HC Deb 19 May 1938 vol 336 cc562-70
28. Miss Ward

asked the Home Secretary with which local authorities in Northumberland advance authorisation schemes in connection with air-raid precautions have been concluded?

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

In my reply to the hon. Lady on the 9th instant, I referred to advance authorisation in accordance with normal practice in connection with air-raid general precautions schemes in the county. The only authorities required to prepare general schemes are the county council and the county borough councils of Newcastle and Tynemouth. The preparation of schemes, in different degrees of advancement, is in progress in all three areas.

Miss Ward

Have any advance authorisation schemes been concluded?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes, the training centres have been approved under the scheme in Newcastle, and the organisation of salaries in the county.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Is there any scheme yet about the burning pit-heaps in West Yorkshire?

Miss Ward

When is further progress likely to be made, as there are many very important works, etc., on the Tyne?

Mr. Lloyd

I am awaiting further proposals from the councils themselves.

29. Sir John Mellor

asked the Home Secretary whether, in respect of the salaries of those county or borough police officers whose whole time has been employed in air-raid precautions, the Exchequer contribution has been calculated on the 50 per cent, basis, appropriate to normal police services, or whether it has been calculated on the 60, 65, 70 or 75 per cent, basis provided in the Schedule to the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937?

Mr. Lloyd

It is intended that expenditure incurred by reason of the employment of a police officer whole time on airraid precautions work on behalf of a local authority's general air-raid precautions services will rank for air-raid precautions grant at the appropriate rate.

31. Mr. Lipson

asked the Home Secretary whether he proposes to introduce legislation to guarantee employers against any liability for injuries received during an air-raid by their employés while they are in a shelter or refuge provided by a firm for their employés' benefit?

Mr. Lloyd

This important matter has not been overlooked and it will be for the Government of the day to decide what legislation is necessary in regard to compensation for injury sustained as the result of enemy air attack.

Mr. Lipson

Is not my hon. Friend aware that it is desirable that employers should make these preparations, that unless they are assured beforehand that no liability is likely to be incurred, they will hesitate to do so, and that that will mean, in the event of air raids, that their employés will go on to the streets and add to the confusion and panic which may arise; and therefore, would it not be desirable to arrive at an arrangement in advance?

Mr. Lloyd

I will take note of my hon. Friend's point, but I am not in a position to add anything to my answer.

Mr. Thorne

Does the hon. Gentleman think that air raids in future will be any worse than those we had 20 years ago to-night?

Mr. J. Griffiths

Before the hon. Gentleman makes any change or admits any principle of this kind which, in the circumstances, will completely abrogate the Workmen's Compensation Act, which gives compensation to a man who is injured in the course of or arising out of his employment, will he consult with the trade unions?

Mr. Lloyd


33. Lieut.-Commander Tufnell

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the shortage of air-raid precautions instructors, he will take steps to ensure that there is forthcoming an adequate supply of candidates who have previous experience as lecturers or instructors in similar kinds of work in order to reduce to a minimum the amount of time required for training?

Mr. Lloyd

All local authorities are being informed to-day of the new scheme for substantially increasing the number of persons qualified to undertake training in anti-gas measures to which I referred in the reply which I gave on 27th April to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). It is hoped that by this means any present shortage of instructors can rapidly be made good, so that training can be provided for volunteers as and when they require it.

Lieut.-Commander Tufnell

Will my hon. Friend consider the necessity of getting instructors who have speaking ability and the ability to impart their knowledge?

34. Mr. Amnion

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to a speech by the Mayor of Camberwell, Chairman of the Air-Raid Precautions Committee, on air-raid precautions, alleging obstruction by the Home Office, lack of co-ordination and co-operation with the local authorities, and undue delay in replying to correspondence; is he aware that the speech referred to represents the views of most of the local authorities; and what steps does he propose to take to remedy these grievances?

Mr. Lloyd

My right hon. Friend has seen extracts in the Press from this speech, which appear to refer mainly to matters affecting the Borough of Camberwell. He is aware that owing to the complexity and magnitude of this task delays have occurred in dealing with some of the questions raised by local authorities, and it was on this account that at the end of March he circulated the outlines of a model scheme which would help authorities to submit their proposals in a form that would permit prompter decision. He has also taken steps to strengthen the organisation of the section of the Department which deals with proposals of local authorities submitted under the Act, and these steps are already proving effective as arrears are being rapidly disposed of. He has also had discussions with the organisations representing local authorities which, within the limits permitted by the Act, will result in giving authorities greater freedom in regard to expenditure on administration and preliminary organisation.

Mr. Ammon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when schemes were submitted to him based on the model scheme, they were afterwards sent back, turned down, and it was said that it had been decided to make another scheme?

Mr. Lloyd

No, Sir. The scheme to which the hon. Member is referring deals with first-aid posts, and it was based on the memorandum which was issued before the issue of the model scheme. It is true that after further consultation with medical authorities and certain extra experiments, it was decided to simplify the first-aid posts, but that had nothing to do with the issue of the model scheme.

Mr. Ammon

Is the hon. Gentleman also aware that when a scheme was submitted to him for the storing of gasmasks, it was turned down without any viewing of it by the Home Office authorities?

Mr. Lloyd

In the scheme circulated by my right hon. Friend, it was suggested, for purposes of securing the quick distribution of gas-masks, that the depots should not contain more than 30,000 gasmasks, but the proposals submitted by the Borough of Camberwell were for a depot of about 270,000 gas-masks. Therefore, it was obvious that it would not be right for the Home Office to depart so much from their scheme unless there were very special facilities for quick distribution in that particular case. That is under investigation.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Will the hon. Gentleman try to get his Department to make up its mind what it wants, because it is the experience of local authorities that when schemes have been put forward, they have been materially changed after the organisation had been set up to deal with them? Does not that discourage any effort by the local authorities?

Mr. Lloyd

I must make the position clear to the House. This is a very difficult, complicated and novel matter, with which the local authorities have to deal. In spite of copious memoranda issued by the Home Office to enable them to deal with it, they still do not always find it possible to deal with it on the right lines at the first attempt. I would not for a moment criticise that, but it was with a view to assisting them in their work that this model scheme was issued. In spite of that extra assistance, we must expect that there must be a certain interchange between the Home Office and the local authorities in getting these schemes going, but we ought to work together, and not indulge in mutually destructive criticism.

35. Mr. Leach

asked the Home Secretary what is the nature of the research experiments carried out at Chatham Royal Hospital in connection with testing the effects of high explosives, the number of animals used, the number killed, and the type or types of animals used?

Sir S. Hoare

I will send the hon. Member the particulars for which he asks.

Mr. Radford

On a point of Order. Is it a sufficient answer to a. question put down by an hon. Member of this House, to say that the Minister will send a reply to the Member personally? May I submit, Mr. Speaker, that that does not give other hon. Members an opportunity of seeing an answer which may be of equal interest to all, and, obviously, in those circumstances the only thing will be for Members of the House to put down the same question on successive days.

Sir S. Hoare

On that point of Order, may I say that I have had some consultation with the hon. Member who put down this question which raises considerations of a very confidential character in connection with these experiments. It was on that ground, and on that ground alone, that I gave the answer to which the hon. Member refers.

Mr. Speaker

I should not like to give a general Ruling on the point of Order which has been raised. It is supposed to be the right of all Members of the House to hear the answers which are given, but I would not say that there may not be occasions when it would be necessary to take the course adopted by the Minister in this case. As I say, I would prefer not to give a general Ruling on the subject without any regard to the particular nature of the question.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Some hon. Members are very much interested in the answer which will be made to this question. Is it necessary that we should individually put questions on the Order Paper?

Mr. Speaker

It is difficult for me to offer guidance to hon. Members on that point.

Mr. Lee

Can we get an answer if we apply privately?

Mr. Speaker

No doubt the hon. Gentleman will get an answer if he applies to the Minister.

38. Colonel Nathan

asked the Home Secretary what is the present position as to the delivery to local authorities of special fire-fighting apparatus for use in the event of air raids?

Mr. Lloyd

About 250 fire pumps, mainly of the heavier types, have been issued to local authorities in connection with their emergency schemes. Some 750 more of the medium and heavier types, and over 3,000 light trailer pumps, have been ordered, and, according to present expectations, the majority of these machines will be issued in the course of this year.

Captain Heilgers

In making the distribution, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the most vulnerable part of England, especially in harvest time, is East Anglia?

Colonel Nathan

Is it to be taken from the right hon. Gentleman's answer that it is anticipated that no necessity for the use of these plans will arise before the end of the current year?

39. Colonel Nathan

asked the Home Secretary what is the present position as to the issue of a leaflet of instructions to individual householders in relation to air-raid precautions?

Mr. Lloyd

As hon. Members are aware, the householders' handbook has been distributed to local authorities for issue to personnel of air-raid precautions services and local authorities will now be invited to give their considered views as to the form in which printed advice can most effectively be given to householders. My right hon. Friend attaches more importance at this stage to personal visits by air-raid wardens, and these have begun in a large number of areas.

Colonel Nathan

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that as long ago as 3rd February he informed me, in answer to a question, that preparations were being made to give information and instruction to householders? Is there any indication of that being done; and is the hon. Gentleman aware that individual householders are at present left without any instruction or information of any kind?

Mr. Lloyd

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is under a misapprehension. I was referring to the 600,000 copies of this document which have been issued.

Colonel Nathan

Will the hon. Gentleman refer to the answer which he gave me on the previous occasion? If he does he will there find that it is with direct reference to the answer which he gave, that this question is framed.

Mr. Sandys

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that nearly two years ago he informed the House that these instructions were in an advanced state of preparation; and what is the cause of the delay?

Mr. Lloyd

After the passing of the Air-Raids Precautions Act, when Parliament placed a statutory duty in regard to the information and instruction of the public on the local authorities, it was felt desirable to obtain the views of the local authorities before definite action was taken in this matter, and for that reason 600,000 copies were issued to them.

Colonel Nathan

I wish to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the earliest opportunity on the Motion for the Adjournment.

40. Colonel Nathan

asked the Home Secretary whether he is now able to state the division of functions between his Department and the Ministry of Health regarding air-raid precautions in relation to hospitals in London?

Mr. Lloyd

As regards the protection of persons in the hospitals, this is a matter for the Home Office, and my right hon. Friend will be issuing shortly to hospitals a handbook on the subject. As regards the organisation of the hospital system for dealing with casualties, this is being dealt with jointly by my Department and that of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

Colonel Nathan

To which Department or to whom are hospital authorities to apply when seeking information as to what the functions of the hospital are to be in the event of an air raid, and how those functions are to be performed?

Mr. R. C. Morrison

Will the hon. Gentleman do what he can to expedite some decision in this matter; and is he aware that those responsible for voluntary hospitals are unable to get any information and that the local authorities are unable to get any information?

Mr. Lloyd

This matter is being very actively pursued at the present time and I understand that there will be an opportunity for discussing it on another occasion.

50. Sir J. Mellor

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the decision of the Leamington Valuation Committee not to recommend any revision of assessments of rateable property in respect of new works exclusively for use as air-raid shelters; whether he is aware that there is serious doubt on the part of local authorities and of occupiers of property as to the duty of valuation committees in this connection; and whether he will make an early declaration of his intention to amend the law in order to remove doubt and encourage the construction of shelters?

The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)

The answer to the first and second parts of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the last part, I am not yet in a position to add to previous statements upon the matter, which is under consideration.

Sir J. Mellor

When does my right hon. Friend expect a definite answer with regard to this point in view of the fact that the construction of air-raid shelters is meanwhile being discouraged?

Mr. Elliot

In consultation with my right hon. Friend I shall come to a decision at the earliest possible moment.

68. Mr. Lipson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now in a position to state whether the expenditure incurred by an employer to secure the safety of his employés against air raids will be regarded as a legitimate charge against taxable profits in assessing Income Tax?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Simon)

I would refer the hon. Member to the answers which I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) on 18th March and to the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) on 7th April, of which I am sending him copies.

Mr. Lipson

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that those answers were not satisfactory, in that expenditure upon the provision of air-raid shelters would not apparently be regarded as a liability in connection with the calculation of profits subject to Income Tax, and does he not consider it desirable that employers should provide these shelters? Will he not reconsider his decision in the light of these facts and with a view to there being closer co-operation between the Treasury and the Home Office?

Sir J. Simon

I am aware of the importance of the point, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will see that that is capital expenditure and that this is a question of annual revenue.

Mr. Lipson

But does my right hon. Friend realise that this is a matter of urgency to which special consideration should be given?