§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [15th November], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House, whilst conscious of the regrettable necessity for taking measures to protect life and property in the event of air raids, cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which does not provide for the cost involved being made a national charge."—[Mr. Herbert Morrison.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 3.59 P.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
When you interrupted me last night, Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the Rules of the House, I had virtually completed my preliminary compliments to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland upon the speech which he had delivered: I now address myself, in the very few and brief observations on which I venture, to some of the aspects of the Bill that is before us—a Bill which, I need scarcely say, commands my wholehearted support. I think the Government were right not to lead the country into a vast expenditure upon bomb-proof shelters against large armour-piercing or semi-armour-piercing projectiles. Perhaps it was not an easy decision to take, but upon the whole I think they were quite right not to take any responsibility for affording complete immunity by passive defence to the population against air attack. It is beyond the power of any organisation to do that.
But these large armour-piercing or semi-armour-piercing projectiles are not the ones which would be used against the civil population. They are used to attack warships, perhaps to attack power stations or docks, or possibly to disorganise the water supply and electric mains of great cities; but as a weapon to attack the general civil population they would be obviously unsuitable. Only five can be carried to a ton. That people should come all the way across the sea and land, with all the dangers of air raids, to carry the best part of a ton 244 of steel in projectiles when they can effect incomparably greater damage by bringing 25 times as many 20-lb. high explosive bombs—to suggest that, is not entirely to apprehend the actual problem.
The statement which was made that it took 20 feet to 24 feet of concrete to give protection against high explosive bombs must, of course, be qualified by the fact that these particular armour-piercing bombs would not be used against the civil population, and that for all practical purposes very much lighter structures give a very considerable measure of immunity; and although I agree with the Government that it would be wrong to consume an undue proportion of our limited resources upon what is, after all, the most extreme form of passive defence—the funk hole—although it would be wrong to consume an undue proportion of our resources in that, I do not think the question is quite disposed of by the treatment it has received from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Some more study should be given to the provision of immunity from high explosive bombs which are in tin containers and have no great penetrative power, but have enormously destructive power when flung among the ordinary habitations in which the unfortunate human race resides.
I was also very glad to hear from the Home Secretary that he is, as the expression goes, fully alive to the danger of incendiary bombs. He said yesterday:I am inclined to think that in the past we have not given sufficient attention to the dangers of the incendiary bomb, that is to say, the small bomb that can start a very large number of fires."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 55th November, 1937; col. 47, Vol. 329.]I hope my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I turn to the valuable records of the House and say it is quite clear that my pleasure in hearing him say that has a foundation. Exactly three yeare ago, in November, 1934, in the Debate on the Address I said:The most dangerous form of air attack is the attack by incendiary bombs. Such an attack was planned by the Germans for the Summer of 5958, I think for the time of the harvest moon. The argument in favour of such an attack was that if in any great city there are, we will say, 50 fire brigades, and you start simultaneously 100 fires or 80 fires, and the wind is high, an almost incalculable conflagration may result. … Since those days the incendiary thermite bomb has become far more powerful than any that was used in the late War.245 I presume that it was of the thermite bomb that the Home Secretary was speaking yesterday.It will in fact, I am assured by persons who are acquainted with the science, go through a series of floors in any building, igniting each one simultaneously."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1934; cols. 858 and 859, Vol. 295.]I am naturally glad to find that my right hon. Friend is in agreement with me and others of that time in feeling that insufficient attention has been given in the past to the dangers of this attack, and I earnestly trust that it will be the subject of continuous study. It is quite true that apparently it has not manifested itself as at all decisive in the fighting at Madrid, but you never can tell altogether what may be the reasons for the non-employment of this weapon against that city.
It is, however, of the more general aspects that I wish to speak to-day. I really feel that it is much better to refer to what one said in the past than to create a repetition of it in the present.
§ Mr. Churchill
No, not always, but I do riot feel at any greater disability than a great many Members who sit in different parts of the House. I must ask the Government whether these aspects are also receiving attention:Not less formidable than these material effects are the reactions which will be produced upon the mind of the civil population. We must expect that under the pressure of continuous air attack upon London at least 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people would be driven out into the open country around the Metropolis. This vast mass of human beings. numerically far larger than any armies which have been fed and moved in war, without shelter and without food, without sanitation and without special provision for the maintenance of order, would confront the Government of the day with an administrative problem of the first magnitude, and would certainly absorb the energies of our small Army and of our Territorial Force. Problems of this kind have never been faced before, and although there is no need to exaggerate them, neither on the other hand is there any need to shrink from facing the immense unprecedented difficulties which they involve. Then there are the questions of the docks of London and the Estuary of the Thames. Every-one knows the dependence of this immense community, the most prosperous in the whole world, upon Eastern approaches by water.' '—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1934; COI. 859; Vol. 295.]246 I want to ask that at some time or other we shall receive assurances that these aspects of the problem are being dealt with by His Majesty's Government, and when I say "dealt with" I do not mean merely that committee has been set up and has written out a paper scheme, but that definite, drastic, concrete steps have been taken in the appointment of individuals in the different localities, the marking of different areas, so that if, which Heaven avert, trouble should come upon us, there will be a practical scheme upon which and by which this immense and tortured population may be defended. Those words which the House has kindly allowed me to read—I apologise for repeating them—were spoken in 1934. Nothing that was essential to this problem is known now that was not known then. On the other hand almost everything in general has deteriorated. The German Air Force is substantially stronger than ours; our relations with certain foreign countries have been gravely impaired; and, therefore, everything shows how urgent these warnings were at the time they were given and with what greater emphasis they press upon us now. This particular sphere of our Defence, these air-raid precautions, although by no means primarily of extreme consequence, are in fact indispensable in a coherent scheme.
No doubt hon. Members have heard that there is talk sometimes, when these great war questions are being examined, of what is called a nine days war. That is a war which is so short that the scarcity of food and of raw material would not prevent an aggressor from striking down its victims and gaining a final result before the shortages became effective. It is an attempt, which this Bill seeks to face, by an act of mass terror to inflict such a slaughter on the women and children and helpless population that they would make the Government surrender the rights, possessions and freedom of the country. That is a most hideous form of attack, and without the provisions contained in this Bill we are certainly not capable of resisting it. This is an indispensable part in our method of resistance. How should such an attack be met? It can certainly not be met by any system of passive defence. It can only be met by well directed counter-objectives, against military targets, military objectives. I believe there is no doubt that if one side in an equal war endeavours 247 to cow and kill the civil population, and the other attacks steadily the military objectives, the focal points on which the opponents war-making capacity depends, victory will come to the side, all other things being equal, which avoids the horror of making war on the helpless and weak. But for this time will be needed—months will be needed.
§ Mr. Churchill
If the forces are equal, if the spirit is equal, if the loyalties are equal. But time will be needed for any effects of this kind to manifest themselves, and meanwhile the resisting power and the capacity for enduring punishment with fortitude and with the least possible slaughter on the part of the civilian population will be a vital factor. If it is thought that they can be made to give in or to make their Government give in before the regular operations of war can get to work, then this odious and frightful form of warfare comes much nearer to us, because it is much more likely to be employed. The way to prevent such a horrible form—we see it in the Far East—being employed, is to be obviously well organised, so as to make the crime not worth committing.
Therefore, our defence precautions, although only subsidiary to the general problem, may nevertheless make the difference not only between victory and defeat but, what is even more important, may make the difference between the thing being tried or not tried at all; may make the difference between the peace being broken and the peace being preserved. The vulnerable character of Great Britain and its great cities, particularly London, constitutes a danger not only of profound pre-occupation to ourselves, but one which if it is not remedied by constant and well-conceived measures may well draw down upon whole world the on-rush of a measureless catastrophe. Therefore, I find myself in the fullest accord with the Government in the Bill which they have at last produced. [Intoyuption.] I sometimes receive a little applause from this quarter and from that, but I doubt whether there will be any moment in my speech when I shall receive it simultaneously from both sides of the House.
248 The next milestone in this story is the circular of 9th July, 1935. By that time we had moved on. It was found, contrary to the expectation and the figures at the disposal of the Government, contrary to the hope they had expressed, that Germany had a large organised air force. Then there was this circular issued to local authorities. It contains these words:Developments in the air have made it possible for air attacks on a large scale to be delivered, and delivered suddenly, on many parts of this country; and despite the steps which the Government are taking to increase the Air Force for home defence and the ground anti-aircraft defences, it is impossible to guarantee immunity from attack.…So long as the possibility of attack exists, it is necessary to create organisations to minimise the consequences of attack and, as it would not be possible to improvise effective measures on the spur of the moment in time of emergency, preparation must be made in time of peace.That is July, 1935, and, of course, this Bill is a child of this circular. The process of its birth throes appears to have been severely protracted; in fact, when I took up this admirable Bill and began to look at it, I thought there must be some misprint, and that 4th November, 1937, should surely have been 4th November, 1935. There is nothing whatever that is known now which was not known then relative to this Bill. There is no reason why this Measure should not have been brought before Parliament when we reassembled in the autumn of 1935. I make no particular criticism upon individuals, least of all upon the present Home Secretary, because it has been stated from the other side of the House that since he came to the Home Office he has made the whole of this process move forward. But I must say this. I do feel that up to the present we have received no adequate explanation—perhaps there is one to come of the hiatus of two years which seems to have intervened in carrying forward the negotiations with local authorities and presenting a Bill to the House, and I say that a very serious responsibility rests upon all or any, whether they be national or local authorities, who have contributed in any way to this delay.
Of course, the main responsibility rests upon Ministers. Their power is overwhelming. They have the whole matter in their hands, and are supported by the great majority of Parliament. There is nothing they can ask Parliament for in this matter in which they will not be 249 whole-heartedly supported. It seems to me that we ought to hear some fuller explanation for this hiatus than anything which has been offered to us up to the present time. I hope and trust that this delay is not typical. I earnestly hope that what we have seen before us in this matter of air-raid precautions, which is necessarily discussed in the public eye, is riot representative of what has been going on in other and more active branches of our defences. I hope, indeed I am sure, it is not in that first and vital of our defences, the Royal Navy. If the responsibility of Ministers is paramount, local authorities also have a definite share of the burden, and although I listened with, I must admit, increasing sympathy to the extremely workmanlike account given by the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), I cannot feel that he has, on behalf of the local authorities, a very good tale to tell.
From the very beginning, 22 years ago, their first thought was to claim 100 per cent. from the Government for air-raid precautions. I challenge that principle absolutely. These passive precautions are not in any way on the same footing as the Fighting Services. We are told that this is a new feature in local government. But surely an attempt to undermine the freedom of a great people by destroying their women and children from the air, is a new feature in the government of man. These passive precautions are so intimately associated with the localities that they can only be administered by the localities, and without an earnest and helpful effort on the part of localities nothing that the central Government can do will be of any avail. If these measures are to be administered frugally and effectively, local authorities must bear their share of the expenditure, and must have an effective interest in the economies which they can create from day to day without prejudice to efficiency.
I am speaking of the percentage, arid I must say it seems to me that the attitude of the Government has been generous in the last degree. My right hon. Friend gave us a long account of the successive stages of the negotiations in the last few weeks. He began by offering to share the administrative services on the basis of 50–50. That, I should have thought, was a very fair offer. Still, after three or four separate concessions had been made, the position at this moment is 250 that the Government are bearing at least nine-tenths—[Interruption.]—I am told it is much more than that—of the whole expenditure. Taking also into consideration the provision of the appliances to protect civilians in the localities who would otherwise suffer most cruel tribulations, the Government are contributing at least nine-tenths of the total expenditure. Still the right hon. Gentleman opposite is not satisfied; still those for whom he speaks, and who with a consummate art of generalship he keeps together in a strong body, are not satisfied. Now we have reached a position where the whole burden is borne by the central Government except a minimum percentage which is insisted upon to ensure that local authorities have an interest in a healthy administration.
When I listened to the account which my right hon. Friend gave yesterday of the successive concessions he has offered, and which were so continuously rejected by the local authorities, I could not have blamed him or his Department if a certain mood of exasperation had stolen over them from time to time. But nothing like that seems to have occurred. On the contrary, they appear to be mild and meek in the last degree. They speak of the attitude of local authorities as being most friendly. When I look at the correspondence of 5th November, I find it remarkable that they should be so ready to kiss the rod. The local authorities take the point that considerably more than two years have passed since the Government announced that air-raid precautions had become a matter of grave urgency, and point out that the matter has moved no further forward. They repudiate all responsibility for the delay, but express their willingness to administer any funds which the central Government may place at their disposal.
I am not saying that this is really the view of local authorities, but that is undoubtedly the view contained in their letter of 5th November, and I say it is a captious and censorious document. But what is the attitude of my right hon. Friend and his Department? They say, "Thank you so much for your friendly letter." In ordinary life if a man says you have grossly neglected your duty, that he takes no responsibility for any evil consequences which may arise but is willing to spend money as he thinks best if you hand it over, one would hardly 251 reply, "Thank you so much old chap. I am grateful to you for your friendly attitude." It seems to me that on the question of the percentage grant the Government are not only justified but are bound in the public interest to stand strictly upon the figure they have fixed, and I have no doubt that not only Parliament but public opinion will support them in that course.
There is, however, another aspect to which I would bespeak the attention of the House. A proposal has been made that the Government should give an assurance that the burden upon any local authority shall not exceed the produce of a 2d. rate, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite stated yesterday that if this were agreed to, the Opposition of local authorities would be withdrawn. They would then start on this long process of cooperation from a basis on which all were agreed. That, I thought, was a very remarkable statement, because although the right hon. Gentleman is in a dual capacity here, one can hardly think that if he agreed in one capacity he would not at the same time influence his friends on the political side in his other capacity. I venture to ask the House to look patiently at this point. We certainly cannot have any local authority, drawing a blank cheque on the nation and spending money, perhaps out of all proportion to other authorities, and perhaps out of all proportion to what is deemed necessary, in the name of air-raid precautions. Nobody could say that that ought to take place. The taxpayer is obviously entitled to protection from abuses of that kind. But the statements which have been made by the Government show how very small and how very unlikely this particular contingency is. Last night, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in a remarkable passage which I characterise as one of high candour and honesty, very admirably said:If we were to make this concession … what would be the result? It would have no effect whatever—certainly not in 99 cases out of 100. The only possible authority which would be—affected would be—as far as I can make out the OFFICIAL REPORT, which is not quite complete—that one out of 100 that conducted its affairs without regard whatever to economy and with the utmost recklessness."—[OFFICIAL 252 REPORT, 15th November, 1937, col. 163, Vol. 329.]Where, then, is the difference between the two sides of the House at the moment? Obviously, it is reduced to microscopic dimensions. It might well have been worth while fighting over a fifty-fifty arrangement: but this is not a question of more money; it is simply a question of framing certain words or provisions in the Bill to ensure what we none of us wish to allow, namely, the abuse by a particular authority, one in a hundred, of the general provisions of this Bill and of drawing unduly upon the national Exchequer.
I feel—and I throw this out to the House—it would be a very fine thing if we could be united in this matter. Frankly, I do not see, from anything that has been said by the Government, in what the substance of difference now consists. One could easily devise half a dozen ways in which one authority that misbehaved itself could be dealt with; some provision for taking over or for restraining could easily be inserted in special cases. Besides, I believe that even in the Bill itself there are considerable provisions which would give control over absolutely unnecessary or extravagant schemes, and prevent them from being executed by the local authorities. I say that not only is the House agreed upon the principle of the Bill, but there really is, in fact, entire agreement, apart from this very small point, upon the financial arrangements and the form which the Bill should take.
I do hope that some effort will be made, even at the eleventh hour, for, after all, it is a matter of public importance for us to reach complete agreement, not only an agreement between the national and local authorities, which is important, but which I have no doubt they will reach as soon as they get to work, but between both sides of the House. It would be a good thing to start on a common footing, nobody having got any advantage over anybody else. But, still more, it is of importance to try to deal with this matter on the basis of agreement when one looks outside this island and sees how these matters will be viewed from afar. If there is a Division I shall vote with the Government, but is it not possible to avoid a Division on what is a vital aspect of National Defence?
I do not like to think how the advocates of totalitarian dictatorships—I will put 253 it in that way so as to be quite impersonal—will grin when they read this sad story, and find that even at the end of it, after all these years of petty squabbling and delay, there is still a Division which has to be voted on in the House of Sommons. How will they be impressed? I am on the same side with hon. Gentlemen in desiring to resist these totalitarian systems. I am wholly with them in this matter; I should get just as bad a time under them as any other hon. Member, whether from the Clydebank or not. Self-preservation is one of the matters which we have in common. So do not let us quarrel when, as a matter of fact, we cannot afford to quarrel at the present time on these things.
How those persons who think that democracy is played out and that Parliamentary Government cannot make effective preparations for war or a policy of defence, will plume themselves upon the superiority of their institutions, where orders can be given on a gigantic scale and be instantly obeyed throughout communities of 40,000,000, 50,000,000 or 60,000,000 people, and where the entire community is organised, by terror and every kind of pressure, into one absolutely obedient instrument. The only chance for the defenders of liberty and democracy in a world like this is to substitute for the many advantages which despotic authority gains in the field of action a lively comradeship and association which enables them, by the co-operation of all quarters and of all sorts and kinds of citizens, to produce not merely an equally fine but a more flexible and more durable organisation. The fact that more than two or three years have passed in this squabble without any practical agreement is a reproach to the system of free government which we enjoy, love and seek to preserve.
I would not in these circumstances, after all that has happened, press the Government to concede another penny on the percentages. I would not ask them to deprive themselves of any means of preventing effectively reckless abuse, but if these objects can be obtained in a manner which carries with it the agreement of the party opposite and of local as well as national authorities, then surely it would be worth while to endeavour to achieve that, and to demonstrate this agreement in the most impressive manner 254 in our power. Therefore, I hope that either a further effort will be made in the few hours that remain—and I have seen much business done very quickly in this ancient House of Commons or that, when the Minister comes to reply to the Debate, he will give us more reasons than we have at present for the Government not being able to deal with the case of one recalcitrant or extravagant authority in a hundred.
I thank the House for listening to this statement, which is certainly not a partisan one, for the Government probably are not altogether in agreement with many of the things which I have said. But I have one other word to say before I close. I could not listen to the speech of the right hon. Gentlemen who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench without feeling that there was a great contrast between the first part of it and the last part of it. In the first part we saw him living up to his position as the chief municipal officer of the greatest city in the world, and also the most vulnerable city in the world. In the second part we saw him endeavouring to state the views of those on the bench on which he sits. What a contrast
I do not know who it was, but it may have been the Prime Minister, who the other day, in a speech in the country, reminded us of the well-known tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The dual personality of the right hon. Gentleman opposite is very apparent, but what we have never seen before or what I have very rarely seen before—and what we were privileged to witness yesterday was the actual public transmogrification of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde before our very eyes. It was most remarkable to see the right hon. Gentleman sweep away all of his responsibility, all of his care and all of this extremely reasonable discussion—so formidable in Parliamentary Debate on the difficult topics with which he was dealing—and then to come back to the old party tags which in more easy and quiet times may well be the stock-in-trade between politicians on the two Front Benches.
When the right hon. Gentleman suggested to the House that if bombing aeroplanes and the idea of using bombing from the air existed in the world to-day, it was all due to the fact that Lord Londonderry had said something or had not 255 said something, that he ought to have done something or ought not to have done something, at Geneva or in another place, he put a strain not only on the credulity, but upon the decorum of the House of Commons. When the right hon. Gentleman proceeded further to suggest that Lord Londonderry had resumed his time-honoured function of extending party hospitality on the eve of the Session and had been chosen president of the National Union of Conservative Associations because the new Prime Minister was more favourable to air bombing than his predecessor, then I say that the right hon. Gentleman, on whose career the House and the country look with great interest and very great hope, entered a region which baffles even the most extensive vocabulary; where the facetious monstrosity of his assertions defies rejoinder, and happily they do not need it because of their inherent folly.
§ 4.44 P.m.
§ Mr. Leonard
I have listened with intense interest to most of the speeches that have been made. The assertion that struck me most was that made by some hon. Members that the observations that have been circulated by the local authorities do not truly reflect the opinion of the people within their jurisdiction. I cannot understand how it is that in a matter of such moment as this such an assertion can be ma de as that the elected representatives of the people in the counties, towns and boroughs are not capable of truly reflecting the desires of the people in their areas. Therefore, I intend in my speech to reiterate the opinion of the Glasgow Corporation, and in doing so, I wish to state that ample opportunities have presented themselves in that city for having this important matter discussed. The people of the city of Glasgow have taken the opportunities so presented from time to time to make clear their attitude on the question of air-raid precautions. It is, therefore, proper for the Glasgow Corporation to write to the Members for that city and to state that while they will readily co-operate with the Government in carrying out air-raid precautions they are definitely of opinion that the whole cost of the service in question should be borne by the Government. We, as representatives of Glasgow, are asked to give support to that claim, and that 256 support I readily give, believing the claim to be a just one.
With regard to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, may I say that it is the case, as he has admitted, that a great share of this burden will be placed upon the local authorities? But I cannot agree with his suggestion that air-raid precautions represent something totally different from the operations of the Army and Navy. It is only a question of degree. It has now been found that warfare, which was previously prosecuted through the medium of the Army and Navy, requires a new feature. That new feature is the air arm and related to it, is the necessity for these precautions. With regard to the question of responsibility, I admit that there is something to be said for the view that administrative bodies should have placed upon them some degree of financial burden as a guarantee of economy. The illustration which comes to my mind in that connection is that of health services. It is true that the actions of a local authority are closely related to health conditions in the part of the country over which it has jurisdiction and that the health services also have their effect on the country in general. But I do not think the same argument applies to air-raid precautions. I think that responsibility for policy in this case must reside in this House and that the policy must be national in its character. Therefore, the Government is the body which should be responsible for maintaining the whole of the burden.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we could not have local authorities drawing a blank cheque on the nation. When he said that, it occurred to me that many distressed areas, including Glasgow, have been forced to bear what is really the nation's burden in dealing with unemployment and the destitution which it has caused. I think unemployment and its attendant evils, must be accounted as the result of national policy and that the responsibility ought to rest on this House. In the same way, the responsibility for air-raid precautions ought to rest on this House. It would be possible for me to go into details of the amount of finance which Glasgow has had to direct to its social services but to some extent that ground has been covered already and the subject will probably be touched upon 257 later. I wish however to make a few references to the actual precautions which are here proposed as they relate to Glasgow. I admit that London, in this matter, occupies a first-line position. That to a great extent is due to the possibility which it offers an enemy of breaking the morale of the nation by means of air attack. But while admitting that, we must also bear in mind that there are other places which may be just as vulnerable points of attack as London, and Glasgow is one of them. Glasgow has a population which is more densely packed than the population of any part of London. It is situated in an area where munition works and docks and heavy industries in general are closely packed. Therefore, we must look upon Glasgow also, as a point which would be favourably regarded by an enemy who was contemplating an attack by air.
I propose to be even more parochial than I have been and to refer to my own constituency. It is my duty to represent the division of Glasgow known as St. Rollox. It has a nation-famed if not world-famed district called Cowcaddens, one of the parts of the United Kingdom which is a disgrace to this great and wealthy nation, not because of the people who reside there but because of those who have forced people to reside there for so many years. I have been rather intrigued with the idea that should any threat of air attack arise, the people are to be told to go to their houses as a means of safety. Safety from what? We have been informed that in the future, the possibility is that liquid gases will be rained from the skies. Hon. Members must take my word for it, but it can be proved if necessary, that there are houses in the St. Rollox division, the roofs of which would not keep out rain, never mind liquid fire. It is nonsense to suggest that going to their homes will be of any help to those people, in the event of an attack. I have read carefully the proposals with regard to gas proofing, and I say emphatically that there are thousands of houses in Cowcaddens alone which are not capable of giving any protection against permeating gases. There are houses in that district so bad that when the water is turned on in one tenement, it has to be shut off in three or four other tenements because the pipes will not bear the extra pressure entailed. There are places where from the staircase on one 258 floor it is possible to see right through to the floor above. Of what use is it to suggest to people that they should go to homes like that in search of safety? Unsafe buildings are provided for in the Government's proposals but there are hardly any safe buildings in the district to which I refer. They are all waiting to be torn down.
I am not competent to deal with the question of the dimensions of the shelters which are to be provided, but it passes my comprehension how shelters are to be provided for a community in which nearly every house is overcrowded in normal circumstances. Most of these houses are themselves overcrowded in a way which would not be permitted in the case of a safety shelter under war conditions. Therefore, I do not see that the people whom I represent are going 10 have any protection under this Bill. Notwithstanding the statements made by some hon. Members yesterday with regard to evacuation, I do not treat the proposal put forward by the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) as light and airy talk. On a subject such as this I would not dub anybody's remarks "light and airy talk." I assume that we are all endeavouring to be as earnest as we can, knowing the awful consequences that might result from lack of attention to this question. Therefore, I recur without apology to the possibility of, at least, partial evacuation of population in parts of the country where no effective protection can be provided by the proposals in the Bill. I think that is a matter for consideration. It seems to me to be the only thing that can be arranged in the time at our disposal.
We have also been informed during this Debate that the war against which we are taking these precautions may be a "nine days war." That is all the more reason why we should try to anticipate what the objectives of an enemy will be. If it is to be a quick war, if it is to be over soon—and that is one thing which I doubt very much—my suggestion is that it will be a war of such intensity as to make it all the more essential that we should take into special consideration the position of places like Glasgow and other parts of the country which are not capable of being protected by the means which are here proposed. I do not wish to belittle any of the efforts that have 259 been made to prepare the people and to safeguard life, but I think it is rather too easy an assumption that the "trial black-outs" that we have had and are to have, will be followed exactly in every detail when the real thing happens. The "trial black-outs" may give one or two suggestions to the people who are at the pivotal points, but I am rather chary of accepting the view that it will be as easy to control the general situation from the pivotal points in the case of a real "black-out" as in the case of a "trial black-out." The Minister ought to give more consideration to the possibilities of evacuation in the parts of the country which will be specially affected should an emergency arise.
I also wish to touch upon the possibility of industrialists having to purchase equipment for the safeguarding of those in their employment. Here is a chance to start early in the application of control to the price of the necessary equipment. I am informed that there are large organisations in Glasgow and elsewhere making this equipment. Some of it will be issued free, but some of it will have to be purchased. I think it was the hon. Member for North Islington who said it had been estimated that the total cost of pumps to keep a cellar clear of gas worked out, in the case of one factory, at £4 per worker. I am not competent to say whether that is a fair sum or not, but in view of what has happened in previous wars, and of what is happening now in connection with the production of munitions, immediate action should be taken to control the prices of this equipment. I do not take part in this Debate with any joy. The circumstances that have been presented to us as a forecast of what the next war may be, make one very perturbed. It is not, perhaps, permitted to introduce on this occasion questions of general policy, but I cannot help feeling that if we would, by every means, strive for peace and for a total departure from all tendencies which make for differences between the nations, it would be much more effective than any of the precautions proposed in this Bill.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
We have had a very remarkable speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I was surprised at his moderation. I anticipated that he would take 260 advantage of this opportunity to be rather cruel, because if ever a man was justified as a prophet I think it can be said of the right hon. Gentleman on this occasion. His moderation was most marked, and he finished his speech almost on a note of praise rather than criticism. What puzzles some of us on all sides of the House is that the right hon. Gentleman should be a private Member. I am not one who admires all his views or opinions, but if we have to face this problem of Defence on a large scale, surely no one is more suited to carry out the necessary policy than the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know whether he is absent from the Government because Barkis is not willin', or whether his absence is due to jealousy, and perhaps to the fear that his ability and capacity would rather dwarf those of some of his colleagues. We have heard from him to-day, it must be admitted, the speech of an elder statesman, very helpful, very constructive, and very reasonable, and not by any means in that mischievous spirit in which sometimes, not too rarely, he indulges.
I was going to say that there has been two years' delay, but the right hon. Gentleman gave ample evidence that there has been three years' delay. If in this wicked world of dictators and totalitarian States we have to face this danger, I do not think any part of the House is justified, whoever is to blame, in bringing about more delay, and certainly my hon. Friends and I do not intend to do anything of the sort. This Bill may have its faults, it may be too late, and there may be weaknesses in its financial provisions, but it is about time that we took action in the controversies as to the financial responsibilities and liabilities. One think that I am surprised at is the absence, except for a very short period, of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I always understood that he was appointed with a roving commission to look after the whole of our defence as opposed to a sectional attitude, and I should have thought the House had a right to claim his guiding hand in this matter.
We have had a very capable and competent speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, but if we are to have one Minister to deal with this problem, I should have thought it would have been wiser to have entrusted it to the Minister of Health. The right 261 hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is not usually associated with local government, except through the police, and it is not suggested that this is a matter for the police. We really want to get the good will and co-operation of the Minister of Health, and I think that when it comes into practice we shall get smoother working of the machinery of local government if he is associated with its direction. However that may be, as far as my friends and I are concerned, we attach great importance to associating the local authorities with this work. If it is to be satisfactory and to go smoothly, we want the good will, not of this Department or of that Department, but of the population as a whole, and the population as a whole instinctively and naturally turn to their town hall and their local authority for guidance and direction. It would be against all the best traditions of our country to develop the idea of a Ministry of the Interior, a Government Department, interfering with the ordinary daily life of the subject. Therefore, I am all for the local authorities being associated with this work.
Speaking as one who was for 28 years a member of a local authority, I have always taken the line that if a local authority is to be entrusted with any local government of any character, in other words, if any work is to be done through local government machinery, apart from a Government Department, there must be some financial liability, however small, and therefore I do not dissent from the rule laid down by the Minister that there should be some financial liability, small though it may be. But it is a problem, and the right hon. Gentleman admitted it in introducing our old friend the formula, that played so great a part in the Local Government Act introduced by the present Prime Minister when he was Minister of Health. However, even then it was found that the difficulties were so great that it was almost impossible fairly to distribute the burden, and if it applied to local government in a matter of Poor Law administration, it even more applies to questions of National Defence.
Take Bournemouth, an enormously wealthy district with a very high rateable value. Its risk of attack from the air, I would submit, is comparatively small as compared with the risk of an industrial district or mining town in the north-east of England, with a very low rateable 262 value. The same argument applies to London, which has always been a problem in the matter of the distribution of burdens. Take the districts of Westminster and Poplar, more or less the same size, and with very much the same population. It may be argued with some reason that Westminster, being the seat of government, with Royal Palaces and so on, runs special risk from air attack. But then Poplar has the docks. Some people say that it would be a good thing for the War Office to be wiped out, though I cannot go so far as that, but I submit that, from the point of view of strategy, the docks are for more valuable targets than even the War Office, and it would be far more dangerous to London if they were destroyed.
But when it comes to rateable value, in Westminster the produce of a rd. rate is £40,000, according to the latest figures that I have had, whereas a 1d. rate in Poplar brings in only £4,000. Therefore, however ingenious your formula may be, when it comes to carrying out these new duties of air defence the burden on Poplar must be very much greater. Then you have miles and miles of poor houses, low and rather badly built, where, as the hon. Member above the Gangway has already pointed out, the risk of attack and of damage done from the air must be more serious than where you have well-to-do houses which the people can evacuate themselves, without assistance from the State, and where you have buildings of a character that may provide the necessary shelter from air attack.
I have an Amendment on the Paper. I do not suggest that it is inspired out of my own mind. It comes at the request of the local authorities, and I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping emphasised the point of it. I suggest that it is not an unreasonable request, and I have so framed the Amendment that it will not encourage extravagance, and that, if any particular local authority goes in for an extravagant scheme that would involve expenditure over a 2d. rate, the Home Secretary's veto would automatically come into operation. I think that gives him an adequate safeguard against waste, inefficiency, or extravagance with public money when found by the State. On the other hand, under my Amendment his scheme will secure the association of local authorities, those authorities finding some of the 263 money and having some of the financial responsibility.
While on this subject may I refer incidentally to the docks? This applies not only to London but also to Liverpool, where the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board are concerned. If Poplar is to be liable for the cost of the whole defence of the docks, or, rather, the safety of the workers in the docks, it is going to be a very big liability for Poplar, and I think that some of the difficulties might be met if the docks and harbours are excluded for these purposes from the locality in which they happen to be and treated under special machinery. I put in that plea especially at the request of my friends from Liverpool and from the point of view of London as well. The docks here are located, not only in Poplar, but also in Bermondsey, West Ham, East Ham, Deptford, Southwark, and Barking, some of which places are inside and some outside the county of London, and if they are to be responsible for the defence of the civil population working in those dock areas, it will be a very big liability. On the other hand, if my Amendment is accepted when the Financial Resolution is before us, that difficulty will be overcome.
I will not take up too much time, as there are many hon. Members left who wish to support the plea by the right hon. Member for Epping that we should show a united front in this matter of the defence of the civil' population, and that the reasonable attitude of the local authorities should now, at the eleventh hour, be recognised either by the acceptance of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison)—who has not followed my words, though probably their inspiration came from the same place—or alternatively, if the right hon. Gentleman thinks my words give more protection, by the acceptance of my Amendment.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Simmonds
After the usual authoritative and highly palatable speech to which we have listened from my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), we have had a thoroughly constructive contribution from the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). I am delighted that the sense of public duty of himself and his 264 friends has decided them not to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, and I trust that that sense will be sufficiently contagious to cross the Gangway before a couple of hours have passed. Air-raid precautions are a wholly new field of national endeavour, and I think I am right in saying that this is the first occasion upon which the Government have had an opportunity of learning the views of this House upon this subject. I think the Government have needed that guidance, and I am certain, from the wide range and interesting nature of the topics raised in the Debate, that they have received that guidance. All hon. Members who have sat through this Debate will have had impressed upon their minds the great agreement that exists in all parts of this House on two points in connection with air-raid precautions. The one is the imperative necessity of evacuation, and the other is the importance of bomb-proof shelters. I fear that in these two respects—and I only refer to these two now, because in other ways I think the Government have done well—the Home Office have adopted a hesitating, if not a negative, policy. It strikes me that in these matters, which raise grave problems of cost, the Government have been too apt to set a limit of finance and to formulate the policy thereafter.
The Home Secretary in his admirable speech at the opening of this Debate spoke of the various perils which our forefathers have faced throughout the centuries, perils which, at the time, were novel and frightening to them, but which they mastered by their ingenuity and determination, and handed down to us as something which we can contemplate with more equanimity. Surely Governments in the past never said, in facing those perils, "We have so much money to spend; can we meet the peril with that money or must we bow to it to a certain extent?" On the contrary, I am certain that they said, "This peril must be mastered, high though the expense may be." I feel that that is the position to which the country, the Government and this House must come in the end in regard to the evacuation and shelters. I refer to the evacuation of areas that may be targets for enemy aircraft, as separate from those areas which may suffer indiscriminate bombing. They must suffer heavy punishment unless in the course of the next few years our defensive equipment, in 265 which I include guns, aircraft, searchlights and barrages, advance in -technique to an enormous degree. It goes without saying that if the Government do not evacuate the people from those areas in an orderly manner, the people will evacuate themselves in a disorderly manner.
Now is the time to consider this problem of evacuation, vast as it is. Bound up with it is an important legislative point which has not found its way into this Bill. It is the question whether the Government or the local authorities should have the right to compel evacuation from certain areas. I believe that that right should be taken by the Goevrnment, because I fail to see why those citizens who voluntarily enter into the air-raid precautions services should be called upon to go into an area which will suffer almost entire annihilation in order to rescue those who have been invited to leave it, but have refused. I trust that the Government are preparing for their own evacuation. Although I do not believe it will be an event that will happen for many a long day, they might in doing that be preparing for the evacuation of a Government formed by hon. Members opposite. This is a problem which cannot be left until hostilities break out. There is an opportunity for constructive work of major importance in this respect, and I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary could give the House an assurance that it is being considered.
It is on the question of bomb-proof shelters that I join issue with the Government most fundamentally. I was interested in what my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping said on this point. I have from time to time asked questions on this subject, and we have been told that for high explosive bombs 20 feet of reinforced concrete is necessary as a protection against a direct hit, and for armour-piercing bombs of 500 lbs., some 15 feet of reinforced concrete. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping said, armour-piercing bombs will not be used indiscriminately against the civil population; they will be used against the decks of warships and against military and naval targets. If, therefore, we are to get a right view-point in this matter of shelters, we should wholly disregard the armour-piercing bomb. Having with many of my hon. Friends made a, careful study of this matter in the last few month, 266 I have come to the conclusion that the missile against which we ought to protect ourselves is the 500 lbs. explosive bomb, and those beneath that weight.
The French Government, who have done a great deal more research in this matter than we have, are recommending that four to five feet of reinforced concrete is adequate to resist such bombs. One may take into consideration the thickness of floors, particularly of ferro-concrete floors, above a shelter. Thus, if there are four or five floors in a building, the thickness of the roof of the shelter need be only three-and-a-half to four feet of ferro-concrete. That is clearly a very different problem from the 15 or 20 feet of reinforced concrete which my right hon. Friends have given on various occasions at Question Time. Indeed, it creates a wholly different problem to which the Government and the House should address themselves. The problem is most serious with people congregating continuously at known points, and that obviously occurs when they are at work. I cannot contemplate seeing thousands of people congregated in works without any form of bomb-proof shelter. I am constructing at this moment two typical nuclei shelters, each to take 25 people, complete with technical equipment, in order to gain some impression of what the cost of preparing bomb-proof shelters for industrial establishments may be. As far as I have been able to determine, the figure given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was excessive and must, I think, have been based on the 20 feet of concrete.
I believe that shelters which will resist 500 lb. bombs, even a direct hit, may be constructed with all the necessary technical equipment for £40 a head, or for £1,000 for a shelter for 25 people. Suppose an employer were mindful to put down one or two shelters experimentally. That is clearly not a matter which can continue indefinitely. The protection is for the employé, and in time of war it is primarily for the nation that that protection of the employé is given so that he may continue to support the men in the front line trench. Therefore, it is clear that this question affects three parties—the employé, the employer and the Government. While I can well understand that the Government do not wish to assume the whole responsibility of these shelters, I see no reason why these three parties should not contribute equally to- 267 wards the construction of them. A contribution of 3d. per week from each party for 25 years would meet the cost of the shelters. It may be suggested that 25 years is a long time, but I would say in reply that if that were done we should have a mighty defensive organisation which might last as long as the air bomb was a menace and would place a whole different complexion on our strength, our foreign policy and our influence in the world. The contribution of the Government would work out at £13,000,000 per £1000,000 people. That does not seem a very great charge if the importance of the bomb-proof shelters be agreed.
I hope that we may hear something of the Government's intention in this matter. Even if they cannot say immediately that they propose to encourage these bomb-proof shelters, will they say that they will entirely review the problem if they accept the contention, which has ofttimes been expressed here, that the armour-piercing bomb is no justification for inaction? There is also the question of sandbags. Vast quantities will be needed to block up windows. Can my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary tell us anything of the Home Office preparations in connection with this point?
As I read this Bill, I assume that it is only a first instalment of a series of air-raid precautions measures, because there is no mention of the fundamentally important problem of the insurance of property. At the moment, it is impossible to insure property against war risks. When we talk of property, do not let us think only of property belonging to companies and corporations and to the rich, because there are millions of humble people who have bought their houses, and there are now no fewer than 1,000,000 people who are purchasing their houses through building societies. Are they to see their life-savings invested in these houses wiped out without expecting the Government to find replacements? Indeed, they will expect replacements, and I should feel much relief if the Government could tell us of their proposals to end the present impasse. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys), in his admirable speech yesterday, made several excellent and practical suggestions. One of them which appealed to me was that there should be some internal reorganisation 268 and expansion at the Home Office. I believe that the conception that the French have a fourth service of defence, a service of passive defence, brings into the picture the wide scope of air-raid precautions which is much larger than the somewhat diminutive organisation we have so far constructed. In addition to the expansion of the Air-Raid Precautions Department I should like to see it entrusted to a junior Minister, similar to the Minister of Transport or the Secretary for Mines. I am satisfied from what I have seen that, admirable though the efforts of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary have been, this is work for a full-time Minister.
So far as the country is concerned—and it is the country in the end which has to work these air-raid precautions—we have to obtain an entire change of mind. At the moment there is public indifference to this problem, and I appeal for use to be made of all modern methods of publicity in order to bring home to the heads of households their responsibility to their families, because it is upon them that responsibility for protecting the women and children in their houses falls. If we are to make the country as secure as it can be against the menace of air raids we must all adopt a new outlook. Noting in the papers from day to day the activities of the Government and of local authorities, and asking oneself, "Is that a piece of pure folly, bearing in mind the possibilities of air raids?" How often do we have to say that that is indeed the case.
I will give two or three examples of what I have in mind. There is about to be erected near an obvious military objective on the outskirts of London a large series of working-class flats. They are being put up by a local authority which is rehousing the people moved from another area under a street improvement scheme. I cannot conceive how any local authority would do such a thing, but there it is, and those people will be living beside this clear and obvious target. Secondly, we are putting many bridges over railways, and as soon as the bridge is erected the level crossing is demolished. The obvious thing to do is to leave the level crossing, in case the bridge is destroyed by bombs in time of war, as it very likely will be. Further, the Government have been erecting shadow 269 factories up and down the country. From an engineering standpoint probably the most outstanding is the Austin shadow factory, just outside the Austin works at Longbridge. If that factory had been built in Germany it would have consisted of about 50 buildings, too yards apart, each with its own air-raid shelter, but we have 17½ acres under one roof as the Austin shadow factory. A bigger piece of folly, in the light of the air meance, I cannot conceive. Then, we are steadily eliminating smaller electricity undertakings. The larger electricity works are nearly always erected at vulnerable points along the estuaries of rivers, where they can be seen, particularly at night, with the utmost ease. When these big stations are bombed there will be no smaller stations to come in to supply the load.
One omission from the Bill has not escaped notice, and that is, there is no compulsion in the case of local authorities which fail to undertake air-raid precautions. I have given very much thought to the question whether local authorities which fail to do their duty should be compelled to do it or should be displaced by the Government, and I am satisfied that the Government have done the right thing in not including compulsion in the Bill, because I believe it will mean that a great deal more thought will be given to the election of local authorities if electors know that their own safety against air attack is involved. I am certain that all Members on the other side of the House will agree with me that it will be wholly to the good to see more responsible representatives elected to local authorities.
Finally, I want to come to what is the main issue on this Bill, and that is finance. The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), in his admirable speech, which I am sure it gave him much pleasure to deliver, suggested that the cost of the air-raid precautions ought to be a wholly national charge, but I notice from an Amendment on the Order Paper that it is now suggested that no grants should be made after a 2d. rate has been expended. That would mean that after the 2d. rate had been spent the whole of this Bill and the precautions it envisages would cease to operate. That seems a wholly undesirable change to make. Whatever we may do with regard 270 to finance do not let us say that immediately we reach a certain level nothing more shall be done. Clearly that would not be fulfilling our obligations to the population whom we have to protect. I fancy that neither the suggestion of the right hon. Member for South Hackney, nor the suggestion in the Amendment of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green really meets the point, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping said, surely there is not much now left between the contending parties.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State yesterday threw out an olive branch by suggesting that after a certain time he might review the position which had then been reached. No one can say what the position may be in two or three years. If we have not, by the grace of God, by then have suffered hostilities, we may have a sufficient muster of air-raid precautionary equipment, and the question of subsequent expense may be of small consequence. On the other hand, if bomb-proof shelters are provided, as I think they should he, the expenditure may be up to the 2d. rate, or possibly higher. If we do have bomb-proof shelters, and I think they are imperative, the rate may be high.
We ask the Secretary of State this: Could he not give to us and to the local authorities an undertaking that after, say, three years, he will review the financial provisions of the Bill? If he could put a Clause to that effect into the Bill I believe it would go a long way to close the ranks and allow us to go forward together in this most important matter. Lastly, as I have appealed to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, so I am going to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. His party have agreed that rearmament is necessary and have agreed in principle not to vote against rearmament. I am entirely with the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green in saying that this work is part of rearmament, and I think that in the face of external dangers we might close our ranks to-day and avoid voting against this Measure. Therefore, as I have appealed to the Home Secretary to meet the local authorities by undertaking a review in three years, I do make a most earnest appeal to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to let this Measure go through without a Division.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I do not rise to make a second speech, but to make a short statement in answer to a series of appeals which have been addressed to me. Let me say at the beginning of my statement that I entirely dissociate myself from the criticisms which were made yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) today of the dilatory methods of my Department. As to the course which events have taken in the last two years, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will deal at length with the criticisms which have been made, and when he has done so the House will see how groundless those charges are. But it is not for that purpose that I rose to say a few words. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping is perfectly right in saying that the margin of difference between hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite and myself is a very narrow one. One of the results of this long chapter of discussions, one of its most satisfactory results, has been to diminish to a very great extent the margin of difference which at the beginning divided the various parties to the negotiations, and I think it is fair to say that the only point of substance now between the right hon. Gentleman opposite and some of the bodies for whom he has spoken, and the Government, is the single issue of the excess expenditure over a 2d. rate. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and the right hon. Gentleman opposite have Amendments to the Financial Resolution dealing with this single issue. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green who, I understand, does not intend to elaborate his views on the Financial Resolution, stated them in some detail this afternoon. The case he has made is that there should be a veto upon the expenditure of local authorities over a 2d. rate.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I accept the way in which the hon. Member has described his Amendment, but I am not sure that that is the objective of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I rather gather that his objective was not to veto expenditure which was above a fixed 272 amount but, rather, to ensure that expenditure exceeding a 2d. rate should be met by the Exchequer.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am very anxious to eliminate this margin of difference if it is humanly possible to do so. I tell the House that, after very careful consideration of this Amendment and with a desire to remove any differences that may exist between us, my colleagues and I have come to the view that this is not the best way to do it. We do not feel that this is a practicable way of doing it. We do not feel, taking first the objective of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green, that it is possible, with questions which involve the issues of life and death, to put a definite veto on public expenditure. The only instance I have been able to discover is that of not more than an expenditure of a id. rate on public libraries. Hon. Members will see at once the great difference between a minor expenditure of this kind and the far greater issues which are raised by air-raid precautions. I believe, therefore, that it is not practicable to adopt this method of the veto.
Further than that, I am quite sure that hon. Members would agree that it would be unwise to withdraw the check on economy that is imposed by the fact that a local authority has to take a share in this expenditure. This check of the local share is really the only effective check against extravagant schemes. It is not sufficient to have the check of the approval of the schemes to be put into operation, as so much of this expenditure depends upon the way in which the local authorities administer these services on the spot. I must tell the House that the Government cannot recede from the position that they have maintained the whole way through these discussions that over the whole field of this expenditure, whether it exceeds a 1d. or a 2d. rate or whether it falls short of a 1d. or a 2d. rate, there must be some local share of the expenditure in the cost of the precautions.
Moreover, the Government, in maintaining this position contend that cases of the kind mentioned, in which the expenditure 273 will exceed a 2d rate, are so unlikely that the House need not take them into account. In our view they could arise only in one of two ways. One way would be as a result of great extravagance by a particular local authority. Hon. memshould remember that a 2d rate will mean in many cases that the State would be spending the equivalent of a 6d., a 7d. or an 8d. rate and that we should be dealing, therefore, with an expenditure far above the kind of scale which we contemplate. The only other way in which expenditure of this kind might come about—I hope it will not come about—would be if, as a result of a deterioration in the state of the world, there were a demand for much greater air-raid precautions than we at present contemplate. In that case, I say at once, it would be necessary for the Government to reconsider the whole position with the local authorities. Our scheme of the Bill is based upon the plan that we think adequate in the present situation. If a new situation were created which called for plans of much greater scale, obviously we would accept the position that we should have to reconsider the financial arrangements.
§ Mr. R. Acland
In what way would it be possible for conditions to deteriorate except by the actual outbreak of war?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I can contemplate, short of actual outbreak of war, demands springing up for greater precautions. If the new conditions were on such a scale as to alter our present plans, then I would say that a new situation had arisen. I suggest to the House that the proper way to reassure the local authorities and to remove this last item of difference between us is to follow the lines just suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds). I am prepared to go further than I went in the Debate yesterday, when I told the House that we had had discussions during the course of the negotiations in which I had suggested that we might put a time limit to the Bill, and that there was some difference of opinion at that time 'between the local authorities as to whether a time limit would be useful or not.
My further inquiries go to show that a time limit would be useful and it would go a. very long way to reassure them. I noticed, for instance, in certain of the 274 resolutions which had been passed by some of these associations, that emphasis is laid upon the great advantage of having a time limit at the end of which there would necessarily come revision of the financial arrangements between the local authorities and the Exchequer. Accordingly, I am prepared to accept the suggestion thrown out by my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston and to put down a new Clause which would make the assurance which I have already given doubly sure, and that will make it clear that there shall be a comprehensive revision in three years of the working of the financial provisions of the Bill. I am prepared to put down that new Clause for consideration in the Committee stage. I believe that when the local authorities see this new Clause on paper the great majority of them will realise that the last of their anxieties has been removed.
Further than that, I hope in future to keep in close contact with them and to discuss with them any other difficulties which may arise after the Bill becomes law. Lastly, I would remind hon. Members that this is the procedure which was adopted, I believe with great satisfaction, to the local authorities in the matter of the block grant. When the block grant came into operation it was specified that there should be at given times revision to see how it was working. There has already been one such revision and I understand that it has given great satisfaction to the local authorities. I am prepared to adopt a similar method in the case of the revision of these arrangements, and to put down a Clause which will carry out this undertaking.
§ Mr. Sandys
Will the right hon. Gentleman incorporate in this new Clause the assurance which he has given that, it, before three years elapse the whole standard of air-raid precautions as demanded by the Government goes up, there will be a reconsideration of the financial position?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am not sure whether that part of the undertaking which I have given to-day would be the kind that one could put into the form of a clause, but I will look into the point.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I can speak again only with the leave of the House. I am sure that we have all listened with the 275 greatest care to every word that the Secretary of State has said. Speaking for myself and, I am sure, for my hon. Friends, we have listened to it not only with great care but with the very earnest hope that he would say something to enable us to withdraw this Amendment on the Second Reading stage, and so enable the House to give a unanimous Second Reading to the Bill. I assure the House that that is as I would have wished it to be and as my hon. Friends would have wished it to be. None of us disputes the necessity for some special Measure such as is before the House, although we look upon the necessity with the deepest regret and deplore the reasons which have led to it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying that the idea that he has put before the House is not new. It was advanced by him and his officers to the local authorities during the course of our negotiations as a solution of the financial apprehensions which we had in our minds. We were unable to accept it as a financial solution. In the circumstances, I cannot advise my hon. Friends to do other than to go to a Division on our Amendment on the Second Reading and upon our Amendment to the Financial Resolution.
It would, nevertheless, be ungracious of me if I did not say that we appreciate, as far as it has gone, what the right hon. Gentleman has said, although it is not new, because it came out in what took place before. We are apprehensive about this municipal expenditure upon air-raid precautions, which everybody substantially agrees is intimately related to national Defence and the cost of which will be negligible compared with the £,500,000,000 which the Government are spending on national Defence. It is unjust, improper, and not conducive to clean-cut administration of the job itself for the State to do other than take complete charge of it, to pay for it and to put the local authorities under orders on behalf of the Government in this matter.
I assume from what the right hon. Gentleman says that the proposed new Clause will contain a time limit to the operation of the financial portion of the Bill, and that at the end of that time there will be revision and reconsideration. Having regard to the dead set of the Government on the principle of a 2d. limit, if municipal expenditure then requires the 276 imposition of a 2d. rate or more, I am not at all sure what more hope there will be that the local authorities will obtain the required concession from the Government than there is now, when the Government will not give it. On this point of extravagance against local authorities which is being hammered at us time and time again—
§ Mr. Morrison
The words of the right hon. Gentleman comfort me enormously, but I do not know which individual authority he means and whether it is an authority in Essex or somewhere else.
§ Mr. Churchill
I did not mean to be controversial, but I was only hoping that the right hon. Gentleman would address himself to the question of what security he can give to the Government on his plan that a particular authority which misbehaves would be under the control of the Exchequer and would not be drawing a blank cheque. I wanted to know what solution of that point is contained in his proposal.
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman will know from his own Ministerial and administrative experience that there are a number of devices whereby the State can protect itself beyond the point, the very considerable point, to which it will protect itself under the terms of the Bill. There are such things as acting in default and transferring the powers of one local authority to another local authority. On any normal local service I would fight to the death against the State being in a position to give precise and meticulous orders to popularly elected members of local authorities, but on this matter, which I say ought to be national, and upon the technical decision and direction of which the national security will depend, I do not disguise the fact that I am prepared to forgo that local autonomy. Given proper financial guarantees for the local authorities, I would accept almost any rights of instruction, order and control that the Secretary of State liked to take in the Bill and which, indeed, I am bound to say I think he ought to have in a matter of life and death of this kind.
I appreciated the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) though I disagreed with 277 a great deal of it and regretted some of it, and I thank him for the helpful intentions of that part of his speech, but I am going into this matter with my eyes open, as are the local authorities. We do not regard it as a precedent, and we will never use it as a precedent for any future 100 per cent. arguments about normal local government services, but we say that this question is a national question, and, in the interests of the State, ought to be so regarded. That is the remedy for the extravagant local authority, if there be such. It must be remembered that all this expenditure will be approved expenditure, and the scheme itself must be approved by the right hon. Gentleman. May I put a counter-point on the question of extravagance? The right hon. Gentleman can not only amend the scheme of a local authority on the basis that it is extravagant, but he can amend it on the basis that in his judgment not enough is being spent. He also can be extravagant. We have heard from the hon. Member for Dudcleston (Mr. Simmonds) all sorts of expensive ideas. He says that there is going to be a 2d. rate, and probably more—
§ Mr. Morrison
He went much beyond what the right hon. Gentleman said. The right hon. Gentleman does not believe that on the average a rd. rate will be exceeded. But supposing that the Government are pressed by the hon. Gentleman, with all his ideas on this, that or the other; supposing that they are pressed by public opinion, that the matter is made an issue at Parliamentary and municipal elections, possibly stimulated by outside interests that are selling these things and making rings about them; supposing that there is an artificial panic, stirred up, it may be, by the Secretary of State insisting upon extravagant expenditure, I want to know what remedy the local authorities have against the right hon. Gentleman if he should become extravagant. They have no remedy at all, because he, quite rightly, is top dog altogether. What I am apprehensive about is that, when the local authorities reach their 1d. rate expenditure, they will tend, not from any unfriendliness, to be very cautious about accepting the right hon. Gentleman's recommendations for 278 further expenditure. When the 2d. rate is reached, it is almost inevitable that they will be difficult, and they will refer to the right hon. Gentleman's speeches in this House in which he says he does not anticipate that id. rate will be exceeded.
Then there will be argument, friction and delay. I do not want argument, friction and delay about this matter. I hate any political argument about it at all. It ought to be a clean, straightforward administrative job. Even now I would beg the Treasury Bench to reconsider it, to give the local authorities this 2d. guarantee, which they do not anticipate will be reached or anything like it. If that is done, I will not only withdraw the Amendment on behalf of the local authorities, but will withdraw it on behalf of the official Opposition as well. Unless that is done, I cannot withdraw it, and I cannot go back, in justice to the interests of the local authorities themselves. I have not gone into the story of the two years that was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. I think he was very generous about it to his predecessor in office. Generosity is always a good thing to see, and I would not make any unpleasantness about it.
In addition to our Amendment to the financial resolution there is one in the name of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). Both Amendments mean the same thing, and neither is perfect. They do not mean what the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green wants, nor in words say what we want, but our Amendment was put down the only way in which we could get it clown within the Rules of Order, and without increasing the charge upon the Treasury, and therefore it had to be in this untidy form. The Amendments mean, however, that we want the position to be that, if and when the 2d. rate is reached, the State should meet the expenditure beyond that. I am sorry that, at the end of this not too unpleasant Debate, we have not been able to arrive at a point at which we could withdraw our Amendment. I should have much preferred to have done so. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues could not go just that little way further which would have enabled the thing to be settled. I am sure, however, that the right hon. Gentleman will understand my position, as I understand his, though I regret it.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
After the two very conciliatory speeches that we have had from the Home Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), it is somewhat unfortunate that the matter should be left as it is, and I hope that, as the time is short now, some further opportunity may be taken of trying to settle it later. I should like to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to another aspect of this matter which has not been mentioned, and which I think has a direct bearing upon the offer he has made to the Opposition that there should be a time limit of three years to the Bill. I would draw his attention to the fact that this is not the only Air-Raid Precautions Bill that will have to be passed by this House, but that other legislation, which apparently is not yet prepared, will have to be passed; so that the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman made a few minutes ago would not really get the Government out of their difficulty, but would only accentuate it. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech yesterday, made this statement:The Bill deals with the greater part of this field, but it does not deal with the whole of the field. It does not deal, for instance, with the question of the public utility services. That is a question which is still under the very active consideration of the Government; it is by no means ignored and is regarded as a very important field, and I shall hope, at no very distant date, to be able to make a statement to the House as to how the Government intend to deal with it.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1937; col. 44, Vol. 329.]If I understand it aright, this means that in the near future, as soon as the Government have made up their mind, we shall have further legislation to define the position of public utility companies like the docks, water authorities, and gas and electricity companies. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is still lingering here, because I wanted to show him that, in his endeavour this afternoon to show that perhaps the Government have not been so dilatory, he was wrong. I am a member of the largest water authority in Great Britain, the Metropolitan Water Board. The Metropolitan Water Board have been very anxious that something should be done, realising that, as the right hon. Gentleman himself says, incendiary bombs might play a very important part 280 in any hostilities. Without a plentiful supply of water, it is not possible to put out a multitude of fires, and the Metropolitan Water Board, realising their responsibility for 8,000,000 citizens of London, with the supply of water to whom we are charged, have been concerned about this question, and have been in touch with the right hon. Gentleman's Department in order to obtain some guidance. But guidance appears to be difficult to get, and within the last three months the Metropolitan Water Board, tired of waiting for the Home Office to give them some definite guidance, have taken the lead themselves and appointed an air-raid precautions officer on a full-time basis. We feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not expect the Metropolitan Water Board, which has to make a charge on the citizens of London for water, to pay the whole cost of this, because they have a national task in doing what they can to preserve the water supply. Therefore, the Board were under the impression, when they appointed a full-time air-raid precautions officer, that whatever agreement was made with local authorities would also apply to public utility companies like water companies and bodies like the Metropolitan Water Board. But up to the present time the right hon. Gentleman has been unable to make any statement on this matter.
I should be the last to suggest that the Metropolitan Water Board would not endeavour to carry out its duties as loyally as it can, but there is a very strong feeling on this matter. It seems probable that the right hon. Gentleman or the Under-Secretary is in a position to make some kind of statement, but at the moment the water companies, water authorities, and, for all I know, the harbour boards and so on throughout the country, do not know whether they will receive a penny towards the expenditure upon which they are embarking, and I think it is time that the Government made some definite statement on this point. As a member of the Metropolitan Water Board, I ask the right hon. Gentleman or the Under-Secretary to say that the expenditure which is now being incurred by this great and important public authority will be met by a Government grant at least equal to that which is to be made to the local authorities. Otherwise, I can visualise a decision at a special meeting of the Board 281 within the next few weeks that we should stop all our precautions. That, in my opinion, would be regrettable. I think the Government should make up their minds what they are going to do. I had intended to deal with the general question, but, in view of the desire of other Members to speak, and in the hope that there may still be a further statement from the Home Secretary, I will merely repeat my request on behalf of the Metropolitan Water Board that the Home Secretary should at least make some statement amplifying the somewhat vague statement that he made in his Second Reading speech yesterday.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxwell
I am sure the whole House will have heard with great regret the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) that he is not able to accept the offer which has been made by my right hon. Friend. I cannot help feeling, after having heard the Debate, that one of its main features has been the extreme moderation and good humour on both sides of the House, and it seems a great pity that that moderation and good humour should not have borne fruit in a united front which we could have shown to the country, and to other countries also. In the meantime, I want to give whole-hearted support to the Bill, which at last puts the theory of air-raid precautions into practice. A good deal has been said on either side about the two or 2½ years which have been lost, when we might during that time have been getting on with air-raid precautions. On that question I would only say that it seems to be an indictment against either our enthusiasm or our methods that we have been so long in getting on with the job. I do not know whether it has been lack of enthusiasm on the part of those at the head of affairs at the Home Office—I am not referring to my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary, but am wondering whether in earlier times they attached too little importance to this vital question of air-raid precautions—or whether it was the extreme difficulties of the situation that led them to allow it to slide somewhat into the background.
At any rate, I am sure the House will agree that no reflection falls on the Air-Raid Precautions Department. In fact, the opposite is my experience. I even re- 282 ceived a letter the other day from one of the local authorities in my constituency, asking me if I could not do anything to stop the spate of literature which kept arriving from that very prolific Air-Raid Precautions Department. I agree that the Government have been no example of speed to the local authorities. At the same time, I do not think it was quite fair for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), when he spoke yesterday, to make out that local authorities have no share at all in the blame for the delay. Surely, even though the financial provisions have not been actually settled, they could have got on with their plans and schemes for which the Government had asked them. [An HON. MEMBER:" They did !"] Certainly not in every case. I was going to say that the fact that a great many did, shows that it was perfectly possible for them to do so. The right hon. Gentleman would have been doing a much greater service to the country if he had advised them to get on with the schemes, which did not cost anything to prepare, and then to bargain afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman said he was out, quite naturally, to drive a good bargain for the local authorities. The Government were out, equally naturally, to drive a good bargain for the State. The difference is that, where the local authorities are concerned, there is no limit to the concessions that they might make, but there is a limit to the concessions that the Government should conscientiously make.
If the Government consider it contrary to the national interest, they cannot allow the local authorities to have no financial interest in the administration of the schemes which, in the nature of things, they must administer, then I think the local authorities and the right hon. Gentleman should have been reasonable, and should have made a big effort, in the national interest, to arrive at some accommodation. After all, my right hon. Friend, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said, has been extraordinarily reasonable. We have heard how he has gone from 50 per cent. up to 9o per cent. I know the right hon. Gentleman does not admit that; he says it is not go per cent., because of the appliances that have to be paid for. But if the right hon. Gentleman and the local authorities were going to pay for them 283 would he not include the appliances in his cost? Now my right hon. Friend has offered this very reasonable extension of a time limit in a new Clause of the Bill. The local authorities have every right to be nervous about the expenditure which they have to incur. They have every right to want to see a limit placed on that expenditure; but, surely, now the Home Secretary is offering that limit, if he makes the time limit short enough, it is fairly obvious that no excessive expenditure can be incurred in that time. Again, he has given an assurance that if he has to reconsider the whole present conception of the size of air-raid precautions in the meantime—and it looks like increasing expenditure very considerably—he will then reopen the whole question of finance. It is most unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman could not have given way one inch and allowed us to go away united in this matter.
I see in the Bill that, in regard to county districts, the grant they will receive for expenses which they incur will not be based on their own financial position, but on the financial position of the county in which they exist. That, I feel, might very easily cause considerable hardship, and I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can give me any assurance in that matter. In a small district, where a id. rate raises only a couple of hundred pounds, it is fairly clear that they are not going to be able to produce any extensive fire precaution schemes on their own, and I think it is quite possible that you will get a poor district in a rich county finding that the scheme would operate very severely against them. In this Bill, also, we are going to have regulations laid on the Table of the House by the Secretary of State. I do not know what is going to be contained in those regulations, or whether they are going to contain details of the services which will be given by the State to local authorities, but it seems to me that there are going to be some very controversial matters arising out of that. For instance, some local authorities will be considered more vulnerable than others to air attack. Therefore, they will receive more fire appliances than others. I can imagine some interesting occasions in this House when one Member gets up and says, "In my locality we have three fire engines, and another has 284 four: why is it? "Who is going to decide those questions?
Another question which has been raised on a number of occasions is that of appointing air-raid precautions officers, and of how much is going to be paid, and all the rest of it. I suggest that it is most important that air-raid precautions officers should be appointed. I know a case of a very large local authority which has submitted a scheme, which has been approved, and at the head of the scheme is the chief constable of the district. The chief constable, I have no doubt, is a most capable and hard-working man, but in most districts the chief constable has an enormous number of duties to perform already. I do not believe that that scheme envisages the real importance and magnitude of the task which any officer in charge will have to undertake. I think the Government should see, in approving future schemes, that a whole-time air-raid precautions officer is in charge. With regard to the recruitment of personnel for these schemes, I think it would be the last thing which anybody wishes that air-raid wardens should be recruited for other services immediately a war broke out, and I think that, at any rate for the first period of a war, we should have an assurance that such officers will not be mobilised for other services, but will be left to carry out their duties as air-raid precautions officers.
The most important question of all, and one on which, if I may say so, the Government have not given us a very clear conception of their ideas, is that of shelters. This is of vital importance, because it affects the whole question of finance very considerably, as my hon. Friend here pointed out. I must say I was rather staggered by his figures. I worked out very quickly that, on these estimates, it would cost about £429,000,000 to produce the shelters which he required for workers in factories.
§ Mr. Simmonds
These shelters will be provided only in the most vulnerable zones. In others, the figures would be very much smaller.
§ Mr. Maxwell
I quite appreciate what my hon. Friend said, I agree that my figure was based on the whole working population. At any rate, it would mean very large figures. But if we are really going to provide shelters, is there any 285 point in spending a lot of money in making refuge-rooms in private houses? Are we going to build shelters against armour-piercing bombs, or are we not?
I would like to say one word on evacuation. I think that hon. Members have made a mistake in assuming that you have to evacuate the whole of the East End of London or that you have to evacuate nobody. I think only certain people will have to be evacuated. You cannot evacuate the whole of the people in the East End of London. Most of them will be there because they are doing important jobs, and they must remain. But others will have to be evacuated. [An HON. MEMBER: "In an air raid?"] Certainly not in an air raid. Arrangernents will have to be made for removing people before the air raids begin. The Government must have definite plans and possibly they have for finding billets or other accommodation for people in less dangerous quarters. People in hospitals will have to be moved to country districts, in order to make room for the casualty clearance stations which will exist under the scheme.
In conclusion, I notice that the hon. Member for Derby Mr. Noel-Baker) talked a certain amount last night about our responsibility for not abolishing the aeroplane as an engine of war. I do not want to enter into any controversy on that matter, but I would suggest that the only way really to abolish a weapon of war is to render that weapon ineffective. Although you may do a great deal by agreement in restricting weapons, yet when any country is really up against it, it is going to use any weapon it has to hand. It is not a pleasant thought, but I am sure that that is the only realist way of looking at the situation. I do not think that it is any good expecting enemies to stick to the rules of the game or to be perfect gentlemen in warfare. I am quite convinced that if another war should come, air-raid precautions would form a very important part in our Defence, and it is most unfortunate that in this Bill, which initiates these new forms of defence, we should not be able to form a united front both for the benefit of the country and for the nations of the world.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Westwood
No one listened to the statement which was made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department 286 with more sincere and deep regard than I did, for I am very anxious, like the hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Maxwell) to get a united front in dealing with the very serious problem that we are discussing at the present time. This is mainly a question of the safety of the civilian population of our land and there should be, and ought to be, unity in dealing with it. It was with regret that I listened to the statement of the Secretary of State when he only promised to review the financial commitments of the local authorities at the end of three years. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is in his place, and he knows something about reviews under the block-grant system. I at least have had something to do in the negotiations in Scotland in dealing with the quinquennial review, and when we start the discussion it is a question of pull devil, pull baker for the purpose of trying to get the best for each of the respective authorities, instead of dealing with the immediate administrative problems that ought to exercise our minds. You get dissensions and divisions when the respective authorities try to get advantages at the expense of other authorities that are interested in the negotiations. It might be defensible for arguments of that kind to go on in connection with the ordinary block-grant system but it is altogether indefensible when we are dealing with problems of life and death such as ought to be dealt with when we are considering air-raid precautions.
The offer of the Secretary of State does not meet the legitimate demands of the local authorities either of England or of Scotland, and, as far as this Debate is concerned, I am speaking on behalf of the local authorities in Scotland. Much play has been made of the need for a check being placed upon the expenditure of the local authorities. The point was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and it was specially emphasised in the statement made by the Secretary of State. I resent the suggestion behind these arguments. I represent local authorities. I have had something to do with the negotiations concerning air-raid precautions, and I have had to stand up to all kinds of criticism and misrepresentation inside two local authorities, because I was pleading for co-operation with the Government in dealing with air-raid precautions. I 287 took the risk, I believe, that it is the responsibility of the local authorities to co-operate with the Government in dealing with the problem. But it is rather unfair to suggest—because this is what it means—that the local authorities will not do everything possible to economise if they are given responsibility in this matter. It means a vote of no confidence in the local authorities when charges or suggestions of that kind are made in this House, and I can say on behalf of the local authorities in Scotland, that they are prepared to co-operate with the Government and to exercise every method of economy; in fact, we would be false to the true traditions of Scotland if we did not. We are prepared to exercise true economy provided we get efficiency in carrying out air-raid precautions. The Secretary of State, in opening this Debate yesterday, said:We have to start a new chapter in which the Government and the local authorities and the citizens in his country will all co-operate to make a much more comprehensive plan of air-raid precautions than anything that we have contemplated during the last few years.' '—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1937; col. 43, Vol. 329.]Already we have had special reference to the delays since the issue of the first circular to the local authorities. If this is the new chapter, it has taken about two-and-a-half years to write the preface, and it is not good enough when we are facing up to one of the most dangerous situations that we as a nation have ever had to face. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) when he said that the present Secretary of State was far too generous towards his predecessor in allowing him to get out of the responsibility with regard to this particular problem. Dangers were just as great two-and-a-half years ago. The problems that we had to face were known, and there can he no justification for the two-and-a-half years, delay when the nation has to face up to the dangers that are ahead of us.
The Secretary of State made special reference to the fact that storage and housing of equipment would have to be provided, and that there would have to be instruction and advice to the public. In proof of the fact that local authorities are anxious to co-operate, there are authorities in Scotland who, before financial provision was made, had agreed 288 to a joint contribution and to bear the joint expense necessary, so that instruction and advice could be given to the public on this problem. We have been told that the provision of public shelters will be necessary, and that there must be arrangements for dealing with casualties and the detection of poison gas. All these things require expenditure, and the local authorities, while believing that, in a case of this kind, the whole cost ought to be borne by the State, have been willing to come to some arrangement with the Government to bear a share of the cost.
I have had a fairly long experience in local government, arid during the whole of the time I have bitterly opposed any argument put forward that the State, in connection with local administration work, should bear 100 per cent. of the cost. It is always easy to agree to a resolution that calls for a 100 per cent. of the cost of education or health services. I have always opposed it, because I believe that we ought to have a share in the responsibility, and if we have a share in the responsibility of administration we ought to bear a share of the financial responsibility. But this is an entirely different problem. If in dealing with it any local authority defaults it may mean disaster to the nation. It is a national problem, and the whole cost ought to be borne by the State; no financial responsibility should be borne by the local authority.
Another statement made by the Secretary of State in his opening statement was thatso far as the householder is concerned, very careful instruction will be given to him as to how to act in the event of a gas raid how to make one of the rooms in his house gas proof. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1937; cols. 46 and 47, Vol. 329.]Apparently others have been thinking of that particular problem before that statement was made, because the local authority of which I am a member, last night, without any knowledge whatever of what was being said in this House, were discussing arrangements with regard to municipal housing to make, if possible, at least one room gas-proof in every municipal house. That was on my initiative as convenor in regard to housing. We are very anxious to do everything possible to help the maximum number of people as far as air-raid precautions are 289 concerned, but that means expenditure, and we are very anxious to know whether, in any calculations that are to be made under the Bill, increased expenditure upon housing for the purpose of carrying out an air-raid precaution of that kind will entitle the local authority to the special grants to be provided under the Bill, or will it become a charge against the housing pool?
That is a question to which am entitled to receive an answer, because if it is to be a charge against the housing pool, it will mean that increased rents will have to be paid by those who occupy these houses. If it is entirely for air-raid precaution purposes, it ought to rank for grant under the Bill we are now discussing. Local authorities do not desire to obstruct the Bill. All along they have been willing to help, and it is true to say that unanimously they recognise that they have duties to perform in co-operation with the Government. Against opposition and misrepresentation, as a member of two local authorities, I have always taken the line that, instead of minimising the worst effects of any possible air raid that may take place, it is the duty of the local authority to use all the knowledge of science and to co-operate without delay with the Government in dealing with this problem, and I am not prepared to accept, on behalf of the local authorities of Scotland, any responsibility for the two and a-half years' delay since the issue of the first memorandum to the local authorities.
I find that, according to the Financial Memorandum to the Bill, the Exchequer expenditure is estimated at about £3,500,000 spread over the next three or four years. I would like to know whether capital expenditure incurred by local authorities under the provisions of this Bill with the approval of the Secretary of State would have to be repaid within that same three or four years, because that would also mean a very serious problem when dealing with rating and rate charges. There is a fairly clear definition in the Bill as to State expenditure, but it would appear that there is nothing definite as to the maximum expenditure that may fail upon the local rates, hence our reason for pleading with the right hon. Gentleman, even at this late hour, and despite his statement, again to reconsider this matter so that we can get real unity. You cannot get success in 290 administration and the best results from local authorities if they feel that an injustice is being done to them. There is no maximum placed on the expenditure they may be called upon to bear, and they think that they are doing what is right by the ratepayers and the State if they agree in England to an expenditure of twopence per £, with its equivalent expenditure in Scotland. In a communication which has been sent by the Association of County Councils in Scotland to Members of this House they say:While several modifications have been urged by the local authorities' representatives, one consideration above all others has dominated their appeal, and that is their apprehension at the absence of any final limitations of the amount of expenditure to be borne by local authorities.It has been suggested that even with the limit of 2d. in England and 1 3/5 in Scotland, there would be no check on the expenditure of the local authorities. But every scheme has to be submitted for the approval of the respective Secretaries of State. There can be no expenditure without their approval. What happens in regard to housing? Every scheme has to be submitted for the consideration of the Department. Even if a dado is proposed to be placed in a bedroom you cannot go on with the building of the house until you agree to drop the dado out of the scheme. If you want to put up a cornice, the Department can say: "We will not approve the expenditure until you take away the cornice." If that can be done in regard to housing expenditure, surely the same can be done when you are dealing with expenditure on air-raids precautions. That is already done in every Department, and there can be no justification for the argument that there will be excessive expenditure unless you had a call upon local funds beyond the amount of 2d. in the £.The County Councils' Association of Scotland in their communication also say:The evidence repeatedly expressed on behalf of the Government that the local burden will not on the average exceed a product of the four-fifths of a rd. rate gives no assurance to the local authorities. The field of expenditure is national, it is new, and the object at stake is vital. No one can foresee what may be involved when the protective schemes are in full operation, and the paramount necessity of preserving the life of the nation must inevitably override preconceived ideas as to the scale of expenditure.291 They plead forthe limitation of the local burden"—that is what we are asking for—
which the local authorities of the country feel to be essential to the avoidance of grievous local injustice.They conclude with these words:It is desired to state emphatically that the whole aim of the local authorities is to secure this financial safeguard. They have no intention of obstructing the passage of the Bill and fully realise their duty to assist His Majesty's Government in administering the provisions of the Bill when it becomes law.That statement expresses the unanimous view of the local authorities of Scotland, who have worked for the limitation of the expenditure to be borne by the local authorities. It is not too late to get absolute unanimity as far as the Bill is concerned. On the admission of the Minister, very little divides us at the moment. He is willing to reconsider the whole matter at the end of a year. If it is wrong to deal with the expenditure of the two-pence to-day it will be wrong a year or three years hence. If it will be right to do that three years hence, why not do the just thing now and get harmonious and efficient working on the part of the local authorities by removing what they consider to be an injustice?
The whole question that we are discussing, and that we are compelled to discuss, in view of world conditions, is a horrible commentary on so-called civilisation and alleged Christian nations. It is a reflection upon the intelligence, wisdom, success and ability of the so-called statesmen of the nations that in the twentieth century nations should be armed and arming to the teeth, and that wealth should be poured out for destruction and defensive purposes which could well be used for construction and constructive effort to better the lives and the standards of living of the peoples of the world. We live in a world in which the mad dogs of war are only leashed, and have not yet been destroyed. We must, therefore, continue to work for their destruction, but while doing so, with the world as it is, all necessary precautions must be taken by those who are responsible for the lives of our people. Towards that end this, I admit, is a necessary Bill, the smooth, rapid and efficient working of which can be attained by removing any feelings of financial injustice from the minds of local authorities. 292 That can best be done by accepting the principle contained in the Amendment or, if that cannot be done, by limiting the financial commitments of the local authorities as requested by those authorities to a 2d. rate for England, and its equivalent as far as the Scottish authorities are concerned.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I should like at the beginning of my speech to give the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Westwood) the assurance which he desires in regard to the question of loan charges for air-raid precautions. The conditions will be the same as for ordinary loan charges, and will be related to the life of the assets. They will not be dealt with in the short space of time which the hon. Member feared.
§ Mr. Westwood
What about the other point as to the charge in respect of housing being a charge against air-raid precautions expenditure?
§ Mr. Lloyd
With regard to the question of preparing gas-proof rooms in houses, with which I shall deal at a later stage, it is not possible to make a distinction between municipal houses and the houses of other citizens. The hon. Member made a grave charge in regard to the whole matter which we have been discussing when he suggested that there had been undue delay in pressing forward with our scheme. That is a charge which was made at the outset of the Debate by the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) lent the weight of his authority to some extent to that view, on false information. The charge that there has been undue delay and that very little has been done can best be answered by a brief statement of what has been done. Therefore, I propose to give a short account of the work done by the Air-Raid Precautions Department at the Home Office since it was set up in May, 1935. The object of the Department was to plan, prepare and coordinate air-raid precautions to make everyone, from the householder to the Government, aware of the problem of high explosive, gas and incendiary bombs discharged from aeroplanes on a modern scale, and to get them to take such 293 reasonable precautions as ought to be taken and to educate them in such further precautions as should be taken if war ever came.
This is an enormous and a new problem. It is new, technically, new administratively and, above all, it is new psychologically to our people. Therefore, I should like to state briefly what steps have been taken by the Department since it was set up 2½ years ago. It would be best to bring the matter at once to its most concrete point by dealing with the technical side first. This will give me the opportunity of replying to a considerable number of points raised by hon. Members in the debate. One of the great difficulties that had to be overcome at the beginning was the lack of accurate knowledge of the practical effects of modern air weapons, and the lack of reliable data on which to base advice to the local authorities and the public. It was necessary to institute a considerable series of practical experiments. I will deal first with the question of high explosives.
Intensive experiments have been carried out by the Government at the Shoeburyness Experimental Range, in order to get accurate data upon the penetrative effect of various types of high explosive bombs, and their blast and splinter effects. I will give an example of one interesting experiment to show the intensive nature of the work done. There was constructed at Shoeburyness a full-scale model of a London street, with every underground service in it, electric mains, water mains, gas, hydrants, sewers and so on. Then we carried out experiments with large 500 lb. semi-armour-piercing bombs for the purpose of being able to advise all the various authorities on exactly the type of damage with which they might be expected to deal in the event of air raids. I think I can say, broadly, that the result of these experiments confirm the advice that the Government have given with regard to shelters.
The right hon. Member for Epping, the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) and the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) raised the question whether it was really right to pay so much attention to the 500-lb. semi-armour-piercing bomb. They asked: "Why not also consider the question of 294 the general purpose bomb?" and further asked: "Are you not setting yourselves too high a standard?" We are advised by our expert advisers that it is essential for us to take into very careful consideration, even as far as the civilian population is concerned, the fact that we must reckon with a considerable use of the 500-lb. semi-armour-piercing bomb. It is impossible to provide protection against direct hits from these large bombs. Even a large general purpose bomb will not have the same penetrative effect as a semi-armour-piercing bomb, but the experience of Madrid goes to show that they are making increased use of the general purpose bomb, with the delayed action fuse, which greatly increases the penetrative effect of these bombs. Nevertheless, it remains true that we should advise in the construction of shelters that every step be taken that is possible to give protection even against direct hits, because it is undoubtedly the case that if the floors are constructed in a strong enough way, and if the supports shore up the refuge room so that it would not collapse if the rest of the building fell upon it, a considerable degree of protection could be afforded.
In view of the fact that we cannot guarantee protection against direct hits, the alternative policy of dispersal must be the main policy upon which we must rely, and the best practical form of dispersal is to advise the people to stay in their own homes. On the other hand, the question has been raised by many hon. Members in the Debate as to the position of those whose homes would not make suitable shelters. In regard to that matter and in regard also to those caught in the streets, it would be the duty of the local authority to provide shelters, and I am able to say that the Home Office would approve for the purposes of grant the expense in which a local authority would be involved in regard to the construction of public shelters in congested areas where the houses are not suited to be used as shelters.
That brings me to the point raised by the hon. Member for Duddeston with regard to the question of sandbags. Of course, it is true that local authorities will require to use many millions of sandbags in making their public shelters, and I am in a position to announce to-night a further important financial concession to the local authorities. I am glad that this 295 gives some satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, because though it is not possible to make an accurate estimate in regard to these matters, it is clear that the expenditure will be likely to be something between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000. I am able to state that the Government will make available free of charge to local authorities sandbags to meet approved requirements for the purpose of public shelters.
Of course, the problem of congested areas cannot, as many hon. Members have pointed out, be completely dealt with by the construction of public shelters, and three hon. Members have raised the question of evacuation. Now the question of evacuation, obviously, is a very big problem, and in our view it is a problem in which the final decision can only be taken by the Government of the day. But, of course, the Government of the day must be in a position to take quick and decisive action, and therefore they must be in possession of plans, and these plans must be prepared beforehand. I am able to say that preliminary plans are already in existence in regard to London, and it would certainly, in our view, be the duty of the local authorities of big centres of population in the provinces to consider this matter in connection with their own schemes.
May I ask a question in regard to this evacuation? Are the Government visualising the evacuation of millions of people in London before the outbreak of hostilities, as was suggested by Members of the Socialist party, or is this the evacuation of small areas where circumstances would render it necessary for people to be evacuated?
§ Mr. Lloyd
That problem is covered by the statement I have made. I am not able to go further to-day. I now come to the question of incendiary bombs. A very considerable amount of experimental work has been carried out in regard to the control of these bombs, and an experiment was made on a derelict house in which several of these bombs were ignited, and I am sure the House will be glad to know that these bombs were controlled, with the implement mentioned by my right hon. Friend yesterday, by a number of young ladies, who in every case succeeded in effectively controlling the bombs and preventing the outbreak of fire in the house.
§ Mr. Lloyd
No, Sir. Now I come to the question of gas, in which the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) is particularly interested. There has been a great amount of research work in the production of a respirator capable of being produced by mass production methods, and I think it is true to say that we were the first country to solve that problem, and we are still the only country which is issuing a respirator free to everybody. I should like to inform the hon. Member for Derby, in reply to the fears he expressed, that we now know that these respirators can be worn by children down to the age of four, and a special device for babies has now passed its scientific stage and is in the stage of practical trial. Also in regard to aged and infirm people we have carried out special investigations with the co-operation of certain institutions, and these trials have gone to show that these respirators can be worn by aged and infirm people without any discomfort and with no ill effects, and that, as a matter of fact, in the case of asthma there appears to be a positively curative result.
Now I come to the question of gas-proof rooms. There has been a good deal of confusion with regard to gas-proof rooms. The recommendations of the Air-Raid Precautions Department are simple, and they are cheap [An HON. MEMBER: "Are they effective?"] I am coming in a moment to the question of whether they are effective. It is really much like the sort of operation on a room that is carried out by a housewife when there is a question of fumigation after an infectious illness. It is a question of pasting paper over the cracks in the windows and the cracks in other places, of putting old sacks or newspapers up the chimney, and perhaps over the apertures by which air enters under the doors. I must at once correct a mistake into which the hon. Member for Derby fell. He had the idea that it was necessary to set aside a special room as a gas-proof room which would not be available for the ordinary use of the household, and, therefore, he went on to say—quite plausibly if that premise were accepted—that there would be millions of homes in which it would not be possible to have a gas-proof room. But it was never contemplated, and it is 297 quite unnecessary, that the refuge room which is to be gas-proofed should be a separate room. It is a room in which people can live all the time. This is a process which could be completed, as far as the vast number of houses is concerned, in a minute or two. It is already perfectly possible—I take the extreme case in order to satisfy the hon. Gentleman—for a family living in one room to have that as their gas-proof room.
Of course, these recommendations were based on a number of experiments, but there has been, as the hon. Member below the Gangway mentioned just now, a number of criticisms of the efficiency of the gas-proofing recommendations of the Home Office. These criticisms came from a body called the Cambridge Scientists' Anti-War Group. They published their findings in a book, which criticised the Government recommendations as ineffective. First of all, I must make it quite clear to the House that this group of anti-war scientists is quite distinct from the large body of Cambridge scientists, indeed, as I have very good reason to know, their assumption of this confusing name, which was liable to invest their experiments with all the majesty of Cambridge culture and learning, was very gravely resented by the senior members of the Faculty. I think the House would want a scientific matter of this kind to be dealt with entirely on a technical basis and quite free from politics. Nevertheless, I must point out that the Cambridge Scientists' Anti-War Group have, to say the least, a political tinge. The anti-war movement is, of course, well known to hon. Members. It was condemned as a Communist-inspired movement by the National Executive of the Labour party, and I do not think it is really necessary to go further than that.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I have the leaflet issued by the Labour party in my hand, in which this is one of a number of organisations declared to be subversive and unworthy of recognition by members of the Labour movement. The House will not expect me to go into details with regard to the experiments, but I would like to make two points. First of all, they NA ere conducted, not with a poison gas such as is used in war, but with carbon-dioxide, a 298 perfectly harmless gas produced by every hon. Member every time he breathes. Secondly, these scientists did not measure the amount of gas which leaked into a room, but they measured the amount of gas which leaked out of a room, and then they tried to deduce by theoretical methods how much gas would have leaked into the room. I am advised by the Government's technical advisers that this procedure naturally led to important fallacies.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
On the occasion when that report was published I endeavoured to get him to agree to refer the contentious points to some body of independent scientists for a report, in order to reassure the public in this country, but he refused to do it. I do not know whether or not it has been referred to independent scientists since then.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am going to deal with that very point, because I want to emphasise that the Government do not merely depend on their own technical advisers in this matter, highly competent though those technical advisers are, because I think hon. Members with knowledge of this subject will agree that the Chemical Defence Research Department of the Committee of Imperial Defence at the end of the War was regarded as the most efficient department of that kind in the whole world; but, in addition to these experts, the Government have the advice of upwards of 100 distinguished outside scientists and technical chemists; in fact, I think it is true to say that the leading scientists of the country in this field are members of the Chemical Defence Committee. I notice that, in regard to Cambridge University, for example, the late Lord Rutherford was a member of the Committee until his death. I notice that Sir William Pope, the professor of chemistry, Professor Dean, the professor of pathology, Professor Barcroft, professor of physiology, are all members of the Committee. Sir Joseph Barcroft is the man 'who during the War, when it was decided to make certain whether prussic acid gas could be used as a war gas, took the view that it was not fatal to human beings, whereas other scientists took the view that it was because it was fatal to animals; he was the man who walked into the gas chamber containing prussic acid gas with a dog and came out carrying the dog under his arm: the dog 299 was dead, and he was still alive. Those are some of the men from whose advice we have benefited.
A series of experiments has been carried out on Salisbury Plain, using actual war poison gas. Four types of poison gas were used—chlorine, mustard gas, tear gas and arsenical smokes. First of all, it should be said that some protection against gas is afforded by merely going indoors and closing all doors and windows. It is a matter of common knowledge that many peasants living behind the lines in the last War escaped the effect of gas merely by going indoors and closing doors and windows. We conducted experiments which definitely confirmed that fact. After this a room in a house was gas-proofed, according to Home Office recommendations, by unskilled men; then two tons of chlorine were released 20 yards from the house for an hour. Animals in the gas-proofed room were unaffected and remained normal, in spite of the severity of the trial. In another experiment a house was surrounded at a distance of 20 yards by large shallow trays of mustard gas a few yards apart, also a fine spray of mustard gas was produced 10 yards to windward of the house for an hour. Animals placed in the room were removed at the end of 20 hours, and a most thorough examination revealed no trace of the effects of the gas. Chemical instruments were also in the room, and showed that a man could have remained there the whole time without a respirator. Similar satisfactory experiments were carried out with the other poison gases. The special Committee of the Chemical Defence Committee, summing up the results of the experiments, say:The experiments were purposely designed to represent the most severe conditions likely to be met. The results all combined to show that if the instructions given in Air-Raid Precautions Handbook No. I are carried out a very high standard of protection is obtained.I will not trouble the House with details of further experiments with regard to strategic smoke-screens, camouflage and other experiments, which have been carried out.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Yes, and this kind of respirator has stood up to the most severe 300 trial. In addition to these experiments it was essential to get local authorities to move on their own. There were two lines on which this could be done—one, to ask them to prepare schemes of organisation and the other to start the training of local authority personnel in anti-gas and general air-raid precaution duties. The first step was the issue of the circular in July, 1935. There has been so much misunderstanding with regard to this circular that I must deal with it in some detail. I must deal with what the right hon. Member for South Hackney said in reply to the right hon. Member for Epping at the beginning of yesterday's Debate, which has been responsible for a great deal of misunderstanding. I am not for a moment suggesting that the right hon. Member for South Hackney was in any way being purposely disingenuous, but he said that from his records there had been no communication from the Home Office to local authorities between the issue of the circular in 1935 and February, 1937. The question of the right hon. Member for Epping was general, and did not relate to finance, and the point which greatly influenced the right hon. Member and the House was the impression that there had been no communication at all, that nothing had been done.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
The whole point of my argument was that the local authorities' machine could not function until there was substantial financial agreement between local authorities and the Government, that the Government had been so informed unanimously by the local authorities, and that notwithstanding that, there were these two years of delay before we were brought into joint conference with a view of arriving at a financial agreement.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I appreciate, and of course, accept what the right hon. Gentleman says, but the fact remains that as far as many hon. Members are concerned they did not understand the point in that way, and it is eminently desirable that I should clear up the matter at once. Let me point out that during that time the Home Office issued no less than six circulars to local authorities on various important subjects associated with air-raid precautions. They issued 50 per cent. of their total issue of circulars during that period; three memoranda and six handbooks for the use of local authorities.
301 It is important that this should be properly understood by hon. Members. In regard to this circular, it suggested that local authorities should prepare general plans, that afterwards when the handbooks were issued they should fill in the details of those plans, and that in the meantime there should be conferences between officers of the Department and the localities. These conferences took place, and lasted throughout the rest of that year. At the beginning of the next year local authorities were beginning to formulate their plans, the handbooks were issued and the work was generally proceeding.
At that time the matter could be described as being in the educational stage. Some local authorities were working quickly, some more slowly and there were a certain number of non-co-operating local authorities that refused; and they refused not on financial grounds. It must be remembered that public opinion on this matter was then rather different from what it is to-day. But by the time autumn came we were in a position to go on to the next stage. By that time a number of schemes had been brought forward by local authorities, and they were useful in that they earmarked certain buildings for certain purposes and certain personnel for certain purposes. They were not costed schemes, and the next stage was to get them accurately costed. When the Home Office had a sufficient number of typical schemes from various local authorities asking them to be costed, it involved visits of inspectors of the Department to check the details on the spot. The House will appreciate that local authorities and the Home Office were dealing with an entirely new problem, technically and administratively. Local authorities often made mistakes which had to be corrected by the Department, and it may be said that, by the beginning of this year the Government, for the first time, was in possession of essential knowledge with regard to the cost of air-raid precautions in typical local authority districts, which it was absolutely vital to get for a general survey of the whole problem. No one will suggest that the national administration should take binding decisions on finance in a new problem of this kind involving millions of pounds until they had all the data before them, and had carried 302 out a thorough survey of the expenditure in all its bearings.
In addition to that, work was pressed on in the training of personnel. The Home Office established an anti-gas school. The scheme was that local authorities should send men to be trained as instructors who could then go back to the localities and train their colleagues. As a result 100,000 men in the employ of local authorities have been trained in anti-gas and general air-raid precautions duties up to the present, and the whole of the police, 60,000 men, have also been trained. That gives 160,000 trained men as a result of the Home Office scheme. The Home Office have also trained on their own account 10,000 doctors, and under a scheme with the St. John's Ambulance and Red Cross Society, about 60,000 people have been also trained in first-aid duties. They have also made contact with business organisations, a handbook has been prepared, 500 factories have been visited, and contact has been established with chambers of commerce and employers' organisations who have been extremely helpful in this matter.
Now I come to the civilian respirators. A factory was established which was estimated to produce at the rate of 500,000 a week. The actual output has now risen to 650,000 a week, and we have now practically 20,000,000 respirators, 9,000,000 of which are in London. We have also gone forward with a scheme for the distribution of the respirators, which is equally important. We have carried out an investigation in a local authority with a population of 130,000, and a scheme has been worked out in conjunction with Home Office experts. It provides that the respirators shall be stored in four stores of 30,000 respirators each, and the actual scheme of distribution will be through a chain of 30 sub-depots, and then the distribution of a respirator to the householder in his home. This scheme contemplates that individuals in houses will be fitted with respirators in time of peace, and in time of emergency, the respirator should be distributed in a matter of hours.
Let me deal with the question of the financial negotiations. I should like to say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, how much he appreciates the way in 303 which the right hon. Member for South Hackney conducted himself in his difficult dual position in the negotiations. There was never a hint in his representation of the local authorities of any suggestion of party activity of any kind. Still, the right hon. Member in opening his speech in part one said he was representing the views of local authorities as they were at the time the negotiations came to an end. I am not making any complaint against him. He was speaking the truth in every word he uttered, but there is one important fact to which I must draw the attention of the House, and that is, that while he was representing the views of local authorities as they were, he was not representing them as they are. The Association of Municipal Corporations, one of the most important of these bodies, in fact, the body which alone first approached the Secretary of State on the matter, issued a statement in which, while maintaining their general views, they nevertheless recognise that the Government have gone a long way to meet the views of local authorities, and in view of the urgency of the matter do not desire to hamper the passage of the Bill, but urge the Government to give an assurance on the following matters:
I submit that the statement made yesterday by my right hon. Friend really in substance meets the demand of this most powerful association. In one respect it is superior. It asks for reconsideration when the expenditure is over a 2d. rate.
- "1. If in practice it is found that the expenditure borne by local authorities will exceed the product of a 2d. rate the subject should be reconsidered;
- 2. That in any case there should be a review in three years time."
§ My right hon. Friend has promised to bring under reconsideration any excess over a rd. rate, and in that respect he has met the local authorities very generously. The hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir R. Meller) indicated clearly that powerful influences in the County Councils' Association take up the same attitude as that of the Association of Municipal Corporations.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think when the City of Liverpool read the assurances which have been given by my right hon. Friend this afternoon their attitude may change.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I was impressed by what the right hon. Member for Epping said when he contrasted the way in which this matter has been handled in this country and the way in which it would be handled in a totalitarian State. It is true that there would be no negotiations with local authorities, and certainly there would be no non-cooperating authorities. I agree with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) that this matter of air-raid precautions is a challenge for a free country, and we have to show that we can carry out this matter just as efficiently as, if not better than, any other country in the world.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 324; Noes, 135.307
|Division No. 14.]||AYES.||[17.30 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Bull, B. B.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Bullock, Capt. M.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Beechman, N. A.||Butcher, H. W.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Beit, Sir A. L.||Campbell, Sir E. T.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Bennett, Sir E. N.||Cartland, J. R. H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Bernays, R. H.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Cary, R. A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Bird, Sir R. B.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)|
|Assheton, R.||Blair, Sir R.||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Blaker, Sir R.||Cazalet, Theima (Islington, E.)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Boothby, R. J. G.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Boulton, W. W.||Channon, H.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Boyce, H. Leslie||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Christie, J. A.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Brass, Sir W.||Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Higgs, W. F.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Holdsworth, H.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. I.||Holmes, J. S.||Purbrick, R.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hopkinson, A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hulbert, N. J.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hunter, T.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Joel, D. J. B.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Keeling, E. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|De la Bare, R.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Denville, Alfred||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Dodd, J. S.||Kimball, L.||Rowlands, G.|
|Donner, P. W.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Crewe, C.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Russell, R. J. (EddisburY)|
|Duggan, H. J.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Lees-Jones, J.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Leigh, Sir J.||Salt. E. W.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Levy, T.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Lewis, O.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Emmolt, C. E. G. C.||Liddall, W. S.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lipson, O. L.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Errington, E.||Lloyd, G. W.||Scott, Lord William|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Loftus, P. C.||Selley, H. R.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Lovat.Fraser, J. A.||Shakespeare, G. H|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lyons, A. M.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Everard, W. L.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. O.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Foot, D. M.||McEmit, Capt. J. H. F.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||McKie, J. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Matinamara, Capt. J. R. J||Somerset, T.|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||Macquisten, F. A.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Magna y, T. Maitland, A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Spens, W. P.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mande.r, G. le M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Gledh.II, G.||Manningham Buller, Sir M.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Gluckstein, L. H, GoIdle, N. B.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark. N.)|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Markham, S. F.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Marsden, Commander A.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Granville, E. L.||Mayhew, Lt.Col. J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Metier, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Grettam. Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mills, Sir F. (Layton, E.)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Gridley, Sir A. H.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Taylor, Viee-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Mitchell, H. (Brantford and Chiswick)||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Titehfield, Marquess of|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Touohe, G. C.|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Train, Sir J.|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Munro, P.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Tartan, R. H.|
|Hooking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Hannah, I. C.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Harbord, A.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Ward, Lieut.-Gol. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Owen, Major G.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Harvey, Sir G.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Haslam, Henry (Hornoastle)||Patrick, C. M.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Peake, O.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Peat, C. U.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Wells, S. R.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Petherick, M.||White, H. Graham|
|Hepworth, J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Pilkington, R.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Wilson, Lt.-Col, Sir A. T. (Hitchin)||Womersley, Sir W. J.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.Colonel G.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wise, A. R.||Wragg, H.||Captain Hope and Captain|
|Withers, Sir J. J.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.||Dugdale.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hardie, Agnes||Paling, W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Hayday, A.||Parker, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Price, M. P.|
|Bonfield, J. W.||Henderson, T.(Tradeston)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hicks, E. G.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Barr, J.||Hilts, A. (Pontefract)||Ridley, G.|
|Haley, J.||Hollins, A.||Riley, B.|
|Be!tenger, F. J.||Hopkin, D.||Ritson, J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jagger, J.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Beam.)|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Heath)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sexton. T. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kelly, W. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Short, A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kirby, B. V.||Silkin, L.|
|Cape, T.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Chaser, O.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lee, F.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leonard, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir StaffordDalton, H.||Leslie, J. R.||Stewart, W. J. (H ght'n-le-So'ng)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Logan, D. G. Lunn, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth. N.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Macdonald, G. (lnce)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpell)|
|Day, H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Thorne, W.|
|Robbie, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGovern, J.||Tinker, J. J. Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, J. C.||MacLaren, A.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Maclean, N.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Marklew, E.||Westwood, J.|
|Gallocher, W.||Marshall, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mothers, G.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Garro Jones, G. M||Messer, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gibbins, J.||Milner, Major J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Montague, F.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Muff. G.|
|Griffiths, J. (Lianally)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Mr. Groves and Mr. Anderson.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Captain Dugdale.]