the place of the respirator. In regard to the latter part of the question, the Government are satisfied, as a result of exhaustive trials, that the civilian respirator will effectively protect the face, eyes and lungs against any type of gas which, so far as is known, could be used in war.

Mr. Duncan

Will my hon. Friend convey those three answers to the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt)?

Mr. Sorensen

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that a group of scientists of some distinction investigating these alleged precautions have declared that there is no effective protection whatever?

Mr. Lloyd

I am aware that some persons calling themselves the Cambridge Scientists' Anti-War Group have made some observations on this subject, but it is not clear whether their interests are primarily scientific or political.

Mr. Sorensen

Arising out of that answer, is there any reason why the hon. Gentleman should suspect the motives of this particular group, and will he take action to investigate the charges to see whether they are true?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member ought to give notice of that question.