§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I beg to move, in page line 14, after "air," to insert:and as to the evacuation of persons residing in overcrowded areas or in areas particularly liable to air attack.We regard it as absolutely essential that in the Bill it should be laid down as a necessary part of the duties of local authorities, that they should make arrangements for the evacuation of areas which are overcrowded. We feel very disquieted in the absence of this provision from the Bill. It indicates, or appears to us to indicate, that the matter has not been thoroughly considered, and it raises very natural doubts in our mind as to whether the protection proposed to be afforded by this Bill is adequate for safeguarding the general population and their property. We should like to know whether the Government have really stated the whole of their case, or whether for reasons of policy or because they do not desire to frighten the population, they have not stated the full case on this matter. Why should this very important question of evacuation be left out? Whether it was official or not, I noticed with interest to-day in a daily newspaper, I think it was in the "Daily Sketch," a statement by a Home Office official to the effect that very elaborate plans had been made for the evacuation of congested and threatened areas. Whether that is the case or not I do not know, but it is rather curious, if it is the case, that when I raised the matter on the Second Reading and suggested that probably plans for evacuation had been made, I was assured by the Minister who replied, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, that that was not the case. Is it the case or not that plans already exist, and if plans do exist at the present time why is there not provision in Clause of the Bill calling upon the local authorities to make plans for the evacuation of those who are threatened with air attack?
1438 I suggest that plans for evacuation are essential to the working of the Bill for four different kinds of reasons: First of all for reasons of military defence; secondly, for reasons of air precautions defence, passive defence of the civilian population by the Department under the Home Secretary's supervision; thirdly, for reasons of fire defence, the carrying into effect of the necessary precautions for extinguishing and circumscribing fires; and, fourthly, for medical reasons, for dealing with casualties. I wonder whether the Home Secretary has envisaged what London in its normal condition would be like if it was suddenly attacked. Imagine the condition of traffic congestion at Piccadilly Circus, at the Elephant and Castle, at the Angel in Islington, at King's Cross and many other points, should a sudden air attack be made.
If you had in London at the time of an air attack the normal population which now lives and works in London, with those who had come from the surrounding areas, and if London traffic was proceeding normally in its usual over-congested way, you would have such a condition of confusion and disarray as would make it impossible to deal with the situation; and unless you arrange to have a very large part of the population from London evacuated I suggest that the adequate defence of London, and certainly the protection of the population, would be quite impossible When the Home Secretary introduced the Bill he gave an account of the nature of an air attack, He told us that there would be three waves of aeroplanes or three kinds of aeroplanes. He said that some aeroplanes would come loaded with high explosives, then others loaded with incendiary bombs, and still others loaded with gas bombs. That is the accepted technique of the air raid of the present day and of the future. But if this happened suddenly—wars nowadays are begun before they are declared—and London was in its normal congested condition, what does the right hon. Gentleman think would happen to the people who were in London at the time?
Suppose even that the people had all been trained in the making of gas-proof refuge rooms; suppose that they had had given to them their anti-gas respirators and knew how to put them on; suppose that they were all convinced that their gas-proof refuge rooms were full pro- 1439 tection against any poisoning and that the respirators were quite effective. Does anyone think—can the right hon. Gentleman say he really thinks—that the population of London, under the conditions of an air attack with high explosive bombs, incendiary bombs and gas bombs, would be content to go to their little gas-proof rooms and sit there quietly while the attack went on? They would do nothing of the sort. They could not be expected to do so. When the House faces the facts of an air attack and the right hon. Gentleman, if I may say so without offence, allows his imagination freer play, and sees what would happen in the event of an air attack, it will be agreed that to expect people to remain sitting stationary in their gas-proof rooms under the condition of an air attack is an impossible proposition.
We all know our London, and I want to take the case of London, not only because it is an important city, but because it is the one most likely to be attacked. The same conditions apply to other great cities—Glasgow, the Birmingham industrial region, and so forth. If you take London, and look at the parts along the banks of the Thames, from Wandsworth to Woolwich on the south side, and from Fulham to Stepney on the north side, you have a number of boroughs with a population of more than 2,000,000. I have left out boroughs like Bethnal Green and a number of others. You have 2,000,000 people near the river, and, as everyone knows, an attack would be delivered on the docks, food-storage places, and other buildings on the banks of the Thames, as well as on the larger power stations, the Gas Light & Coke Company's station at Beckton, and others of a smaller nature. The river would be the centre of an intensive attack. You have a very large number of people in those areas; those, for instance, in Whitechapel, down the Commercial Road, the East India Dock Road, Poplar, Stepney, Shoreditch, Southwark, Lambeth. You have 2,000,000 people in those districts densely overcrowded for the most part, in houses incapable of being properly gas-proofed, and surrounded by industrial buildings which are certain to draw attack.
The three kinds of bombs used are high explosive, incendiary and gas. 1440 High explosive will be most concentrated, of course, on points of most military importance—precisely the kind most associated with the congested parts of London along the river. While it may be true that in certain areas—such, for instance, as Golders Green and South Kensington—the enemy would not be likely to waste their explosive bombs, in the most crowded areas around the river there would be a great number of high explosive bombs thrown out, with the consequent shattering of glass and of the flimsy structure of the houses, and the certainty that ordinary gas-proofing would be ineffective. Therefore, you could not expect people to remain in their rooms.
Another reason why you cannot have a large number of people in any great city if it is to be attacked is that you must have a clear field for the mobile anti-aircraft units to go round the streets. How are you to do that when there is a great deal of traffic? In fact, you cannot do it with any traffic at all in the streets. You have to stop the traffic. With regard to fires, if, as the Home Secretary said the other day, you have aeroplanes able to discharge something like 1,000 bombs from each plane, the incendiary bombs weighing one kilogram each—as hon. Members know, a kilogram is about two pounds—and each plane started 150 fires, how are you to get them put out, or even get areas of burning controlled, unless you have the freest possible passage in the streets for normal fire brigades and auxiliary fire brigades?
There is another point with regard to decontamination and the casualties. If you had in an area like Southwark gas bombs discharged on the population, you might have in some of the buildings there—and I speak of Southwark, because I know it very intimately as a doctor—some thousands of people all requiring treatment, because unless mustard gas is removed in five minutes, if it falls on the skin, or in 15 minutes if it falls on the clothing, the person becomes a casualty. You might get several thousands of casualties in one area of London alone. In this Bill—this is not directly concerned with the Amendment but it is related to it because it shows the need for reducing the number of people—it is suggested that plans should be set up for air-raid precautions treatment, and, in answer to a question the other day, the Minister said 1441 that there was to be one first-aid post, in which decontamination treatment would be carried out, in every square mile—or, at least, that no post would be more than 15 minutes walk from another. But you cannot deal with more than one-tenth of the people who would require treatment for liquid mustard in that way.
There have been a number of experiments and black-outs recently, in which the air-raid precaution treatments have been carried out. Would the Minister say whether, in any of these try-outs, the arrangements for treatment of mustard gas casualties, in these cases imaginary ones, were satisfactory? I venture to say that unless there is a very much diminished population, or an enormous number of first-aid posts or decontamination stations, you will not be able to deal with more than one-tenth of your mustard casualties. Fortunately, the death rate from mustard is not very high—2 or 3 per cent., which is high enough—but you would certainly have a very large number of casualties on your hands
With regard to decontamination of streets, the Home Secretary and other Members who have studied the matter know that one of the ways of discharging the gas is not from bombs, but from a spray attached to a tank at the back of the aeroplane. The aeroplane flies over and rains down a damnable dew on the area beneath. Every individual touched is a potential casualty, and every street or house or piece of material touched has to be decontaminated or buried under the earth where it is not accessible to man. If you have not a large-scale evacuation of people, how are you to deal with that tremendous problem properly? The first essential of an effective air-raid precautions service in every large city must be the sending out of all persons who are not required to be in the city for the execution of their duties. If you do not do this, you are unnecessarily exposing the population to an attack which can be of no possible benefit to the nation and may embarrass you, quite apart from motives of humanity, by the fact that you will have an enormous number of people to deal with afterwards.
I am talking as though the alternative to evacuation planned under the order of the Government was for the people to remain in the towns, and to be bombed or gassed, and so forth. But the alterna- 1442 tive is nothing of the sort. The alternative to a planned evacuation is a panic evacuation. People are not going to stop in the streets and be bombed. If the local authority has not made adequate arrangements for their removal, they are going to get out by any means they can—on foot, by cars, buses, horse carts or donkey carts, even if they have to crawl. The difficulties of the problem will disappear if it is properly faced. The danger in London in a great one, but if you look at it in square miles it is not so insoluble as it might seem. The four square miles of the central area around Charing Cross is bound to be an area of danger; there is bound to be danger along the Thames; but if you take a 10-mile square on each side of Charing Cross, you have an area of 400 square miles which stretches north to Enfield, east to Barking, south to Croydon, and west to Hanwell. You have a large area which will not be much subject to air attack—or not so much as the other areas. Places nearer to the centre of London, like Islington, Highgate, and Hampstead, would be in that outer area and are not so likely to be attacked as Stepney, Shoreditch, and places near the river.
If you take a still further area out, a 20-mile area, a square with 40-mile sides, you have an area of 1,600 square miles, going on the North to St. Albans, on the South to Redhill, on the West almost to Windsor, and on the East to Epping. If you have an area as big as that, you will have a very large area over which you could distribute the population. I am not suggesting that it would be an easy job, but I do suggest that plans certainly ought to be in existence to enable the population, if such an air raid takes place—that might be the first warning of hostilities—to be as speedily as possible evacuated and spread out thinly over this wide area of 1,600 square miles round about the centre of London. They could be billeted on the houses of the local population. I confess that that gives a certain amount of malicious pleasure, to think of East End people being billeted in Surrey, Sussex, and so forth, in country houses, because it would make some of the people there realise for the first time the horrible conditions in which people live. It would certainly be possible to get the people out there, living either in billets for the time being, probably for a few days only, or in large buildings, barns 1443 and other places, or even possibly in some areas large underground shelters.
I want also to draw the attention of the House to another matter, which has not been mentioned in these Debates, so far as I know, and that is to the question which makes evacuation so necessary, namely, what has been referred to as bacterial warfare. In the opinion of the greatest bacteriologists, some of whom I have consulted, there is no likelihood of bacterial warfare being undertaken, but there is no need for it either, because if you destroy the water supply of a city, if you destroy the sewerage of a city, or if you upset the food supply of a city, the ordinary germs which are in our constitutions will do your bacterial warfare for you, and you will have typhoid, dysentery, and so on and will not need to import germs from anywhere else. This point emphasises what I have said, that your alternative is not between evacuation and no evacuation, but between an orderly evacuation under the orders of the Government and a disorderly, panic evacuation.
If you have a panic evacuation, you will have the most appalling sanitary, or rather insanitary, catastrophes and epidemics. In London we have water supplies, sanitary supplies, and all the elaborate apparatus of an extremely complicated civilisation, but if you were to take 1,000,000 people out of London in a panic flight and let them distribute themselves as they would want to do, probably, over the towns on the South Coast near to London, you would have the sanitary systems of those places breaking down. You would have, in fact, the probability of very grave danger of epidemics added to your other problems. You have, therefore, to spread your population thinly over the relatively safe areas, with proper regard to water supplies, food supplies and sanitation, and, if necessary, there ought to be prepared in advance those supplies of water and at any rate sanitary conveniences which would guard the population against a grave sanitary breakdown.
These things are essential, and evacuation is possible. It is quite possible, of course, that the air warfare, if it began, might not go on for very long, and it might be all over in a few days, but if it were to be prolonged, quite obviously the Government would not only require to distribute the population thinly, taking 1444 London as an example, over the Home Counties round about London, but would require to make arrangements for the permanent or semi-permanent removal of the population long distances, away in the agricultural areas of Wales, Scotland, and of the remoter parts of England, so as to disembarrass the area round London. Air warfare, in fact, means that the whole of this country would be in the active area of conflict if it came along, and the whole area of the country must be treated as if it were, as indeed it is, part of the military problem.
Just as in war time no commander in his senses would expose men unnecessarily to bombardment and put them into a position of danger where they could do no good, so, if we are, owing to the unfortunate condition of the world and owing to the policy pursued by Governments, going to subject the whole civilian population to the possibility of attack, we must at least face the consequences and see that they are evacuated from the points of danger and not exposed to the destruction which, if they are left there, inevitably awaits them. I, therefore, move my Amendment, not with the slightest idea of scoring off the Government or of attacking the Government in any way, but only because I believe that unless you do have a plan for evacuation on a very large scale, your air-raid precaution schemes will break down and will not work when you are trying to handle an over-congested population of from 3,000,000 to 8,000,000 in that area of London.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) has made an interesting speech, which has covered a very wide field. I make no criticism of it on that account, nor do I make the least criticism of the tone in which he has spoken. These discussions raise no party controversy at all, and we have to approach them in the position of practical men trying to do the best we can in very difficult conditions. I agree at once that the subject of evacuation is one of the most important of all these difficult questions in connection with air-raid precautions. It raises immense difficulties, and it is a subject on which no wise man will dogmatise. The hon. Member who has just spoken has taken for some time past an active interest in air 1445 raid precautions, and he takes the view that inevitably, in the modern conditions of warfare, huge numbers in great cities will have to be evacuated. There are very strong arguments for that view. None the less, it is not a view that is universally accepted. Take, for instance, what, I am told, is the position in Germany. Air-raid precautions have probably been dealt with in Germany more comprehensively and effectively than in any other part of Europe, and I am informed that the experts in Germany do not believe that it will be possible to evacuate large numbers of the population from the great cities of Germany. I say that to the hon. Member as a word of caution, lest we should seem to dogmatise too easily upon what is going to happen in the conditions that no one can picture.
May not the German view on that matter be partly conditioned by the fact that they have a gigantic army, the moving of which would occupy all their roads and railways, which we have not?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I would rather say that they regard it as a part of the whole scheme of air-raid precautions, but that they do not put it in the isolated and central position into which the hon. Member has put it. So far as I am concerned, I do not wish either to accept or to reject that view, nor do I wish to accept or to reject the view of the hon. Member for North Islington. I agree with him that it is a part of air-raid precautions to which we have all got to give the most urgent and careful thought. I tell him further, that the Committee of Imperial Defence are giving it the most careful thought. We agree that it has to take its place in many local schemes of air-raid precautions. What place it should take in an individual scheme must depend upon the actual conditions in that part of the country, and I can conceive that what is needed in one part of the country will not be needed in another part of the country.
I agree, therefore, with the hon. Member that evacuation must take its proper place in these local schemes.
The question then arises, What is the best method for ensuring that evacuation should take its proper place in these schemes? I suggest to the House that the method that the hon. Member has proposed is not the right method. He says, "Put it as an express provision in the Bill that every scheme has to include 1446 within its scope evacuation." Now that method is contrary to the method that we are adopting in the Bill. We take the view that in dealing with a new and very difficult problem it is very difficult at this stage to dogmatise upon the details, and, that being so, that it is better not to insist on exclusive lists for these local schemes. The wise course is to put the obligation on the local authorities to make their schemes and to adapt them to their local conditions, and then to leave it to the Air-Raid Precautions Department, with their very much greater knowledge of the staff questions, to approve or disapprove of particular schemes. Putting evacuation in by name would run counter to that method, and to pick out one particular problem to that extent would diminish the importance of the other items that we intend to be included in it.
I suggest, therefore, to the House, first of all, that it is much wiser to treat these items of the scheme as a whole, and to leave it to the Air-Raid Precautions Department, subject always to the control of Parliament, to see that the schemes are effective and that evacuation plans take a proper place in such schemes as are suited to the area. Secondly, I suggest to the Committee that the hon. Gentleman's method, particularly after the speech that he has just made, would in fact be ineffective. If the hon. Member's Amendment were carried, the effect of it would be to insist that in every local scheme there should be an evacuation plan. Hon. Members who listened to his speech will have noticed, perhaps, that his main argument was directed, if I understood it aright, to the introduction of large bodies of population into other areas. He took the case of London—a very good case. I agree with everything that he said about the risks in London, and I agree with everything that he said about the riverside constituencies, but he will see that what he had in mind would need something over and above local schemes. They would need arrangements with the towns outside London, and so it would be in the other great industrial areas.
Under the provisions of the Bill we make it possible for local bodies within a county area and outside a county area to have associations with each other and to make common schemes. But I could conceive of a scheme of evacuation even more comprehensive than a county 1447 scheme. Take the great county of London; I imagine that it would need something far above these essentially local provisions. I suggest to the hon. Member that the only way to make this effective provision is to leave it to the local authorities to include evacuation in their schemes for local purposes as far as it can be done in the localities, and to leave it to the Air-Raid Precautions Department and the Committee of Imperial Defence to draw up these much bigger schemes of evacuation which may mean the removal of large numbers of the population to a considerable distance. The Committee of Imperial Defence is actively engaged upon this problem. We already have certain plans in existence. We intend to make them more comprehensive, and we shall have them ready for the emergency. It would, of course, rest with the Government should the emergency arise as to how and when these schemes would be put into operation. I hope that I have shown the Committee that we have the question of evacuation very vividly in our minds, and that we intend to deal with it, but we think the method proposed by the hon. Member opposite is not the right one.
Will it be proper for a local authority to make evacuation schemes under the Bill when it becomes an Act, because it does not mention evacuation anywhere?
§ Sir S. Hoare
It will not be obligatory upon every local authority in the first instance to include evacuation in its schemes.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Certainly, it could be done and we should expect it to be done, and where it was thought necessary that evacuation should play a prominent part in the scheme, we should not approve of the scheme of the local authority until it was included.
§ Mr. Sandys
May I ask a further question on the point raised by the hon. Member opposite? It is on the question of the powers of local authorities. As I understand these evacuation schemes, if they are necessary, the people will have to be evacuated from the area of one local authority into the area of another. It is not quite clear from the later Clauses of the Bill, whether it will be the 1448 definite duty of the local authority into whose area the people are being evacuated to make schemes for the billeting and provisioning of these people.
§ Sir S. Hoare
The question of my hon. Friend supports the contention which I was just making to the Committee, that questions of that kind must essentially be dealt with by the Air-Raid Precautions Department. The local authority can make its proposals, and it can enter into them with a neighbouring authority. That already comes under the Bill. If after that we thought that the scheme was inadequate, or that there was not sufficient co-operation between one local authority and another, the Air-Raid Precautions Department and the Secretary of State could insist upon the plans being made effective.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member may have an opportunity of taking part in the Debate later on. I called the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker).
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I think that the Home Secretary, in what he has just said, has a little misinterpreted the Amendment on the Paper. The Amendment says:As to the evacuation of persons residing in overcrowded areas or in areas particularly liable to air-attack.If there were no overcrowded areas and no areas particularly liable to air-attack, naturally the local authority would not put anything in their scheme. We want to deal with the case, which he admits exists, where there is ground for grave anxiety that there will be a panic evacuation under most lamentable conditions unless adequate preparation is made in advance. The right hon. Gentleman has given some relief to our anxiety this afternoon, but I think he will agree that our anxiety was not negligible in view of the fact that the Bill does not mention the word "evacuation," and that the Memorandum covering the Bill, and including, under seven headings, the matters with which the local authorities' schemes are to deal, does not mention the word "evacuation" and in view of the fact that when, on the Second Reading, we asked about evacuation—I am speaking from memory, and no doubt the Under-Secretary of State will correct me if I am 1449 wrong—he said that plans were being made for the evacuation of children from schools in particularly exposed areas. If I am wrong, I apologise. At any rate, we have felt very grave anxiety that this matter was not being dealt with in the comprehensive way required.
The Home Secretary admits now that there is a very important problem. We believe, as my hon. Friend said in his very able speech, that the problem may be on a very great scale. Let us think back to the last War. There was a very large-scale voluntary evacuation of people from London. Not very long ago I was at Pinner, and the inhabitants there described to me how people came out on moonlight nights to camp in the open fields. Pinner is now too much of a built-up area, and people will have to go further away. In the last War the scale of the attack was childish—that was admitted in all quarters of the House in the Second Reading Debate—compared with the scale that may now be reached. Three years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made a speech in this House, from which he quoted again the other day, in which he said that he thought it likely that we might have to evacuate 4,000,000 people in the course of a few days from London alone. There was a statement in the Press which appeared at the time to be semi-official—it was at the time the Government Committee was considering the matter—in which it was said that 40 per cent. of London's 7,000,000 people would have to be evacuated within two days. Personally, I think that that is a very gross over-statement, but it is certain that the number of people who might have to be dealt with by such schemes would run into millions. It would not only be in London, though the docks, the East End and the centre of London almost certainly would need to have schemes of this kind. In my constituency, in the ancient borough of Derby, I feel well satisfied that the region around the Rolls Royce works would require an evacuation scheme. Take the city of Coventry, where there are aircraft factories in almost every quarter of the city. It is evident that a large part of that city will need to have evacuation schemes. It will run into great numbers of people.
I speak with experience of rather a different kind from that of my hon. 1450 Friend. I was helping Dr. Nansen in 1922 when he had to deal with the arrival of 1,250,000 refugees in Greece. Greece had a long notice of their arrival, and they came over a period of weeks. They had the assistance of many charitable organisations from outside. One American organisation alone placed 6,000,000 dollars at their disposal to help them. There were very great problems to be dealt with, including transportation and shelter, as everybody can imagine for himself, but it is easy to imagine it if you have actually seen it in operation. If this is the problem to be dealt with, we believe that it should be faced by the local authorities, as we say in this Amendment, where the problem may arise from the local point of view, and also by the Government as a whole. I was very glad to hear the Home Secretary say that the Committee of Imperial Defence and the Air-Raid Precautions Department have the matter under serious consideration. While it is extraordinarily difficult to deal with millions of people, and no army, as far as I know, has ever succeeded in dealing with anything like the movement of 4,000,000 people in the first two days after the outbreak of war—the Germans moved 1,750,000 at the beginning of the War in 1914—nevertheless, in any case, the cost could be greatly reduced if adequate preparation were made in advance.
If adequate preparations are to be made, you need plans, compulsory powers of various kinds and the preparation of stores in various parts of the country. We are extremely anxious that plans should be made, that compulsory powers should be taken, and that stores should be prepared. As my hon. Friend said, we have very particular advantages in some way. We have in the country districts large numbers of country houses which can take a very much larger quota of inhabitants than those who usually dwell in them. Practically all, or a very large proportion, of the people of the countryside could, in case of necessity, take extra inhabitants into their houses. In Greece, during that time in 1922, practically every family in the country took in an extra family. We believe that the plans that are needed can only be made by the Government. They must be plans based upon what the local authorities say in their schemes, plans concerning the areas of evacuation, the areas to which 1451 the people must be sent, the means of transport and the routes for the traffic. We need, on a very large scale, something like what the police have for the Aldershot Tattoo.
We need compulsory powers. The Government must not merely have powers of requisition for the transport of very large numbers of people, but compulsory powers for billeting people in private houses. We must have powers to take over churches and other public buildings where people could be put, and we must take powers to overcome vested interests and take over land for the establishment of camps. These difficulties ought to be faced at once; power should be taken now. It will need stores of food and the nucleus of camping equipment of various kinds, and, above all, it will need a general staff. If the Home Secretary tells us that the Committee of Imperial Defence are already making such plans, well and good. That is a great relief to our minds, but the planning must be done now, and the local authorities should be told definitely to take this matter into consideration in order that they may realise what they ought to do. We hope that the Government will put something into the Bill to show that they intend to make the plans, take the powers and prepare the stores, and, in general, to organise the services which will certainly be required if, unhappily, war should come.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Captain Gunston
I hope that the Minister will give us a little further reassurance. I agree very much with what was said by the hon. Member who opened the discussion, and perhaps I might congratulate him, because he attended the anti-gas drill in my division and helped a great deal, and he has contributed to the Debate. The Home Secretary pointed out that there would be danger in leaving this matter purely in the hands of the local authorities, that it might be such a big problem that the local authorities might be content to concentrate on that problem, and not give the attention that they should do to many other problems with which we have to deal in the Bill. At the same time, I feel that there is a danger. If we leave the Bill as it is, local authorities will prepare their schemes and will send them up to the Minister. He will consult with the Air-Raid Precautions 1452 Department, and they will say that there is nothing in the scheme to deal with evacuation, and that will delay the whole scheme.
I see the danger of asking local authorities for evacuation schemes for all areas, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that perhaps on the Report stage he will consider putting into the Bill words requiring the local authority to consult with the Air-Raid Precautions Department of the Home Office in regard to the question of evacuation. Where the Air-Raid Precautions Committee advise that plans should be drawn up to provide for evacuation, it should be so done. There is considerable danger in leaving the Bill as it is. We cannot get over the fact that the one important thing is evacuation, and that word has been left out of the Bill. I hope that the Home Secretary will take steps on Report to rectify this matter, so that the attention of local authorities will be called to this point in the preparation of their plans.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
In dealing with this Bill one of the difficulties which confronts us is that there are no clear directions to the local authorities as to what the air-raid precautions scheme should cover. The clearest statement is in the Financial Memorandum, but it has not been carried into the body of the Bill. For the actual directions to the local authorities we have to depend entirely upon the regulations or orders which are to be issued later by the Home Secretary on the decisions of the Air-Raid Precautions Department. That means that the Bill is very much a skeleton. I should have liked to have seen some greater detail shown as to what the air-raid precautions scheme should deal with but, unfortunately, the question of evacuation is not mentioned except in the Preamble, and that fact suggests that this question has been over looked.
The Home Secretary pointed out that evacuation need not be a part of the scheme of certain local authorities. That is covered by the last portion of Clause 1, Sub-section (4), in which it is laid down as follows:Provided that the Secretary of State may in the case of any council dispense with the preparation and submission of a scheme in respect of any matter specified in such regulations, and thereupon the council shall not be 1453 required to submit a scheme with respect to that matter.The regulations will, presumably, cover the question of the air-raid precautions where there is no necessity for evacuation to be dealt with by a particular council. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to develop a very interesting point, namely, that this question of evacuation, especially as far as London is concerned, is such a large question and of such great importance that it should be dealt with by the Air-Raid Precautions Department itself. I would ask, respectfully, where have the Government taken power to deal with that question, except in general terms? Where have they taken power to initiate such extensive schemes or to spend money in the preparation of them? Some of us feel that much of this air-raid precautions work would be better dealt with not through the local authorities but centralised in the Department concerned. It is quite arguable that the question of evacuation should be dealt with by the Department. If so, that question has not been raised hitherto and it opens up considerable possibilities. At present the objects on which the Department can spend money are definitely laid down in a later clause of the Bill, but evacuation is not one of those objects. It may be that the Government are empowered to produce a scheme, but some of us feel that the matter is of sufficient urgency that actual preparations in addition to a paper scheme are required.
The more one goes into the question of air-raid precautions the more difficult they become. It is possible that an effective degree of security would require the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds and some exceedingly rigorous powers being exercised by the Government. Whether we like it or not, if the wholesale evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people is to be contemplated, that would mean control of transport such as is not outlined in this Bill anywhere. It would mean power to commandeer private vehicles, to control public service vehicles and railway arrangements, but that power of interference with individual property is not suggested anywhere in the Bill. Is it to be included in the regulations which are to be laid down later? If so, some of us will certainly have something to say at a later stage. It may be necessary, but no hint is given in the Bill of such a proposal.
1454 Then there is the question of the control of the property in which these people are to be housed. How are they to be supported? Who will pay for their support? What about the position of women and children and the difficulty of fitting children with gas masks? There is also the question of the people from congested areas, where the husbands have been earning only very small wages and cannot support their wives and families away from their homes. To provide the necessary support would require very large sums of money. If a large scheme of evacuation is under consideration I should like to endorse the last speaker's plea that, assuming this Amendment is not suitable, the Government should give some indication that they will introduce an Amendment which will give them power to draw up such a scheme as will show in some way the magnitude of the scheme in contemplation.
There are districts which will be in a specially dangerous zone. In the London area, presumably the neighbourhood of Woolwich will not be a healthy district to live in, and there is no doubt that those who can afford to leave London will do so. Therefore, we are entitled to ask the Government what plans they are making for those who cannot afford to leave London. It has been admitted that the gas-proofing of bad houses or of wretched rooms in bad property cannot be made effective and that persons in overcrowded areas cannot look for the same protection as those fellow citizens who happen to live in good property. I would press, therefore, that this matter should receive more attention and that there should be some recognition of its importance in the Bill.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Home Secretary, in reply to the very able speech that was made in presenting the Amendment, said that he did not assent to or reject the main character of the arguments, but he wanted the question of evacuation to be properly related as part of the general air-raid precautions and not as a central feature of the Bill. If this is the opinion of the Air-Raid Precautions Committee and of the military authorities, then one is inclined to the view that they do not understand the problem with which they are dealing. The question of evacuation is the central question. I had not an opportunity of speaking on the Second 1455 Reading or I should have argued that while it is not possible to save the civilian population in the event of war it is our duty to do everything possible to provide such a situation as will minimise danger, suffering and death.
In order to Understand the problem with which we are dealing we must have some idea of what is meant by modern war. In modern war the one thing that we can rely upon is military stalemate. It has been said that if war comes it will last about five days. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nine days."] If I mistake not it was the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) who made that statement. That right hon. Gentleman has shown himself in the past one of those experts who, whenever he prophesies, one can rely upon it that if one takes just the opposite of what he prophesies one will be somewhere near right. To talk of a nine days' war is simply to play with the question. What happened in the last War? A military stalemate, and every conceivable method of demoralising the civilian population. Why was the intensive submarine campaign carried on by Germany? It was to break down the morale of the people of this country. If we have a war—we shall certainly have a war if the policy of the National Government is allowed to go on—the first thing that will be tried by every country engaged in it will be to use their air offensive not for military objectives but essentially for attacking and demoralising the civilian population. The military mind and the mind of the Air-Raid Precautions Department do not understand this question. They are incapable of doing their job.
Questions have been asked in this House with regard to Spain and China and the answers show that the military and air authorities have been watching events in Spain and China in order to get an understanding of the new horrors of modern warfare, especially the use of aeroplanes. Has there been any specialising on military objectives in China and in Spain? Any military objectives which have been hit at any time have been merely incidental. The whole of General Franco's activities have been directed towards demoralising the civilian population, and the wholesale butchery in Shanghai by Japanese planes bombing the most crowded part of the city is for 1456 the purpose of destroying and demoralising the civilian population. I know that hon. Members opposite are not concerned about the civilian population of this country.
Sir C. Granville Gibson
May I interrupt the hon. Member? That is not true. We have as much regard for the civilian population as any hon. Member opposite.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I say that hon. Members opposite are not concerned with the civilian population. I know that if war came hon. Members opposite would use the most repressive measures against the civilian population if there was, what I would like to see, any measure of resistance to the Government. When did you ever see a Conservative Government take an interest in the civilian population either in war or in peace? The Government have destroyed areas and have caused suffering to millions of people.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is discussing something which is rather a long way from the Amendment.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am sorry if I am off the track, but it was due to the interjections from the other side of the Committee. I always endeavour to keep strictly to the subject under discussion, but it is very difficult owing to the bad conduct of hon. Members opposite. But the Air-Raid Precautions Committee and the military authorities must have it forced into their heads that as soon as war starts the question of evacuation is an immediate question. It is not something which can arise after war starts; it will arise immediately. As soon as war starts aeroplanes will attack the civilian population. What authority have I for saying that? If hon. Members opposite are not satisfied with the experience of the wars in Spain and in China, or with the character of the war from 1914 to 1919, they will remember that Earl Baldwin of Bewdley said that the bombing aeroplane would get through no matter what we did, and that our only defence would be for our bombing aeroplanes to go over there. What for? To attack military objectives? Earl Baldwin understood the central issue. He pointed out that our only means of combating the air offensive of the enemy was to go to the enemy country with our aeroplanes—and attack military objectives? No. He said that our only means 1457 of combating the offensive of the enemy is to go to their country and kill more women and children than they kill here.
§ The Chairman
I cannot see that our aeroplanes going to another country have anything to do with the evacuation of an area in our own country.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am putting forward the argument to show that when war starts aeroplanes are not used to attack military objectives but to massacre women and children in order to demoralise the civilian population, and I am using Earl Baldwin's argument that when they come here to kill we must go there and kill more women and children. He did not mention military objectives. If this House is sitting when bombers come over, will there be an evacuation? Will hon. Members be looking for a policeman to assist them into the House? No. They will be looking for a policeman to get them out of the House. There will be no question about an evacuation.
§ Mr. Gallacher
No, I am speaking from my knowledge of hon. Members. I do not think any hon. Member will want to stand in the middle of the Floor of the House and see if he can catch a bomb coming down. But while it would be possible for us to evacuate and get somewhere else, what is to become of the masses of the people in our slum areas and crowded working-class districts? These are the objectives for which aeroplanes will make in London, Birmingham and Glasgow. That is an essential feature of modem warfare. I support the Amendment although I do not believe it is possible to save the civilian population, no matter how much money you spend. I believe that there will be terrible agony and suffering if the policy of war is persisted in, but at the same time I think that everything should be done to ensure the minimum danger and risk to the civilian population, and one of the most outstanding questions is a preparation for evacuation from the crowded areas which are bound to be a mark for enemy aeroplanes. I want to see something of this character in the Bill and I hope the Amendment will be carried to a Division unless the Home Secretary is prepared to put in words which will guarantee that evacuation will not be considered 1458 as a side issue in air-raid precautions but as a central problem.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Simmonds
The Home Secretary has given us a good deal more information on the subject of evacuation than we have ever had before from any Member of the Government, and for that the Committee is grateful, but I cannot quite follow him all the way in his argument, for two reasons. In the first place, I realise how Clause 1 will be interpreted throughout the country, and I can scarcely think that members of any local authority will bring their minds instinctively to the question of evacuation simply by reading the Clause. It says:To make provision as to the arrangements for the protection of persons and property.I think the question of protection of persons and property is always regarded as protection in situ, and I fancy that the question of evacuation would not arise in the minds of local authorities when they address themselves to the Clause. The fact remains that in all the speeches from the front Bench on the subject of air-raid precautions we have never had anything more than a few words until this afternoon on the subject of evacuation, although we have heard a lot about gas masks and other things. I think it is time the Committee should emphasise in the Bill that in their opinion evacuation is one of the most important aspects of air-raid precautions. My second reason for thinking it is desirable to include some reference to evacuation in the Clause is that througout the country evacuation is not closely allied in the public mind with air-raid precautions.
We listened to a most extraordinary speech on the Second Reading from the hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir R. Meller), who I understand is the Chairman of the Air-Raid Precautions Committee for the County of Surrey. He more or less ridiculed the idea of mass evacuation. I do not agree with him at all, and I do not think the Secretary of State agrees with him. But when a gentleman holding an important position in air-raid precautions services says that evacuation is not a practicable proposal, I think it would be desirable to get some words on the question of evacuation into the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Thom-bury (Captain Gunston) suggested that it might be possible on Report stage for the 1459 Secretary of State to introduce words which would satisfy the Committee; to insert the words "where requested by the Secretary of State as to the evacuation of persons." Clearly the Secretary of State will have greater knowledge as to where evacuation will be desirable and of the areas into which evacuation should flow, and, therefore, if he could give to the Committee some assurance of that kind it would meet with the approval of Members on all sides of the Committee.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague
I should like to submit one consideration to the Home Secretary. The difficulty in which local authorities will find themselves in interpreting their functions under the Bill will be greater than the hon. Member suggested, because the Clause says:Arrangements to be made for the protection of persons and property in their separate areas.There is no suggestion or authority for local bodies to undertake any schemes for evacuation. It is perfectly true, as the Home Secretary has assured the House, that the Government have the question of evacuation in mind, and the Under-Secretary in the Second Reading Debate said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1937; col. 295, Vol. 329.]That is very satisfactory, but then the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary says that he does not want to include evacuation, which is the very soul of the question. It is true that, with the exception of the extinction of fires, no specific methods are mentioned in the Bill, but it seems to me that Clause I confines the local authorities to their respective areas and does not give them the slightest inkling of their duty with regard to evacuation. I back the suggestion that, if the Amendment is not accepted, the Home Secretary should agree that on the Report stage some method will be found of making the matter clearer to local authorities than it is at present.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
I wish to raise a point of a legal nature. The difficulty in 1460 this matter is that the structure of the Bill originates from the local authority. The powers of the Secretary of State, by the structure of the Bill, are dependent upon the powers that the local authorities have. The only powers of the Secretary of State are, under Clause r, to approve a scheme, or, under Clause 8, to make regulations which must themselves be for the purposes of the Act. The purposes of the Act being the schemes of the local authorities, his regulations must be limited to those things which the local authorities put into the schemes. Therefore, there is no central authority in the Secretary of State except that which comes to him by virtue of schemes originating from the local authorities.
Evacuation is a problem which does not concern the local authorities only as regards the safety of the people in their own areas. The great problem will be how to deal with the people when they are taken out of the local authority's area. For instance, in a county such as Oxfordshire, the great problem will not be to deal with the people of Oxfordshire, but to deal with the people of London. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that during the Great War there was a very complete scheme worked out by a committee for the evacuation of the East Coast, but that scheme could not possibly be carried out by the local authorities of the East Coast. It had essentially to be done by the Government because of the costs of taking the people away from the East Coast.
Under this Bill, as it is now drafted, there is no power on the part of the Government to originate any such scheme. The power is in the hands of the local authority to make provision as to arrangements to be made for the protection of persons and property in their several areas. What is needed is to get power for the local authorities to make provisions to deal with people who are evacuated from outside their areas; but there is no power under Clause 8 for the Secretary of State to do that by regulations, for he is bound by what is already in the Bill, and can make arrangements to deal only with what is in it. Consequently, the right hon. Gentleman will see that there is no power under this Bill to deal with the subject of evacuation.
I am certain that the Minister is anxious, as he said, to deal with the question of evacuation and that he does not 1461 want to bring another Bill before Parliament at some future date in order to deal with the point. If these words are inserted in the first Clause, although they will not enable provision to be made by each local authority separately for evacuation, they will give the Secretary of State power, under Clause 8, to make regulations as to evacuation, since then evacuation will be something that is dealt with under the Bill. Under Clause 8, the Secretary of State may, with the concurrence of the Treasury, make regulations for the purposes of the Bill. It is vitally important that some such words as are proposed should be included in Clause 1, so that evacuation will be made a purpose of the Bill.
I know it may be said that a single local authority cannot successfully deal with evacuation, but once evacuation is made a purpose of the Bill the Secretary of State will be able, under Clause 8, to make regulations as regards the question. Unless these words were included in Clause 1, in my humble view it would be illegal for the Minister to make such regulations, because evacuation would not be a purpose of the Bill. Whether or not that is the case, nobody wants hereafter to have discussions in the courts as to whether the taking of some action which is necessary for evacuation is within his powers or ultra vires. If the right hon. Gentleman desires, as I understand he does, to have powers to make regulations concerning evacuation, the only way to put the matter beyond all doubt is to include evacuation in Clause 1 as one of the purposes of the Act. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will see the sense of that argument. He may have been advised that probably these words will cover evacuation, but do not let us leave a thing of this importance to argumentation between lawyers at some subsequent stage. We are always being accused by the courts of not making things clear. If we want evacuation to be covered, let us say so clearly.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I hesitate to put my views against the views of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). My advisers inform me that we have that power, and that there is no doubt about it. In any case, we intend to have that power; but I will look into 1462 the question again. All the advice I have received is that definitely we have the power, and having it, we intend to see that evacuation is included in the schemes where it is needed.
§ Sir S. Cripps
If that is the case, is there any objection to including the words, and making it clear? At best there is some doubt, so why not make it clear?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was present when I spoke before, but I developed at length the argument that I was anxious not to pick out a particular item. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that argument as well as anybody. The sole reason for not putting in evacuation is that we are anxious not to take evacuation out of the category of other kinds of air-raid precautions. I can give hon. Members on all sides of the House an assurance on that point. Hon. Members will remember that the procedure contemplated by the Bill is that the Secretary of State should issue regulations instructing the local authorities upon the lines on which they are to prepare their schemes, and those regulations have to be laid on the Table of the House. I contemplate including evacuation in those regulations. The House will see included in them the obligation placed upon local authorities that, where circumstances demand, evacuation will have to be a part of their schemes. That seems to me to be a complete safeguard to the House, for not only does it show my own intention that evacuation should be included in the schemes, but it gives the House an opportunity itself to see that it is included in the regulations. With that assurance, I hope hon. Members will be satisfied.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I do not pursue this point as a party matter, but there is a genuine doubt as to the meaning of Clause 1. If I am right: in my contention, then under Clause 8 the Secretary of State has no power to make such regulations as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. They would simply riot be worth the paper on which they were written, because they would not be for the purposes of the Bill, since Clause 1 does not include evacuation. That doubt could be removed completely by inserting in Clause 1 some words showing that it 1463 includes evacuation. It would then be possible to make regulations without any chance of their being challenged. I cannot see why any doubt should be left in this matter.
§ 5.40 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) raised this matter in a definite and exhaustive fashion. He dealt, clearly, with London, but we who come from the North of England feel equally strongly on the matter of the protection of the civil population. We do not subscribe to the view that London is necessarily the heart of the country, and we are of opinion that we live in a dangerous area as far as air warfare is concerned. We believe that it will be upon such places as Newcastle and the Tyneside that the enemy will concentrate its attention. I am associated with the Newcastle local authority, which is taking air-raid precautions very seriously. From the moment of the receipt of the circular from the Home Office in July, 1935, the respective committees of the corporation have worked upon the different aspects of air-raid precautions.
It seems to me to be very singular that whereas the Home Office circular expressly mentioned evacuation of the civilian population, that matter is not embodied in the Bill, as hon. Members on this side suggest that it ought to be. In dealing with that aspect of the case, the Newcastle Corporation mentioned a number of omnibuses that would be made available, and other provisions for dealing with the civil population. The brochure that was issued by the corporation has been in the hands of the Government since last July, and it may be described as a model. The local authorities and indeed the Government may look upon it as a comprehensive measure and method for dealing with the great question of warfare as it affects the civil population. The corporation feels that in some respects the suggestions embodied in the 1935 circular are not sufficiently drastic, strong and important, as far as the civil population is concerned.
When it is remembered that in and around Newcastle and the Tyneside there is a vulnerable population of 750,000, the matter undoubtedly looms very large.
1464 That area, as was very properly described by the corporation in response to the Government's 1935 circular, is a dangerous area; it is an area in which there are built ships of war and ships for the mercantile marine generally, and where armaments and munitions are manufactured. Consequently, this aspect of the matter has given the greatest concern to the corporation and to the surrounding local authorities. It seems to me that the alternative to proper arrangements being made for the evacuation of the civil population is the statutory provision of bomb-proof shelters.
I feel that there should not be the slightest doubt as to whether this provision will be made and statutory powers taken to compel local authorities, if necessary, to take appropriate action, although in our judgment this is purely a military problem, since the civil population now will be the military population in future, and requires the same protection as would be afforded to those engaged in actual warfare. I feel that this matter should be pressed to a Division if some guarantee is not obtained from the Home Secretary. I strongly commend to the right hon. Gentleman the brochure issued by the Newcastle Corporation, which is comprehensive, exhaustive and detailed, containing as it does 80 pages, with annotations and schedules. It is a document which has been described by the military people in the North of England as one upon which could be based the protection of the civil population and the general tasks associated with air raids in dangerous areas such as Newcastle and Tyneside.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Strauss
I wish to follow up the point which was raised by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), because it appeared to me that the answer of the Home Secretary was not satisfactory. May I say, in passing, that I was alarmed by the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the question of the evacuation of population in areas such as London has not yet been settled in principle? It appears to me that that is one of the most important questions, if not the most important question, involved in the consideration of air-raid precautions. It is, indeed, alarming to be told at this stage by the Home Secretary that although the matter has been under the consideration of the Government for two 1465 or three years, they have not even decided yet whether the population of overcrowded areas are to be evacuated or not. Obviously, it is no use considering schemes of evacuation if we have not decided whether there is to be evacuation.
There seems to be a fundamental difficulty, on the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, in applying regulations under this Bill for the evacuation of population. Suppose it is decided to evacuate large numbers of people from areas in London which are in danger from an air raid. It would be simple for either the London boroughs jointly or the London County Council to outline a scheme. The details would be a different matter. If the Home Secretary is right, he will be able to insist that provision for evacuation should be included in the London scheme. But let us look at the other side of the question. The people who are evacuated will have to go somewhere. They will have to go into one of the neighbouring counties—say, for the sake of argument, into Surrey. We can be certain that Surrey will not easily co-operate in a scheme for decanting perhaps half a million people from a threatened area of London into that county.
§ Mr. Strauss
My authority is the hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir R. Meller) who in the Second Reading Debate said he was chairman of the air-raid precautions committee for the county of Surrey, that they did not think any good would come out of the Bill and that they were, more or less, prepared to take no notice of this provision. I hope I am wrong—
§ Mr. Simmonds
I am certain that my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Sir R. Meller) did not say that Surrey would refuse. What he said was that he did not see how evacuation was going to solve the problem, but that was not a refusal to act.
§ Mr. Strauss
Let us forget the hon. Member for Mitcham. The point I am making is this: Suppose that Surrey did raise difficulties about taking into its big country houses the London population which the Home Secretary wished to 1466 decant. I maintain that the Home Secretary has no power under this Bill to make regulations for moving into Surrey people from London or elsewhere. I hope I am wrong, but I shall be interested to hear either the Home Secretary or the Solicitor-General on that point. It appears to me that Clause 1 of the Bill governs the situation. It says that it shall be the duty of local authorities to submit schemesmaking provision as to the arrangements to be made for the protection of persons and property in their several areas.I do not see how they can be made to prepare schemes for the protection of people from other areas whom it is desired to bring into their areas. I do not see how the Home Secretary can insist on Surrey, for instance, preparing schemes to deal with an infiltration into that area of people from another district. I am not a lawyer and I speak on this subject with some hesitation, but it seems to be clear from the Bill that the Home Secretary would have no such power. I hope, therefore, that either he or the Solicitor-General will, if I am mistaken, tell me how I am mistaken, or, if I am correct, will say whether it is intended, at a later stage, to alter the provisions of the Bill so as to enable regulations to be made under which the Surrey County authority or any other county authority can make arrangements for bringing into their area people from adjoining overcrowded areas likely to be endangered by air-raids.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I regret that I have not heard the whole of the Debate upon this Amendment and I apologise if the question which I am about to raise has already been covered. I understand that the importance of the question of evacuation has not been overlooked. I understand, too, that its importance has not been exaggerated. But it seems to me that one very important factor in relation to evacuation, is the time factor, and I wish to know when it is contemplated that evacuation shall become actual. Clearly, evacuation, if it is to contribute to the public safety, cannot begin after the bombers have got through. You cannot evacuate population in the midst of a raid, and it appears equally clear that you cannot, with any great hope of success, begin evacuation when the bombers, even though they may not have got through, are already on their way.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
On this Amendment the hon. Gentleman cannot go into details about how evacuation is to take place.
§ Mr. Silverman
I appreciate that point and I was leading up to the argument that if the time factor is important, then it is all the more important that the specific powers of the Ministry in this matter should be made clear. If the Ministry finds itself in such a position that, with a raid almost at hand, it has to begin to inquire what its legal powers are, the resulting commotion will be indescribable. Evacuation to be effective might almost have to precede a declaration of war or immediately follow it. In the event of a declaration of war one can understand that if there was to be an attack on the civilian population of London, that attack would be made early. Therefore it would be vital that the Ministry's plans for evacuation should be made well in advance of the danger. I should like to know the Ministry's view about that aspect of the question. If it is necessary that those plans should be made well in advance, then they ought to be well on the way now. Yet here we are considering whether the Ministry have the power to make any such plans at all.
Although a good deal of attention has been paid to this question in this Committee to-day perhaps not so much attention has been paid to it in the preparation of the Bill and in the researches which have led up to the Bill. I confess that I am one of those who feel, most regretfully, that this whole question of protecting the civil population has in it an element of fraud—no doubt quite unconscious and not deliberate fraud. People are being encouraged to believe that the adequate protection of the civil population from air attack is not only possible but far more than that. I rather doubt that view but I am not going to pursue that subject now. I must say, however, that it looks to me as if this evacuation proposal really involved no preparation at all. One is entitled to put this question to the Home Office, which is advancing the proposition in this Bill that adequate protection is possible. Who is to operate this plan for evacuation? Will the Home Office go to one area and say to the authority "you 1468 must look after the populations of adjoining areas within a certain radius," or is it to be done by some central authority?
The overriding consideration surely is that the power to deal with the question should be placed beyond any manner or shadow of doubt When a population is being evacuated, presumably all the people will not be sent to the same place. To do so would be to destroy the whole motive of evacuation. An attack on the civil population, if it takes place at all, must be intended to destroy the civil population. Therefore such attacks will be made on centres where the population is crowded together. If you move a crowded population to some other place, and leave it still crowded together in that other place, all you do is to alter the geography and not the tactics of the attack. Presumably, to make evacuation effective it will be necessary to distribute the population of a crowded area among a large number of other areas and it is difficult to see how it is possible even to begin the consideration of such a scheme unless there is vested in some central authority the power to carry out the scheme. I am bound to say that I feel that the effect of this Debate must be to produce in the country a feeling of even greater insecurity on this question than that which already exists.
§ 5.59 p.m
§ Mr. Kelly
Judging from the Home Secretary's statement it would appear that he has decided that the Home Office has the power to engage in schemes of evacuation. In fact, he hinted, if he did not say so directly, that they had considered that matter. I wish to ask whether they have decided that, in the event of the threat of an air raid, there will be opportunity for the free movement of the people. It is possible that the Home Secretary may not have to decide on an evacuation of people from a certain area in such circumstances. The people may decide for themselves, and I would like to know what is the intention of the Home Office in such cases and whether they consider that they have power under this Bill to prevent the free movement of people, if such a state of affairs should arise. If so, they may feel that they ought to take military action in order to prevent these people from moving.
1469 London has been spoken of many times during the Debate, but I would call attention to such areas as Lancashire, with their great factories and with open country surrounding some of the towns. If people in the factories leave—and I assume they will carry their gas masks to work with them—and are asked to go into the country round about in order to escape from the raiders, are they to be allowed to do that without the central authority making preparations for them to be treated while they are away from their homes? Food, clothing and instructions as to when they may return should all play a part in the scheme that should be prepared, assuming that this Measure provides the opportunity. I hope the Home Secretary will see that words are inserted to make it clear that schemes for evacuation will be considered and prepared if they are needed, and also that consideration will be given to what is to happen if the population of a particular district take it into their own hands to leave that area and go to some other which they believe to be safer. I hope that consideration will not be confined to areas with which my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is concerned or that with which I am connected. There are throughout the country other districts which will have to be evacuated. The Minister for the Coordination of Defence is rearing up factories which will make the district in which they appear subject to attack. I hope that the civilian populations in those areas will be given the hope of greater security and that the Home Office will make provisions to protect them should a barbarous air raid ever take place.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I hope the Home Secretary will find it possible to accept the Amendment. We do not think the local authorities are the proper people to have these powers, but inasmuch as the Government propose to make them the authorities, we want to be assured that they will be armed with adequate powers to deal with the situation. This Bill is necessary because at the moment the local authorities have no legal powers to deal with the matter. In this country, unfortunately, the local authorities cannot do what is sensible. They can do only what is legal, and do only those things which this House has expressly empowered them to do. Therefore, unless the Amendment is made, 1470 the local authorities will not have power to deal with this subject.
The point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss), although I was somewhat startled by the way in which he put it, is sound. When local authorities have evacuated big centres of population, the moment people cross the boundaries, whether of boroughs or counties, the local authorities from whose areas they originated will cease to have responsibility for them. Undoubtedly the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth would make tracks for Surrey and I imagine that the constituents of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) would make tracks for Essex and Middlesex. The powers of the administrative county of London would then end at their boundary. When people got beyond that boundary there would be the problem of what the next authority was to do to deal with them. It will be necessary, in spite of the somewhat narrow reading which my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth gave to the speech of the hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir J. Meller), and I have no doubt the local authorities will desire it, that the outer local authorities should have power to deal with the persons who really belong to another area.
Have the Government really considered how vast this problem is? The Crystal Palace caught fire and it was announced on the wireless that the biggest bonfire there had ever been in England was taking place. The small car owners over the greater part of South London, Surrey, Croydon and Kent went in their hundreds as sightseers. Within an hour the B.B.C. had to broadcast a request to anybody who had not started to desist because the traffic was in such a state of chaos that it was impossible for the police to cope with it. That was an ordinary good-tempered crowd out for a spree and to see a sight. The people who are being evacuated, especially, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) pointed out, the people who are carrying through the process of voluntary evacuation, are fleeing in terror of their lives. There will be none of the good temper, none of the bonhomie that belongs to a Derby Day crowd or a Cup-tie final crowd. They will be a body of men and women fleeing in fear of their lives and believing that every sound they hear is the sound 1471 of approaching raiders. Those of us who have had the misfortune to see a body of people fleeing on the Continent from the fear of invasion and raid know the very different frame of mind in which people in those circumstances are.
Unless provisions have been made well beforehand and are well known, and are complete in their co-operation between local authorities, I am sure that an appalling catastrophe will overtake the community, so that the most drastic measures may possibly have to be taken, if not by the civil, by the military authorities, to avoid the worst consequences of such a situation. I am compelled to the belief that the Government can never contemplate this scheme really coming into operation. I believe that if ever we got into a state of what was called the other night "international tension," this scheme would disappear and there would be some Defence of the Realm Act or a similar measure carried which would establish a central authority to take over this particular part of the work. Even if that takes place, it will be desirable that someone shall have had the duty of preparing the scheme, and I ask the Home Secretary to include the Amendment in the Clause so that there shall be no doubt that this is part of the statutory duty of the various local authorities.
§ 6. 10 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
May I emphasise what seems to me the main point and, indeed, the only essential point in this question. I trust that the Home Secretary will not regard this as a question whether his advisers or the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) is right as to the effect of the Bill. Very likely his advisers are right, but, nevertheless, in my view, the case for doing what the Amendment requires is irresistible. Although the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol may be wrong as to what the courts would hold, the fact that he holds that view surely proves conclusively that there is a possible doubt as to the meaning of the Bill. What we want is not to be secure that ultimately the courts would say that the Home Secretary was right in making certain regulations, but that the Bill shall be so clear that litigation will not retard the application of those measures.
1472 It is clear that the Home Secretary's proposal does not in any way meet the point.
If the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol is right, any regulations made will be ultra wires. It is clear that any system of evacuation must impose on people duties which will in many cases be onerous and disliked. There is, therefore, a grave danger that if they think there is a reasonable chance of being able to upset the regulations—and they will be supported in that view by this Debate—the right hon. Gentleman's measures will be retarded. I understand that his objection to specifying evacuation as one of the purposes of the Act is that this would emphasise one among the many measures contemplated. That is only a question of relative emphasis not of legal effect and he can quite easily correct that by specifying the other measures also or by regulations and circulars. What is vital is that the legal effect of the Act should be clear beyond any doubt. That doubt now exists. I would therefore ask him whether he will not agree to insert words which will dispose altogether of this doubt and remove all danger of his schemes being retarded by litigation.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Short
Before we part with the Amendment we are entitled to a further statement from the Home Secretary or the Solicitor-General upon the points which have emerged in the discussion. One is that unless these words are inserted there is some doubt whether local authorities will have the power to deal with evacuation. Then there is the important legal point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who went so far as to say that there was a doubt whether the Home Secretary would have power to deal with the matter by regulations unless these words were included. Those are two very important legal points. Though I do not claim to have the standing in the law of my hon. and learned Friend who spoke from the Front Bench, nevertheless I have read the Bill with such legal learning as I possess, and I must confess that I share his view and think these are points which ought to be cleared up.
I notice that the Home Secretary told us that his advisers—he did not say his legal advisers—had told him that the powers are wide enough. I see that the Solicitor-General is here. He was here 1473 when this point was raised by my hon. and learned Friend. We have given him ample opportunity of studying the provisions of the Bill. I observed that he made his way to the gallery and consulted the civil servants, and I think we are entitled to have these two important legal points cleared up. This is a very important matter. Most of us here, I suppose, went through the last War in one capacity or another. I was a member of the Sheffield City Council. Various air raids took place upon Sheffield, houses were smashed and people were killed. I submit that Sheffield, as a great centre of munitions production, will be a great military objective. Many people think that Doncaster, which I now represent, and which is a great railway centre, will also appeal to the enemy, and we desire our local authorities to have power to deal with this question of evacuation. We want to know specifically—to have all doubts removed—whether the Home Secretary has power within the terms of the Bill to make the necessary regulations.
The two points I have mentioned are in doubt, and when we have distinguished members of the legal profession challenging the view of the Government then we look for some guidance from our Law Officers. They are not entitled to sit there reading the Bill, or presuming to read the Bill, and to remain indifferent and idle. What are they paid for? I remember quite well that when a Labour Government was in office, and when I had the honour of sitting over there, we used to be challenged time after time. The opinion of the lay Minister, either my chief or myself, was totally insufficient to satisfy our clever and redoubtable opponents on the Tory side. Frequently we were called upon to summon to our aid our distinguished legal brethen, and we want to know, and the country wants to know, what is the position in this matter. We are too apt to think that it is we who want to know, but it is the country which wants to know. There is tremendous feeling about it. I shall never forget the scene in Sheffield when fellow citizens of mine were killed as a result of air raids. I, with others, was sent up here to interview the then Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) as to why it was that adequate provisions against air raids had not been made, why it was that 1474 the entire services were not stopped—the train services which is was suggested had been the means of leading the raiders to Sheffield.
We cannot afford to leave these matters in doubt. We want them cleared up. With all respect to the Home Secretary, we are not satisfied with his statement. I think I can put my learned knowledge and legal training against his lay mind, though I am not apt to throw my weight about legally, and we are not satisfied with the Home Secretary or with his advisers and want a statement from the Law Officers of the Crown. This is a unique opportunity for the learned Solicitor-General to stand at that Box and give us an exhibition of his great legal knowledge in his interpretation of the provisions of the Bill. He may be able to satisfy Members on all sides of the Committee that the doubts thrown into our minds by my hon. and learned Friend are not justified by anything which is in the Bill. If he can remove that doubt we shall be better satisfied. On the other hand we should leave this Chamber more satisfied still if some such words as those of the Amendment could be inserted in the Bill to give the necessary authority to the local authorities and to ensure that the Home Secretary possesses the requisite power to make regulations to meet this point.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Sir S. Hoare
My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General is burning to have an argument with the hon. Member opposite, but I, being a layman, am a bit nervous, in my anxiety to get on with the Bill, about allowing a great legal controversy between two such authorities. My hon. and learned Friend does authorise me to say that he is quite clear about the provisions of the Bill. There is no doubt whatsoever that evacuation can and will be included in the local schemes, and there is no doubt whatsoever that the Secretary of State has power under the regulations which will be laid before this House to insist that evacuation should take its proper place in those schemes. I have fortified myself in that view by consultation with my advisers. We had gone into this question very closely previously to this Debate, and there is no doubt about it at all, but I will make assurance doubly sure by looking into the question again, and if there 1475 is a scintilla of doubt about it, I will see that that scintilla of doubt is removed on the Report stage. I do not think there are any differences on the subject in any section of the House. We are all anxious to see that evacuation takes its proper place in these local schemes. We are convinced that the powers under the Bill are adequate, but if they are not, I will look into the point with a view to bringing up an Amendment on the Report stage. I hope that with that undertaking the Committee will be prepared to bring this discussion to an end.
§ Mr. G. Strauss
Can the Home Secretary say whether that assurance covers the separate point which I raised about the power to make regulations in regard to the immigration of those who are emigrating from a particular area? I maintain that is not included in the Bill, and therefore the provisions about evacuation will be useless.
§ Sir S. Hoare
That is not the case. The hon. Member was quite correct in saying that under the Bill the local authorities can make arrangements between themselves. He contemplates a position in which those schemes might not be adequate. In that event we should have to deal with the matter as we shall deal with the problem of base hospitals. That would be outside the scope of a Bill dealing with local authorities, but we have it very much in mind that we can deal with it either by legislation before the emergency or in what is generally known as the "Dora legislation" as soon as the emergency begins. It is not in this Bill, because it is outside the scope of a Bill dealing with local authorities.
§ 6.24 p.m.
May I venture to appeal to the Home Secretary, not as a lawyer, but as a plain, blunt man, to accept the words of this Amendment, for the very simple reason that if he does not he has got to inform the local authorities in some other way that evacuation is included in the Bill, because it certainly is not mentioned in the Bill or in the Preamble. The reason I drew up the Amendment was because the matter is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill. As the Home Secretary has been good enough to say. I have had some considerable experience of air-raid precautions, and I am speak- 1476 ing, I feel sure, for a great many people when I say that no one would get the impression from this Bill that it had anything to do with evacuation. If the words are not put into the Bill they will have to be put into some other document, and, as a matter of economy, why not put them in the Bill and have done with it? If it is true, as the Home Secretary says, that there is no difference of opinion between the two sides of the Committee in the matter, why not mention it? As a plain, blunt man, I ask: Why not make it plain?
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I want to support what was said with such eloquence by my hon. and learned Friend a moment ago about the legal points. The Home Secretary's whole case is that there is no doubt that the Government will have power. He recognises that in every quarter of the House there is a strong feeling that evacuation must be dealt with by plans prepared in part by local authorities and in part by the central Government. He says there is no doubt. The Solicitor-General has heard the speech of my hon. Friend and the speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), and he has not replied. The Home Secretary does not explain why there is no doubt. It is no good merely saying there is no doubt. I do not want to enter the realm of metaphysics, but, as the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) said, there is doubt because we have a doubt. A doubt exists in the minds of large sections of the public. Why not clear it up? We should welcome a statement from the Solicitor-General as to why there is no doubt, and I hope it will be made.
Before we ask him to make it, I should like to examine the case of the Home Secretary for not accepting this perfectly simple and perfectly logical Amendment. He says, "I do not want to name one special service, and so to make it more important than the rest." I doubt whether he can have read his own Bill. One special service is named throughout the Bill, namely, fire precautions. Why are they named? First, because the function is quite different from the other main body of functions in protecting the individual against wounds and dealing with wounds when they have been caused. The second reason is that fire precautions 1477 are carried out by a special service separate from the other services. Evacuation will have to be carried out by a special service. Thirdly, it is because fire precautions are in the hands of different authorities from those who carry out the other general air-raid schemes. The evacuation schemes will have to be in the hands of other authorities. What applies to fire precautions applies to evacuation. Therefore, I submit that the only case which the Home Secretary makes, except his legal point that there is no doubt that the powers exist, falls entirely to the ground. Whatever explanation the Solicitor-General may give us, I appeal to the Government to accept our Amendment. It has been explained that it applies only where an evacuation scheme is required, but that does not make it more authortiative whether such a scheme is required or not. In the second place, as the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) has pointed out, the Secretary of State can exclude it from any scheme if he desires to do so. Acceptance of the Amendment would clear up doubts in the minds of the local authorities whether the Government will take power under Clause 8 which they require. I beg the Home Secretary to accept this Amendment, in order to save time and to achieve the object which the whole House wants, but if he will not do so, we shall press the matter to a Division.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Terence O'Connor)
I hope hon. and right hon. Members will not think that I have been loath to get up. I intervene at this point, because it is clear that there are difficulties in the minds of hon. Members in regard to this matter. The Committee will have appreciated that my right hon. Friend has undertaken to look into this matter between now and the Report stage and will do so with me, and if there is any reasonable doubt that the view which he has put forward is the right one, it can be reviewed on the Report stage. Everybody seems to have overlooked Clause 4, which imposes duties on local authorities to co-operate, and enables the Home Secretary, by order, to direct that the functions of any two or more councils shall be exercised by a joint committee. A joint scheme is bound to take into account the movement of population from one authority to another.
1478 I would remind the Committee of what my right hon. Friend said, that beyond limits of that kind it is undesirable to go in a Bill designed only to impose duties on local authorities. So far as any larger scale evacuation is concerned, the kind of thing spoken of by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), such as the evacuation of the Eastern Counties during the War, that is admittedly neither within the scope, nor intended to be within the scope of the Bill. It is a matter which will have to be dealt with by some other kind of legislation. In my view there is no doubt that methods of evacuation could be prescribed by the schemes of local authorities, who will be required to embody methods of evacuation by the regulations that my right hon. Friend will be authorised to issue, if need be as between local authorities, in exercise of the powers that the Bill gives him under Clauses r and 4. For those reasons there appears to be no doubt, as I say, but I would remind the Committee that my right hon. Friend has promised to look into the matter, and, if there is any doubt, to put down Amendments on the Report stage.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I have been looking at Clause 4. I understood the doubt to be whether the Minister had power to include in these regulations what would be necessary to carry out an evacuation scheme, and that it arose by reason of the fact that, although he may make regulations, they must be designed to carry out the purposes of the Measure. As evacuation is not mentioned, it might not be one of the purposes. I understand that the Solicitor-General now says that it is one of the purposes, not under Clause r, but under Clause 4, but when I look at Clause 4 (2) I find:The Secretary of State may after consultation with the councils concerned by order direct that the functions of any two or more councils in preparing and submiting air-raid precaution schemes with respect to any matters specified in the regulations made under this Act ….Is it not just possible that the Solicitor-General has been arguing in a circle? He has been saying that any doubt of it being one of the purposes of the Act is removed because it is in Clause 4, but when you come to Clause 4, at any rate to Sub-section (2), which gives the Minister power to direct the co-operation, it 1479 refers you back again to the regulations. If those regulations can include only things which are within the purposes of the Act, and if they are not otherwise than under this Clause among the purposes of the Act, you are back precisely where you started. There could not be in these regulations this question of co-operation for evacuation, and therefore you could not include in your regulations any power which would assist you under Clause 4 in the direction about which we are all a little anxious. I am not claiming for a moment that this deals with the thing completely, but it seems that the doubt is by no means less after the Solicitor-General's explanation than it was before.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
I will do my best to answer the hon. Gentleman's questions, which depend upon an assumption that I have no intention of making. I do not attempt to say that the power is not there under Clause 1. I say that if the local authorities are empowered to make a scheme to protect persons in their area, a feature of that scheme can be a method of taking the people out of that area. I think that deals with the point. They can provide in that scheme for evacuating people. Then will come the question of migration to the other local authorities, and as to that matter, the schemes can be correlated by virtue of Clause 4. Taking the two clauses together it is reasonably clear that schemes for the purpose of the Act can do what everybody in the Committee desires should be done, but if there is any doubt it will be cleared up on the Report stage.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not quarrelling with the Solicitor-General, but may we take it that he thinks that the powers are included under Clause 1? Suppose the argument of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) be correct, and the powers are not included under Clause 1, may we take it that we are agreed that not only is there no power under Clause 1. but that Clause 4 does not provide it?
§ The Solicitor-General
That is quite true. Clause 4 gives no added power. It relates the powers possessed by two different authorities so as to make a comprehensive scheme.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I understood the Secretary of State to say that before the Report stage he would consider the legal aspects of the question. I think that all unlearned Members will agree that the legal aspect is something of a red herring which is drawn across an otherwise respectable Debate. Hon. Members on all sides of the Committee have been trying to impress upon my right hon. Friend the political importance of including these words. It would help some of us in our action in the Lobby if he could say whether he will consider not only the legal but the political aspect of inserting these words before the Report stage.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Yes, I can certainly tell my hon. Friend at once that if I reconsider the wording I shall be reconsidering every point of view.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
We have been speaking of evacuation of the vulnerable points, particularly of the armament works of London. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has already decided to transfer a portion of them from one part of the country to another, so that, although we have evacuation in that sense, other vulnerable points are created. One of them is in my constituency. I want to ask the Home Secretary what is being done about areas in which arsenals are now being created. As he knows, Woolwich Arsenal is being transferred in part to three other parts of the country, one of which is at Bridgend. I want to know whether anyone will be responsible for providing air-raid precautions, since that area has been made vulnerable by the activity of the State. Will such areas obtain protection from the State itself, and not from the local authorities?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I should be out of order if I attempted to deal with a question of that kind, but perhaps in a sentence I may say to the hon. Member that matters of that kind would be taken into account in any local scheme.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Has any report been presented by any authority on the question of evacuation and as to the possibility of evacuating East London, for instance, which is full of military objectives? If so, may the House of Commons have whatever information the right 1481 hon. Gentleman possesses? I seem to remember seeing Press reports in which it was definitely stated on authority that it would be impossible to evacuate the populations of such places as I represent. I would like to know whether it is a fact that the Home Office or any other Department has received any authoritative report on the subject of moving the population of such a place as West Ham?
§ Sir S. Hoare
There certainly are reports in existence of a confidential kind, and provisional plans. As I have said to the right hon. Gentleman, we cannot really have effective reports of this kind until we have the local schemes, and the first step is to get the local schemes and see what plans they contain. Over and above that I agree that the Government will have to have certain emergency plans themselves, but we are not in a position at the present to disclose what those plans would be.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Would those plans take account of how the population is to be moved and how far away, in order to get out of the danger zone? I am thinking now of Essex and of the whole of the area along the river, say, to here, and right across, say, for 30 or 40 miles.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Certainly, plans of that kind contain such provisions, but these things are better discussed in detail when we have the local schemes.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Allowing that there is a possibility of shifting the population to safety before we have any plans worked out, is it quite fair that people who live in Poplar, West Ham, Stepney and Hackney should be soothed with the idea
§ that there is to be some gigantic plan to take them away? I think the public are entitled to know whether we are really discussing a red herring, or whether we are discussing a practical point.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
We find the Solicitor-General's explanation not very satisfactory. It turns entirely on the interpretation of the word "protection." He thinks there is no legal doubt, and thinks that from the political point of view the local authorities will have no doubt that they are concerned with evacuation schemes. But this Bill must be read in the light of the Memorandum which interprets the word "protection," and on page 2 of the Memorandum there are set out certain protective measures which the local authorities can take.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
In our view evacuation is one of the most important matters, and, if there are to be illustrations, certainly evacuation ought to be among them. We think it important politically and legally to put our Amendment ill. and once more I appeal to the Home Secretary to accept it. It is perfectly simple; it is only intended to clarify and help, and not to obstruct; and I do not think that any objection has been raised to it from any quarter of the House. I hope the Government will change their minds and accept the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 125; Noes, 226.1485
|Division No. 24.]||AYES.||[6.47 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Daggar, G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Dalton, H.||Hardie, Agnes|
|Ammon, C. G.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Day, H.||Hayday, A.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dobbie, W.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Banfiold, J. W.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Ede, J. C.||Henderson. T. (Tradeston)|
|Barr, J.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hopkin, D.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Jagger, J.|
|Benson, G.||Foot, D. M.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Broad, F. A.||Frankel, D.||John, W.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Gallagher, W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Garro Jones, G. M.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Burke, W. A.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Kirby, B. V.|
|Cape, T.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Chater, D.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lathan, G.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Lawson, J. J.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Leach, W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Leonard, W.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Logan, D. G.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Lunn, W.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Ridley, G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Riley, B.||Thorne, W.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Ritson, J.||Tinker, J. J.|
|MacLaren, A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Maclean, N.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Walkden, A. G.|
|MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Walker, J.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Mainers, G.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Maxton, J.||Sexton. T. M.||Westwood, J.|
|Messer, F.||Short, A.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Milner, Major J.||Silkin, L.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Montague, F.||Silverman, S. S.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Simpson, F. B.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Muff, G.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Noel-Baker, P. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Paling, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Parker, J.||Sorensen, R. W.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Groves.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Stephen, C.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lewis, O.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Ellis, Sir G.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Emery, J. F.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Emmott, C. E. G. C||Loftus, P. C.|
|Apsley, Lord||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Asks, Sir R. W.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Assheton, R.||Errington, E.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Everard, W. L.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Fleming, E. L.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Furness, S. N.||McKie, J. H.|
|Buchman, N. A.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Best, Sir A. L.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Gledhill, G.||Maitland, A.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Boulten, W. W.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Markham, S. F.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Granville, E. L.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grattan, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mills, Sir F. (Layton, E.)|
|Bull, B. B.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Butler, R. A.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Munro, P.|
|Gartland, J. P. H.||Hannah, I. C.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Harbord, A.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Cary, R. A.||Harvey, Sir G.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Peaks, O.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Peat, C. U.|
|Channon, H.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Higgs, W. F.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Pilkington, R.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Holmes, J. S.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hare-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Cruom-Johnson, R. P.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Radford, E. A.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Hunter, T.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Jarvis. Sir J. J.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Joel, D. J. B.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|De la Bère, R.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Keeling, E. H.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Doland, G. F.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Donner, P. W.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Drewe, C.||Kimball, L.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Levy, T.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Samuel, M. R. A.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Wardlaw-Mitne, Sir J. S.|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Savory, Sir Servington||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Scott, Lord William||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Selley, H. R.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wells, S. R.|
|Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Shopperson, Sir E. W.||Sutcliffe, H.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Simmonds, O. E.||Tastier, Sir R. I.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Tale, Mavis C.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Wise, A. R.|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Titchheld, Marquess of||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Smith, L. W. (Hallam)||Touche, G. C.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Tartan, R. H.||Wragg, H.|
|Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Ward, Lieut.-Cot. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Cross and Mr. Grimston.|
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I beg to move, in page line 14, to leave out "and persons."
The purpose of this Amendment is to call attention to the fact that, under the Bill as it stands, the full and exclusive responsibility for making provision as to the personnel by whom air-raid precaution schemes are to be carried out will fall upon the local authorities, and upon them alone. As we understand the Bill, they have full responsibility for recruiting, organising, paying and commanding all the personnel who will be employed in this work. I remember some words that were used by the Home Secretary in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. He said:As soon as the Bill has passed … we have to start a new chapter in which the Government and the local authorities and the citizens of this 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, 1936; col. 43, Vol. 329.]In other words, as we said in the Second Reading Debate, the Government have not yet got a comprehensive plan covering the whole matter. Particularly, in our view, they have not a plan as regards the personnel, and we hope that, when the plan is made, it will be a right plan.
It was shown on the Second Reading that the number of people engaged in this work will constitute a large new army. In answer to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest), the Under-Secretary told us that for first-aid parties there must be 60 men per 100,000 of the population; for rescue parties, 32; for decontamination parties, 36; air-raid wardens, 400; for first-aid posts, 100. In addition there will be ambulance services, gas protection officers, break-down gangs, fire fighting forces, and hospitals; in other words, 1486 something like 75o people per 100,000 of the population. To take the Borough of Derby, which I represent, it will mean at least 1,000 people there, and for the country as a whole not less than 165,000 to 180,000 people. That is a large army. We understand that it is to consist mainly of civilian volunteers, but we should like to know rather more about the composition and organisation of that force. We should like to know what kind of contract the officers and volunteers are going to make with the local authorities; what is the nature of their enlistment; what will be the nature of their obligations when war breaks out; and, much more important, we want to know what is going to be the status of the permanent staff.
I have said that there will be about 1,000 people required for all these different services, taken together, in Derby. If those 1,000 people are not to be a chaotic mob when the crisis comes, they must be very carefully organised by a general staff—the Derby general staff. That general staff must consist of permanent, whole-time employés, including officers and non-commissioned officers. The whole population of Derby has to be instructed how to make refuge rooms, how to wear gas masks, how to deal with babies and old people, and the rest. The permanent staff is required to turn those 1,000 people from an unorganised mob into an organised force, and the staff should number 10 or 15 at the very least. That would absorb a considerable part of a 1d. rate. And, more important than that, it means that throughout the country there is to be a very large number of people doing for all local authorities permanent air-raid precaution work. We hold that it is desirable that there should be national standards for those permanent staffs. Air-raid officers should have qualifications settled by standards which the 1487 Government lay down and there should be national standards of pay. Indeed, in our view it would be much more satisfactory if these people, or at least the higher ranks among them, were a national service, and were lent from the national service to the local authorities. If it is not a national service it seems to me that many disadvantages will result. For one thing it will be a blind-alley occupation. A man will get a job in one place, he will be there "it may be for years, and it may be for ever" or until the next war, without any change, any promotion, any advance in the work which he is doing. People of very great ability may be tied down in places with very little scope for their ability; and people with no ability may remain in places from which it is very desirable that they should be removed. That kind of difficulty can only be got rid of if this personnel is made a national service, and I hope the Government will consider that very carefully indeed.
The last point which I raise on this Amendment is that of the general staff. I asked the Under-Secretary a Supplementary Question, whether it was intended that the Air-Raid Precautions Department in the Home Office should have a general staff for these local air-raid precautions forces. He said they would give advice. He was speaking, of course, without notice, I do not blame him for not saying more; but I think his answer does show that the Government have not yet conceived the necessity for a general staff, co-ordinating the work of the local officers and the forces under their command, that the Government have not yet conceived that it would be advantageous to have a general staff which would supervise everything that would be done, inspecting the results of the training, inspecting the discipline and organisation of the various forces, arranging for the promotion of these officers from one place to another, seeing that the highest standards of equipment are adopted by all the different authorities, and, above all, arranging for inter-district, inter-county, inter-regional co-operation. In our view it is really essential to have inter-regional co-operation. We have been discussing it this afternoon with regard to evacuation. The Home Secretary told us that the Committee of Imperial Defence have evacuation under con- 1488 sideration. Yes, but is it desirable that the Committee of Imperial Defence should have to be bothering about evacuation of civilians when war is on the point of breaking out, or when it has actually begun? Surely it is much more desirable that that should be a general staff function, a civilian general staff function, I think, certainly in the hands of an enlarged and more authoritative Air-Raid Precautions Department in the Home Office.
If it is desirable that when an attack is made with particular intensity on a given region, the forces from other districts or other regions should be brought in for help, then we think a general staff is essential. After all, this Bill—I know it is not the intention of the Government—appears to proceed on the assumption that every region is equally likely to be attacked. We know it is not true. We know that certain regions will be subjected to devastating and continual attack. It is surely very desirable that it should be possible to bring all the services from neighbouring regions into the place attacked, and when the attack is switched over to other regions the services should be switched over also: if it goes from Derby on the first day to Leicester and Nottingham on the second, then, if Leicester and Nottingham come to help Derby on the first day, Derby will return the compliment to Leicester and Nottingham when they are attacked. But that cannot be arranged on the present basis if the personnel is entirely controlled by the local authorities and forms a little group by itself. It is these considerations which we want to raise by moving this Amendment.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
On a point of Order. My Amendment covers the same sort of points as those made by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). With your permission, Captain Bourne, I will discuss on the Amendment now before us the matters that might have arisen on my Amendment, and thus economise the time of the Committee by not moving my Amendment.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Captain Bourne)
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee. When I first saw the Amendment, I was not quite certain to what it referred. Now that the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel- 1489 Baker) has developed his argument I think it is quite obvious it covers much the same ground as that of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane).
§ Mr. Mabane
I want to take exactly the same point as was taken by the hon. Member for Derby. During the whole of the Second Reading Debate very little mention was made of the men and women who are going to do the work in connection with these air-raid precautions, and I think that, whether any new points are embodied in this Bill or not, the House and the country would like to hear some statement from the Home Office in a little more detail as to what is going to be done about the volunteers who will be concerned with these arrangements. The hon. Member for Derby says that the Government has no plan about personnel.
I cannot believe that that is true. I think rather that the plan has not yet been disclosed, and I have no doubt that the plan is there, but I think the House will be glad to know what it is.
I would like to ask one or two questions which perhaps may be answered from the Front Bench. First of all we want to know who is comprised in the schemes of the local authorities mentioned in Subsection (1). Is it merely intended to include the air-raid wardens, or is it intended to include auxiliary requirements, special constables, and even the voluntary hospital staff who would be required for duties in the event of an air raid? I want to know how comprehensive these schemes of the local authorities are expected to be in those directions. Then I want to know who is to run the enlistment scheme. Is each local authority expected to engage in a propaganda within its own area to produce its own set of volunteers, or is there going to be a national appeal made by the Home Office to the whole country at the same time, inviting people to come forward to act as volunteers in any of the capacities that I have mentioned?
And how many men and women are required for the particular services concerned? That seems to me an important question, because the hon. Member for Derby worked out a figure of between 160,000 and 180,000 people who, he said, would be required throughout the country. If all the services are included that I have mentioned—air-raid wardens, auxiliary requirements, special constables, and so on—it appears to me that the 1490 number is likely to be nearer double that throughout the whole country.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I was calculating on a basis of 25,000,000 people, because that is the number for whom the Government are providing gas masks.
§ Mr. Mabane
I understood they were providing gas masks for every single unit of the population, but I agree that on the proportionate basis the hon. Member's 180,000 has some relation to the figure I suggested. Let us suppose that these volunteers are obtained. Who is to be responsible for training them? Is it to be the local authority or is it to be a central authority? Is there to be a scheme of training produced by the central authority, and sent down to each local authority with instructions to carry out the scheme of training on the particular lines recommended by the central authority, or is each local authority to devise its own scheme? Is each local authority to operate entirely on its own account?
Then, is there to be any sort of coordination in the direction suggested by the hon. Member for Derby between the air-raid precautions services in the areas of the various local authorities? Whether there is to be co-ordination or not it is clear that there will have to be senior officers, so to speak, in charge of particular aspects of the air-raid precautions, and I should like to ask who is to appoint the particular officers and what they will be put in charge of. Is it the duty of each local authority to appoint either some one of its own officers or some volunteer in the locality to take the senior position, or will these appointments be made and the authority be given by the central authority? The more one thinks about this problem the more complicated does it seem to become. In any local authority almost every service is concerned. The medical officers of health will have to organise the hospital services; the gas, water and electricity engineers will be very much concerned with their services in time of emergency; the transport authorities will be brought in and no doubt the Watch Committee, with the chief constable as principal officer in charge of the whole thing.
I think it is really important that we should have some statement on these 1491 problems to-day, and for this reason. It is now some months since volunteers were first asked for for this particular purpose, and I think not only the Commitee but the volunteers themselves would like to know in a little closer detail precisely what has happened. I have some reason to know in rather intimate detail what has been done in one of our large cities, Leeds, where the position is this: Some months ago a paragraph appeared in the local papers announcing that some 3,500 volunteers were required to work under the Chief Constable in connection with air-raid precautions as air-raid wardens. The paragraph said that no remuneration was to be offered to the volunteers, that they would have to pay their own travelling expenses to and from their place of training, and that in case of emergency they would be expected to find their own transport. The result of that paragraph, followed as it was by a meeting in the Town Hall, was that a very large number of volunteers came forward. I myself have no doubt at all that the Home Secretary will find that the response of the volunteers will be greater even than he in his wildest moments expected. Men over 35, I am certain, will come forward.
In Leeds at the present time they have somewhere about 1,000 volunteers who have come forward for service in this connection. They are at present undergoing a kind of training. The local police officers also have been sent to the school for training. I understand they are very efficient and capable officers, but they have to undertake the duties of training these volunteers in addition to their ordinary police duties. But the whole training now provided consists of lectures delivered in such of the police courts as may be available on one or two evenings a week, and there is a tendency, as I think the Committee will appreciate, for men who have volunteered, after the lapse of a period of some months, to become rather disheartened by the lack of apparent development in their training schemes. Why I particularly wish to raise this question to-day is because I have no doubt that in many towns and cities in this country there are also volunteers who have come forward, no doubt in large numbers, to take part in these duties, and I am sure the Committee will agree that it would be the worst of all 1492 possible things if any of these volunteers should, as a result of this discouragement, begin to drift away again, because once a volunteer has drifted away from the organisation which he was invited to join, the difficulties of getting him back would be very substantially greater.
I particularly want to ask the Under-Secretary to tell us whether permanent quarters are to be provided for these volunteers; and if so, by whom, the local authority or the State? If you have these large numbers of volunteers, such as have been suggested by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and myself, it is clear that small temporary premises will not do. Therefore, I desire to raise this particular point of personnel, and to ask that encouragement shall be given to those men who are prepared to come forward in their thousands in order to make this work a success.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I make some observations at this stage in reply to the argument of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and to some specific points raised by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane). I would like, if I may, to correct the hon. Member for Derby in a misconception, which might give rise to misunderstanding. He said he thought the Home Office were providing gas masks for only 25,000,000 people. That is a mistake. The principle is that they will be provided for all those who will he exposed to the danger of air attack. That is the best principle.
§ Mr. Lloyd
There might be some other areas on the mainland which would be safe, too. I think the hon. Member for Derby was unfair to the Government and to the Home Office, in suggesting that there was no scheme in existence for dealing with this question of volunteers.
1493 I should like to spend a moment or two in describing briefly some of the schemes that have been recommended by the Home Office to the local authorities. I hold in my hand two memoranda issued by the Home Office. One relates to air-raid wardens, a matter with which the hon. Gentleman dealt with some time; and it deals in some considerable detail with the matter. It suggests, for example, to local authorities a number of alternative schemes of organisation. One is for placing the wardens under the control of the chief officers of police in time of peace, and there is an alternative scheme, under which it would be for local authorities to arrange for the carrying out of work in connection with air-raid precautions, particularly in regard to the number of wardens required and the location of their posts. I give those examples to show that in actual practice the Home Office has worked out a scheme which they have recommended to local authorities.
The memorandum goes into great detail with regard to equipment of wardens' posts, executive control of local schemes, numbers of wardens required and training of wardens. It deals with their duties in regard to civilian respirators and other matters. One of the principal duties of air-raid wardens in time of peace will be to survey the population of the streets for which they are responsible, from the point of view of the fitting of respirators, so that they may know the exact number of respirators of different sizes required to meet the needs of different streets, because of the varied requirements of people of different ages, and, indeed, different sizes of heads. Similarly, the Home Office has issued to the local authorities a memorandum on emergency fire brigade organisation in which we go into considerable detail on organisation and instruction of fire brigades. I do not think the hon. Member for Derby can have studied these documents, because, if he had, I do not think he would have committed himself to the statement that the Government had not a scheme. I do not think I will weary the House any more with regard to details, but I would like to come to some of the questions brought forward by the hon. Member for Huddersfield.
§ Mr. Montague
Will the Minister say something upon the question of authority and discipline? He speaks of putting 1494 volunteers under the authority of chief constables and so on. Will the chief constables have penal powers for volunteers who may, in time of emergency, run away from the duties; and, considering the possibility of panic, what kind of authority will those in charge have over the general population? It is rather an important point.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I was coming to a matter related to that, as to who had actual authority in regard to the enlistment of volunteers. The authority for enlistment is the local authority, acting, according to one or the other of these alternative schemes suggested by the Home Office, through the chief constable or another executive authority whom they will appoint. We are dealing in this Bill simply with peace-time preparatory organisation, and not war organisation. Therefore, there is no question at present of giving chief constables power under military law, or anything of that kind, with regard to air-raid wardens. What the House might do, or the Government be prepared in time of war to recommend, will no doubt be settled according to the common sense of the country.
With regard to recruiting, it will be primarily for local authorities to make their own recruiting schemes, assisted where possible and desirable by any national assistance that can be given. But I would suggest that, as a matter of fact, the local bodies of this country are exceedingly efficient; in the past they have turned their hands to many new and original duties in a particular situation, and they are quite competent to raise these bodies of volunteers. Anybody who has had experience of the way in which local authorities go about propaganda when they have some big civic duties for their attention, I think will agree. The hon. Member for Derby was nervous about the 1,000 volunteers necessary in Derby. I understand that in Nottingham they have already got 12,000. When I was in Birmingham yesterday I noticed that the front wall of the Town Hall was as to one half of it, covered by an enormous notice put up by the city council, calling for volunteers for air-raid wardens and fire wardens. When the local authorities throw themselves into this kind of work they display great powers in regard to publicity and suggestion.
1495 The hon. Member for Huddersfield also asked who will appoint the particular officers. It will be for the local authorities to do so. Then he asked about the possibility of volunteers being discouraged by facilities for training not being continuously available. That may have occurred in certain cases as a result of difficulty in getting trained instructors from the anti-gas school at Falfield, but now that the second school is to be opened almost immediately, we hope that that difficulty will be removed; and we must expect that after the passage of this Bill the whole of the work of air-raid precautions will gather momentum and go forward at a much increased speed. With regard to the question of permanent quarters, that, again, is a matter for each local authority to decide. I think it is quite clear that in this local work it is the local authority which is in the best position to solve its own particular problems on its own lines. They know whether they have got some big building or buildings which are suitable. They may be aware, in some particular cases, that they have not got such quarters, and may make provision, but that will be for the particular authority to provide, and when they do make proper provision for quarters it will rank for grant under the Act.
I come to the rather broader point of the hon. Member for Derby, when he said that he wanted to see this matter considered nationally; in fact, that he would have preferred to see a national service, particularly with regard, I think, to the higher offices. In general, he wanted to be satisfied that this matter was being regarded in a way that a general staff would look at it, having regard to the strategical considerations involved. I would ask the Committee to accept the view that, so far as air-raid wardens and auxiliary firemen are concerned, it is very local work. The conception of an air-raid warden is that really he is a citizen who is specially marked out as one with knowledge and authority, who will be able to give special and detailed advice to those of his neighbours living around him. Therefore, his work really is essentially local, and I think it would not ever turn out to be right that air-raid wardens as a body should be moved about as a trained corps all over the country. But that point does not really apply so much to the higher personnel.
1496 I can accept with much more sympathy the hon. Member's desire that there should be a proper system of promotion with regard to the higher personnel in this work. But it must not be assumed at the beginning that there will not be a proper system of interchange and promotion in regard to this work, any more than we should assume that there is not a proper system with regard to the higher officers whom local authorities employ at the present time. It might be—I would not wish to dogmatise—that there ought to be some more organised system of interchange, although I am not quite clear why that should be so, because I think the local authorities are quite competent to appoint the right men to do the work in their own districts.
What I think the hon. Gentleman had more in his mind was the question of the general thinking out of policy to govern these matters. There we come to the Air-Raid Precautions Department of the Home Office, because they are the organising and co-ordinating central department. They have now taken a new step by stationing 13 regional inspectors in the various districts of the country, and therefore they will be in a better position than they have been in the past to keep in constant touch with the development of this movement of air-raid precautions in various parts of the country. With regard to central planning, the Department, of course, is always giving thought to these matters, as indeed a General Staff would do, and it is in the closest touch with the Committee of Imperial Defence in regard to the whole question.
Perhaps I may return to the rather more subordinate point that the hon. Gentleman made at the end of his speech about the desirability of being able to swing forces which were helping to deal with air-raid matters and so on from one district to another. My answer is that this is very unlikely to be desirable for long distances. It is not like a strategic trained force which you could direct up, for example, from the South of England to the North or to Scotland, for various reasons, one of which is the complete uncertainty of an air attack. When we realise that we are dealing with a form of attack in which we may have only 10 minutes' notice, or it may be less, and that we are dealing with aeroplanes that can fly 300 miles an hour, the Committee will appreciate, without any further 1497 elaboration, the difficulty of being able to move ground forces about with sufficient speed to reach the unexpected objectives at which the attacking force may aim.
With regard to particular localities which are joined, there is ample provision in the Bill, and I would like to direct the hon. Member's attention once again to Clause 4 (1), in which it is quite clearly laid down that it shall be the duty of authorities to assist each other, possibly, by making provision for the protection of persons and property. That, more particularly, might arise in regard to the distribution of fire appliances in, say, Derby and some of the surrounding areas. It might easily be that it would be literally a case of all hands to the pump and all pumps to the scene of the trouble over a particular local area. I hope that, with that explanation, the hon. Gentleman may feel satisfied.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
I think the Committee is indebted to the Under-Secretary of State for his information. Perhaps I may put the difficulties with which some of us who are members of air-raid precaution committees are faced. I want particularly to ask whether the hon. Gentleman will direct his attention to the position of air-raid precaution officers. I asked a question the other day in an endeavour to ascertain how many public authorities in this country have appointed these officers on a full-time basis, and to my surprise the hon. Gentleman was somewhat doubtful about the figures. He said there was no obligation on the part of local authorities to notify the Home Office when they had appointed an air-raid precautions officer, and, therefore, there was no obligation on them to notify the Department whether an officer was appointed on a full-time or a part-time basis. It seems to me that the local authorities must really ask the Air-Raid Precautions Department to give them a much more definite lead than they have done up to now.
The scheme in regard to air-raid wardens and fire fighters is perfectly clear. The borough surveyor and 'borough engineer will direct men who will be engaged in squads to keep the streets clear, to shore up buildings, to rescue people who may be entrapped in fallen buildings, and so on; the cleansing super- 1498 intendent will organise his men to squads, and their task will be to deal with those areas where gas has fallen and to do decontamination work; the local doctors will all be mobilised under the medical officer of health, as will also members of the Red Cross Society and St. John's Ambulance Brigade; and the fire wardens also will be organised in squads, under the fire superintendent, each one in charge of a professional fireman.
It seems to me that what I have indicated will meet with the approval of the hon. Gentleman as being a fairly clear scheme, but where I break down in my chain of reasoning is here, that somebody has got to be in charge of the direction of all this work. Who is it to be? The town clerk is not going to undertake it, and the council must have some responsible officer to do it, but there has been no guidance, as far as I know, from the Air-Raid Precautions Department as to how big a local authority has got to be to have a full-time air-raid precautions officer. We do not know whether the Department desires a few local authorities to co-operate and have one such officer between them. Take my own district. Suppose they were to follow the lead of some other authorities and appoint an officer on a full-time basis at £600 or £700 a year. The officer has got to give instructions at some stage of the campaign to the medical officer of health, the cleansing superintendent, the borough surveyor, and the works engineer, to say nothing of the officers of the water, gas, and electricity authorities, and, frankly—I am not saying my authority is either better or worse than other authorities—I do not think we should make these apopintments, which should be permanent appointments, for all time, like that of a medical officer of health.
I think the hon. Gentleman will find that most authorities that have appointed air-raid officers up to now have done it on a temporary basis, but I think there might be some difficulty in getting a medical officer of health or a borough engineer to take his orders from a temporary man, appointed, it may be, at about half the salary that he himself is getting. That is the kind of practical difficulty that local air-raid precautions committees will come up against. Further, if an air-raid precautions officer is appointed, say, in my district, where will he get his authority to give orders to the Metropolitan Water 1499 Board about water mains, or to the North Metropolitan Electricity Company, or to the gas company? This is the kind of difficulty upon which up to now we have not had any clear guidance. The other point that I am anxious to get information about is whether the Home Office desire that a local authority should have a full-time air-raid precautions officer, and, if so, will they specify how big a local authority should be before it has one? If it has one, I take it that he will need a staff.
I am not altogether in agreement with the Mover of the Amendment, but I do agree on this point, that I think the Air-Raid Precautions Department ought to shoulder the responsibility as to the kind of people who are to be appointed. Nobody has ever done this work before. Up to now, I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, the kind of person who has been appointed for this task has been a retired Army or Navy man, an ex-chief constable, or somebody of that stamp, but I do not know whether that is the right type of person that we want. When you are appointing a medical officer of health, or a director of education, you know the standard to expect, but in this matter we do not know, and the mere fact that a man has been through a gas-training school for a fortnight is no guarantee that he is the right sort of man. It seems to me that the right kind of person to be appointed should not only have been through a gas-training school, but should be an organiser as well.
I do not wish to criticise the Air-Raid Precautions Department—far from it—but I think that one of the mistakes that they have made in this campaign is that they have over-emphasised the gas part of it and have not paid sufficient attention to the question of general organisation. The man in the street thinks that all the air-raid precautions mean is getting a gas mask and being able to stand up against a gas attack, but I think that that will be an infinitesimal part of the work, and I would like the hon. Gentleman to give us some guidance in this matter. I agree with what he says about the local authorities' remarkable powers of adaptability and their ability to get volunteers. We in our district can find volunteers, but when you come to the question of appointing air-raid precautions officers, I think you should relieve the local authorities of 1500 that responsibility. I think the authorities would be more satisfied if the Department were to appoint the air-raid precautions officers and send them down to the local authorities.
If the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to go as far as that, perhaps he will consider making arrangements whereby the local authorities could make an application to the Air-Raid Precautions Department to have a panel sent down from which to select. Let them not leave it to the local authorities, otherwise I am sure that in some cases we shall find ourselves saddled with people who are entirely unsuitable. The mere fact that one of the town hall staff has been to a gas school is nothing. I have been to a gas school and been gassed as well, but I do not consider that that is any qualification for being appointed an air-raid precautions officer, which is a job that requires full powers of organisation. I hope the hon. Gentleman may find some opportunity, if not on this Amendment at some later stage, of giving us some further information on these points, because I can assure him that the difficulties of those of us who are members of air-raid precautions committees are very real.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
The question to which I do not feel that a clear answer was provided by my hon. Friend who has just sat down was as to the actual obligations of the air-raid precautions volunteers themselves. Are these people who undertake to do the work of air wardens or fire fighters to enter into some sort of contract with the local authorities, or are they simply a list of men inspired by patriotic motives who may fade out at any moment, because they are no longer interested, or do not feel that the thing is being done sufficiently well, or rind themselves busy and gradually drop out? What provision is there for making sure that they do carry on their work for some definite time? If there is no obligatory provision, will the local authorities be authorised to give some financial inducement such as the Territorials get? After all, the Territorials are a volunteer force, but they receive financial inducements to do their voluntary work, and more than that, they enter into very definite obligations.
What is to be the position in time of war? My hon. Friend suggested that, 1501 of course, peace organisation and war organisation differ, but when war comes, the only organisation that you will have to depend upon is the organisation which was built up in peace. Are you going at a given moment in war to say that these men who have learned this work are to be subject to military discipline, or some similar discipline, subject to pains and penalties if they should drop their work? If that is to the case, clearly they ought to know it now. They ought to know exactly what they are responsible for, and unless you get definite responsibility of that sort, you may very well find this machinery breaking down. People may have enlisted in other units or, in order to look after their families, may have vacated their position and gone away. We must have some guarantee that the men who are trained for this responsible work shall be there when the hour of danger comes, and can be relied upon absolutely to carry out whatever orders may be given, and whatever the danger to themselves.
All this work has to be done at a moment of national crisis and perhaps of appalling danger, and the same necessity for discipline applies just as in the case of Territorials or even regular soldiers. If that is true of the ordinary rank and file, is it not much more true of the key men to whom the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) referred? The organisation will have to be built round 15, 20 or perhaps 50 men. Are they to be perfectly free to go away and look after their families when the moment of danger comes? Are they to be people who, on the eve of war or at the outbreak of war, can resign their posts, or are we to see to it that those who are actually selected or paid by the local authorities, are placed under a quite definite obligation? Unless there is such an obligation, I do not believe that your machinery will succeed.
I agree very largely with the hon. Member for Derby in thinking that these people, whether actually locally paid or not, should form a national corps. We want to have some uniformity and standard of training. I should be very interested if my hon. Friend could tell the Committee whether a school for training organisers is to be set up. Even our party machinery provides schools for training agents. These people are taking 1502 up much more responsibility, and more difficult tasks. How are the local authorities to know the kind of efficiency that is required? If we had a training system we could pass these men out when they attained a certain standard, and the local authorities would know that they were efficient. There also ought to be refresher courses. There are many questions in this Debate about which we are terribly anxious to know, because we want to make sure that we are starting an efficient scheme, and not one that may break down later and need a lot of amending legislation. Some of us feel that to get all this great machinery moving quickly, however keen local authorities may be, and however ready the patriotic public may be, we require a very strong impulse from the centre, and we doubt very much whether the present organisation at the Home Office, the admirable people who are dealing with it, are really big enough and authoritative enough to give the tremendous impulse that is required. Should not the Home Secretary look round and find the biggest and ablest men he can get, with the greatest driving and organising power possible, to give to this whole business, which has been so woefully neglected in recent years, a great impetus?
§ 7.49 p.m.
Will the Under-Secretary amplify the references that have been made to training? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said that the question of training and the schools for organisers is of first-class importance, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) in what he said about the necessity for staff or personnel? I agree that it would be desirable that that should be under immediate Government control, but it will be a large o number of people—some 2,000. Where are these people to be trained? There is only one school for training in existence at the present time and it is Falfield. It is an excellent school, with admirable teachers. I salute them from my place in this House, having been through the school myself. If the Home Office were able to obtain other men as able as these, they would be lucky indeed. This school has places for only 40 people at a time, and the course lasts for a fortnight. I was being trained there myself as a medical inspector and in medical preliminaries.
1503 I was bringing my gas and other knowledge up to date. You must choose technical people suitable for the work of organisers and provide them with training. The Home Secretary knows better than almost anyone else that Falfield is constantly being pressed to take more and more people, and is having to refuse them because it cannot put them up. There is to be another school opened in the North of England in January. I heard some time ago that it was intended to open it this Autumn, but the opening has been put off. We want more than one other school. The London area alone ought to have one school, and there should be another school for Scotland alone. If you are to have a really good general staff to undertake this absolutely vital and important business, they must be instructed in the right way, so that they do not give inaccurate information to those whom they are instructing, and that they know exactly what they are doing.
It is an extraordinarily difficult and complicated matter, and, as the Under-Secretary knows, it is a constantly changing matter. The technique of the subject as between the present moment and 12 months ago is quite different. The information about the flying speed of aeroplanes and so forth is quite different now from what it was 12 months ago. The technique of the subject is constantly changing, and in any case the man or woman—and women go through the Falfield school—who has been through that school has to have his or her knowledge brought up to date and needs a refresher course. The Under-Seceretary should give an assurance to the Committee, first, as to how many the school which is to be opened shortly in the North of England will accommodate, and, secondly, whether it is not desirable to form two other schools at least, one for the London area and the other for Scotland, so as to cover the country more adequately, otherwise, at the present rate, it will take several years in which to train your essential key personnel. You will not be able to give the vital instruction necessary to the general public, let alone to air-raid wardens and others, unless you have people who can teach the general population. I hope that the Under-Secretary will give the Committee some assurance on these points.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
The point I want to raise is analogous to, but different from, that raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). What steps are being taken to see that men—and everybody will be delighted to hear that volunteers are coming in such large numbers—who are accepted by the local authorities as volunteers will not, in fact, in time of war, be required for military purposes or, just as important, for key purposes in munition production and industrial enterprise? It is very important that every man who is enlisted in this force and trained for this purpose should, in fact, be available in time of conflict to do the duties for which he has been trained. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary can give an answer now, but I should be grateful if he would bear that point in mind.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I am sure that we were all very grateful on this side of the Committee to hear the wonderful tribute which the Under-Secretary paid to the zeal, efficiency and capacity of local authorities. We are glad to know that he recognises that they are bodies which ought to be trusted with far more extensive powers than they at present possess. I only hope that he will apply the same reasoning to the paths of peace as he does to the paths towards war'Peace hath her victoriesNo less renowned than war.That is true of the work of local authorities as well as other people. I am really amazed at the turn which this Debate has taken. We are discussing this matter as if we imagined this to be part of the permanent local government services of the country. I am as keen as anyone to make sure that adequate protection is afforded, but I was hoping that we would discuss it on the basis of a temporary measure to meet what we all hope is a passing phase of madness in the attitude of mankind towards this matter of peace and war. I have begun to wonder whether we ought not to insist that a paid staff should be given permanent posts and made eligible for superannuation under the Local Government Officers Superannuation Act in order to recruit the right sort of person who is looking for a good and permanent job. With regard to the question which 1505 was put by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) as to whether the local authorities will be given any guidance as to the age of these people, I understand that the age of not under 25 has been mentioned.
§ Mr. Ede
Men between 25 and 35 might, in normal circumstances, be regarded as having possibly other duties in case of national emergency than taking part in this home service. Has there been any understanding at all with the military authorities as to the way in which recruitment for this service is to be treated, whether equivalent, superior or inferior to recruitment in the Army or Territorial Force? Quite clearly no man ought to be a Territorial and an officer of a local authority in any respect, whether major or minor, under this scheme. Therefore, one must assume that it is regarded as an alternative form of national service to military service, and as was said quite rightly by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), one must imagine that this organisation which is being built up is to be put into operation as a living, working machine on the day that the emergency arises. There ought to be some understanding between the local authorities carrying through the recruitment and the military authorities as to how far the local authorities are to have the first call upon the time and services of men who may be desired at a later stage by the military authorities for the purpose of ordinary recruiting.
There is, again, the question raised by the hon. Member for Stretford of recruiting men who may be regarded afterwards as key men in munition works and ought not to be released for carrying out these duties. I hope that a clear indication will be given to the local authorities with regard to the matter of recruitment, because I am sure that no one wants this form of service to be used as a funk-hole for people, who, in a national emergency, ought to be employed in the armed forces of the Crown under military discipline. One does not want to find some major-general of air wardens who ought to be a lance-corporal (unpaid) in the Army. A friend of mine was once asked: "What did you do in the Great War?" The reply was: "If you will tell me what you 1506 did, I will tell you what I did." "Oh," said the questioner, "I was a special constable." "Well, I did better than hat" came the answer, "because I stopped a special constable from stealing my chickens." A variety of duties fall to people in time of war, and one ought to be very careful not to allow people beforehand to earmark jobs that may be rather less onerous and dangerous than their appropriate jobs in any national scheme. There ought to be clear and explicit instructions in regard to this matter.
There ought also to be definite understanding in regard to medical inspection. While it may be possible to perform some of these duties now, it will not he possible to do so in time of war unless the person performing them is very physically fit. For instance, the wearing of appropriate clothing for decontamination work is, I understand, a very severe strain on a man's health. Some people who are healthy in other respects do not possess sufficient robustness to enable them to perform that particular duty efficiently. Will there be any instructions given to local authorities about carrying through appropriate medical examination before enrolment and allocation of duties? Again, what is to happen with regard to defraying the cost of volunteers who have to undertake a course of training but cannot afford the loss of remunerative time that will be involved?
§ Mr. Mabane
On a point of Order. May I ask whether the hon. Member is to be allowed to discuss this particular point? If so, it may put in jeopardy an Amendment which I have to Clause 5, page 5, line 12, which raises the question of the necessary expenses of volunteers under this scheme.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think the hon. Member is in order. The matter referred to needs to be discussed on this Clause, and not on Clause 5.
§ Mr. Ede
If this is the appropriate time for discussing the matter the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) ought to propose a vote of thanks to me for having brought forward the matter. I understand that the Home Office desire that no suitable citizen shall be debarred from playing his appropriate part in this scheme because of his individual poverty. One can imagine circumstances in which 1507 a man not in the employment of a local authority would be placed at a disadvantage. If a man is in the employment of a local authority the point will not arise, because they could give him two weeks' holiday with pay for this purpose, but there will be hundreds of people not in the employ of local authorities who would have to provide substitutes for themselves in their own employment, because there might be cases where employers would not be willing to pay them while they were away. Therefore, these men will have to receive financial assistance from the local authority if they are to be trained. Will that be an expense that the local authority will be allowed to incur?
I should like to emphasise the point which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison). There should be some standard of minimum qualification for principal officers laid down by the Home Office, to which these people should conform. We have been told that the expenses will be found by the Government. They lay down a standard of minimum qualifications for medical officers of health. They would not accept a veterinary surgeon as a medical officer of health, although I know some medical officers who would make very fair veterinary surgeons. A minimum standard of qualification is laid down by the Ministry of Transport in regard to surveyors of highways, and I suggest that a definite minimum standard of technical qualifications should be laid down for these officers. We heard of a certain Conservative agent, with no other qualifications than the fact that he had attended the course of instruction, described by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), having been appointed to one of these offices. I understand that the Home Office made certain recommendations to the local authority, and there are reasons to believe that that person will be removed from duty. It is clear that there should be for the guidance of the local authorities a definite minimum standard laid down. I suggest that the Home Office should insist that any scheme that is to rank for grant must enable them to exercise very considerable supervision over the technical qualifications of senior members of the staff.
1508 We ought also to have some other answer than that given by the Under-Secretary to the point raised by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook with regard to the exact power of discipline—the point was also raised by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague)—over these volunteers. There must be some authority to give orders if the training is to be effective, and some undertaking given before promotion to anything above the lower ranks of the acceptance of obligation to qualify technically with regard to the particular branch in which the person is to be engaged. It is not enough for the Under-Secretary to say: "This is peace time and we are going to carry on as loosely as we can for the moment, but when we come to war we shall act in accordance with the common sense of the nation as it then expresses itself." I am not at all sure that when the moment of war arrives it will not be the time when there will be panic rather than common sense in control. These people who are undertaking voluntary obligations now which will be turned into compulsory obligations the moment the crisis arises, should be given the clearest indication of the exact liability they are undertaking, and the form of discipline that will be used to enforce those obligations in the moment of crisis. I hope that on these and other matters which have been raised we shall have further enlightenment from the Under-Secretary.
§ Mr. Mabane
I am certain that a great number of hon. Members desire to discuss the question of the expenses of volunteers. May I, therefore, ask with great respect, whether if the Amendment in my name is out of order it will be proper to debate that question in the discussion that is now taking place or on the Question, "That the Clause stand part"? Many hon. Members would regard it as unfortunate if they had no opportunity of discussing the point as to the manner in which the expenses of volunteers in regard to training, clothing, etc., can he met.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If hon. Members will look at the Financial Resolution, paragraph B, they will see that provision is made to pay out of moneys provided by Parliament the grants to local authorities in respect of expenditure, approved by the Secretary of State, incurred by themselves. Under the scheme of this 1509 Bill the power to make such schemes, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, is given by Clause 1. Clause 5, as I read it, is merely to safeguard any expenditure which may have been incurred by the local authority for air-raid precautions on their own account, which would not necessarily attract a grant from the Secretary of State. Presumably, if any payments were made to those volunteers, it would have to be made by the local authority, and would have to be approved by the Secretary of State. I should think that the appropriate place to raise that point would be on the Question, "That Clause r stand part."
§ 8.12 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
I am glad that my hon. Friends have raised a question with regard to facilities for Scotland. I approach this question from an angle rather different from the one taken up by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I do not believe—and I think the Under-Secretary will agree with me—that you can separate actual front-line warfare, munition production, or air-raid precautions from the general question of national defence. The one is as important as the other. Those who had any experience during the last War know that enemy aeroplanes did not concentrate on front-line trenches but on the bases of supplies and the lines of communication. It is from that point of view that I believe the Government should see to it, apart from the question of funk-holes, that this is to be real service. There are those on this side of the Committee who can give a real interpretation of what funk-holes mean. Sergeant-majors during the last War were often more prominent in marching out of the line than in marching into the line.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is going far beyond the Amendment. That deals with the question of recruiting personnel. He must not discuss now what may or may not happen during the next war.
I was carried away by my hon. Friend's interpretation of funk-holes. Local authorities, particularly in Scotland, are very anxious on this question. Scottish local authorities have taken up a very definite attitude, certainly a more definite attitude on this question than local authorities in England and Wales. Perhaps because of Scottish thrift 1510 those local authorities want to have from the Home Office a definite interpretation as to the duties and expenses that will be involved under this Clause.
I am not raising the question of how much the expenses should be. I was merely expressing the anxiety of the local authorities, which I think is quite in order—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Not on this occasion. This is the question of the recruitment of personnel. The hon. Member's argument is going far beyond that question.
I do not quite follow your argument but I accept your Ruling. But Scottish local authorities are extremely perturbed. They want to know exactly what powers these individuals will have, and exactly how local authorities will be placed—exactly what: training facilities will be granted. Scotland has been neglected so far as training facilities are concerned. Practically nothing has been done in Scotland in this matter or towards assisting local authorities in obtaining volunteers to undertake this special work. Scotland must be recognised as a supply base in the event of air raids, and will have to be treated as a very important factor. Scotland will be an important source of supply and, therefore, the regulations must be as watertight as possible. I ask the Home Secretary to give us definite assurances that any powers which will be invested in individuals will allow local authorities the fullest freedom in deciding whether they are acceptable or not. We may have persons like the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) being selected and foisted on to local authorities. A local authority like that of Glasgow, which has to look after the safety of its people, would hesitate very much before selecting an individual like the right hon. Member, who had practically to turn out the British Army to capture one or two persons in a house in London some years ago. Therefore, from the point of view of efficiency I urge the Home Secretary to give Scottish local authorities a definite statement as to the powers of these people and the powers of local authorities on this particular question.
1511 My last point does not interest local authorities only. On the success of our precautions, on the success of the tests, depends our ability to deal with people in local areas and also to prevent a general widespread panic among the people of the country. They are in essence one of the most important parts of our national defence and, therefore, I ask the Home Secretary, looking at it from that point of view, to give us an assurance that Scottish local authorities who are being asked to bear the expense will also be given the power they should have to decide on the people who will undertake this task.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Butcher
I hope the Government will give some indication to the Committee and to local authorities as to the kind of people it is desirable local authorities should accept for this class of work. There is an increasing tendency in modern life for people to live far away from their jobs—20 and 30 miles is by no means uncommon. Is a person whose normal daily work takes him 30 miles away a suitable person to act as a warden or not? I hope also that the Home Office will arrange for some scheme of transference between air-raid precautions committees, so that if a warden moves into another district he will be available to train men in that district. In that case it is desirable there should be some communication between one local authority and another. In the third place, I think that a category of people who are eligible for service as air-raid wardens, and fire wardens should be laid down. Would it be possible for a man employed as an engineer in an electricity power station to volunteer for service under this scheme? It would be very valuable to local authorities if they could have some guidance on this matter. There are large numbers of commercial travellers of an age and temperament who are likely to be eager and anxious to serve. Is it the case that because they are moving about from place to place and may not be readily available, they are ineligible, or will there be some means of indicating to them that their services are desired? If local authorities could have some information, some knowledge, as to the category from which their volunteers can be recruited, it would be welcome.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to offer a solution for what appears to be a complex problem. The Under-Secretary has told us that in connection with these volunteers what is wanted is a man in whom his neighbours have confidence, someone who is known. What applies to volunteers applies also to the man who is in charge of the volunteers. Where are you going to get such a man? I suggest in all seriousness that if it is desired really to tackle this problem, arrangements should be made for the local authorities to get all the volunteers through the local trades councils. One could search the whole country and one would not find a more effective means of getting the very man for the job. All the trade unions are grouped in the local trades councils, and there could be no better way of getting the volunteers than to make the local trades councils responsible for nominating and recommending volunteers and also providing the superior officers. It would be a scandal and a crime simply to dump on a community an ex-military man or an ex-chief constables who would never inspire confidence in the locality. I suggest that the method I have mentioned would be the best solution of this problem.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am grateful to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) for his suggestion, which merits consideration. The trade unions and trade union leaders in various districts have been and are playing a most important part in this organisation, and undoubtedly they will continue to do so. It might be that a particular local authority might wish to adopt the hon. Member's suggestion, but some other local authority might not wish to do so. It is for each local authority to decide in this matter. I would like to point out one unfortunate weakness in the hon. Member's plan; it is that the trades councils are not on a geographical basis. Most of them might be called functional—
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) has not appreciated my point. I am aware that there are trades councils in the principal localities, but the trades councils within themselves are not based on an organisation of streets, whereas the organisation 1513 of air-raid precautions is based on an organisation of streets. While undoubtedly the strong personalities of the trade union movement would be suitable, as indeed would any other citizens who had the respect of their neighbours, I think it would be carrying the matter rather far if one depended upon the trades councils, which are organised on a functional basis—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—or at any rate, are not organised on a geographical street basis.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The hon. Member may have experience with regard to his own part of the country, but it is certainly not true in some other areas, that there is a representative of a trades council in every street. I wish to deal with this subject as briefly as is compatible with proper courtesy to hon. Members who have spoken. We shall certainly take careful note of the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) and other hon. Members, among them the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), with regard to the position, status and obligations of air-raid wardens and volunteers. I will tell hon. Members what is the present position. The organisation is on a purely voluntary basis, and there is no compulsion. It has to be maintained for the present on a purely voluntary basis, and it will be for the local authorities to maintain interest in the work. As I indicated before, the situation might be different in time of war. Nevertheless, we will bear carefully in mind the point that was made in the Debate. Another matter with which I wish to deal is the age and what I may describe as the availability of air-raid wardens in time of emergency, having regard to other calls that might be made upon them.
§ Mr. Montague
The hon. Gentleman has used the phrase "in time of war." In the event of war coming upon us suddenly, how would it be possible to improvise regulations that would apply in this matter?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Clearly there is a large number of emergency regulations always in draft under a properly conducted Government which could be put into operation immediately in the event of an emergency.
1514 With regard to the air-raid wardens, we point out in a circular that, save in very exceptional circumstances, they should be over 30 years of age. In the case of auxiliary firemen, the age goes down to 25 years, because the work of an auxiliary fireman is of a more active, physical type than that of an air-raid warden. The position may be summed up by saying that the local authorities are told that air-raid wardens should be over 30 years of age. That age has been fixed in the light of possible other demands on manpower, including the instances given by hon. Members in the Debate.
§ Mr. Crossley
Does that cover men who, in the event of war, would be key industrial men engaged in the production of munitions?
§ Mr. Lloyd
The sentence which I used was meant to cover all the instances given by hon. Members. It must be remembered, of course; that a great deal of this work might be performed in rotation. Each air-raid post has attached to it a number of men, who could come on at different times, and undoubtedly there would be provision for people who are at work to come on in their own time. It must be realised that the whole organisation of these posts, in each of which two or three men are concerned, has as its object to give a continuous 24 hours' service. With regard to the question of the training of air-raid wardens and volunteers, the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) raised the question of anti-gas schools. At the time when he was there, the Falfield School could accommodate only 40 people, but that number has now been raised to 60; and the school that is to be opened immediately at Easingwold will accommodate another 60, bringing the total up to 120, which is a considerable increase.
It should be remembered that this scheme of training proceeds on a snowball basis. The whole idea of anti-gas school training is that instructors are trained who can go back to the localities and themselves act as instructors in training the people in the districts in this work. It will easily be seen that by this snowball system considerable numbers of people can be trained by instructors who come from the Falfield school. The local authorities are themselves responsible for the use that they make of the instructors 1515 and how they train the local volunteers. One hon. Member asked for the introduction of local schools. There are, as a matter of fact, already 30 or 40 local schools. A number of big cities have local schools, and I am glad to inform the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) that Glasgow has one, so that perhaps the position in Scotland is not quite as bad as he thought.
I will turn now to the interesting question raised by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison), and touched upon by the hon. Member for South Shields, at the beginning of the discussion, namely, the position of the air-raid precautions organisers. The hon. Member for North Tottenham seemed surprised that I was not able to give the exact number. The reason is that we are still in the earlier stages of this work and there is no actual obligation on the local authorities in this respect as yet. In the future, however, under the Bill, this will clearly emerge as one of the details in the schemes that are to be forwarded to my right hon. Friend. Therefore, this information will be available in the Home Office.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I was just coming to the question of qualifications and standard which, I think, was the principal point raised by the hon. Gentleman. I would like to say a few words first on the point which was raised about organisers giving orders to other people who were in higher positions and drawing higher salaries. Our view is that the organiser's duty is not so much a matter of giving orders, as of co-ordinating the activities of the various branches of the local authority's work. We feel that the organiser would be well advised to work in co-operation with the local committee and that his purpose should be to use his tact in getting people to adopt various suggestions, rather than the issuing of actual orders to them. On the question of the standards of these organisers, and whether the Home Office should accept definite responsibility in regard to that matter, the main qualification which is required in the case of these men is that they should be organisers and not necessarily 1516 technical experts. That is why a question which was put to-day showed a misconception. It was asked whether they ought to take an anti-gas course. That is not necessary, because they are in no sense to be regarded as instructors. Organisation is a matter of which we have all some experience in another field, and we all know that it is largely a matter of common sense and general ability, and the local authorities are as good judges as anybody else of those qualities.
I agree, however, that it would be useful to local authorities if they felt that they could apply to the Home Office. and get a panel or list of names of those who would be regarded as approved men from the Home Office point of view. We are willing to do that, and, as a matter of fact, we do it at the present time. I think it desirable that that should be generally known to local authorities. There is no question of compulsion, but if a local authority asks us to recommend men as suitable organisers, we are prepared to do so. I hope that what I have said will go some way, at any rate, towards meeting the views expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I would ask the Committee, after this long and interesting discussion, to come to a decision upon the Amendment.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Short
While the Under-Secretary has dealt with some of the points put forward from this side his statement concerning organisation is not very satisfactory to us. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) expressed the hope that there was some body in the nature of a general staff for thinking out policy and deciding on the issues and principles which govern this matter. The Under-Secretary dismissed that very important suggestion by assuring us that the local authorities were a conglomeration of very excellent and deserving people who were competent to do this, that and the other thing. Evidently from his own statement and his own admission, however, they lack the guidance or direction of a central authority. I am satisfied that we have here something in the nature of a ramshackle scheme. This Committee is still dealing with Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 of the Bill. We have got no further than that and the questions which have been put by my hon. Friends indicate the great weaknesses of 1517 the scheme and the unsatisfactory character of the body which is supposed to be thinking out future policy.
I remember that towards the end of the War, a committee was set up to consider the question of demobilisation. Elaborate schemes were proposed and elaborate provisions were considered for coping with the millions of men who desired to be demobilised quickly at the end of the War. I know something about it because I was on the committee. But all those schemes, which were carefully worked out with the help of military experts, disappeared in a night. They all broke down because every mother wanted her son and every wife wanted her husband. Unless greater consideration is given to the questions that we have raised and unless we have a general staff far more efficient than the one which is operating, this scheme also will break down.
It is all right for the Under-Secretary to say, "We are thinking out schemes for peace. We must remember that we are working in peace time." But this is scheme for war time. This is a scheme intended to deal with the crisis when it comes. Men and women in our towns and provincial cities will depend upon it for their safety. Yet the Under-Secretary, apparently, does not know how many air-raid officers have been appointed. No conditions have been laid down as to qualifications or personality and no instructions have been given regarding cost and expenses, though I do not propose to go into that question now. But I would ask, as regards these officers, what measure of authority are they to have and from whom will they derive their authority? Are they to be officers of local authorities answerable to local authorities, or are they to be answerable to the central authority—to the Home Office? It is essential that we should appoint persons who will be able to exercise authority and whose word will carry weight and will be acted upon. In my own town of Doncaster the officer appointed is, I understand, the chief constable.
§ Mr. Short
Let me say that it would be impossible to have a better man. He is doing the job in an admirable manner and his standing in the communal life of Doncaster is such that he will carry 1518 authority in any emergency if circumstances should arise in which these schemes have to be put into operation. We all hope that such an eventuality will be avoided, but if the crisis comes, then the chief constable of Doncaster, owing to his position and the liking which the citizens have for him, will exercise great influence. But I cannot think that some of the men whose appointments I have seen reported in the Press will have the same power or influence as that officer.
These are matters which we want cleared up. We are not satisfied that the brain trust at the Home Office is so efficient and competent that it is dealing with this situation and these problems in a satisfactory manner. We are encouraging the people at large to believe that we are providing a machine which will give them safety and security. By the aid of gas masks, by the training of medical men and volunteers, and by the provision of air wardens, we are giving the people the impression that it does not matter what happens, for, if the worst comes, they can rely upon this scheme for security and safety. That is a terrible responsibility for the Home Office, the Government and this Committee to accept unless they are satisfied beyond a shadow of doubt that it is so. The Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary can talk vaguely, as they have done, about the scheme, their air wardens, their volunteers and their gas masks, but they cannot honestly and sincerely say that they have a scheme which will do all that the people believe it will do. It is useless for us to delude ourselves. We should indeed be Mutts and Jeffs if we deceived ourselves that anything we have heard up to now will give the people that security and safety which is held out to them, but which is not likely to be realised unless a different policy is pursued.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I want to say in reply to the Under-Secretary that he has not dealt in a way that has given us satisfaction with the most important questions which have been put to him. The whole course of the Debate has amply supported my contention that the Government have not really a plan, and, in particular, have not a plan concerning personnel. The Debate has supported my view that a plan should be made now while we are at the beginning of the organisation of 1519 the service. I have not overlooked the manifold pamphlets which the Home Office have issued. To the best of my ability I have read them through, and I have not missed the three alternative schemes for air-raid wardens. Scheme C states that the responsibility for framing an organisation of wardens in peace time as well as for exercising control in time of war may be entrusted directly to the chief officer of police, and that this scheme is particularly suitable in boroughs having their own police forces. I do not regard that scheme as organisation.
The truth is that the Government have prepared a great many fragments of a scheme, but they have no central plan to pull them together. The Under-Secretary said with pride that they had 12,000 volunteer wardens in Nottingham. The greater the number, the greater the chaos when the occasion for action comes, unless a first-rate organisation adequate to stand the strain of the situation described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has been prepared in advance. Unless it has been prepared the whole thing will break down. The Debate has shown that there are three major reasons for making the organisation of the permanent personnel engaged in air-raid precautions work a national service. The first is the matter of recruitment of volunteers. I do not share the view that an air-raid warden in the East End of London is going to a funk hole. If my hon. Friend will read the description of his duties, he will see that he has a strenuous and difficult job. You cannot for all these purposes reject fit men of under 30. The decontamination squad will have to work in protective clothing, and I understand they will not be able to work for more than two hours at a stretch, so strenuous and difficult is their work. They must be people with the finest physique.
It has been pointed out that unless we have a coherent scheme applied everywhere, we shall, as we did in 1914, be recruiting thousands of engineers. In 1914 we sent them to the Front, and in 1915 we brought them back. We shall be doing that kind of thing unless there is a national system governing recruitment of volunteers. That recruitment cannot 1520 be organised unless the principal recruiting officers are the air-raid precautions officers provided for in the scheme and unless they are part of a national scheme. I am well satisfied, after hearing the Debate, that these officers must be part of a national scheme and nationally trained. My hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) have shown with greater authority than mine the practical kind of difficulty that arises with regard to the qualifications of these men. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields told us of a Conservative agent who had been appointed an air-raid officer with no other qualifications that anyone can detect.
It is plain that this problem of status, training and so on will not be efficiently solved unless these men are part of a national service. In every part of their work there will be decisions to be taken as to which no one in the local authorities can guide them, because no one, not even the chairman of the committee concerned, in the whole service will have the technical knowledge. These men will, therefore, want guidance from above. They can have advice, I know, but I am certain that the system of advice will work far better if it is connected with command and direction, as it would be if these men were part of a national service.
Finally, there is the question of general staff functions. I have not overlooked the fact that the Bill provides for co-operation between different areas and that it will be the duty of one council to help another in case of need, but that is not enough. What will be needed at a time of air raids will be the power of command of a character which air-raid wardens will not have. Suppose that at Birmingham the electrical system and gas mains were smashed, they would need breakdown gangs from over a wide region to put it right. It may be essential to move off in fast cars the breakdown gangs of skilled men who can do the job. It may be that parts of the fire service would have to be brought in in the same way. If there were heavy casualties in a certain place, some ambulance services would have to be brought in. Under Clause 4 (1 there would be no power vested in anybody to order that to be done. When war comes you will require a power of command from the central Government 1521 itself. If we need it in time of war, it ought to be organised in time of peace, or it will not work when the crisis arises. To sum up, as regards recruiting of the volunteers, the training and status of air-raid officers and their general work, and as regards general staff functions in time of war, we say that these ought to be a
§ national service, and this Debate has shown that that is true.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 186; Noes, 114.1523
|Division No. 25.]||AYES.||[8.55 p.m.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Peat, C. U.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Asks, Sir R. W.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Poters, Dr. S. J.|
|Assheton, R.||Grimston, R. V.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Pilkington, R.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Hannah, I. C.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Harbord, A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Harvey, Sir G.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Higgs, W. F.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Brooklebank, Sir Edmund||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Repner, Colonel L.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Holmes, J. S.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hudson. Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Bull, B. B.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hunter, T.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Salt, E. W.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Joel, D. J. B.||Samuel M. R. A.|
|Cary, R. A.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Savory, Sir Servington|
|Cazatet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Kimball, L.||Selley, H. R.|
|Channon, H.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Levy, T.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lewis, O.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Lindsay, K. M.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Lipson, D. L.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lloyd, G. W.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Cross, R. H.||Loftus, P. C.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Lyons, A. M.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||M'Connell, Sir J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McKie, J. H.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Donner, P. W.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Titohfield, Marquess of|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Macquisten, F. A.||Touche, G. C.|
|Drewe, C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Markham, S. F.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Marsden, Commander A.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Mills, Sir F. (Layton, E.)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Emery, J. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Errington, E.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Wise, A. R.|
|Everard, W. L.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Munro, P.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Nall, Sir J.||Wragg, H.|
|Canzoni, Sir J.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Gledhill, G.||Palmer, G. E. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Peaks, O.||Major Herbert and Mr. Furness.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Ammon, C. G.||Bonfield, J. W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Barnes, A. J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Barr, J.|
|Batey, J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ridley, G.|
|Ballenger, F. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Riley, B.|
|Bonn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hollins, A.||Ritson, J.|
|Benson, G.||Hopkin, D.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jagger, J.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Brawn, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirby, B. V.||Short, A.|
|Chater, D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Leach, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leonard, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leslie, J. R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dagger, G.||Logan, D. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McEntee, V. La T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dobbie, W.||MacLaren, A.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Maclean, N.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Ede, J. C.||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Foot, D. M.||Marshall, F.||Walker, J.|
|Frankel, D.||Mathers, G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gallacher, W.||Maxton, J.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Messer, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Milner, Major J.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Montague, F.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Grentell, D. R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Muff, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Hayday, A.||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Quibell, D. J. K.||Mr. Groves and Mr. John.|
§ 9.4 p.m.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 15, to leave out "after consultation with the county council."
This is an Amendment to paragraph (b)of Sub-section (2). That paragraph allows the Home Secretary to direct that any borough or urban district in a county shall have a right to put forward a scheme of air-raid precautions. He may grant that permission at the request of the borough or urban district "after consultation with the county council," and it is these words which I wish to have omitted. I move the Amendment with the object of avoiding possible friction between the smaller and the larger authorities. Over the greater part of the country the relations between the county councils, the non-county boroughs, the rural districts and the urban district councils are excellent, and practically no friction arises; still, there are exceptions. I see the possibility of some difficulty arising. In some cases the county council may wish to lay down a scheme for an urban district or large borough and to precept that local authority with the cost. I want the Committee to consider the position of coast towns on the South or South-East coasts. Think of the position of towns from Kent to Northumberland, all of which may be exposed to air attack. They may have quite a different interest 1524 from the interest of the county as a whole, and they may have reasons for a special sort of precaution that do not apply to the rest of the county.
The paragraph that I am seeking to amend applies to urban districts and not to rural districts. I agree that in the case of rural districts the county councils ought to be the sole authority, but when you get to the urbanised districts, with all kinds of problems that do not apply to the whole county, I should like the Secretary of State to be able to exercise a discretion without consultation with the county councils. I want him to have an absolutely unfettered discretion. I do not suggest that independent power should be given to all the small towns and small urban districts or that the discretion should be exercised in favour of any except the larger authorities. Some of the so-called non-county boroughs are of the size, or more than the size, to become county boroughs, and some urban districts are very large in population. The sort of limit which I had in mind, and which has been used on various other occasions, is a population of 50,000. Would the Secretary of State be good enough to tell me whether, in cases where there is a special interest and danger from liability to attack from the air, there is a population of 50,000 and it 1525 is a town or an urban district, he thinks he will be able to exercise a certain amount of discretion?
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Our general desire—I think it is the desire of most hon. Members who have studied the problem—is to deal, so far as we can, with the bigger units. We shall get more effective schemes if they cover a comparatively large area than if we had something in the nature of a jigsaw puzzle of an innumerable number of small schemes. The framework of the Bill is, therefore, of the bigger areas and, in particular, the county councils and the county boroughs. Speaking generally, we prefer that the schemes should be prepared by bigger areas of this kind; at the same time we realise that there are non-county boroughs such as those to which my right hon. and gallant Friend has alluded, in which special conditions apply, relating to their importance, their vulnerability and their distinctive character as compared with the rest of the country in which they are situated. We have made provision in the Bill that the Secretary of State should be empowered to accept schemes in such cases, in the exceptional conditions of those smaller local authorities.
When my right hon. and gallant Friend further considers the wording of his Amendment I hope that he will come to the conclusion that it is not necessary. Any Home Secretary would have to exercise his discretion and treat cases upon their merits, but I claim that in actual practice a Home Secretary would have to take the bigger areas into consultation for the approval of schemes rather than the smaller areas. It may be that the bigger area, the county council, would make the suggestion, say, for the inclusion of a neighbouring village in the area of a non-county borough scheme. The consultation would be of a bilateral character, each side contributing something towards it. These words were originally suggested by one of the bigger municipal organisations and I think it is much better that we should keep them within the Bill, particularly as in practice they will not have the effect of weighting the scales against the smaller areas. I am equally certain that any Home Secretary will be bound in actual practice to consult the bigger areas before he approves the schemes of the smaller areas.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the people who suggested these words were the County Councils Association?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I think it was the Association of Municipal Corporations, and not the County Councils Association. I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will not press this Amendment. I will give him an undertaking that we certainly will look at these schemes with an impartial eye. The fact that the Home Secretary will consult the county councils will in no way mean that his mind will be biased against the schemes of smaller local authorities.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Sir John Mellor
I venture to differ from my right hon. Friend in his opening generalisation that in these schemes the bigger units would generally work more efficiently than the rather smaller units. In my view the local interest and enthusiasm of the smaller units will outweigh such advantage as is likely to arise from working on larger plans. If the people who have to work these schemes see the immediate result of their work before their eyes, it will be a great encouragement to them. There is real anxiety in the minds of some of the representatives of the urban districts that the words "after consultation with the county council," will, in practice, often be interpreted as "with the consent of the county council." I think there is a certain amount of experience behind that idea. I think it has been the experience of smaller local authorities that Government Departments have had a strong bias in favour of operating through the county councils. In any case, of course, the Home Secretary would have the right to consult the county councils or whomsoever else he pleases. But we take exception to his being obliged to consult the county councils.
Under Sub-section (2, a) of Clause I the county council is obliged to consult with the councils of the urban districts with regard to the preparation of a county scheme, but I cannot find in the Bill any obligation on the Secretary of State to consult with the urban district councils before approving a county scheme, and, as the urban districts will be seriously affected by the terms of the county scheme, I think it is very much more important that they should be consulted 1527 by the Secretary of State before he approves a county scheme than that the county should be consulted before he permits an urban district council to prepare and submit to him a scheme. I feel that it will be a great pity if unequal weight is given to the views of the representatives of the county councils. It is very important that the smaller units should have a full and fair chance of presenting their schemes, because I think that in practice that will make for greater efficiency.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Meller
I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend who moved this Amendment will not press it. With regard to the point which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor), as to consultation with district councils, I would point out that a county council, when preparing a scheme, prepares it after consultation with the authorities within its area, and therefore the Home Secretary, when he receives the county council's scheme, will know that it is a scheme which has been agreed to by the respective councils within the county. The picture is presented as a whole by the county, and it would be manifestly improper if any county borough could come along with its own scheme without reference to the county council, and without reference to the manner in which it will affect the county as a whole. The great thing to be encouraged and looked for in a county scheme is that so far as possible it should be the result of co-operation, as regards not only the use of appliances and facilities possessed by various people in a particular area, but of the appliances and facilities which one district possesses on the borders of another. All these matters are taken into account in the county scheme. But if one part of the county were to be allowed to take its scheme to the Home Secretary without consultation with the county council, and without consideration of its possible disadvantages to other parts, I think that that would be manifestly improper. I am sure my right hon. and gallant Friend only wants to find the best support he can for the scheme, and the greatest co-operation in putting the scheme into operation, but I think that, if he looks at the matter a little more 1528 closely, he will see that the Home Secretary's request to him not to press his Amendment is a wise one.
In view of the speech of the Home Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 2, line 37, to leave out "regulations," and insert "orders."
This is the first of a series of Amendments which stand in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Clayton (Mr. Jagger) and St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard), and myself, and which run together. Their effect is to substitute, for the Secretary of State's regulations, orders prescribed by the Secretary of State and approved by Parliament. The reason which has induced by hon. Friends and myself to put this proposal down is that we are admittedly in the realm of legislation which is almost, if not quite, without precedent, and which at this stage is very largely in the nature of an experiment. The effect of the Clause as it is worded is that these regulations, when submitted to the House, must be accepted or rejected as a whole; they are incapable of amendment, and nothing that we can do here can amend them. The House can reject them as a whole, and that, of course, would amount to so serious a vote of censure on the Minister that it might have results which would make people who were convinced on the merits of the case hesitate before they took the step of rejecting the regulations. It might, of course, involve the House in the same ridiculous position in which it was on the first set of Unemployment Assistance Regulations. It will be recollected that, when those regulations were submitted to the House, they could only be accepted or rejected as a whole, and my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) found that the printer had made an error—
§ The Solicitor-General
On a point of Order. The Amendment which the hon. Member is moving is to substitute the word "orders" for "regulations." That, I understand, is a quite different point from the point he is now making about the power of Parliament to deal with whatever emerges, whether it be orders or regulations, which is the point 1529 raised in the next Amendment. This point as to whether we should speak of orders or regulations is not really related to that point at all, and I should like your guidance, Sir Dennis, as to whether the hon. Gentleman is in order in dealing with that issue on this particular Amendment.
§ The Chairman
I agree that what the learned Solicitor-General has said, is correct on the basis of his premises; but I was—I think correctly—under the impression that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was intending to deal with all these Amendments as one, and that this was agreed to; I think it will also be for the convenience of the Committee, and on that understanding the hon. Member will be in order. But, of course, it will be understood that the fate of the following Amendments on the Order Paper depends upon the fate of this one.
§ Mr. Ede
If the Solicitor-General had done me the courtesy, which I always do him, of listening to me, he would have heard that I started my remarks by saying that these Amendments run together. For the convenience of the Committee, and not getting any fees or refreshers through the matter being allowed to stand over till to-morrow, I was anxious to save the time of the Committee by dealing with the Amendments together. I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that, had I been a member of his profession, I should have been acting very unprofessionally, but, not being so, I was endeavouring to act in the best interests of the Committee.
It will be recollected that my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton discovered, by a very close reading of the first set of Unemployment Assistance Regulations, that the word "than" had been printed "that," with the consequence that the regulation in question was nonsense, and the whole of the regulations had to be withdrawn and resubmitted. I am not suggesting that, after so severe a lesson, the Government are likely to be caught out again in that particular way. But in view of the nature of this legislation it is desirable that the House should retain control over the forms that the Minister is going to prescribe for the schemes which are to be submitted. We have had a long discussion to-day—it was admittedly a useful, 1530 interesting and fruitful discussion—on the question of evacuation. As I understand the matter, if the Minister puts evacuation into the regulations, then the local authorities would have to include proposals for evacuation in their schemes. Suppose some other topic arises between now and the time when regulations are submitted. It may be the desire of the Committee, as it was clearly its desire on the question of evacuation, that provision should be made for it in the scheme, yet the Secretary of State has not included it. In that case, as I understand, the only thing that the House can do is to throw the whole body of regulations out and compel the Secretary of State to submit new ones. That is clearly a course that the House might find it difficult to adopt, because, strongly as hon. Members might feel on the one issue, they might feel that other issues that were involved did not justify them in taking so extreme a course.
The Committee has, I think, indicated to-day that it is anxious to assist the Minister constructively in this matter. I do not think he or his Under-Secretary can complain of the tone or temper of the Debate, or of the nature of the criticisms that have been made. From both sides of the Committee there have been suggestions offered, ways in which the scheme could be strengthened, which I imagine must be helpful to him in considering this problem, and we should like that state of mind to continue throughout the discussion and in the framing of the necessary rules by the Secretary of State for the guidance of the local authorities. It is clear that there may be great difficulties arising in the minds of local authorities, and it might be very desirable that they should be raised in this House by the submission of a specific Amendment to an order, so that one particular issue could receive attention. We desire that in these matters there should not arise the kind of conflict between the local authorities and the Secretary of State that may very well arise if a set of regulations is submitted which contains, or omits, some particular item about which the local authorities feel keenly, and for the local authorities then to be told that, owing to the forms of the House, it was impossible to raise the specific issue in such a way that we could get a clear decision of the House upon it.
1531 If this Bill had been attacked in a strong party spirit, if there had been the kind of division on it that there undoubtedly was on the Unemployment Assistance Board proposals, one could understand the Secretary of State feeling it necessary to take refuge in this form of Parliamentary procedure. But, though he has had a keep fight with the local authorities, they have recognised that if he desires them to carry out this duty they are willing to do it; but it is clear that such work, if it is to be done adequately, must be done in an atmosphere where the local authorities can feel that they will be able to secure any reasonable alteration with a minimum use of Parliamentary machinery to secure it.
I want to deal with one other point. It has been stated twice to-night by the Under-Secretary that these regulations and schemes relate to the time of peace, but when war comes nobody knows what is going to happen; but I venture to say that if war should come there will be some relationship between the liabilities to be incurred then by the citizen volunteer and the scheme under which he is enrolled. This may well involve very grave infractions of the liberty of the subject. It may be found that an Act has been passed by Parliament, saying that these volunteers may be deemed to have enlisted under some scheme placing them under a form of discipline that may involve them in very heavy pains and penalties in the event of a breach of the regulations that may then come into force. For that reason, I think it would be as well that this scheme should go forward in circumstances where legitimate parliamentary discussion can be as unrestricted as possible, and can be made as effective as possible on the question of detail. No one suggests that there will be any attempt made to annul the whole of the regulations so that the scheme may be brought to a standstill, and I suggest to the Home Secretary that the spirit of co-operation between the local authorities and himself, to which he so gladly bore witness, can be best preserved if he will accept the Amendment rather than persevere with the system which he has embodied in the Bill. For these reasons, I beg to move the Amendment.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
It was not out of pedantry that I raised the point of Order, although I am as uninterested in refreshers as the hon. Gentleman himself. But his Amendments raised two quite distinct points, entirely separate, and it would be only courteous to him therefore that I should deal with both of them. The first point, which is raised in the first Amendment, is the substitution of "orders" for "regulations," and that, I see, runs through a whole series of Amendments designed to make uniformity throughout the Bill. As regards that, it is not clear to me why the hon. Gentleman wants to substitute the one word for the other. It has never been clear to anybody what the precise difference between an order and a regulation is, but the Donoughmore Committee tried to mark the distinction between subject-matters which were appropriate for orders and subject-matters which were appropriate for regulations. I will read what they recommended. They regretted the indiscriminate use of these two words, and said that they should not be used indiscriminately. They said:The expression 'regulation' should be used to describe the instrument by which the power to make substantive law is exercised, and the expression 'order' should be used to describe the instrument in the exercise, of executive power or the power to take judicial and quasi-judicial decisions.It is that definition of the Donoughmore Committee that has been honoured by the Government throughout this Bill, because the regulations here certainly are intended to describe the instrument by which the power to make substantive law is exercised. Later on, if the hon. Member will look forward to Clause 4, Sub-section (2), he will find that we have used the word "order," which I think is the correct word there, because it describes the instrument of the exercise of the power. So I hope I have satisfied the hon. Member that we have the Donoughmore Committee on our side.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn: Does the
hon. and learned Gentleman mean that a regulation laid before the House will not be a substantive thing at all, but will be a subsidiary instrument for giving exact directions?
§ The Solicitor-General
No, it describes the instrument by which the power to make substantive law is exercised. The local authority is charged with the duty of preparing a scheme, and the scheme must contain provisions as to such matters as may be prescribed by regulation, made by the Secretary of State under Subsection (4) of Clause 1. You have to look to Clause 8 to see what those regulations may contain. They can only be made by the Secretary of State for the purposes of the Act, and they shall provide for one of the matters that are set out in Sub-section (1), or other matters, provided that they are for the purposes of the Act, so that the regulations are the direct machinery by which the executive, going back to the Donoughmore Committee's words, exercise the power to make substantive law.
§ The Solicitor-General
It is being made by this House in passing this Bill. This House, in passing this Bill, devolves upon the executive the power to make regulations, which will themselves be substantive law, so the power is being granted by the passage of this Bill. All I am concerned with is that, upon the differentiation of "regulation" and "order," "regulation" is clearly a more appropriate word than "order" for use throughout the Bill in this connection. But passing to the second—
§ The Solicitor-General
All that I have dealt with so far is that whether you call them "regulations" or "orders" is not important. As the Donoughmore Committee pointed out, "order" and "regulation" and "rule" have been used indiscriminately to describe the same thing, and they have suggested that this kind of thing is better described as a regulation. It would not make the smallest difference, except to the prestige of Parliamentary counsel, if we adopted the word "order." The second point is of more substance. It is whether you should have regulations which Parliament can annul, as the Bill proposes, or whether you 1534 should have regulations which must be affirmatively resolved by Parliament. That is the issue between the Government and the hon. Gentleman. In that connection, Sir Dennis, I suppose I am not out of order in looking at the last of the hon. Gentleman's Amendments, in order to see what exact procedure he proposes. That Amendment appears on page 129 of the Order Paper, and I see that, according to that Amendment, he proposes that:Before any order is made by the Secretary of State under this Act a draft thereof shall be laid before Parliament and shall not come into operation unless and until it has been approved, either with or without modication, by a Resolution passed by each House of Parliament, and when so approved shall have effect as if enacted in this Act. Any order made under this Act may be altered by a subsequent order made and approved in like manner as the original order.That is a proposal to enable either House of Parliament to amend the regulations. It is unusual, as the hon. Gentleman no doubt recognises. There are a great many instances in which it is provided that matters shall be determined by resolutions. but it is a comparative exception to provide that they shall be approved either with or without modification.
§ The Solicitor-General
Quite, but the answer to be made to that point really is an answer of policy; it is the answer of urgency. There are two or three ways in which regulations will have to be made. First of all, regulations have to be made in order to tell the local authorities what to put in their schemes. Those are the first regulations contemplated in the Bill, and it might possibly be argued that the delay involved in getting affirmative resolutions with complete and full debate could be afforded in regard to the original schemes. But the view of my right hon. Friend is that we cannot afford that time. The time that would be taken in this House and another place in introducing regulations and debating them seriatim and amending them is time that can be ill spared before this important arid urgent Measure goes on the Statute Book. But if that were the only answer hon. and right hon. Gentlemen might not think it so complete as it may be with the remaining part of the answer.
1535 The remaining part of the answer is that, of course, schemes and regulations will no doubt have to be amended, and the provision of the Bill, a normal provision, is that they are amended in the same way as they are made. I ask the Committee to consider whether it is reasonable, in the case of regulations of this kind, which may have to be amended as a matter of the utmost possible urgency, in order to deal with an emergency which might arise, to suggest that, before those Amendments can be made, the whole paraphernalia of Debate and Amendment in both Houses of Parliament shall have to be gone through, in matters such as where equipment is to be stored and what is to happen to appliances. To suggest that, in an emergency sufficiently grave to require regulations to be amended, all the slow, cumbrous machinery of Parliamentary Amendment and Debate should be adopted, is, in my submission, not to recognise the true urgency of the problem with which the Bill is seeking to deal.
I end, as I began, by saying that the answer to this is purely one of expediency and purely one of urgency, and that to adopt the method of permitting amendment in either House of Parliament and an affirmative Resolution would cause us so much delay, especially in the case of amending regulations, that the machine would not be swift enough to operate. The remaining point in the argument is this: It may be said, Why not have some forms of regulations subject to affirmative Resolution and some forms subject to negative Resolution? The answer that I make to that is that, so far as I know, it would be unique to have different machinery applicable to regulations to be made by the Executive in pursuance of powers given to them in the same Act of Parliament. I do not call to mind any instance of it, and, besides, it would be highly inconvenient to have different methods of having to present amendments under the same Act of Parliament. For these reasons I suggest that the proposal in the Bill is the most speedy and the most convenient in the circumstances.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
I think there is an answer to everything that the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. In the first place, let us have the provision made by the 1536 Government themselves in this Bill, in Clause 8, that the regulations are allowed unless within 28 days Parliament carries a Resolution to the contrary. Such a Motion for an Address would be exempted business and in theory could be moved at any time by any Member, but anyone with experience of the House of Commons knows what happens. An Order is made, the business is delayed, the thing goes on day after day, no opportunity occurs for anything to be done, the Government may not trouble to keep a House, and the experience of anyone who has been for any length of time in this House is that such a safeguard as this is practically inoperative. Therefore, the proposals made by the Government themselves for giving the House of Commons some measure of control over these regulations or orders amount really to nothing at all.
The learned Solicitor-General follows that up by saying that considerations of urgency make it impossible for him to concede what my hon. Friend asks, namely, that a positive Resolution should be required approving these regulations. In the first place, the Home Secretary cannot possibly say that, inasmuch as this Bill must take some few weeks to pass both Houses, and with all the advanced state of preparation which he and his Under-Secretary have told us exists in the Home Office Air-Raid Precautions Department, it would not be easy. In fact, no doubt the regulations exist. Why, therefore, cannot they be laid before Parliament now, in order that, at the same time as we are engaged in legislation of a completely new character, the material part of that legislation, which is the regulations, which may infringe the personal liberty of the subject, should be laid before Parliament? I undertake to say that the Home Secretary has these regulations; he must have them. He has complete schemes, and if he has them, what possible objection can there be to having them printed to-morrow and laid before Parliament? He can get his affirmative Resolution, and in that case the whole thing goes through together, and we all know exactly what we are doing. There is no desire to interfere. In fact, we are all anxious to make the scheme a good one and, above all, a scheme which commands general public support.
1537 The final point of the Solicitor-General's argument had more substance in it. He said that in time of emergency the Home Secretary might find it necessary to alter a regulation and might not have Parliamentary time in which to gel his decision approved. There are two answers to that, although I think there is some substance in the argument. The first answer is that the Government must give up the idea that questions of this kind are things to be brought on at 11 or 12 o'clock at night, when everyone wants to go home. There is no reason why a regulation of this kind should not be put down at 4 o'clock on any day. The Government have to suspend the Eleven o'Clock rule, and they always get their men here for that, so that there is no reason why this should be considered subsidiary business. It could be put down, in such circumstances of emergency as the Solicitor-General has outlined, as the first Order of the Day, and if the emergency is such as we fear it might be, does anyone suggest that there would be found in this House persons who would desire to offer niggling, pernickety, obstructive criticism of regulations? Not at all. Exactly what would happen would be what the Home Secretary said would happen in regard to questions about the
§ control of air wardens and so on. He said that if a crisis comes, which Heaven forbid, everybody will be ready to give every facility to the Government to afford efficient protection. For those reasons, I do not think that even the last point of the Solicitor-General has substance, and everyone who believes that this House of Commons is efficient for carrying through a scheme of this kind and who believes, moreover, that the consent of this House of Commons denotes general public assent will support the Amendment.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Assheton
I might have felt somewhat inclined to support the Amendment, but I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) has overlooked the fact that Parliament might not be sitting on such an occasion as he mentions. An emergency might arise when Parliament was not sitting, and in such circumstances the Home Secretary's hands should not be tied by the requirement of an affirmative Resolution.
§ Question put, "That the word 'regulations' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 176; Noes, 113.1539
|Division No. 26.]||AYES.||[9.52 p.m.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Donner, P. W.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Apsley, Lord||Drewe, C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Ask:, Sir R. W.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)|
|Assheton, R.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Jarvis. Sir J. J.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Duncan, J. A. L.||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Eastwood, J. F.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Eckersley, P. T.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Kimball, L.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Ellis, Sir G.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Emery, J. F.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Levy, T.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Errington, E.||Lewis, O.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Everard, W. L.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fleming, E. L.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Loftus, P. C.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Cary, R. A.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Granville, E. L.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|Channon, H.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||McKie, J. H.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Grimston, R. V.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Makins, Brig: Gen. E.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hannah, C.||Markham, S. F.|
|Groom-Johnson, R. P.||Harbord, A.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Cross, R. H.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Heitgers, Captain F. F. A.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Cruddas, Col, B.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Higgs, W. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.|
|De la Bère, R.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Munro, P.||Russell, Sir Alexander||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Nall, Sir J.||Salmon, Sir I.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Salt, E. W.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Samuel, M. R. A.||Touche, G. C.|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Peaks, O.||Savery, Sir Servington||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Peal, C. U.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Pilkington, R.||Simmonds, O. E.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Radford, E. A.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)||Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Wise, A. R.|
|Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wragg, H.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Tate, Mavis C.||Mr. Furness and Major Sir|
|Royds, Admiral P. M. R.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||James Edmondson.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hayday, A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ridley, G.|
|Attlee, RI. Hon. C. R.||Hollins, A.||Riley, B.|
|Bonfield, J. W.||Hopkin, D.||Ritson, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Jagger, J.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Batey, J.||John, W.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bonn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Kelly, W. T.||Short, A.|
|Benson, G.||Kirby. B. V.||Silkin, L.|
|Broad, F. A.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Lathan, G.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Burke, W. A.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leach, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Chater, D.||Leonard, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leslie, J. R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Logan, D. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lunn, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-sp'ng)|
|Daggar, G.||McEntee, V. La T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dalton, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||MacLaren, A.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Maclean, N.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Walker, J.|
|Eden, J. C.||Marshall, F.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C (Bedwellty)||Maxton, J.||Westwood, J.|
|Foot, D. M.||Messer, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner, Major J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Muff, G.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Groves, T. E.||Naylor, T. E.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Hall. G. H. (Aberdare)||Oliver, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Paling, W.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Anderson.|
|Harris, Sir P. A||Parker, J.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I wish to say a few words upon the general principles of Clause 1, which, in fact, is the Bill. Those of us who hold the same views on these questions are in some difficulty, because, in our opinion this is part of the war machinery and we either ought to abstain from voting or offer downright opposition to the proposition and go into the Lobby against it. But there is this 1540 to be said on the other side. Some of us are members of local authorities and we have to face up to the fact that we have either to carry out whatever duties are imposed upon those authorities or resign from our position. Therefore, I am entitled, even though I hold the views that I do in regard to war, to take part in this discussion from the point of view of the practicability of the propositions contained in the Bill now before the Committee. I hope that no one on my side of the Committee or opposite will 1541 get up and chide my comrades and myself as being more self-righteous than other people, or as charging other people with being less peace-minded than ourselves. I do not think that there is a man or woman in this country who really wants war, and there are a good many who would make very great personal sacrifices to prevent war.
My complaint against the Government and those who support the Government in rearmament is not against their good motives—I do not challenge their good motives—but I really do challenge the common sense of the position everywhere I go in this country. Whomsoever I speak to, whether private individuals or Members of Parliament, or men. in the Army and the Services generally, or whatever Minister, the people of all classes are united in saying that another great war will mean the collapse of civilisation. I published the other day extracts from speeches or writings of a number of leading statesmen in this country which I had taken from the Glasgow "Forward." Each one of those men declared publicly what a large number of people have declared to me privately, that this civilisation could not stand another great war. It is said that those of us who are pacifists are unpractical and not realists, but the practice of pacifism does not bring about anything worse than the collapse of civilisation. When it comes to arguing who are the realists, it may be said by hon. Members that I am in the same boat as they are, but they cannot say that the pursuit of armaments and entering into war and the necessity for this Bill will save us from the barbarism which was spoken of by King Leopold, President Roosevelt, Herr Hitler, Signor Mussolini, M. Blum, the present Prime Minister of France, and by Lord Baldwin when standing at that Box. Therefore, at the outset I want to say that all the reason and the realism is not on the side of those who challenge the position which my friends and I take up.
We may all be in the same boat, but from the point of view of the Government and those who support them we are, at any rate, no worse than they are, and we think that we are in a safer position. We believe that it would be impossible at any time for our country to submit to what the Home Secretary 1542 in his speech the other day and in previous speeches said that we might have to submit to. Earlier this evening I asked him one or two questions, and I thought afterwards that there was no reason to ask those questions, because the facts of the situation prove that all these precautions are not going to save our people. The mere fact of providing 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 gas masks shows that the Government expect to have gas attacks, and they propose to attempt to meet them in that way. I do not suppose that we shall be asked to practise gas drill for amusement.
The Government must consider that, as Lord Baldwin said, the bombers will get through. Therefore, I do not propose to argue that particular case, because the facts are there. The Government admit the facts. They admit that a large number of people are going to be wounded and killed, and the duties of the people whose organisation we are discussing to-night will be to deal with that situation. When we come to the question of fire, no one will deny that the thermite bomb, which drops to the earth at a terrific speed, in white heat, will have such terrible effects that no woman will be in any fit condition to use the shovel and the sand that are to be provided. That is self-evident. I have spoken to women in my division and they do not understand what the House of Commons can be thinking of, having regard to their tiny houses and the great blocks of flats in our area.
We were told, I think it was on the wireless the other night, or I may have read it, that there had been an experiment in the dropping of one of these bombs and that it had made a hole six feet deep through the solid earth. Then the man who was speaking said that if the sewer was more than six feet down it would be all right. I think that statement was the height or the depth of imbecility. Outside my own home in Bow there are sewers and a railway and all kinds of apparatus in the earth at less than six feet depth, and a little further away there is the great main drainage sewer of London, which is almost on the surface. It is there for anyone to see. Is that sort of propaganda going to give people comfort and assurance? It does nothing of the kind. It makes people wonder what this House and statesmanship are coming to, when that sort of talk is considered neces- 1543 sary. One word about gathering things up. It is much easier when you are gathering things up as an experiment than it is when something happens to you without any notice. I do not think the Home Secretary likes to tell the people that they are going to face danger and death. I always feel that when he speaks, as he did in the India debates, he always faces things in a straightforward manner, and he has done so in his speeches on this subject. It is dreadful that our people should be told that this sort of thing is really possible.
Let me say a few words on evacuation. I should be only too glad to evacuate nine-tenths of the people from Poplar and to feel that they will be placed under healthy, decent conditions. Let anyone go to Aldgate, or down the Bow Road, or the India Dock Road, or Stratford High Street, or to Canning Town and the districts around, and he can judge for himself. During the War I had to undergo a very bad operation and was not very well, but I was present during a number of raids, and I used to see my friends going out from their homes into the Blackwall Tunnel, and into the bottom of Bryant and May's building, where they thought they would be safer. It was very terrible to see the terror of the people. Then we had bombing raids and the children in a school were almost wiped out. We know down there what an air raid means under those conditions and now we know that air raids will be a thousand times worse.
It is no use trying to persuade ourselves that all our people can be evacuated or that an appreciable number of them can be evacuated. When you think of East London, it is all a military objective. My division and the divisions of my colleagues are full of railways, canals, gasworks, electricity undertakings and factories that could be well considered as military objectives. Therefore, unless we take the whole of the population away we are not going to save them. I do not deny that under certain conditions this policy might be considered by the majority of the people of this country as necessary. I consider it to be unnecessary.
I have tried hard whilst listening to the Debate to make myself believe that I am wrong and the bulk of the people right.
1544 A friend of mine who is not a Pacifist or a Member on this side of the House, had been entertaining the Italian ex-service men who were in this country, and amongst them was a man who was without arms and blind. I said to my friend: "Is not this a mad world? You can meet these men in a friendly manner—Germans who bombed London, and Germans who were in submarines which sunk ships—and then we each go back home and prepare for more universal slaughter. If that is not madness I should like to know what is madness." My friend said "Yes Lansbury, we are all mad." It is a nice world. The Prime Minister when he was moving the expenditure told us that it was madness. I believe the Prime Minister meant it. Are we all mad? Has it come to pass, as some one once wrote, that the world is a universal madhouse. Have we come to that at the end of this year of Grace 1937? Really and truly I could sit here much more contented if people defended it as something which was going to accomplish beneficial results for the country. I should probably disagree, but I could understand it if the Government really believed that this policy was going to end in bringing something good to the country. They admit that it will not, even if it is carried through. The right hon. Gentleman said that what we want is to prevent other people getting their blow in first. That means that we hope by better organisation to do to the people in the country we are fighting what they propose to do to us, but to do it more quickly.
What sort of civilisation is it about which we pray each day? What sort of reason is there for this civilisation to continue? There are some people who think we are so decadent that we ought to he wiped out. I am a very old man and I cannot believe that when I look around the House and meet people in the street. I do not think we are any more decadent than other people, but I do assert that everybody who is supporting this policy, no matter to what country he belongs, is mad. When a person is out of his mind he does not know what he is doing, but we have reached the point when we know what we are doing. I know what will be said. I shall be asked, what are you going to do about it? I cannot do any more than any ordinary Member of the Committee. My comrades and I are doing what we can 1545 in the country wherever we can get people to listen to us. What I am sent here to say to hon. Members is that there is another way, the way of one country—it ought to be this country, for we are the strongest—saying to the world that this madness must stop and that we will take the lead in stopping it. We should take the lead by saying that we are prepared to meet all countries on equal terms, and to share the world in every respect, without wanting any monopolistic ownership to the exclusion of others.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I realise how deeply the right hon. Gentleman feels on this subject, but he is now opening a question which cannot possibly arise on this Clawe.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I certainly do not wish to overstep the bounds of order, or to have any privilege that is not given to any other hon. Member. Therefore, I will conclude by saying that I believe that what I am saying is true. Although I acknowledge what the Government are doing in this respect—and there is no hon. Member who does not wish the Government Godspeed in whatever efforts they are making for peace—I wish that they would take some other line, which I cannot discuss at this moment. I want the Government to say to the whole world that Great Britain is willing to do everything that a great country can do to avoid this sort of thing and to make it unnecessary, in our judgment and in the judgment of others, and I want to be sure that they will not allow any small question to plunge this country into war. It will not be a question of any country wanting to attack this country, but in my judgment it will be an international question which I am certain could be solved without war. What all Europe wants is somebody to speak a word for all Europe and the world, to make people understand that we are all one great human family, and that this Measure is an infamy for which everybody is responsible, but that we, recognising what it is, are willing to give a lead away from it for the good of all.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
Every hon. Member admires the idealism of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). He always appears to hon. Members as one who is 1546 full of very genuine benevolent intentions for the whole of humanity. As the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, I felt that there could be no more ardent defender of justice and liberty, and I believe that if justice or liberty were threatened, he would defend it with his life. Surely, these conflicts in the world arise because of a conflicting sense of justice. While we all admire the right hon. Gentleman's idealism, we are bound to recognise that we are faced with a world of realities, and much as we dislike the Measure before us to-night, we have to recognise that the realities of the world demand that the Government should produce such a Measure, for surely it is the first task of any Government to ensure the safety of the people for whom it is responsible.
I rose not to pursue a general line of comment, but to raise certain specific and realistic points in connection with air-raid wardens, auxiliary policemen and so on. I had hoped to raise these points on Clause 5, before you told me that it would be proper to raise them at this time. I had hoped to move an Amendment to Clause 5 to ensure that provision could be made for the necessary expenses of all volunteers assisting in these arrangements. I have no desire to add to the financial burden which this Bill will impose on the nation, but if we desire to secure the necessary volunteers to carry out air-raid precautions, it is important that we should make clear to them what their position is to be. Earlier this afternoon we had some discussion on the nature of their engagements. I assure the Home Secretary that many of those who have already volunteered, or are waiting to volunteer, are concerned about the extent to which they will be required to meet the expenses which will be involved in the fulfilment of their obligations.
It is necessary that volunteers should be trained, and in order that they should be trained, it is necessary that they should proceed from their homes to some training centre two, or three, or perhaps four times a week. That will involve them in tram or train fares. In the course of their work they may have to wear boots of a special kind which will be liable to damage. It may even be necessary for them to wear clothing of a special kind. I think it is fully recognised that these volunteers should not be remunerated in the same way as members 1547 of the Regular Forces. But can the Home Secretary say whether it is the intention of the Government that the local authorities should make provision for the out-of-pocket expenses incurred by volunteers such as tram or train fares to the places of training? Is it the intention that the necessary equipment in the way of clothing and boots should be provided for them, or that they should be reimbursed if they provide it themselves? That is a very simple but a very important point. If we are to be certain of getting the volunteers that we require, those volunteers should be satisfied with the arrangements which are made to enable them to undertake their training.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
I do not wish to delay the Committee's decision on this Clause, but I wish to ask the Home Secretary one question. The Clause imposes on local authorities the obligation to prepare schemes. What are to be the exemptions from those schemes? In other words, are the local authorities' schemes to cover local electricity, gas and water supplies? Are the schemes for constituencies like Bow and Bromley, for instance, to include any parts of the London docks? The newspapers this week have reported certain preparations which were being made by the main line railway companies. Is the scheme of the Paddington local authority, for instance, to include Paddington railway station? Or, are all those matters which I have mentioned to be kept separate from the local authorities' schemes? If so, I assume from the right hon. Gentleman's statement on this Bill that it will be necessary to introduce separate legislation dealing with them.
I put a specific question on the Second Reading to which no answer has yet been forthcoming. It concerns a matter which is causing a considerable amount of irritation. I am a member of the Metropolitan Water Board which is responsible for an area of 652 square miles. We were urged by the Home Office some time ago to appoint an air-raid precautions officer on a full-time basis and we did so on the definite understanding—though there was no bargain in writing—that when the question of the payment to be made to the local authorities was settled bodies like the Metropolitan Water Board would 1548 be treated, at least, equally well. We have been endeavouring to get from the right hon. Gentleman's Department an answer to that simple question. I want him to realise the difficult position in which this important body and other bodies of a like character are placed if an answer is not soon given inasmuch as they have full-time officers appointed and are preparing schemes, but they have no indication that the Department will make any contribution towards the schemes, which, in the case of the water board, will amount to a vast sum. As soon as the right hon. Gentleman can give some indication it will enable a good deal of work to be undertaken. Public bodies are getting disgruntled because of the fact that they are expected to spend a great deal of time in drafting schemes and appointing air-raid officers, without receiving any indication whether their position is to be as favourable as that of local authorities.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
I am glad that the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) has raised the question of the position of public bodies. He has some experience of the Metropolitan Water Board, and I have some indirect connection with electricity supplies. Those concerned, both companies and municipalities, are anxious to know what their position will be if they are to be under the obligation of making sure that their services will be continued as far as it is humanly possible. That involves not only protection for their property but special protection for that section of the personnel who have to be on duty while air raids may be in progress. I believe that the Home Secretary is actively engaged in considering this matter, and I would only express the hope that a decision will be announced at an early date.
I would like to comfort the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who rather wondered whether he ought to approve of this Clause at all. He does not believe in war. Very few of us do in the aggressive sense, but because he does not believe in war he doubts whether he ought to take any part in relieving or avoiding the suffering that may arise from war. I do not believe in arson, but I still believe in the fire brigade. I believe in the fire brigade, although it does not always put 1549 the fire out. I do not know whether the analogy is of any comfort to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Williams
I agree, but the trouble is that everyone in the world is not as virtuous as I am or as he thinks he is—or the other way round. The trouble is that the right hon. Gentleman's constituents are not as virtuous as he is. As long ago as 1912 I spoke at a by-election at Bow Baths. I tried for 45 minutes to make some observations—
§ Mr. Williams
It was a complete babble coming mainly from men. When it was over, I asked, "Who are that lot?" and they said, "Those are known as Lansbury's lambs." I fought another election for the London County Council and then things were very different. Nobody came to the meetings, and nobody voted. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would not only preach to us, because there are those who vote for him who really are quite warlike when it comes to elections.
§ Mr. Williams
I think I have been led astray by the right hon. Gentleman, and not for the first time, but the view that it is wrong to adopt this Clause because one holds pacifist doctrines is a very strange one. On that view, clearly no pacifist ought ever to be a magistrate, because the decisions of a magistrate can only be enforced by reason of the fact that there are people willing to use force, and a pacifist can only live in a world where there are other people who are not pacifists. Only the fact that everybody is not a pacifist permits the right hon. Gentleman to hold his views.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not think the very weighty contribution of the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) was adequately answered by the hon. Member for South Croydon 1550 (Mr. H. G. Williams), nor do I think he was answered by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane), who tried to come down from what he called the unrealities of the right hon. Gentleman to the stern realities of providing the boots and the pocket money for volunteers who will be engaged in this air-raid precautions service. I do not take exactly the view of the right hon. Gentleman, though I certainly think it is the only realist view, but though we are passing this Measure the women in Bow and Bromley and in the other crowded centres of our big cities should know quite definitely that even we here do not think it is any protection. Do not let the hon. Member for South Croydon spread among the simple folk in this country the idea that they can go into war lightly and be perfectly safe. They should know that if they go into war for any reason whatever death will go up every street, and that the sand boxes, the ambulances and the fire brigades will save only a very small fraction of the total suffering. That is realism. Everybody in this Committee and in the country should face this proposition in that frame of mind. If that frame of mind is present the urge for effective peace efforts will become much stronger not merely here but in the other countries of the world. I regard that as realism, and the only realism—not the sand box and the fire brigade.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I was interested in the anecdotes of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) about his experiences in Bow and Bromley, and I can understand why he was not allowed to proceed without interruption. It will be observed that even here to-night he was not allowed to proceed without interruption.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
On that occasion I was not allowed to proceed, because I was not even allowed to start.
§ Mr. Bellenger
At any rate, the hon. Member has had a little more success tonight, because he was allowed to start, although not allowed to finish what he was going to say. I rise to protest because this Clause is so inadequately drawn. The Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary submit that the provision of protection, whatever protection we can get, against air warfare is a matter 1551 mainly for the local authorities. I disagree with that idea altogether. I said on Second Reading that it is a matter for the Government and the military authorities and not one to be left entirely to the civil authorities. We are making preparations for immense armaments, spending £1,500,000,000 on re-arming this country against an emergency which may come. We are spending that mainly upon the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. If we realise how necessary it is to do that, we should at the same time realise that this is a parallel problem, running close to the military defence of this country.
I suggest that before it is too late the right hon. Gentleman should revise his ideas somewhat and pay attention to the suggestions that have been made to him from both sides of the House that his Department is not adequately equipped to carry out these air-raid precautions. I hope that he will make some provision before the Report stage or the Third Reading for what was suggested by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) that there should be a director-general to deal specifically with this matter. The Under-Secretary of State has very good intentions and has applied his mind very considerably to this problem, but if he had had some of the experience which some of us had during the last War he would realise that it is impossible to prepare the civil population adequately to deal with precautions for their own safety by the methods which are outlined in the Clause and in other parts of the Bill.
Both the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary of State spoke as though all these air warden duties and fire duties will be carried out in almost ideal conditions when the time comes. They will not. The civil population will be panicked immediately the emergency comes. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he is not making sufficient provision. He must provide for much more adequate training. I have asked questions to elicit what preparation the civil population will get in peace time in order to accustom themselves to things which they will not otherwise know how to use when the emergency comes. I have asked the Under-Secretary of State what training will be given to the civil population, even in the use of their gas masks, their first line of defence against gas warfare. Does the Under-Secretary 1552 know the training through which the military go? Does he know, as many of us know, the training through which we had to go in the last War before we could accustom ourselves even to putting on the gas masks, let alone putting them on properly.
The civil population, I suggest, are not getting instruction for that time, if it should come. Other countries, and countries that have probably forced this Measure upon this country, are taking far more careful precautions than we are. They are giving far greater instruction to the civil population than we are. If it is not too late to make this appeal, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not deal with this matter in a piecemeal manner, throwing it on to the local authorities as though it were welfare work. It is far more serious than that, and it needs far more serious attention than the right hon. Gentleman is giving it in this Clause.
§ 10.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I always have a sense of alarm when I hear hon. Members reply to such a speech as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) by quiet and somewhat patronising compliments to his alleged idealism, while they continue to appropriate to themselves the idea that they are the realists and the only practical people. The question that the Committee is discussing is whether the measures proposed in the Clause do what the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) said was the first duty of the Government, to secure the safety and security of the civil population of this country. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman would say, and I should certainly agree, that they do no such thing; that everyone knows that they do no such thing; and that, more than anyone else, the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible in this Committee for these proposals knows that they do no such thing. When he asserted, in the course of his speech, that the Home Secretary would not claim that they protected everybody, I understood the Home Secretary to indicate assent. May I ask him how far his proposals take us? What degree of protection do they afford? What proportion of the civil population subject to this attack will benefit by the proposals?
1553 I should entirely agree with him if he were able to say, "Well, there will be some that will escape the net that we are drawing as tight as we can, but in the main the civil population will be protected." If he were able to say that, I think the case would be better than it is. But does he say that? Does he claim that the proposals in the Clause, although they will not secure the life and limb and health of everybody, will in the main secure the life and limb and health of the civil population most open to attack? It is very difficult to see that that can happen. Who will not be protected? If an attack is made on such a constituency as Bow and Bromley, who will be protected by these proposals? Who will not be protected? Will it be possible to protect the very old people; will it be possible to protect the young babies; will it be possible to protect the younger children; will it be possible to protect people living in highly overcrowded conditions in slum houses; will their lives, will their limbs, will their health be protected by these proposals? Obviously not.
What is claimed, I understand, is that, in such circumstances, at any rate you may be able to evacuate the population. But will you? Is it seriously contended that the population of Bow and Bromley could be evacuated, and evacuated in time? When would the evacuation take place? Before the declaration of war? Immediately after it? When you first get notice that a bombing raid is on its way? When it has already broken through? Or when? What is in the minds of many of us is that these proposals are completely illusory, and are intended to be completely illusory. I do not agree with those on this side who have complained that in this matter the Government are suffering from a lack of realism. I think they are inspired by a very true and precise realism. What they have in mind, I suspect, is something like this: They know that the people of this country, if they felt that on an outbreak of war there was no possibility of adequately protecting them from the dangers of war, would not be content that the methods of war should be engaged in on the shallow and false pretence of being protective or defensive.
In order to prevent people in this country who are not Pacifists like the right hon. Gentleman to take part in war 1554 like measures at all, you have to persuade them that that is the only way in which protection is possible. If you do persuade them that these things are ugly and mad, but necessary because they contribute to their safety, then reluctantly they will support this Measure. If, on the other hand, they were persuaded that, no matter what your warlike preparation may be, there is in the last analysis no possible protection for them, then they would be inclined to say, I think, "The futility of warlike measures has been demonstrated to conviction, and we will take no part in what is proved to be an illusory method of defence." It, therefore, becomes necessary for those who are committed to these measures to persuade people, truly or falsely, that the measures on which they are embarked are calculated to protect the people, and that is why I propose to them the need of a very true realism; but whether realism is synonymous with honesty is a question which might have to be answered differently. If it be true that you can only protect a small part of those liable to attack, then the true purpose of your proposals is not to protect but to induce a false sense of security in the minds of the people. And the true charge against the Government in these proposals is that they are lulling the people into a false sense of security, leading them to believe that protection is in this way possible, when they know perfectly well that protection is not in this way possible.
I respectfully endorse the tribute to the honesty of the Home Secretary's controversial methods, but may I say that if my argument is mistaken, will you tell the people of this country what proportion of the civil population of such a constituency as Bow and Bromley would be in fact protected in an air raid of modem type if war broke out within the next few days, or weeks, or months, or even years? I fancy the only true answer would be: "It is purely a gamble. No one can tell. It may be that more would be protected or less would be protected; and all we can do is to take such measures as we can and apply them as fully as we can in the forlorn hope that some protection may, in fact, be afforded." And the true charge against this Government on this Clause and on the whole of this Measure is that it is deliberately calculated to pro- 1555 duce a sense of safety in which no one who has the experience of the Home Secretary can really and sincerely believe.
§ 10.54 p.m.
I would ask hon. Members at least to recognise that Scottish local councils took part in all the negotiations with regard to this Bill, and at least some voice should be heard representing Scotland. I do not accept fully the implication of my hon. Friend's speech that the Government, or any Government, does not desire to save life and property from air raids. My objection to this Clause is that the Government are placing forward proposals to save life at the cheapest possible price. I should like to draw the Home Secretary's attention to the Clause in which it states that all air-raid precaution schemes must be submitted to the Secretary of State. He must know that the Department of the Secretary of State for Scotland to-day is very much overloaded. I am not criticising the personnel but the composition of the Department itself does not enable it to give adequate consideration to the schemes of Scottish local authorities.
Recently a question was asked by the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. T. Henderson) concerning a scheme which the Glasgow Corporation submitted in respect of Loch Katrine, which is the water supply for the whole industrial area of Lanarkshire, for the City of Glasgow, for the great shipping areas of Scotland, the St. Rollox Engine Works and the shipyards. We were told in a short note that such a scheme was not practicable, that it was too expensive, and that the loch, which extends for miles and supplies this great area of Scotland with its water supply, as it was situated on the edge of a cliff, was not a very good objective for bombers. In Hendon airport you have bombing machines able to hit a target from a very great height and able to hit a small target, and we are able to—
I accept your Ruling entirely, but I merely wanted to point out how one scheme put forward to the Department had been turned down for such illogical reasons. This is a Clause 1556 which is supposed to ensure that proper precautions shall be taken to safeguard life and property, and, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) pointed out, this scheme in an area such as Glasgow is an impracticable one. It is an entire farce because, first of all, the scheme is going to provide, I understand, for shelters for the people. I think the Home Secretary will realise that, at the first sign of an air raid, when the syrens or whatever type of warning is indicated in your draft regulations, which have been so mysteriously alluded to but never put before the House, the people of Glasgow, not because they are any more craven than the people in any other part of the country, but because of their ramshackle houses, will rush to the shelters which have been set up. Are those people, receiving the maximum of safety provided under the Clause, when they see the fire and their homes burning, to rush home and look for their shovels and pails of sand to put out the fire? I suggest that all people in this country will stay as long as they possibly can in the safest possible place. Some hon. and right hon. Members have had experience of bombing. They all know that sinking feeling; the feeling that there is absolutely nothing one can do; that one wants to put one's head and shoulders into some hole. Are we expecting men and women who have had no experience of war, in great cities crammed with households, to neglect the subways or the underground railways, the safest possible places, and to attend to fires within their own districts? There are no indications in this Clause as to how the organisation of fire prevention is to be controlled. We have heard of wardens and of persons who may be placed in responsible positions, but most of these people will be concerned, first of all, with the safety of their own kith and kin.
May I now draw attention to the very serious state in which the Scottish people are placed so far as air-raid precautions are concerned? There is particular reference in this Clause to London, and it will be agreed that London suffered heavily during the last War, but London is now the most heavily protected city in the country, so far as aircraft are concerned. In Scotland, in 1935—and this is the Government's own information—we had two anti-aircraft units in existence, and in 1937 we still have only two. The Secre- 1557 tary of State for Scotland informed me across the Floor of this House, quite complacently, that no general precautionary tests have taken place in Scotland as a whole, and the Under-Secretary to-night smiled delightfully to me when he said that at least we had had gas tests. The population in Glasgow know nothing about them, and I have had a reply given me to-day that there are no gas-mask storage centres in Scotland, but that at the end of the year the Galashiels storage centre may be finished. As it happens to-day, however, when you are asking us to agree to this Cause for precautionary tests against the death of men, women and children in Scotland, we find that there is no adequate protection, no aircraft protection, no storage centres for gas masks. You have temporarily arranged for a distribution centre for gas masks, and this centre, for the second city of the Empire, the great industrial area that will be a supply basis to the whole nation during any future war, has to be from 40 to 50 miles away from the people of Glasgow.
I ask for an examination into these facts, and I say, quite candidly, that the local authorities in Glasgow insist that this is not a question of local defence, but a question of national defence. Any Government in this country, be it Socialist, Conservative, or National, will depend upon the behaviour of the people during these air raids for its very existence. The greater the spread of panic and disease, and the greater the number of deaths from gas or incendiary bombs in this country, the greater the danger to the National Government or whatever Government is in power. This is not a local question. The Scottish local authorities say, and say rightly—and I would like the Home Secretary to reply to this point—that you have made no advance to Scottish local authorities on this question, that you have no schemes, and you will therefore receive no support from them. It is not a question of Socialist local authorities. They are Tory local authorities, and they insist that this is a national question of defence and that the National Government should bear the responsibility and the expense. Until you come to terms with those local authorities it is no use passing this Clause. I am glad that the Prime Minister is here because as Prime Minister of this country he should be chiefly concerned with the safety 1558 of the whole nation, and I ask him to see to it that the Home Secretary and his Department look into the question of the complete neglect of Scotland and the Scottish people from a defence point of view as far as these precautions are concerned.
§ 11.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am not going to deal with any of the questions of major policy which have been raised in the Debate on this Clause, but I want to put a matter of practical principle relating to the Clause which, I believe, I cannot put on any other Clause or I would have put it next Tuesday. Can the Home Secretary tell the Committee rather more than he told us on the Second Reading about the responsibility of the Government, of the local authorities, of private firms and of householders for the supply of the equipment which is required for carrying out these schemes? I believe that Members in all quarters of the Committee are agreed on three main, principles—that the defence must be as effective as possible, that it must give equal defence to all classes of the community, as far as that be possible, and that the financial burden laid upon different classes shall also be equal and fair. May I apply that to the possibility of bombardment by high explosives. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) told us the other day in the Debate that he had happened to meet a man straight back from Shanghai who had told him that two bombs which were dropped there killed 1,000 people and destroyed a whole block of buildings. If that is the case, it is evident that very large industrial concerns in this country must provide effective shelters.
In the handbook which has been prepared it is suggested that they should have trench systems. I am convinced that most of the factories will find great difficulty in regard to the question of trench systems because they have not sufficient ground, and in that case they must build. An hon. Member on the benches opposite showed the other day that it might cost £40 per head. I think that figure is too high. If that was so it might, in the case of the Rolls-Royce works in Derby, cost between £300,000 and £400,000 for making shelters to protect their workers, whose skill in time of war would be an indispensable national asset. We want to know more about the re- 1559 sponsibility of private firms in that regard. We ought to know more about the responsibility of local authorities for public shelters. Many persons will have to stay near the docks of London however much we may evacuate the people, and shelters will have to be built. The cost will be approximately the same and such as the local authorities cannot bear. Can the Home Secretary tell them that the Government are going to help?
Principally I want to raise the question of the householder, with special reference to the refuge room, which is the Government's first line of defence. The Government have decided that they will supply the householder with gas masks and sand bags. They are also to supply the local authorities and the householder with bleaching powder. In any case they are to supply bleaching powder to the local authorities. They are to supply gas masks free, and to make them in national factories. Any other system would lead to waste of the nation's money, injustice as between one citizen and another, and the exploitation of the public. If that were done it would play into the hands of egregious "chemical warfare" societies, one of which a friend of mine joined a year or two ago. It never had a controlling committee or a chairman, but it posed as a patriotic society, and indulged in a great deal of advertisement. It offered to supply gas masks to the public for £4 15s. and rubber clothing at a very high price. The Government were compelled to step in and now the whole nation is to have gas masks at a reasonable price and with a certainty that there will not be injustice as between the rich and the poor.
What about equipment for the refuge room? There must be blankets. Why should not the Government supply these? In the refuge room the window must be protected. If the window goes nothing is of any good. I went to the Kentish Town Hall and saw windows covered with newspaper, brown paper and cellophane. Brown paper is better than newspaper, but cellophone is better than either. If the poor citizen, the unemployed man, has to make a choice, he is absolutely certain to choose newspaper, because it is easier, or, at most, he will choose brown paper rather than cellophane. I suggest that the Government ought to supply cellophane. Similarly, with regard to adhesive plaster, many 1560 yards of which will be needed to block up cracks in the wainscoating and doors. A poor quality of adhesive plaster will be ineffective and there will not be protection.
What about fire fighting equipment? If a fire starts, it concerns not only the house where it starts, but the whole community, because it may spread. It is in the public interest as well as that of every householder to have fire fighting equipment—the scoop, the bucket, the pump, and all the rest of it. If the supply of these is left to private firms or to so-called patriotic societies, we shall have exploitation and injustice. If the Government provide them, the price will be incomparably less, and everybody will be on an equal footing. That will benefit the community as a whole. In regard to the first-aid outfit, it would be well for the Government to provide this. The soldier in the trenches does not provide his own dressing when he is wounded. Why, then, should the civilian, the unemployed man in a poor street, have to supply his own first-aid outfit? This is a very important matter. The Government ought to supply all these necessities. The nation has to pay for them either out of taxes or out of the spare cash in the pockets of its citizens. If it is left to the individual citizen to pay out of his spare cash it will mean that those who owing to their circumstances need help most will get less protection. It will mean grave injustice in the financial burden which the schemes involve, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will apply the principles of the gas masks, sand bags and bleaching powder to the other equipment which is required.
§ 11.16 p.m.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I will try to answer the various questions which hon. Members have raised on the Clause. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) asked whether the expenses of the air-raid personnel will be paid. I can give him the answer that expenditure of that kind would certainly rank for grant. The hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) raised the question of public utility services. I wish I could give him an explicit answer as to what we intend to do, but I cannot. I can tell him that we are as anxious as he is to make a statement on the subject, and I shall be very disappointed if I cannot 1561 make a statement in the course of the next few weeks. It is a complicated question—more complicated than many hon. Members think, and I am anxious to make a clear statement so that public utility societies shall know exactly where they stand. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) asked about training. As soon as the Bill becomes law we intend to have a much more active system of training in the country than we have had. For instance, I should like to see a number of what are called black-outs in various areas of the country. In a black-out, the whole population are brought into contact with these measures and a very important kind of training is provided for the ordinary man and woman in a particular district. The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) raised, as every patriotic Scotsman would, the hard case of Scotland. I think he took rather a depressed view of the position in Scotland and assumed that nobody would work the scheme, that it would not be adopted in Scotland and that they were not going to have any precautions at all. That is not the view expressed by representatives of the local authorities. They made out their case, as every Scotsman would, that somebody else should pay the whole cost, and having had their case turned down by an unsympathetic Englishman, they very patriotically said that they would work the Bill when it became law.
Let me come to the more important issues raised by the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and the hon Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). We shall be able to deal with some of the questions raised by the hon. Member for Derby more appropriately on later Amendments. There is a Clause dealing with factories. I should have thought that that would be the occasion on which to discuss the type of question that the hon. Member raised. Let me say to him now that we envisage the general position to he this. First of all, the Government are providing emergency equipment for local authorities. Secondly, the employer of labour and the householder will be primarily responsible for the protection of his own factory and the people in it and his own house. I believe that we shall find, when we go further into the details of these schemes, that the problem of the householder, difficult as it is, is not so insoluble 1562 as was suggested by the hon. Member for Derby. We believe, whether it be with these emergency fire appliances or whether it be with protection against gas attack, that it is possible, at little or no expense, to improvise precautions that, while they may not be 100 per cent. effective, will at any rate be effective to a very large degree. I agree with the hon. Member that we must be very careful to see that nobody exploits the situation and that no factory owner and no private employer is exploited in any air-raid precautions which he may find it necessary to apply. I think I can assure the hon. Member by giving him the instance of fire brigade appliances. We are now experimenting with emergency fire brigade appliances that could be procured at a very small sum.
I come now to the very impressive speech that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley. Let me say at the outset that the right hon. Gentleman, when he speaks, always says frankly what is in his mind about the subject which he is discussing. That was certainly so in the case of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to-night, and I hope it will be so in my own case. The right hon. Gentleman spoke with great sincerity to-night, and let me, in a very few sentences, try to answer him equally sincerely and frankly. First of all, his main question was whether it would not really be better to give up attempting precautions of this kind and to set to the world an example of pacifism and trust to the world to follow our example. I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that I think that would be very good advice if we had any reason to think that some of the countries in the world would follow us. I fear, as long as we cannot have that confidence, it is impossible for us to adopt the attitude that does so strongly appeal to him.
Next, the right hon. Gentleman asked, "Are these precautions any good at all? Are we not lulling the country into a sense of false security? Can we give any undertaking that these measures are going to prevent air raids and are going to ensure that there will be no loss of life?" I speak very frankly to the Committee, and I say to it that I can give no such assurance. I believe that whatever we may do, there will be the risk of air raids, and if there are air raids, there will be almost certainly loss of life 1563 and terrible destruction. I think one of the advantages of a Debate such as this will be to bring to the notice of the country the realities of the problem and the horrors of any future war. In that connection, I agree entirely with the observations of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton).
Let us not turn aside from these horrors, let us realise that they exist—I wish they did not—and let us try to deal with them as best we can. What I do say to the right hon. Gentleman opposite is that I sincerely believe that precautions such as we envisage will have a very real effect in lessening the danger and in diminishing the loss of life. I believe, in particular, that if, in collaboration with the local authorities, we can get schemes started for the whole country in which men and women will freely co-operate, we can, with the double assistance of a strong Air Force and an effective system of anti-aircraft guns and searchlights, go far to guard the country against panic and to ensure that the essential services of the country will still be carried on. I make no higher claims for these provisions than that they will tend to diminish the loss of human life; that they will go far, as I say, to avoid the risk of panic and that they will, in the third place, go far to ensure that the essential services of our civilised life will continue. But, let no one imagine that, having said that, I do not regard the risks and the losses of air raids with the greatest apprehension. Having been for many years connected with the Air Ministry and the Air Force, perhaps I can see those horrors as vividly as any hon. Member in this Committee. On that account, I re-echo as sincerely as I possibly can, the last observations made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley that we should "seek peace and ensue it" and allow no small case to draw us into war with all the horrible calamities which would attend it.
§ Ordered, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Captain Margesson.)
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.