§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I desire to raise some general questions concerning the efficacy of the measures which the Government propose in the preparations they have made to protect householders in the mass, the ordinary citizens of the country, against the dangers which an air raid involves. I have done so with the purpose of asking questions of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, I understand, is to reply, and of elucidating a little further some of the points with which he dealt in the Second Reading Debate. In particular, I want to talk about what the Government call the refuge room, about the protection which is to be afforded against gas attack, against high explosives, and the provision of public shelters, about protection against fire and about the schemes for evacuation.
I am certain that there is no one in any quarter of the House who did not thoroughly enjoy the speech of the Under-Secretary on the Second Reading of the Bill. Some sections of the Press called it a reassuring speech. I thought it a very able speech and a very ingenious speech, and, if I may say so without offence, I thought it was a first-rate Parliamentary performance; but I confess that even at the time it did not reassure me very much, and as I have examined it further since it was delivered and have reflected more on the problems involved, and as I have listened at length to other statements which have been made from the Government Bench, I am reassured in a less and less degree. The Under-Secretary made me uneasy directly he began to attack a group of people who have come to fame under the name of the Cambridge Scientists' Anti-War Group. 1906 He said on Second Reading that they had at least a political tinge, and he implied that he was careful to make no direct or definite assertion that they were part of what he called a Communist-inspired movement, a movement which had been condemned by the National Executive of the Labour party. He even produced a publication of the Labour party, and I was very glad to see it in his hands. On an earlier occasion the Under-Secretary had been a little less cautious, for when he was asked in a supplementary question by an hon. Member behind me whether this Cambridge Scientists' Anti-War Group was not a subsidiary of the Communist party—
We cannot now discuss Clause 1 over again. What is before us is purely the question under what conditions the Secretary of State may give his approval. We cannot go into general principles.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I do not desire for one moment to dispute your Ruling. I desire only to say that the spirit in which this has been approached is one which leaves us very little reassured. If you, Captain Bourne, think that I should not pursue that point any further I shall pass from it at once.
That is really a matter relating to Clause 1, on which we had an exhaustive discussion. We must now deal solely with the conditions which the Secretary of State may require for approval of the scheme.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I was about to refer to the bona-fides of the Cambridge Scientists' Anti-War Group, who have not had any connection with the Communist party. I was uneasy about that, because it seemed to me that the Government had resented the exposure of the Cambridge Scientists and that the Government were inspired by a desire to stifle criticism. I want to continue the criticism about some of the measures which the Government propose. Perhaps I may begin by reminding the Committee of the scale of attack which is to be expected, because I repeat that this is really vital to the efficacy of the measures to be taken. I quote the Home Secretary in his opening speech on the Bill:During the four years of the War, 300 tons of bombs were dropped in this country, 1907 I should be within the mark if I said that to-day the lowest estimate indicates that a greater tonnage of bombs could be dropped within the space of 24 hours and that the scale of attack could be maintained for many days."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1937; col. 41, Vol. 329.]That scale of attack would be mostly on the civil population. Hon. Members will remember the very serious statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary the other night in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), in which the right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to disguise the very grave dangers which threaten the civil population. The serious aspect of the matter is that the more efficacious the active defence may be, the more the fighter aeroplanes and the anti-aircraft guns do, the more probable it is that the civil population will suffer.
The experience of the war in Spain has shown that air bombardment of a small objective is very ineffective. I have here an article by the military correspondent of the "Times" showing that attacks upon small objectives were very costly and did very little damage; that the result of bombing individual batteries and bridges near Madrid was negative; but that the bombing of objectives 500 or boo metres in length and from 15o to 200 metres in breadth was extremely effective and yielded excellent results. That effect is enhanced by a black-out. A black-out is sometimes thought of as being one of the measures taken to protect the civil population. It is, in fact, nothing of the kind, but is a measure taken to obscure military objectives. Everybody knows that any bomber, with the instruments which are now possessed and the skill which the pilots have in flying at night and in bad weather, will find London and Birmingham. The bombers will not miss Sheffield, as they did on more than one occasion in the last War. They will find Sheffield, but they will not be able to find a given factory or the railway station, and they will drop bombs at large, in the blackout, upon the civil population.
Let us consider the defences which the Government propose. In literature, in Debates here and throughout the country, they have repeated that the first line of defence is the refuge room in the average 1908 householder's house. The Under-Secretary was particularly reassuring about the refuge room, and I would like to ask him some questions about it. In the Second Reading Debate, I argued that there were probably from 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 people in this country who were living in such overcrowded, or nearly overcrowded, conditions that it would be impossible for them to prepare a refuge room in advance, and that therefore they would not effectively have a refuge room, so that when the attacks came the greater part of them, or at any rate a considerable part of them, would have to be evacuated.
The Under-Secretary said that I was mistaken and that he was very happy to correct the mistake I had made. He said that anybody could prepare a refuge room at the last moment and that it would even take only a minute or two to do so. Of course, he was assuming that adequate advance preparation had been made. I maintain that the efficacy of a refuge room, both against gas attack and against splinters from high explosive bombs, depends upon the window, and that unless the window is protected, there is no protection against high explosives and against splinters which come in the right direction. In the last War, a German aeroplane dropped one bomb on Warrington Crescent, Paddington, which badly damaged 16 houses and slightly damaged 400 others. In those 400 houses every pane of glass was shivered, and nothing remained. Modern bombs are much more effective. The bomb that was dropped on Warrington Crescent killed 16 people, but the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) told us the other day of a single bomb dropped on Shanghai which killed 1,000 people.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Five hundred people killed per bomb. I do not suggest that the ratio of efficacy of the modern bomb is as 500 is to 16 against the bomb of the last War; but the efficacy of bombs has enormously increased. If the glass of 400 houses was destroyed by one bomb in the last War, the danger from concussion will be greater the next time. Allowing for the strengthening of the glass by cellophane and by the hanging 1909 of a spare blanket—if one happens to have one—over the window, is it believed that the refuge room will be any good unless it is sandbagged? The Government themselves suggest that windows should be sandbagged. I am certain that the Under-Secretary would not put his wife and family in any refuge room in London which had not been sandbagged over the window. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has not got one."] I am certain that no hon. Member would put his wife and family in a refuge room the window of which had not been sandbagged. If the window is to be sandbagged, it must be boarded up, and the sandbags must be prepared and filled in advance. How are the people to live in one of their rooms if it has been sandbagged?
The hon. Gentleman is in this dilemma, that if the windows are sandbagged before the air raid comes, the people will not be able to live in the room, and if they are not sandbagged, then when the air raid begins the windows will have to be sandbagged. Let it be remembered that the houses will be in places where there is no earth, and that great dumps of earth will have to be provided. There will have to be boards with which to board up the windows. That will represent an enormous piece of work. I submit that in the case of all the poorer families in the country, where they are living in over-crowded or nearly overcrowded conditions, this business of a refuge room is very unsatisfactory, and that unless the Government can make much better and more complete plans than any yet suggested, their schemes of evacuation will have to be even larger than we suggested the other day. It is true that if a steel plate 1½ inches thick were provided for the window, if it were the right shape and if there were some means of adjusting it so that it would stay over the window and not fall down when concussion happened, that would furnish the same protection as sandbagging; but who is to provide the steel plates? Will the Government do it? They have not told us. That is one of the questions on which we feel very great anxiety.
I pass now to the question of gas attacks. I have said on more than one occasion in these Debates that, in our view, gas is much the least danger to be faced. It is a danger against which it is 1910 possible to make the most apparent preparation, and perhaps that is why the Government push it so much to the fore. Gas may be a fearful danger if there is the sort of contingency that was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) the other day. If the enemy succeed in making an attack—not as the Home Secretary suggested with high explosives on one day, with incendiary bombs on another day and on another day with gas—for then, perhaps, gas might not be very frightening—and if they managed, by high explosive and incendiary bombs, to get people out into the streets and then sprayed them with mustard gas, it would become a very serious matter. Against that danger we have no really efficient scheme of defence, except the evacuation of the congested areas and the provision of adequate shelters for those who must remain.
Apart from that, we are not quite as happy as the Under-Secretary appeared to be about the measures which have already been taken. I do not wish to discuss at length the gas-proofing of the refuge rooms. I merely wish to say that experiments on gamekeepers' cottages on Salisbury Plain or on the special constructions of which Wing-Commander Hodsell spoke, or even the experience with regard to French farmhouses during the last War, are not conclusive. We know that in this country we have had five generations of jerry-building, and many of our houses will not even keep out the weather, let alone poison gases. I venture, first, to make the assertion that no slums can really be made gas-proof in any sense that will be satisfactory in practice. Secondly, I am not wholly happy about gas-masks. I know that they have been very unfavourably commented upon in the technical Press of continental countries. I know that in some of the experiments which have been made people who wore the gas-masks could smell the tobacco when a lighted cigarette was held underneath—or so it was said. In any case, I am sure there are many unsolved problems about which I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us.
With regard to the fitting of masks to people, it is not enough simply to see that a person wears a mask. They will have to be shown how to put it on, it will be necessary to be sure it is the right 1911 size, and that it is adjusted properly. I would not like to be put in charge of adjusting one of those masks unless I had had some instruction on the subject. It will have to be certain that there are the right numbers of each of the three sizes which the Government are preparing. I have here a letter from an air-raid warden, who happens also to be a lieut.-colonel, which appeared in the "Times" yesterday, and in which the writer says that he has been trying to find out, in the area for which he is warden, how many masks of the three different sizes he ought to have. He cannot do it, because he has not the powers, and there is not the information available. I am certain that there are problems of storage still to be solved. Some of the masks—I believe all of them—would have to be distributed before the war began, because I think that proper distribution after the war had begun would be a question that would baffle the authorities, or at least be very difficult. In any case, whether the masks are distributed or not, there has to be storage somewhere near the places where the people live and after the people have had a chance of trying them on. The problem of storage is one of great difficulty.
There is then the question of repairs and refills. Many of these gas masks are very delicate things. I see that in the German instructions about their civil gas masks, they say that a sharp finger nail may irreparably damage a gas mask, and they say that if the filter is dented, it must be taken in and renewed. There are problems about instruction in the fitting and use of the gas mask. But that is not all. There has to be instruction with regard to the protection of food from gas contamination. The air-raid handbook shows that housewives, shopkeepers, farmers and middlemen all have to know the right measures to take. Those measures may not be very difficult ones, but I am certain that they will not be taken if we rely on a pamphlet alone. There has to be personal instruction. What are the Government doing about that instruction? We are told that they are going to have a "Householder's Handbook." I think it is about time, and I hope it will be complete and comprehensive and that it will be distributed soon to every householder in the land.
How does the hon. Member reconcile what the Government are doing with this Clause, which is a question of what schemes local authorities put up and not of what the Government are doing?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am trying to suggest, Captain Bourne, that the Government ought not to approve schemes unless they are really efficacious, and that if they are inviting the local authorities to put up schemes which are not efficacious or not providing them with the means to make them efficacious, no approval should be given. In Hampstead they had a course of lectures attended by 60 people, and there are 90,000 people in Hampstead, so that we may be certain that less than 0.9 per cent. of the population profited by the instruction given.
Now, perhaps, I may pass on to high explosives, which are certainly more serious than gas. The experience of recent wars and of the Great War has shown that people when subjected to the bombardment of high explosives want to go underground. It may be irrational, and it may be far better that they should stay in their refuge rooms in their own houses, but in fact they will not do it, and you cannot enforce it unless you have military discipline of the civil population, which is not a practical proposition. It was shown in Madrid, in Canton, and in Shanghai, and it was proved conclusively in the last War. Everybody remembers that in the last War there were fearful scenes on some occasions on the underground railways. I read an account of one raid in which 10,000 people went into Old Street Station and stayed there for hours. Babies were born and people died before they came out. There was another occasion when 14 people were killed and 14 injured in the crush in trying to get into an underground station, and in Paris 66 people were killed in one underground station.
The people will insist on having shelter, and we believe that those who remain in the congested areas must be provided with underground shelters of some kind. It may be very costly. I do not know whether it is possible in London—I have no means of knowing—to do what has been done in Paris, where they have prepared the cellars as underground shelters for the people. We were told in the Second Reading Debate, and I have 1913 verified the fact in French literature, that shelters for something like 2,000,000 people or rather more in Paris are already prepared, and that in the houses where there are underground cellars, instructions are put up how to reach the shelter, and if there is no shelter in the building, there is an instruction as to where the nearest shelter is to be found. I hope the Under-Secretary of State will be able to reassure us a little more on that question.
I pass on to incendiary bombs. We have always said, as the Home Secretary implied in his Second Reading speech, that the incendiary bomb is much the greatest danger which we have to confront. The Committee will remember that the Under-Secretary of State was very particularly reassuring about the incendiary bomb. We all remember his delightful description of how young ladies would scoop up thermite bombs with a little spade and bucket. But I have here a very different account, given not long ago by the chief officer of the Heston and Isleworth Fire Brigade, in which his account of trying to deal with thermite bombs led to very different conclusions. According to the air-raid pamphlet, the incendiary bombs will vary in weight from 2 lbs. to 60 lbs. It may be that the two-pounder can be dealt with by the young lady with her spade and bucket, if she gets there in good time, but consider an account given on the day after our Debate—it was published in the Press—by a leading Home Office fire official, who said that the modern incendiary bomb would burn through an ordinary house roof, possibly setting rafters alight, in 20 seconds, go through the bedroom floor and ceiling in another 12 seconds, and drop to the ground floor. That means that within a minute there would be three fires to deal with.
Suppose there is an air raid going on. The young ladies are not standing on the roof; they are in the refuge room, shut in, and they are not very likely to hear the two-pounder coming through the roof because of the bombardment of the antiaircraft guns, and if they hear a noise, they will think it is the shell case of one of the rounds of the anti-aircraft guns coming to earth. They will not go up to tackle the fire until the air-raid warden has come round to tell them to do so, but the air-raid warden has 150 incendiary bombs to deal with—150 fires, as the 1914 Home Secretary told us. How long will it be before these people get out of their refuge rooms and are dealing with the fires with their spades and buckets? I wish good luck to the Government, but, for my part, I am not very satisfied that in fact that system will work. I hope the Government will at least provide every householder, and will not approve any scheme which does not enjoin that every householder shall be provided, with all the equipment that can be required. We must remember that the danger spreads from one house to another and that it does not concern only the one householder himself, but the community as a whole. I hope the Government will continue research into the means by which such fires can be put out, and I hope they will greatly increase the fire equipment with which they intend to provide the local authorities. I end again with the same conclusion from that danger as from the others, that large-scale evacuation of the congested areas which are liable to be attacked is required, that where there is not evacuation there must be shelters, and that there must be much more adequate preparation and much more expenditure of money than the Government have yet made.
I should be sorry if the Committee thought that this is all theorising. It so happens that I received this morning a letter from an air-raid precautions officer in a very important district, which will quite certainly be liable to attack. I have not his permission to use his name or to give the name of the place where he is engaged, but I have his permission to read some extracts from his letter. I shall make no comment on it of any kind, but I will read two or three passages from a letter of four pages, all of which bears out what I have said. Here are the passages:I have for the past year been acting as organiser for the—Council, and know only too well what has to be done and how futile and inefficient the Home Office has shown itself to be, so far.I may add that I know the identity of the writer, who is a man who has held very distinguished positions indeed, as the Committee would know if only I could tell them who he is. He goes on:No doubt real progress has been hindered by its decision on general policy and the matter of finance, but even then much could have been done, at no cost, had the Home Office known what ought to be done.1915 He ends in this way:Briefly, the whole position is muddle. The Home Office says, 'Prepare a scheme.' We reply, 'Yes, certainly, but what about the base hospitals? We must have some idea as to where they will be and what they will accommodate.' We are told to supply names of persons to receive warnings. We reply, 'When you tell us what the sound signals are to be, and how far they will carry, we will be able to decide who should distribute warnings.' We ask about evacuation. No answer. We ask about shelters; are referred to a silly sketch. We ask about some guide to architects; are told that a book will be issued in a mew months. We ask to have our officials trained at anti-gas schools; are told, No vacancies'.I think that speaks for itself, and I hope the Under-Secretary of State will give us a pledge that, as a result of the Debates which we have had, the Government will take this matter seriously in hand, propose far greater financial provision than they have yet contemplated, and prepare plans that will really give us some hope that some protection will be given to the vast mass of the people of this land.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Lord Willoughby de Eresby
I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether he will impress upon the local authorities, when drawing up their schemes for air-raid precautions, the desirability of incorporating in those schemes a register of those in their area who would be prepared, in the event of an air raid taking place, to help in some way or other, and, if necessary, to refuse his approval if some such scheme is not incorporated. I consider that this is a different proposition from that of providing a band of public-spirited volunteers who are trained to fight any fires which might break out or deal with any other immediate results of an air raid. There are, I believe, a great many men and women in this country who neither have the time nor possibly the inclination to join such voluntary bands, but who nevertheless, at a time when enemy bombing machines arrive, would be only too eager to assist in some way or other.
We have heard, during the course of the Committee stage of this Bill, a great deal about evacuation, but to my mind the thought which would be foremost in the minds of most able-bodied men and women when bombs began to fall would not necessarily be how quickly they could 1916 save their own bacon, but how best they could help their fellow sufferers in the country as a whole at a time of national emergency. I know that this supposition raises possibly wider points than would be permitted for discussion on this Clause, but presuming that the outbreak of war would be heralded by an air raid, it appears to me that an Air-Raid Precautions Bill is not altogether an inappropriate place in which to make some provision for the mobilisation of those who would wish to help their country at that moment.
Suppose, for the sake of illustration, that bombs all of a sudden began to drop round this House, say, to-night. I am sure that the thought in the mind of most hon. and right hon. Members of this House would not be how quickly they could scuttle off to Surrey or the East coast, but rather how they could be most helpful in a time of very grave emergency; and I suggest—I may be wrong, and I hope I am wrong—that only a very small number of hon. and right hon. Members of this House now and even after this Bill has been passed, however willing they would be to help in some way or other, would not have the remotest idea what to do. Some hon. Members, it is true, are members of Territorial units or on the reserve of some regiment, who presumably would report to the headquarters of their regiment, but I suggest that the majority would not have the least idea where to report, where to go, or what to do. I think it is obvious that all of us, except those right hon. Members who are in charge of some Government Department, could be far more usefully employed in some other job than sitting in this House. Many of us could serve in a most useful capacity, such as reinforcing the police force. A first essential in the event of an air raid, having regard to the subsequent panic that would take place, is to have some reserve of men, and hon. Members could be relied upon to keep cool heads in time of emergency and to help the police, whose energy and endurance would be sorely overtaxed. Other hon. Members who have a knowledge of medicine could give most invaluable service in helping to deal with the casualties. Others who own or who are able to drive a motor car could also be usefully employed, while other hon. Members might use their 1917 powers of oratory to urge people to keep calm.
There are thousands of able-bodied men and women who in the event of an air raid taking place, or in the event of the outbreak of war, would be only too anxious to help in some capacity or other, and who could be very usefully employed, but at the moment they have the vaguest idea what to do or where to go in such an emergency. My recollections of the outbreak of the last War are necessarily very hazy, for reasons of age, but. I have been informed by people who held posts of responsibility at that time that their fives were rendered veritable nightmares, and their efficiency was greatly impaired by their being pestered by patriotic citizens who wanted to know what they could do. Eventually, work was found for those who were willing to do useful work, but even then men and women were put into posts for which they were the least suited.
What I ask is that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary should take powers in this Clause by some Amendment between now and the Report stage which would make it compulsory for the local authorities to include in their schemes a register of all those who would be willing to help in the event of an air raid taking place. That register could allocate those people to the tasks which they are best equipped and best suited to perform, such as police service, helping in hospitals and driving motor cars. The procedure would be entirely voluntary, and only those people would be registered who wished to assist. It would be inexpensive, and would only mean the keeping of a few clerical entries, Such a precaution might possibly save panic, it would avoid a great deal of useless running about and questioning and would enable those who wish to serve their country to do so to the greatest national advantage.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I think the hon. Member misconceives, quite innocently, the meaning of the purpose of evacuation. Evacuation is not for the purpose of enabling people to scuttle into safety but for the purpose of removing those who during an air attack would be an actual embarrassment to the conduct of operations. If we take, for instance, an area near the docks, there are living in close 1918 proximity to the docks very large numbers of men, women and children who, in the event of an air attack, would have to be dealt with by the local authorities. I hope the Home Secretary will not approve any scheme which does not include the evacuation of those people, because if a large number of people were left in a position where they might be attacked, and certainly under conditions of war they would be attacked by high explosive bombs, the only result would be to embarrass all the services, to prevent anti-aircraft guns manoeuvring in the streets, to prevent decontamination officers going to the places where decontamination was needed, and to prevent the wounded and the killed from being removed. In addition, it would simply provide a very much larger number of casualties to fill our hospital accommodation, whereas the proper place for those people is a place removed from the point of attack.
Let the hon. Member look at the matter from the standpoint of military attack. I do not know whether he has any military experience, but if he views the matter from that standpoint he will realise that no military commander if he is going into an attack would mass the bulk of his troops in the point where there is to be a barrage. He would put the minimum number of troops there. In the same way, if you are expecting to be attacked in an area in London, Glasgow, Birmingham or elsewhere, you have to remove all the population that you can from those areas, otherwise they will merely incommode the military operations, and from the point of view of humanity they will merely be a useless sacrifice. I am afraid—it may be, unfortunately, owing to past precedents—that it is the habit of this country to learn by useless sacrifices. The Committee will remember that during the great War it was not until the useless sacrifice of Passchendaele had been gone through that we learned some elementary facts about the conduct of trench warfare. I do not want that to happen again. Therefore, I should like to make a few concrete suggestions to the Under-Secretary for his consideration, and to ask that they might be taken into account when the Secretary of State is considering the approval or otherwise of any scheme submitted to him.
The other day I drew a somewhat horrific picture of what might happen in 1919 an air attack in a congested area. Fortunately, all areas are riot of that kind and are not equally vulnerable. It will be necessary for the Secretary of State to undertake a detailed survey of the different areas in the country and, as it were, to put them into different categories, say, No. 1 area, which is liable to attack and is congested, or No. 15 area, which is extremely unlikely to be attacked and has a very scattered and sparse population. To take extreme examples, the county of Brecon, a lovely spot which I happen to know, is one place that I should judge least likely to be attacked. The precautions necessary there would be of quite a different character from those necessary in, say, Stepney, Poplar, Glasgow or elsewhere. The classification of districts in a number of categories would be of the greatest advantage and is a prime necessity in any plans of a concrete kind, because unless the right hon. Gentleman knew the liability to attack of the areas in question he would not know what plans to approve or disapprove.
I have another specific point that I should like to make, and I hope the Under-Secretary will give sympathetic attention to it, and that is the question of the control of the different services which will have to function during an air raid. The Noble Lord referred to the enlistment of volunteers. A very important question in regard to any air-raid precautions scheme will be that of control, whether it is to be democratic control or otherwise. It is often suggested that the control of the air-raid precautions services should be in the hands of the police. I have the highest regard for the police. We in this House have a very high regard for the police. During recent months I have become intimately acquainted with a number of provincial police forces and a large number of police all over the Metropolitan area. I have the highest regard for their qualities; they are an admirable body of men, but, although I do not say they are unfitted for this duty, I do not see how in an air raid they would have any time to command the operations. It would not be their function.
The Under-Secretary knows that during an air raid when bombs were dropping the police would have a very sticky job 1920 in directing the traffic in the streets and giving information, and would not have the time, and they have not the training, to take control and command of organisation which is based upon local authority organisation. I suggest that the organisation should be based upon the principle of the command coming through the air-raid precautions committee of the local authority, acting through the town clerk, or the clerk of the county council or the corresponding officer for the authority concerned exactly as functions at the present time are performed partly through the medical officer, partly through the borough engineer, and so on. If the hon. Member will consult the handbooks he will see that the services laid down for air-raid precautions work are based upon the normal functioning of the local authorities, and are in addition to the functions of the local authorities. For instance, decontamination work is based upon the work of the cleansing services, under the authority of the medical officer of health.
§ Lord Willoughby de Eresby
Have the local authorities a register of the people who would be willing to help in these functions?
That is where the hon. Member and myself are completely agreed. They have not, and that is one way in which improvement is needed. The hon. Member's suggestion might be approved. It is a good suggestion. It is important not only to have a register of the people who will work, but more important to see that the command and the method of command is a thoroughly democratic one, which allows the people of the district really to take control. People require to be reassured in that respect, because there is certainly a fear, and it is a fear which I feel to some extent, that under conditions of air invasion there might be an iron grip of a military kind on the country, which would be highly undesirable. We do not want that. These are the main points that I desired to put to the Under-Secretary and I hope he will agree with me that I have been trying to make points of a constructive and helpful character under very terrible conditions.
Since the late Debate I have made some inquiries in regard to air-raid precautions systems abroad, and I do not think that we are likely to get a great deal of help 1921 from those directions. When things are a long way off they sometimes appear to be better than when you see them close. There used to be a word well known in military circles, namely, "eyewash," and I am not certain that that is entirely unknown in certain countries abroad. I am of the opinion, to a certain extent, of the air-raid precautions officer whose remarks were quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). I think the Home Office has been very remiss in its training schemes and in the general plan which it has put before the country. The people do not know what is expected from them and in those circumstances it is very difficult for the local authorities to know what is expected from them. I hope that the general plan will be made more definite and clear-cut. We do not want to give way to hysteria on the subject. We do want a proper and ordered consideration of the matter and we want the necessary precautions to be carried out in the most effective way. There is only one authority which can give a lead and whose duty it is to give a lead to the whole country, and that is the Home Office. They must lay down the general lines on which local authorities are to proceed more clearly than has been done up to now. Otherwise, they will not be able to get the information which they want and will not be able to approve of schemes when they are submitted. The important points, as I say, are, first, the arrangement of the areas of the country in categories according to their vulnerability to air attack, and, secondly, the very important question of the democratic control of the organisation.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Mitchell
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and was glad to hear that experiments are being carried out by the fire brigade in the borough of Heston and Isleworth, as I happen to be associated with a neighbouring borough, and that area like all areas in the Metropolitan district is particularly affected by this Bill and particularly concerned about the whole question of air-raid precautions. I listened with special interest to the hon. Member's remarks on the subject of the danger from broken glass and from incendiary bombs, and I agree with him on the importance of those points. I 1922 think the danger from broken glass is a very serious one.
I had the opportunity some months ago of seeing the effect of an air raid on a town in southern Spain. What struck me most was the extraordinary amount of damage that was done to glass. The bombs used were 100 1b. bombs, and a comparatively small number was dropped, yet the glass in practically all the windows anywhere within 100 yards from the places where the bombs dropped, fell outwards on to the streets. The streets were simply a mass of glass. No incendiary bombs were dropped, but had any incendiary bombs been dropped, and had there been a fire brigade available to deal with the fires—in that case there was not—it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for vehicles with pneumatic tyres to have negotiated the streets, which were covered to a depth of two or three inches with shattered glass. No pneumatic-tyred vehicles could go for any distance without having the tyres cut to ribbons.
I have asked some people who are connected with matters of this kind to offer some suggestions on how that difficulty could be dealt with, but I have not had very satisfactory replies up to the present. I think that that is a practical point which ought to receive attention. Incendiary bombs present what is perhaps the greatest danger in an area like London. I agree with the hon. Member for Derby that we cannot expect that all fires will be dealt with by householders. We shall have to rely ultimately upon the use of fire brigades in many areas, and I should like to know what suggestions are being made to local authorities to enable the fire engines to function successfully in circumstances such as I have described.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I hope it will not be thought that there is any hostility on this side of the Committee or indeed in any part of the Committee to the Government as regards the provision which it is desired to make against the possibility of air-raids. I have taken every opportunity available to me of seeing what has been done and of investigating what is being done, and I am satisfied with the statement of the Under-Secretary that, by the use of the ordinary method of proofing, in the ordinary house, it is possible to make a room reasonably secure against 1923 gas. But the remarks of the last speaker indicate that in the event of incendiary and explosive bombs being used, the destruction of glass would be so great as to make the effective proofing of rooms almost an impossibility. I would like to know what provisions the Government intend to ask local authorities to make for dealing with conditions of that kind. I suggest that the Department has not done sufficient yet, and that it ought to do much more than merely invite people to proof rooms in their own houses as a precaution against gas raids.
In almost every thickly populated district there must be buildings which could be proofed against ordinary gas attack, and the duty ought to be imposed upon local authorities, before their schemes are approved, of seeing that such buildings are gas-proofed and made available for shelters. It would be a great mistake, as I say, to suppose that it is not possible to make the ordinary room reasonably proof against gas, but when all that has been admitted, the fact remains that great numbers of people live in slum areas or in thickly populated industrial areas where the nature of their residences, the fact that many of them live in one room only, and the character of the rooms themselves, may make effective gas-proofing impossible. The character of the structures themselves and the possibility of the destruction of glass by heavy bombs are also factors which should be given consideration. May I refer to the pamphlets which are being issued by the right hon. Gentleman's Department as part of their publicity campaign? They are all too complicated.
I do not think that matter arises on this Clause. We are dealing solely with what should be put into these schemes in order that they may get approval. The hon. Member may make suggestions as to what should be done by local authorities before they get approval for their schemes, but I do not think he can on this occasion go as far as to criticise the Department of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. McEntee
I had no intention of pursuing the matter further. I was about to suggest that before the Department approved of a local authority's scheme they should also see that the local authority was taking the necessary steps to 1924 secure publicity for these measures by issuing material in a simple form which would enable everybody to understand what is expected of them and to know what was being done by the local authorities and the Department. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should avail himself of a means of publication which appears to me both simple and effective but in regard to which nothing has been done up to now. There are many local newspapers throughout the country which are closely read by the populations in the areas where they circulate. I suggest that the Department should insist on simple statements being published in the local newspapers by the local authorities. If the Home Office refused to approve of a scheme unless such publicity measures formed part of that scheme, it would be a great advantage, and I commend that point to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman.
As regards evacuation, I think the point has already been covered, and I desire to add only that I, also, am strongly of opinion that it is essential in the interests of the country and of the people themselves that evacuation should be seriously and practically considered, at least as regards thickly populated areas. The only other point with which I wish to deal is the actual proofing of buildings. I saw the experiments which were recently carried out near Bristol and I was much impressed by them. I believe that the simple methods demonstrated on that occasion can be said to be reasonably effective, but I do not forget that the building on which those experiments were made was of a different type from the buildings to be found in the ordinary slum area. Consideration will have to be given to the differences between varying type of building construction. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) referred to the degrees of effectiveness of different kinds of paper for proofing purposes. That is a very important factor. I do not think that ordinary newspaper, for instance, can be said to be very effective. Brown paper may be more effective, though I am not sure, but there is a specially prepared paper which I understand is the most effective of all.
Why not provide local authorities with supplies of specially prepared paper for distribution among the people in their areas? Arrangements should be made for 1925 the supply, not only of the paper for sticking over windows and doors but also of the adhesive matter for sticking it. Local authorities, before their schemes are approved, should be asked to provide paper or other material for covering cracks in doors and windows, and also a suitable paste, such as was used in the recent experiments, for applying the paper. These points may be considered of minor importance but I regard them as essential. They relate to precautions which may have the effect of saving many lives and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give them consideration.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Colonel Ropner
I want to raise a comparatively unimportant point arising out of a case which I recently submitted to the Under-Secretary. An acquaintance of mine, who is a Government employé, attended an anti-gas school and qualified as a Home Office instructor. He is intensely interested in anti-gas measures, is extremely efficient, and already gives official lectures in anti-gas measures. In his spare time he is endeavouring to arrange unofficial courses of lectures, but he has not been able to do so because he has found it impossible to obtain a sufficient number of gas masks. The most he has been able to obtain is two or three when he really requires 50 or 100. I am informed that large stores such as Harrod's and Selfridge's would be willing to lend their co-operation to encourage their employés to attend anti-gas courses such as my acquaintance is prepared to organise, but they will take no such steps if the training is to be given without gas masks, for it would reduce the training to a farce.
There must be other men as qualified as my friend, and it seems a pity that when the Government have invested a certain amount of capital in training them and making them Home Office instructors, it should not be found possible to allow them to obtain the necessary number of gas masks for private classes. Neither I nor the Minister need be interested whether such men are desirous of augmenting their private incomes or of passing on the instruction which they have received. The fact remains that they are highly qualified men who undertake this work very efficiently. I have suggested that after due inquiry there should be a strictly controlled issue of gas masks to 1926 these Home Office instructors, but this morning the Under-Secretary wrote to me that it was laid down that the issue of masks should be limited to local authorities. I hope that the Under-Secretary will reconsider that decision and will in proper cases and after due inquiry enable these men to give instruction.
I have listened to the hon. and gallant Member to see what connection his speech has with the Clause, and he has convinced me that it has none.
§ Colonel Ropner
I had more or less reached the end of what I wanted to say, and I hope that the Minister may somehow or other find it in order to give me an intimation of his views after hearing what I have said.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Seely
The question of evacuation is important, especially in London, where it may be of advantage. I fear, however, that the Home Office will lay down rules for evacuation which will probably apply also to other towns. Evacuation may be of advantage in a place such as London which is not only a large crowded centre, but will be a target of enemy aircraft. The Air Ministry should be consulted with a view to ascertaining what will be the most probable targets. In London evacuation will not interfere with the life and industry of the place, but in other towns, such as Nottingham and towns further north, the evacuation of the people will sterilise them and it will not be a real defence against enemy aircraft. Whereas in London there may be three or four air raids every week, other places will not get them so frequently, and there is a great danger that the Home Office will issue orders—
The hon. Gentleman, like most others, seems to have misconceived this Clause. We are not discussing what the Home Office will do, but what schemes the local authorities are to submit for approval. It is not a question of orders from the Home Office, which ought to have been raised on Clause 1.
§ Sir H. Seely
I think the local authorities are bound to take the view that the Home Office takes on these matters. In the north of England they do not take 1927 air-raid precautions anything like so seriously as people do here. The danger is nothing like as great. It is a question of which places will be the target—
§ Sir H. Seely
I will leave that. I hope that the local authorities, when bringing their schemes to the Home Office, will not be influenced by Home Office views, but will take into consideration the point whether they are likely to be targets. I hope that they will consider such questions as the provision of shelters, because, although shelters may be impossible in London, they are not impossible in other towns. I hope that shelters will find a place in the schemes of the local authorities, for they will give greater protection to their people than if they followed the line set by the London district, which is evacuation. That will not solve the question for the provincial towns.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
This Clause speaks of the Secretary of State approving, with or without modifications, schemes which may be prepared by local authorities, but the Secretary of State has not indicated what he is prepared to approve in the schemes. What is in the mind of the Department as to what they would accept in a scheme for air-raid precautions submitted by a local authority? We have found nothing in this Clause which will satisfy the minds of the families of this country. When the suggestions with regard to the use of paper and glass are read to-morrow, they will not give the people much hope that there will be a scheme to save them in the event of an air raid. The paper that may be attached to the window is not likely to be any protection against high explosives. Would the Department be prepared to approve under this Clause the construction of underground shelters in order that people may be protected from the worst effects of air raids? These have been prepared on the Continent for the last four or five years. Some civil engineers on the Continent circularised individuals in this country four or five years ago, asking if they were prepared to have, either for their own homes or for their working establishments, underground places where people might go.
1928 The suggestion in these circulars was that people must be prepared to resort to the shelters for periods of three days, and even as much as 14 days, in the event of a certain gas being used.
Would the Government approve a scheme under which the gas masks were retained in a certain place rather than that people should have them at their disposal so that they could take them to and from work? Is it proposed that children should carry their masks to school lest an air raid takes place during school hours? I am sure that we shall not be given notice of an air raid and enemy aircraft will not wait until the children have released from school. People who resort to air raids have little regard for human life and certainly no respect for children. Will there be in these schemes conditions to enable gas masks and sandbags to be kept in the schools and factories? I am not happy that the Home Office will issue instructions and approve schemes which will be satisfactory. When one see:, the elementary way in which the Home Office suggests fire precautions for schools and public buildings, particularly in places outside London, I do not feel that they will work these schemes so that they will be effective in saving the lives of the people. Is it their intention to see where it is essential for plans to be adopted for removing the people? The word "evacuation" has been used. There are few parts of the country which will not be in danger, because the manufacture of our munitions is distributed over many areas, and an aeroplane will have to travel only a further 50 or 100 miles in order to reach them.
I hope that regard will be paid to provincial towns. Many of them have open country around them. In my own constituency of Rochdale there is a great deal of open space round the town, which is built in a valley. Is it the intention of the Home Secretary to insist upon a scheme being prepared under which the people of Rochdale may be removed to the open country if there is an air raid; or in the case of Manchester, where greater distances will have to be travelled before the people can reach open country? As to London, there has been talk of removing the population from the neighbourhood of the docks, Woolwich Arsenal and other great factories, because although London is usually spoken of as a 1929 great distributing centre, it is the greatest manufacturing centre in the whole country. There are between 1,000 and 1,500 engineering works within the area which we speak of as London and, as has been suggested, they may become targets.
What are the local councils to be asked to do? Are they to remove the people? How can they be removed from this great area of London, and where are they going to be removed to? Can we move a million people, or even a population of 300,000 from one of the boroughs? Where could we remove the people from Poplar and the district round about the docks, or from Bermondsey or Deptford or Woolwich? What is the Secretary of State prepared to approve, and what is he prepared to put into schemes if he modifies them? I hope he will not curtail any proposals suggested by local authorities. The use of the word "modification" has a curious significance. What is in his mind as to protecting people in the event of these barbarous attacks by so-called civilised countries?
We have not heard anything which should make us feel content with the condition of things, and I hope we shall have some statement from the Government, and not merely a suggestion that the Secretary of State may think along these lines or along those lines in the months ahead. Have the Government made up their minds what they intend to do? I hope that the Secretary of State and his colleagues and the Government will not merely wait for schemes to come along, but will try to persuade the nations which engage in these air raids that such barbarous methods are not a civilised proceeding.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir William Davison
I wish to say a word or two on the question of evacuation and panic. I endorse the statement of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) that evacuation on any large scale is an impossibility. Further, it would create panic. If we were even to start making arrangements for evacuating tens of thousands of the population they would be on the qui vive to get on the move immediately there was a rumour of an air raid and before the roads got blocked. The only way to deal with air raids in a great city like London is for the people to "stay put," as far as possible. On this question of panic I should like to say that I was Mayor of Kensington 1930 during the War and saw a number of air raids, and in the West of London there was never the slightest sign of panic. On one occasion when there was an air raid I was with my wife in Kensington Town Hall. There was a good deal of firing by anti-aircraft guns. The town hall was pretty full, but the people went on talking and saying very much what people say when there is a heavy thunderstorm with torrents of rain, and that is, "I wonder when it will be over. It is very annoying; we have got to get to such-and-such a place." Certainly there was no panic. It was an air raid lasting an hour or so, and before the "All Clear" signal came my wife said to me, "I think we can go." I said, "Yes, I think we can," and we walked up Church Street to Notting Hill Gate. There were no cabs or omnibuses on the move, and as far as I could see nearly everyone was indoors. At Notting Hill Gate the anti-aircraft guns began firing, and as we went towards where we lived in Kensington Park Gardens a number of shells burst above our heads, although we could not see the German aircraft. A number of other people were walking along at the same time. We quickened our pace, certainly, until we got home, and I think that was the only wise thing to do, but there was no sign of panic.
It may be said that that was not a very dangerous district. All I can say is that a few nights afterwards a bomb fell in the gardens of the next street but one to where I was living and made a hole about the size of a taxi-cab. It blew the railings of the house right over the roof and they fell into the street on the other side. It was my duty to inquire into such things and I was there about half an hour afterwards. [Interruption.] Well, I was not there at the time, or I should not have been here now.
All this is very interesting, but I fail to see what it has to do with the question of the action to be taken by local authorities.
§ Sir W. Davison
I am dealing with evacuation, which is one of the matters which local authorities have to consider. I am saying that I have seen no signs of panic on the occasion of an air raid. Of course, if one of these bombs falls upon a house all the occupants will be "done for," in all probability. The best thing to do is to hope and pray that the bomb 1931 does not fall on your house; it is no good rushing down the street to try to get into an air-raid shelter. I was in Kensington Town Hall on the occasion of the famous daylight air raid and the Civil Commissioner came to my room and said, "Come and see these German aeroplanes." There were about 12 of them.
I fail to see the connection between the speech of the hon. Member and the question before the Committee.
§ Sir W. Davison
Am I not entitled to show that there is no danger of panic, and that therefore any large-scale evacuation of the people from a district is undesirable? It seems to me that it is pertinent, but if, Captain Bourne, you do not desire me to proceed on those lines I shall not do so. I consider that there will be no danger of panic, that the people of London will view things philosophically, as did our men in the trenches, and take their risks. Let us take all reasonable precautions, but do not let the Government evacuate large numbers of the population. They need have no fear that people will lose their heads provided they are given gas masks and all reasonable precautions are taken to ensure their safety in their own homes, where it is best for them to be.
§ 5.42 p.m
§ Mr. Montague
This Clause is a most important one, and I do not think we ought to give any indication that the Debate should close at this point, or be anywhere near closing. Some time ought to be given to the consideration of the measures which local authorities may indicate to the Government as a means of protection, not only against actual air-raids but against the possibilities of panic. The question of panic in London is an exceedingly important one. The Under-Secretary in his speech on Second Reading made a statement about the gas-proofing of rooms, which has already been referred to, but one aspect of the matter has not yet been touched upon, and perhaps has not occurred to hon. Members. The Under-Secretary spoke of gas-proofing rooms by means of paper pasted over cracks and crevices, rags placed over the doors, at the bottom of doors and in the framework of the windows, and sacks and rags pushed up chimney flues. He suggested that this could be 1932 easily done, and in a very short space of time, and would be very effective. He even went so far as to say that it would be effective where one room constituted the home of a family.
The use of high explosives and the effect of concussion on windows has been mentioned, and I have no doubt that it would occur to air raiders to drop a number of high explosive shells before a gas attack with the object of shattering windows. It has been suggested that a raid would be of one kind or the other, but as high explosives will cause great breakage of windows I imagine that any air-raid will begin with a discharge of high explosives. There is one aspect of this matter of which the Under-Secretary of State has probably never thought, because he does not know at first hand how the poor live.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I hope the hon. Member will forgive me for interrupting, but I cannot permit that observation to go without comment. I represent an industrial constituency in the heart of Birmingham and I have been intimate with the living conditions of the poor for a long time.
§ Mr. Montague
That was why I was very careful to say "at first hand." It is one thing to live among people as a Member of Parliament, in a settlement or that kind of thing—I have met a good many people, such as the Bishop of London and others, who did it—and it is quite another actually to live with people in the poverty-stricken districts and to know their psychology, which is the result of the way they live. One thing which must have impressed the Under-Secretary of State in Birmingham as elsewhere, is that a great deal of time is spent out of doors by members of families who live in congested districts, as do millions of people. They live either in one-roomed tenements or, with a reasonably-sized family, in two or three rooms. That does not apply to the mother who, apart from her shopping or unless she has to go to work, as a rule has a great deal to do in the home. She would probably be there, and not away from home.
Suppose an air raid is about to take place, and a warning has been given. Perhaps Annie will have been sent down to the market to get some things in for 1933 supper, and, like Mord Em'ly in Pett Ridge's story, may have been attracted by the Walworth Road people selling merchandise, or by the shops in Salmon Lane or somewhere else, and she may not be home. Johnny and Tommy may be goodness knows where, playing in the streets. The husband, if he is not actually at work, may be at a trade union branch. Does the Under-Secretary of State or anyone else imagine that that mother will begin to paste paper over the doors?
The hon. Member appears to be making a Second Reading speech. I have been waiting carefully to connect his argument with the object of the Clause under discussion, which relates to the schemes which local authorities may submit to the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Montague
I have upon the Order Paper an Amendment which was not accepted. I submit that we were assured by Mr. Speaker that the Debate upon the Clause standing part of the Bill would be wide enough to cover matters ancillary, at any rate, to the question of the methods of dealing with air raids and relating to what local authorities might do, or suggest that the Government might do, generally, with respect to their duty.
I would point out to the hon. Member that the discussion on Clause I went very much wider than we had expected before the discussion took place, and, in point of fact, covered all the points he mentions. Consequently, we have now got to the point when we cannot repeat the arguments which were advanced in the discussion on Clause 1.
§ Mr. Montague
May I ask for your Ruling on the matter? It is useless for us to speak as we desire to do if your Ruling is to be interpreted as it appears it should be. Apart from what I just said, I wanted to deal with the use of London tubes and dug-outs in London, and with some experiences that I had on the Western Front of dug-outs and so forth. If I am not allowed to speak on those subjects I might as well finish my speech at once.
The Clause lays down what may be developed by local 1934 authorities in their schemes for submission to the Secretary of State, and what conditions the Secretary of State may ask local authorities to develop in connection with those schemes. Obviously the hon. Member would be in order in arguing that it would be undesirable in London for local authorities to submit schemes which did not contain a provision for dug-outs, but he must connect his argument to what might be included in a local authority's scheme, and whether its being included or not is a reason why the Secretary of State should or should not accept it. Further than that he cannot go.
§ Mr. Dalton
May I also ask for your guidance? My hon. Friend was developing an argument relating to the gas-proofing of rooms. Would it riot be in order under the Ruling which you have just given for him to proceed along that line with a view to showing that this particular form of protection is useless, having regard to the habits of working-class life, and to connect with that an argument in favour of other forms of protection, such as dug-outs?
§ Mr. Montague
I assure you, Captain Bourne, that I shall do my best to keep in order in what I have to say, although at such times and on such subjects it is not quite an easy thing to do, as the progress of the Debate has shown. I intended to point out that it is necessary that more drastic methods be submitted by local authorities for dealing with air-raid conditions than those which are already under canvass and discussion, in connection with gas-proofed rooms and in some other connections. I referred particularly to the general habits of people living in congested districts in order to submit that the proposals made are entirely inadequate and that other proposals must be substituted. I suggested that a mother would not seal herself in a gas-proofed room while her family was not there with her. That is an important consideration. I will leave that particular matter.
The question of congestion in the East End of London is important because, as has been so frequently said, one of the great objectives of the enemy in any air raid would be the docks district, such 1935 as Limehouse, Poplar and the neighbourhood. I do not believe that the expectation that people will go into their overcrowded rooms will be realised in those districts. People will come out of their homes, if only to collect their families, and they will seek cover of some other kind. What will happen to Blackwall Tunnel in those conditions? I expect that people will crowd into Blackwall Tunnel and will attempt to crowd into the tubes. I do not at all understand why it is suggested so often that tubes shall not be used during an air raid. I believe it is even to be a matter of regulation. Tubes constitute the finest possible sort of funk-hole that you could have. The expression is not a derogatory one. Every dug-out in the front line trenches was a funk-hole. If it is true that armour-piercing shells will not be used upon the civil population but will he reserved for their proper purposes, warships and objectives like docks, the tubes of London will be a splendid method of protecting the people against the ordinary high explosive shell.
It has been pointed out that the experiences of the last War showed that people became rather panic-stricken. In some places there were terrible scenes. People were killed or injured in rushing to the tubes. That kind of thing could be avoided if proper regulations were submitted by local authorities to the Government and were carried out. We should be discussing with local authorities this aspect of the matter long before the likelihood of a war. Similarly with the question of the air inside the tubes; that is a matter with which our scientists ought to deal. It ought to be possible so to condition the air and ventilate the tubes as to make it possible for people to live there at least as long as they would be able to live in a room sealed with paper and sacks, under conditions of air-raid precaution. Whatever methods are thought out and submitted for approval, there is also the question of organising the people to use them. If tubes are to be used, everybody must know which tube to go to, if one is near, and the matter should be organised beforehand in order to avoid panic. Not only should tubes be used, but public buildings and depots of any kind, of which there are many in London. It should be possible to build shelters quite cheaply to give 1936 protection against the ordinary high explosive shell.
The gas bomb is not the same thing as cloud gas. I had experience of both kinds during the War. I hope I may give a little historical touch to this point without transgressing the Rules of Order. I remember coming out of Charing Cross Station during the last War, having left the Ypres salient, and finding the whole population underground. I did not know what had happened at first. I did not expect anything of the kind, and I walked from Charing Cross Station to the Piccadilly Tube in the middle of the road. I saw policemen looking round corners and out of doorways, wondering what kind of an idiot in military uniform this was. I had lived in a communication trench in the Ypres salient during one of the strongest strafes we had had during the period when I was there, but that night only two bombs were dropped upon London, while bombs were dropping by scores every 200 or 300 yards in the place from which I had come.
The question which arises out of that comparison is whether anything has been done about using trenches on the outskirts of London. Every ex-service man and soldier knows that the narrow communication trench is one of the best safeguards, at least against the high explosive shell, and certainly against gas. There is no danger, unless there is a direct hit upon that trench. All these matters, evacuation, the possibility of entrenching the outskirts of London and many others, ought to be considered and not to be entirely neglected. I have seen gas shells. I have had them as near to me as the door of this Chamber now is, and I have not been perturbed in the slightest degree. I do not know what development there has been in regard to gas since that time, but I do not think there has been so very much, and I know that the effects of gas bombs, as distinct from clouds of gas with the wind behind them, are of a very local character.
I suggest, therefore, that the important considerations are evacuation, entrenchment, the use of the Tubes, and the building of shelters under public buildings of all kinds, schools in particular, with some method of approach by which people could go down. I know, of course, that not even these methods will suffice in the case of a direct hit from a high explosive 1937 shell of great magnitude. One remembers what happened when the machinery fell in a large printing works near Drury Lane. But that will happen anyhow. In the ordinary way it should be possible to afford protection to people by some kind of device involving very much less than three feet of concrete. It cannot be expected that people living in overcrowded and congested conditions, as is the case with the majority of people in, say, the East End of London, will for the next five years, until the war comes, keep carefully on their shelves these strips of paper, buckets, sand and so on, all ready. That kind of thing simply will not happen. If the Under-Secretary knew what a working-class family is like, he would realise that, long before that, these strips of paper will probably have been used for making Christmas chains.
What is meant by dealing with thermite bombs? I am told that thermite bombs burn with a terrible degree of heat. During the Belgian manoeuvres in 1934, one small aeroplane full of thermite bombs, with which it hit bodies created for the manoeuvres—shacks, straw and so on—started over 300 fires. Imagine a thermite bomb shot into a tenement house. Imagine the whole family there—not separated, as I suggest it is most likely that they would be, with the mother looking for them. After the room has been sealed up, the thermite bomb comes, and somebody wants to know where the sand is, what has happened to the shovel, and all that kind of thing. So far as the hose-pipe is concerned, the tap is probably down below, and the room has to be unsealed. It will probably be found that the handle of the shovel is broken and is outside, and they will do some kind of war dance around the bomb, which is burning in the middle of the room, waiting for all these preparations to be carried out.
It really is ridiculous. It is the jest of the moment. People are joking and laughing about these proposals, and I think it will be found that they will afford the pantomimes a very useful gag. Every Widow Twankey and Mrs. Crusoe will make her first appearance armed with a bucket of water and some sand. She will drop one article, and, while picking it up, will drop the other, soliloquising all the time about the merits of her first husband, who will be the spit either of 1938 the Under-Secretary or the Prime Minister. Although it is a matter of humour and a joke, I am quite serious in referring to it, because it is very dangerous that people should be lulled into the idea that they are being protected by measures of this kind, when we ought to get together the best brains possible, people who understand every aspect of this subject, in order to devise a scheme which is not only practical in itself, but is in line with the facts of the case, with the lives of the people, and with security for British men and women.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Sir John Withers
I have been sitting here for a considerable time listening to everybody talking about the details of these schemes. I understand that we are discussing the question whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill, and Clause 3 provides that:The Secretary of State may approve, with or without modifications, any air-raid precaution scheme submitted to him under this Act.This is not a case for talking about details. Different areas, like Manchester and London, the works of armament firms, and so on, will all have to be dealt with on different lines. I should have thought that the obvious thing to do was that, before these schemes are sent in at all, instructions should be issued to each area indicating the sort of scheme that should be sent in. Then it would be for the local body to consider the details, and for the Home Office to look into the schemes and see whether they are good or bad, and, if necessary, supplement them in some way or other. I sincerely hope that, on the question of Clause 3 standing part of the Bill, we are not going into details again and again. The Chairman of the Committee recently pulled up every Member on this point—
§ 6.10 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
I want to congratulate you, Sir Dennis, on the latitude you have shown in not pulling up speakers for departing from the terms of 1939 the Clause. I have sat here very patiently, not only because I desired to speak, but because I sincerely hoped to hear the Secretary of State for Scotland, who was on the bench and who acted in such an enthusiastic manner that I assumed that he would be replying to the Debate. The Under-Secretary also was here, but now they have both disappeared and we are left with the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs to deal with the matter. I am anxious with regard to evacuation, and I think it was rather unfortunate that an hon. Member on my left, who spoke earlier, was pulled up because of his remarks on this question. The Clause says:The Secretary of State may approve, with or without modifications, any air-raid precaution scheme submitted to him under this Act.I would like to know how the Home Department, or the Secretary of State himself, is going to decide on the schemes submitted by local authorities, who know the area and know the needs of the local people. What person or committee is qualified to discuss schemes submitted by the local authorities? It may be that some committee in the Scottish Office is contemplated. Is it the Secretary of State himself, or the advisory experts of the Department; or is some committee to be formed to advise the Government and to decide, when schemes are submitted by local authorities like those of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy and so on, whether modifications shall be made in those schemes or not? On what will their decision be based? Will it be based on the question of obtaining sufficient labour or sufficient man-power in the areas concerned, or on the question of expense? Those are very important questions to the local authorities. In my humble opinion, the local authorities in Glasgow could submit very easily a more practicable scheme of evacuation than could be framed by authorities in London. The right hon. Gentleman himself will realise that it is only about three-quarters of an hour's charabanc ride from Glasgow to the great loch area, where there is ample room for measures to be taken by a local authority in or near Glasgow for evacuating the local people, or at any rate the women and children. I would like some indication from the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Under-Secretary 1940 as to who or which committee will have the power to decide on these schemes which are to be submitted by local authorities.
As the Bill is at present constituted, local authorities cannot discuss the question of evacuation in, for instance, Glasgow. Recently the Glasgow authorities submitted a definite scheme with regard to Loch Katrine. Loch Katrine furnishes the water supply for the whole of the Glasgow area. It supplies the water for the great shipyards that will be required in any future war; it provides the water supply for over 1,000,000 people in the Glasgow area, and for the great heavy industries in that area. A scheme was submitted, over which great pains were taken, for duplicating Loch Katrine, so as to provide an alternative loch. That scheme was turned down by the authorities here. They said that this loch, being situated on the edge of a cliff, was not really a good mark for bombs. I think that that was the implication of the reply. That is the reply that is given to-day, when bombers are able to hit a mark from a height of 2,000 feet, and hit it very effectively. What is to happen to a scheme submitted on behalf of a local authority in one area, but affecting an area outside the geographical scope of that local authority? Loch Katrine is in the Trossachs. Glasgow has submitted this scheme with regard to its water supply, and it has been turned down. I want to know who are the experts who will turn down or modify or allow such schemes by local authorities, who are the best people and the most fitted, by their knowledge of their local areas, to draw up schemes.
I come to Glasgow again, with regard to the question of modifying schemes. Will there be some general plan laid down that local authorities with a certain population must accept? Will they be permitted to submit schemes? For instance, in Glasgow, as apart from certain other cities in the Midlands of England, there is the tenement question, the question of the congestion of the people inhabiting the areas. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman's own constituency, I think he will agree, is very much over crowded. Bridgeton, Govan, Maryhill and most of the constituencies in Glasgow are composed of huge tenement blocks, with hundreds of thousands of people living in such conditions, and the 1941 circumstances there are different from those in some of the localities where the population is more widespread and is living in one or two-storeyed buildings, and any kind of bombing there would create more havoc. Will special consideration be given to areas such as Glasgow?
I do not want to refer to the financial question, as it is out of order, but the Scottish local authorities are very much concerned. They took an important part in the negotiations with regard to this Bill, and they were concerned with finance. Undoubtedly, the Glasgow Town Council, if they are going to give adequate protection for the people in Glasgow, will have to spend very much more in actual building: the building of shelters, for instance. No scheme could be put forward by the Glasgow Town Council to make the houses of Glasgow in any way effective as a shelter during future air raids. There is no practical scheme possible, and I defy any expert, technical engineer or adviser, to formulate a definite practical scheme, whether it be by sandbags—and you are going to have very great difficulty to provide sufficient sandbags.
§ The Chairman (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I really think the hon. Member is getting a long way beyond the Clause. He is quite justified in asking certain questions as to how the Government will deal with their task of approving schemes; but he is not justified in elaborating schemes of his own, or saying how a certain scheme is impossible.
Very good, Sir Dennis, but I would point out that in previous stages of the Debate reference was made to methods, and sandbagging was mentioned.
§ The Chairman
Yes, but the hon. Member must take it from me that there is a certain limit to the extent to which schemes must be discussed.
Very good; but my point is that the local authorities must have some indication of the Department's attitude. I am asking whether the Home Secretary or the Secretary for Scotland would approve a scheme, recommend a scheme, accept a scheme or modify a scheme; and could such a scheme as the sandbagging of tenements in the Glasgow area be made efficient? I have heard 1942 reference in the Debate to the experiences of some hon. Members in the Army. I was a very young soldier and I had no very great experiences. I was in France when I was 17. It was suggested by the Noble Lord that if a bomb fell near this House hon. Members would be concerned in doing all they possibly could. That is true; but local authorities have to prepare schemes now and submit them to the Minister, not for bombs falling near their area, but for bombs falling in their area, which is a very different thing. Local authorities have to prepare schemes for dealing with what will certainly be great panic among the population. I would ask the Noble Lord, who may read what I say, although he is not here, to face up to the difficulties of the local authorities.
There is one other question. That is the question of how will the Minister look upon schemes submitted by a local authority which is completely convinced, as many Scottish local authorities are, that there are absolutely inadequate anti-aircraft defences in the country as it is. The London local authorities—I do not know whether my right hon. Friend will agree with me or not—can, at least, recognise that great schemes of anti-aircraft defence have been prepared to protect London, but Scottish local authorities are faced with a complete neglect of Scotland. Their schemes will have to be on a bigger scale. Will they be accepted if they are on a bigger scale? I am not making statements that Scottish local authorities cannot prove and cannot place in the forefront of every statement they make.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member has been in order in asking questions about a scheme like that, but I do not think he can go on to make statements about whether in his opinion a particular area is protected or not.
I recognise that it is not the Under-Secretary's area, but certain areas are tied to a certain expenditure, and, in my opinion, a minimum expenditure, and those local authorities will have to formulate schemes, taking into consideration the provision for defence around them. But I have said what I wanted to say, and perhaps, in the next five years, something will be done for Scotland, so far as defence is concerned. This Bill, and this Clause particularly, do not give the local authorities reason 1943 for confidence in the Government, so far as any schemes for defence which they may submit are concerned. Yesterday we discussed the decrease of population; now we are discussing schemes for preventing the population from being wiped out. I would ask the Under-Secretary, who is a young man and who, during the time I have been a Member of this House, has received very great praise, to go very carefully into this, and to enable local authorities to have some confidence that the schemes they will submit will have some examination, and that not one definite line of action will be laid down, but that local authorities' own proposals will receive consideration in this very important question of adequate protection for their men, women and children during any future air raid.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Several hon. Members have been ruled out of order because they started at the wrong end. They started at the Home Office, instead of with the local authorities' end. We have been told it is incumbent on the local authorities to prepare a scheme for submission to the Home Office. I wonder what those schemes will consist of, and how they will be prepared. I imagine they will draw up those schemes on the advice of their Air-Raid Precautions officers. I am not sure that the local authorities have the best advice for preparing these schemes which they are going to submit for the approval of the Home Office, and when they do submit them they are not sure they will not be modified.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member may by now be getting into order, but he seems to have been discussing Clause I which lays upon local authorities the duty of preparing schemes. This Clause is the Clause which provides for these schemes having to be submitted after they have been drawn up.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am glad you say I am getting into order, Sir Dennis. I have been endeavouring to follow the line on which hon. Members have been considered to be in order. I hope you will allow me to proceed, because I then hope to get your approval. The schemes have to be submitted to the Home Office. I maintain that the cannot be adequately prepared, and, therefore, the local authorities will not be able to fulfil their obligations 1944 properly, because they have not the advice of the Air-Raids Precautions Department of the Home Office. I have asked whether any indication has been given to local authorities as to how they are to appoint Air-Raid Precautions officers.
§ The Chairman
I must rule that out of order. There is nothing in this Clause dealing with the Air-Raid Precautions officers.
§ Mr. Bellenger
With all due respect, Sir Dennis, I submit to you that if we are allowed to discuss Sub-section (1), which provides for local authorities submitting air-raid precautions schemes to the Home Office, we may discuss what those schemes are to consist of.
§ The Chairman
I have expressed my opinion that what the hon. Member was saying was not relevant to this Clause.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Very well, Sir Dennis, I must submit to your Ruling. I happen, like many others, to be a resident in the area of a local authority, and I should like an indication of what the schemes will consist when they are prepared, so that I can know how to take steps to protect my wife and children when the time comes. I hope that the hon. Gentleman who is to reply will deal with the question, and will have more success in keeping in order than I have. May I put this further point, as I do not know whether it has been considered by local authorities? I live in the constituency represented by the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) where there are a large number of solidly-built houses with basements. What plans are the local authorities preparing to provide against the inundation of many of these basements which will probably occur when bombs fall on roads and break the water mains? I should say that there would be a good chance of people in these basements being drowned.
With regard to the adequacy of schemes which local authorities will have to apply, I am not at all sure that I have great faith in the methods which they will have to adopt for clearing away the effect of gas bombs. I, like other hon. Members of the House, attended the Falfield School of the Government, and saw the methods which they were adopting there for dealing with this menace. I have not much confidence in those methods. Whether 1945 they are being adopted in other parts of the world or not, I do not know, but I certainly fear that if bombing takes place and that is the only method we have of dealing with gas bombs, we shall not get very much safety. I suppose that the question of evacuation will be something that the local authorities will have to consider. I have not the slightest faith in any schemes that could be prepared for evacuating large bodies of persons from one area to another, and I shall be interested to hear when the hon. Gentleman replies—that is, if he is in order—what he thinks of these evacuation proposals.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
On the Second Reading I described my attitude to the Bill. I felt that its provisions were largely illusory, and after hearing the discussion to-day I am more convinced than ever that the protection that is to be provided, for example, in sealing up the windows with adhesive tape and all the rest of it, will be simply to have no protection at all. To obtain really adequate protection you would have to go fairly deep down into the earth in big pits, and even then it would be scarcely safe, because if you went deep enough you would get the bombs from the Australian side. Unless the Government are able to change the shape of the air, or do something like that, I do not believe there is any adequate protection at all. Once long ago in connection with work schemes, the late Mr. Wheatley said that the only work scheme that he could see that would provide work would be a tunnel, and I wonder now whether the Government will not consider, as an additional precaution in this matter, the provision of a tunnel through to Australia into which the people may go when the bombers are overhead.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Broad
Before we part with this Clause, I should like to have some information as to what powers are to be imposed after a scheme, which may have been modified by the Secretary of State, has come into force. I have in mind particularly, not the people living in two, three or four-roomed tenements or a big house, as the case may be, but the big works, offices, retail establishments, institutions, and so on. There are some in my district where 2,000 or 3,000 workers are concerned. I should like to know whether, in a scheme drawn up by a local 1946 authority, the local authority will be able to enforce their requirements upon the proprietors or occupiers of works of this kind? It will not be a question of keeping people at home. If you have a big works in the district and there is a great conflagration due to an incendiary bomb or a high explosive, just as in the case of a mining disaster, everybody will gather round looking for their men folk. Powers ought to be provided so that the responsible local authority could enforce their requirements upon these firms.
I am not going to deal with the inadequacy or adequacy of sticking stamp-edging round the windows and doors, or blocking up cracks in walls and ceilings with paper and paste, but I believe that so many dwellings are in such a condition that the inhabitants could not adequately protect a room according to the requirements or suggestions of the Minister. Will the scheme of the local authority enable them to impose provisions on the owners of such property to see that some protection is given? Though the provision of stamp-edging and all the rest of it may make a room gas-proof, what about the people in the room? If they are to have any heating or lighting for cooking or warmth in these rooms, they must have some means of illumination and heat which does not consume the oxygen in the room. One incandescent gas burner will consume more oxygen than five people. In a room of 600 cubic feet, 18 feet by 10 feet by 8 feet, there must be some means provided of lighting and heating. The only way of introducing lighting and heating that does not consume oxygen is by using electricity. You must provide in advance that there shall be electric light and heating in one of the rooms, and the scheme of the local authority ought to make provision for that eventuality. How are people to breathe if they have fires or gas consuming the oxygen in the room and all the crevices are sealed up?
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Lloyd
My first duty is to convey to the Committee the apologies of my right hon. Friend for not being in his place this afternoon, but, unfortunately, he contracted a chill when he was being installed as Chancellor of Reading University yesterday, and he is in bed with a temperature this afternoon. He asked me to convey to the Committee his apologies for his absence.
1947 We at the Home Office welcome this discussion this afternoon for two reasons. First of all, because it gives us an opportunity at the beginning of removing a misconception. I refer particularly to the Amendment that might have been moved, if it had been in order, by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). That was an Amendment providing for security without any qualification. We welcome the opportunity of saying that complete security in air raids is not possible, and we deprecate very much any pretence or liability on the part of anybody to deceive the people of this country either one way or the other—either by minimising or exaggerating the effect of air raids. I think that the matter can be put in the best way by referring to the actual Title of the Bill which is stated to be forthe protection of persons and property from injury or damage in the event of hostile attack from the air.Obviously, we have to consider this matter in the light of common sense and our object, as was stated by my right hon. Friend and myself on the Second Reading, is to take all reasonable precautions that ought to be taken at the present time, and to let the people have the knowledge of what precautions ought to be taken in the event of war. The Committee will agree that we must observe due proportion in this matter. We must do all that is reasonably possible, but also we must avoid a complete obsession of the whole national mind with the subject of air-raid precautions to the point, for example, of absorbing for air-raid defence alone the whole of the money allocated to Defence expenditure. The cost of active and other defence must be borne in mind, for if some of the extreme suggestions were carried out it would really cause the occupation of almost the entire population in perfecting air-raid precautions. I think that everybody will agree that we have to observe due proportion.
I hope to deal with a number of the larger points raised, but first I will deal with two of the specific points brought forward by hon. Members this afternoon. The hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) wished to know whether the Home Office would consult the Air Ministry in the event of evacuation. I can assure the hon. Member that the 1948 Home Office will certainly act in cooperation with all the chief Government Departments in this matter, and, obviously, the opinion of the Air Ministry will have an important bearing upon this question. I would inform the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) that the position with regard to the approval of schemes in Scotland and in England is that they are approved in each country by the appropriate Secretary of State—in Scotland by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and in England by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Of course, they are both advised by the central body of experts in the Air-Raid Precautions Department. I can assure him that there is no intention whatever of riding roughshod over local susceptibilities and ideas. It is necessary to have complete consultation with local authorities and those concerned in various matters, and it is vital in regard to air-raid precautions. We are now able to do it rather better than we have been able to do it in the past, because only recently we have appointed 13 regional inspectors, and these inspectors being situated with their headquarters in particular districts, will be in a better position to maintain a continuous liaison with the local authorities.
When the Glasgow local authority submitted a scheme for the duplication of the water supply of that area, was the financial expert who turned down that scheme the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Secretary of State for England?
§ Mr. Lloyd
It was in accordance with what I have said, formally by the Secretary of State for Scotland, but acting on advice received from the Air-Raid Precautions Department. That brings me to the point made by the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) with regard to categories. I appreciate the importance of what he said on the matter, and I suggest that the process of submitting schemes by local authorities in consultation with the Home Office experts and their approval by the Secretary of State will, in fact, result in the graduation of different schemes to suit local needs, not necessarily one or four or 15 categories but a great number of categories.
The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) was sceptical of the value of 1949 black-outs from the point of view of safeguarding civilian objectives. He granted that they may be useful to mislead hostile aircraft as to military objectives within a town, but he doubted its usefulness from the point of view of the civil population. We do not take that view. We take the view that black-outs are useful from the point of view of the civil population, because it is not so easy for hostile aeroplanes to be certain of their direction and to find their objective at night. They have to rely on dead reckoning to do that. It is too dangerous for an enemy aeroplane to be in wireless communication with its home base because that would give away its position to the defenders. They have to rely on dead reckoning, and that depends on a knowledge of meteorological conditions, the direction of the higher winds in which you are flying, which is information that hostile aeroplanes are not likely to have about weather conditions in the country in which they are operating. I am advised that it is easy for them to be misled, particularly if they cannot pick out well-known landmarks, and that black-outs are of great assistance. Grimsby and Norwich are towns which by their position are rather open to air attack, yet in the last War they completely avoided all raids as a result of efficient black-outs. It may be argued that technical invention has improved, but I am told that in the blackout which was held in Chatham recently the aeroplanes, as a result of a slight mist, completely lost their way, and were not even able to find the Thames. I think it would be very wrong for the Committee to take the view that black-outs are not valuable from the point of view of the civilian population.
Now I come to gas-proof rooms, about which there have been a great many suggestions. The hon. Member for West Islington, from his knowledge of working-class life, suggested that a mother might be alone, the children away, at any rate that the husband might not be there, and that in those circumstances a mother would not be prepared to seal herself in a gas-proof room without her family. I agree that that is a problem. The mother herself may be washing that day, and the children may be further away, or playing in the yard or in the street. But I suggest that in war time the population will be living in the knowledge that air raids may occur, they will be well 1950 instructed and well aware of the warning system, and little Johnny and little Tommy will certainly know it from their mother if there is an air raid warning and they do not get back by the right time, or if they have strayed too far from the house. The answer to this problem, which I agree is a very human one, is the answer which applies to so many of the problems raised on this matter, that people will adapt themselves to an astonishing extent, and in accordance with common sense when they have to face these new circumstances.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. McEntee) was anxious to know whether the experiments which were carried out on the kiosks which he saw at Falfield were different from those on an ordinary house. The buildings were simply for demonstration purposes; they were handy and small, for the purpose of teaching. The experiments which the Government have carried out are described in an interesting document which was issued over the week-end in accordance with the reply given to a question by the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). These experiments were carried out on houses which, as far as possible, were similar to an ordinary working-class house in our great cities.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Do we understand that there are other experiments besides those which were carried out on Salisbury Plain?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Yes. They are described with a certain amount of detail in the document, but they are only part of a long series of experiments carried out by the Government using actual war gas. There has been some criticism on the point that it would be wise to experiment with houses in a built-up area. Although we have been looking for a built-up area on which to release several tons of poison gas, we have not yet succeeded in finding one, and I think it will be a long time before we do. Arrangements for the experiment in regard to the position of the cottage and belts of trees were made to assimilate 1951 as closely as possible to conditions in built-up areas, and we are conducting a series of experiments in built-up areas as to the movement of wind in the streets, which is very important from the point of view of gas defence.
Now I come to the question of windows. The hon. Member for Derby said this was very important from the point of view of gas-proofing a room. I agree it is important, but it is not final. He suggested that the effect of bombs would be to shatter all windows in a particular area and, of course, a certain number would be shattered. The most modern report we have on this matter from Spain is to the effect that if windows are protected by strips of paper, ordinary paper, pasted across the back of the window they will resist the effect of blast to an astonishing extent. It has been found that all windows which were unassisted by strips of paper were blown in at a distance of 150 yards from a bomb, but with this protection, which, normally speaking, the lay mind would consider to be rather inadequate, the windows remained whole up to 50 yards from the bomb. That is one example of the rather mysterious effects of blast and stresses, and it shows how important it is to continue with the experiments which the Government have in hand. It may be newspaper or brown paper, whichever is available, but cellophane, of course, is the ideal thing. It may be bought now cheaply at the chain stores, but if it is not possible to afford that, working-class people can collect cellophane from the almost endless packets of food and cigarettes and so on, and it is equally effective.
Now I come to the question of what happens if the window is blown out. There is still the protection of the blanket. The room will still be gas-proof to a reasonable extent if the blanket remains in position, and more particularly—I hesitate to give this advice which will go rather against the grain of the housewife—if the blanket is treated with a certain amount of water you greatly increase its gas-excluding qualities. But if that protection goes, what is the position? The gas-proofing of a room has always been described as the first line of defence. There is a second line of defence—the respirator which is provided for that purpose. If the first line of defence is 1952 broken, the householder can fall back on the respirator which is given him for the purpose of escaping from his gas-proof room, if it is damaged, to another place of safety. This he cannot do without the respirator, but he can do it in the case of any gas known in war with the civilian respirator issued by the Home Office.
This brings me to the question of gas and gas warfare. The hon. Member for Derby was inclined to be suspicious of the Government because of the attention it has given to gas and he suggested it was because it would have the greatest effect on the public mind. I can tell him quite simply that that is not the reason. The reason is this. Gas was never used in the last War against the civilian population. Gas against the civilian population on a large-scale is an unknown weapon, an unknown problem to the man and woman in the street. Therefore, it is liable to cause a particular degree of apprehension, and indeed rightly if the population is uninstructed with regard to the problems of gas, and unprovided with the particular type of appliance, namely, a respirator, which is capable of defending the population against gas, and which, in virtue of its technical nature, it would be impossible for the man-in-the-street to improvise for himself in the moment of danger. That is the reason why the Government had to give the gas problem a particular degree of priority, and I think the Committee will agree, having regard to these facts, that the Government are well justified in doing so.
Adverse comments have been made on the efficiency of the respirators by the hon. Member for Derby, based on the fact that tobacco smoke can be smelt through the respirator. That is true, but I suggest that because tobacco smoke, which is not a true gas at all, can be smelt through the respirators, it does not follow therefore that arsenical smoke would get through the respirator. The point is that the Government have tested it against the most poisonous gases with complete success. The hon. Member referred to the fitting of the respirator, and I agree that that is important. He said that he had received a letter from a colonel—I am surprised that a colonel should write to the hon. Member—
§ Mr. Lloyd
The fact that a colonel is an air-raid officer does not necessarily alter his temperament. If the colonel had waited a little and familiarised himself with the plans of the Home Office with regard to respirators, or consulted the Records of this House, he would have known that it is the intention of the Home Office to elaborate a very complex scheme to deal with the enormous problem of the fitting and distribution of millions of respirators to the civilian population. It is an enormous problem. We have carried out an elaborate experiment with the co-operation of the local authorities, in which the actual plans have been worked out for the local depots with about 30,000 gas masks each, and for about 30 smaller depots with about 5,000 gas masks each, from which the air-raid wardens will distribute the respirators to the people themselves. It will be the duty of the air-raid wardens in time of peace to find out from all these districts the exact number of respirators that will be required.
The hon. Gentleman also asked a question with regard to repairs and refills. We have had a great success with the production of a civilian respirator in that, although we started out with an estimated production of 500,000 a week, we have got the production up to 650,000 a week. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that once our stock is complete we shall have these factories in reserve, and we shall be able to produce in time of war at the rate of 650,000 respirators a week for the purpose of refills and refits, and so on. I think he will agree that that will probably be adequate.
I come to the question of sandbags and high explosives. The hon. Member for Derby suggested that really the refuge room could not be used all the time for the purpose of living in, as I suggested in the Second Reading Debate that it could be.
On a point of Order. I have been listening closely to the Under-Secretary in raising this very interesting 1954 question. But many hon. Members on these benches were definitely and completely ruled out of order time and again when we tried to raise the point to which the Under-Secretary is now replying. I would like to know why the Under-Secretary is allowed to make statements on questions with which we were not allowed to deal.
§ The Chairman
I do not myself quite see how the Under-Secretary can answer questions which were not asked. I have followed him closely, and if I thought he had been out of order I should have said so.
§ Mr. Bellenger
We attempted to put questions to the hon. Gentleman and to elaborate them, but we were pulled up in doing so.
§ The Chairman
I listened very carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and I did not notice that he was out of order.
May I point out that when I raised the question with regard to sandbags and the plans of local authorities to prepare sandbagging precautions for tenements in Glasgow, I was ruled out of order.
I am not making any suggestions of unfairness from the Chair, but I am suggesting that the Chair should be a little more careful in its Rulings.
§ The Chairman
In the interests of hon. Members themselves, I must really ask them to adhere a little more closely to the Rules in these questions of order which are put to the Chair.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby would wish me to deal with questions that were raised as to whether the Secretary of State ought to approve schemes involving the use of trenches, or whether the local authorities should put up schemes. That I think would be in order. The Member for West Islington asked a question in regard to that. He wanted to know why we had not considered the question of trenches. The real answer is that we have considered the question of trenches, and in great detail. I hold in my hand a handbook in which not only are many pages devoted to the question of trenches, but there are plans showing in great detail 1955 the best form of trench in the view of the experts. Investigations were made by the Home Office, and indeed we do consider that in appropriate circumstances—because we have to remember that the circumstances may differ in different cases—trenches may be one of the very best methods of protection.
§ Mr. Lloyd
It is the Air-Raids Precautions Handbook No. 6—the first edition—published by the Stationery Office. On the question of the tubes, I am afraid that there I could not agree with the hon. Member for West Islington, because we have come to the conclusion that it is not wise to use the tubes for air-raid shelters in a future war. Quite apart from the difficulty of deciding who ought to go into the tubes in particular circumstances—a problem which becomes rather acute in difficult times—there is the fact that the tube stations are not now considered to be bomb-proof. If the hon. Gentleman will consider the actual construction of a tube station he will see that probably it is not bomb proof. As to the question of putting people into the tubes themselves, I think the Committee will immediately appreciate the grave dangers of panic and also the physical dangers of the blocking of the exits by direct hits on stations, involving conditions of the most terrible gravity. It happens that some of the main sewers of London run in close contiguity to some of the tube stations, and we are informed on expert advice that there would be a grave danger of flooding with sewage in the case of a direct hit.
I ought now to pass to the one other subject which, I think, gave hon. Members a good deal of concern, and that was the question of incendiary bombs. I think almost every other hon. Member who spoke this afternoon mentioned that question. First the question was raised by the hon. Member for West Islington as to whether the equipment was going to be of any use. He gave an alarming picture of the humour with which the public would regard the scoops and sand containers, and how they would behave if a bomb actually fell. He said the pantomimes would be filled with Widow Twankeys using the scoops recommended by my right hon. Friend. The fact that 1956 a thing is regarded as humorous in a pantomime and causes the public to laugh uproariously does not mean that the British public are not going to use their common sense and take the thing quite seriously in a difficult moment. The man in blue is one of the most typical figures in the pantomimes and we all enjoy his antics very much, but that does not prevent our having the very greatest respect for the policeman and for the truncheon, which in the last resort he is permitted to use, if we come across him in different circumstances altogether.
I think I ought to refer again to the question of the experiments which the Home Office conducted in a great deal of detail to find out whether or not these incendiary bombs could be handled by members of the public with the scoop and sand container and hand pump recommended by the Home Office. I would like to give the Committee just a few details of one of the experiments. A one kilo incendiary bomb was placed in a room on the ground level. There were a bed, a table and curtains in the room. The bomb was placed about the centre of the room on the wooden floor about a foot away from the bed. Sixty seconds after the bomb was fired the curtains had been destroyed, and the bed was burning, but not fiercely. The chair had just caught and the floors were burning. Orders were given to get to work. The girl—these experiments were carried out by girls—went in with a line of hose from the bantam pump. She discarded her glasses—for almost at once the eye-pieces of the glasses got fogged, and she discarded the glasses—and it was found actually that the fumes and smoke in the incendiary bomb made the glasses unnecessary in the work of controlling the pump. So far as the result was concerned, the fire was controlled in 2 minutes 20 seconds, and the bomb was extinguished in 2 minutes 30 seconds. About one and a half gallons of water were used and less than 30 lbs. of sand, and I understand that in each case these young ladies were submitted to a medical examination—of course they were very carefully supervised by a man expert from the point of view of their safety—and this young lady went through the medical examination perfectly, and her main comment was that she enjoyed the experience enormously. [Interruption.] It is quite wrong, if I may say 1957 so, for hon. Gentlemen to laugh at this matter. The truth of the matter is that in this country we have a very spirited population. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Montague
This is really important, because most people have heard or read about these bombs cutting through steel plates. Are those stories true or are they not?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I have details of the exact time which these bombs took to burn through floors, and I could give them to the hon. Gentleman, but I think it would take too long to read an extract from a document of this kind, though I could furnish him with the details at another time. But the fact was that the bomb did tend to bum through the floor for a certain amount of time—I think a minute or so. In one case a fragment of the bomb fell through on to the bed in the next room, but that also was fairly easily controlled. There are certain details which I am not in a position to give to the Committee, and I cannot say what an incendiary bomb could do to a steel plate, but I think it may be taken for granted that much of the talk that goes about is greatly exaggerated. The practical test is what an incendiary bomb does in an average British house and how it can be controlled.
§ Mr. Lloyd
No, a one-kilo bomb, and that question brings me to my very next point. The question arises—and it is of great importance--what is to happen, not in regard to a one-kilo bomb, but in regard to the big incendiary bomb. Of course nobody would suggest that a girl, or indeed any householder, is capable of dealing with a big incendiary bomb. For that we must rely upon the emergency fire-fighting scheme, as put forward by the local authority and approved by the Home Office or the Scottish Office. It might interest the Committee—because I think it is very important to correct the perspective with regard to incendiary bombs of various sizes about which we are continually hearing—if I gave details of the average emergency fire-fighting schemes that we contemplate. We have prepared a model scheme as a guide for fire brigade officers of a town of 80,000 inhabitants.
§ Mr. Bellenger
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary now telling the Committee what the Home Office proposes to do or what the local authorities propose to do?
§ Mr. Bellenger
May I respectfully point out, Sir Dennis, that that point of Order was raised, and hon. Members were ruled out of Order.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Member. I thought he was asking a question to which he wanted some reply from the Under-Secretary. I do not follow his point of Order.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I was asking whether the Under-Secretary is in Order in referring to schemes to be initiated by the Home Office, since we were informed earlier that this Clause deals only with the local authorities and what they are to do?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Further to the point of Order, perhaps I may explain the position. As I stated in an earlier part of my speech, there is constant co-operation between the Home Office and the local authorities as to what kind of scheme would be approved. I am suggesting the sort of scheme which, if it were submitted by a local authority, would have the wholehearted approval of my right hon. Friend. I think the Committee wishes to hear this point.
§ Mr. Lloyd
With regard to the point made by the hon. Member opposite, let us take the position as it would be in a town of 80,000 inhabitants, with no extraordinary fire risks, but situated in a part of the country which would be exposed to air attack. In peace time, such a town might be adequately protected against fire risks by a brigade equipped with two engines and perhaps a trailer pump, and having a staff consisting of a few whole-time firemen and a rather larger number of retained men who had periodical drills and were ready to turn out when required in case of fires. What would such a town require as an emergency fire scheme? First and foremost, it would require a system of patrols equipped 1959 with trailer pumps. When there was any risk of air-raid fires, these patrol units would follow one another round prearranged routes, as policemen on a beat, round different sections of the town at intervals varying according to the degree of fire risk in those districts.
Secondly, the town might be divided into five sections, and in each section it would be necessary to have a base for mustering and reporting anything observed during the fire patrols. At those bases also would be stationed pumping appliances of a greater capacity as reserves for dealing with exceptional fires with which, for any reason, the patrols could not cope. The peace-time fire station would be one such base, and four other auxiliary fire stations might be provided at garages, schools or any other appropriate points. There would be three auxiliary fire stations, and the Government would provide a medium trailer pump for each of the three auxiliary stations. The Government would supply a still more powerful pump for relaying water in large quantities from the river, if there were one, or a lake, pool, or swimming bath, or any other exceptional supply of water that might be available in an emergency. The Government might thus, in all, provide one heavy pump, three medium trailer pumps and 20 light trailer pumps to this town, each appliance, of course, being fully equipped with the necessary hose and other equipment. There would need to be about 175 auxiliary firemen to man the station and patrol units, and probably this town would have to train not less than 300 men for actual fire-fighting duties.
I suggest to the Committee that we have to consider the adequacy of these proportions, not from the point of view of what is the adequacy of one particular detail, such as the gas-proof room, the respirator, the scoop and sand container for dealing with small incendiary bombs, sandbags, or even the emergency firefighting equipment, but from the point of view of the adequacy of the scheme, taking all these precautions in their proper spheres and lumped together, as an organised and co-ordinated system for dealing with the dangers of air raids. I suggest to the Committee that we have had an extremely interesting and practical discussion on this subject, which might be taken as a model in many of the local 1960 authority discussions that will have to take place all over the country during the coming months. I now ask the Committee to pass the Clause.
§ Mr. Lloyd
With regard to the first point, of course electricity is the best form of lighting for this particular purpose, although an adapted gas appliance might also be useful; but obviously the main point is to consume, in the gas-proof room, as little air as possible from the point of view of illumination. With regard to factory premises, I think there is an Amendment on the Paper on which that question can be raised.
§ Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.