HC Deb 17 November 1938 vol 341 cc1039-44
39. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many district councils throughout Great Britain have approached him with a request that where they represent considerable populations they should be allowed to operate their own air-raid precautions arrangements as autonomous authorities?

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)

Sixty-two authorities have applied under Section 1 (2) (b) of the Act.

40. Sir Thomas Cook

asked the Lord Privy Seal the approximate number of civilians who are still without gas-masks; and on what date it is proposed to complete the issue?

Sir J. Anderson

It is not possible to give reliable figures until returns have been received from local authorities of the outstanding numbers and sizes required. As regards the last part of the question, it is estimated that sufficient respirators for the whole of the population will be available in three months.

41. Sir T. Cook

asked the Lord Privy Seal the estimated number of trailer pumps required by the auxiliary fire service; the number at present available; and the number so far allotted?

Sir J. Anderson

It is impossible to give a close estimate of the total number of trailer pumps which will be required until all the air-raid lire precautions schemes to be submitted by fire authorities have been received and examined. From the material at present available, however, it is estimated that the number will be between 12,000 and 15,000. On the schemes at present dealt with, trailer pumps to the number of about 4,250 have been allocated to the various brigades, and 2,350 have been delivered. On the contracts placed so far, about 6,500 trailer pumps have been ordered, and deliveries are proceeding at the rate of about 120 a week.

Captain Heilgers

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that a disproportionate number of these light trailer pumps have been issued to the big towns and will he, in future, expedite their delivery to smaller towns where people are keen on fire-brigade organisation?

Sir J. Anderson

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that every effort will be made to secure equitable distribution.

Mr. Levy

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that when these trailer pumps are delivered to these rural areas, there will be an adequate supply of water available?

Sir J. Anderson

That is a matter primarily for the authority applying for the use of these pumps, but if my hon. Friend has any information as to water supplies I shall be glad to have it.

Mr. Levy

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is a matter of general knowledge that there is no adequate water supply available in the majority of rural areas throughout the country?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Do I understand that on the figure given of 12,000 to 15,000 it will take about two years at the present rate of delivery to provide the total required; and if so can the right hon. Gentleman not accelerate delivery?

Mr. Bossom

Is there any special date by which local authorities must submit their reports?

Sir J. Anderson

I think I answered a question last week in the sense that the local authorities were, from time to time, jogged with a view to ensuring that applications which were being held up, were sent in without further delay. As regards the question put by the hon. Gentleman opposite, I think the sum actually works out at something less than a year, taking account of the number already delivered, but every possible step will be taken to see that deliveries are expedited.

42. Lieut.-Commander Tufnell

asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps are taken at the present time to ensure that only efficient men are enrolled in the auxiliary lire brigade services with a view to avoiding wasteful expenditure on the training of men unsuitable for the work involved: and what precise instructions have been issued on this point?

Sir J. Anderson

In a Home Office memorandum, of which I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy, local authorities have been given full information arid guidance as to the measures to he taken for the recruitment and training of an auxiliary fire service. Suitable conditions of service and a 6o hours' training syllabus for auxiliary firemen have been included, the object being to secure for training men who would be able to undertake the required duties in an emergency. In particular, it is stipulated that auxiliary firemen must be persons of good character, between the ages of 25 and 50, and all applicants, before being accepted for training, are required to pass a medical examination.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman yet able to inform the House of what steps he will take to accelerate the recruiting which is so much needed among men of this type?

Sir J. Anderson

No, Sir, but I hope to be able to do so.

Lieut.-Commander Tufnell

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there are a great many men already available who have not been called upon to take up these duties?

Sir J. Anderson

These are all questions which I am looking into at present.

Mr. Davidson

How many complete schemes on the lines indicated have been submitted by local authorities, and how often have local authorities jogged the Government on this question?

Sir J. Anderson

I do not think that arises directly out of the question.

43. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has yet reached a decision upon the advisability or otherwise of requiring that all gas masks distributed during the crisis shall now be returned to store?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, Sir. I have come to the conclusion that it is best to maintain the existing instructions, to which I referred last Thursday, at any rate until a much more substantial reserve supply of respirators has been accumulated.

Mr. W. A. Robinson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that composition of these gas masks is so shoddy that their life is limited and they are useless?

44. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he intends to incorporate the services of the special police in Scotland in the revised air-raid precautions plans?

Sir J. Anderson

Under present arrangements the services of special constables would be used in an emergency to reinforce the regular police and to provide the personnel for manning the Observer Corps posts.

58. Sir John Mellor

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the Government propose to take steps, by legislation or otherwise, to make those persons who negligently lose or damage gas-masks, which are public property, liable to a penalty?

Sir J. Anderson

I am considering my hon. Friend's suggestion.

59. Mr. Logan

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is prepared to have immediate consultation with the Liverpool authorities for the protection of Liverpool people against air-raids; the evacuation in war time; and to consider the advisability of catacombing Everton Hill?

Sir J. Anderson

I am always ready to arrange for my officers to discuss any particular point with local authorities arising out of the preparation of their schemes. Liverpool in common with other scheme-making authorities has been engaged for some time past in preparatory work in accordance with instructions issued from my Department, and from time to time consultations have taken place. I assume the subjects referred to in the question are included in this preparatory work, and I am ready to arrange for consultation if and when it is asked for.

Mr. Logan

As the suggestion in the question is in the nature of an innovation, will the right hon. Gentleman meet a representative body of Members of Liverpool to discuss this important thing?

Sir J. Anderson

I shall be happy to consider that.

60. Sir Frank Sanderson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in view of the difficulties that have been placed in the way of private citizens who have provided air-raid shelters on their own property, he will provide that competent architects and surveyors, acting for the respective local authorities, are authorised to instruct householders, free of charge, as to suitable air-raid shelters that may be erected at householders' own premises, should they wish to provide these?

Sir J. Anderson

It is already a part of the duty of local authorities to give advice and instruction to the public as to air-raid precautions. There is also a considerable amount of information and advice about air-raid shelters in the handbooks and memoranda issued by the Department, and I am considering what further action can be taken.

61. Sir F. Sanderson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that persons who, during the crisis week, in order to assist the authorities in the work of air-raid precautions, erected on their own premises, and at their own expense, air-raid shelters capable of sheltering a number of persons, are now threatened with a penalty under building bye-laws of 5, and 40s. for each day after written notice of the offence from the council; and if, in view of the imminence of a state of national emergency at the time this air-raid precautions work was put in hand by the private individual, and the inadequacy of the precautions provided by the authorities, he will take immediate steps to protect persons who, in a spirit of patriotism and efficiency, provided air-raid shelters not only for the individuals concerned but for a large number of other members of the general public?

Sir J. Anderson

I have received no information about the cases referred to in the question, but if my hon. Friend will send me particulars I will at once look into the matter.

Sir F. Sanderson

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that there are a number of cases where people have received orders that they will be fined to the extent I have mentioned in my question because they carried out their duty in providing at their own cost the necessary facilities during a time of great emergency?

Sir J. Anderson

I have just said that I am not aware of that.

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