HC Deb 31 March 1938 vol 333 cc2157-67
20. Mr. Sandys

asked the Home Secretary the number of persons who have, over the whole country up to date, enrolled in the various voluntary air-raid precaution services; and what is the total number required?

Mr. Lloyd

My right hen. Friend is arranging to obtain periodical returns of the progress of the enrolment of personnel for air-raid precautions services, but he is not yet in a position to give the particulars for which my hon. Friend asks in the first part of the question. As regards the second part, the number may be put at approximately 1,000,000.

21. Mr. Mabane

asked the Home Secretary whether any uniform conditions of enrolment for air-raid wardens have been approved by his Department; if so, whether all local authorities have been instructed to conform to these uniform conditions; if not, whether every local authority is devising its own conditions of enrolment; and whether the conditions of enrolment imply any sort of contract on the part of the volunteer personnel to undertake certain duties either in connection with training or in the event of an emergency?

Mr. Lloyd

I think my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The duties of an air-raid warden would be the same in every part of the country, and those who volunteer for this service will require certain training in time of peace. There is no question of a volunteer entering into any binding contract on enrolment.

Mr. Mabane

Do I understand, therefore, it is taken as certain that the volunteer who enrols will present himself for duty if required to do so?

Mr. Lloyd

We rely upon his being a real volunteer.

22. Mr. Mabane

asked the Home Secretary how many of the 2,000 local authorities concerned have, at the present time, storage accommodation for gasmasks complete, ready and available for use; how many gas-masks of civilian pattern, apart from samples, have been distributed from the Government regional stores to the local authorities for storage; and whether, in the event of an emergency and in default of their distribution, there is any means whereby the gasmasks could be distributed directly from the Government's regional stores to the civilian population?

42. Mr. Anstruther-Gray

asked the Home Secretary whether regional stores for gas-masks have yet been established and stocked; and by what method, and in what circumstances, are the gas-masks to be distributed to the population?

Mr. Lloyd

No local authorities yet have storage accommodation ready for use, but schemes are being prepared by them which will include the provision of this accommodation and will give particulars of the respirators required (such particulars having been obtained by house-to-house census) in the areas for which the local authorities are responsible. In the event of an emergency arising before the local storage accommodation is in use, respirators would be sent from the regional stores to the local authorities for distribution.

23. Mr. Mabane

asked the Home Secretary whether any instructions have been given to local authorities that it is proper for them to make arrangements to meet the necessary out-of-pocket expenses of voluntary air-raid precautions personnel; whether he is aware that in many cases not even travelling expenses are being met and that, in consequence, volunteers have to walk several miles to and from the training centres to perform their duties; and whether he will take immediate steps to remove this discouragement to the recruitment of air-raid precautions personnel?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that local authorities generally are unaware that the reasonable travelling expenses of volunteers attending for training may properly be defrayed by local authorities as part of their air-aid precautions expenditure, but in view of what my hon. Friend says, I am arranging for the Department's regional inspectors to notify local authorities who may be in doubt.

Mr. Robert Gibson

Is this being done in conjunction with the Scottish Office, so that the same procedure will be followed in Scotland?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes, Sir.

24. Mr. Bull

asked the Home Secretary whether any local authorities have yet completed any bomb-proof shelters for the civilian population; and, if so, how many such shelters have been completed and where?

Mr. Lloyd

In my right hon. Friend's view it would be premature, and indeed misleading, to attempt to give any figures about public shelters which have been specially provided by local authorities. The circular which was issued on 28th March indicated that the first step should be a survey of existing accommodation which could be made available to the public, and until that survey is completed it will be impossible to judge the extent to which special construction can be considered.

Sir Percy Harris

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the time for collecting information has gone by, and that the time for action has come? Over a year has been alowed to elapse while inquiry has been made, and the country desires that more active steps should be taken.

Mr. Lloyd

I am just as anxious as the hon. Baronet that action should be taken, but perhaps I may point out to him that the Act was passed just before Christmas.

Mr. Shinwell

When does the hon. Gentleman expect the survey to be completed?

Mr. Lloyd

The survey will have to be carried out by all local authorities, and we are pressing them to carry out this duty with the utmost speed.

Mr. Thorne

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a number of Members in this House have already made up their minds what to do if this happens? I know what I am going to do. I am going to stop indoors.

25. Mr. Bull

asked the Home Secretary how many local authorities have yet provided permanent and, in the view of his Department, adequate training accommodation for voluntary air-raid precautions personnel?

Mr. Lloyd

Training is proceeding actively in most areas, and many local authorities will no doubt be able to carry out this training in existing accommodation at their disposal. The adequacy of such accommodation depends upon the rate of enrolment of volunteers in each area, and numbers of authorities are taking additional accommodation and will be submitting their expenditure for this purpose for approval under the Act.

26 and 27. Captain Cobb

asked the Home Secretary (1) whether air-raid wardens are entitled to receive the air-raid warden's badge on completion of one month's training; and, if so, how many of these badges have actually been distributed by local authorities to air-raid wardens;

(2) how many air-raid warden's badges have been manufactured and are in the possession of his Department; and how many have been distributed to local authorities?

Mr. Lloyd

A quarter of a million badges and 50,000 brooches have been manufactured, of which 110,000 badges and 35,000 brooches have been despatched to local authorities for distribution, leaving 140,000 badges and 15,000 brooches in the custody of the Department. Badges and brooches are given at the discretion of the local authority to volunteers who have completed one month's service and are considered efficient in their duties. The latest available returns indicate that 5,367 badges and 1,162 brooches have been so distributed, of which 1,987 were badges for wardens.

29. Sir John Mellor

asked the Home Secretary whether the gas masks supplied for the training of air-raid wardens in Warwickshire are similar in all respects to those which are being stored for distribution in the event of emergency?

Mr. Lloyd

The service respirator is being used to some extent in Warwickshire for the training of air-raid wardens as a matter of local convenience. This type is not the one that is being stored for the civilian population, but it is one of the two types that will be issued as service equipment for Air-Raid Precautions Service.

30. Sir Charles Cayzer

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the large number of persons who desire to be trained in air-raid precautionary work and the very limited facilities now available for such training, he will take steps to encourage the provision of courses by independent persons taking pupils on a paying basis?

Mr. Lloyd

The qualifications for instructors are laid down in memoranda issued by the Home Office, and my hon. Friend will appreciate that official recognition could properly be given only to instructors so qualified. The responsibility for making arrangements for giving instruction and advice to the public with regard to air-raid precautions is by Statute placed upon the local authorities, who are in many cases setting up their own training schools. In the circumstances my right hon. Friend would not think it right to authorise courses being set up by independent persons on a fee-paying basis for this service.

34. Colonel Ponsonby

asked the Home Secretary whether he intends to introduce legislation, similar to that in force in other countries, designed to ensure that new buildings shall be so constructed as to minimise air-raid dangers?

Mr. Lloyd

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) on 24th March.

35. Mr. Sandys

asked the Home Secretary, in view of the fact that in the air-raid precautions circular of 28th March the local authorities have been told that they need not prepare schemes for evacuation until so directed by him, how soon he expects to be in a position to issue such directions to the authorities concerned?

Mr. Lloyd

My right hon. Friend has this subject under examination, but he is not yet able to say when he will be in a position to consult the local authorities concerned.

Mr. Sandys

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that this circular represents no departure from the Government's attitude towards the question of evacuation as outlined by the Home Secretary in the Committee stage of the Air-Raid Precautions Bill?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes, Sir. I can certainly give that assurance.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Home Office considering the question of having a very early experiment of evacuation?

Mr. Lloyd

This is a very important subject which requires to be considered in the light of the schemes brought forward by the local authorities.

Mr. Ede

Does the hon. Member realise that the local authorities will require a very considerable amount of time to put any scheme into operation, and that therefore, time is the essence of this matter?

Mr. Lloyd

It is urgent that they should press on with the work on which they are at present engaged.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Are we to understand that the local authorities have been instructed to lodge their schemes with the Home Office?

Mr. Lloyd

They have been told that there is a certain central responsibility.

36. Mr. Sandys

asked the Home Secretary what steps are being taken to protect against air-raid those persons who live in houses the strengthening or adaptation of which to provide any reasonable degree of protection is impracticable?

Mr. Lloyd

It is one of the duties of local authorities to provide such shelters for the protection of the public as may be necessary. The circular which was issued on 28th March gives guidance to local authorities on this matter.

Mr. Sandys

Is my hon. Friend aware that the circular does not give guidance on this particular point, and does he mean by his answer that people will not be expected to remain in houses which do not afford any sort of protection against the effects of blast?

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. This subject is mentioned in specific terms in the circular.

37. Mr. Crowder

asked the Home Secretary what steps have been taken to provide hospital accommodation for serious air-raid casualties in London and other large towns?

Mr. Lloyd

A survey of hospital accommodation generally is now being conducted by the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland in cooperation with medical officers of health. As soon as that survey is completed my right hon. Friend hopes to be able to advise local authorities as to the steps they should take to provide accommodation for serious casualties.

38. Mr. Crowder

asked the Home Secretary which London boroughs have not yet appointed full-time salaried air-raid precautions officers?

Mr. Lloyd

In some boroughs either existing officers have been seconded or special appointments have been made, while in two boroughs honorary organisers have been appointed. In the remaining boroughs, 13 in number, no officer has been seconded or specially appointed, but the town clerk is charged directly with the work of organisation. I will send my hon. Friend a list of the 13 boroughs in question.

Mr. Crowder

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the provisions which he has outlined are satisfactory, and does he not think that each borough ought to have a whole-time man in charge?

Mr. Lloyd

It is not possible to say whether any scheme is the right one in all circumstances, because they may differ. In certain circumstances the town clerk, with the prestige of his office, may be the best man to be in general charge.

Mr. R. Gibson

From what bodies are the officers seconded?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot say without notice.

39. Sir J. Mellor

asked the Home Secretary whether he is satisfied that the public utility authorities generally are proceeding to take proper precautions against air raids, or whether such precautions are being delayed pending financial arrangements with the Government?

Mr. Lloyd

A large number of public utility undertakings have already made progress with schemes for the protection of their plant and personnel on the same lines as other employers. The additional works contemplated by my right hon. Friend in his statement of 23rd December are under examination by technical committees representing some of the public utility services and negotiations with regard to the basis of financial assistance for such additional works will begin next week.

Mr. H. G. Williams

How long will it be before a final decision is arrived at, so that people can get on with the job?

Mr. Lloyd

They are in certain cases getting on with it.

Mr. Williams

I mean before certain major decisions can be arrived at.

Mr. Lloyd

Negotiations are in progress.

Mr. McEntee

In view of the importance of the questions and answers on this matter, will the hon. Gentleman make some representations to the responsible officers to acquaint themselves with these questions and answers by purchasing the OFFICIAL REPORT?

Mr. Lloyd

I think the local authorities are aware of the importance of that.

40. Sir J. Mellor

asked the Home Secretary whether he will issue, in the form of a White Paper, the terms of his further instructions of 28th March to local authorities concerning air-raid precautions schemes?

Mr. Lloyd

The circular and accompanying documents to which my hon. Friend refers have been issued and put on sale. Copies have been placed in the Library.

41. Sir Smedley Crooke

asked the Home Secretary whether, as appointments for air-raid precautions officers have to be recommended by approved bodies to local government authorities, he will consider the advisability of appointing the British Legion as an approved body to recommend ex-service officers and men as air-raid precautions officers in view of their suitability by past experience for the work?

Mr. Lloyd

I think my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The appointment of such officers is within the discretion of local authorities and there is no requirement that they should be recommended by approved bodies.

Mr. Thorne

As the local authorities are going to appoint some of these officers, will the Home Office pay anything towards the expenses?

Mr. Lloyd

Under the terms of the Act, it would rank as approved expenditure.

43. Mr. Anstruther-Gray

asked the Home Secretary whether plans are being prepared for the evacuation of children from the larger and more vulnerable cities in the event of war?

Mr. Lloyd

The arrangements to be made as regards children under air-raid conditions are under consideration by local education authorities in the light of a circular letter issued by the Board of Education on 3rd January.

48. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether, with a view to securing the adequate defence and protection of the civilian population in the United Kingdom from the effects of air-bombing, he will consider appointing a Minister whose sole duty and responsibility will be related to air-raid precautions, including the provision of air-raid shelters, both public and private?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave on 7th February last in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for North Newcastle (Sir N. Grattan-Doyle).

57. Mr. Denville

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the intention of certain local authorities to rate air-raid shelters; and whether he will consider, if it be necessary, the introduction of legislation to prevent any such imposition?

The Minister of Health (Sir Kingsley Wood)

The reply to the first part of the question is in the negative. I am not at present aware of any necessity for the introduction of legislation to deal with this matter.

60. Mr. R. C. Morrison

asked the Minister of Health what was the purpose of the recent survey of voluntary hospitals carried out by his Department; whether the information is being collected as part of the air-raid precautions scheme; and whether it will be communicated to the local authorities?

Sir K. Wood

The survey, which is not limited to voluntary hospitals, has been undertaken with a view to making the fullest use of the existing hospital facilities, and extending them if necessary in a national emergency. The results of the survey will in due course be a matter for discussion with the local authorities.

Mr. Morrison

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that some of the local authorities are having difficulties because they find themselves unable to complete the ambulance part of their air-raid precautions until they are able to say definitely which hospitals they will be able to use?

Sir K. Wood

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will inform me of those local authorities, and I will have special regard to their cases.

Sir Joseph Lamb

Will provision be made for these hospitals to have additional staffs seeing that at the present time they cannot serve their own populations?