§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time.
If I have ever cherished the ambition that I might one day have the hon our of piloting a Bill through the House of Commons this is not at all the sort of Bill which I have viewed in my imagination. There is nothing in the Bill with which any sponsor could find grounds of satisfaction. Every Clause, almost every line of it, reflects the anxious times in which we live. It is a Bill that imposes heavy responsibilities and corresponding financial burdens on many shoulders, notably on the shoulders of the general taxpayer. Such responsibilities and such burdens would, no doubt, be regarded as quite intolerable in normal times, but there will, I think, be no disposition in any quarter to question their necessity in present circumstances, and I hope that the House, as a result of the consideration given to the Bill in the course of this Debate, will take the view that its provisions have been carefully designed and skilfully drawn so as to adjust the burden as fairly as is compatible with the gravity and the urgency of the case. The Bill is the result of a careful review over a wide field. It deals accordingly with a number of separate topics whose only connection with one another is that they all relate to the problem of Civil Defence. I do not propose to weary the House with a detailed exposition of the numerous Clauses of what is admittedly a long and complicated Measure, inevitably so because it is a Measure dealing with the repercussions of Civil Defence on many aspects of our national life. What I propose to do, and I hope it will suit the convenience of the House, is to take in order the various Parts into which the Bill is divided and explain the principles which have been followed in framing their provisions. First, however, I should like to make three observations of a general character. The bearing of this will be evident when I come to deal with the obligations of employers.
2634 In the first place, the Bill seeks to capitalise the great volume of good will and readiness to collaborate which exists in all sections of the community. If we had sought in this Bill to define the obligations of everyone in precise terms, and then relied on penal provisions for their enforcement, it would, I believe, have produced a Measure foredoomed to failure. The Bill does contain penal sanctions, but they are there to be held in reserve, because I believe that we shall be putting the yoke on a willing horse. We aim at defining duties, and by offering guidance, and where necessary financial assistance, to make it as easy as possible for those concerned to carry out their duties.
Secondly, hon. Members will find nowhere in this Bill war-time powers in the strict sense of the term. That is a point which should be kept in view in considering the general effect of the Bill. The Bill is concerned solely with powers required in normal times if, indeed, these may be called normal times. Powers that would be taken for the first time in emergency legislation introduced at the beginning of an emergency find no place in this Bill.
Finally, may I say that I had hoped that longer time after the publication of the Bill might have been available for consultation before the House was asked to give it a Second Reading. I regret that that was not possible. There have been consultations, but they have not been as full or as wide as I should have wished. I am sure that the interests concerned which have been looking forward to consultation will, though disappointed, recognise that the time-table to which 'we hope to work has been dictated by events, and will recognise, also, how desirable it is that the principles of the Bill should be adopted, and I hope agreed, before Easter, so that no time may be lost in pressing forward with the urgent and necessary matters dealt with in.this Measure. Local authorities have been told that opportunity for further consultation will be afforded to them before the Committee stage is reached.
I come at once to the contents of the Bill, and I will be as brief and businesslike as I can, for I have a wide field to cover. Part I is designed to put the Lord Privy Seal in order. Though I have been acting as Minister of Civil Defence 2635 since the beginning of November, it seems rather curious that no one has pointedly called attention to the fact that I have entirely lacked any constitutional or legal powers of any kind. I purport to have acted by virtue of delegation from the Home Secretary, but I fear that, in fact, I have been leading an irregular life. As a colleague of mine has remarked, this Part of the Bill is designed to make an honest man of me. I hope the House will have no hesitation in giving its approval to the principle involved. Hon. Members will notice that Part I is made retrospective. They may also have observed that it contains provisions for delegation, for example, to the Minister of Health, who, as the House knows, has undertaken important duties with regard to evacuation.
Part II gives local authorities further powers for which they have asked, powers which it is hoped will be of material value in expediting their preparations. It enables them to earmark in advance buildings, or parts of buildings, either for use as public shelters or for other necessary Civil Defence purposes, such as first-aid posts or ambulance stations. It enables them, also, to enter upon such premises and do necessary preliminary work. Experience has shown clearly that without these powers local authorities are hampered in their preparations. For example, any scheme of public shelters must be on an ordered plan and the shelters have to be properly distributed. It is not enough for a local authority to be dependent upon the good will of people who may be prepared to promise them the use of particular buildings which may not be the most convenient in respect of either site or construction. The necessities of the situation demand that the local authority should be able to choose those buildings which are most suitable and can best serve the needs of the community.
Furthermore, it is not enough that the authority should be assured that the building will be available. If war comes, local authorities will have many duties to discharge and they must be able to do the necessary preparatory work on earmarked buildings so that, with the minimum of delay, the building can be ready for the purposes for which it is to be used. These considerations apply also to buildings required for other air-raid precautions functions, such as first-aid posts and wardens' posts, which do not require 2636 much space. It might be supposed that there would be no difficulty in finding suitable places for them, but they must be conveniently sited, and if they are to be ready to fulfil their functions in an emergency and without delay they must be prepared in advance. This Part of the Bill empowers local authorities to designate buildings for use as public shelters or for other air-raid precautions purposes and, after giving notice, to enter and do the necessary work. The work will be carried out by agreement and the Bill provides for appeal to the Minister against a decision by the local authority to designate particular premises or parts of premises. The grounds of appeal are limited to two: first, that the premises are required for other purposes of public importance; or, secondly, that they are required for use as a private air-raid shelter. This limitation of the right of appeal would not commend itself in normal times, but it is necessary that powers of a somewhat drastic and unusual character should be taken, for the work which has to be done has to be carried through in a reasonable time.
The Bill further provides that when a building or part of a building has been strengthened or adapted for war-time purposes, the owner shall not interfere with the work that has been done without first obtaining the consent of the local authority. This is obviously a very necessary provision. We have provided that if the local authority refuse, or do not give, consent within a short period— six weeks—there shall be an appeal to quarter sessions. Clause 6 contains provisions with regard to compensation, to be paid in respect of the period while work is being executed and for any loss directly suffered through interference with the premises. It provides, further, that if, after the work has been carried out, the normal utility of the premises has been impaired, there shall be a continuing payment of the compensation based upon the degree of the impairment of the utility.
This is a convenient point at which to refer to an important Clause which appears later in the Bill, Clause 48, which deals with the requisitioning of premises and vehicles on the imminence of an emergency which it is thought might lead to war. Even if, as is provided in that Part of the Bill with which I have just been dealing, premises are selected in peace time and adapted for use, it might 2637 still in certain cases be a matter of several days before such premises could be put into a condition to be ready. To meet that point, power is taken in Clause 48 to enable the local authority to take possession of designated premises. Further, His Majesty's Government may take possession of premises required for the purposes of civil Government, and the local authority may requisition vehicles under arrangements approved by the Traffic Commissioner for the area.
In the case of the powers conferred by Clause 48 having to be exercised, provision for compensation is left at large, as hon. Members will observe. Compensation is to be such as Parliament may hereafter determine. The reason for making the distinction is that the compensation to be paid under war conditions has been reserved for emergency legislation. Obviously the terms of compensation in respect of action taken in a period immediately prior to a war emergency should be determined in accordance with the principles applied to action taken in the war emergency, and for that reason the matter is left to later determination. If action were taken under Clause 48 and the war emergency did not supervene, no doubt Parliament would provide for compensation on the lines laid down in Part 11.
I now return to that Part of the Bill with which I was dealing before I turned to Clause 48. Clause 7 contains provisions designed to facilitate the construction of underground shelters. Where a local authority proposes to construct shelters by tunnelling, without opening the surface of the ground except to the extent necessary for the tunnels, and subsequent exits and shafts, they may acquire compulsorily so much of the surface as is necessary for the shaft. The restrictions on the acquisition of commons, open spaces and London squares do not apply in such cases. Moreover, the local authority are not required to pay compensation for the value of the subsoil. Secondly, the Clause contains provisions in regard to a subject discussed recently in this House, underground car-parks which might be adapted for use as shelters. The effect of the provisions of that portion of the Clause is that, where a car-park is provided by a local authority and can be adapted as a shelter, the extra cost of adapting the car-park as a shelter may 2638 rank for grant in accordance with the provisions of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937. It is hoped that the powers so given may prove useful in practice. I ought, however, to tell the House that I do not think this should be regarded as leading up to any wholesale scheme of underground car-parks. The technical advice which I have received from those whose guidance I sought in the matter has not proved quite as encouraging as I had hoped.
I come now to Part III, which contains provisions of very great importance. It is concerned with the obligation upon employers to organise air-raid precautions services in factories or places of business and to provide shelter for their employés. It has long been recognised that employers have a duty to deal with these matters, but the obligation has hitherto been a moral one only. There has been no legal obligation of any sort or kind on employers. This Part of the Bill seeks for the first time to impose a definite legal obligation in that respect, but one which it is intended to enforce with discretion and consideration. It is proposed to make the obligation as regards air-raid precautions services general and applicable to the larger industrial and commercial establishments throughout the country. As regards shelter, in order to ensure that protection is provided rapidly, it is proposed, as the House is already aware, to pay Exchequer grants towards the cost of capital works in respect of shelter provision, if the work is completed or effectively begun before the end of September of this year.
The obligation to provide shelter will rest upon the occupier of any factory premises, the owner of any mine or commercial building situated in an area specified under an Order, that is to say, a vulnerable area, or specified individually although it is situated outside a vulnerable area, if in those premises more than 50 persons normally work. Smaller industrial commercial establishments in vulnerable areas which choose to provide protection for their workpeople will be eligible for financial assistance from the Exchequer on the same terms as larger employers, but grant will not normally be payable for the cost of providing shelter in industrial and commercial establishments in the non-vulnerable areas except in the case of factory premises which have been specially treated as though 2639 they were in vulnerable areas, which have in effect been constituted a vulnerable area.
For the guidance of employers in discharging these obligations it is proposed to issue a code. The code is already in print and I hope that in a provisional form it will be available immediately after Easter. The code embodies the results of the experience of a year or more. It contains a statement of alternative methods of approach to the problem of providing shelter against blast, splinter and the fall of debris, and gives a number of typical designs based upon work that has been carried out. Experience shows that it is not possible to lay down one simple formula for the design of shelter protection. The construction and Say-out of industrial establishments or commercial buildings have to be taken into account, and employers must, therefore, regard the designs included in this code as an indication merely of the way in which the problem can be solved. The Department will do everything possible to afford general guidance, but it cannot undertake to deal with the many individual employers who may wish to proceed on lines of their own and who have obligations to discharge under the Bill. An employer must have recourse, therefore, to his own architect or engineer or builder, and for these technical people the code should afford sufficient guidance.
The code will also indicate the degree of protection to be aimed at in such matters as thickness of walls and the blocking up of windows, and at other points not directly connected with the construction of shelters. The standards of the code will represent, broadly, those which the Department, in the light of all the technical advice and information available from all sources, regards as necessary. Minor deviations from these standards will not be regarded as constituting a violation of the obligation imposed by the Bill. Provided that protection in the degree aimed at by the Bill, or rather by the code, is secured, employers and their architects will be free to apply the code in the circumstances of each particular case as best may suit the type of establishment concerned. The three principal organisations of employers, the Federation of Employers' Organisation, the Federation of British Industries, 2640 and the Associated Chambers of Commerce, have been in consultation with me on the matter, and they have agreed to set up a standing joint committee which will be consulted in regard to the code and other matters arising in connection with this Part of the Bill. The matter will also be discussed with representatives of the workers through the General Council of the Trades Union Congress. The successful operation of this Part of the Bill will depend much more upon the co operation of the great body of employers than upon any sanctions that could be provided in the Bill itself.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
If that is so, may I ask that the consultations will not be confined to the three organisations mentioned?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I shall be glad to consider any suggestions. I was referring particularly to the preliminary consultations already arranged in connection with the code, but I am most anxious to carry as many representative bodies with me in this matter as possible, and if the right hon. Gentleman has a suggestion to make I shall be very glad indeed to consider it. Instead of attempting to lay down in the Bill itself hard-and-fast lines for the procedure in the provision of shelter, we contemplate the issue of a code which will be subject to variation, adjustment and alteration in the light of experience, but which in the first instance will embody all the extensive experience and knowledge we have already gained. There will be the fullest consultation before the code is promulgated, and the code will serve to guide employers in the action they are to take, and will constitute the standard for the purpose of enforcing the compulsory provisions which appear later in the Clause.
§ Captain Sir William Brass
Would my right hon. Friend give any indication as to when the code is coming out?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I have said that it was already in proof and that I hope it would be available immediately after Easter. When the code has been issued, employers will be given an opportunity of deciding for themselves what action they will take, but they are required to make a report, in the case of factory employers to the factory inspector, in the case of commercial buildings to the local authority, stating what action they have taken; and 2641 there is power in the Clause to serve a notice, by the factory inspector in the case of an industrial employer and by the local authority in the case of a commercial employer, upon the individual employer, requiring him within a specified time to take steps to provide shelter in accordance with the standards laid down by the code. There, for the first time, a specific legal obligation is conveyed. We propose to rely in the main on good will. I have had personally the fullest assurances from representatives of employers that they will proceed energetically and with all expedition to carry out the duties imposed upon them by this Part of the Bill. Many employers have already taken action. A very large number have done so, but we must have compulsory powers to deal with what I hope is the small minority of employers who may not be willing or ready to take the necessary action unless compelled to do so.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
This is putting additional duties on factory inspectors. Is it proposed to increase the inspectorate?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary as to what will be involved in the matter.
§ Mr. Simmonds
Can my right hon. Friend explain whether this code is for blast-proof and splinter-proof protection, or for what has been called bomb-proof protection?
§ Sir J. Anderson
Perhaps I may be allowed to proceed with my speech. The Bill is drawn in terms which do not impose any limit in regard to the nature of the shelter to be provided, but what we contemplate is that for the general body of employers the obligation to be imposed by the code will be an obligation to provide a really good type of splinter and blast-proof protection. For such provision financial assistance on the terms which I described to the House a fortnight ago will be available. But the Bill contemplates that in certain special cases more elaborate provision may be required, and in those special cases the financial contribution on the terms covered by my previous statement will be available, notwithstanding that the cost may exceed the general standard contemplated by the code. I hope that that deals with the point raised by my hon. Friend.
2642 I do not think that it is necessary for me to go more fully into the reasons why the Government have decided to provide the assistance which is made available in the precise form given in the Bill. The House will remember that up to the time of last year's Budget Debate the general demand on the part of employers was that expenditure incurred by them for providing shelter should be allowed to rank as an expense in the assessment of Income Tax, but there were at least two substantial reasons against adopting that course. The first was that its adoption would have made a very serious breach in the structure upon which Income Tax administration has been built up. The second, and perhaps from the point of view of employers the more important objection, is that it would have made financial assistance dependent on the existence of profits on a sufficient scale. The arrangements embodied in the Bill are more generous, particularly to those employers who may not be in the happy position of paying as much Income Tax as they would wish to pay.
I have dealt so far with those provisions of this Part of the Bill which are concerned with shelters. This Part deals also, however, with the organisation of air-raid precautions services. The application of the provisions relating to air raid precautions is not limited to vulnerable areas. We have taken the view that it is desirable that in all the larger industrial and commercial establishments throughout the country the workpeople should understand what would be required of them in the event of air attack, because even the least vulnerable parts of the country may be subject to occasional attack, and therefore, that a suitable proportion of the workers should be specially trained in such matters as fire fighting, first-aid and decontamination. We do not propose, with regard to air raid precautions generally, to issue a code, but we are issuing a handbook for guidance. It will be available immediately after Easter and will indicate the measures that in the view of the Department would be suitable. It will indicate, for example, that in smaller establishments, employing up to about 200 persons, about 10 per cent, of the personnel should be specially trained. In larger establishments, the proportion of personnel specially trained might well be smaller.
2643 A very important point in connection with this part of the Bill concerns the supply of equipment. The organisation of training for air-raid precautions work will not be of great value if the necessary equipment is not available. The Department does not propose to undertake the responsibility for finding the necessary supplies of equipment, but, in consultation with the Standing Committee of Employers' Organisations to which I have already referred, we are going into the question how supplies of the necessary equipment in the necessary quantity—and, it might perhaps be added, at reasonable prices—can best be ensured. In regard to this part of the Bill, it is not contemplated that employers should wait until the Act has been passed through all its stages before taking the necessary precautions, and, therefore, the financial provision will be retrospective. It will apply to action taken before the Bill was introduced, if it was action taken in accordance with the general advice previously issued by the Department, and was of such a kind as to afford protection of the general standard contemplated by the code. I feel sure that the decision to make this provision retrospective will be generally welcomed.
There are in Part III of the Bill various rather complicated provisions, rendered necessary to meet special cases, where the building is occupied by more than one employer, where the owner occupies part of the building and other parts are sub-let, and so on; but these are probably all committee points, and I do not think I need detain the House by dwelling on them.
Part IV of the Bill deals with two separate matters. In the first place, it contains provisions relating to the steel shelters which are already being widely distributed and to the strutting of private basements. In the second place, it confers certain new powers in regard to the incorporation of structural precautions in new buildings. As to the steel shelters and the material for the strutting of basements, the Bill provides that local authorities shall give occupiers to whom shelters are being distributed free guidance regarding their erection, and shall further, if they think fit, undertake the erection of these shelters on behalf of the persons to whom they are issued. As regards the strutting of basements, materials will be 2644 provided free to those persons who fall within the category of those to whom free distribution of the steel shelters is to be made—roughly, it will be remembered, householders who are compulsorily insurable under the National Health Insurance Act.
With regard to the work to be done in the strengthening of basements, the Bill goes further, in putting an obligation on the local authority to instal the material. That is a new obligation, and it is right that I should make clear to the House the fact that here we are imposing a new specific obligation on local authorities. For the expenditure incurred in that connection the local authorities will, of course, claim grant on the usual terms of the Act of 1937. Some authorities may think that they are being hardly treated in having this obligation put upon them, and I do not wish to burke that question at all. The fact is that, although the obligation is new, to the extent to which the local authorities discharge it they are, I think it is fair to say, relieving themselves of what would probably have been a more onerous obligation under the Act of 1937.
To the extent to which private shelter provision is provided for the people in question, the obligation of the local authority under the Act of 1937 to provide general shelter for the population will be curtailed, and I think that, if the matter is looked at from that point of view, it will be seen that there is no unfairness in putting this obligation upon the local authorities. It is true that the exact extent of the liability has not been estimated. It is not mentioned in the Memorandum appended to the Bill, for the reason that, until the survey of basements which is now being undertaken has been completed, it will be impossible to measure the extent of the liability; but the point I have already made in regard to the substitution of one liability for another—possibly a more onerous one—loses none of its force.
Clause 24, in Part IV of the Bill, gives the Minister power to make regulations requiring the incorporation of structural precautions in new buildings. This is a course which was recommended from many quarters. Its importance was emphasised in the report of the three engineers who dealt with the general question of splinter and blast-proof protection. In their report, which was dated 2645 20th December and was laid before the House of Commons in January, they said:We should like to place on record our very strong view that immediate legislation should be undertaken with a view to ensuring that no residential building should be erected in future without the inclusion therein of an air-raid shelter of sufficient size to accommodate all the inhabitants of the house in reasonable safety. To delay such legislation is only to add to the difficulty in war-time of providing refuge accommodation.This Clause is designed to give effect to that recommendation. We propose to proceed by way of regulations instead of putting specific provisions in the Statute, because in this matter we have not yet reached finality. We must contemplate that, as further experience is gained, new and better methods of providing protection or of strengthening the design of buildings will be devised, and the regulations will be able to keep pace with these developments. We do not contemplate regulations which will interfere with normal architectural design or practice. What we have in mind is to say in the regulations, "If you build to such a design, well and good, but you must incorporate in your structure appropriate means of protection and shelter." We do not propose, as at present advised, to impose obligations in regard to the smallest type of dwelling-house. We have to be careful that we do not impose requirements, in the interests of safety in thee vent of war, which might tip the whole thing over to an uneconomic basis and prevent houses from being built at all. We shall probably lay down in the regulations that space shall be provided in which a suitable portable shelter can be installed—
§ Miss Wilkinson
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he means that the temporary shelter must be more bullet-proof, blast-proof, and so on, than the actual house itself?
§ Sir J. Anderson
What I mean is that there is no reason why it should not be just as good as shelter within the house. The cost of providing in a small house protection underground or, say, in the scullery, according to any of the designs that have been worked out, is something very substantial indeed, and to insist on such provision might well put a stop to the housing developments which we all wish to see continued. As regards blocks 2646 of flats, however, which do not lend themselves to any form of protection except protection incorporated in the building itself, we contemplate that the regulations should require the making of suitable provision, and, in view of the increase of cost that is likely to be involved, the appropriate Clause contains provision for what is, in effect, an adjustment of the housing subsidy.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but this is very important. Does he realise that what he is doing is giving Ministerial backing to the shoddy building of small dwelling-houses?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not think so at all. I am only explaining the structure of this Part of the Bill. The point that the hon. Lady has raised will no doubt be gone into in Committee, but I do not think her suggestion is correct. It is not a question of shoddy building. Even a good small dwelling-house requires additional protection, and the form of protection that we think most suitable is the sort of outdoor protection which has already been provided, rather than protection incorporated in the structure of the building, the cost of which increases in proportion as the size of the building goes down.
§ Mr. Bevan
Roughly, what the right hon. Gentleman means is that people who are to be accommodated in flats are to have the advantage of shelter incorporated in the structure of the building, whereas those who are unfortunate enough to live in small houses will have to be satisfied merely with blast and splinter-proof shelters outside.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am afraid I cannot undertake to go into all these questions now; I am only explaining what is provided in the Bill. The point with which 2647 I was dealing was with regard to blocks of flats—workers' flats provided by local authorities. In those cases special provision is made for an adjustment of the housing subsidy in order to enable shelter accommodation to be incorporated in the structure. That, I think, is a provision which will commend itself to hon. Members in all quarters of the House.
Before I pass from this Part of the Bill, I should like to refer to a Clause which appears later, but which deals with a cognate matter. Clause 66 provides that existing building by-laws and requirements in local Acts regarding building lines, improvement lines and so on shall not apply to air-raid shelter works executed with authority. It has been found in practice that requirements are imposed which are hampering in their operation, and which were not really intended to apply to structures of the kind now in question.
Part V is concerned with the obligations of public utility undertakings. In general the obligation of these undertakers in regard to the organisation of air-raid precautions services and the provision of shelter protection for employés, are the same as for other classes of employers; but in the case of public utilities the Bill also contains, in Part V, provision to ensure the continuance of the services carried on by the undertakings. In certain cases it goes even further and contains provision designed to ensure the provision of services for which normally some other undertaker would be responsible. In those cases the provision for grant is increased to 50 per cent, for public utility undertakings generally, and as high as 85 per cent, in the case of certain undertakings which may be called upon to make provision which would bring no normal peace time returns. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will be speaking later to-day and will deal in more detail with the provisions of Part V, such as the special position of the railways, in view of the fact that they are likely to be taken over by the State in the event of a war emergency.
§ Sir J. Anderson
This is a Defence Bill. My right hon. Friend will also deal with the position of the Central Electricity Board which is being empowered to 2648 acquire reserve stocks of plant and equipment. My right hon. Friend will also deal with Clause 50, which empowers him to accumulate materials required for the repair of roads and bridges.
Now I come to Part VI of the Bill, which deals with two very important questions, the obscuration of lights and camouflage. In order to understand the provisions of this part of the Bill it is necessary to bear in mind what I said a little earlier that this Bill does not contain provisions that could more suitably be incorporated in a Defence of the Realm Act; but it is necessary to anticipate, and, therefore, I must point out that it is contemplated that if there was war very drastic regulations would be applied in regard to the obscuration of light—regulations requiring what may be described as black-out conditions. If such regulations are to be effective when they are applied, without involving what might be a very serious loss of industrial efficiency, it is important that in the case of industrial undertakings provision should be made in advance for doing what will have to be done in the way of the obscuration of lights on the occurrence of a war emergency. That is the purpose of this part of the Bill as far as it is concerned with lighting. It requires factories, industrial premises and public utility undertakings to be so dealt with that their external lighting can be entirely obscured, and internal lighting can be screened. Subject to certain exceptional cases, railways for example, it is provided that external lighting shall be extinguished.
This Part of the Bill goes on to deal with a somewhat different problem, the obscuration of glare involved in certain industrial processes, such as the glare from blast furnaces, coke ovens and processes involving the exposure from time to time of quantities of molten metal. The glare resulting in such cases is visible from the air at very great distances and its distinctive characteristics, we are told, make it an unmistakable guide for an airman. Therefore, it is essential that provision should be made for obscuring or extinguishing such glare. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about outdoor signs?"] All outdoor signs will have to be extinguished in war-time precautions.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that in my constituency 2649 there is a very large steel works, and when the blast furnaces are discharging there is a stream of molten stuff which causes a glare for many miles around. If that area is to be camouflaged, or the light is to be in any way obscured by any device, on the assumption that that place might be the subject of air attack, will the buildings in the vicinity that might be hit be subject to protection under the Bill?
§ Sir J. Anderson
One of the objects of obscuring glare and of camouflage is to give protection, not only to the individual works concerned, but to the area in which they are situated. The same thing applies in the case of burning pit-heaps, of which hon. Members have spoken from time to time recently. Provision is made in the Bill whereby capital expenditure necessarily and reasonably incurred will attract grant on the terms provided in the Bill.
§ Mr. Gallacher
With respect to the provision for giving notice, does it mean that the Minister will have the power to serve notice and that he will use it?
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is put there with the object of it being used.
Now I come to Part VII, which refers to the obligations which rest upon my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health in regard to the organisation, of facilities for the hospital treatment of casualties, organisation for the training of nurses and the provision of bacteriological services. Later in the Bill there are provisions concerned with evacuation and with the collection of material to facilitate in war time the repair of damage to buildings. With all these matters my right hon. Friend, who, I hope, will be speaking to-morrow, will be in a position to deal, and I need not, therefore, take up time with them now.
Clause 49 contains provision to which I will make a brief reference. That Clause is concerned with the execution of work and the installation of plant for expanding the supplies of water which may be required for fire-fighting in areas in which the conflagration risk is especially great. The provisions in that Clause have been the subject of discussion with representatives of the various fire authorities, and 2650 I think there is general agreement that they will be of considerable value. In view of the very special nature of the provisions required, it is contemplated that grant should be paid at a higher rate, running up to go per cent, in special cases, than would be appropriate under the general provisions of the existing Air-Raid Precautions Act. There is special power given under two Sub-sections of this Clause to the London County Council to facilitate action which, I understand, the council are anxious to undertake with a view to increasing the effectiveness of London's fire organisation for dealing with the sort of situation that may arise in London in the event of war.
There are two or three other Clauses which merit comment. I have already referred to the special powers which are being given to the London County Council. Clause 53 gives such powers in regard to the securing of premises which may be needed for the purpose of auxiliary fire organisations. That Clause provides a simple procedure for securing such premises under compulsory powers. The procedure is not entirely without precedent, but it is such as can only be justified in abnormal conditions.
Clause 55 fills a gap in the existing law. It provides that where equipment such as respirators or the material for steel shelters are issued by the Government free of cost, such equipment shall remain the property of the Crown. Clause 56 is a very important Clause, but as it has already been dealt with in a statement in this House, a very brief reference will suffice. It is a Clause under which a scheme of compensation for injuries suffered during training or in course of exercises in connection with Civil Defence in time of peace may be issued, the compensation payable to be entirely at the cost of the Exchequer. The only important provision in that Clause to which attention has not previously been called is the provision in the latter part by which all other rights to compensation are excluded and, where a claim arises, the compensation will be paid under a special scheme issued under the Clause.
Clauses 57 and 58 deal with gaps in the law. As the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937,is drawn it was contemplated that a complete scheme should be prepared by the local authorities and that only when those schemes had been 2651 approved should we proceed. Experience has shown that great progress can be made by instalments, and it is by no means necessary to wait for a complete scheme before taking action. In fact, no one has waited. Clause 57 puts that matter right. Clause 58 deals with a rather unpleasant topic, the defaulting authority. We hope that no authority will default in such a matter as Civil Defence; nevertheless we think it desirable that this power should be taken. I say this with no enthusiasm, because I do not like defaulting powers. I do not think they are satisfactory in operation. But in matters of such gravity as this we cannot afford to leave ourselves without powers that may be necessary. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will take up the time of the House this evening in order to explain the rather formidable Scottish application Clause which appears in the Bill; therefore I need not say anything on that subject.
I think I have now dealt with all those portions of the Bill which raise important matters of principle and have left only matters of detail or machinery. As regards the finance of the Bill, I think that probably, in view of the full explanation given in the note appended to the Bill and of the fact that the Financial Resolution, when it is debated to-morrow, will provide the fullest opportunity, both for explanation and the raising of points, I need only say that so far as the Exchequer is concerned, and so far as calculations can be made, it is estimated that the Bill will impose on the taxpayer a liability of something over £25,000,000, in addition to a recurring charge of £120,000 a year for 40 years, which is estimated to be the cost of the increased subsidy in respect of flats provided by local authorities. That sum of 25,000,000 is in addition to the cost of providing materials, for which power already exists under the Act of 1937. The expenditure in connection with the decision already announced to the House in regard to the distribution of steel shelters and materials for strutting basements is estimated at another £20,000,000.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Has consideration been given, or will it be given, to the difficult financial position in which many local authorities find themselves, and has consideration been given to local authorities whose rates are above a certain figure, so that some allowance should be made to them in this Bill?
§ Sir J. Anderson
There is no provision in the Bill with regard to schools. The position is, as I stated in answer to a question the other day, that the obligation to do whatever is necessary in regard to schools is an obligation on the education authorities, and the provisions of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, with regard to grant for general air-raid precaution purposes have no application. With regard to the general financial position of local authorities, naturally enough we have had to consider from time to time the position in which authorities, and especially the poorer authorities, are finding themselves, in view of the obligations which rest upon them to take action under the Act of 1937, and now, if this Bill is passed, under this still more comprehensive Measure. The hon. Member will recollect that the Act of 1937 provides for a review of the position of local authorities not later than three years from the coming into operation of the Act, that is to say, not later than the end of 1940, and I have no doubt whatever that that review, when it is made—and possibly it ought to be made rather earlier than was originally contemplated—will have to be an effective review. As I have said on more than one occasion, there are disclosing themselves certain inequalities in the distribution of the burden, and while I do not think it would be possible in this Bill to make provision for any general readjustments of the burden as between local authorities and the central Exchequer, and while maintaining the principle, which I regard as vital, that local authorities should have a real responsibility in this matter, it will no doubt be found, as the result of the review contemplated by the Act of 1937, that there will, in the case of some of the poorer local authorities, be good grounds for bringing about, in some way which cannot at present be determined, some easing of their burden.
2653 That brings me to the end of what I have to say on this Bill. I hope hon. Members will consider that I have covered the ground fairly adequately, having regard to the nature of the subject matter, and I hope that the House, in the consideration that it gives to this Bill, will look at it in the light of present circumstances, will be ready to treat its passage into law as a matter of urgency, and, finally, will not regard it as disrespectful on the part of Ministers if, after the Second Reading, we proceed to take action on certain matters provisionally in anticipation of the completion of the remaining stages of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
There will be to-day and a half-day to-morrow devoted to the Second Reading of the Bill, and there will have been, I understand, very nearly u official spokesmen, three from the Government Front Bench to-day and more tomorrow, and my right hon. Friends here as well. As this is a Bill which involves many different points, and as we do not wish to make speeches on the Second Reading, may we have an assurance that the Bill will be taken on the Floor of the House for its Committee stage?
§ Sir J. Anderson
That is in fact the intention, but these things are arranged through the usual channels.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn
My right hon. Friend did not deal with the definition Clause, and I wanted to ask him, in the case of those factories taken over for Government purposes, whether they can be or will be classified as public utility factories under this Bill. They are not defined.
§ 4.53 p. m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
We are debating only to-day the provisions of a Bill which ought to have been before the House of Commons not less than five years ago, and it would have been before the House of Commons five years ago if, since 1931, there had been in office a Government which took its duties seriously and which meant business about this serious matter. We still have in office, as Chancellor of 2654 the Exchequer, the Minister who is primarily responsible for this serious delay. Nearly all the provisions in this Bill are obvious elementary matters for consideration right at the beginning of air-raid precautions administration. The matter was first considered by Ministers, as I have told the House more than once, and as I am going to tell it again, in 1930. We are now in 1939 before Ministers are seeking powers which obviously they ought to have sought certainly two or three years after the initial consideration of air-raid precautions.
§ Mr. Morrison
I hardly think that that observation is justified, and unfortunately for the hon. Member I have framed testimonials from the present Home Secretary in regard to this matter. Here is a Bill before the House providing certain legal powers which everybody will surely agree ought to have been submitted to the House not less than five years ago, and I think the hon. Member who interrupted would be serving his constituents better if he joined with me in expressing regret that Ministers have not moved earlier instead of trying to provide them with speeches merely passing the blame on to the local authorities, which obviously can take no responsibility for Ministerial policy in this matter. The hon. Gentleman is converted already. It is not only that this Bill is five years late, but in connection with administration and policy, notwithstanding the improvements that have been brought about by the Lord Privy Seal, which I fully admit, there are grave delays which, honestly, I find it very difficult to understand. My hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. F. Anderson), to my surprise, gave me a letter this afternoon which indicates that after this long, long time gas masks are not by any means fully distributed throughout the country. This is a letter which he has received, dated 1st April, from the clerk of the Cumberland County Council. I admit that Cumberland is in an area that is probably classed non-vulnerable, though he who would be sure about what area will, and what area will not, be vulnerable is much more confident about the geography and capacities of modern aircraft than I am. The clerk of the 2655 Cumberland County Council has written to my hon. Friend as follows:Having regard to the international situation, the County Council were anxious to obtain delivery from the Home Office of the civilian respirators allocated to Cumberland, which it was understood were in the Home Office regional store. A telegram was accordingly sent to the Department on the 2rst March, and I enclose herewith for your information a copy of the reply, a copy of which has been sent to all the Members of Parliament for the county.I placed this letter before the Air-Raid Precautions Committee at their meeting held yesterday, when they instructed me to write to you and ask that you will be good enough to bring pressure to bear on the Lord Privy Seal to expedite delivery of the respirators for the civilian population in Cumberland. Will you, therefore, be good enough to see the Lord Privy Seal and if you think fit ask a question in the HouseThe letter received by the clerk to the county council from the Home Office, Page Street, S.W.I, signed on behalf of the Director of Supply, was dated 23rd March this year, and was as follows:With reference to your telegram dated 21st March, 1939, relative to the supply of civilian respirators for the county of Cumberland, I am to say that it is regretted that issue cannot be made at present.A further communication will, however, be addressed to you as soon as supply can be authorisedMy hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), a division which certainly, from the point of view of aircraft, is in a vulnerable area, even if there be argument about Cumberland, tells me that the supply of respirators to the local authority for Seaham is still gravely incomplete. Hon. Members may remember the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department talking about gas and respirators, I suppose, literally, for years. That really must be the case. In fact, they were talking about gas and nothing but gas for quite a long time, and yet here are two parts of the country which are complaining that after years the supply is not available to meet the demands, despite repeated undertakings by Ministers before the Lord Privy Seal that this matter was going ahead like wildfire, that they could not make up their minds about shelters, but that, as for gas masks, they really were Ministers of extraordinary speed and capacity and that the gas masks were being produced at an extraordinary rate. Moreover, my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham tells me—and I am 2656 sure the right hon. Gentleman will give attention under his new regional organisation to this point—that they need that the area shall receive attention, both in regard to A.R.P. and to anti-aircraft guns, which are, of course, a matter for the Secretary of State for War.
After all this delay, this Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree, is being very severely rushed. I am not going to deny the necessity for getting this Bill through its Second Reading before Easter, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman has had plenty of inter-Departmental problems, and some problems which I myself have sent him, for consideration. But it really is the case that the local authorities are at a grave disadvantage in connection with this Debate and the Debate to-morrow on the Financial Resolution. This Bill has now been available 10 days, and it is a very big Bill, with 75 Clauses. The right hon. Gentleman will know that normally local authorities require reports from their officers on Measures; usually committees have to consider them, and then, in the ordinary way, they have to go to the council. I am not going to say that we should wait for all that long procedure, but even under the democratic system of the London County Council, by which matters can go through at extraordinary speed, it has been quite impossible for me to get considered advice about this Bill. Even if other local authorities follow the same procedure—and many of them do not—many will have been without an opportunity of making their voices heard in this House before the Second Reading. If that is true of England and Wales, especially of southern England, how much more true it is of Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) has given me a letter, and I understand other hon. Members for Scottish constituencies have had similar communications from their municipal officers. The letter is dated 30th March, and is from the town clerk of Aberdeen. It says:At a meeting held some time ago in Scotland, the Lord Privy Seal gave an undertaking to the representatives of local authorities that a reasonable period would be given to local authorities to consider the terms of the above Bill before the Financial Resolution and the Second Reading. It is understood that the Bill is to come before the House of Commons on Monday.He was wrong on that point; it is Tuesday. 2657A first copy of the Bill reached Aberdeen less than a week ago, and copies wired for and sent direct from London only arrived yesterday"—That is 29th March.The Bill consists of an explanatory Memorandum, 75 Sections and two Schedules. The Section applying the Bill to Scotland (Section 74) occupies nine and a-half pages. It is obvious that local authorities have not had adequate opportunity to consider the Bill, and I shall be glad if you will protest in the House of Commons and ask that we be given more time for the purpose.I am not a Scottish Member, but my hon. Friend may not be heard in the Debate, and, therefore, he asks me to protest on behalf of local authorities north of the Tweed. They are at a considerable disadvantage—and, indeed, the House is at a disadvantage, because many of the local authorities have studied this matter very seriously, and the House is the poorer for not having the authentic views and criticisms of the local authorities before it. In those circumstances, we asked, through the usual channels, that the Financial Resolution might be left over till after Easter. We realise that the right hon. Gentleman wants the Second Reading passed in order to have Amendments put down, but that does not apply to the Financial Resolution. Unfortunately, though my hon. Friend the Chief Whip did his best in the matter, the coir-responding authorities on the other side were not agreeable that that should be done. I think it was a reasonable request, and I regret that it was not granted. Of course, if it is possible for arrangements to be made, or other business to be taken to-morrow, we are agreeable to that, and I think it would be appreciated by the local authorities, not only in Scotland but in England and Wales as well. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, in consultation with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, might give further consideration to the point.
I will now deal with further points of detail before I come to the two main issues, of local authorities' finance and the question of shelter, to which we have repeatedly drawn attention. The Minister has drawn attention to the fact that Clause I is going to make him an honest man and a constitutional entity. I did not know that there was any doubt of the constitutional lawfulness of the method by which the right hon. Gentleman carried on his 2658 duties. I thought it was a characteristic British expedient, when you had no Minister available for a purpose, to have someone to write letters saying that, in the name of the Secretary of State, he did so-and-so. I thought that would be quite all right. I should like to know whether it will still be the case that, as Lord Privy Seal, the right hon. Gentleman will be the executive Minister, in respect of the executive functions formerly discharged by the Secretary of State, and the coordinating Minister as far as the other Ministers are concerned. I take it that, even to-day, the Minister, in his coordinating capacity, will be in a position to secure respect for his will; because the House will expect that, taking this administration as a whole, there shall be one Minister—and that Minister the Lord Privy Seal—substantially responsible for the general lines, though not necessarily the details, of policy as it proceeds. I hope that is the case, although I fully recognise that it is convenient that the Departmental Ministers should be responsible for certain phases of administration. I am only asking that, as regards the coordination of policy as a whole, the Lord Privy Seal shall still be effective and have an effective voice over that field.
There are one or two points in the Bill to which I would draw attention. Powers are taken in the Bill whereby local authorities may excavate under public open spaces, in order to provide trench or shelter accommodation. That will mean that, in the case of some authorities, they will be able to enter, and carry work through, on the open spaces of other local authorities, and under the jurisdiction of other local authorities. Provided there is good will and consultation, I see no difficulty about that, and I am sure the local authorities will be assisted by the Minister to see that there is proper co-ordination. I would ask, however, that steps should be taken to secure that the open spaces themselves should not be damaged, as open spaces, more than is necessary. It may be that this accommodation will have to exist, without being used, for a long time. We hope that that is the case—we hope that it will never have to be used. But the existence of large holes, leading to trenches or underground shelters, in the open spaces, or, on the other hand, trench accommodation which, being covered at the top, projects over the level of the 2659 playing field itself, may have grave consequences to the public amenities. I hope Ministers, while, obviously, insisting on doing everything they can for the security of the country, will keep in mind that these are open spaces, and that it would be a great pity for them to be disturbed in any way. This work should be done in such a way as to cause the least possible inconvenience to the public and to create the least possible amount of ugliness.
There is another provision that shelter is to be supplied at places of employment. I will come to the wider issues of shelter accommodation shortly, but in the meantime I welcome the provision that there should be an obligation on employers to provide shelter accommodation for their workpeople. In so far as new and considerable duties are imposed on factory and mine inspectors, I presume that there will be an adequate staff, so that the normal duties of these inspectors will not be upset by the new duties. It is provided—and I am not complaining, because I think the right hon. Gentleman is right to consider that he has to make everybody move with alacrity—that the financial assistance of the State will be available only until the end of September, for work that is then completed or is on the way to completion. The fact has to be faced that the code has not been published. That has to be issued; then the owners of factories must put up schemes, as I understand. There may be argument about that. Certainly the schemes must be vetted and looked at by proper officers, and then the work has to proceed. I do not say that it is impossible for that to be done by September. In fact, with a Labour Government, I would be reasonably sure that it would be done. But it may not be done. I do not press this, because I want to join with the right hon. Gentleman in bringing every pressure on people to make them move with speed.
The other provision mentioning the end of September is that which relates to water supply for fire brigades. That deals with the country as a whole, but the London County Council are particularly concerned, with their very big schemes and very big expenditure, with supplementary water supplies, some of it dirty water from the river, for fire services. We have been talking about this ever since the present Home Secretary took office and, 2660 admittedly, somewhat wakened up A.R.P., compared with his predecessor, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. Right at the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's period at the Home Office, this matter was raised. We immediately agreed with him about the financial basis of this very big scheme. It has been hanging fire in the meantime. The officers are producing reports about the technical requirements of the scheme. I hope that we shall be ready by September, but if, when the time comes, we are not ready, I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to say that the fault is ours, or that I did not warn him that it might not be possible. It must be remembered that this will be a statutory provision by that time.
There is provision in the Bill for the prosecution of recalcitrant owners of factories, and presumably of mines and also of what are known as commercial buildings. I am not clear under the terms of the Bill upon whom the responsibility will be placed to initiate these prosecutions. Will it be the Law Officers of the Crown or the local authority, or any ordinary citizen, or a trade union who may wish to take proceedings? There ought to be a definite responsibility placed upon some public authority somewhere in order that the machinery of the Bill may be set promptly in motion in respect of employers who are backward in respect of that in which they ought not to be backward. Clause21 seems to require further consideration. It has reference to possible damage as the result of the erection of shelters provided by the Crown, and the person erecting it:may for that purpose break up the surface of any land …. but shall take due care not to damage any drains, sewers, pipes, cables or other works.It goes on to say:he shall not be liable to pay damages in respect of any act which is reasonably necessary for the due exercise of the right conferred on him, or, if he has exercised due care, for any damage done by him to drains, sewers, pipes, cables or other worksThe settlement as to whether he has exercised due care will provide a wide field of argument and will take a lot of proving. If somebody does damage to sewers, pipes, cables or other works, it may involve the local authority in a considerable amount of cost without the local authority having a remedy. While the local authority can give him advice if he 2661 wants it, I do not think there is any obligation on the occupier to secure the approval of the local authority to the extent that this danger should be provided against. It is not that I want the erectors of steel shelters to be practically under the control of local authorities, but it would be a wise thing, if damage were done to sewers, which might affect people over a very wide district.
Clause 35 is a delightfully optimistic Clause, having regard to a question which was answered at Question Time to-day. It is a Clause that has provisions as to processes involving flames or glare, and naturally it has been seized upon by my hon. Friends from mining constituencies who are always, and quite rightly, asking questions as to burning pit-heaps. This afternoon the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health answered a question concerning about 36 burning pit-heaps in Durham, and we understood that, after most wonderful efforts comprising extraordinary energy on the part of the Ministry of Health and some of the authorities in the district, satisfactory schemes for the extinction of three out of 36 had at last been evolved. My hon. Friends have been complaining about burning pit-heaps ever since I have been in this House—I know that hon. Members from Durham have been doing so—and if it is the case there that, after all this time, only three burning pit-heaps are being dealt with out of 36, it is a little difficult to be confident that the Minister, immediately war is declared, will be in a position to require the extinction of all burning pit-heaps in the country. I wish him luck, as will my hon. Friends from mining constituencies, but Sub-section (2) of Clause 35 is surely a little optimistic. It says:The Minister may serve on the owner of any mine in connection with which there is any accumulation or deposit of refuse which is burning or is liable to spontaneous combustion, a notice in writing requiring him, within the time specified in the notice, to take such measures as may be specified in the notice to secure that in the event of war no flames or glare will be produced during any period of darkness by that accumulation or deposit or that any flames or glare so produced will be wholly or partially screenedI admit that if war does not start too soon, the right hon. Gentleman may be able to get the owners of these burning pit-heaps to take adequate steps now for rapid implementation in the event of war. 2662 I hope that he will exercise these powers at once, and my hon. Friends will be delighted, if, by the provisions of the Civil Defence Act, they get rid of this grievance, which they have had for a long time. I suggest to my hon. Friends that directly this Bill is passed, they should waste no more time asking questions of the Minister of Health, who is no doubt weary and tired of answering questions, but that they put them to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal in respect of the security of the country, and let us hope that they will get better satisfaction.
Clause 50 provides that the Minister of Transport may purchase, hold and dispose of materials for bridge construction. I presume that the Minister of Transport, having quite properly acquired these reserves of materials for bridge construction, will have the reserves available for free issue to the local authorities, because bridge construction and partial construction in anticipation of war is liable to be a costly business. Clause 53 gives fire brigade authorities power for the compulsory purchase of properties required for the Auxiliary Fire Services. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider before the Committee stage whether he could not give us power for compulsory renting instead of purchase. It may be appropriate in some cases and more economical, both for the Government and the local authority, if that were made possible. We shall be glad if he will consider the practicability of renting such property instead of compulsory outright purchase.
Clause 56 deals with risks to the individual volunteer in A.R.P. services. We are glad this Clause is included, because we feel that the State or the local authority, or both of them, have a responsibility to see through their troubles men or women damaged in the course of their duties in connection with Civil Defence. Even now it seems doubtful whether the Clause meets one particular point with which I have met in the course of my experience. An auxiliary fireman was injured in the course of his duties in the Auxiliary Fire Services in London. He was insured, of course, under the scheme but the medical expenses were more than the insurance produced. We were permitted to make a small grant to cover the excess. The man was a workman— 2663 I would not complain if he were a professional man or a man of substance—and as a result of his injury lost some days of work. We said that it was right that we should make up the wages which he had lost. We made application and were gravely told by the Lord Privy Seal, exercising the powers of the Secretary of State, that we could not pay with grant the wages that that man actually lost. That seems to be a pretty mean state of affairs. If volunteers come along for air-raid precautions work and are injured in the course of their duty, it is common decency that, as far as medical treatment is concerned, and in the case of limited means and loss of wages, we should see them through I hope that the Clause will be looked at from that point of view before we get to the Committee stage. [Interruption.] The man is all right now. I could not have held my head up if we had not put him right and had paid the little sum of money out of the London County rate. There is nothing much in it, but I think it was administratively wrong on the part of a State Department that we should have been denied grant.
There are other points of detail in the Bill, but it is eminently a Bill which, as far as actual details are concerned, lends itself better to Committee discussion than to Second Reading. The only two further points with which I wish to deal are finance in relation to the local authorities, and the question of shelters. I recall to the House that at the time of the Second Reading of the Act of 1937 there was a considerable Debate as to the financing of that Measure. There had been prolonged negotiations between the present Home Secretary and the local authorities. They were debated in a stiff but friendly way on both sides, and we came to the situation on the Second Reading that we were not agreed. The House came to a decision, which has been worked constitutionally by the local authorities.
I was glad this afternoon when the Lord Privy Seal informed the House that, not only was it the case that his colleague had undertaken that the finances should be reviewed during 1940, but that he himself would voluntarily, and outside that obligation, review the finances of the Act, at any rate, as far as the poorer and more 2664 hard-pressed local authorities were concerned before that date if he were satisfied there was a prima facie case for him to do so. I understand that that is the undertaking given by the right hon. Gentleman in respect of the poorer local authorities, and I should like to express my appreciation, while putting in a claim that the other local authorities may wish to be heard as well. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that when the Bill was before the House on Second Reading, and in course of the negotiations, the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary said that in the view of the Government the expenditure of the local authorities would not exceed a penny rate. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins) were well informed about those discussions, and the right hon. Gentleman was quite confident that the expenditure would not exceed a penny rate. We tried to get provision in the Financial Resolution whereby we would be guaranteed anything above a two penny rate, and there was some indication that the right hon. Gentleman had not faith in his own beliefs by the fact that he would not accept the Amendment, but said that he did not believe it would be above a penny rate. He also said that, if and when it did exceed a penny rate, there would be a prima facie case for discussion between the State and local authorities. We made that claim and it was accepted by the right hon. Gentleman, not that he would necessarily give us anything, but that we had the right to argument and consideration. I remember on the Second Reading promising the right hon. Gentleman that, after the penny rate point was reached, the local authorities would be on his doorstep asking for reconsideration and discussion.
I do not know, but I should think that there must be some local authorities who have got beyond the penny rate. I know that our own expenditure is very large, and so is our penny rate product, but I believe that in some parts of the country the penny rate has been exceeded. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn) tells me that in the West Riding they have a rate of 4⅓d., and in that case I should expect Yorkshire tenacity to be on the job very soon demanding a review by the right hon. Gentleman. When these discussions take place they will have to take place in the light of 2665 the confident prediction of the present Home Secretary that the expenditure would not exceed a penny rate.
The Bill imposes a number of new duties on local authorities. There is a great deal of survey and inspection work expected, which will require a staff. There is to be an examination of a wide variety of proposals as to shelter provisions in private property, and the staff addition to local authorities will be considerable. Local authorities are asked under the Bill to reconstruct certain premises, private or public, with a view to shelter being provided. That will need a technical and administrative staff, and when you start reconstructing a building or strengthening a building from the basement you get involved in very substantial items of expenditure. That being the case, I find it difficult to believe that the estimate of £300,000 suggested in the financial memorandum as additional local authorities expenditure is a reliable estimate. I think the expenditure will be very much more. Really the right hon. Gentleman ought to be considering the financing of this business. What I am afraid of is that the financial burden on many local authorities is going to be substantial. All the time we have taken the view, quite logically and properly, that civilian defence, like any other form of defence, is properly a national service and responsibility. Local authorities can properly and necessarily act as the agent of the State, but I cannot see anything different in principle, so far as responsibility is concerned, as regards the responsibility of the State for civilian defence and their responsibility for the Army, Air Force or the Royal Navy.
There is another point to which I must draw attention. I want the right hon. Gentleman to appreciate that we have been dealing up to now with peace-time air-raid precautions alone. If war breaks out a totally different set of circumstances will arise, and the question of percentage grants will have to go by the board. The State must necessarily become financially and administratively responsible for these protective services. I say that because I am anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should not think that local authorities are agreeable to the view that these financial arrangements which we are working now are satisfactory. I agree from my experience that 2666 the right hon. Gentleman has not been too sticky, although a number of local authorities still think that he is in regard to items of expenditure. But it must not be assumed that the system will be acceptable to local governments in time of war, and I do not believe it could possibly be worked in time of war.
I now come to the question of shelter, and I am bound to say that my hon. Friends and I are getting increasingly worried about the complete absence of any comprehensive shelter policy so far as the Government are concerned. We gave the right hon. Gentleman reasonable time to think out this problem of shelter. It was a positive scandal that after all the years which have passed he should have been left with no Government policy on the point. In the Bill to-day we have provisions which in themselves indicate: that there is no comprehensive mind at work on this problem. The Bill is a collection of odds and ends, and if you ask yourself whether at the end of the time there will be effective shelter provision in this country, can anybody believe that effective shelter provision will be forthcoming as a result of the Bill? Can the right hon. Gentleman really believe that within the four corners of the Bill effective universal shelter provision will be forthcoming? He himself said this afternoon that shelter policy must be settled on an ordered plan. I entirely agree. That is precisely what we are asking for, but honestly I cannot see the elements of shelter provision on an ordered plan in this Bill or in any of the declarations which Ministers have made from time to time. The case for it really is so strong.
The British people in the last week have been going through days of anxiety, another of those periodical acute crises which we get regularly about once in every six months. They have been remarkably cool. Their conduct has been everything that hon. Members could wish, but, nevertheless, there are anxieties which some of them must be feeling. I think their conduct was more cool and collected in this last crisis than it was in the days of September, and it was partly because they felt that the Government had got half way off its knees to the dictators, and they felt that the dictators would probably not make aggression now. But it is the technique of these dictators to 2667 make Governments bend and crack by frightening them with the threat of bombing the civilian population for which the Governments are responsible. That is their technique. In the case of country after country they have said: "Bend to my will or I will bomb your civilian population," and the time may come—it might have come much earlier but for recent events—when they may say the same to His Majesty's Government. I do not care in this connection whether we have a Tory Government or a Labour Government, I want the King's Ministers, if they have to meet a threat of that kind from tyrannical, bloodthirsty and cowardly dictators, to be able to stand up and tell them to go to the devil. But they will find it difficult to do that if in fact the civilian population feel that they have no effective protection from enemy aircraft
I do not say that shelter protection is the only thing. The Royal Air Force has its job to do, and it is a vitally important part; the balloon barrage has its job to do; so have the anti-aircraft units; and the forces of His Majesty have their tasks to discharge. But I do not want Ministers of the Crown, whether they are Tory, Liberal or Labour, when they are negotiating with this type of gentleman to be in a state of apprehension and fear as to what is going to happen to their own civilian population unless they give way to blackmail and threats of this kind. For the conduct of effective diplomacy the provision of effective shelter is just as vital as are the Royal Navy, the Army or the Air Force. Hon. Members have repeatedly used the argument in Debate on foreign affairs that if we are to be strong in international negotiations, either with potential enemies or with potential friends with whom we wish to build up collective arrangements, we must re-arm and re-arm in order to be respected by Governments abroad. It would be out of order to argue the merits of that case, but if the argument is sound in respect of the Navy, Army and Air Force, it is at least as sound in the provision of protection for the civilian population at home from aerial bombardment.
I say that my hon. Friends and I are really anxious and worried about the lack of a comprehensive view on the part of Ministers at this day, nine years after air-raid precautions were first considered 2668 by Ministers of the Crown. Where are we now? There is to be shelter provision in factories employing over 50 workers. What is to happen to factories where there are fewer workers? What have they done that they should not be considered? That is a gap, a hole, in the system, and any gap and any hole is really indefensible in a matter of decent administration. The same provision is applicable in the case of mines and commercial buildings. There is to be an obligation on the part of builders of new flats and tenements to make shelter provisions. I do not stop to argue whether they are likely to be effective as compared with deep shelters, but if it is right that there should be shelter construction in new tenements and new flats what is going to be the answer to the tenants who are now occupying old tenements and flats? What is to be the answer of the Government? I do not know. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), the chairman of the Housing Committee of the London County Council, will be promptly pursued by his municipal tenants, and I should advise him to refer them to the Lord Privy Seal for an answer. We are not going to take the responsibility of answering on issues for which he is responsible.
There is to be equivalent shelter for cottages, and "equivalent," I presume, means steel shelters. If it is really equivalent and equally effective then it is not every cottage at which a steel shelter can be erected. That has been admitted by the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, I ask, even conceding the possibility that a steel shelter may be equal in strength to the shelter in a tenement estate, what is the answer to the cottage resident where a steel shelter cannot be provided? Moreover, under the Bill local authorities have power to enter upon premises and construct shelter, but as is always the case when a local authority touches private property there will be plenty of appeals and plenty of delays before the work is done by the local authority, quite apart from the fact that the financing of this work is going to prove utterly impossible for many local authorities. That will be particularly the case in the poorest areas, where for industrial and other reasons they specially need shelter. The Government are taking no power to construct shelters themselves or to step in where a 2669 local authority cannot or will not do this job, except by acting under the default provisions. Therefore under the Bill, and under the policy of the Government, there is no general universal provision of shelter even in the vulnerable areas, and there is little or no effective provision in the so-called non-vulnerable areas, and it is. very uncertain as to whether they will, in fact, be invulnerable or not.
At the beginning of February, the Fins-bury Council submitted a scheme to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman can accept that scheme, for it may well be—I do not know—that there are technical faults in it; but it was an interesting scheme and one well worthy of examination. If the right hon. Gentleman has decided that there are technical faults in it, let him say so and settle the matter, so that the local authorities will know where they are. There ought to be a decision about those proposals, and if it is decided that the scheme is wrong, then I say there is a liability on the right hon. Gentleman to substitute adequate proposals that will be effective for the purpose. We really are deeply concerned about the absence of a shelter policy on the part of the Government, and we reserve the right to return to this charge time and time again until we have from the Government either an effective shelter policy or some proof which will satisfy the House, including hon. Members on these benches, that an effective policy is impossible or, for reasons that may be given, undesirable. The policy of evasion, drift and indecision on this fundamental aspect of air-raid precautions, an aspect which affects every other phase of air-raid precautions, is wrong and is deeply to be deplored.
Hon. Members on these benches do not propose to divide the House on the Second Reading of this Bill, but we reserve full rights to raise various points in Committee. While sticking to the important points of criticism to which I have given expression, it will be our desire to assist in making the Measure a useful and workmanlike addition to the Statute Book.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
I agree that this is largely a Departmental Bill, dealing with an accumulation of points that have arisen as a result of experience in the administration of the 1937 Act. Nevertheless, the powers which the Bill gives to 2670 local authorities and Government Departments are extremely drastic, and in normal times we should have viewed with suspicion many of the Clauses of the Bill. But unfortunately, we are not living in normal times, for there is a serious threat of war, and we have to be realists. Therefore, I am not going to approach the Bill too critically, although it will be necessary in Committee to examine it Clause by Clause and to see that no injustice is done either to the local authorities or to individuals.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has referred to the immense importance of the Government having an effective shelter policy, but we cannot divorce the problem of shelters from that of evacuation. If adequate shelters were not provided, there would be greater temptation to people to leave their occupations and to go into the country. On the other hand, if there were adequate shelters, the dangers of panic and of people leaving their occupations with the coming of the first air attack would be enormously decreased. After two years of air-raid precautions, the public is waiting for a much clearer lead than it has been given so far, first as to the areas to be evacuated, and secondly, the industries to be evacuated. Those two matters are irretrievably intermixed. Employers and employés want a lead in this matter, not when a crisis comes, not at the outbreak of a war, but now, after various Government Departments have given constant thought to the subject for two years. By this time the Government ought to have made up their mind. I do not under-rate the novelty of these problems and the difficulties which they raise. Obviously, they are new problems of the twentieth century which we have to face. Plenty of Ministers have been dealing with them, but the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal is the coordinating Minister, and on him must be the main responsibility.
No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that if there is not a clear lead, there will be a real danger of a mass flight. On the committee of which I was a member, and of which the right hon. Gentleman was chairman, we received a great deal of evidence to that effect. The very people who ought to stay might leave, and those who stayed might be the people who ought to leave. 2671 In a great city such as London, with its millions of people, its complicated transport system, its limited number of exits and its narrow roads, the normally intricate traffic problems would be increased a hundredfold at the outbreak of war. It is essential that the Government should make clear now what is their policy, and work it out in detail. For instance, in the last Debate which we had on this subject, I asked what is to be the position with regard to Government Departments. Will they remain where they are? Has a policy been worked out, in detail, for the transfer for a great many of the Government Departments? I am told that very elaborate cellar arrangements have been made to provide shelters. If a large percentage of the staff of the Government Departments is to be taken to the provinces, the need for such elaborate arrangements will be decreased. Is Parliament going to remain where it is? Is that a very impertinent question? Have the Government made up their mind on this matter? I do not for one moment suggest that the Government should say where Parliament would go if it were moved. Have the Government thought out some organisation for moving Parliament?
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter
Does it not seem pretty clear that the Government, in spite of the opinion of some people, must have considered these elementary points? Does the hon. Baronet really consider it necessary to call the Government's attention to the question as to where Parliament would go?
§ Sir P. Harris
I am not asking the Government to say where Parliament or the Government Departments would go, but it is vital, from the point of view of the shelter policy and the transport organisation, that the Government should give a lead in this respect. No doubt the departmental heads know these things, but the same does not apply to business organisations. For instance, the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), who is a very experienced journalist, is no doubt interested in the question whether newspapers would remain in London or would go to the provinces. That is a matter which affects the whole shelter policy. Would the staff of the Bank of England remain in the City of London? I understand that a great many 2672 insurance companies have made arrangements to transfer their headquarters to country houses or to provincial towns. If the headquarters of the big business organisations were transferred to the country, it would decrease the need for shelters by from 25 per cent. to 50 per cent.
Perhaps a more practical case in which a lead from the Government is necessary has reference to shipping companies. I understand from a leader of the shipping world that they have had no guidance as to whether the great shipping companies should be moved from London to the West of England—such companies as the P. & O., the Orient Line and the New Zealand Line, which for the last 50 or 60 years have had their headquarters in London. If these companies transferred their headquarters, it would decrease the need not only for shelter accommodation for the staff of their offices and headquarters, but the necessity for precautions at the Port of London. If all these organisations were to be moved, the necessary dock accommodation could not be improvised.
I maintain that the efficiency and effectiveness of the Bill depends largely upon the Government making clear now what is their policy concerning evacuation, not merely of the civil population, but of businesses, trades, industries, and Government Departments. This has its reactions on the civil population. For intance, if the staff of Government Departments were transferred to the West of England, it is reasonable to assume that their families would go with them, and thus there would be a very large decrease in the demand for shelter accommodation. I agree that the big industries are, to a large extent, able to look after themselves, and I understand that in many cases they have made arrangements already. I gather that some of the big newspapers have made arrangements to transfer their printing plant to the provinces, to Manchester and other places. However, this does not apply to the smaller factories and workshops, London, particularly, is a city in which there are small factories and workshops, having staffs not of 50, but of 30, 20 or 10 employés. In their case, at any rate, some advice ought to be given by the Government, and I would go as far as to recommend some organisation being 2673 worked out now for the transfer to other parts of the country of industries which it would not be vital to retain in London and other great cities. A few minutes ago one of my hon. Friends asked me about restaurants. That may seem a very abstract matter to the right hon. Gentleman, but it is of great importance.
We have a very highly complicated industrial society, and if some organisation is not thought out beforehand, and it is left to a crisis, the whole of our industrial system may break down. One of the vital things for our success in any war would be that industry should go on functioning and that the productive capacity of the country should be maintained, and not be seriously hindered by the war. This means that plans must be worked out beforehand. There has been plenty of time for the Government to consider these plans.
I come now to the immediate problem of shelters. I am informed that the right hen. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal has had three of the most capable and competent engineers giving him the advantage of their advice and technical skill. Undoubtedly the steel shelter known as the Anderson shelter is largely the result of the good advice which he has had. I believe that, as far as it goes, it is effective. I believe that it will serve its purpose in so far as it can be fitted into the backyards of the smaller houses in suburbs and places where the houses are scattered, and that it will give reasonable protection against blast and splinter. But when we come to the case of crowded areas in towns like London, Liverpool and Manchester, where there are populations of 200 to the acre, back-to-back houses and thousands of houses with practically no backyards and no facilities for making use of shelters of this type, then the necessity for some different form of shelter becomes apparent.
The argument of expense has been used against anything in the nature of the deep shelter scheme worked out by the Fins-bury authorities but, as against that, it is reasonable to assume that a very large proportion of the population will be evacuated from these crowded areas to the reception areas, thus reducing the number to be accommodated and bringing any deep shelter scheme into reasonable proportions. At any rate, it is time that the Government, with the expert advice 2674 at their disposal, gave a definite lead on policy. Are they irrevocably opposed to any form of deep shelter? I understand that they have turned down, or at any rate have not approved of the Finsbury scheme. Have they thought out any alternative, and if not, what do they propose to do in these crowded areas? It is admitted that there is a case for doing something in block dwellings, but in our industrial cities there are large areas of small houses crowded together with no possibility of shelter, other than cellars or by means of Anderson shelters. The right hon. Gentleman ought now to make up his mind one way or the other. He ought to call on the knowledge and experience of architects and constructional engineers and give a definite lead.
On the subject of the evacuation of school children, I would point out that last September this was put to the test with remarkable results. Eight months have passed and I understand that in the reception areas a very complete canvass has been made of households, to find out the accommodation available and the number of beds which can be used. On the other hand, I am told that headmasters are, or were up to a week ago, completely in the dark about the districts to which the children are to be evacuated. Last September they were told what terminal stations to go to, but they received no indication of their destination. After eight months of inquiry the Government ought to be in a position to make arrangements so that the school authorities will know exactly where the children are to go. Principal teachers in London and other large cities should be in a position to visit the districts to which the children are to be sent, to get into touch with the schools there and to work out all the details. That seems common sense. This is another case in which the Government ought to come down to brass tacks, take the local authorities and the schools into their confidence, and show that, if the necessity should arise for a large-scale evacuation of school children, all the details have been worked out and a proper scheme is in readiness instead of an improvised organisation. As far as the Bill itself is concerned, I think the Government are entitled to a swift passage of its Clauses, but the points which I have mentioned are matters of Departmental detail which ought to be made clear.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
I wish to raise a subject which is of great importance to the country districts. Those who have spoken so far have been concerned mainly with the difficulties of the urban districts, but there is one great difficulty which affects the rural districts, and that is the relation of the catchment boards with the local authorities. There is one case in which two lucky shots from hostile aeroplanes would divide Lincolnshire into two parts separated by water, most of which would be salt water. Whose business is it to see to matters of that kind? As I understand the Bill it is a matter for the local authorities only. Public utility companies are allowed to deal with their own concerns but not so the catchment boards although in many cases they are far bigger and more important than most of the public utility companies.
We have been told that the local authorities will not be able to meet their ordinary normal expenditure arising under this head and I am certain that they will not feel able to meet the expenditure arising in connection with the catchment boards. Under the Bill the catchment boards are not to get any grant at all and can only count on the local authority. They cannot make their own provisions for safety out of their capital rate which is all they are allowed. The Association of Catchment Boards says quite frankly that it is impracticable for the catchment boards to take adequate precautions through the medium of the local authority and they ask to be placed in a position corresponding to that of the local committees. I beg the Government to consider the position and I would refer to what was said in a previous Debate. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said:As to the position of catchment boards I am advised that drainage authorities are not local authorities within the limits of Clause 7. Catchment boards are in a somewhat peculiar position, in that they have express powers of precepting upon councils which makes it possible to contend that they are local authorities within the meaning of the Bill. Their position is similar in many respects to public utility undertakings which were dealt with in the statement made to the Committee by my right hon. Friend on 25th November."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1937; col. 1982, Vol. 329.]The catchment boards waited for this Bill expecting that it would deal with their position. There are serious apprehensions 2676 not only in their minds but also in the minds of local authorities. Indeed I must say that I first heard of this difficulty from the local authorities and I know that anxiety about the matter is not by any means confined to the catchment boards themselves. The difficulty is a. serious one and it is not dealt with satisfactorily in the Bill. There is the further difficulty of procedure in that if the Money Resolution connected with the Bill is passed, it will be, I understand, almost impossible to bring in catchment boards. I beg the Government to see to that position without delay. I know that negotiations are going on and unless we help as far as possible to secure a satisfactory settlement of this point, tremendous difficulties will arise in future.
I know of another place which I shall not name where the result of one lucky shot from a hostile aeroplane might be to flood with salt water one of the richest agricultural districts in England. In such cases, the catchment board ought to have power to act and make suitable provision of a kind which I am sure the local authority could not afford to make. The Government ought to take into account the local situation in various areas and the danger from flooding by sea water, if the position of the catchment boards does not receive attention. To summarise very briefly the points with which catchment boards are concerned, I would mention first, entrances of the sea and dock gates and so forth; secondly, banks, including tidal embankments and pumping stations, and, lastly, smaller works such as weirs, sluices and so on. In connection with these three matters provision can be made for the safety of supplies of oil, petrol and the like. I have cut my remarks as short as possible because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, but I cannot too strongly impress on the Government the seriousness of the difficulties which will ensue if the position of the catchment boards is not dealt with in the Bill.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I agree with previous speakers, as I am sure the whole House agrees, that this Bill should be given an unopposed and speedy passage into law, but having said that I must also be allowed to express my disappointment with the speech of the Lord Privy Seal. The right hon. Gentleman devoted himself 2677 almost entirely to a somewhat pedestrian journey through the details of one Clause after another, instead of giving, as I had hoped and expected he would, a comprehensive review of the present position in relation to civil defence as a whole. I believe that what the people of the country want is some reassurance on this point. The doubts about evacuation voiced by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) are in the minds of many people. What is happening with regard to evacuation? I understand that the arrangements with regard to children are at any rate made, if not in the precise detail required by my hon. Friend. But what are the arrangements for the evacuation of adults and who are to be evacuated? It is enormously important that that should be understood. I may be permitted to read the first conclusion of the committee on evacuation, which summarises the matter. The Lord Privy Seal was the chairman of the committee which dealt with this subject, so that he has hardly had time to forget this. The first conclusion was:The whole issue in any future war may-well turn on the manner in which the problem of evacuation from densely populated industrial areas is handledI think that is true. We on this side cannot be too sure that the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters fully realise the urgency of the situation, because it will be within the recollection of the House that the policy of evacuation had to be forced upon them from this side of the House. They resisted it and the present Home Secretary devoted a long speech to resisting a proposal which I made that evacuation should be one of the duties under the Air-Raid Precautions Act. He resisted it on numerous grounds, and it was only because he was over-borne by the weight of opinion in the House that he gave way and added what is now Section 6 of that Act, which makes evacuation one of the duties to be taken under air-raid precautions, a duty which the committee which was appointed to deal with the subject said was so important that the whole issue of any future war might turn upon it.
In this Bill great additional powers are given to the Minister. We do not object to those powers being given, but we want to be sure that the powers which already exist are being fully used. With regard 2678 to evacuation, for instance, what is the general line of policy? When the Evacuation Committee sat they considered that in any congested area something like one-third of the population might require to be evacuated. It may, in fact, be very much more. Air warfare is not static. Since 1938 the conditions as regards attack and defence in air warfare have materially altered the problem. Therefore, the position as regards evacuation or the provision of deep air-raid shelters, which depend on a proper policy of evacuation, may have to be varied according as the balance between attack and defence alters from time to time. If it be true that a policy of evacuation is the key to Civil Defence, we ought to have from the Minister who is to reply—and I understand this matter will be dealt with to-morrow by the Minister of Health, who is in charge as far as reception areas are concerned—a definite statement as to what categories of adults are to be evacuated and what is to be done about children and mothers of children below school age. There has already been some kind of survey. We ought to have a much more detailed survey so as to determine those who can be evacuated and those who cannot.
I am also disappointed that the Lord Privy Seal, in dealing with this subject, again dealt too much with details and too little with the general position of Civil Defence. I agree with my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate from this side in thinking that Civil Defence ought to be regarded on a par with the other Services, the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. It is, in fact, the fourth arm, and is just as important from every point of view—and indeed, from some points of view, more important than anything else —because if the civilian population are not able to resist, the efforts of the other Services are of much less effect than they would otherwise be. I say that not only because of the question of the status of Civil Defence, but because of the question of the scale of expenditure on Civil Defence. If it is necessary to spend so many millions on the Navy, Army and Air Force—and I am not going to dispute the necessity for that tremendous expenditure—we ought to be ready to make an equivalent expenditure on Civil Defence and ought not to quail at the bill which may be presented to us.
2679 I do not know whether even at this time it is realised by the Ministers concerned what the position of the civil population in war-time will be. They will not be militarised, but production will be organised on a war basis, and because of that those who are engaged on essential production must be given the maximum protection possible from the standpoint of production, if from no other standpoint. It is essential that those engaged on these productive activities should be given the best protection which can be given, and those who are not engaged on urgent production should be taken away altogether from the threatened areas. If evacuation is adequately organised we shall achieve a good many excellent objectives. We shall conserve the child population and the people who are helpless, aged and sick. We shall avoid useless casualties, which will be of great military advantage, apart from the humanitarian advantage, and we shall simplify the procedure as regards the provision of adequate shelter protection.
If evacuation is approached from the standpoint of dangerous areas—which I prefer to the phrase "vulnerable areas," because every area is more or less vulnerable—and production in the dangerous areas, such as those round the docks, are treated as probable objectives of heavy bomb attack, then they ought to be treated, as is, indeed, provided for in the Report on Evacuation, as areas from which there shall be compulsory evacuation of all except those engaged on urgent industrial work. They ought to be treated, in fact, as in a sense industrial first-line positions in which you do not leave any more industrial troops than are essential to carry out the work. No commander in battle would dream of leaving more men in the front line than were necessary to hold it, because the front line is the place in which most casualties occur. All places in Great Britain which are liable to heavy bombardment should be denuded, as far as possible, of all the population except those engaged in work of essential war-time productive importance. I know that that produces a picture of Great Britain very different from that in peace time, but of course, it will be extremely different. The denudation of the vulnerable areas is the only way in which we can minimise 2680 casualties and at the same time maintain production.
When the Evacuation Committee were calculating the number of people who would have to be evacuated, they considered it would be something like one-third in those in town areas. I suggest that the number evacuated to relatively safe rural areas is the most important point at which to begin in considering the question of deep air-raid shelters, which the Government obviously are funking: they do not want to look at it. If we can reduce the population needing protection very largely, the number of air-raid shelters will also be largely reduced. Let me for a moment look at the matter in a logical way. If in dangerous areas all persons except those engaged on essential national work are moved and shelters proof against the heaviest bombs are provided at the site of works and the site of residences, I do not believe that deep air-raid shelters should be large in size. I do not think the Finsbury proposal of deep air-raid shelters holding 7,000 people and three, four or, perhaps, five minutes walk away from the residences of people in the day time, are shelters which would give safety and security to the population. If people had to go to a shelter of that kind at night and had to find their way under conditions of air bombardment, even though there were illuminated signs on the road side, it might not be three, four or five minutes that they would take to find the shelter, but five, 10 or 15 minutes. That would mean that they would be in exposed positions during an air attack.
Then there is the condition of the shelter itself. Imagine a shelter holding 7,000 people all guaranteed, I understand, one square yard of standing space, going deep into the bowels of the earth and waiting until the "all clear" signal was given. It might not be given for a long time, and the conditions of congestion would not very likely commend themselves to people under the actual conditions of air attack when they began to be used. For those engaged in essential production and those who have to continue to live in dangerous areas, deep air-raid protection should be provided, but I do not think they should be larger than enough to contain 100 people divided into two sections holding only 50 each. That would considerably increase the cost, but it is a 2681 matter which we ought to face. When we are thinking of deep shelters and the number that should be provided, there is sometimes an idea that everybody in the country ought to have deep shelters wherever they may be. When people think of air attack they are sometimes inclined to think that the place in which they live will be the place particularly attacked. When I was visiting West Africa recently I found some people in a remote little town in the interior of Nigeria were convinced that they were to be attacked in case of war. I persuaded them to the contrary after a time. That is the case in England at the present time.
If we calculate that England is divided, according to our air-raid regulations, into two parts, one the area from which people will be evacuated, and the other the rural area into which people will be evacuated, it is obvious that in the rural area, which is the larger, no deep air-raid shelters are required at all. Further, if we consider that from the urban areas, calculating their population as roughly 21,000,000, at least one-third will have been evacuated anyway, that leaves only 14,000,000 people remaining in urban areas, and not all of them will be in dangerous positions. There are many places quite near to this House, relatively speaking, in London itself and in the immediate suburbs, which are as little likely to be bombed as many places in the countryside, because air attack will not be directed indiscriminately at every kind of place. It will be directed, first, at military objectives, and then perhaps —probably in certain circumstances—at big mass civilian populations, which is another reason for having a programme of organised evacuation. It will not be a case of general, miscellaneous terroristic attack everywhere, and I think we may calculate that the total number of people who may require to have deep air-raid shelter protection would not amount to more than about 7,000,000 at the outside, and might be very much less.
In that case we are facing a proposition which can at least be tackled, and a survey ought to be undertaken by the Minister to determine how far it is possible to clear the dangerous areas of those who are not actually engaged in production under war conditions and how far it is possible to shut down altogether certain other industries. There are industries 2682 which in wartime will not be essential, and such industries should, in my view, be closed down and the people evacuated to the country, where they might do something different and, let us hope, useful. There should also be a survey to determine how far industry can be removed even under present circumstances. I am not suggesting that whole new industrial areas should be constructed in the country and industries moved from their present situation, but many firms have a large number of establishments, and it might be possible for some of them to concentrate their production in the less vulnerable ones. On this basis industry and production could be maintained and we should get the maximum safety for our population by means of evacuation and deep air-raid shelter protection.
I do not think the Government can escape from the duty of facing the problem of giving protection to those workers who will have to continue working under conditions more dangerous than those of soldiers in the front line. The first-line productive workers must be given protection, and so must those who have to live in the urban areas round about the dangerous targets. If they are not given protection how will it be possible for the civilian population to maintain its morale? All the millions spent upon the Navy, the Air Force and the Army will be wasted unless the morale of the civil population is maintained. Although I have made many inquiries recently I have not been able to find what is the definite plan of evacuation. I am assured that the Government accepted the report of the Committee on evacuation, but I do not know what is actually being proposed or done. If a plan of evacuation were known to be in existence and complete, if a plan of deep air-raid shelters were known to be in existence and to cover those living in the dangerous areas, that would give a strength to the morale of the civilian population which would be the main bulwark of defence if war should come.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Peat
I do not wish to delay the House, because I desire to do all I can to give this Bill a speedy passage to the Statute Book, but there are one or two small points I wish to raise now, because that may simplify matters later. Before I come to them I should like to say that I agree with the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) about the absolute 2683 necessity of providing everybody in the nation with some form of shelter, because I believe that the next war, when it comes or if it comes, will be won or lost on the nation's morale, the strength of which will be decided in the first few weeks of the war. In the arrangements in the Bill the main factor from an industrial point of view is time, and I think some of the machinery of the Measure is not conducive to getting things done quickly. I wish to refer to the obscuration of light and glare. The industry with which I am most familiar is the iron and steel industry, and I think I can assure hon. Members that it will co-operate with the Government in every way possible to make this Measure successful and to bring it into operation at the earliest possible moment, but the question of the obscuration of lights and glare is a very important one for it. The first purpose of such obscuration is that approaching aeroplanes, when some miles distant, should not see a glare in the sky which will give them their correct bearings on that objective or, possibly, on others more important. The second purpose is that the glare or lights should not give them their position over a certain town.
These two objects are equally important in a sense, but they can be treated in a different way. Obviously if the important thing is not to give them a bearing then, if the lights or the glare is made invisible two or three miles away, that purpose would probably be achieved; but if the object is to safeguard the town in which the works are situated, then obviously the lights and glare must not be visible at a height of 1,000 or more feet in the air directly above them. The main difficulties will be found when dealing with blast furnaces and coke ovens. To deal effectively with the glare from blast furnaces or coke ovens or some of the big melting shops it will be necessary to reconstruct substantially the premises in which those operations are taking place, and in the case of the iron and steel industry it has been estimated that this would cost between £5,000,000 and £7,000,000. At the moment one or two, or I may say three, big firms are experimenting to find the best way of eliminating glare from blast furnaces and coke ovens, but they are up against this difficulty that Clause 35 of the Bill says they will be required to 2684take such measures as may be specified in the notice,the notice being served by the Minister, and only those concerns on whom such a notice has been served will receive any contribution. That means that a big steel company with blast furnaces and coke ovens will have to wait for a notice to be served on them indicating what they have to do in order to shield the glare from their furnaces or coke ovens or both. That is a delaying factor and does not strike me as a very practical way of going about things. The industry ought to be informed very quickly exactly what is wanted, because time is the most important factor.
Other industries are in the same position. They are uncertain of what the requirements of the Government are, at what distance the glare and the lights must be invisible, whether invisible to oncoming aircraft from two or three miles away or invisible to aircraft right overhead. I hope that the Government, when making up their minds, will remember the enormous difficulties of making a blast furnace or coke oven entirely invisible from 1,000 yards in the air above it, and also remember that in war one of the most important things will be to keep these great industries running. I am asking that not only should the industries be told the exact requirements of the Government in the matter of diminishing or eliminating lights and glare, but that practical arrangements should be made immediately whereby those in the industry can get on straight away with whatever is required of them. At the present moment I believe that all are marking time until they know what they have to do and why they have to do it, and I hope that my few words may have the effect of speeding up this arrangement, which I know is in the Minister's mind, because it is exactly what he wants to happen.
Coming to the financial aspect of the problem, we find from the Bill that if the necessary preliminaries have been satisfactorily settled a grant of 50 per cent. will be given towards the capital expenditure incurred in shielding or obscuring lights and glare. Frankly, in my own personal capacity I feel that that is unfair, because the obscuration of the lights and glare is undertaken for the purpose almost of the nation as a whole, certainly for the sake of a very vast area, and not alone for the sake of the comparatively small plot of 2685 ground occupied by the particular plant which is producing the light and glare. I heard the Minister refer in his speech to the docks, and to the various obligations which the Government are going to place upon them to safeguard services for which they are not responsible in peacetime but which are very important to the country as a whole. In such cases 85 per cent. of the expenditure will be met by the Exchequer. I do not want to talk about percentages, but I think there is a good case for increasing the 50 per cent, grant towards the expenditure incurred in the obscuration of lights and glare.
Another matter which affects all industries and which I do not think is included in the Bill is the protection and duplication of vital plants in industry. Arrangements are being made to enable the railways, electricity concerns and public utility companies to carry on their vital services, and it seems to me that there is a gap in the Bill in that, so far as I know, there is no provision for the protection and duplication of vital machinery and plant in industry generally. It may be difficult in a great industry to say exactly what is vital plant and how you should protect it. The vital plant may be a very big machine. In every case there is some vital key machine, as for such services as electric lighting or water supply, and that machinery is usually very expensive. It is absolutely vital that such plant should be covered in the same way as plant is being covered for railway companies, docks, public utility companies and for the Electricity Commission, and a grant should be given from the Exchequer in cases where that is necessary. I hope that I have not delayed the House too much in putting some points which I thought it necessary to raise. I have only one object, and that is to speed this Bill and to get it on to the Statute Book.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
I imagine that most of the Debate on this Bill will take place on the Committee stage, when we shall be able to deal in detail with the various proposals contained in it. I propose this evening only to join with other hon. Members in expressing my assent to the Second Reading of the Bill and to mention briefly one or two points which we may deal with more in detail when we reach the Committee stage. I 2686 hope that we may be informed before the end of this Debate that the Bill will be taken in Committee of the Whole House, because I think that would be for the convenience of the House.
Some reference has been made to the question of garden shelters, or what are known as the Anderson shelters. In my constituency 10,000 of these shelters have already been delivered, and we realise that erecting them will be rather a long job. Some of them may have been received with joy and acclamation, but in some places they have had a mixed reception, partly due to the shelters themselves and partly to the fact that they have been delivered during a spell of wet weather. The tendency has been for them to be waterlogged, but when the fine weather comes it will no doubt encourage many of our householders, who have now become accustomed to the look of these shelters in their gardens. Information reached me the other day that a considerable number of my constituents have already begun to wire up their shelters for light and heat as well as for wireless. The electricity company said that there might be a good deal of danger, so perhaps steps should be taken to give some power —I do not know whether it would be necessary to put this into the Bill— perhaps to the local authority, to lay down the law whether these shelters should be wired for electricity. I doubt very much whether there is a Clause in the Bill stating that the shelters belong to the State and not to the householders, but it may be desirable to look into the point whether such powers are now necessary. It is our business to encourage householders to make the shelters as comfortable as possible, and I have no doubt that as the months go on many of them will be planting flowers on the tops of the shelters.
The Bill gives local authorities power to designate public shelters. We have been giving attention to this point for some considerable time. What alarms me is how quickly we shall be able to get on. We had a circular from the Home Office instructing us to get on with making a survey of public shelters and stating that it was essential that the Home Office should have the work concluded by October last. We are still on with that work, and I am not sure how quickly we are going to complete it. One of our 2687 difficulties is that the Bill means, if anything, a considerable increase in the number of the technical people on the staffs of local authorities, for instance in the borough engineer's department. Men of the right technical ability to deal with this work are difficult to get. We have repeatedly advertised, but have received very few applications from people who were suitable to carry on the kind of work that will be required. I wish the Lord Privy Seal would give a little attention to that point.
The next point also seems to require attention. I asked the right hon. Gentleman during his speech whether there was to be any revision of vulnerable areas, and he said that there was. I beg him to consider the suggestion I have made that the whole of the Metropolitan police area should be classed as vulnerable. Greater London is really one gigantic town, and it is no use to declare one district a vulnerable area and say that another that adjoins it is in a different category, because that will get us into all sorts of trouble; and with the power in the Bill in regard to factories and workshops that trouble will be doubled and redoubled. Tottenham, for example, is classed as a vulnerable area and Wood Green is not, although it adjoins Tottenham and is almost part of it. In such cases many complications may arise. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will think out whether it is possible to make a. classification containing the whole of the Metropolitan police area. Otherwise, I can see that trouble will arise.
The remark I made a moment ago about the difficulty of local authorities making speedy progress in this matter applies also to the proposal that has been made that we have to undertake the strengthening of basements. I would like someone to tell us from the Government benches when local authorities may expect to be in a position to commence the work of strutting the basements, of tenements and flats. Since we commenced the distribution in our district of what I called for want of a better name, the Anderson shelters, people who live in fiats have naturally begun to get anxious and to clamour to know when we are going to start to do something for them. I hope we shall get some information on this matter before this Debate closes, as to 2688 when the Government expect to be able to say the word "Go" to local authorities in regard to the strutting of basements.
The hon. Member who last spoke dealt with the question of lights, but I want to deal not with the obscuration of light but with the provision of light. I cannot obtain any guidance about what is to be done to direct people to the shelters. I am informed that in a recent blackout in a provincial town three very intelligent women—they were school teachers—who were volunteers received instructions to proceed to the report centre immediately the alarm was given, and the blackout commenced. The report centre was only several minutes' walk from their homes, but I am informed on good authority that it took those women nearly an hour to get to the report centre. When they emerged in the absolute blackness, although they knew every inch of the district they were totally unable to find their way.
Some local authorities have been encouraged—and this includes my own authority—to try to find places at distances of 250 yards along the main shopping streets to designate—to use the expression in the Bill—as emergency shelters for people, such as women shopping, who are cut off in an air raid in the daytime, and for the crowds of people who will be in the dark in the evening on their way home from work. Accommodation has to be found in each shelter for approximately 50 people. What I am concerned about is how these temporary shelters are to be recognised in absolute darkness. On this point I have not been able to get any information at all. You cannot have neon lights pointing to them, but is there to be any form of luminous paint or some form of light to put on each of these shelters so that they will still remain invisible from above? Large towns, are to be plunged into darkness, and they will not even have the advantage that we have in a London fog of being able to light flares. My question, in one short sentence is, how do the Government propose that people shall find their way in absolute darkness to certain specified places where they may be sheltered?
My next point concerns the Ministry of Health. Clause 41 of the Bill gives power for the clearing out of patients 2689 from hospitals in the event of an emergency likely to lead to war. In September some dreadful things happened in the clearing out of patients from hospitals. Patients were bundled out of hospitals, many of them hardly able to walk, and including people who had been in the hospitals for months. I can give particulars of one case which is typical. A man had been in hospital for eight months when he was removed and taken to his house. His wife was out and there was nobody in that house, but he was taken out of the ambulance, put into bed and left in an empty house. His wife returned some time later, and she was amazed that she had not received any notification that her husband was back in the house. I hope that adequate preparations will be made beforehand if the hospitals are to be cleared in the expectation of being required for casualties, and that: some steps will be taken to see that patients who are seriously ill will not be thrown out on the streets as though they were of no consequence, and sent home when not in fit condition.
Clause 47 deals with plans for evacuation. At some stage in the progress of this Bill, or at any rate very soon, someone from the Government side of the House will have to make a statement about evacuation. We have had no statement yet about what is to happen to what I might call the self-evacuator. In the vulnerable areas nobody knows how many people will clear out on their own account. We are making preparations for the evacuation of roughly 20,000 children and of nursing mothers, expectant mothers, blind people and cripples, in 24 hours. That will not be an easy task for the local authorities, and those who are responsible for the work will be hampered by a multitude of people trying to evacuate themselves. These people will try to get a vehicle of some sort from their friends and we may have a lot of second-hand cars coming out and choking up the roads in all directions. The Government must soon make a statement as to whether people are to be allowed to evacuate themselves; otherwise, while we try to do our best in evacuating the classes of people that I have enumerated, we are going to be mucked up—if I may use the expression—by a whole lot of people who are trying to evacuate themselves and who are getting out in all directions, many not knowing where they 2690 are going and trying to get out in a panic. The position will be almost intolerable. A statement will have to be made for the guidance of householders so that they may know what is to be the position of the person whom, for the want of a better expression, I have called the self-evacuator.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Burgin)
In order that we may have it quite clear, and that I may try to help the hon. Member and the House to answer the question that he has put, would he make it precise? I gather that what he is really asking is whether there will be any restriction on a person leaving an area of his own volition by methods supplied by himself. The hon. Member is not referring to a person endeavouring to find a seat in a public service vehicle or going by train, but he is asking whether a person who wants to evacuate himself might be in any way restricted from procuring a private car in some way. Is that the question?
§ Mr. Morrison
It is the question, and it has a bearing on a number of other questions. When we have completed the task of putting up shelters we shall have erected 25,000 and, if any considerable proportion of people are going to evacuate themselves, obviously there will be a large number of houses with shelters but no inhabitants. I am in favour of a restriction of the liberty of people to come out on to the roads at such a time.
My final point is one that I desire to put on behalf of the Metropolitan Water Board. There has not been sufficient opportunity for the Board to study the Clauses dealing with public utility companies, and some points that they may have to raise will come up later in Committee. They have had to consider the question of their liability for local rates in respect of various buildings which have been and are being erected in connection with the air-raid precautions scheme. The Rating and Valuation Act, 1938, provides that:In ascertaining the value for rating purposes of a hereditament, no regard should be had (a) to any room or other part of the hereditament which has been added at any time after the hereditament was first assessed, or was included in the hereditament before it was first assessed, solely for the purpose of affording protection in the event of hostile attack from the air, and which is not occupied or used for any other purpose.2691 In addition to air-raid shelters and gas proof rooms, which are obviously exempt from rating under this Statute, the Metropolitan Water Board have erected and are erecting other structures for air-raid precautions purposes—stores for portable pumping plant, first-aid stations and decontamination centres. It is also proposed to acquire two large houses for emergency laboratory work in connection with a scheme now being prepared for the Board's Director of Water Examination. The Board take the view that such premises are exempt from rating by virtue of the above-mentioned Act, as they have been erected solely for air-raid precautions purposes and will not be used in any other way. The store for portable pumping plant at Sunbury, Middlesex, is now completed, and the rating authorities say that a proposal will be made to include an assessment in respect of this building. I shall probably put down an Amendment or a new Clause covering the point, and I am sure the Lord Privy Seal will give it his attention, recognising that it is put down on behalf of a very important public utility undertaking.
§ 7.6 p.m.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn)
It is not my purpose to reply to any part of the Debate, but to make a short statement about Clause 74, the Scottish Application Clause, whose length and complexity have not escaped the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Morrison). I greatly regret the shortness of time which Scottish local authorities have had in which to consider the Bill and formulate their opinions of it. It had been our intention that the Second Reading should not be taken until after Easter, but recent events in Europe have heightened the urgency of all our preparations for war and we cannot afford to lose the fortnight which will elapse between now and the end of the Easter Recess. The effect of this Clause is to confer on the Department of Health in Scotland the same powers and responsibilities as are conferred on the Ministry of Health in England, the principal ones being arrangements for evacuating the civil population and for the treatment of casualties in hospital.
We also shall have the duty in certain cases of approving, for the purpose of 2692 additional housing subsidies under Clause 25, proposals by local authorities to incorporate air-raid shelter provisions in blocks of flats or tenements which form part of their new housing schemes. The Department of Health will also be the appropriate Department for seeing that local authorities which are responsible for public water supply take measures under Part V of the Bill to ensure the continuity of water supply in time of war, and it will be our duty to approve expenditure which will rank for grants under Clause 30. The rates of grant and all financial provisions in respect of the functions under the Bill with which the Department are concerned will be the same as in England, with one exception, that the increase in the annual contribution by the Exchequer for air-raid shelters in flats or tenements is rather higher. It is £2 3s. for each flat, compared with £2 in England, which means that the annual charge to the local authority will be 17s. instead of £1. The rates of grant for all these functions under the Bill are as follow:—for evacuation, 100 per cent. of the approved expenditure; in respect of the adaptation of premises for the treatment of casualties or the protection of hospitals it will be either the whole excess over the produce of two twenty-fifths of a penny (compared with one tenth of a penny in England) or 70 per cent. of the approved expenditure, whichever is the greater; and as to measures for ensuring continuity of water supply, 50 per cent. of the approved expenditure.
The present provision about evacuation is this. On 5th January we asked Scottish local authorities to make a survey of all the available accomodation in receiving areas. Since the housing shortage is considerably more acute than in England there was one difference in the standard of accommodation adopted for the survey. In England the standard is one person per room whatever the age of the person. In Scotland it is one person per room over the age of 14 and two in the case of children under 14. That was the standard arrived at after consulting with the Scottish Advisory Committee on Evacuation. Altogether about 500,000 houses have been visited in January and February and, of the 190 authorities who were asked to make a survey, 187 had finished and submitted their returns by the end of last month. 2693 There were only three which had not done so, and for various reasons, principally because they thought that they themselves were in rather vulnerable areas and ought not to be included as receiving areas. The returns show that 168,140 rooms are offered for the reception of school children who are not accompanied by any grown-up person. The standard to be applied to these rooms will afford, if necessary, accommodation for about 350,000 children. Next there are 33,570 rooms available for teachers or helpers who are going with the children. Next there are another 142,760 rooms available for other people, that is to say, mothers who are accompanying their children, or expectant mothers, and all other categories. There are a further 95,050 rooms which have been already booked up by private arrangement— people having arranged to take their friends or relations in advance. Leaving out of account those 95,000 rooms, the total number available for the reception of people who should be evacuated is about 345,000 rooms.
Our estimate of the total number of rooms required for the accommodation of everyone who ought to be evacuated was 354,000. That was a maximum estimate, based on the assumption that everyone would be willing to go, but we have not taken account of the 95,000 rooms in respect of which private arrangements have been made, which will, to some extent, mitigate the problem. Broadly speaking, it can be said that there will be now sufficient accommodation, on the standard which has been adopted, for the reception of all persons evacuated from the present scheduled areas, and detailed arrangements under the scheme are being pushed forward as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we have completed temporary plans, which could be put into operation at once in an emergency, for the evacuation of people from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee to a limited number of reception areas which lie roughly in the southern half of Scotland; they do not go further north at present than Perthshire. These plans include arrangements which have been made with the railway companies and traffic commissioners for transport by train and by bus. Detailed time-tables have been worked out for a two-day evacuation from Dundee and Edinburgh, and for a three-day evacuation from Glasgow.
2694 We also had a survey, in the first two or three months of last year, of all our hospital resources for the whole country, covering all hospitals, whether controlled by local authorities or by voluntary bodies, and also a great number of big hotels and schools which might be used for temporary hospitals. Altogether, 500 hospitals, institutions and other buildings were visited and inspected, and our hospital officers since then have been in regular contact with the medical officers of health and superintendents of hospitals about the problems which would arise in connection with the integration of particular hospitals into the general emergency scheme. From the information we have obtained from this survey, plans have been drawn up for the provision of beds for wounded people in existing hospitals, partly by transferring some of the patients who are there now, either to their own homes or to other institutions, partly by providing additional beds, and partly by adapting other buildings to make them capable of being used for the treatment of casualties. These plans show that the present position in Scotland is that, when the delivery of the medical and surgical equipment which we are providing now has been completed, we shall be able to find 12,000 beds for wounded persons in the first 24 hours of the war, and another 8,000 by the end of the first week. We are engaged now on plans for expanding the accommodation for the treatment of casualties. We are considering plans for another 6,000 beds in hutted units, to be erected on land adjoining existing hospitals and other institutions, and we are immediately beginning negotiations with the hospital authorities who are concerned.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is not the hon. Gentleman going to say anything about nursing, which is one of the most important subjects in connection with this matter?
I had not intended saying anything about nurses, but, since the hon. Gentleman asks me, I may mention that we are, of course, responsible for the training of persons in nursing who are willing to offer their services in the event of war, and a committee, called the Scottish Central Emergency Committee for the Nursing Profession, was appointed in January to compile a register of nursing personnel in Scotland 2695 and to make arrangements for their training. Local committees are being set up by the local authorities to make arrangements for the training of nursing auxiliaries, and a register of trained or semi-trained nurses is being compiled by the College of Nursing.
I was about to say, also, that a large number of country houses have been offered to us for use as hospitals in the event of war. They have all been inspected by the hospital officers of the Department, and those which have been found to be suitable have been noted for this purpose. As to equipment, we have placed orders for 12,500 bedsteads and mattresses. Of these, 3,000 have been delivered now, and arrangements have been made for the delivery of another 3,000 the manufacture of which has already been completed. We have ordered 37,500 blankets, and we are hoping that the delivery of these will begin within the next few days. In the case of other items of bedding, we find that very large stocks at the present moment are held by the trade. We have ascertained the full requirements, in the way of medical or surgical or ward equipment, of every hospital which comes into the scheme, in case it should be called upon to take in wounded people. All the hospitals have been asked to maintain reserves of stores, and we have also placed orders for a large quantity of drugs, dressings, and surgical equipment, the delivery of which will, we hope, begin this week.
As regards transport, we have arranged with the Scottish Motor Traction Company for the conversion, if necessary, of 75 standard buses into ambulances, each to carry eight stretcher cases. The company have manufactured the necessary fittings, and they are holding those fittings in readiness in their workshops. We have 2,500 stretchers now available for this service. Most of them are stored in suitable places, and arrangements have been made for delivery of the remainder. We hope to publish very soon a comprehensive Memorandum describing the emergency hospital services in Scotland, corresponding to that which was published recently in England by the Ministry of Health. I would like to say, in conclusion, how much we appreciate in particular the spirit of co-operation that has been shown by the authorities of voluntary and 2696 statutory hospitals, who have given us a great deal of assistance in compiling inventories of the stores and equipment required, and, in general, the universal readiness that has been shown both by local authorities and by private citizens in all parts of the country to co-operate as rapidly as possible in taking all practicable measures for the greater safety of our civilian population.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will the Scottish Office get the power which is conferred by Part VI of the Bill with respect to dealing with burning bings? I do not see that it will.
We have just had a Bill dealing with burning bings—a private Member's Bill. The Scottish Office is responsible for that Bill, but I do not think that under this Bill we are responsible for seeing that they are put out in time of war. The private Member's Bill only confers these powers on the Department of Health; I think it would be the Lord Privy Seal who would be responsible for the wartime emergency regulations regarding burning bings. As the hon. Member will recollect, the Bill passed the other day was only with respect to peace-time. In time of war the responsibility would certainly not rest on the Department of Health., but on the Lord Privy Seal, who now has the general responsibility for air-raid precaution services, which used to be carried on by the Home Office.
§ Mr. F. Anderson
Is anything being done as regards the conversion of ordinary road vehicles into ambulances, especially in Scotland?
I am afraid I could not give the hon. Gentleman any useful information about that matter without notice. We are considering a great many other plans that have been submitted to us for the conversion of other vehicles, but the only information I can give the hon. Member now is with regard to the 75 omnibuses of the Scottish Motor Traction Company.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Silkin
Like other Members who have spoken in this Debate, I welcome the Bill as recognising the principle of providing, for the civilian population, protection against enemy aircraft. I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman 2697 understands that to mean, as I do, the whole of the civilian population who need protection. But when one reads the Bill carefully, one cannot help feeling profoundly disappointed at its failure to live up to that principle, which it does only very partially and imperfectly. The Bill is a large and complicated one, but, in the extent of the protection provided, it strikes me, at any rate, as being a half hearted Measure with many gaps. It includes some persons in the protection it affords, and, for reasons which are difficult to understand, it excludes others. Even at this late hour, the right hon. Gentleman still, apparently, fails to recognise the seriousness of the problem and the need for providing protection for the whole of the civilian population.
Let us see how the Bill applies in a few instances. If one considers its application to factories, mines, and commercial buildings, one finds that it applies to places of that sort where more than 50 persons are employed, but does not apply to similar places where fewer than 50 are employed. I have been interested to see how that would work out in the county of London. According to the Survey of London Life and Labour, there were nearly 32,500 employers of insured workers, and, of that number, about 27,000 employed fewer than 50 workers each. All of these are, of course, excluded from the benefits of the Bill, so that only 5,500 employers out of 32,500 will come within its scope, or one employer in six. I agree that that does not necessarily reflect the proportion of workpeople who will be affected, but, having gone into the figures very carefully—I was not able to get exact figures —I submit that it means that only a very small proportion of the total number of workpeople engaged in factories, workshops and business houses in London will get the benefit of the Bill.
Again, there are in London many large commercial buildings, such as office buildings, let out to large numbers of separate occupiers, very few of whom employ as many as 50 people. In the aggregate you may get very large buildings of that sort, with large numbers of people employed, massed together within a very small area, and under this Bill it is nobody's business to see that they are properly protected. Take a building like Bush House, which may be occupied by a large number of tenants. I should be surprised to find that there are many 2698 there who employ more than 50 people, and yet it only needs to be mentioned for the House to appreciate the catastrophe that would occur if anything happened to a house like Bush House. I would like to ask the Minister what protection he proposes in the case of large buildings of that sort.
Then, again, steel shelters are being provided for the occupiers of small buildings all over the country, and the strengthening of flats and of other buildings is being provided for, but here again large sections of the population are being left out. I am informed, for instance, that in the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn there is not a single house which is structurally capable, by reason of its height or its yard space, of utilising the steel shelter. I am informed that very much the same thing applies in the boroughs of Kensington, Paddington, Marylebone, and Finsbury, and that even in a working-class area like Hackney 60 per cent. of the houses are not capable of taking advantage of the steel shelter. I would like to know what the Lord Privy Seal proposes in the case of large areas such as those that I have mentioned, where steel shelters cannot be used at all or where they can only be used to a limited extent.
I am very glad that provision is being made in this Bill for the strengthening of, and the provision of protection in, new buildings and flats, but I should like to emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) said in relation to existing flats. In London alone there are nearly a quarter of a million flats, with a population of about 900,000 persons, and they are almost entirely without protection. I should like to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he contemplates the provision of any protection for those large masses of people. After all, new flats will only become available in the course of time, and any provision made under this Bill will apply only to new flats, which will be constructed perhaps in a year's time. Meanwhile there are these 900,000 people living in flats in London to-day who are entirely without protection, and there are large numbers of people living in houses which are so constructed that they cannot use these steel shelters, and large numbers again who, while they are at work, cannot under the provisions of this Bill get the benefit of the protection that is suggested. 2699 I would, therefore, like to know whether the Minister has any additional proposals for dealing with what in the aggregate amounts to a very considerable section— I am not at all sure that it does not in the aggregate amount to the majority—of the population of London who will be left entirely without protection.
There is the difficulty which my right hon. Friend mentioned as to what will happen when existing tenants of municipal buildings see that tenants who are occupying new flats are being provided with protection under this Bill and existing tenants are not. My right hon. Friend referred to certain unpleasantnesses which I might have to go through in consequence and suggested that I might refer the complainants to the Lord Privy Seal, but that would not be much satisfaction either to the complainants, or the Lord Privy Seal, or myself, and I hope that some suggestion might come from the right hon. Gentleman to deal with what is really a very serious problem. I can understand it being suggested that we should do nothing about flats at all, but I see considerable difficulties in making provision for new flats.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I think he entirely overlooks the fact that this Bill, when it passes into law, must be read together with the Act of 1937, which contains provisions with regard to shelters for the population at large. This Bill supplements those provisions and will strengthen the position of the local authorities in certain important respects for carrying out the obligations that the Act of 1937 imposes.
§ Mr. Silkin
I fully realise that, but the position in London is not at all so simple as the Lord Privy Seal suggests, because the authorities in London for dealing with protection are the Metropolitan borough councils, and it is the London County Council which is the owner of large numbers of flats. Therefore, the problem still arises as to what will happen to the occupiers of existing flats, who will not get the same protection as the occupiers of new flats. I should be very much obliged if the Lord Privy Seal would direct his attention to that problem. One way in which he might consider the matter is by the provision of some sort of financial assistance towards the very heavy costs involved in adapting existing 2700 flats in such a way as to provide the necessary protection. I know as an administrator that under the Act of 1937 it is not possible for local authorities to get the financial assistance which this enormous expenditure would necessitate, and so I submit that, in view of the inadequacy of the protection given under this Bill—and I am perfectly prepared to recognise what has been done under the Act of 1937—it is all the more imperative that further consideration should be given to the general problem and further protection given to the general public.
Therefore, I was very disappointed indeed to hear the Lord Privy Seal this afternoon throw cold water on the policy of the deep shelter combined with a car park. In many congested areas it seems to me that the only practicable method of providing protection in places such as I have described—large office blocks and large congregations of population—is by means of these deep shelters; and, recognising the cost of them and the enormous burden devolving upon local authorities, I feel that in many cases they could usefully and profitably be combined with car parks. I know that the situation is not simple, but I did hope that this afternoon the Lord Privy Seal would give a more sympathetic statement on the subject than he did, and I still hope that he has not said the last word on it. If he has, I can assure him that he will hear a good deal more about it. In the meantime, I very much regret that even now he has not definitely committed himself on the subject. The public are entitled to know what the Government's policy on this matter is.
The Bill purports to enable local authorities to provide deep shelters with car parks, and specific provision is made in Clause 7, yet the Government have apparently not yet made up their minds, whether they will approve a scheme if it is submitted. I suggest that local authorities want to know, and to know quickly whether such schemes will, be approved -There are many local authorities; which are definitely in favour of providing shelters of this sort, but which are declining to prepare plans and investigate-the possibilities of providing these shelters until they know what the Government's attitude is, and meanwhile much valuable time is being lost. I might here mention 2701 that if, as I hope, the Government will eventually approve in principle the provision of deep shelters with car parks, then Clause 7 will have to be drastically amended. It provides, for instance, that there shall be no interference with any growing things in an open space. I am advised that if in fact effective deep shelters are to be provided, it is inevitable that there must be some interference with things that are growing, and while everyone would wish that the amenities of our open spaces should be maintained as far as possible, I feel that that fact ought not to be allowed to stand in the way, if the need really is established, of the provision of effective shelters.
Then I feel that the machinery is not too satisfactory. There are too many formalities, difficulties, and consents in the way of any local authority undertaking these schemes. I recognise that these can be dealt with on the Committee stage of the Bill, but I hope the Minister will have another look at Clause 7 and satisfy himself that the machinery cannot be made simpler, and that if he really desires to give local authorities the power to provide deep shelters, with or without car parks, he will do it in such a way that it will be made reasonably easy for a local authority to carry out this policy. In this Clause the Minister is providing grant on the basis, first, that a car park is being provided and then, in so far as that car park can be used as a shelter, he will give grant on the additional cost involved. I submit that that is really unreasonable and unfair to the local authority. In the vast majority of cases these things would not be provided at all except in so far as there is a need for deep shelters, and I feel that we ought to regard these things first of all as shelters and disregard any additional cost involved in the construction, which is incurred simply as the result of making them fit for a car park. I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the distinction. In the way in which the Bill is drafted there may be a considerable injustice to local authorities, and I feel that these things ought to be regarded primarily as shelters and only incidentally as car parks.
Another point is that while power is given to use squares and open spaces, it is not clear that the Royal parks, for instance, can be used for similar purposes 2702 where necessary. After all, in the Bill as it stands it is contemplated that there should be no damage to the surface, and where it would be suitable and convenient I see no reason why local authorities should not be able to use the Royal parks, just as they are able to use public squares and other open spaces. I can hardly imagine that the Royal parks would be more interfered with by the provision of deep shelters than they have already been interfered with by the provision of the trenches, which are a complete eyesore to anyone who has to use the Royal parks. Finally, is it intended that these provisions should apply to building land as well as to all other lands? Because it may well be that building land which it is intended to utilise for the erection of flats or other buildings may be appropriated for use as deep shelters, and the result may be that it will be impossible to use the surface, but in the Bill as drawn no compensation is payable for the loss of the use of the surface where only the subsoil is being used. That is a Committee point, but I hope the Minister will look into it between now and the Committee stage.
I have drawn the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a good many imperfections in and omissions from the Bill. It fails to protect large numbers of people who ought to be protected, and it leaves such questions as deep shelters in an entirely unsatisfactory position. Nevertheless, with all its imperfections, I hope that the Bill will not only be speedily passed but that it will be speedily acted upon by the Government and the local authorities. The Bill really provides machinery, but in order to be effective it requires to be clothed with flesh and blood. I hope there will be no unavoidable delay in bringing the machinery into action. I am afraid I am not as optimistic as the financial and explanatory Memorandum, which contemplates that a certain amount of protection will not be provided for more than a year. The amount of money provided in the Bill for the purposes of protection does not encourage one to believe that the protection will be on a very large scale. Notwithstanding, I hope that the Bill will mark a new starting point in the provision of protection for the general masses which they demand and to which they are entitled.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
Those who listened to the speech of the Lord Privy Seal must have felt themselves subject to two conflicting emotions. First of all I think we all felt what a monstrous thing it is that all this expenditure of time, money and labour, that is so sorely needed in other directions to make the world a happier and better place to live in, should have to be applied to the sterile purposes outlined in the Bill. What a fantastic thing it is that this burden should be laid, as it is laid, on so many civilised people because of the insensate ambition of one man. The other emotion which many of us felt was a quiet but, none the less, a very firm determination to secure the purposes for which the Bill stands in the most effective manner possible. The Lord Privy Seal has a task of very great difficulty and no one in the House would add any unnecessary burden on him at the present time. The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) truly expressed the feeling of the whole House when he said that in no quarter would there be any factious opposition to the Bill.
Having said so much, I am entitled to say that legislation passed in a hurry not infrequently proves to be very imperfect legislation. I do not think it is to be hoped that a Minister's first Bill will prove to be his best Bill. Therefore, in these circumstances there is a particular duty cast on Private Members in all quarters of the House to study the Bill, to bring to it any special knowledge they possess and to endeavour, by making suggestions to secure that the imperfections in the Bill are removed and that valuable additions, where possible, are made to it. Some useful and practical suggestions have been made already to-day. For my part I wish to draw attention to one or two features in regard to shelters where I feel that possibly on further reflection the Government might improve the provisions of the Bill.
First with regard to private shelters, I mean shelters erected by private persons or firms, and not by public authorities. The principle to be kept before us at this time should be that every shelter that is made adds to the strength of the country, no matter by whom it is made and no matter where it is made. Although it may be suggested that the public utility of the shelter is increased 2704 if it is erected in certain areas rather than in other areas, I think the whole problem as to the relative danger of different parts of the country is so difficult and so obscure that we can clearly say that anyone who builds a shelter against air attack anywhere is performing a public service, and to that extent strengthening the position of the country. That is not, however, a principle that is recognised in the Bill.
We find in Clause 9 that the provisions of Part III apply only to certain areas which are specified in an Order to be made by the Minister. The Government on a previous occasion laid down a classification of areas as vulnerable, as suitable for the reception of refugees and as neutral. Many districts were subject to classification, but we are now told that that is to be revised. Perhaps in due course the revised list will in its turn be revised. It is an impossible task to ask any man to-day to lay down a reasonable classification of that kind. Various difficulties arise if the Bill be left as it is in this respect. For example, the Minister now describes, say, certain areas as vulnerable, and therefore subject to Part III of the Bill. Employers in those districts employing a certain number of persons have to put up shelters of a certain type, and they get financial assistance in regard to those shelters.
Suppose six months hence the Minister issues another order varying the areas which are considered as vulnerable and bringing in areas which he now excludes. As I read the Bill, employers in those areas will then become subject to Part III and will be required to provide shelters, but they will be too late to get the benefit of the financial assistance provided in Part III, because that is specifically limited in time. I cannot help thinking that that is one reason why the provision in Clause 9 is unwise. It may be argued, on the other hand, that to spread the net too wide and to make it compulsory for shelters to be provided over too wide an area, would be an unnecessary hardship. Then I urge that if the making of shelters in the wider areas is not made compulsory, it should be encouraged, and that financial assistance under Part III should be made available to anybody who puts up a shelter, whether in an area which the Government suggest is vulnerable or not. Obviously, apart from other difficulties, 2705 the mere fact of evacuation and the concentration of population make it exceedingly difficult to say what the relative degree of vulnerability in particular areas will be.
Then there is the question of indiscriminate bombing. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) told us, with surprising confidence, that we need not be afraid of any indiscriminate bombing. He said that the bombing would be directed to very definite objectives. I do not know how he thought he knew. I suggest that it is common sense that there will be a good deal of indiscriminate bombing for purely terrorist objectives. There is the question of accidental bombing. The speed at which a modern bomber moves, the confusion in a storm or in the dark, in face of opposition, will obviously mean that a great quantity of bombs will be dropped indiscriminately over such a wide area that they will not fall anywhere near their original objective. For these reasons it is not possible to make a distinction of any great value as to which areas are dangerous and which are not. The wise thing, therefore, is to encourage people, wherever they are, to build shelters and to give them financial assistance in doing so.
I should like to know what is the position of a householder who provides a shelter for himself, his family, his servants and others who may live either in his house or on his estate? It may be such a shelter as would accommodate numbers several times as great as the number of the family of the man providing it. If I read the Bill aright such a shelter would not be a shelter within the meaning of Part III and no sort of financial assistance would be given to such a person in making the shelter, yet within his limited opportunity he will have been performing a public service in putting up that shelter. If, as we all agree, the shelters should be provided free of cost for those who, roughly, come below the income limit, it is not unreasonable to suggest that those above that limit, who provide so large a share of the cost of other shelters, should be assisted to some degree in the form of remission of taxation or otherwise.
The other point I particularly want to make is with regard to public shelters. There is provision in the Bill for what is called the designation of premises. The object, of course, is very clear. Local 2706 authorities, in some districts, cannot make reasonable provision of public shelters. They are restricted to public property, and no doubt it would be extremely difficult for them if they were restricted to negotiation with private owners. Therefore, power is given for them to go to a private owner and say that part of his property is designated for an air-raid shelter in the event of war. I do not think anybody will quarrel with that provision. But there seems to be this practical difficulty. Naturally, in making provision we assume that the people concerned will act reasonably. Probably the great majority of local authorities can be trusted to act reasonably. I would not like to say that they all can. The local authority depend on an official—, it may be, on the surveyor. His judgment in a particular case may be at fault. He may do something that most people would consider unreasonable. There is no appeal whatever for the owner of that property. If it were merely a question of intimating that in the event of war the property would be required for that purpose, not much harm would be done; but the local authority have power to go into the property and make alterations.
I suggest that where the local authority desire to make alterations to the property without the consent of the owner there should be, at least, a right of appeal to the Minister. That would be a valuable safeguard. At present, there is no appeal at all, with the two exceptions: if the property is required for the owner as an air-raid shelter, or if it is required for some other purpose. I hope it will be possible in Committee to get some suitable words inserted to meet this difficulty.
With regard to the general question of shelters, I feel that at the present time the almost complete lack of shelters is probably the weakest spot in our defence. That is why I said, a little earlier, that I feel it is of such importance that everyone should be encouraged, whoever he may be and wherever he may live or work, to put up a shelter if he can do so. I do not consider that evacuation is any substitute for shelters. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of not only getting shelters, but getting them as quickly as we can. It is for that reason that I drew attention to the limitations of Clause 9, and I hope that those in charge of the Bill will consider, between now and the Committee stage, whether it 2707 is reasonable and possible to extend its scope, as far as shelters are concerned, and to widen the area in which erection may be encouraged.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Colonel Nathan
This Bill of 75 Clauses and two Schedules covers, of course, a much wider subject matter than would normally be comprised in a single Bill. It is, indeed, a number of different Bills under one cover and one Title. That is no argument against the Bill. It is a convenient way of dealing with a wide and difficult subject matter, but the House would be unwise to conceal from itself the fact that this Bill bears a close family relationship to the D.O.R.A. that we knew in the late War. It is a Bill which, while giving wide powers to the various Ministerial Departments, does to a certain extent clip and restrain liberties. But these are times when the House will readily agree, while retaining its general control, to the restriction of a measure of that private liberty for the public welfare, and to handing to Ministers far wider powers than we should in normal times, in order that, in the emergency situation with which we are dealing, they may be able effectively to fulfil the functions which rest upon them. We must hope that Ministers will effectively and energetically exercise those functions, and with due regard to the interests of those concerned.
I do not propose to say anything with regard to the matter which has given rise to so much discussion to-day—the question of shelters. I observe that Clause 34, dealing with the obscuration of lights and camouflage, applies to the occupiers of factory premises and the owners of mines, and also to public utility undertakings. There is no mention in that Clause of any duty as regards the obscuration of light being imposed upon private individuals or the various institutions which are of a public character though not, under the definition in this Bill, public utility undertakings. It may be that there is in some other Statute provision laying a duty on private individuals to obscure their light in the circumstances envisaged by the Clause. Perhaps it may be possible, not only for my own enlightenment, but for the enlightenment of the public, to have some explanation on that; and, as the Minister of Health is now sitting on the Treasury 2708 Bench, I would ask him where is to be found—because I doubt not that it is to be found somewhere; it certainly ought to be—a provision laying an obligation on hospitals to obscure their lights in the event of war.
But, on this Clause, I wish to raise a much wider question, not of detail at all. The House understands quite clearly the object underlying the provision that light shall be obscured in the event of air raids. Broadly speaking, of course, the object is to confuse and mislead enemy raiding aircraft. But is there any alternative? While I am not competent to express any opinion on the value of directional wireless in connection with raiding aircraft, I wonder, if the sole object of obscuration is to confuse, and perhaps mislead, raiding aircraft, whether there is any possible alternative. Let it be remembered that darkness plus an air raid—and not merely the ordinary darkness of night, but an induced darkness— will be apt not only to confuse raiding aircraft, but also to confuse the general public, and perhaps even create some measure of panic and unnecessary fear and difficulty in the minds and in the movements of the general public.
I mentioned shelters, not for the purpose of raising any question on them, but merely to illustrate what I have in mind. Visualise some street, thickly populated, with the windows all darkened, the street lights either obscured or out, the zooming of the aircraft overhead—or, at least, the sirens sounding—perhaps a crash of bombs in the distance, but seeming to be much nearer than they are, and travelling steadily and swiftly, closer and closer; and your population in some narrow, congested, thickly-populated street of London, without any protection in their own two-storey homes, are invited to seek safety, or some protection, in a shelter. They all leave their homes, having hastily gathered together their coats or mackintoshes and put on their boots and shoes, or even without waiting to do that. They all rush at the same time out of doors; they all move along this narrow street in the same direction, all in complete darkness, to find their way to a shelter, which is not so easily found in the darkness without guides. Yet if they have hand lamps, of the type with which we are familiar, those lamps, in the hands of large numbers of people, all walking in the same direction, will be, unless they 2709 have some special contraption on them, just as much a guide to aircraft as the lights of the streets themselves would be —or scarcely less. I do not know how many hon. Members have travelled by air as many thousand feet above the ground as raiding aircraft are likely to travel, but it is astonishing—at least, astonishing to me—how even a single small light is easily perceptible.
I fear that the results of an induced darkness may be serious and may cause a high degree of panic, and at least unnecessary confusion. Even those who walk along streets which they know well in the daylight, will find that they look very different at night time, and how much more would that be the case if they were actuated by fear and panic and seeking shelter. It may be that, with all its disadvantages, it is essential that there should be this obscuration. I concede at once—it is a matter of first principle— that there must be something which will confuse and confound, if possible, the raiding aircraft so that they may not know precisely where they may be or may not: completely identify the target which they are seeking. What is the principle upon which this tactic of darkness rests? It is really that everything shall look alike, and that no particular feature of the landscape shall be distinguishable from another feature of the landscape, and that the raider shall not know precisely where he is. But that can be done not only by a uniform darkness, but also by creating a uniform light. If the Minister of Transport, who is sitting upon the Bench opposite, with his control over the Electricity Board, would give consideration to this matter, I believe that he would arrive at some rather remarkable and unsuspecting conclusions. Darkness creates fear. Light maintains confidence, and the desirability of the maintenance of that confidence is so great that any experiment and inquiry, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree, is well worth while, at least to the stage of genuine inquiry and investigation.
The suggestion which I have to make to the right hon. Gentleman is that he should seek expert advice as to the possibility of creating over the greater part of the area of this country not a uniform darkness, but a uniform degree of light. It is the uniformity that confuses your hostile raider. What makes light dangerous to 2710 the population living within its radius is the fact that it identifies a particular spot or a particular target, but if the whole of your ground has a light of uniform intensity you achieve exactly the same results as you do with a uniform darkness, but without the risks of panic to which I have referred. I know that it would mean laying cables, that there would be certain technical difficulties and that it would not be inexpensive, but I have a fair degree of confidence that, from the point of view of the military advisers of the Government it would be found to have precisely the same effect as darkness, and from the point of view of those who are responsible for the protection of the civil population, it would immensely relieve them of anxiety and ease their labours if it were found to be possible, as I suggest it would, to give a modified or even a low degree of light generally rather than a universal darkness. I put forward that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman in the hope that he will give it the consideration which I feel it deserves, or I should not have occupied the time of the House in this way upon that subject.
As I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health sitting upon the Bench opposite, perhaps I may be allowed to refer to the next part of this Bill, that dealing with casualties and disease, and upon that I value the opportunity of putting a few questions to the hon. Member to which, perhaps, it will be found possible to give an answer when the Minister of Health speaks tomorrow. I should like to know exactly how far the arrangements have already gone for the treatment of casualties as referred to at the beginning of Clause 41. I should like to know whether the Minister is satisfied—and I hope that he may be— that 300,000 beds, which, I think, was the figure mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary at Bristol in a speech not long ago, would be available for casualties if an emergency situation were to arise suddenly, and perhaps within the next few days. The hon. Gentleman's statement—or it may have been the Minister; I have the statement clearly in mind—was that 300,000 beds would be available, and perhaps the Minister would be good enough to tell me if I am correct in my recollection. The question to which I should like an answer is as to whether the Minister is quite certain that the beds are there? Has anybody seen them, and are 2711 they there with all their equipment— blankets, sheets, pillows and all the rest of the necessary furnishing?
While I believe that, at all events, theoretically and on paper, the hospital scheme for dealing with casualties is good, my only doubt is as to how, if an emergency were to arise, at the moment it would work in practice. If the right hon. Gentleman has 300,000 beds available, where exactly is he going to put them? Is it not the fact that a large number of these places which have been scheduled for use as hospitals are at present public assistance institutions, for instance, and that when it comes to the point are not available either for use as hospitals or are not suitable for use as hospitals; not available because those who are there now are perhaps chronic invalids and the aged, who have no homes to which to be evacuated, and not suitable because we must envisage casualties having to be taken by stretcher from ambulance to bed. In some of these cases may it not be the fact that the stairways are so narrow, and the twists and turnings in them so frequent as to make it impossible to get a stretcher up them? May it not also be the case that in some instances it will be found that there are whole floors which have been scheduled for use as hospitals where, in fact, there is no water, and perhaps no light? I believe that in this connection, while following to its logical conclusion the general scheme propounded by the Ministry, some fresh steps will have to be envisaged for the purpose of giving it practical effect.
I think that some of the existing hospital accommodation scheduled for use in the country might very well form the nucleus of large extensions. If the Minister agrees with that view I suggest that it is necessary, and urgently necessary, that there should now be erected a whole group of hutments, I would call them villages or townshops of hutments, around these various nuclei of existing hospitals so as to be available with water, drainage, light and power for use when emergency arises, with beds and bedding, drugs and dressings, operating theatres and surgical instruments, if not actually installed, at any rate available for instalment after a short delay. Once a raid begins they will be there. It will not be long before casualties follow and will require to be 2712 evacuated. In connection with the question of hutments I would refer to the rather curious exclusion in the Memorandum, in connection with Clause 42 (b), of the right of a county council or county borough to erect new buildings. It is a specific prohibition or exclusion, and it raises the point whether it prevents hutments being erected. I am sure that cannot be in the mind of the Minister, and I point it out in the hope that he will look into the matter and see whether hutments would be excluded. If they are, I am sure he would wish to amend this provision.
I am rather troubled to find, on page vi of the Memorandum, the statement that in Clause 13 it is anticipated that structural precautions and works of adaptation will cost only £1,500,000. I suppose that full attention has been given to the Memorandum issued by the Ministry of Health as to what it considers necessary for the purposes of structural precautions, but the figure of £1,500,000 seems to me derisory when read in conjunction with the instructions issued by the Ministry of Health. I have just come from presiding over a committee of a hospital dealing with this particular question of casualties and structural alterations to hospitals, and I was told, not on any precise authority, in the course of the discussion that the estimate which was given of the figure involved for carrying out this casualty scheme and the directions indicated by the Minister in the emergency regulations pamphlet No. 1, was £50,000,000, as against this estimate of £1,500,000. That is a very striking difference. I am not committed to the figure of £50,000,000, although that figure has been mentioned, but the figure is immeasurably larger than the one contemplated by the Government in the Memorandum to the Bill. I should like to know what has been done to increase the number of nurses for training. The number at present available is estimated at 80,000 to 100,000; but if the casualties are such as some people have estimated, and if the dispersal of the nursing staff is wide, then 100,000 nurses will not go very far. The service must be made more attractive and the numbers must be largely increased.
I should like to take this opportunity of asking the Minister of Transport a question on one final point. It also relates to hospitals. It is the evacuation of 2713 casualties. I am very much concerned about that. The whole casualty system for its efficient working depends on speedy evacuation, first to the first-aid posts, the casualty clearing stations in London and then right away to the country. Are they to go by train or by road? I think the river is out of the question because I understand that the port authorities have taken charge of all the transport on the river for the conveyance of foodstuffs. It will be difficult for hospitals to get their patients to the river. The chief object, so far as the London hospitals are concerned, is to get casualties, who will be only patched up there as fast as possible away to the country for proper treatment, in order to make room for the next batch. That is the basis on which the whole system rests.
In the early stages of war there will be the evacuation of children by rail, and for a certain period of time the railways will be fully occupied, almost exclusively I understand, in doing that duty. Then there are the supplies coming into London and the movement of troops and guns going out of London to take up their war stations. There will be heavy traffic upon the roads. I am thinking of a particular group of hospitals for which I have a certain measure of responsibility. All the patients will have to be evacuated by one or two bridges, by Hammersmith Bridge or by Putney Bridge. The approaches to these bridges are not very numerous. There is a bottleneck at Hammersmith and the roads are easily and quickly congested. I should like to know, in the first place, what steps are being taken to provide one-way traffic and make these roads rather less congested than they would otherwise be. I want to ask the Minister of Transport what will happen if war breaks out and a bomb has made Hammersmith Bridge unsuitable for normal traffic. Has he made arrangements for the immediate erection of temporary bridges or pontoons alongside? I hope he has. He cannot duplicate roads, but he can duplicate bridges and I hope he has made provision, if necessity arises, so that bridges can be temporarily duplicated.
§ Mr. Burgin indicated assent.
§ Colonel Nathan
I see that the right hon. Gentleman nods affirmatively. I am delighted to know that he has done this, 2714 and I congratulate him upon his enterprise.
§ Mr. Burgin
I propose to deal with this under Clause 50, to which I shall refer when I speak later in the Debate.
§ Colonel Nathan
I have taken rather more time than I would normally expect to take in addressing the House, but hospitals and casualties are a matter of first importance in all this unhappy business. I believe that the morale of the people of this country will never fail unless they feel that adequate provision has not been made to deal with them or their friends if they are injured. My object and desire in presenting these points for the consideration of the House and the Minister has not been to make criticism—I support the Bill—but to indicate some of the difficulties which I foresee, in the hope that I may have been able to suggest some methods by which, in part, they might be overcome.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
The House will evidently give this Bill a rapid passage into law, not because it is something which is overdue, as was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), but rather because it is an indication of the comprehensive energy with which the Lord Privy Seal has undertaken his task. If I call attention to one or two of the manifold and complex provisions of the Bill, it is not in a spirit of criticism, but rather in the hope that my right hon. Friend will be able either at some later stage of this Bill or at some other time to give consideration to them.
I want, first of all, to say something about the financial provisions of the Bill. It is impossible not to regard with some apprehension any further substantial increase in the financial burdens which air-raid precautions have already placed upon many local authorities, particularly those in neighbourhoods which are specially exposed to attack. On turning to the Financial Memorandum to the Bill, I cannot help thinking that it understates the burden of expenditure which is likely to be placed upon certain local authorities. On page VIII of the Memorandum there is a statement that:The amount of expenditure which will fall to be borne by local authorities from rate funds will be of the order of £300,000 apart from the expenditure on the erection of steel 2715 shelters and the strutting of basements under Part IV which will attract Exchequer grants approximating to 70 per centThat means that a local authority whose area contains a great many dwelling houses where the free issue of steel shelters has to be provided, or a very large number of buildings with basements for which strutting will have to be supplied, will incur proportionately increased expenditure by reason of the obligation to fix shelters and appliances, to give advice, and for the other matters dealt with in Part IV of the Bill. I recognise that the major part of that expenditure will not be incurred under this Bill, but nevertheless the fact remains that considerable additional expenditure will be involved in the matters to which I have referred. I welcome the statement that was made by the Lord Privy Seal that a review of the expenditure is to be undertaken probably at a rather earlier period than was anticipated when it was originally announced that such a review would take place. But I would remind my right hon. Friend of something of which he is probably well aware, namely, that the original estimate to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney referred, of an expenditure not exceeding a 1d. rate which would fall on local authorities, has been very much disturbed by the events of last September. If that estimate has now been falsified, I do not think that my right hon. Friend can be blamed, because it is really the events of that time which have contributed to the undoubted fact that many local authorities already have exceeded the original estimate.
My right hon. Friend was invited to say that when this review was made, special consideration would be given to what are called the poorer local authorities. The point to which I particularly desire to call attention is that the local authorities which are usually regarded as the poorer authorities, are not necessarily those on which the burden of rates for these services presses most heavily. When hon. Members speak of the poorer authorities they usually have in mind those authorities that have a high rate poundage; but my point is that the measure of relief which I hope will be given when this review is made ought to be related to the abnormal burden which falls upon certain authorities by reason of their geographical position or the nature of the 2716 development in their areas. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to assure the House that when the review takes place, the criterion for relief will be the abnormal burden which has been cast upon these authorities by reason of their position or the nature of their development, rather than the financial strength of the authority judged by normal standards.
I pass now to the question of shelters. As the House knows, the distribution of shelters and of appliances for strengthening basements is at present made to two classes of persons. It is made to persons whose occupations are compulsorily insurable under the National Health Insurance Act, and also to persons who are not compulsorily insured but who are mainly dependent upon incomes not exceeding £250 per annum. I cannot help thinking that when those two classes of persons were selected for a free distribution of shelters and appliances, it was thought that they were substantially the same class of people. In many cases that is so, but there are many other cases in which it is not so, and the result is that we are having to-day a distribution of free shelters to persons whose incomes exceed the £250 range, while persons living in the same neighbourhood whose incomes may be less than those of their neighbours, who are receiving free shelters, are required to pay for shelters and appliances. Undoubtedly it gives rise to a certain feeling of resentment if people find themselves required to pay for shelters when their next-door neighbours whose income may be larger are receiving a free issue.
I myself should have welcomed a higher income limit. I think I should have preferred a variation in income limit according to the exposed nature or otherwise of the district in which the issue was made, but I recognise that a line has to be drawn somewhere, and no doubt the limit of £250 is not altogether unfair. But I wish that my right hon. Friend could say that he would review this arrangement and raise the income limit a little above £250. At any rate, I hope he will be able to give some assurance about the removal of the anomaly, which arises from the fact that a free distribution is made to persons irrespective of income merely because they fall within the class who are compulsorily insured for National Health Insurance purposes
2717 There is one other matter to which I desire to refer, namely, the requisition of vehicles. Clause 48 provides that in certain circumstances a local authority may take possession of any vehicle and use it in the discharge of any of their civil defence functions. It goes on to provide that possession shall not be taken of any vehicle by virtue of such an order, without the previous consent of the traffic commissioners for the area in which the vehicle is, unless arrangements have been made with the approval of the traffic commissioners between the owner of the vehicle and the local authority, that the vehicle should be available for use. The point to which I desire to draw attention is this. Some provision should be made to restrict the power of the local authority to take possession of vehicles in this way to their own area, or, if they go outside their own area, to require them to obtain the consent of the local authority of the area in which the vehicle is.
What I apprehend is that we may find one local authority taking possession of vehicles outside its own area which are needed by the local authority of that area and which may be more conveniently available to that local authority than to the neighbouring local authority who come in and obtain possession. The only safeguard in the Clause is that the local authority must get the sanction of the traffic commissioners or that there must be some arrangement between the owner of the vehicle and the local authority made with the sanction of the commissioners. I should like to be assured that before the traffic commissioners give their sanction to an arrangement of that nature, and before they permit a local authority to take possession of a vehicle under this provision, they should be required to consult the local authority for the area in which the vehicle is.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I think if the hon. Gentleman examines the Clause he will see that time is not of great importance in this matter. I hope that the Bill will speedily become law and that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us some assurances upon these matters to which I have drawn attention.
§ 8.52 p.m.
Mr. W. Joseph Stewart
I desire to deal briefly with the following questions—first, evacuation; secondly, deep bomb- 2718 proof shelters; thirdly, the safety of collieries on the North-East Coast; and, fourthly, the danger of burning pit-heaps. I was rather surprised when the return dealing with evacuation areas, reception areas and neutral areas was issued to find that the county of Durham, with the exception of the county borough of Gates-head, was termed a neutral area. I have a vivid recollection of how during the War years, there were visits of Zeppelins to the North-East Coast on more than one occasion, and I also remember the bombardment by enemy warships of part of the North-East Coast during the same period. Remembering those things, and realising also the vulnerability of the North-East Coast, I am at a loss to understand the attitude of the Government in treating Durham county as a neutral area. Beginning at the mouth of the Tyne on the South side, and going along the coast we find the large county borough of South Shields and, further along, Whitburn and Marsden and the county borough of Sunderland. In each of those boroughs, owing to the overcrowded conditions of many of the tenements and lack of space, it is practically impossible to put up air-raid shelters. One wonders what would happen if in the near future, war were to break out and those parts were subjected to the horrors of an air raid.
With many others I think that the Government should do something more than they suggest doing to provide shelter for the hundreds of thousands of people who might need it in these two boroughs in a time of emergency. I suggest that the way to meet the situation of the boroughs on the North-East Coast is for the Government to embark upon a system of deep bomb-proof shelters. It is not outside the bounds of possibility to go a long way on those lines. We have in Durham scores of thousands of unemployed miners who are eager and willing, and if the opportunity presented itself, able to provide shelters that will stand for years and that would be necessary if art emergency occurred. The Government ought to consider whether anything can be done in that direction. I come to the question of the collieries which are situated on the North-East Coast. I know that in Clause 13 of the Bill factory and Government inspectors are given certain powers in time of emergency to see that adequate provision is made for 2719 shelters for both those working on the surface and those who are working underground. I submit that those powers do not meet the situation of the collieries on the North-East Coast. We know that in an air raid a bomb might be dropped that would interfere with the ventilating apparatus of the colliery. Other bombs might be dropped that would close the downcast or up cast shafts of collieries. The consequence would be that hundreds of men would be entombed without any possibility of being saved.
Have the Government ever thought of devising some scheme that would give to the men who might be in the bowels of the earth during an air raid some measure of security? I would like to ask, further, whether any arrangements have ever been come to by another Government Department to provide teams of men to man anti-aircraft guns during an air raid and to ward off possible raiders. Whatever arrangements the Government may come to, I suggest that the proposals in Clause 13 are totally inadequate to meet the conditions if an air raid takes place. On the North-East Coast between the mouth of the Tyne and Hartlepool, there are collieries at such places as Whitburn, Monk Wearmouth, Ryhope, Easington, Horden, and Blackhall. Taking that exposed coastline into consideration something should be done to bring a measure of security to the people who might be in imminent danger in the event of war.
With regard to my third point relating to burning refuse heaps, I was interested in the reply I received to-day from the Minister of Health to a question I put to him about the number of burning pit-heaps in Durham and the number that had been extinguished. I was told that there were 36 out of 52 pit-heaps in the county burning. Since the summer of last year three heaps have been dealt with and extinguished. That means that we can deal with six heaps in a year, or 36 in six years. If the Minister's reply suggests that it will take six years to extinguish the burning pit-heaps in Durham, it is time something was done to expedite the method of treatment. If something is not done to extinguish them they will act as beacons to enemy aircraft in case of an air raid. I would ask the Minister whether he has anything further to say on this question and whether any- 2720 thing is to be done to expedite the extinguishing of these heaps so as to give security to our people. Adjacent to the heaps in Durham thousands of people are domiciled and the heaps are a source of danger to them.
A letter was sent to me on 21st March, from the head warden of the Whitburn group. He tells me that he has working in that area a large and enthusiastic group of people who desire to do something in the event of war. Owing to the lack of equipment, however, and to responsible people not facing up to their responsibilities, these people cannot do anything worth while, as they wish to do. I ask the Minister whether it is the fault of the Government—and the letter suggests that it is—and whether he can give a promise that something will be done to deliver to these people the necessary equipment so that they can get on with the job we all desire them to do. My correspondent tells me he has groups of people meeting two nights a week and that they have been doing that for six months, but that at the end of that time they still have nothing with which to carry on. I ask that something shall be done along the lines I have suggested. If the Government do it, it will give a certain measure of satisfaction to a group of people who are desirous of doing whatever they can in the way of A.R.P.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
Before I take up one or two points which the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) has put before us so moderately and well, I should like to bring forward one point which has not been dealt with in the Measure and to ask whether it can be included. A letter in the "Times" the other day from a former Member of this House, Sir Rhys Williams, raised a question of extreme importance in connection with casualties in a raid, and that was whether identity discs such as were issued to those who went overseas in the last War should be provided for the people at home. The necessity for identity discs is two-fold—the disposal of the dead, and obtaining information for records and for relatives. That can only be done if they are made compulsory. The identity disc must bear the name of the wearer, a reference number to a definite catalogue and an indication of the religion of the wearer, for burial purposes. It would 2721 cost a very small sum to issue these identity discs, but it must be the duty of the local authority to do it. One would not suggest that it should be put into this Bill as an obligatory undertaking, but permission to do it should be given to the local authorities. If, as I think there is no such permission at present in the Bill, I would urge that it should be included by inserting an extra Clause or amending one of the existing Clauses, but I want to be quite certain that such a proposal would not be ruled out on the ground that it was imposing an extra charge, however small that charge might be.
A second point I wish to raise has been dealt with already by the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and others, and concerns the protection of tenement buildings. It has been raised specially with regard to tenement buildings to be erected in the future, and the Lord Privy Seal has dealt with tenement buildings to be built by local authorities, but the hon. Member for Peckham and myself, as a little extra by-play to other activities, are interested in housing, and are on the board of the Sutton Trust for building working-class dwellings, and I should like to know what are our responsibilities in the matter. There are many voluntary trusts which have erected tenement buildings—the Sutton Trust has about £3,000,000 worth of tenements in various parts of the country—and I want to know what are the responsibilities of the owners of the building for providing protection for the tenants.
The matter was raised the other day on the board of another housing trust of which I am a member. It was mentioned that the tenants on the estate had secured the personnel for a fire brigade and wanted to be connected up with the London Fire Brigade but had not been able to get the instruction required. We are not dealing to-night, I gather, with arrangements for personnel, and that must be left to another time, but is it the duty of the members of such a trust to provide shelters, whether under the tenement building or in the garden, or is it the responsibility of the local authority, or is nobody to have any responsibility and are the tenants to be obliged to choose for themselves? It is an important question.
As regards blocks of tenements which belong to local authorities I made a sug- 2722 gestion three years ago to the then Minister of Health, now the Secretary of State for Air, that all future buildings erected by local authorities, whether tenements or schools, should be provided with basements which could be used as a car-park or as a playground for children and would serve as a shelter in case of air raids. The Minister said that it could not be done; that it was impossible to make arrangements, and that such basements would not be much good. He did not convince me, and apparently His Majesty's advisers are now taking an opposite line, but the Secretary of State for Air is not a man who replies lightly to such a suggestion as I then made, and must have been well advised that there were good reasons against making such provision. When, therefore, we find a promise of an increase of £2 in the subsidy for building these tenements with the object of ensuring the provision of what three years ago we were told could not be provided, I should like to know why the original advice has been superseded.
I still feel that underneath those tenements proper provision can be made for blast and splinter-proof shelters. But is that enough, or should we go in for deep shelters? Members opposite especially, but some also on this side, spoke in favour of deep shelters, and I want to put the opposite view. I was much attracted by the possibility of deep shelters, but I have been thinking the question over, and feel that we ought to consider seriously whether there really is a case for the deep shelters—of course there may be in certain cases, but I mean a case for their adoption as a general policy. In order to provide for any considerable proportion of the inhabitants of any road or street—because the shelter must be handy—accommodation would have to be provided for hundreds. It is suggested that when the siren sounds they shall go down in their hundreds to this deep shelter. When they get down there, what are they going to do? If there is anything to sit upon they are going to sit down, possibly there may be a little lighting, and somebody may have a gramophone, but they would soon get tired of that, and they would sit looking at each other with their teeth chattering and wondering where the raiders would go. There would be nothing for them to do, and nothing would be worse for the 2723 morale of those people who would chiefly be the non-working people or the more timid and shyer people. Nothing could be worse for their morale than to go down into the deep shelter. Speaking psycho logically, it is very important to keep up the morale of the people at such times. Nothing is more important than that people should carry on as usual with their work—
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
I had experience during four air-raids in Spain and I can say that the people who were actually in the bomb-proof shelters were not down there for many minutes. In those shelters sufficient lavatory accommodation was provided and there was ventilating plant, so that people were kept in a fairly healthy state. People could sit down and all the rest of it, although they were not there for many minutes. Surely the hon. Member is magnifying the length of time during which people will be in the shelters, if he assumes that they will have to be amused or will be psychologically affected.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I can give the experience of my own chauffeur who tells me that he was invalided in the last War from Gallipoli and returned to duty as C.3 in the motor transport work down here at Grove Park. When the raiders came over for the first time, he went down and found that the people were all sitting looking at each other and feeling absolutely miserable. He decided that he would never go down there, and that in future he would continue to sleep in his bed. In future raids he did so, and he got on perfectly well and slept right through the raids. In relation to Madrid, or perhaps Barcelona, I heard from an hon. Member who was there at the time that most of the people did not use the shelters provided for them but went out into the streets and looked up at the raiders coming to them. His experience was different from that of the hon. Member opposite. I have not the least doubt that it is difficult to generalise. I cannot conceive that any system of deep shelters will provide for more than about.01 per cent. of the population, and I do not think it is worth while doing it.
2724 What is the chance of the bombers getting through? The experience of Madrid is very different, because there one side was provided with aeroplanes flying low with little chance of being hit, and the other side had practically no barrage and no anti-aircraft guns worth thinking of as compared with what ought to have been. What are we going to have? We must pay attention to the phase of this problem put forward so strongly by Lord Trenchard in another place. We think too much of passive defence; we have to think of active defence. If we have an active defence in the anti-aircrat batteries properly distributed in the country outside., a proper scheme of fighting aeroplanes prepared to go up and a proper system of information, I maintain that not a single bomber ought to get through at all. If, say, 500 aeroplanes come along in a raid and, say, 100 of them get through, where would the bombs drop? They would drop here and there, and by act of fate or Providence they would drop I am certain just where we had not got the deep shelters. The chance of their dropping on any particular spot is very small. We have to pay attention to active defence, which they had not got in Spain. The analogy of Spain is not of very much value in this matter.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I hope to God it will be on our side. I believe in having as many as possible of the splinter-proof shelters, which ought above all to be provided for the first-aid posts. The question of first-aid posts is still an open one. It is not easy to deal with it. A great deal of the work will have to be done by mobile first-aid posts and outfits. I believe this question is under consideration now. There is a good deal more work to be done. First-aid posts will probably be only too ready to get to work and take all the risks there are and be rushing about from place to place as is the privilege of the medical personnel in war. That would be a much more efficient arrangement than fixing first-aid posts beforehand, although we shall have to fix up a number of first-aid posts properly equipped. They should be in some kind of underground, bomb and splinter-proof shelter—not a deep shelter.
2725 A further point concerns the training of nurses. Nursing services will be of enormous importance. There is no question about that. A great deal of the casualty work will be attended to by women with nursing training, and the better they are trained the better will the work be done; but compared with the scale that is required the shortage of nurses at the present time is such that the total number of nurses now nursing in London would, I am informed, be sufficient to staff only one sector of the 13 sectors laid down for the defence of London. There will be a tremendous shortage, and although we should like the nurses to be fully trained and qualified we shall have to make the best of the women who will come forward, as they did in the last War, and to give them elementary training.
That gives us all the more reason for inviting the women of this country to come forward now, while there is time, and to get trained as well as they can, not simply for their own sakes, as most of those who are talking about it seem to 1hink: it is not a question of their getting through examinations. They should come forward for the sake of the wounded, whom they may have to attend with such little training as they may have. I ask them, in the natural kindness of their hearts, to envisage the call that will be made upon them and the terrible scenes which they will have to witness and in which they will be called upon to play a part. We ask them to come forward now and get their training. Not nearly enough women are being trained. We ask them to come forward and take their part in the scheme of National Service.
I have dealt with three or four small points, but many other matters will come up in the Committee stage, I hope that the Bill will be sent to a Standing Committee and will not be dealt with on the Floor of the House. We shall get better attention paid to us upstairs in the Committee room. On the Floor of the House everybody seems to think that the proper thing to do is to make speeches rather than to deal in a businesslike way with the points that are raised. I am glad that we are having a really useful and constructive discussion and I hope, in that sense, that the Bill will go through and be a really useful help to what we all desire.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
On going through the Bill, the nebulous nature of the financial arrangements gives me great concern. It is to provide what the Government consider necessary for national defence, but the Government has not acknowledged the need for more to be found from the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman referred to some consideration of local authorities' finance probably next year, but there are authorities in the Special Areas to which one year seems a long way ahead, and at the same time additional burdens are to be placed upon them. Such lack of recognition of the parlous state of these local authorities may partially defeat the completeness of the defence. Part II of the Bill adds to the expenses of the authorities, because compensation has to be paid in cases of designation of private premises for use in time of war. The Explanatory Memorandum says that compensation shall be payable by the authority to the occupier for loss while the works are being carried out. It is true that such expenditure will rank for purposes of grant under the provisions of the 1937 Act, but it still leaves a proportion of local authorities who are already carrying too heavy a burden. In Part IV we have the facts relating to the erection of steel shelters and the fixing of basement appliances, placing once more upon local authorities a measure of expenditure which is adding to an already too big burden. The Explanatory Memorandum says that the expenditure of local authorities on the erection of steel shelters and the fixing of basement appliances will rank for grant amounting to 70 per cent. That still leaves 30 per cent. to be found by the local councils. Thirty per cent. of what? The cost is undefined and may amount to a large sum. Some authorities will be staggered at such a prospect of increased expenditure. I realise that this last-named expenditure is permissive, and with some hard-hit authorities it may remain permissive, thus making the defence provision really incomplete.
Part IV deals with the provision of shelters in new flats. Here, again, is an added financial obligation on local authorities. This time the cost is more definite. It will be £6o,ooo. Part VII adds to local expenditure in the provision of emergency organisation for hospitals. Thirty per cent. of the cost is to be borne by the councils, with a limit of a tenth 2727 of a penny rate. That does not sound very much, but to local authorities in Special Areas it may be the last straw. As the total estimated cost to the Exchequer under this Part is £2,250,000, which will be 70 per cent. of the whole, it can be seen that the 30 per cent. to be provided by the councils amounts to £960,000. On top of the already big charges that they have, this is no small amount. So undetermined are these amounts that I think local authorities ought to have had more time to study the Bill and submit their observations. I can quite imagine that the Durham County Council and similarly-placed authorities, after working out their estimate of what they are going to be obliged to pay, will be loud in their protest at the additional expense that they have to meet. Civil defence should rank alongside Army, Navy and Air Force defence and be financed out of the National Exchequer. No civil defence Measure can be anything like complete which does not contain some reference to the feeding of the people. In my opinion agriculture, as sharing in the national defence, ought to have been incorporated in the Bill to make it a comprehensive Measure.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
I do not think anyone can study the Bill without being profoundly impressed by the rapidity and the thoroughness with which the Lord Privy Seal, with the Ministers associated with him, has tacked these very complex problems in the time since he has assumed office. I wish every man and woman throughout the country was in a position to understand the comprehensiveness of the provision that the Government are planning. I want to raise only one question, which is of especial interest to a great many of my constituents. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) referred to the inequities that may arise owing to the present limitations of income and so on upon the distribution of free shelters. I would invite the attention of the House to the manner in which that is going to be aggravated, I fear, by the application of Clause 21 (4) and (5). I have no doubt that a great many local authorities, rightly or wrongly, will take full advantage of the authority given them to provide at their own expense for the fixing and embedding of the steel shelters which 2728 are provided free. That means that householders who come under National Health Insurance, although they may have an income well above £5 a week, will not only get their shelters free but will also have them fixed in position free of charge, whereas other persons who happen not to be insured—a man, for instance, with two children who happens not to be in an insurable occupation —with an income of £5 a week or £260 a year, will not only have to pay £8 for his shelter, but will also have to pay, for fixing it in position, a sum which is being estimated by some local authorities at even more than the cost of the shelter. I quite appreciate that many people ought to fix the shelter in position for themselves, but there are personal and local circumstances which in other cases will make that impossible, and I visualise an uninsured man with a wife and two children, living on an income of £260 a year, being required to pay perhaps 15 or £20 for a form of shelter which his next-door neighbour, who is insured but is earning a higher income, can get for nothing. I beg the attention of the Lord Privy Seal to this point. I understand the cogency of the administrative arguments for the limitation that he has so far laid down, but I feel that it would not be in accord with the will of this House that considerations of administrative convenience should be allowed to override the innate sense of justice of the British people.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Logan
I am at a loss to understand why, when we are spending close on £2,000,000,000 for the protection of the whole nation, the burden in regard to Civil Defence should have to be borne by the people at all. The vulnerability of some places will be very great; if an attack takes place, they will collapse altogether. A wonderful opportunity now presents itself to any Government, whether Tory or Liberal, to provide that protection which is essential. I do not under-rate the gravity of the present position. To imagine that a crowd of people will only need, perhaps, a few gramophones playing underground when bombs are rattling overhead, is to live in a fool's paradise, in the atmosphere of a pantomime and not of an air raid. I am at a loss to understand why such an opinion should be expressed in this House.
2729 I do not depend on second-hand information. I have seen many thousands of cases that had to be dealt with during the late War. I have seen these wrecks brought in on stretchers, and I have a reminder in my own home of the tragedy of the field of Flanders. The last War was a picnic compared with what the next will be. If another war should take place, the whole British Empire will be at stake. I pray to God that it will not take place. But it is no use giving an opiate to the people to make them believe that they have security when they have not got it. We have to consider the practical position to-day. We are living in very peculiar times, and the history of Europe ought to teach every Member of the House how important it is to recognise that we may be the next. The very mentality of diseased minds is such that at any moment they may set out on an outlandish programme of destruction, and we have to be prepared for eventualities.
I am not in the habit of throwing bouquets to anyone, but this Bill shows a business spirit. It is not perfect; that is not possible in an imperfect world; but it attempts to bring about, not only in the municipalities but in the people themselves, a realisation of the importance of civil defence. As to the question of nursing, no one has given more time and labour and sacrifice than the nursing and medical professions of this country, and I am convinced that they will rise to the occasion, but we have in our congested areas masses of people who have never been educated to what war means.
People talk about evacuation as though we were going to get timely notice, as though the people of Liverpool, Birmingham and so on would be told a month or five or six weeks beforehand to get out because the bombing planes would be coming along; but the very moment the bombs start dropping on a city the people themselves will be demented, and will not know which way to go. The sane policy which ought to be pursued is to take advantage, in the overcrowded industrial areas, of the unskilled workers who are now hanging about the street corners because they are unable to get a job. Every municipality with a large number of unemployed people ought to put them on to civil defence work, to get all the money they can from the Treasury, and to reduce the rates by employing the 2730 labour that they have in their own municipality to provide the fullest possible protection for their people. The shelters may be all right if no bombs are falling, but, to be honest, in my humble opinion they are more like sardine tins, and would be just about as effective. If a bomb dropped on them, neither the tenement nor the persons in the shelter would be seen any more, so they do not seem to offer the protection which people ought to get.
It is no use trying to persuade ourselves that we are all going to be safe. We shall not all be safe. In the track of a bomber there will be a line of death, showing to everyone that a bombing plane has been across. I am convinced that proper underground bomb-proof shelters are needed, where people can go immediately. I remember the panic that there was in Liverpool, particularly among the school children, when we were told in 1914 and 1916 that enemy planes were close to the city. The lights were put out at High-field Infirmary, where there were many wounded. We received word at about three o'clock in the afternoon that the planes were on the way. Shortly afterwards we heard that they were not far away, but they missed Liverpool. Had they come to Liverpool, there would have been a great deal of devastation and panic in the city.
We are asked to be realists, and I want to be realist on this question. I do not want to advocate any nonsense to the people. I want the people in my city to understand that this matter is grave, and I want the proper steps to be taken for their protection. I am not concerned with the question of cost. When one considers that £2,000,000,000—and heaven knows whether that will be the end of it—is to be spent for the salvation and the protection of this nation, one human life lost is worth more to me than all the money. Fancy a trail of streets of broken homes, with men, women, and children mangled, simply and solely because we have considered the question of expense. Expense is not to be considered, and if anything has to be done, it must be of the best. I want to know, in regard to tenement dwellings, why there should be any waste of time in passing an Act which should state that, not only for all future tenement dwellings but for all the present dwellings and the 2731 ground surrounding them, provision shall be made in underground shelters for the men, women, and children in those areas. In my city we have huge open spaces surrounded by four walls of tenement dwellings, and inside them we have an area of playing grounds in which, if men were put to work, could be put proper underground, bomb-proof shelters for everybody inside the tenements. The question of evacuation then would only be a matter of the people being brought out of their homes in an orderly manner.
We are told that the question of expense comes in, but if we are not to be a laughing stock, we must protect those lives. You cannot protect a city unless the men and women in it are protected, and, therefore, it is essential that the child life and the woman life of all our great areas should receive adequate protection, not miles away, not by deporting them to some God-forsaken spot, with children removed from their parents, but to have the children close at hand, so that the misery and the torment of the absence of the children shall not affect the home life of those who are left behind. This is a family matter, and the gravity of the situation calls for a proper remedy. I suggest, with all due respect to the Lord Privy Seal, that his attention must be directed to giving protection to that child life which we expect to take its place in the life of the nation later on as fully grown men and women, which otherwise would be destroyed.
I am fully convinced that preferential treatment will have to be given, from the point of view of finance, in regard to some of our cities and areas that have been badly hit. Depressed areas cannot bear the burden of this magnitude of expense. Take the Durham areas, the Welsh areas, those colliery districts that have been derelict for a long time. Is it possible for the burden to be borne by these people? We shall find that if war should come—and I pray to heaven that it does not—these areas that to-day are in a bad state will be hit. Take a port. It will be attacked from the point of view of the Mercantile Marine, storage, and transport, and where you have a great number of people congregated, that will be the method of attack, to bring devastation to the mass of the people. Hysteria will be prevalent in the next war, and the Question whether this nation 2732 will or will not capitulate in great stress will depend upon the placidity of mind which we find in our people. I am convinced that the catacombs of Rome in their day made provision for people who wanted to get away from the motley mob, and that reminds me of a cartoon that I saw three weeks ago in a London paper. It pictured 1939 B.C., when we had the tomahawk, and man just as nature made him running about in the wild and straight into one of the holes in the ground; and it pictured 1939 A.D., when men are still running into holes in the ground.
We have no Christianity in the world at all. The big hammer and the big stick are the only ways of dealing with things to-day, and, therefore, I am convinced that madmen will set the machine of war going; and it is up to the Government of this country to see that protection is given to our people. Paper shelters, tin-can shelters, are of no avail. You must give security, and that security can be found by bringing in the unemployed and putting them to work in all our great cities. Let them dig underground and make those great accommodations which are so essential. When you have done that, and given hope to men by work, when you have given them the power to achieve something for the protection of common humanity, then I will believe that you are in earnest. At present I do not believe that the arrangements that are being made are what they ought to be. I say these few words hoping to impress the Minister, and while I have every praise for the wonderful attempt that he is making, yet all things are not perfect, and I am voicing my opinion and asking that in the great city or Liverpool, as in all the other great cities, our people shall be protected, because they deserve it for the sacrifices that they have made.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
We are fortunate in having the Minister of Transport to wind up this Debate to-night. It does not appear, on the face of this Bill, as if the Minister of Transport would play an important part, but I venture to say that if we were unfortunately in war conditions, he would find himself a very busy man. There are certain very important duties that he would have to undertake. Both by road and by rail, 2733 he would find the capacity of his Department very severely taxed to keep the communications going as they would require to be kept, and I am certain that to-night he will have some very important things to say to this House. He will be able to tell us what schemes he has in hand for dealing with certain emergencies that may arise in the event of war. He has been long enough at the Ministry of Transport to know this country very well. He knows its strong points, from the road point of view, and he knows its weak points. He knows where an enemy may do a very considerable amount of damage in a very short time. I have in mind at the moment an area which could be very seriously upset in the event of an air raid. I do not know what would happen if, as a result of an air raid one evening, Scotland found itself split in two the next morning, but that might easily happen, and perhaps the Minister of Transport will take this opportunity to-night to tell us what alternative schemes he has in mind for dealing with that particular part of this country in the event of the Forth Bridge being bombed at some time.
The Germans may have more difficulty in getting through to the Forth Bridge in the next war than in the last War, but do not forget that the Germans were at the Forth Bridge in the last War, and they may come in the next war. Perhaps the Minister of Transport will tell us what scheme he has in hand for dealing with the situation that would arise in the East of Scotland when there would be absolutely no rail communication between Fife and the Lothians. It will be sad indeed if the Gordon Highlanders have to be taken from Aberdeen by boat instead of by rail. That is a proposition which the Minister of Transport will have to face up to.
The Lord Privy Seal told us that this Bill had been carefully considered. I am not prepared to deny that it has been very carefully considered. He also said that the burden had been carefully and fairly adjusted. I am sure that we are all delighted to know that the Bill has been carefully considered and the burden carefully adjusted, but the right hon. Gentleman confessed that he had not had an opportunity of discussing the Bill with the local authorities. I saw representatives from the city of Glasgow to-day. The right hon. Gentleman had not time to 2734 see the deputation that came from Glasgow to-day, and they had had no other opportunity of sending a deputation to London to interview him. Glasgow and the other Scottish authorities have not been consulted as far as this Measure is concerned.
I hope that, even at this late hour, the Lord Privy Seal will be prepared to consider the suggestion of the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) that before the Financial Resolution is passed he will have an opportunity of discussing the details of the Bill with the representatives of the local authorities. In every part of the Measure the local authorities come in, and it is not good enough that the Lord Privy Seal should come forward with a Bill which involves such expenditure on the part of the local authorities without their having been consulted in the matter. I dare say the local authorities will be prepared to do everything they possibly can to carry out all the provisions laid down in the Bill, but at least they are entitled to have some consultation with the Minister before the financial provisions are rigidly fixed. The Minister ought to be content to-morrow night to accept the Second Reading of the Bill and leave the Financial Resolution over until he has consulted the local authorities. When the Financial Resolution has been passed he can stand at the Box and say that certain proposals that may be brought forward in the Committee stage cannot be entertained because they are outside the Financial Resolution. The Financial Resolution to the Bill is a vital matter to the local authorities, because it will determine how much or how little they will be responsible for under the Bill.
My hon. Friends during the Debate have raised many important points, and I need not do more than simply refer to some of them and to ask that the Minister of Transport or the representative of the Government to-morrow should reply to them. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) raised the very important question of evacuation. During the whole time the Lord Privy Seal was speaking he never once referred to the question of evacuation. He never told us what the proposals are. There are no proposals in the Bill for the evacuation of the civilian population, whether they are to be evacuated to the country, or whether attempts are to be 2735 made to evacuate them from their houses and to use shelters for them. I hope that we shall have a definite statement from the Government in regard to evacuation.
I know that holiday camps are to be provided and that they will be available for evacuation purposes in the event of war, but that accommodation will be a mere fleabite compared with what will be required in the event of our having to evacuate part of our population from London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, or any of the big centres. The Government up to now have done practically nothing in the way of outlining schemes for dealing with evacuation, and I hope that to-night or to-morrow we shall have a definite scheme laid before us which will deal with the question of evacuation. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington has raised this matter repeatedly, and I think we are entitled to know, especially when the local authorities are to be involved in the expenditure set out in this Measure, what schemes the Government have in hand for the evacuation of the civil population.
We are told that before the shelter schemes come along a code is to be issued. Up to now the Government have given us no indication whether or not they intend to go in for deep bomb-proof shelters. They are concentrating on shelters that are to be very much on the surface. They have not up to now produced any scheme for deep bomb-proof shelters. The Minister may say that it is a disputed point whether or not bombproof shelters are really effective. We heard a few minutes ago the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) say that deep bomb-proof shelters are pretty much of a trap and that instead of being places where the civilian population might go for safety in the event of an air raid, they might be in greater danger than having no bomb-proof shelters at all. There may be a case to be argued on those lines, and it is the responsibility of the Government and the right hon. Gentleman to make up their minds whether or not these bomb-proof shelters should be erected under the scheme that has been outlined to us under the Bill.
In addition to provision for the evacuation of considerable numbers of town dwellers, some really effective protection is required in the towns them- 2736 selves, unless the Government intend to evacuate the whole population. I cannot imagine any scheme that would mean the whole population, and certainly not from the working-class areas, being evacuated to the country districts. In all probability, the scheme that will be approved by the Government is for the provision of some sort of shelter for the working-class areas in our large towns. If there are to be shelters in the working-class areas, we have a right to insist that they shall be shelters in which the population can have some confidence. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has had his attention drawn to alternative methods of surface shelters, apart from the deep bomb-proof shelters. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered concrete shelters? I am informed that they can be provided as cheaply as the steel shelters, and that they will be more effective as protection from blast or splinter. I hope that before we get rid of this Bill some consideration will be given to these shelters, which can be provided at comparatively little cost.
The Glasgow deputation to which I have referred drew my attention to a very important matter, and I hope the Undersecretary for Scotland will take note of it. They pointed out that, while the Lord Privy Seal in this Measure is making provision for steel shelters for people who are living 12 houses to the acre, and in many cases providing these shelters without any cost to the ratepayers, no provision is being made for those who are living in tenement houses. This, the deputation assured me, is a very serious matter, for the people in Glasgow especially. In Glasgow, Edinburgh and the other big cities in Scotland there are tenements, in which there are no deep basements which can be strengthened; and the Lord Privy Seal, in this Measure, is in no way preparing to give them protection. Does he intend, in the case of tenants of tenement dwellings, that they shall be the first to be evacuated to the country, after the children and cripples and mental defectives have been evacuated? The members of this deputation are very much concerned about the provision that is being made for the safety of those living in the crowded parts of our cities; and I dare say that, across the Border, the same problem exists as in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and other large cities in Scotland.
2737 It is very unfortunate that the Lord Privy Seal found it necessary to bring this Measure forward before he had the opportunity of discussing it with the local authorities. There are important details to be discussed in Committee. The Under-Secretary for Scotland gave us some very interesting information about the preparations that "have already been made in Scotland with regard to air-raid precautions. We are very much indebted to him for that, but he knows that under this Measure there is provision for certain rents being raised on certain properties in Scotland. Is the Lord Privy Seal keeping in mind that there is a difference between the law of Scotland and the law of England with regard to rates, and that when rents are raised, rates are raised at the same time? I know the Minister of Transport wishes to deal very fully with the discussion that has taken place up to now, and I dare say he wants to say a great deal about his own Department. I have promised that he shall get a certain amount of time in order to deal with the matters on which he wants to speak.
We of the Labour party will do everything we can to get this Bill on the Statute Book, but again I want to ask the Lord Privy Seal to consider postponing the Financial Resolution. This is going to be a very serious matter for the local authorities of Scotland. I want to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan). We are going to have local authorities in this country—county councils and town councils—that will never require to make any provision whatever under this Measure. They are out of the road. The Germans will never look at them. When the Germans take the trouble to come here they are going to hit something, not to drop bombs in the country areas in the North of Scotland, or even in the South of Scotland. They are coming to bomb the towns, the industrial areas, the munition depots, the dockyards. Under this Measure we shall have very considerable burdens thrown upon local authorities which, as my hon. Friend has just said, have been bearing the burden of employment for a considerable time. That is most unfair.
We shall have local authorities in this country, which, if they de anything at all, will come off very well, and the worst 2738 placed areas will have placed upon them an additional burden which will be enormous. Under the Act of 1937 Glasgow has already spent £83,000 of the ratepayers' money on air-raid precautions, and there is a capital expenditure, without the provision of air-raid shelters and things of that description, of over£700,000. If the City of Glasgow is to be called upon to carry out what is provided for in this Measure, it will not be hundreds of thousands of pounds, but millions of pounds. That is a very serious matter. Once again I ask the Lord Privy Seal not to bring forward the Financial Resolution to-morrow night, but to be content with the Second Reading of this Measure, and, during the Easter holidays, to make an endeavour to get into touch with the local authorities. The local authorities will do everything they possibly can to safeguard their civilian population, but they feel that, in addition to providing facilities in any number of directions, they are to be called upon to bear an absolutely intolerable burden. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will, between now and to-morrow night, reconsider the matter and agree to be content with the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
This Bill is the charter of Civil Defence. It is an elaborate Measure to which a great number of minds have made contributions, and I acknowledge at once, on behalf of the Government, the favourable reception which it has received from hon. Members in all parts of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), speaking from the Opposition Benches, made it clear that the interest of his right hon. Friends and himself was to have this Measure on the Statute Book, and that it would not be necessary to divide the House, but that very naturally all rights were reserved on the Committee stage, and I acknowledge that position.
Some complaint was made that the Measure might have been introduced years ago. In war there is only one tense, the present indicative, and that is largely the same with legislation. I do not propose to-night to enter into discussions as to whether or not this country could have been persuaded to embark upon expenditure on air-raid precautions 2739 running into millions of pounds some years ago. I am personally inclined to doubt the proposition. I am concerned to-night not so much to discuss controversial items, and not in any ordinary sense to reply in the orthodox manner to the Debate, but rather to expound and to explain to the House some parts of the Bill which my right hon. Friend has left me more particularly to deal with. But I will, of course, deal with some of the points which have been raised in to-day's Debate because, first of all, it is a courtesy to hon. Members who have raised these points, and, secondly, it helps to clear the mind of the House as a whole if points that can be dealt with in a sentence or two are dealt with at once.
The right hon. Member for South Hackney raised the question how prosecutions under the Bill were to be originated. I have made inquiries and I find that prosecutions for infringements will be undertaken by the factory inspector, the mines inspector, or the local authority, according to whether the infringement relates to a factory, a mine or a commercial building. Prosecutions, in fact, would follow ordinary administrative practice, and it is not necessary to make any special provision in the Measure.
A number of hon. Members have raised the question of the location of industry should war come upon us. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Peat) all raised questions relating to industry, and I think it may help the House if for a moment I deal with this question of industry and what is likely to happen in time of war. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will to-morrow deal in detail with questions affecting the evacuation of persons. Some hon. Members have asked questions about the evacuation of industry, evacuation of the shipping companies, the probable location of banks and matters of that kind. The answer is clear. You cannot foretell the conditions which will prevail in time of war. They will in all probability be constantly varying. The conditions relating to any particular port may very well vary from day to day. Shipping may be told to use a port, and quite suddenly naval conditions or the possibility of air 2740 attack may alter the conditions at that port over a period of hours or days or weeks, during which it may be incapable of being used in the ordinary way. There is, therefore, no final policy of industrial evacuation, as such. The Government will not accept the responsibility of directing industrialists as to what site they should occupy and the risks that will be run if they do, or the probabilities of the future. Considerations of that kind must be a matter for the industrialists themselves to assess; they are not matters of Civil Defence, and do not come within the present Measure at all.
§ Sir P. Harris
Do the Government propose to give any guidance to industrialists in the light of the knowledge they possess? The defence provided to a port must influence the decision of industrialists.
§ Mr. Burgin
What I am attempting to point out is that the Bill does not deal with the defence of ports in the sense of anti-aircraft guns; it deals with Civil Defence, quite a separate matter. I am not in the least suggesting that the Government may not give guidance, but I am saying that it does not come within this Bill at all. The evacuation of persons from a vulnerable area under certain conditions is a matter with which the Minister of Health will deal tomorrow. What I am saying now, in order that there shall be no difference of opinion, is that there is no corresponding policy dealing with the evacuation of industry, as such, and I am making the point that whatever guidance may be given by the Government to industrialists—it may well be a matter on which guidance will be sought —it is not within the ambit of this Bill and, therefore, does not arise for discussion to-night.
May I deal with a somewhat cognate point raised by the hon. Member for Darlington in his reference to possible reserves and the protection of industrial plant. It may well be that the Defence Ministers may require the manufacture and subsequent delivery of essential supplies, and that to ensure that the Defence Ministers may think it well to require industrialists to undertake certain special measures of protection. It is enough for me to say that those arrangements are not Civil Defence. They would not be a fit subject 2741 for this Bill. They are matters of supply, and they do not come within the subject matter before us to-day.
§ Mr. Burgin
It might well be. What I am telling the House is that whereas in the case of railways, electricity generation, and road bridges, it may be appropriate under this Bill to provide for replacement material and stores, the same argument does not apply in industry generally, but it may well apply in particular factories when a Service Department requires delivery of particular articles and in order to ensure that delivery requires certain precautions to be taken. These precautions may be something quite beyond the levels aimed at by the civil defence measures outlined in this Bill and will in consequence be a matter of supply, a matter of guaranteed delivery, directly arranged between the Service Department and the particular industrialist. I am seeking to show that it is outside the provisions of this Bill, and that it is a matter of supply and not one of civil defence.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
May I ask whether the protection of the coal mines of this country would come directly under this Bill?
§ Mr. Burgin
I would like to reflect upon it. As at present advised, I am not inclined to think that civil defence comes into that. One hon. Member opposite raised the question of certain pit-shafts on the Durham coast. It might well be a matter for active defence, it might well be a matter which might control the strategic use of forces in a particular area. What I am saying at the moment is that it does not come within the ambit of what we are discussing to-night. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) raised an extremely interesting point about catchment boards and referred to the possibility of parts of Lincolnshire being flooded as a result of damage to sluice gates. In so far as damage to the works of the catchment board might lead to injury either to property or persons in the neighbourhood, the responsible scheme-making authority, which would probably be the county council, could include those works in their air-raid precautions scheme, 2742 and could arrange for the catchment board to be their agents and to do the necessary work on their behalf; and if that were approved by the Minister, the work would rank for air-raid precautions grants. The matter is rather better when examined in detail than my hon. and gallant Friend thought.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan) asked me a direct question with regard to transport. He raised a number of matters, and perhaps I may say in general to hon. Members that all questions raised to-day will be considered studiously, and in so far as they can be dealt with in this Debate, will be replied to to-morrow. The hon. and gallant Member asked a question relating primarily to my Department, and it was concerning the provision of hospital trains and hospital transport. Arrangements have already been made for ambulance trains by the conversion of certain parcel vans. These arrangements have been made by the railway companies, and for road transport by Green Line coaches, which have already been adapted. The arrangements for these trains and for their preparation, assembly and availability have been made by the competent railway authorities, and they have been formulated with due regard to to all the demands on the railways for other purposes. I have no doubt that all those matters have been taken into account. As regards actual pressure on railways or roads, we must be guided by the circumstances of the moment. Much of the evacuation to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred, will, I hope, in practice be carried out prior to the actual opening of hostilities, although I recognise the force of what was said by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), that there is little dependance to be placed on getting notice of when these things are to happen. But there probably will be a period in which precautionary measures of this kind can be taken, as indeed was the case in September.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) raised a question under Clause 48 with regard to the requisitioning of vehicles. That again is a matter for which I must take primary responsibility. I would point out that the area in question is not the area of a local authority, but the area over which Traffic 2743 Commissioners have jurisdiction. We felt that one essential, with regard to requisitioning, earmarking or pooling road transport, was that there should be one authority, and one only, taking charge, and that we should do everything possible to avoid a local authority relying on a pool of road transport being available to them, when somebody else all the time had the power to designate it for some other use. Accordingly, we have provided that the authority to deal with road transport shall be the Traffic Commissioners. The country is divided into Traffic Commissioners' areas, and nobody, whether Adjutant of the Forces or otherwise, will take civilian road transport, unless an arrangement has been made with the Traffic Commissioners. If a local authority earmarks in advance certain vehicles for their own specific purposes and obtain the hall-mark and the counter-signature of the Traffic Commissioners, well and good. That is equivalent to a Traffic Commissioners' Order and I have no possible objection to that type of arrangement being made. Indeed, during the period of preparation, it is the sort of arrangement which I should wish to encourage.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Would the Traffic Commissioners ascertain the requirements of all the local authorities in their areas before consent was given to one local authority taking possession of vehicles?
§ Mr. Burgin
The onus is the other way round. No local authority will have any road transport in any area unless they go to the Traffic Commissioners and earmark it. The whole point is that immediately we come to a period of emergency, those vehicles which are available for State use will be under the control of the Traffic Commissioners, and private earmarking will not have any effect unless the Traffic Commissioners so ordain. If they so ordain, it will have effect whether the local authority knows of it or not. I hope that the local authority in each district will make known their requirements—indeed, they are doing so— to the Traffic Commissioners of their areas. It is important that they should do so, and my hon. and learned Friend has rendered a service by calling attention to the point. No doubt, when this Debate is read, if there is any hesitation on the part of local authorities, their doubts can 2744 at once be cleared up and the matter put right.
The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) asked whether Clause 7, conferring the power to build underground shelters and car-parks, applied to the Royal parks. It does not. Obviously the provisions of compulsory purchase are not applicable either to the subsoil or the surface of the Royal parks.
§ Mr. Morrison
Is there any reason for that? If the Royal parks are in a specially protected position, I want to know why. If they are to be put in a specially protected position I should claim the same position for the London County Council parks, and what is the right hon. Gentleman going to say to that?
§ Mr. Burgin
That is a claim which would be resisted. I do not wish to score any false point. I am merely endeavouring to state the limitations of the Clause. I was asked whether it applied to the Royal parks and my reply is that it does not. The other question was, did it apply to other parks, and the answer to that is yes.
§ Mr. Morrison
Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that he is putting the Government in an indefensible position? If he is expecting local authorities to make their parks and open spaces, which are of great value to the people, available for this purpose, and that the parks under the Government are not to be allowed to be touched, the Government will be in an impossible position.
§ Mr. Burgin
I have not said anything about parks under Government control. All I want to do is to reply to the questions, and I have said that the Clause as it is drafted applies to all parks except Royal parks.
§ Sir P. Harris
Is not the position simply that there is nothing to prevent His Majesty's Government allowing the use of the Royal parks, should they think fit, for this purpose, but that it is unnecessary to give them power because it is assumed that the Office of Works will make the Royal parks available?
§ Mr. Burgin
That is so. I am only at the moment replying to two questions by saying that this Clause applies to all parks except Royal parks.
Having dealt with the principal questions that have been raised during the Debate so far as they relate to matters which are capable of an instantaneous reply, perhaps the House will allow me to turn to Part V of the Bill which deals with public utilities. I am grateful to hon. Members who have enabled me to have sufficient time to outline the provisions of the Bill relating to these important undertakings. In addition to dealing with Part V, I will make reference to one or two Clauses in Part VIII. May I make clear that the public utilities are none the less employers because they are relegated to a separate part of the Bill? The obligation which rests upon employers of labour under the earlier parts of the Bill will apply as much to public utilities as they do to other employers. There are, however, certain special matters relating to public utilities which have necessitated a different method of drafting the Clauses relating to these undertakings. On 23rd December, 1937, the Home Secretary announced in this House that the Government had accepted in the case of public utilities the principle of a Government contribution towards the cost of measures additional to those that are taken by industry generally, and that the object of that expenditure was to ensure the due functioning of the undertakings in time of war—such matters as the running of the railways, the use of the docks, and the supplies of gas, light, water and electricity. Since that announcement has been made negotiations have been carried on with the various categories of public utility undertakers on that basis, and this part of the Bill is designed to implement arrangements that have been made with the various public utility undertakings.
By Clause 27 the identical obligation is placed on public utility undertakers that is already placed on industry under Clause 18, so far as training is concerned. I would like to say with what pleasure I am able to record the magnificent way in which public utility companies have come to the assistance of the Government by accepting this obligation of training their employés, and the excellent work which has been done by the railway companies and the ports, notable among them in this 2746 connection being Liverpool and London. I am not seeking to make invidious distinctions, but merely naming some of those who have shown particular zeal in this way. It is not necessary for every public utility undertaking to take special measures to ensure that its undertaking will continue. There may be many which are not invulnerable areas at all, and therefore care has to be taken in the drafting of the Clause to see that those outside the vulnerable areas do not obtain special financial assistance. There is a proviso which enables the extra financial assistance to be given only to those within an area to which the Minister has applied the Clause.
Then, having arranged that the public utility undertaking treats its employés in the same way as other employers, and therefore carries out what are called "good employer" obligations, there is an entirely different set of considerations to be taken into account, namely, the measures to be taken to enable the public authority to function in times of attack from the air. Here we have to provide for an immense variety of possibilities. Hon. Members can imagine some of the difficulties which would confront a railway company, a dock authority, a canal company and gas, light, water, electricity and power companies in the event of attack from the air. Look at the tremendous variety of risks run by one of the main railways, with certain essential signal boxes, certain essential tunnels, certain essential bridges, certain essential embankments. Hon. Members will realise the work which such an undertaking will have to carry out in order to secure continuity of its services. There is power to indicate the work that has to be carried out, and power, of course, to deal with recalcitrant authorities. Clause 29 deals with the grant in respect of expenses for providing shelters for employés; the same rules apply as with other industries, the same date of the 30th September, and the State contribution hon. Members will see from Sub-section (2), where it states that "the appropriate proportion" meansan amount in the pound equal to the standard rate of income tax for the year 1939–40
§ Mr. Dunn
May we have one point made clear? In connection with coalmining there is a very complicated wages system, and I think it should be made 2747 perfectly clear, as regards the ascertainment schemes governing miners' wages, that no particular charge in this connection will find itself reflected in the wages system. I am merely raising the point in order that it may be on record that that particular aspect of the question ought to be kept perfectly clear.
§ Mr. Burgin
Mines do not come within the Clause. We are dealing with public utility undertakings, which are defined in the interpretation Clause, and mines are not within this Clause at all. The hon. Member's point can be placed on record and dealt with in the appropriate place, but it has no reference to this Clause.
I want to direct the attention of the House to Clause 30 and to make it quite clear that this Clause applies to gas, water, canal and, in part, dock undertakings. What it says is that measures undertaken to secure the due functioning of the undertaking in time of war get a grant of 50 per cent. Quite obviously there must be some element of control and that element is:approved expenses of a capital nature.There is no difficulty in practice. We have no difficulty whatever between the experts of our own Departments and the experts of the public utility companies in ascertaining what is the proper work to be carried out in relation to any undertaking, but the phrase is put in as a matter of drafting because it allows a measure of control and prevents anything in the nature of extravagant use of money. Of that expenditure, up to 50 per cent. is contributed.
The broad lines of the sort of measures that are carried out are, inter-communication between neighbouring authorities, stand-by plant, stores and repair materials. The House will understand that, broadly, where you are dealing with a public utility undertaking, in the case of air attack, you cannot completely protect it. You cannot legislate for completely reproducing it if it is destroyed. What you can do is to endeavour to have available, somewhere near, some measure 2748 of replacement of vital parts which may enable you to by-pass the damaged parts and yet to continue with the part that is left whole. That idea of inter-communication of neighbouring authorities, stand-by plant, additional stocks or stores and carefully-thought-out repair materials is necessary. As my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington said, there is nearly always some essential part the snapping or destruction of which would bring the whole machinery to a stop. It is the provision of stores of that kind which is contemplated here.
Clause 31 deals particularly with the railways. A satisfactory working arrangement with the main-line railways has been evolved and very large sums of money have been expended. The railway companies have magnificently appreciated their responsibility, and tremendous works on a very large scale have already been put into practical construction. These are of various kinds which it is quite impossible to summarise in a few moments. The requirements of the four main-line railways and of the London Passenger Transport Board entail an expenditure under various headings which runs into millions. The object again is to enable vital points to be duplicated in case of necessity and, as I shall show in a moment, to deal with a very difficult question which will interest the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth, the obscuration of light.
Internal lighting is quite an easy matter to arrange, but external lighting gives rise to difficulties in places like marshalling yards and great areas of goods assembly. It is difficult to arrange a form of lighting which will throw the light down and yet not be visible from the air and the matter requires a great deal of expenditure. There is also the question of camouflage. Wherever repainting has to be done in railway work it takes the form of painting which shall, as far as possible, render the particular work less visible from the air. I need not go into detail on this matter. The arrangement with the railway companies is set out in Clause 31 and provides that the railway companies make this expenditure, and that they will be controlled by the Government from the moment of the outbreak of war. After that taking over has been effected, the arrangements upon which the railway companies will be run have not yet been 2749 completely worked out. But an agreement has been reached with the railway companies whereby, although a loan is made to them to enable them to work out this immediate expenditure, arrangement is made for repayment in circumstances which I need not now go into in detail. The whole Clause deals with railways and sets out to implement the bargain that has been made with the four main line companies.
Clause 32 is rather more involved. It deals with docks and harbours. Members in all parts of the House will appreciate the different degree of importance which some ports, docks and harbours round our coast must bear compared with others. There are 285 separate dock and harbour boards, of which 45 are principal ones, and at the principal docks and harbours there are again measures of different kinds which have to be carried out. There are the ordinary "good employer" obligations, which apply to every employer of labour, there are the special works which have to be carried out to enable the docks and harbours to proceed with their ordinary work, and there is a third class of exceptional expenditure which a dock company may be asked to do on national account, and the rate of grant varies from 50 to 85 per cent. Here again the Clause is necessary to carry out the particular terms of an understanding which I have no doubt will rapidly be implemented into an actual definite agreement. I have not yet received any form of communication showing actual agreement, but I have no doubt that the dock and harbour authorities will make proposals which I shall be able to recommend for the acceptance of Parliament. This Clause, differing from the railway one only in the fact that with the railways there is a hard-and-fast agreement, is necessary to enable the matter to be implemented.
§ Mr. Burgin
It applies obviously to railway docks, because, if you take over a railway, you take over the undertaking, and the undertaking will include, amongst other things, the railway docks. "Taking over" would not be the right expression to use for a non-railway dock. I think the arrangement would be described as 2750 some contract providing for use. It would not be taken over. The railway docks, of course, come within the undertaking and fall within the arrangements that I have outlined. Let the House understand the live interest which attaches to this problem. We have naturally looked at certain docks and harbours as being of greater potential public interest and value than others, and whether the East Coast docks will be used to their full extent, whether there will have to be some diversion from East Coast ports to the West, are matters of high strategy which it is impossible to forecast, but all these possibilities will have to be taken into account, and they may indeed have very great consequences. Some of the ports in the West and in the South and the Bristol Channel, and Liverpool and Glasgow, may find themselves handling a volume of traffic, two, three or four times as much as they have been accustomed to handle.
Whatever those accidents of the development of hostilities may involve, Clause 32 covers the type of arrangement that has been made with the docks, and the rate of grant will vary from 50 per cent. which is the ordinary contribution to those works which are necessary to enable the port to continue, up to 85 per cent. to cover such matters as exceptional expenditure entirely due to the emergency, and not likely to assist the earning capacity of the port once hostilities were over.
Clause 33 makes a corresponding provision with regard to electricity. With electricity generating stations, the question of vulnerability arises in a marked degree. We have seen, even in peace-time, without sabotage, but merely by accident, the possibility of one generating station going out and pulling another with it. Therefore, we have adopted the same principle of constituting a pool of reserve switch gear, stores, and essential technical parts, and have arranged for a contribution of 50 per cent. of the cost. The whole of the details are set out in Clause 33.
The other Clauses with which I should like to deal are Clauses 48 and 50. Clause 48, to which reference has already been made, deals with the requisitioning of vehicles. The House will remember that I have dealt with the requisitioning 2751 of vehicles by making the Traffic Commissioners the governing authority. Clause 50 deals with the very important possibility of damage to essential bridges and roads, and here again I am adopting the principle of having a reserve of bridge material and road-making material available in different parts of the country, so that, in the event of damage, the material may be ready. The country is divided into districts under the divisional road engineers, and the various supplies are located with them. Highway authorities are being invited to arrange for their own supplies of similar material, and I am hoping that the principal highway authorities will realise the extreme importance of arranging for essential bridge material to be available. My concern is, naturally, with trunk roads, but I am hoping that the highway authorities will realise that many important bridges are within their own jurisdiction.
The matter of road transport has been dealt with on a number of occasions. I am hoping that the proprietors of goods vehicles all over the country will realise the importance of grouping themselves in the manner I have indicated. There will be a drain on the oil resources of the country, since the requirements of the Fighting Services will be enormous. I am hoping that the owners of goods vehicles will realise the importance of getting into groups, because it will be through the groups that the petrol will be rationed. I have given a rather summary description of Part V of the Bill, which deals with public utilities, and I conclude by saying that, although some hon. Members have referred to the steel shelters in rather opprobrious terms, I hope that time and experience will show that they are better than that, and I hope even more that time and experience will show that they have never been necessary at all.
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned"—[Captain Waterhouse.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.