§ 1. Such compensation to such persons as may be determined by Parliament after the 2883 passing of the said Act of the present Session, being compensation payable where possession of any property is taken by any Government Department under the said Act of the present Session.
§ 2. Compensation to, or to the dependants of, persons injured in peace time (at whatever date) in the course of being trained or exercised, or of training or exercising others, in respect of air-raid precautions, of being trained in nursing in pursuance of arrangements under the said Act of the present Session, or of acting in a voluntary capacity on behalf of a local authority in the exercise of the functions conferred or imposed on the local authority by or under the said Act of the present Session or the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937."—(King's recommendation signified.)—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
I move this Resolution on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. It is a long one, but I am afraid that that is inevitable, because the Bill to which it refers is of considerable length, and the financial provisions it contemplates are not only very considerable in extent and scope, but they are also very various in character. If it had been possible to devise some simple all-embracing financial formula under which these various grants could have been compressed the Resolution might have been a shorter one, but they concern very different people and contingencies and it is necessary that we should adopt in each case the appropriate form. I hope that if the Resolution is a long one, it has in fact been drafted in a way which makes for clarity and for the convenience of the Committee.
May I call attention to the first paragraph, which contains the operative words of the Resolution as a whole. It proposes approval by this Committee of the financial Clauses of the Bill and sets out the scope and character of the financial provisions which it is desired to make. The Committee will observe that this is done under three heads, marked (a), (b) and (c). The first one (a), is the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament, and this is further subdivided under four sub-heads, and they are new grants, increases in existing grants, the expenses of Government Departments, and compensation. The other two main heads are the extension of the meaning of the expression "defence services" and the payment into the Exchequer of any sums received. I will 2884 dispose of the less important parts of the Resolution first and then come on to the more important ones. The purpose of paragraph (b) is to extend the meaning of the expression "defence services" which is contained in the Defence Loans Act so as to enable the appropriate services under this Bill to be met out of loan or borrowed money if that is required. The third sub-head (c)—the payment into the Exchequer of any sums received under the Act—may seem a very remote contingency to the Committee, but, if remote, it is necessary to provide for it. Such sums might occur, for example, from the disposal of surplus property acquired by authorities for the purpose of carrying out this Bill, or—although I hope we shall not—we may have some expenses to recover from defaulting authorities.
I hope that the Committee will consider that I have disposed of (b) and (c), and I will now turn to (a), payments out of money provided by Parliament. This is obviously the most important head of the Resolution. Each of the four subheads has a table attached which gives in more particularity the arrangements which it is desired to make of a financial character. It will be seen that (ii), (iii) and (iv), omitting (i) for the moment, are more or less self-explanatory, and perhaps the Committee will be content with a comparatively brief description of what is intended. Number (ii), Increases in existing grants, specified in Table II, arises in the first place from Clauses 24 and 25 of the Bill. Clause 24, the Committee will recollect, gives power to make regulations for the construction, alteration or extension of buildings erected after the regulations are made, so that during that process they may incorporate the structural features which are designed to give protection against air raids.
Clause 25 is consequential to it and provides for an increase in the subsidies payable by the State to local authorities in the case of blocks of flats, in which air-raid shelter is provided, either in compliance with the regulations I have just mentioned, or with the approval of the Minister of Health or of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The reason for providing for Ministerial approval to make the subsidy payable is that it will enable the subsidy to be paid in cases where the local authority is providing shelters in advance of the regulations. The cost of 2885 this to the Exchequer is estimated at £120,000 a year for 40 years, and the cost to rates at about £60,000 a year.
§ Mr. Morrison
That is a question which will be settled by regulation, and I suggest to the hop. Member that that is a point which may well be raised in Committee.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
The right hon. Gentleman says that this can be raised in Committee, but when one looks at Table II of the Money Resolution, it appears very doubtful whether it could be raised in Committee, because in Table II, at the bottom of page 1986, there is a specific reference to blocks of flats in England, and tenements in Scotland.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not know whether that affects the proposition that I was making, because the Resolution enables this additional subsidy to be paid.
§ Mr. Morrison
Blocks of flats in England or tenements in Scotland. The word "tenements" is merely used as the Scotch equivalent of blocks of flats in England.
§ Mr. Morrison
That is so. The Resolution and the Bill merely authorise this subsidy to be paid in respect of new buildings. That is perfectly clear, but the point put by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) was of a different character. He was concerned with the use of the words "in blocks of flats," and that it might prevent the subsidy being payable when there was some shelter provided which might not be said to be inside the block of flats.
§ Mr. Logan
As this reads, "in blocks of flats," we would have to take it as meaning within the flats. My interpretation of it would be that a building in the 2886 square within the area of the block of flats should come within the provisions of the Financial Resolution. I want to bring in tenement dwellings so that they shall receive the benefit of the Act.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Member will not lose sight of the general provision to which it is related. It is linked up with Clause 24 of the Bill, which empowers regulations to be made providing that for the future houses must conform in their structure to certain rules which make them incorporate in their structure shelters which will be of value in case of air raids. This follows on Clause 25, and is intended to provide that, where in blocks of flats different problems of shelter arise, when local authorities building these flats incorporate in them structural shelters, they will be entitled to the higher subsidy.
§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne
It not only applies to new buildings, but where there are alterations as well.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes, Sir. As I said, in the case of a block of flats where these alterations had been made even in advance of regulations being published so that it could not be said that they were built under the regulations, if approved by the Minister of Health they will be eligible under this Resolution for the increased subsidy which it is desired to make available. I mentioned the cost of £120,000 a year for 40 years to the Exchequer, and £60,000 to the rates.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
Can my right hon. Friend give any idea how that estimate is arrived at? On the face of it, it seems impossible to know how the Treasury or anyone else could arrive at such an estimate. Who knows what the future programme of building will be, and, on the top of that, how many buildings the local authorities may deem it necessary to cause to be altered? It would be very interesting to the Committee to have some idea.
§ Mr. Morrison
Obviously, an estimate of this character must be of an uncertain nature, but we are not so devoid of data as my hon. Friend might suggest. The position in regard to these blocks of flats is fairly well known, and it is possible to make some estimate. The estimate may not be right, but it is the best estimate I can give. A further matter provided for under this sub-head is the adaptation of 2887 underground parking places so that they may be used as air-raid shelters. Clause 7 makes it clear that the grant to be provided is based upon that expenditure which is solely attributable to rendering the parking places fit for this purpose.
Sub-head (a) (iii) of the first paragraph makes provision for meeting the expenses of Government Departments. These are specified in greater detail in Table III. I will give an example of the sort of expenditure by Government Departments for which it is desired to provide. Clauses 41 and 44 enable the Minister of Health to take wide steps in regard to the organisation of services to deal with casualties and outbreaks of infectious disease in the event of war. Power is given the Minister to continue the work of accumulating great quantities of mattresses and other equipment necessary for the purposes of evacuation. By this Clause and the Financial Resolution this expenditure may be met whether it has been incurred before or after the passing of the Act. Other sorts of expenditure authorised are mentioned in Clauses 50 and 51, under which there can be accumulated stores of material for the repair of roads, bridges, buildings, and so on.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think that trenches are covered by the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937. This particular provision relates to the expenses of Government Departments, and I have mentioned how they may be incurred by arrangements for evacuation, the accumulation of materials necessary for the repair of roads, bridges and so on. Sub-head (iv) refers us to Table IV and deals with the question of compensation. This matter has been dealt with in debate and all that I ask the Committee to do at this stage is to approve that part of the Resolution which will authorise payment for this purpose.
I have dealt with all the Resolution except the first sub-head of (a) in the first paragraph. This represents the region in which the heaviest expenditure from public funds is to be anticipated. It deals with the new grants authorised by the Bill. The grants authorised are in addition to those previously authorised by the other Act. These new grants are 2888 many and varied. They can be made to three different sets of persons: to owners and occupiers of industrial or commercial property, to public utility undertakings of various sorts, and to local authorities. These are the recipients of the new grants.
I will deal first with the new grants to local authorities. These are of three kinds. There are, first, grants under Part VII of the Bill in respect of the construction of casualty accommodation in hospitals, and so on. Secondly, there are grants under Part VIII, which authorises the provision of special measures for extra water supplies for fire fighting where necessary. There are also grants under Part VIII to provide for the cost of preparing schemes of evacuation. The first of these, grants for hospital accommodation, referred to in Clause 44, represent 70 per cent. of the expenditure, provided that the liability left to the authority does not exceed in one year the produce of one-tenth of a penny rate in England and another fraction to meet conditions in Scotland. This arrangement has been agreed in discussions between the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health in Scotland, on the one hand, and representatives of the associations of local authorities and the London County Council on the other. It is a retrospective grant, so that expenditure already incurred under this head will be met.
§ Mr. Dunn
With regard to the retrospective provision, am I to take it from the statement now made that when expenditure exceeding a penny rate has been incurred under the previous Act, the proposed provision will reimburse the local authorities who have exceeded that amount? I mention this because of the position in the West Riding, where the amounts represents a 4½d. rate. May I take it that where the amount in the case of the West Riding of Yorkshire has been exceeded by 3½d., the West Riding will be able to recoup themselves?
§ Mr. Morrison
Not being perfectly familiar with conditions in the West Riding and with the circumstances in which that expenditure was incurred, I should not like to give a definite answer to that question without inquiry.
§ Mr. Morrison
I hope so. This particular provision is solely for the purpose mentioned in the Resolution, and it represents 70 per cent. of the expenditure under this head. It provides that the liability of the authority does not exceed the produce of one-tenth of a penny rate. This deals with hospital accommodation and makes it clear- in regard to expenditure for that purpose under this Bill that the grant will be subject to the limitation on the local authority of a burden of not more than one-tenth of a penny rate. In regard to what the hon. Member's local authority have done under the previous Act, I will inquire and let him know as soon as I can.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Member will appreciate that it is difficult for me, without a knowledge of the full circumstances under which the local authority incurred this expenditure, to give him an answer on a matter of such importance. The second of these grants are those designed to provide, where necessary, emergency water supplies for fire-fighting purposes. Under the 1937 Act provision is made for grants payable for any measures which are taken to utilise local and static water supplies for this purpose. It is felt that in certain centres of population, where there is a high risk of conflaguration, work of a permanent nature should be undertaken to make this service thoroughly efficient. Some of this permanent work involves heavy expenditure, which could not be regarded as coming within the normal provisions of the 1937 Act, and, therefore, it is felt by the Government that with these considerations in mind an exceptionally high rate of grant is justified. It may be as high as 90 per cent. subject to the condition that the works are put in hand by the end of September.
§ Sir R. Tasker
In the event of a high explosive bomb smashing the main, where is the supplementary water supply to come from?
§ Mr. Morrison
That is precisely the sort of problem with which this new expenditure is intended to deal. Works may be undertaken to make use of other supplies of water and that will involve heavy expenditure in construction. Where it is 2890 felt that something other than the normal water supply should be available this special grant, which may be as high as 90 per cent., will be available.
§ Sir R. Tasker
The position in London is this. You may have a certain reservoir serving certain districts, and if one of the mains is broken where are you going to get a supplementary supply?
§ Mr. Morrison
There are other methods of dealing with a situation of that sort which have been worked out with the London County Council and the Department concerned with these precautions. There is the river; and water can be stored and used for fire-fighting purposes. All I am asking the Committee to do at this stage is to agree that the Government are right in proposing a grant as high as this for expensive works which may have to be undertaken in order to secure an adequate water supply in time of emergency. The technical details as to how this is to be done have been discussed at considerable length.
§ Mr. Lansbury
There is no provision here for sewerage. Suppose the mains are smashed what provision is there here for that?
§ Mr. Morrison
Apart from the general power to acquire materials for repair to roads there is nothing in the Bill dealing with that point. The matter was discussed on the 1937 Act and the appropriate measures have been taken by local authorities under that Act.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I am interested in two things; the evacuation of children and the evacuation of people. Ever since this thing started I have been asking questions on the point. There is nothing in the Bill, so far as I can see, dealing with the situation, if it should arise.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Is it left to a local authority to take the initiative in the provision of works for this special fire precaution, or is it to be done by the central authority?
§ Mr. Morrison
Local authorities already have powers and it is for them to initiate schemes. Some of these special measures have been discussed between the Department and the local authorities, but there is nothing in the Financial Resolution 2891 which specifically touches the point except the matter of materials which, of course, is an important aspect of defence against air attack which has not been overlooked. Grants in aid of arrangements for evacuation under Clause 47 are not grants in the usual sense because they are a 100 per cent. recoupment of the expenses of local authorities in this respect whether they are in an evacuation area or in a reception area. This provision is also made retrospective to the beginning of the 1937 Act.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
I should like to ask a question on Clause 47 (b), and I must say that I think the Committee would like some idea of what this means. Paragraph, (b) of this Clause says:To take in advance measures designed to facilitate any such transference or secure the accommodation or maintenance of persons so transferred.I can perfectly well understand a 100 per cent, recoupment for anything done after war has occurred or at a time when it is so imminent that special measures are necessary. But here we have the words "to take in advance" It seems to me a very wide power to give a local authority to take measures in advance, and I should like to know what sort of measures the Treasury have in view?
§ Mr. Morrison
I was proposing to deal with that point. With regard to hospital work which will be met by a grant, the cost to the Exchequer is estimated for 1939 to be £1,500,000. With regard to the special water schemes, in connection with which there will be grants up to 90 per cent., the cost to the Exchequer is estimated to be about £1,000,000. The expense of the preparatory work in regard to evacuation is expected to be very small indeed, and in fact, it is not possible to give a figure that would be of any value, because the preliminary arrangements for billeting, house-to-house canvassing, and so on, have been largely the work of volunteers who have not received any remuneration. Consequently, under that head there is not any expense of a substantial character, beyond a few clerical expenses, to be anticipated.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
Am I to understand that this Sub-section is intended merely to refer to this canvassing which has been so excellently carried out? It 2892 is clear that the wording of the Subsection is very much wider than that. I do not propose to pursue the matter now, but the wording is such that it gives the local authority all sorts of powers long before there is any imminence of war. Although it is not my right hon. Friend's business to reply on this point now, I was waiting to hear what he had to say, as the amount of money required might give us some idea as to what is intended under this Sub-section.
§ Mr. Morrison
Any complaints regarding the wording of the Clause can be deferred to the Committee stage, but the expenditure with which I was dealing was in connection with work done in advance of an emergency, in peace-time, in order to ensure that the evacuation, if it becomes necessary, shall proceed with the utmost rapidity. As regards other expenses incurred by the Government in these preparations, the acquisition of material, such as beds and bedding, is covered by Table IV of the Resolution. I am not dealing with that now. I have given the Committee the best estimate I could of what will be the cost to the Exchequer of hospital works and special water schemes. The Committee may be interested to know what it is anticipated will be the cost to the local authorities on the rates. First of all, with regard to hospital works, on the assumption that the one-tenth of a penny rate is operative, the cost to the rates is expected to be about £125,000.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think it applies to both countries. With regard to fire-fighting appliances, for which there is a Government grant up to 90 per cent., the cost to the rates is expected to be in the neighbourhood of £120,000. It will be appreciated that these figures do not include anything for the expenses of local authorities in connection with the erection of steel shelters, as these expenses automatically attract appropriate grants under the Air-Raid Precautions Act. Those grants run from 60 per cent, to 75 per cent. roughly, with a higher percentage grant in cases where compliance with that service involves expenditure exceeding a 1d. rate. I would mention that the bulk of the expenditure under this Bill is of a capital character, and therefore, in appro- 2893 priate cases, loans for meeting it may be sanctioned by the Ministry of Health. Grants to public utility undertakings are dealt with in Clauses 27 to 33, which are summarised very accurately in paragraph 11 of the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum. They were fully dealt with last night by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, and they are set out in clear detail in the Table appended to the Resolution. It is estimated that the cost to the Exchequer will be about £9,000,000. I come now to the next new grant, that provided in Clause 17, towards the reasonable capital cost of air-raid shelters of an approved type for workpeople. This also was described in some detail by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, and the only points to which I invite attention are the following. It will be seen from Table 1 of the Resolution to whom these grants are made payable; the recipients are described as:owners or occupiers of factory premises, mines (including quarries) and commercial buildings; employers generally (including public utility undertakers)Another point to which I invite attention is that these grants will apply to shelters provided both before and after the passing of the Act, subject to the condition that they are provided by the end of September next, or thereabouts. The Committee will see that there is a reference to "reasonable capital expenses," and hon. Members may wonder what is to be considered reasonable. I understand that regulations will be made on this matter describing what is to be considered reasonable for the purpose of grants.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think so. This is referred to in a Clause in the Bill, but in any case the hon. Member can raise the point on the Committee stage. I know he raises it because it is a tradition that the House should exercise a vigilant control over the acts of the bureaucracy.
§ Mr. Morrison
We shall see. Another point concerning these grants to which I should like to refer is that they will be payable not only in cases where the provision of the shelters is made obligatory—that is to say, where more than 50 2894 people are employed—but where the shelters are provided by any establishment which is a factory, mine or commercial building within the definition of the Bill and which is situated in one of the areas in connection with which grants are made payable, irrespective of the number of workpeople employed. That is an important point. Yesterday, I heard one hon. Member rather suggest that nothing was done for the smaller establishments employing fewer than 50 people. Clause 17 of the Bill deals with this matter in some detail, and the relevant passage is contained in Sub-section (2) of that Clause. As regards the cost to the Exchequer, this will be about £8,000,000, most of it falling to be met in the year 1939–40.
Mr. David Adams
May I inquire as to what is the meaning of the provision in Sub-section (2)? There is reference to:a grant equal to the appropriate proportion of so much of those expenses as the Minister considers reasonableThe Minister might consider anything from 50 per cent. to 90 per cent., or even 100 per cent., to be reasonable. Are the persons concerned to be left entirely at the mercy of the Minister?
I do not think the hon. Member need be under any apprehension. If he looks at Sub-section (3) of the Clause he will find the words:The expression the appropriate proportion means an amount in the pound equal to the standard rate of Income Tax for the year 1939–40If he goes on to Sub-section (4) he will find there the conditions under which this grant is payable, that is to say that the shelter has been provided before the end of September, 1939, or that work on the shelter is in progress and that the Minister is satisfied that it will be provided within a reasonable time thereafter. It is also provided:No expenses shall be deemed for the purposes of this Section to be reasonable in so far as they exceed such standard as may be prescribed by regulations of the Minister made with the consent of the Treasury.That, I think, is the point to which I referred previously. There will be a standard of what is reasonable and what is not, and that will be taken as a criterion by the Departments concerned in administering this part of the Act.
Is not this a very cumbersome way of explaining that the amount is to be equal to the standard amount of Income Tax? What is the necessity for putting in such words as:equal to the appropriate proportion of so much of those expenses as the Minister considers reasonableThose words we are told simply mean an amount equal to the standard amount of Income Tax.
§ Mr. Morrison
They mean that, combined with expenditure which conforms to the standard prescribed by the regulations in the later part of the Clause. Whether the expression is cumbersome or not is a matter of opinion. If it is cumbersome, I hope that, in Committee, the hon. Member will suggest words which will convey the same meaning in a clearer and more understandable form.
§ Mr. Morrison
The last grant to which I refer is that for eliminating or screening flames or glare, for camouflage, and for similar purposes. It is a 50 per cent. grant and the cost to the Exchequer is estimated at about £2,000,000.
To summarise the Exchequer liability to which I am asking the Committee to agree, I would say that the total amount is about £25,375,000, plus an annual burden for 40 years, estimated at £120,000. The bulk of this £25,000,000 will fall to be met in the current financial year. This is in addition to the commitments already entered into by the Exchequer under the Air-Raid Precautions Act of 1937. I cannot, off-hand, remember the total figure of Government expenditure under that Act, but I think I am not far wrong in saying that it is between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 at a conservative estimate, because I recollect that it includes £20,000,000 for shelters and that it provides for the supply of equipment, some of it of a very expensive character, such as additional fire engines, fire-fighting appliances, respirators and so on. In order to get a true picture of what we are asking the Committee to agree to to-night, we must take into consideration the sums to which we have already committed the Exchequer. It is a very heavy cost, but when the Committee considers the objects which we have in view in incurring it, I 2896 do not think they will withhold their assent to the Resolution.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Before I deal with the details of the financial proposals now before the Committee, I feel that I must join with those who have expressed objection to the short time which has been available between the introduction of the Bill, the discussion of the Bill on Second Reading, and the present discussion on the Financial Resolution. So short an interval has militated very considerably against informed criticism. It is not only a question of the difficulty which hon. Members have had in appreciating the details of these proposals, but the impossibility of local authorities and others rendering to Members their criticisms, on which we here, are bound, in large measure, to rely. I do not think the Lord Privy Seal denies that he has had to break his promise to the Scottish authorities in this matter. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman defends himself on the ground that his hands have been forced by the march of events, but, personally, I cannot agree to letting him get away with that defence. In my judgment, the events of March, 1938, and, still more, those of the autumn of 1938, ought to have warned Ministers to take very much earlier action than they did actually take. But Ministers have been lulled into a false sense of security by such slogans as "Peace in our time," and those of us who have attempted to rouse Ministers and the country to the urgent need of getting forward with these measures, have had hurled at us such abusive epithets as "jitterbugs."
Now that we are in another crisis, of course we cannot, in any part of the House, seek to hold up the Second Reading of the Bill—which has indeed already gone through—or this Financial Resolution. But we are sorry that this Resolution could not have been published much earlier so as to give adequate time for that informed criticism and proper discussion which alone can enable this Bill to be the Measure which it ought to be when it leaves Parliament. I understand that the Lord Privy Seal intends shortly after Easter to see the Scottish authorities who have been particularly upset by the limitation in time. I know, having been in contact with them, that they are very apprehensive about the effect of these financial proposals upon them and very 2897 desirous of seeing considerable changes made with regard to these matters. The Lord Privy Seal is probably aware that at the annual Convention of Royal Burghs, a drastic resolution on those lines was passed. Of course, he realises that after Easter is after the passage of this Financial Resolution, which fixes certain things in a way that prevents—
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me what resolution the Convention of Royal Burghs passed?
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I was informed this afternoon that the Convention of Royal Burghs yesterday passed a resolution demanding 100 per cent. payment by the Exchequer for these services, and stating that, as far as they could see at such short notice, this Bill places upon them very serious burdens indeed. I was proceeding, when the Lord Privy Seal, quite properly, intervened to point out that when we have passed this Financial Resolution to-night, if we do pass it, we shall have, so far as that is concerned, committed ourselves to its terms, and any Amendment of the Bill which does not conform to the Resolution will, of course, be out of order.
I want to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he will see that, in view of the short time that has elapsed—whether he is to blame or whether anyone is to blame is another matter—it has resulted in there having been no adequate discussion prior to the passage of the Resolution. Nobody can deny that. Therefore, I ask him to give an undertaking that he will not close his mind to bringing in an amending Financial Resolution, if circumstances seem to render that desirable. The right hon. Gentleman is meeting the Scottish local authorities and others, and it may be that arguments will be brought forward that will influence his mind in the matter, and I hope that the mere fact that by that time this Resolution will have been accepted by the House will not prevent him from judging the matter on its merits and, if necessary, amending these proposals by introducing another Financial Resolution.
What are the actual facts? We have a very long and complicated Financial Resolution, lucidly explained by the Chancellor of the Duchy, relating to a 2898 highly complicated and detailed Bill. I have done my best to study it, and I have listened to speeches made about it, but certainly I cannot say, with my hand upon my heart, that I understand all the provisions of the Bill and of the Financial Resolution and that I know exactly what is the appropriate grant for each service performed by the authority; and I am sure I am not alone in the Committee in that. Even if I were alone in the Committee as I see it around me now, I should not be alone among Members of the Committee who are absent. I think the Minister of Health was a little kind and optimistic when he explained that the reason why the Chamber was so depleted was that all those hon. Members who were not here were themselves at the moment actively engaged in promoting air-raid precaution services.
The real fact is that this whole question of civil defence is a new aspect of war. The required protection of the civilian population in the last few hundred years has been comparatively small, and now for the first time again we are approaching the conditions of the ancient world, in which the civil population were in very great danger in war time; and it is a fact that this situation is one that ought to be faced more seriously than it is being faced by the Government. I think there can be little doubt that this matter ought to be treated as a national matter and made a national charge. We on these benches, at any rate, do not accept the view that this is a local service like drainage, or police, or even education, or housing, for which the prime responsibility rests on the local authorities. In most of those other matters the local authorities really have an option. They can carry out their scheme of police or drainage on a fairly lavish scale, or they can contract it to minimum dimensions, but in this case that is not so. In this case the local authorities are really acting as the agents of the Government to perform a national service, which they are constrained to perform and in regard to which they have an exceedingly narrow limit of deviation. For that reason alone it seems to me that this idea, that in order to secure efficient administration the local authorities must bear a considerable part of the cost, cannot be accepted.
But there is another ground which I think is even stronger. This expenditure 2899 will be very much higher in certain localities than in others, not because of the volition of the local authorities, but because of their geographical position. May I give two or three illustrations? First of all, there are the ports, with their harbours and docks, which will make them specially vulnerable; there are areas which, for some reason or another, owing perhaps to the presence within them of munition works or something of that kind, are specially liable to attack; and there are large centres of population which, apart from military reasons, may attract the malignant attentions of enemy aircraft. Therefore, I suggest that the idea of putting a certain proportion of the expenditure on the rates is not sound. It enables the people residing in districts which are favoured to have it both ways. Not only are they more favourably placed and less liable to be injured in life and property, but they will also escape that part of the burden which the Government, by this Financial Resolution, are putting on the rates of the localities which are less favoured.
There is another aspect which the Government do not perhaps altogether take into account. Even without these proportional charges on the local authorities, these authorities are in any case bearing what one might call some of the overhead charges connected with these services. In such matters, for instance, as fire services, police, health, and education, the administrative expenses connected with many of the services envisaged will in any case fall upon them without attracting any grant whatever. It seems to us that this proposal is vicious in that respect. If the local authorities are to be compelled to pay, we say at least let their contributions have an upper limit. I repeat that it is not at their volition that they can expand or reduce the amount of their services. They are confined and restricted within very narrow upper and lower limits. The high proportion in the pound which their rates will reach will depend on circumstances over which they have exceedingly little control, in spite of the careful figures which the estimates of the Treasury—I should rather say the conjectural guesses of the Treasury—are able to give us.
Therefore, the burdens which will fall upon the local authorities are quite un- 2900 certain. As an illustration of that, it will be remembered that it was forecast that the burden imposed by the 1937 Act would not exceed one penny in the £, but already it has been mentioned that in some areas they have risen to several pence in the £. I am told that at Glasgow the administrative side alone of the expenses under the 1937 Act amount to nearly £30,000 a year, and are constantly expanding; and a penny rate produces £48,000. The financial proposals of this Bill will conform, I think, in some respects to the principles of the 1937 Act. In the Schedule to that Act it was arranged that in certain circumstances the maximum grant would be earned by the local authorities, and one of the complaints that is made by those with whom I come into contact is that, owing to the sectionalising of the services for the purposes of calculating grants, they are prevented from getting on the global total the higher rate which they would otherwise earn. There is another point which ought to be taken into account. Many of the local authorities have public utility services and, in addition to the expenditure thrust on them in other ways, they will have to meet the cost which falls on public utilities.
I come to the financial provisions under Clause 7, about which the local authorities make two points. As I understand it, the contribution from the Exchequer is, in those cases, somewhere between 60 and 75 per cent., and there is a feeling among the local authorities that in view of the large amount of additional expenses those figures ought to be revised. Further than that, they say that as this proposal is worded it will thrust upon them an undue burden. They recognise that if they provide a place for parking it is a matter which should not rank for grant, but they say that the cost which ought to attract grant should be the whole cost of the undertaking less that part of it which is designed for the purpose of parking. I see that the Minister is puckering his brows in regard to that but I believe in practice that it would make a considerable difference if it were worded in that way. Clause 22 is concerned with the fixing of appliances, and I cannot see why a local authority should be put to any expense in connection with fixing appliances to private premises when the Government have supplied the thing which is to be fixed. As. it is a contract between the 2901 Government and the private individual, surely that expenditure ought to attract the full 100 per cent. grant. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will be prepared to consider these and other matters and, if necessary, to set them right. If it is impossible to do so by an Amendment to the Financial Resolution, let us have another Financial Resolution in an amended form.
I want to emphasise the need for action. The Lord Privy Seal came to us as a man with a great reputation and we want to see the fruits of it in the work that he does. Six months have gone by since the last crisis and it may be, as the Minister of Health told us, that certain things have been got forward, but undoubtedly a large number of other matters have not progressed nearly as much as the country has a right to expect. This belated Bill itself is an illustration, and it is in itself only a promise of action in future. Let me take one illustration which I put to the Lord Privy Seal only a few days ago. Take the question of the trenches.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
We are now discussing the Money Resolution. This is not the Second Reading of the Bill, and I cannot find trenches mentioned in the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I think we find the question of shelters very definitely in the Money Resolution. In paragraph 3 of Table II we find the words:Increases in the grants under the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, ascribable to a provision that expenses of a local authority in making an underground parking place ….Surely the completion of trenches comes within the limit of the Financial Resolution.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The Money Resolution refers to underground parking places, but I cannot find that trenches are mentioned in it.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I do not want to pursue the point at any length if you say that I am out of order, but perhaps you will let me say that we do not want the authorities to be as long over the provision of shelters in parking places as we have reason to think they have been in dealing with proposals which came under 2902 the Act of 1937. In spite of what has been said to-day I cannot: help thinking there has been a great deal of unnecessary delay and procrastination in the past, and I believe that the condition of our civil defence at the present time is lamentably insufficient. I would not say that if I thought that the exposure of what is wrong to-day would give comfort to any enemy. On the contrary, I believe it is going to help, because not only is exposure the first step towards redress but I believe that, in so far as our defence services are deficient, the deficiencies are already well known to possible enemies. If any enemy attacking us kills or wounds more of our civil population than he would do if our defences were in a better state of preparation, I do not think that will help that enemy to win the war. I do not believe he is going to demoralise our people, who are a splendid people, with dogged courage and resolute will, but it will be a shame and a disgrace to our Government, to whose care the preservation of the lives and homes of our citizens and their children has been entrusted.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
I should like to join not only in the closing words of the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) but also in the protest he made against this Money Resolution being taken to-night. In moving the Second Reading of the Bill the Lord Privy Seal pointed out that he was having to carry it through in a hurry, and if it were necessary to take this Resolution to-night in order to save time and to get the Bill on to the Statute Book at an earlier date than otherwise would be possible, I do not think any of us would complain; but it is clear that it makes no difference to the date when the Bill reaches the Statute Book whether we take the Money Resolution to-night or not. We rise to-morrow for the Easter Adjournment. The Committee stage, therefore, cannot be reached until after we return, and I should have thought it would have been perfectly possible for the Government to arrange to take the Money Resolution on the first day after our return. That would make no difference to the rapidity of the Bill's progress, but would make a good deal of difference to the discussions which the right hon. Gentleman is to have with the local autho- 2903 rities. On the Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman said:Local authorities have been told that opportunity for further consultation will be afforded to them before the Committee stage is reached"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1939; col. 2640, Vol. 345.]As the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh has pointed out, what difference will that make? Already the decision of the House will have been taken on the matters which are of particular concern to the local authorities. Not only will the hands of the House be tied, but the hands of the right hon. Gentleman will be tied, unless he is prepared to take the course, which has already been suggested to him, of either bringing in an amending Money Resolution, if that be possible or substituting for it some other Resolution. Ae has been pointed out, this is a long and complicated Resolution. It is almost as difficult to understand as the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill. Let me quote one sentence from the Memorandum on which I have thought some misconstruction might be put.It also provides that the local authority shall, if the occupier consents, affix such appliances as are being provided free of charge to certain classes of persons to strengthen basementsThat seems to be open to a good deal of misunderstanding, and I cannot help thinking that the same persons who drafted that Memorandum must have had a hand in framing the Money Resolution. We ought not to let the Money Resolution pass in this form without some comment, even though we are considering emergency legislation. The House can seldom have seen a Money Resolution occupying so much space upon the Order Paper and drafted in so much detail. The right hon. Gentleman will already have realised that no one in any part of the House is anxious to obstruct in any way the progress of the Bill. The complaint made from all sides is that the Bill has come too late, and in days like these no one is disposed to subject such a Measure to anything in the nature of a microscopical examination on the Committee stage; but that is no reason why the hands of the House should be tied in advance by a Money Resolution of this character.
I should like to give one or two examples of where, it seems to me, this Money Resolution goes into quite unneces- 2904 sary detail. Table I deals with remissions of Income Tax where air-raid shelters are erected. Why could not that have been put perfectly generally? Why has it been necessary to set out three classes of persons who may get this particular remission of taxation? One can imagine, though it may not be likely to arise, other classes of persons who might erect air-raid shelters, and the House might wish to deal with them in the Bill, but by the Money Resolution we shall be tied down to these three particular classes. In the column dealing with grants to local authorities we find that those to whom the grant is going to be made are:County and county borough councils and councils of large burghsAgain it is conceivable, I do not say it is likely, that the House might wish that those grants should be open to other local authorities, to the small burghs in Scotland or to district councils in England, yet we are prevented from proposing that by the form of this Money Resolution.
I pass on to Table III, dealing with the expenses of Government Departments. In paragraph (1, a) it says:Expenses for the purpose of arrangements: or in carrying out agreements—(a)to secure that in the event of war facilities will be available for the treatment in hospital of casualties occurring in Great Britain from hostile attackNo doubt that is the purpose which is in the mind of the Government, but is it necessary to put it in so much detail in the Resolution? Is it necessary to have the words "in hospital," or even to have the words "occurring in Great Britain," because it is conceivable that provision might be made for dealing with casualties occurring outside the actual frontiers of this country—casualties, for instance, which might even occur on the high seas? Those may be very remote contingencies, but they are contingencies which conceivably the House might wish to deal with on the Committee stage. Hon. Members will be prevented from moving any Amendment on these matters because of the entirely unnecessary particularity with which this Money Resolution has been drafted.
Then I come to Table IV. Paragraph 2 of that refers, I take it, to Clause 56 of the Bill—and just let me say in passing that, although in this part of the Committee we approve most of the outlines of 2905 this Bill, we shall have some criticisms to make of Clause 56. But in that paragraph the wording is:''Compensation to, or to the dependants of, persons injured in peace time … in the course of being trained or exercisedIs it proposed that these arrangements for compensation shall come to an end immediately on the outbreak of war? If so, it will be necessary for the Government at once to make fresh arrangements on the outbreak of war for some entirely different form of compensation. The right hon. Gentleman nods, and I take it that that is the intention of the Government. But then again, is it necessary to have the words ''in peace time''? These are words of limitation in the Money Resolution. All these things may be right or they may be wrong, but they ought not to be dealt with here and so tie the hands of the House. That is the protest that I wish to make.
The House will recall the report of the Select Committee on Money Resolutions. After that committee had reported we were told by the Prime Minister that we might expect a change in the future because he had sent out a circular to all the Departments telling them to draft these Resolutions with as little detail as possible. There could never have been any circular sent out by the Prime Minister in the whole of our Parliamentary history which has produced so little effect. These Resolutions go on being drafted and being presented to this House in precisely the same way as before the report of the Select Committee and before the sending out of that particular circular. These are attempts, and we can only suppose that they are quite deliberate attempts, to fetter the freedom of this House to move Amendments on the Committee and Report stages. I know it is true that we cannot raise these objections with quite the force that we can at other times because this is emergency legislation, but the fact that we are passing through an emergency, that we have to do these things quickly, is no reason why we should allow the Departments to get away with anything that they choose.
When the Select Committee on Money Resolutions produced their report they suggested that in Bills of this kind, the primary purpose of which is not the expenditure of money, the Money Resolution should in the normal course be taken after the Second Reading, in order that 2906 Ministers and those who advise them might have the opportunity of hearing what this House had to say on the Second Reading and draft their Money Resolution accordingly. I cannot imagine any Bill where that procedure would be more appropriate than it is on this Bill. But the whole force of that recommendation is lost if Money Resolutions of this sort are to be printed at the same time as the Bill and to appear on the Order Paper at the same time, so that what is said on the Second Reading has no effect on the minds of the Government because they have already made up their minds, irrespective of this House, as to the form the Money Resolution should take. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will find it possible to accede to the appeal that has been made to him by the right hon. Gentleman who sat down a few moments ago.
I am not going into the general issues that are here raised, because they have been dealt with very thoroughly on the Second Reading, except to say this. There have been a number of speeches made on all sides of the House on the question of deep shelters, and of course that is one of the matters particularly dealt with in this Money Resolution. I am not making any complaint at all. It was referred to in the speech we had from the Minister of Health, but it would be welcomed in this part of the House, and I think in all parts of the House, if the right hon. Gentleman who will wind up the Debate on this Money Resolution could give us rather more information about the intentions of the Government on that particular matter.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
I feel bound to associate myself with the remarks which have fallen from the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) in regard to the very narrow drafting of the Financial Resolution. It is really very difficult to speak on some matters which would have been perfectly relevant otherwise, in view of the fact that the Money Resolution excludes a whole series of Amendments which would normally be discussed, and probably in ordinary circumstances would be accepted in Committee. Apart from that, I heard with a certain anxiety the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health that money was not the primary or governing factor in the mind of the Government when dealing with this question. Finance is as 2907 vital a part of our national defences as anything else; and whether the money is spent by Governments, or by a commercial firm, or by the individual, it is money spent, and it is our resources dissipated unless it is spent wisely and well. War is a game which, like football, is best played so far as possible in the enemy's 25, and not in our own; and, speaking as an ex-soldier and one who has always in this House referred to the armed Forces of the Crown as the Fighting Forces, and not as the Defence Forces, I feel that we ought to do everything in our power to maintain the offensive outlook, to emphasise as little as possible the purely defensive aspect, to carry the war, if war there be, into the enemy's country, and to emphasise as little as we may the necessities under which we obviously labour of making our homes as safe as may be from the hurricanes and earthquakes which may assail them.
That being the case, I venture to hope that the Lord Privy Seal, in exercising his powers under Clause 9 of Part III of the Bill, will limit as narrowly as possible the areas in which he proposes to erect shelters, and in which he proposes to give instructions under Part I to owners and occupiers of factory premises. Reasonable capital expenses up to the standard rate of Income Tax will take up, even as it is, a very large sum, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not be drawn by any agitation into extending, in the first instance at least, the area in which this Bill will operate beyond the absolute necessities of the case. Otherwise there will be a shortage of labour, there may be a shortage of material, and there will certainly be waste of money.
The Financial Resolution in its reference to fire-fighting at several points seems to indicate that all that we have for fighting power is a reserve of water, but, as I understand it, we are really in greater need of a large reserve of chemical fire-extinguishers, which in many local areas will be of great value and far more portable than reserves of water. I have no doubt the Lord Privy Seal has it in his mind that these chemical fire-fighting apparatuses and the actual raw material will be available. They can be easily-stored, but they cannot be made with 2908 great rapidity. They take time to make. They are mostly by-products of other materials, and I hope that some future Money Resolution at least will contain some reference to the storage of fire-fighting materials in every thickly populated area. Chemical apparatus can be of the greatest assistance. Thanks to the National Fire Brigades Association, we now have in this country a vast accumulation of expert knowledge on this question of chemical extinguishers, and I should be very sorry to think that that knowledge was being wasted because we had not the material at our disposal.
I shall now turn straight on to Table IV, which deals with compensation. I must confess to being rather puzzled about it. It may be from ignorance and it may be that there is some other enactment with which I am not familiar, but, as the Bill stands, no compensation is available to any third parties who may be injured as a consequence of people being exercised or trained, or who are training or exercising others, in respect of air-raid precautions. It is quite possible that third parties may be seriously injured, but there will be no scheme for them. A lorry or a truck may be driven for purposes of testing and training someone in air-raid precautions work, and it may run down a cyclist or injure a child. So far as I can see there is no provision in the Bill, or in the Money Resolution, by which compensation will be available to such third parties.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I am speaking in support of the local authorities. I should not like to see them mulct in damages for third-party claims which might be much more serious than the burden which the Government are assuming in respect of probably trifling injuries to the persons themselves while being trained or while training others.
I do not much like the exceeding vagueness of this scheme which, under Clause 56 of the Bill, may be laid down by the Treasury I take it that Table IV 2909 of the Money Resolution covers Clause 56 (2) of the Bill, which says:A scheme made by the Treasury may provide for the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament to or to the dependants of persons who suffer injuries to which this Section applies of such periodical or lump sums as may be specified in the scheme.Sub-section (1) of Clause 56 says:This Section applies to personal injuries sustained in the course—(a) of being trained. …For 23 years the Workmen's Compensation Act has contained the words:arising out of and in the course of,but here we have only:in the course of,which greatly limits the matter, as I understand it. I should like a very full examination of this point by someone versed in workmen's compensation in order to see whether the words of the Bill, reproduced in substance in the Financial Resolution, are as wide as the Government intend. The country is accustomed to that phrase in the Workmen's Compensation Act, but the words now proposed would exclude anybody who was run down on his way back from being trained after and during a blackout. They would exclude a man riding on his bicycle to his job by the shortest route in order to undergo air-raid training. All these cases are decided cases under workmen's compensation and they are thoroughly understood. I suggest that it is far preferable in a Bill of this kind to use the precise words of an existing Act of Parliament, however defective it may be, but on which there is a vast mass of decided cases, in order that there might be no differential treatment of injuries under this Bill as compared with injuries under the parallel Workmen's Compensation Act.
Moreover, the Treasury take the very remarkable power to settle what compensation, if any, shall be given to injured persons and their dependants, without the matter being laid before Parliament. Power has been given in the Workmen's Compensation Act, Section 31, to the Treasury in relation to workmen in the employment of Government, and 135,000 persons are under a scheme of that sort as employés of Government, but the Bill does not cover the employés of Government. Is it right to give the Treasury this immense power without this House 2910 retaining control, at least to the extent of the proposal being placed before the House? I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that he might table between now and the Committee stage of the Bill the proposed Treasury scheme, or give an undertaking that it will be discussed in this House in some form or other, because it covers a very large number of difficult cases. The legal fraternity on both sides in this Committee would certainly be in a position to assist the Government in making a practical scheme such as that which all the Government Departments have in relation to their workers, but I hope not less liberal.
Another point arising out of the same Clause is that the scheme to be made by the Treasury may provide for the payment of moneys, but the payment is apparently not to be retrospective. Here again we are so narrowly hampered by the terms of the Financial Resolution that I am in a difficulty. The Financial Resolution says:being trained in nursing in pursuance of arrangements under the said Act of the present Session, or of acting in a voluntary capacityAgain,under the said Act of the present Session or the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937I should have said that that would unduly limit the retrospective operation of the Clause. There again, is it necessary to draft these things so closely? I notice that in Table III powers are taken for casualties in hospital. In the last Great War and in most countries a very large number of casualties, after the first immediate treatment in hospital, were taken out of the hospitals and put into places which were certainly not hospitals—unless they were technically described as such. Surely those words "in hospital" should be removed. Why not in cottage homes? Or in poor law institutions or in places fitted for convalescence which are not hospitals?
Again, there are the words:provision of a bacteriological service for controlling the spread of infectious disease in the event of warVery good, but why limit this matter to a bacteriological service? Anybody who has had any association with attempting to prevent the spread of infection in time of war knows that, quite apart from your doctors, you need a very substantial number of policemen and a whole organi- 2911 sation which cannot, by any form of sophistry, be included within the limits of a bacteriological service. I do not want to be unduly critical or to waste the time of the Committee, but we have all had experience of these things and I think the Government may find themselves seriously hampered by the extreme narrowness with which they have drawn this Financial Resolution.
For the rest, the point on which I should like some information is, while the central electricity authorities are very fully covered, why is there no reference to gas companies? Are they dealt with as public utility authorities? The actual danger which may arise from an explosion of gas is probably greater than in the case of electricity, and the eventual cost of dealing with gas mains and of the appropriate protection of gasometers, which are normally sited in the very centre of the most crowded areas of this country, is far greater than in the case of electricity, for the electricity companies have mostly set up their establishments during the past 20 years, and have been far more careful to avoid as far as possible being too close to inhabited areas. I congratulate the Government on having got an extraordinarily complicated Measure into such a form, and I can assure them that there will be no reluctance on the part of the local authorities with whom I am concerned in complying with the Bill. I think, however, that my right hon. Friend will find that he has hampered himself by the narrowness of the Money Resolution, and that, if he can widen it slightly at various points, he will find it much easier to deal with the local authorities, and possibly with the Committee upstairs.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In dealing with this Financial Resolution, I am reminded of a statement made in the earlier Debate that the Minister was not going to be kicked or stampeded, but the Resolution itself, restricted as it is, shows how far the Government have been kicked from the original position when the previous Bill was discussed. At that time the Minister responsible had no conception of what civil defence meant. Anyone who cares to read the reports of that Debate will understand that that is so. I should like to say a word about the remarks of the 2912 hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson). At the conclusion of his speech he was emphatic on the importance of protecting gasometers, but at the beginning he was concerned that too much money should not be spent on the defence of the people. If a gasometer is destroyed, it will cause destruction over a very wide area, and the hon. Member may be in that area. That is why he is so concerned about gasometers.
§ Sir A. Wilson
It is exceedingly unlikely that a gasometer will explode. It will burn, but there is in a gasometer no greater inherent danger so far as regards spreading destruction if it should be set alight than there is in any other body of inflammable matter.
§ Mr. Gallacher
There can be an explosion, and a very wide range of fire. When a bomb falls on a gasometer, there is an explosion—
§ Mr. Gallacher
It seems to me that the only reason for the hon. Member's contradictory attitude of economy as regards the defence of the people and great care that gasometers should be guarded, is that he is quite out of touch with the people, but he sees the gasometer, and realises the danger the gasometer represents to himself. I am very seriously concerned and perturbed, as others are, about the narrowness of this Resolution. It is a very serious defect. The first part deals with owners or occupiers of factories and so on, and the categories which have to be covered. I would have liked, in the Committee stage of the Bill, to unite all this defence under one authority—not to have factory owners responsible, as they are here, for particular services, and local authorities responsible, as they are, for other services. I would have liked to see an Amendment put forward to bring all the services, whether steel shelters, deep shelters or shelters at factories, under one authority. That is the way to get the maximum organisation and the maximum result. I am positive that under the present Bill, while money will be spent, it will not be spent to the best advantage, and the best results as regards shelters and the defence of the masses of the people will not be obtained.
2913 Under the Bill as I read it, following this Money Resolution, consideration is to be given to public utility companies—the big purveyors of gas, electricity, water and so on—on account of the necessity for taking care of the undertakings and for the repair of damage that may be done as a result of attack by hostile forces. I am concerned about something which can easily arise in an emergency, and for which provision ought to be made in the Bill and in the Money Resolution. So far as I can gather from the Bill, a certain percentage grant to these public utility companies is visualised where there is danger of damage from attack, but one thing about which we should be clear, both in the Bill and in the Money Resolution, is the very great amount of sabotage that will be carried on, quite apart from attacks that may come from outside the country.
§ Mr. Gallacher
By the Fifth Column in this country, the Gestapo has its headquarters in London, as every Member of this House knows, and it has its contacts outside and inside this House. I will give the names of a few if it is desired.
§ Mr. Gallacher
A very considerable amount of sabotage will be carried on, but no concern appears to be shown for that, and there is no provision for it in the Money Resolution. Let hon. Members realise what has happened in other countries, and consider what is going to happen in this country if the emergency should arise and if the country should be plunged into war. I want to observe the Ruling of the Chair, but I wish hon. Members would read the literature of the Communist movement, from which they would see that the one thing in which that movement does not believe is sabotage or terrorism.
With regard to the elimination and screening of flames in factories, mines (including quarries) and public utility undertakings, there is a matter that I should like the Minister of Health to consider. I should like to see an Amendment put down that would go further than the Money Resolution allows. I have drawn attention before to a burning bing at Blairhall, in my constituency. It is 2914 one of the most far-flung illuminations to be found anywhere in this country, and it is very near the Forth Bridge. This Clause would have to be put into operation immediately to deal with this glare, which shows the actual location of the Forth Bridge and the important railway communications to the north of Scotland. The Minister will have to take note that this 50 per cent. allowed for dealing with glare may encourage the company to eliminate the glare, but, in doing that, they can produce a situation which will cause the utmost annoyance and danger to health for the community. There is another bing at Buckhaven which is not illuminated, and the smell of that is nauseating if there is the slightest breeze. If you get in Blairhall a half-hearted attempt to deal with this burning bing the result can be very bad for the neighbouring villages. The very fact that it is burning means that there are fewer fumes coming to the villages round about, but the attempt to blanket it will cause a plague of fumes. And it should be remembered that when people are on rations, as they would be in an emergency, they are more susceptible to illness and disease. Something should be done about this Money Resolution in order to allow an Amendment being put down when the Bill comes before Committee, in order that these matters might be dealt with.
I want to refer to a matter connected with hospitals. The provision made here is not going to help us to get the necessary nurses to care for all the injured that there will be throughout the country. I have a letter from a matron of a Scottish hospital, who has held such a position for about 25 years. She protests about the treatment of nurses in Scotland, and tells me that there is very bad feeling on the part of a large number of nurses about that treatment. I would like the Minister to consider loosening the terms of the Resolution in such a way that on the Committee stage of the Bill it will be possible for us to move Amendments, to improve the situation so far as nurses are concerned and to allow us to develop, with the greatest rapidity, a large enough nursing staff to cope with the situation that will certainly arise in an emergency.
§ The Chairman
I hope the hon. Member has made his point, because I cannot let him go on any further on those lines.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I have made my point, Sir Dennis. That is all I wanted to do. The restrictive character of this Resolution is going to prevent those who have been associated with this work moving the necessary Amendments on the Committee stage to provide for adequate defence of the civil population along the lines we desire. No matter how much we may spend, the actual true defence of the people is to prevent war from coming upon them, and the way to do that is to get rid of the Government, and get a Government that will make peace throughout Europe.
§ Sir J. Anderson rose—
§ Mr. Tinker
On a point of Order. Does the Lord Privy Seal intend to wind up the Debate now? Because there are other complaints to be made.
§ The Chairman
What may be the intentions of any hon. or right hon. Member I do not know, but, so far as I am aware, no Member on the Government Front Bench or anywhere else has any power to put an end to this Debate, unless by the recognised procedure of Closure.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
A great many points have been raised, some of considerable importance, and it will take me a very long time to deal at all adequately with those points. That, and not any desire to cut the Debate short prematurely, is my reason for getting up at this stage. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) and certain other speakers have joined the speakers who, in the course of the Second Reading Debate, protested against the proposal that this Financial Resolution should be taken now. I cannot help thinking that the protest has been somewhat overdone. Although, as I said yesterday, I had hoped that a longer period would have been allowed between the introduction of this Bill and the taking of the Second Reading Debate, I expressed yesterday my regret that circumstances have conspired to cut the period rather short.
But it would be altogether wrong if hon. Members were to proceed under the impression that there has been no consultation in regard to the matters dealt with in this Bill. There has, in fact, been a great deal of consultation. If we look 2916 at the charges which are imposed by the Financial Resolution, under the different heads in the Tables, as regards the contribution towards expenses incurred by owners and occupiers of factory premises and commercial buildings, the matter was discussed, before the Bill was introduced, with the representative organisations concerned, including the Council of the Trades Union Congress. Similarly, in regard to the part of the Bill dealing with public utility undertakings, there had been, before the Bill was finally framed, most extensive and prolonged discussions with representatives of the interests concerned, and even when we come to local authorities—and it was on behalf of local authorities, I understand, that the protest against taking the Resolution, as it is thought, too soon, was mainly put forward—it is not quite accurate to suggest that there has been no sort of consultation at all.
Scottish local authorities have, I think, been foremost in voicing the protests that we have heard in the course of this Debate and the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill. I myself took occasion, when I had a conference with the representatives of Scottish local authorities in Edinburgh on 6th March, to outline the general provisions of the Bill. I did it, it is true, in very general terms, but I did indicate to the representatives of the local authorities what they might expect to find in the Bill, and there then ensued a very considerable amount of discussion, in the course of which the representatives of the authorities—of all types of authority in Scotland—expressed their view as to the financial burden which the requirements of Civil Defence seemed likely to place on the local authorities. I expressed in the course of that discussion my view as the responsible Minister, and as far as that goes the authorities could not really have been taken by surprise.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Was it not at that interview that the right hon. Gentleman gave a definite promise that, after the Bill was introduced, there would be an opportunity for further consultation before the Financial Resolution was taken in this House?
§ Sir J. Anderson
Yes, before the Second Reading. It was the Second Reading that was in question. I do not think that 2917 I actually made a promise. I have looked at the notes, and I undoubtedly discussed the matter on that occasion in the genuine belief that there would be further consultation, and I make no secret at all of the fact that the local authorities have reason perhaps to be disappointed, as I am, that it has not been possible to allow a longer time. I do not think that there is really much in it. At that time we were all proceeding in the expectation that longer time would be the rule. I was not thinking—and I wish to make that clear—of the major matters of principle, but of the innumerable details which are of interest to the local authorities. The point I am trying to make is that, so far as the major interest of principles is concerned, there was that consultation.
I come to the authorities of England and Wales. I had a similar discussion with representatives of the Association of Municipal Corporations, who put forward their views, and I put forward mine. I offered the County Councils Association a similar consultation, but they said they would rather have the consultation after Second Reading. On Monday of this week certain representatives of the Scottish local authorities came to London, and, together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, I had an opportunity of seeing them, and I listened, of course, to what they had to say. I asked those representatives whether there was any special point that was troubling them which they wanted to be able to consider further before the Resolution was taken, and they were very frank. They said that there was no special point, but that they would have liked to have had a longer time for consideration in case there should be some points that they wanted to raise. I understood that these representatives recognised the force of the circumstances which had impelled the Government to press so early for the Debate on the Financial Resolution.
Yesterday, I received a telegram, which no doubt other hon. Members have had, from the Royal Convention of Scottish Burghs making it clear that the point which they were concerned to raise related to the general question of the charge upon local authorities for Civil Defence. They apparently wished to put forward the demand that His Majesty's Government 2918 should bear the whole cost of Civil Defence measures. That certainly is not a matter the discussion of which has been in any way prejudiced by taking the Financial Resolution now. It is not a matter that has first come into the mind of anyone on seeing this Bill or the Financial Resolution. It has been brought up from time to time. It has been to some extent already debated in this House, and I do not think that either on this side or on the other side of the House the fact that the Resolution is being taken now should in any way hamper the free expression of any views that may be held on that point.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Equally you could not move Amendments if the Financial Resolution was taken after Easter. In point of fact this Financial Resolution is not really concerned with that subject at all. It is concerned with charges which arise for the first time under this Civil Defence Bill. The demand of the Scottish Burghs concerns the charge that falls upon local authorities under the Act which is already on the Statute Book—the Act of 1937—and while it is certainly open to hon. Members to debate the question whether that Act should be allowed to continue in operation or whether in that particular respect it should be drastically amended, it is not at all clear why that question should arise on this Bill or on this Financial Resolution. As far as the Bill goes, the charges that are being put upon local authorities are quite insignificant in comparison with the charges that are being borne by the Exchequer, and the charges that are being borne by the Exchequer will, to a substantial extent, go to relieve local authorities of charges that would fall upon them under the normal operation of the Act of 1937. I made that point in the course of my speech on the Second Reading, and I do not want to labour the point further now.
§ Mr. Dunn
I do not quite understand the reference of the right hon. Gentleman to the County Councils Association. I gather that consultations have taken place with the Scottish local authorities, and with the Association of Municipal Corporations of this country, but that no particular consultation has taken place 2919 between himself and the County Councils Association. I gather that the answer of the County Councils Association was that they did not desire consultation until after the Second Reading of the Bill. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not the County Councils Association understood that the Financial Resolution was to be taken at this stage? Secondly, I cannot understand how the County Councils Association could really be satisfied with this Resolution, inasmuch as the county councils of England and Wales have definitely been sold a pup by the Air-Raid Precautions Act. In my own county—I want the Lord Privy Seal to reply to this—the actual cost of air-raid precautions is 4½d., and not 1d. as understood at that particular time.
§ Sir J. Anderson
When I had had the discussion with the Scottish local authorities and the Association of Municipal Corporations on the main provisions of the Bill, in the course of meetings which had been arranged primarily for other purposes, I thought that it was only fair to let the County Councils' Association know of such consultation, and to invite them to send representatives to meet me. That is how I came to approach them, and their reply was that they would prefer consultation after the Bill had been read a Second time, and before the Committee stage. I think that what weighed with them was that they looked at this Bill, as I suggest it ought to be looked at, as a Bill—
§ Sir J. Anderson
To the best of my belief, yes. At any rate, they made no point about it. It was before the Committee stage that they wanted consultation, that is, before the details came on. I imagine that they looked at this Resolution, as it ought to be looked at, as something quite apart from the provisions of the Act of 1937. If one looks at the Resolution one sees that, as far as the local authorities are concerned, most of the matters dealt with in the Resolution are matters that have already been discussed in detail with the representatives of the local authorities, and they, in fact, represent agreement arrived at. It applies, 2920 for example, to the rate of contribution to be provided under the Clause dealing with fire precautions; it applies to the contributions provided in connection with the organisation of casualty services; it supplies an addition to the housing subsidy in the case of flats in which shelter provision has to be incorporated—all these matters have been discussed—and also the position of public utility authorities. I conjecture that it was for these reasons that the County Councils' Association preferred to have a discussion at the later stage.
On the same point, it has been suggested that there was really no reason why the Debate on the Financial Resolution should not have been postponed until possibly an early date after the Easter Recess. That suggestion was made by the Junior Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot). If the Debate were to be postponed, that meant that important matters of principle were to be left at large. Unless that was to be the effect of postponement there was no logical justification for it. It must have meant that important matters of principle were to be left over for a time.
§ Sir J. Anderson
In that case I have some difficulty in understanding why importance is attached to the postponement of the Debate on the Money Resolution if it is taken for granted that the Resolution must go through in the form in which it appears on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Foot
That is precisely the point. If the Money Resolution is taken after the Easter Recess—and we shall not get to the Committee stage of the Bill until after the Recess—the right hon. Gentleman would be able to meet local authorities, and particularly the Scottish local authorities and would be able to redraft the Money Resolution if he thought fit. As it is, if the Money Resolution now goes through in its present form his hands will be tied.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Put in another form that is the point I was trying to make. The effect of postponement would be to leave open for a period the possibility of 2921 Amendments in the terms of the Money Resolution and, therefore, the scope of Amendments which might be moved. In the view of the Government, circumstances being what they are to-day, it is of great importance that no time should be lost in getting through the various stages of this Bill. Important duties are being placed on employers under the Bill, duties which have to be discharged by a certain date, and an early date, and the Government desire to be in a position to proceed with the arrangements necessary for giving scope to the provisions of the Bill in anticipation of the remaining stages. It really comes to this, that the demand of local authorities which has led to the suggestion from various hon. Members that the Debate should be postponed is, in effect, a demand not related directly to the particular provisions of the Bill but a demand that the financial structure of the Act of 1937 should be radically altered. That, surely, is clearly the position. That is a matter outside the scope of the Bill, and it is certainly quite outside the scope and intention of His Majesty's Government in promoting the Bill. In the view of the Government it would be a profound mistake, from the point of view of the effective completion and speedy completion of arrangements for civil defence organisation, that local authorities should be relieved of all financial responsibility. The view which the Government take, and which was taken on the Act of 1937, is that civil defence is a matter in which the local authorities as representing the people of their localities have a vital interest.
The effectiveness of the arrangements for Civil Defence in a particular locality is a matter of immediate concern to the people of that locality. It is a matter in which the local authority should be in a position to bring their views effectively to bear, and if the local authority are to have an effective responsibility in the matter of Civil Defence, it is, in the view of the Government, essential that their responsibility should include some degree of financial responsibility. Otherwise, in the view of the Government, the local authorities would either be reduced to the position of mere agents carrying out, no doubt loyally and as effectively as they could, the decisions of the central Government, or they would retain their position of independent responsibility, but instead of being partners with the Gov- 2922 ernment in the discharge of the public responsibility for Civil Defence, they would come into the position of being active critics, which would not, I suggest, further the effective organisation of Civil Defence. That, in brief, is the view of His Majesty's Government on the suggestion that has been made; but, as I said yesterday, the Act of 1937 recognised that it might be necessary to review the financial position within the principle embodied in the Act, that there should be a sharing of the financial burden between the central Government and the local authorities. I do not think I need repeat to-day what I said yesterday with regard to that review.
I pass from that rather general question to certain other points raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh. He suggested that undue burdens were being put on the local authorities in respect of matters covered by this Financial Resolution. As he was speaking, I was in considerable doubt as to what burdens he had in mind, because for the most part, the matters covered by this Resolution, so far as they do not involve expenditure to be borne by the central Exchequer, relate to matters which have been the subject of general negotiation and general agreement with the local authorities. I wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman had in mind, in particular, the responsibility put on local authorities in connection with the affixing of appliances for the purpose of making basements suitable as air-raid shelters. If so, I can only say that I dealt with that point in the course of the Debate yesterday.
The responsibilities which are being placed, for the first time, by this Bill, on local authorities in that connection, and in the discharge of which they will be able to claim the full grant under the 1937 Act, go in reduction and in mitigation of the general responsibilities of local authorities under the 1937 Act. It seems to be frequently overlooked that, so far as the 1937 Act goes—and it is still in force and still governs the matters with which it deals—the responsibility for providing shelters for the public is primarily a responsibility laid upon the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman thought that for fixing appliances there should be a 100 per cent. grant. On that I would only repeat what I have already said 2923 about the general principle which, under the Act of 1937, determines the sharing of cost between the local authorities and the central Government. The right hon. Gentleman made a reference—I am not sure that it was wholly in order—to the case of the unfinished trenches and said he hoped there would be no repetition of that experience. I think I should be allowed to say that, as far as the trenches are concerned, the responsibility for delay does not rest primarily upon the central Government. The local authorities were given, in November last, full authority to proceed and a very complete code which they could follow in planning the completion of the trenches.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Is it not the case that the instructions given in November were subject to further specifications which were not, in fact, sent until the middle of January?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think some questions were raised in regard to the specifications and outside opinion was obtained and a certain modification was made, but the local authorities were told that if they proceeded in accordance with the specifications that were put before them they would not need to make specific reference to the Department and they could count on receiving grant as a matter of course. The right hon. Gentleman, towards the conclusion of his speech, referred to what he described as the lamentable deficiency in our civil defence preparations and said it would be a shame and a disgrace if, on account of any deficiency in our civil defence preparations, more casualties should be inflicted on the civil population in the event of war than need be. I can assure the Committee that no one can be more conscious of the responsibilities that rest upon all the Members of His Majesty's Government who are concerned in any way with Civil Defence than I am. It is a very grave responsibility for anyone to bear and the knowledge, shared in all quarters of the Committee, that our preparations cannot be completed for some considerable time to come, weighs very heavily, as I have said, on all of us who have any share in that responsibility. But we are applying ourselves, with all the energy that we can put into it, to the task of making these preparations complete. I certainly have no 2924 intention of sparing any effort that I can make.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) suggested in the earlier Debate that the motive power behind the new instrument which is being forged in this Bill would need to be increased. We shall do all we can to increase the vigour and energy with which these preparations are being pursued. But the matter does not rest solely with the central Government. We must look to local authorities to apply themselves with the necessary vigour to their preparations. [Hon. Members: "They are doing so."] I do not say that by way of complaint. Very often, when there is a hitch or when there are delays, and complaint is made of the central Government, sometimes the blame should be laid on other shoulders. [An Hon. Member: "Waiting for guidance"] It is not a question of waiting for guidance. When we find, in many parts of the country, local authorities that have been able to get along quite well, that have brought their preparations well up to date, and that have no complaint to make of the treatment they have received at the hands of the central authority, we are justified in concluding that, in the case of other local authorities which are not getting on so well, there may at least be some contributory causes to be found in the particular locality for any delay or defect that may have occurred. I am stating my view with studied moderation, because I do not think any good purpose is served by anything in the nature of recrimination. I prefer to believe that there is very generally a realisation of the position in which we are and a desire to collaborate with the Government in bringing the preparations to a state of completion as rapidly as possible.
The next subject with which I should like to deal—and I am afraid I must do it at some little length—concerns shelter policy. The junior Member for Dundee referred to that matter, and it formed the subject of a considerable portion of the speeches of a number of hon. Members on the Second Reading. It was suggested that His Majesty's Government had not formulated any comprehensive shelter policy, and that there had been a policy of drift in the vital matter of the provision of shelters. I must remind the Committee that as long ago as 21st December His Majesty's Government formulated a 2925 comprehensive policy of shelter provision, a policy which was to be carried out in various parts. One part concerned the provision of steel shelters, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health gave some figures with regard to the delivery of those steel shelters which, I think, go far to disprove any suggestion of delay, or dilatoriness, or lack of energy, in securing a rapid distribution of those shelters. Up to the present time no fewer than 279,435 shelters have been distributed, representing shelter provision for very nearly 1,500,000 people, and we hope that in a very short time the output of those shelters will be doubled so that it may reach a figure of 80,000 shelters a week.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid I must ask the right hon. Gentleman in discussing policy to be very careful to keep strictly to policy regarding matters within the bounds of the Motion.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am much obliged to you, Sir Dennis, for the way in which you have expressed your Ruling, but as the Bill does touch the question of shelters, and the Resolution at two points certainly concerns shelter policy, I felt that I was perhaps entitled to put the matter to the Committee fairly comprehensively.
§ The Chairman
That is the reason I put my warning in the way I did. I am aware that the Resolution does deal with certain questions relative to shelters, but I wanted to warn the right hon. Gentleman that a discussion on broad principles of shelter policy as a whole is not in order.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is not raising a point of Order. What he or any hon. Member may have assumed or may have said in regard to the conduct of the Chair at a future stage of this legislation has no effect upon me or the performance by me of my duty.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Member guidance on what is going to happen. I can only deal with matters as they arise.
§ The Chairman
If I said it could not be dealt with in this Debate the hon. Member would have to accept my decision.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Some of us think that provision should be made for certain things which are not covered by the Bill. Are we not entitled to say they ought to be covered by the Bill and that this Resolution ought to provide money for them?
§ The Chairman
No, I think not. The right hon. Gentleman has emphasised my point by referring to what is or is not in the Bill. What I am Ruling is that we must not have a Second Reading Debate on the Bill now. We are now debating the Financial Resolution.
§ Mr. Ridley
Is it not legitimate for hon. Members to argue that the amount covered by the Money Resolution is insufficient for what they regard as the purpose of the Bill?
§ The Chairman
Certainly it is, but the Committee, I think, will allow me to say that I must decide what I regard as in Order, or relevant, or irrelevant as the Debate proceeds.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am glad to think that I have the sympathy of hon. Members opposite in my desire to give as full a statement as I can with propriety on this subject. I have pointed out that a comprehensive policy was announced as long ago as 21st December. In the Debate on the Supplementary Estimate for Civil Defence at the beginning of last month I made it clear that that comprehensive policy stood, and that any policy that might be debated subsequently with regard to more heavily protected shelters than those contemplated in the earlier statement of policy would not be in substitution of, but in addition to, the policy then formulated. I hope that hon. Members who wish to criticise the attitude of His Majesty's Government in this matter of shelter policy will not omit to refresh 2927 their memories by reference to the statement I made on 21st December last. This Bill—and here I think I shall be clearly in order—contains two provisions that have a bearing on the question of deep shelters. There is, first, the provision under which, in the case of shelters provided by employers, a contribution may be made at the rate provided in the Bill towards expenditure on a higher scale than would in the ordinary case be regarded as reasonable. There is also the provision in the Bill with regard to car parks which may be adapted for use as shelters.
In relation to the provisions in the Bill which are designed to cover the creation of more heavily-protected shelters than the ordinary blast - and - splinter - proof shelters under the policy previously announced, I would like to say, by way of explanation, that there has been no delay which could be avoided in proceeding to a final decision of policy on the matter of these more heavily-protected shelters. Very considerable technical investigation was necessary as a preliminary to the formulation of a final policy. Hon. Members who have spoken about deep shelters have spoken as if there was some definite entity which could be identified at once by anyone speaking about a deep shelter or a strongly-protected shelter. [Interruption.] Oh, yes, references have been made to these bomb-proof shelters or these deep shelters as though there was some definite entity. The truth is that a strongly-protected shelter is an idea, an idea that has found expression in various ways, but before His Majesty's Government could formulate any definite policy with regard to deep shelters it was necessary first to investigate, from a technical standpoint, what the form of the shelter should be, what should be its method of construction, what should be provided by way of approaches and exits, how long it would take to construct, the ideal type of shelter, the type of shelter which could be a standard shelter, and what it would cost.
All those things involve close technical investigation, and I took into consultation, a considerable time ago, the best outside advice that I could secure, and work has been proceeding continuously and experiments and tests have been made. Simultaneously, all the general 2928 aspects of the problem of deep shelters on which I touched in the course of the Debate on the Supplementary Estimates have been under review, and I am glad to say, because delays in this important matter are as irksome to me as to anyone, that those investigations are all now coming to a head, and I hope and expect to be in a position, when the House resumes after the Easter Recess, to make a comprehensive and a final statement on this matter. May I be pardoned for a moment if I express to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University my appreciation of the value of the document to which he referred, the bulletin issued by the Air-raid Defence League on this matter. I think that document recognised that finality of design or conception had not been reached in the matter of strongly-protected or deep shelters and that further investigation was necessary. That investigation, as I have tried to explain, has been going on, has been very actively pursued for a considerable time.
I hope I have not transgressed too widely in making these observations, and I return to the speeches of hon. Members who have addressed the Committee on various points in connection with the Financial Resolution. The junior Member for Dundee complained of unnecessary particularity in the drafting of the Financial Resolution. Of course the Resolution goes into a great deal of detail, but I think it must be recognised that it follows the scheme of the Bill. As I explained on Second Reading, it is a Bill dealing with a large number of disconnected topics, and in regard to each topic what is virtually a separate Financial Resolution had to be drafted. That gives the Resolution as a whole an appearance of particularity which it would not perhaps otherwise have borne. By way of illustration of his criticism, the hon. Member asked why, for example, it should have been necessary in the Resolution to talk about compensation for people training in peace time. The answer is that that is all that the Bill seeks to deal with. Compensation in time of war is reserved to be dealt with on the responsibility of the Government of the day by emergency legislation. It will necessarily have to deal with problems of compensation going far beyond those which are dealt with in this Bill, and all those problems of wartime compensation would have to be dealt with on a consistent principle. There- 2929 fore, this Resolution is quite deliberately and, I suggest, necessarily confined to compensation for training in peace time.
§ Mr. Foot
I am obliged for what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The argument he is now addressing to the Committee would be a perfectly valid argument for resisting an Amendment on the Committee stage of the Bill, but our criticism from this side is that this limitation should not be put in the Money Resolution. Why should the limitation be decided by the form of the Money Resolution and not by the legislation?
§ Sir J. Anderson
All I can say is that this Resolution was drafted with the assurance that the Prime Minister gave in November, 1937, very clearly in view, so as not to restrict the scope within which the Committee might consider Amendments further than was necessary to enable the Government to discharge their responsibilities in regard to public expenditure and to leave to the Committee the utmost freedom of discussion and amendment of detail. Taking the illustration the hon. Gentleman himself gave, to have left that matter at large would have been to throw too widely open to amendment the Clause dealing with compensation.
But I must pass from that point and take up several other questions that have been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), after expressing a hope that His Majesty's Government would not carry shelter provision too far because, as he suggested, it might result in a shortage of labour and material and a waste of money, passed to certain more detailed criticism. He asked why it was apparently contemplated that in connection with emergency fire fighting only reserves of water were to be provided for. Why, he said, is there no provision in this Resolution for the accumulation of reserves of various chemicals which can be used for fire righting? The answer is that in the view of the technical advisers of the Department—they have some highly experienced advisers in the matter of fire fighting—water, and plenty of it, is the most effective method of putting out the sort of fires that might be created by an air attack. But, in so far as chemicals may be of use, it was not necessary to cover the matter in this Bill or in this Resolution, because under the Act of 2930 1937 there is full power to supply materials of all kinds in connection with Civil Defence.
The same hon. and gallant Gentleman criticised the compensation provisions in the Financial Resolution on the ground that they left certain matters at large, that they were not apparently retrospective and that they did not deal adequately with the position of third parties. The answer is simple; the Financial Resolution and the corresponding Clause in the Bill provide for the payment, at the cost of the Exchequer, of compensation to persons who are undergoing training or taking part in exercises in connection with Civil Defence, in circumstances in which, at present, they could receive compensation under various forms of insurance policy. My hon. Friend cannot have been aware that the scheme of compensation proposed has already been communicated in detail to this House. Outside the scope of that scheme, the legal position of persons who may suffer injury is left exactly where it is. If third-party damage is sustained, that will be subject to the ordinary law. The scope of the Resolution and of the corresponding Clause of the Bill is limited to compensation payable to the trainee.
The hon. Member asked why, in connection with the provisions relating to the organisation of casualty hospitals, the Government had not gone further and covered the treatment of casualties in homes and why the Government had limited the provision of bacteriological service to that, service and had not included a number of other services which might be required. The answer is that the Minister of Health is undertaking the detailed organisation of casualty services in hospitals and of a bacteriological service, and that it is to enable him to carry out his duties in those respects, and for that purpose only, that this financial provision is required. I was asked why gas had not been included in the Part of the Bill dealing with public utilities. The answer to that is that gas undertakings are included. They are among the undertakings towards which 50 per cent. grant may be made.
I come to certain points raised by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). In contrast to the hon. Member for Hitchin he found the provisions of the Bill on the subject of 2931 shelters too narrow. He would have liked to see all shelters provided under one authority. As to the Bill being too narrow, we must leave the two hon. Gentlemen to cancel out. On the question whether it would have been practical to put the whole responsibility for shelter provision on one authority, I would suggest, on the contrary, that the only sound line is to proceed, in order to achieve the utmost expedition, so as to distribute the responsibility as widely as possible, and to enlist in the general service of the community as many agencies as possible capable of making a valuable contribution. The same hon. Gentleman expressed concern about the risk of sabotage and he wondered why the Financial Resolution was silent on that matter. The answer is that sabotage is a police matter and that it is not necessary to make specific provision for it in a Civil Defence Bill. All necessary provision is already made.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will the Bill allow compensation to be paid to the undertaking towards the repair of damage?
§ Sir J. Anderson
The Bill does not deal with compensation to an undertaking for necessary repairs. The Bill is concerned with a contribution towards measures that may be taken in preparation against attack from the air. The only other point to which I need refer concerns the prevention of glare. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and I fully appreciate the importance of the consideration to which the hon. Gentleman called our attention, and every care will be taken to see that, in the administration of the Clause dealing with glare from pit-heaps, one nuisance is not replaced by another which might be even more objectionable.
§ 11.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
We are dealing with a Financial Resolution with respect to a sum of £25,000,000, and anyone who has been sitting here will wonder why the Government should wish to hurry it through so quickly. We did not reach the Resolution until after eight o'clock. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made a long speech, there were one or two other rather long speeches, and then the Lord Privy Seal got up to reply. I do not want to accuse him of discourtesy, but I think it looks rather like it. My complaint is that back benchers do not 2932 seem to have any voice in these proceedings. When a Front Bench man or a Privy Councillor rises, we are passed over. We can keep the House by being in attendance here all the time, but we are not recognised as having a right to speak.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member admits that it is out of order, and I cannot allow him to pursue it now. He has his remedy, if necessary, in accordance with the procedure of the House.
§ Mr. Tinker
I will leave it at that, and hope it will have its effect. There is one point with which I want to deal, and that is the item relating to grants in respect of obscuration of glare and camouflage. The right hon. Gentleman just touched on it at the end of his remarks, but throughout the proceedings on the Bill and the Financial Resolution I have not heard anything said about it. A grant of £2,000,000 is being provided for that purpose, and I think we are entitled to some statement as to how that will be spent. All over the country these pit-heaps are showing immense glares, and one wonders how they will be tackled when the time comes. It is true that under the Bill 50 per cent. of the cost of putting out glares will be paid, and surely we have a right to know what examination is being made of the matter. Has the Minister of Health found out how many of these heaps can be put out for £2,000,000? As I see it, a far greater sum will be required. What preparations are being made for dealing with them? Are we to wait a long time before they are tackled? This is an urgent source of danger, and everyone recognises that it would be very serious if war happened to break out. At a time like this we are entitled to a much wider statement than we have had tonight.
§ The Chairman
That is certainly outside the Resolution, which deals merely with grants-in-aid by the National Exchequer for assistance for work done by other bodies.
§ The Chairman
It is not the Memorandum that we are discussing. I agree that the hon. Member was in order up to a point in referring to the amount which would be involved in an item in the Resolution. It was his later sentences I objected to.
§ The Chairman
No, I think not. The Government are not concerned with the expenditure, except in so far as they have approved it for the purpose of grants. The initiative for this work does not rest with the Government.
§ Mr. Tinker
On page 2009 of the Order Paper there is quite a definite statement in regard to:occupiers of factory premises, owners of mines (including quarries) and public utility undertakers.They will receive a 50 per cent. grant on:approved expenses on measures for eliminating or screening flames or glare, or for rendering premises less readily recognisable by aircraftHowever, if you rule me out of order, I bow to your Ruling. I just want to register my protest. I think it is very unfair that we should not have had an opportunity to deal with the matter.
§ 11.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I know of no more urgent question than that which we are considering at the present time. I want to place a few observations on record, for the consideration of the Lord Privy Seal and his Department during the Recess. There are a large number of people who will not get any holidays, especially in the armament factories, because of present circumstances. We should not be doing our duty in this matter if we did not indicate that we are still unsatisfied. I know the Lord Privy Seal has a big job. Until we reached the Money Resolution he must have been gratified with the way the House accepted the proposals of the Bill. I have observed that attitude on both sides of the House, and I have sat here during most of the Debate, except when I was entertaining one of the finest types of young people I have ever met, who was a victim of what many of us may be victims of, unless this country takes adequate steps. Until the Money Resolu- 2934 tion came before us hon. Members on all sides were in agreement and co-operating with the Minister to get the best out of his proposals. Since we reached the Money Resolution we have felt bound to express our opinion with regard to the financial position.
The Lord Privy Seal has inherited a legacy from the past few years. The local authorities are of opinion that they are so burdened with financial responsibilities that many can no longer stand it. The Lord Privy Seal is aware of this, and he is as aware of the importance of this as any other Member. He knows the importance of cutting down the overhead charges of the industrial centres as low as possible. It is because of the burdens on these authorities, which are helping to increase costs of production in industrial areas, that we protest against putting on other burdens which ought to be borne by the nation as a whole.
In the West Riding of Yorkshire, for example, the cost of air-raid precautions amounts to a 4½d. rate and a 1d. local district rate, making 5½d. Therefore the seriousness of this financial burden upon local authorities will be realised. We are trying to assist the Lord Privy Seal in this matter because we know the difficulties of the Cabinet. They have to deal with a conservative Treasury, which has been backward for the last five years. The Government have been backward in making preparations in this country. Slowly but surely they have had to give way in building up armaments and in making provision for the Royal Air Force. If they are to do justice to the Lord Privy Seal in the big job that he has undertaken, he must receive more financial assistance. The burden will have to be taken off the local authorities and borne by the nation as a whole. We are supported in this by the principles which have been established for centuries in this country. The finances for the Army, the Navy and the other armed forces have been borne by the nation as a whole.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is quite entitled to argue that local authorities should be given larger grants, but not that they should not have to bear the burden—that matter has been dealt with and settled on Second Reading.
§ Mr. Smith
I respect that Ruling. My experience is limited, but I have taken an 2935 interest in Money Resolutions, and I know the difficulty of speaking on them. I remember the Special Areas Act Money Resolution, when you were as generous as you could possibly be in the Chair. I have tried to keep in order as much as possible and at the same time to express the view of local authorities. I believe that, if the principle is right in regard to the armed Forces, it should also be a national responsibility to discharge the cost of Civil Defence.
I was about to proceed to point out that the local authorities have other responsibilities. I have in my locker letters from my town clerk and a number of surveyors and other people with whom I am friendly, expressing their concern about this matter. There is a strong feeling that we ought to make the maximum amount of preparation for defence. We should make this matter a national responsibility, and not throw it upon the local authorities. They will have to bear a serious responsibility with regard to a number of other matters dealt with in the Financial Resolution. They will have to carry out a large amount of surveying. The incidental expenses are mounting up in the aggregate to a very serious amount. In the West Riding they amount to a 5½d. rate and in the area I represent the people are carrying on under great difficulties with rates now over 18s. in the £. That is typical of what is taking place in many industrial centres.
We are trying to place on record as much as we can the position of the authorities that we represent, so that the Lord Privy Seal can go to the Cabinet and the Treasury and say that he must have relief from the difficulty that is creating friction in all the localities.
In reply to a question which I put to him yesterday, the Lord Privy Seal said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1939; col. 2658, Vol. 345.]That will go a long way to meeting our point, but it is not fair to leave the matter 2936 simply to an individual. Hon. Members opposite must know that this matter affects their districts as well as ours, but they have not spoken on the matter.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
If the hon. Member had been here last night he would know that I dealt with this matter from a rather different standpoint.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. and learned Member may recollect that last night I paid a tribute to the whole House for the part they had played, but to-night we are referring to the serious question of the Financial Resolution and not one hon. Member opposite has given us any support, although they know that in the industrial areas, the municipalities, whatever their political complexion, are burning with indignation that more and more of these financial responsibilities, which ought to be a national charge, are being thrown on them. We ought not to leave it to the Lord Privy Seal as an individual to deal with this matter. We all have our responsibilities. We are faced with a serious international situation in which we shall be more and more put to the test as men, not only in regard to our political opinions but our own manhood. Therefore we ought to be backing up the Lord Privy Seal in recording our feelings in expressing the opinions of our municipalities, and of the whole of the people living in our areas, so that the right hon. Gentleman may go to the Cabinet and the Treasury and say that as a result of the opinion of the House of Commons on the Financial Resolution, the time has come when this matter must be reconsidered, in order that we may be worthy of the good will which is finding expression throughout the country in regard to protection being provided for our people in civil defence.
My final point is this: throughout the country during the past few weeks resolutions have been passed on this matter. Time after time hon. Members opposite have raised this matter in private, but it is not good enough to raise it in private. This House of Commons is a democratic institution and if we are to represent the people this is the assembly where opinion ought to be expressed. I am hoping that as a result of this discussion the Lord Privy Seal will not be discouraged from going on with his work with more energy than ever so that we may have proper 2937 and adequate defences to protect our people if we are involved in an emergency.
§ 11.21 p.m.
I desire to raise a definite point on behalf of the County Council of Hampshire. I heard my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal say just now that it will be essential that local authorities should be partners of the central Government in the matter of civil defence and not merely agents. I agree. If hon. Members will look at paragraph (b) of Clause 42, they will see these words:It shall be the duty of the council of every county and county borough to execute such works (other than the erection of new buildings) as the Minister may require for the purpose of rendering any premises under the control of the council suitable for a hospital for the treatment of casualties.I want to call the Lord Privy Seal's attention to the fact that this provision will certainly make local authorities the agents of the central authority and not their partners. In the Financial Resolution it is said that for carrying out approved expenditure on premises suitable, 70 per cent. of the cost will be paid by the central Government. This division of the cost will be most unfair when a county council is purely an agent of the Government and is not a partner, and, therefore, does not benefit from the expenditure. In Hampshire we have a Joint Mental hospital just outside Basingstoke, and in the event of war it will be taken over by the central Government for the purpose of civilian casualties from London. The central Government have asked the county council to do certain work. I will not trouble the Committee with the details except to say that this work is of no use whatever to the Hampshire County Council, as the hospital is functioning splendidly at the present moment. As this work is being done purely for the purpose of taking civilian casualties from London, I say that the central Government should pay the whole of the cost.
But the matter is even worse than that. It is bad enough that the ratepayers of Hampshire should have to bear 30 per cent. of the cost, but this is a Joint Mental hospital and one of the authorities is Southampton. Southampton is an area which would be evacuated. It has its own hospital problem, and will have to spend money on the work which will be 2938 necessary at its own hospital. It is therefore most unfair that it should have to contribute towards this 30 per cent. of the cost of work at a hospital at Basingstoke. I suggest strongly that the Government should consider whether in such a case, where the work is being done solely for the use of the central authority, that the central Government could pay the lot.
§ 11.25 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
The Committee finds itself in a remarkable situation as a result of the speech which the Lord Privy Seal has just made. The Committee will note that after consideration, in this case amounting to some months, but in the case of the Government amounting to some years, we are advised that a decision is to be arrived at during or immediately after the Easter Recess with regard to the provision of deep bomb-proof shelters.
May I point out the reason I am raising this matter, Colonel Clifton Brown? It is that the financial provisions made in this Resolution, in the event of the Government coming to a decision to permit local authorities to build these shelters, will be altogether inadequate. Therefore, I think we are justified in asking for the postponement of this Resolution, or that the Government shall agree to an amended Financial Resolution to meet these exceptional circumstances. In my judgment, the provisions made for meeting the liabilities of the situation and of the local authorities are quite inadequate.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member cannot have read the Financial Resolution closely. The local authorities are not made responsible under this Resolution for the provision of shelters. That comes under an Act passed some time ago.
I take it that there are certain liabilities for civil defence which will fall upon the local authorities. In my judgment, the amount of finance allocated to the local authorities in quite insufficient to enable them to carry out their liabilities to the community. If I am in order in 2939 stating that, I will assert that, under the Resolution, the North-East coast will certainly not receive the financial assistance requisite to defend the citizens. It is clear that for a vast amount of property, in the case of which there is no provision of Anderson shelters, there is no provision for its defence. In the absence of such provision, this Resolution ought not to receive the support of the Committee. I contend that in the matter of factories where fewer than 50 workers are employed, there is no provision in the Resolution to meet the situation. Certainly, on the North-East coast there are large numbers of homes for which no provision is made in this Resolution. Therefore, in the absence of authority being given to the local authorities—as it has not been given—there will be a situation in which the North-East coast, which is a great arsenal, particularly on the Tyneside, will be in an almost unprotected state.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That question has been argued out on the Second Reading of the Bill and cannot be argued again on the Financial Resolution.
I can only say that in my judgment this Resolution does not make adequate financial provision for the protection to which civilians are entitled, particularly in the areas with which I am concerned. These proposals are tentative and insufficient, and will leave large sections of our population unprotected. When the Minister of Health visited the North-East coast he was challenged on the inadequacy of the measures then suggested—those which are embodied in the Bill and the Financial Resolution now before us. His answer was that under the Camps Bill protection might be afforded to large industrial populations in that area but these proposals make no provision for great numbers of our people, and I feel that they ought to be opposed, on this side of the Committee at any rate.
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Poole
I shall do my best to "walk the tight-rope'' and keep within the limits of order on this Financial Resolution. If it was considered presumptuous on my part to raise the point of Order which I raised, Colonel Clifton Brown, when your predecessor was in the Chair, I have to explain that I was led astray by the Minister of Health. Having, dur- 2940 ing my life, been led astray by many people, I always endeavour to avoid following the lead of my political opponents and it is a unique experience to have been led astray by the right hon. Gentleman. During the Second Reading Debate, in reply to the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), the right hon. Gentleman expressed the hope that the Lord Privy Seal would deal with the question of deep bomb-proof shelters when we came to debate the Financial Resolution. That hope has been disappointed and I am sure the Committee feels the poorer in that we have not had from the Lord Privy Seal some expression with regard to the Government's policy on deep bomb-proof shelters—that is, if they have arrived at one.
I should be lacking in my duty as one who has served for about 11 years in local government administration, if I did not add my protest to those of other hon. Members against the inadequacy of the provision proposed in this Resolution, as it affects local authorities. I shall address myself to one aspect of the case only. The most vulnerable areas and those which will have to bear the largest expenditure, are the industrial areas. In every case these are already carrying the heaviest rate burdens in the country. The Lord Privy Seal said the charge imposed on local authorities by this Measure was insignificant compared with that which would be borne by the Exchequer and that the proposal, in the Resolution would relieve the authorities of certain charges under the Act of 1937. That is no argument. Many of us felt that the Act of 1937 imposed too heavy burdens on the local authorities and while the charges to be borne by local authorities may be insignificant compared with those to be borne by the national Exchequer, they are colossal to bodies whose rates are 16s. or 17s. in the £ or even more.
I am sure that the last thing that the Minister would desire to happen would be that the local councils which have these heavy rate burdens should not be able to do the things that they ought to do to protect the civil population. If members of local councils are faced with an intolerable financial position, can they be condemned because they do not feel like inflicting upon their own people an added burden for something which, after 2941 all, may never happen? Will it not be a fact that many local authorities will be tempted to take the line of least resistance, of procrastination, and delay the provision which certainly ought to be made now, when it is possible to make it? Will the position not probably arise that local authorities in the industrial areas carrying this heavy burden will wake up one morning to find themselves in the midst of hostilities and wholly unprepared, not having made the necessary provision because they have not felt like putting that added burden upon their people?
Why should the industrial Midlands, for instance, be called upon, in defence of their civil population, because some men are compelled to live there, to bear a heavier burden than those who are fortunate enough to live in Aberystwith or Blackpool. [An Hon. Member: "Or Bournemouth"] I have an aversion to speaking of Bournemouth. Here we have the position of local authorities which have enjoyed comparative immunity from Poor Law rates, and it will be the old, old story of those who carry the heavy burden having to carry a heavier burden. The industrial Midlands will have to do that, and I am afraid that it will be a burden which they will not be prepared to carry. The Lord Privy Seal, who did not seem to find it possible to agree with us that this Resolution might be deferred, expressed the fear that vital principles might be held up because of any failure to carry the Resolution now, but I seem to remember that the Government have not always been so careful of getting the authority of this House before involving themselves in financial obligations, because they advanced a loan to Czecho-Slovakia a few months ago without bringing the matter before this House. I do not think there would have been any great difficulty in the Lord Privy Seal, having got the Second Reading of his Bill and all its vital principles settled, going forward with all that he desired to do in the time that will elapse between now and our resumption after the Easter Recess. The local authority with which I am connected, which has already suffered a considerable increase in its rates because of this position, will not be capable of carrying the added burden of the provision which it ought to make under this Bill.
There is one other point to which I want to refer. I find that, according to 2942 the Financial Resolution, docks and harbours rank only for a 50 to 85 per cent. grant, and that seems to be an anomalous position when railway undertakings rank for 100 per cent. without the same degree of vulnerability as docks and harbours. That is an anomaly that ought to be removed. I have no interest in docks and harbours—indeed, the whole of my interest has been in railway undertakings—but I feel that if the railways are entitled to 100 per cent. immunity, the docks and harbours should have equivalent treatment.
§ 11.40 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
It is essential that the Lord Privy Seal should understand that the idea that he is an unfortunate human being mixed up in a Cabinet which is placing obstacles in his way despite his good intentions, and that he is stopped by the Treasury from carrying out a grand scheme of defence, is something which most of the back bench here do not believe. The Minister should be the first to admit his responsibility, and he must accept full responsibility for any legislation proposed by his Department and submitted to us for our consent. Since the very beginning of Civil Defence local authorities have been asked to assist the Government with schemes. They have had to fight every inch of the way in order to get grants from the Government. They have had to put forward proposals and send deputations in order to try and change the Government's attitude towards them. The responsibility is that of the Lord Privy Seal and the Government in bringing forward a Measure which many of us consider is inadequate and a further injustice to local authorities which will place further burdens upon them. The attitude of this Government in regard to certain questions of administration is that the fullest responsibility should be placed on the local authorities. It has always been the practice of the Government in all its Departments to evade responsibility by placing it on the local ratepayers.
The Lord Privy Seal's subtle, smooth explanation with regard to the dissatisfaction of local authorities does not carry much weight to those who know the facts. It is true that he met the local authorities of Scotland to discuss the general lines of a Bill, but no member of the Government should hold the local authorities 2943 responsible for what took place in preliminary discussions and for accepting a Bill before it is drafted. It is on record that the Lord Privy Seal promised the Scottish local authorities that they would have ample time to discuss the provisions of this Bill before he brought it to the House. He has on this occasion done what the Government are continually doing: he has tricked the local authorities. I warn the Government that the operation of their national defence schemes and of this Bill depend entirely on the co-operation and loyalty of the local authorities. If the Government carry on with the policy of placing burdens upon them unfairly, they will find the local authorities in Scotland, angry as they are just now, telling them to carry out their own national defence policy and leave them to deal with local affairs.
§ Mr. Tinker
Will the Government make some reply to these speeches from the back benches? Complaint was made that the Government replied before we had finished the Debate, and I think we are entitled to some reply.
§ Mr. Elliot
I thought the complaint was, rather, that too much time had been taken by Front Bench speakers and I do not think it would be desirable for the Front Bench to take further time.
The Lord Privy Seal stated to-night that after this Money Resolution was passed he would have further consultations with the local authorities and submit a final report. Can the Minister of Health say whether the local authorities will be able to receive, as the outcome of any representations they may make to him, any further assistance—bringing in the Act of 1937?
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly. The Act of 1937 is not in any way connected with this Measure. The review under the 1937 Act is independent of it. The Lord Privy Seal has undertaken not only to review that but to take into consideration the representations of the local authorities, and even possibly to advance that review. That is not in any way affected by the passing of this Resolution to-night.
§ 11.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I want it placed on record that those who have spoken have been expressing not only the views held in their own localities but the views which I know are widely held in Lancashire. Although there has been no hesitation on the part of the county council there and the smaller district councils to co-operate in every possible way with the Government, time after time I have heard protests against these increasing financial burdens upon the local authorities. It is not as though the local authorities were being asked to do things which were definitely within the scope of their duties as they have been generally understood. Many of these new duties have been accepted in the spirit of cooperation that one would expect to prevail, but always there has been the assurance that general financial assistance would be forthcoming. I find it difficult to understand many of the anomalies which are to be found in the Financial Resolution. If the preparations and precautions which are to be undertaken are all essential, and essential for one purpose, surely there cannot be a varying degree of liability in respect of them on the part of the Government?
Is the demand which the railways are making for a square deal the explanation of why they are to get 100 per cent. grant? Why are the local authorities not to get 100 per cent.? Is it because they are not entitled to a square deal, or are they not in a position to put their claims for a square deal in the same way as the railway companies? I canot understand why the works to be executed by a railway company for a war contingency, or the accommodation it is to provide, are to rank for 100 per cent. grant, and yet the water that has to be provided by a local authority expressly for the purpose of putting out fires which have been caused by an air raid is only to rank for 90 per cent. grant. Who in the world can defend an anomaly like that? Why the difference? It is essential that the railway service should be continued, but no more so than that hospital provision should be made for the casualties that will arise. Remember that we are providing for the continuance of the railway service only during hostilities, but, because of the special circumstances, the railways are supposed to be entitled to 100 per cent. For what are we making 2945 provision in the hospitals? Not for meeting the requirements of peace time or of their day-to-day needs, but ostensibly for an emergency; yet they have to rank for less than 100 per cent., in the case of the local authority.
I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that in the interests of unanimity in the working of the scheme these burdens must not be placed upon local authorities, of whom many in this country find it difficult to meet even their ordinary peace time obligations. I know that it has been suggested that the claims of the distressed areas, where heavy rate burdens are suffered at the present time, will be considered, but there is nothing about it in this Money Resolution. The percentages will be the same for a low-rated as for a high-rated area, but those people who now find difficulty in meeting the rate charges are just those who are not gaining financially from the rearmament programme. It has been stated that the benefit of rearmament to the workers has meant that the local authorities concerned are in a better position because the people are able to pay rates, but again I point to Lancashire, which is in a position similar to that of the West Riding of Yorkshire, many of the localities being, to all intents and purposes, distressed areas where no rearmament work is being carried out. The percentages in the Money Resolution definitely place an additional burden on those authorities who can least bear them.
I ask the Lord Privy Seal to think again if he wants unanimity and the cooperation which is essential for this scheme to be effective. An authority can carry out this work only if it is able to pay for it and the speed at which it will be done will be determined by the way in which the finances are gathered in for the purpose. Local authorities are like most people; they cut their coat according to their cloth, and to-day many of them are economising. I have been looking through some of the election results, and I know what is taking place in Lancashire. Where Members associated with the party opposite are gaining ground it is on the basis of appeals for economy, and that local authorities are spending too much money. Rates are going up all over the country and before long we may have another Motion on the Paper asking for rate levies to be scrutinised and asking whether anything can be done about the 2946 extravagance of local authorities. How often have I heard that sentiment from hon. Members opposite; yet every speech to-day from the other side has been in favour of adding to the rates of local authorities who are now working on rock bottom. Every addition put on by the Lord Privy Seal will make the payment of rates more difficult, and more difficult for local authorities to carry out their functions.
§ 11.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The Minister of Health and the Lord Privy Seal can have no reason to complain of difficulty in getting the Bill through, but when the Minister of Health was pressed to answer specific points raised by my hon. Friends he appeared to think it was a good answer to say that he had already spoken for a long time and that complaints had been made with regard to the length of his contribution to the discussion. We have never doubted the ability of the right hon. Gentleman to make long speeches; the question is of his ability to make illuminating speeches. The Second Reading provides ample opportunity for making a long explanatory opening speech, and a further opportunity to make a long answering speech. When the Mace is removed from the Table, the opportunity is given to Ministers to answer specific points. It is but our duty, therefore, to press for an answer to the specific point of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson). It was a point of vital importance, as to the degree of concentration among the various bodies by whom varying contributions are to be made. He made a most important point when he showed that not only was the percentage of grant varying but the purpose to which that grant was to be applied varied to an even greater extent.
I have frequently pressed on the Lord Privy Seal the need for dock and harbour undertakings to take measures for defence. I represent, among other institutions, an important dock and harbour undertaking, although it is very small compared with some others. When we look at the percentages of grant proposed in this Financial Resolution for dock and harbour undertakings we find that it is 50 per cent., and when we look at the ambit which that percentage has to cover we find that it is in respect only of approved expenditure on measures de- 2947 signed to provide facilities, in the event of hostile attack, for the collection of casualties. I am not able to say to what extent provision has been made to assist dock and harbour undertakings in wide measures of defence but, however, spectacular it may seem to make a contribution to the treatment of casualties, that may be only a small part of the duties of a dock and harbour undertaking in time of war.
I wonder whether the Lord Privy Seal has taken into full account the tremendous concentration of the attack which is certain to be made on dock and harbour undertakings, the very gates through which our food, oil and other supplies will have to pass? Take the great undertaking of the Thames Haven oil wharves, where treble the amount of oil is now stored compared with the amount a year or two ago. It is bound to be one of the first foci of attack. What assistance is being given to bodies of that kind to take measures for their defence? Successful attack upon it would not only destroy its own value to the community but would spread danger up the whole estuary of the Thames. What has been done to assist fire-fighting appliances, which I think the Government are wholly neglecting, at any rate, in comparison with their importance to dock and harbour undertakings in this country?
These are valid Committee points on the Financial Resolution, and I hope that the Minister will not think that because of the lateness of the hour it is sufficient answer to say that he made a long opening speech on the Resolution.
§ 12 m.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
The course of the Debate on this Resolution is perhaps a little unfortunate, because of the idea that the discussion might go on after eleven o'clock. I do not accuse the Lord Privy Seal of any discourtesy in rising so early, but the fact that he had to take, with interruptions, over an hour, has made it very difficult for my hon. Friends to put the points which they had particularly in mind. When the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution has gone, the House is practically hamstrung as regards making any further real Parliamentary representations on the matter.
A strong and vigorous case has been put with regard to the position of the 2948 local authorities. There are two aspects of that position. There is the general burden of increased charges which has to be borne by the local revenue, and there is the point, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) of the possible increase of overhead charges as a result of an increase in rates. I think the former is much the more important, because industries are now relieved of the incidence of local rates to the extent of 75 per cent. I come from an area which has suffered from heavy depression since 1918. At the moment it has considerable relief from the peak burden of unemployment, because it is an armament city, but it carries a very considerable burden of rate commitments, and, when the experience of Sheffield is added to that of other industrial areas, there is a strong argument for their being given a larger grant, especially in view of the heavy Poor Law commitments which they have had to meet since the War.
While there is possibly some increase in the overhead charges of industry as a result of rate increases, I think the more important aspect from the industrial point of view is the failure of the Government to make adequate provision for the industrialists upon whom the compulsion is being brought to bear to provide air-raid protection for their employés. I cannot understand the differentiation in the grants. With colleagues in the House, not all of my own party, who represent Sheffield, I have taken part in consultations with the Chamber of Commerce, and we have had put before us the very heavy commitments which must necessarily be undertaken by private employers in a great armament city if the essentail work of maintaining the munitions supply is to be continued. The Resolution indicates thatOccupiers of factory premises, owners of mines (including quarries) and public utility undertakerswill have to incur expenses in connection with measures for eliminating or screening flames or glare, towards which they are to get a grant of 50 per cent.
If the Lord Privy Seal came to Sheffield and went over the acres of premises vital to the interests of the country in time of war, and saw what was to be the cost of schemes in those areas, I do not think he would say that 50 per cent. would be an adequate grant. I cannot see why in their 2949 case it is 50 per cent., but for railway companies 100 per cent. I speak with some interest in the matter, because we have to provide whatever kind of protection would be required in vulnerable, as well as in what you might call non-vulnerable, areas, for tens of thousands of workers. While it might be said that same of the trades are not so vital as the iron and steel trades, for instance; some of them are just as essential in time of war—the food trades, the clothing trades, and so on. Yet these kinds of trades are to be differentiated against, and will get a grant of something under 30 per cent. It is almost impossible to assess the basic principle which the Government have followed in drawing up this schedule of grants.
The other thing I cannot understand is the references which have been made to deep shelters. One or two of my hon. Friends have been ruled out of order when referring to the general policy of the Government in relation to deep shelters. It may be out of order to refer to the matter of the specific provision of such deep shelters by local authorities, but I feel sure you will agree, Sir, that it is not out of order to refer to a deep shelter policy when the Lord Privy Seal has pointed out that, under Clause 17, it is possible for a different basis of grants to be made, rather higher than what would otherwise be regarded as reasonable. I cannot understand, again, the basic principle which the Government have followed in drawing up the Schedule of new grants. There are many employers who, I am quite certain, are represented in all parts of this House, who deserve consideration from two points of view—first, in order to defend the lives of their employés, and, secondly, in order to maintain the efficiency of their factories in time of war. They will want to provide more blast and splinter-proof shelters, and to put in deep shelters. Yet no more than the standard rate of Income Tax, as laid down in the first Section of Table I, will be allowed for them.
We ought to have a far better explanation as to what is the basic principle of the Government in drawing up this Schedule, because I can find neither rhyme nor reason in it. The real fact is that the precautions that are being taken against damage by air raids are as much a matter of general defence of the country in war as any other section of military 2950 or belligerent operations that the Government may undertake, and the responsibility for that defence is as much a question for the Government themselves as is any other of the fighting Services. While it might have been, perhaps, expedient to ask for certain contributions to be made in respect of the total national expenditure to be incurred, I cannot for the life of me understand why the very grave variations between the different parts of the Schedule have been allowed to creep in. I am certain that, unless we can move the Government to postpone the Resolution until further representations can be made, we shall be hamstrung on the Committee stage of the Bill because of the passing of this Resolution. The Government ought to take into account, at a time when parties in all parts of the Committee are willing to support the principle of these proposals and the finding of the money, the strong representations that have been made for justice to be meted out.
§ 12.12 a.m.
§ Mr. Logan
I am sorry at this hour of the morning to have occasion to address the Committee, but I want to remind hon. Members that, whether we sit on the Front Benches or the back benches, we are not to be regarded as automata merely to register votes in this House. I feel, having heard the Minister deal with this matter to-night, that the question of the financial provisions for Civil Defence is of the utmost importance and extreme urgency, and I was more than surprised at the remarks that certain of the municipalities had agreed to the Schedules that have been drawn up. I represent—not misrepresent—a particular portion of the City of Liverpool from which I come, and I have no knowledge whatever of any agreement having been entered into in regard to these liabilities. I am placed in an invidious position in regard to entering an agreement for the expenditure of a huge sum in the City of Liverpool arising out of a public emergency, in being asked to give my consent, owing to the fact that this Resolution is one of extreme urgency and must be passed. We should not be rushed into doing things like this. There should be no necessity for that. If it were necessary, we ought not to be going away for any holidays at all and should be kept occupied in this House until we had dealt with this extreme measure and had got it out of the way. We are here to do our duty, and, 2951 on so important a Financial Resolution, it is necessary that we should really know where we are.
If we agree to pass this Money Resolution to-night we shall have no opportunity on the Committee stage of the Bill to make any alterations. It will be practically binding. We have heard a lot about the methods of Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler, but there can be nothing more drastic in Italy or Germany than what is being done in this country as a result of the proposition which is before this Committee to-night. It is not the proper way for the House of Commons to do its business. I am at a loss to understand why none of the overburdened municipalities has protested to this House. I am not prepared idly to accept the responsibility of sitting silent without expressing my opinion on a drastic Measure concerning the financial obligations to be borne by the ratepayers of the city which I represent.
Liverpool has been badly hit. It is a western seaport which must bear a great deal of the transport of the nation in a time of extreme urgency. If it be necessary for the western seaports to bear the brunt, as I believe they ought for the welfare of the nation, the major part of it should not fall on us. We have no opportunity to alter the Financial Resolution one iota. It is like the laws of the Medes and Persians. "You can take it or lump it," says the Minister; "there is a national emergency, and if you reject it I do not know what I am going to do." I do not want to be placed in the position that I vote against the Resolution, but there is no reason why I should be silent and merely record my vote. I protest most strongly. It is an abuse of the powers of this House to come at such short notice. We should, if necessary, go on all night and all tomorrow with this Measure, which is of such great importance.
We ought to have a consensus of the House. Look round this Chamber; you would think there was no emergency in the country. Where is the great Liberal party? I am looking along its empty benches. Two of our own Members are sitting on the Liberal benches to preserve the decency and the reputation of the Liberal party. I can imagine that in a state of emergency there would be no 2952 safer place than the House of Commons. Members are so seldom here that you would be able to have the accommodation of this House and utilise it for a proper purpose in the interests of the nation. [Laughter.] This is not a time for tomfoolery at all.
Consider the responsibility which Liverpool has to bear under the Bill. We are asked to do too much. I disagree entirely with the Schedule. In my business experience I know that if I said, "Take it or leave it" to customers, they would walk out; they would not have the goods. Here, we have to lump it. There is not a municipality in the nation that fully knows the responsibility it will have to bear under this policy and this financial regulation that we are about to impose. No doubt in the near future, we shall be condemned for being assenting parties to these proposals.
I am aware of the importance of the extreme Measures that must be brought forward, but I voice my opinion in protest because I do not think it is a proper way to bring such things forward. I blame the Government for not bringing forward Measures to give adequate treatment to areas that do not do their part in the work of the nation, that are not among its main arteries, do not bear the brunt of the traffic and get easement in regard to the things that are good in life, while other areas, more especially the great seaports, have to bear this excessive charge and have no preferential treatment. I am surprised to find Members of Parliament taking things so easily. They would not allow a proposition like this to go through in their own businesses unless they knew what they were doing. Hon. Members seem to think that everything is all right; they have only to be told by a Whip to go into the Aye or the No Lobby. I cannot understand their mentality. I am voting to-night for what I condemn as an unbusinesslike method. It is a tragedy to the ratepayers of the country that this House has not had proper time to discuss this matter.
§ Sir J. Anderson rose—
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Might I draw your attention, Colonel Clifton Brown, to the fact that the Lord Privy Seal, in response to repeated requests, rose to speak, and 2953 sat down again only when you rose to put the question?
§ 12.24 a.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am, of course, in the hands of the Committee, but I thought it might be appropriate if I said a few words in reply. The hon. Member opposite called attention to the wide variation in the rates provided in this Resolution and said that he could not understand what principle had been followed. I will give in a very few words my understanding of the matter. Whatever views may be held about the burden on the rates, there can be little doubt that the Bill does not and will not of itself add substantially to any burden on the local authorities. The burden of which complaint is made was laid on local authorities by Parliament in 1937 but provision was made in the Act of 1937 for a review, no doubt in the expectation that there would be inequalities and that the burden in certain cases was greater than those local authorities could reasonably be expected to bear. I dealt with that point in the Second Reading Debate yesterday and I really do not think I can profitably add to what I said then.
I come now to the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) about the wide variation in the rates of grant. First of all, I will deal with the grant to industry in respect of the provision of shelters. The general principle on which these provisions have been framed is that industry should carry its own burdens, and that the responsibility for providing against the risks of war, as they affect industrial undertakings, is a responsibility resting primarily upon the undertakings. But a demand has been made for relief, in respect of expenditure incurred by industrial undertakers, expenditure which, it was suggested, might reasonably be allowed to rank as an expense in the calculation of profits for purposes of Income Tax. That demand, put forward by industry up to the time of last year's Budget, provides the logical basis for the rate of grant provided in this Resolution—the rate of grant corresponding to the standard rate of Income Tax, not for last year, but for the year 1939–40. That is the logical basis. It is the equivalent of relief which, largely owing to technical Income Tax considerations, cannot be given in the form in which it was asked 2954 that it should be given. It is being given in a form which is somewhat wider in its scope and more generous.
With regard to public utility undertakings, the broad principle here is that there are two parallel obligations, the obligation of a public utility undertaking to provide the public service which it exists to provide and in respect of which, in most cases, the undertaking enjoys a monopolistic position, and the general obligation of the State to see that adequate defence measures are carried out. Balancing one against the other, a fifty-fifty principle was adopted. That is the general principle as regards public utility undertakings.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Food is in a different position. As regards the application of the principle to various classes of undertakings, account was taken of obvious differences in the situation of different undertakings. Broadly, gas, water and electricity are treated alike. In the case of the railways, account is taken not only of the financial situation of the railways, but of the fact, which differentiates their position, that in the event of war it has been determined that the railways shall be brought under complete control, financial and executive, by the central government. That means that any measures taken beforehand to deal with a war situation will inure to the benefit of the Government which assumes financial control. That is the reason why a provisional grant is made on a 100 per cent. basis, subject to the condition that in the operation of the system of control, if war comes, recovery shall be made by the Government from the railway undertakings up to 50 per cent. of the amount advanced.
I come now to the financial provisions in regard to glare and camouflage. There it was felt that a contribution in excess of the rate normally given to industrial undertakings was reasonable and fully justifiable because of the fact that provision for screening glare and for camouflaging, where it involves capital expenditure, is to be made not only in the interests of the particular undertaking but in a wider interest, for the purpose of giving a greater degree of protection to the areas in which the undertaking is situated. That was considered to constitute a sufficient justification for the 2955 higher rate of grant, and 50 per cent. was thought to be—
§ Sir J. Anderson
It was considered that in that particular case, for the reasons I have given, there was justification for going beyond the 27½ per cent. contribution which is being made to industry generally, and 50 per cent. was fixed as a reasonable figure. I ought to have said that in the case of the docks, which ordinarily would have been considered to rank for grant equally with gas, water and electricity undertakings, provision had to be made for the contingency that the docks in the less vulnerable areas might have to take measures to ensure not merely the effective carrying on of their own normal responsibilities in time of war, but responsibilities which in normal times would be discharged by dock undertakings in other parts of the country. Therefore, provision was made in such cases for increasing the rate of grant from the normal 50 per cent. to something as high, I think, as 85 per cent.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is not, in the view of the Government, solely a question of economy but of getting the work done in a businesslike manner and preserving a degree of financial responsibility on the part of those who carry on the work, which enables them to preserve a measure of discretion and not to throw on the central authority the whole burden of organising everything and providing safeguards. If that had been done there would have been an inevitable slowing up, unless prudence was to be thrown to the winds entirely. The argument for distributing costs is not based solely on the desirability of saving expense to the Exchequer. It is based in some respects on the even more important consideration of practical efficiency.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The principle was settled, I think, on the Second Reading of the Bill. It had previously been examined by Parliament in the Act of 1937.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of docks, may I draw his attention to this important point? The adjectival description of the various expenses for which grant would be made varies throughout the classification. In one case you get "reasonable expenses;" in another "approved expenses." In yet another case—there are two rates of grants for docks—the expression is used ''in case of measures of dock or harbour undertakings for providing services not required of the undertaking apart from hostile attack or danger." That appears to me to be a somewhat obscure expression. Does that expression mean that the expenses will have to be approved beforehand, and how will the right hon. Gentleman distinguish measures which will not have to be taken apart from hostile attack and the other rate of grant given to dock undertakings which provides for expenses to deal with casualties? That latter class will be taken only in case of hostile attack. Will expenses in the case of dock undertakings have to be approved beforehand in order to rank for grant?
§ Sir J. Anderson
As regards reasonable capital expenses in the case of employers, if the hon. Member will look at the corresponding Section of the Bill he will see that reasonable expenses are defined as expenses which conform to the requirements of the regulations to be made with the approval of the Treasury. When you come to the case of public utility undertakings, the proposals represent the results of negotiations carried out by the Minister concerned—in the case of docks, railways and electricity undertakings by the Minister of Transport. "Approved" does not mean expenses incurred prior to approval either specifically or generally as the result of negotiations which have been carried out. That is the reason for the introduction of those words.
Now as to the different cases: Subject to the general arrangement that the expenses in the case of public utility undertakings should be shared fifty-fifty, variations have been made where special considerations had to be taken into 2957 account. There is variation in the case of the railways. In the case of docks and harbour undertakings you have the fact that certain docks may have to undertake work which normally would be performed by other dock undertakings, and may, in that connection, have to incur expenses which can never be expected to bring any peace-time return. In the case of docks there is a special feature that on dock premises a large number of persons are apt to congregate who are either not employés of the dock authority or not employés at all. In the negotiations with the dock authorities arrangements have been made by which the dock authority will provide shelter for other than their own employés. Also, as the Schedule indicates, arrangements have been made by which the dock authority will make itself responsible for the collection of casualties occurring on ships or adjacent to the dock or on adjacent land. These are all considerations, with regard to a particular class of undertaking, which have to be taken into account in settling the rate of grant. They constitute the explanation which the right hon. Member for Hillsborough sought in regard to the Schedule.
When one passes to the various grants payable in virtue of this Schadule to local authorities, all that one san say is that here you have had embodied in the scheme submitted to the Committee the result of consultations and negotiations with the authorities concerned. In the case, for example, of evacuation, the Government declared some considerable time ago—certainly long before I had any responsibility—that all the expenses of evacuation would be borne by the Government. The reason for that was that the authorities concerned could not logically be saddled with the expenses involved. You could not expect a reception area which had no voice in determining who from the vulnerable areas should go into that area, to accept liability for the resulting expenses in matters which in practice would not be in any way under their control. For that reason you find the 100 per cent. grant in the Schedule. In the case of fire schemes the grant is put at 90 per cent., as high as it was thought any rate of grant could be put while preserving some real degree of responsibility with the local authority. That amount was arrived at after negotiations with the local 2958 authorities and there was no more principle behind it than that it was the result of negotiation. I hope that I may make this suggestion to right hon. and hon. Members opposite, that these rates of grant, going as high as 90 per cent., are surely indicative of a desire on the part of the Government not to place a heavier burden on local authorities than is considered necessary on practical grounds of administration and due economy.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Before the right hon. Gentleman finishes with that argument may I ask him whether he can expect that the work of evacuation can be carried out adequately, seeing that the Government are paying 100 per cent. and the local authorities are doing the work?
§ Sir J. Anderson
The matter is one which comes under the Government. The element of local interest is not involved, as it is in the question of shelters.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
But may I ask the right hon. Gentleman this: In my own district there is work being done, and being done well I may add, by voluntary labour. Is that work over which the Government have control?
§ Resolution to be reported upon Tuesday, 18th April.