HC Deb 06 April 1939 vol 345 cc2967-71
13. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Minister of Health what steps are being taken to organise the provision of a medical service for the civilian population in time of emergency?

Mr. Elliot

The emergency hospital service is described in a published memorandum, a copy of which I will send to the hon. Member, and the medical arrangements under the Government evacuation scheme will be dealt with in memoranda to be issued by the Board of Education and my Department. Arrangements for securing the most suitable distribution of the doctors available are being made by the Central Emergency Committee of the British Medical Association.

Mr. Henderson

Is it a fact that the emergency committee on evacuation are considering schemes for voluntary hospitals; and when may we expect action to be taken?

Mr. Elliot

A scheme exists already on paper and it is being improved as consideration is given to it. It can be brought into existence forthwith.

16. Miss Rathbone

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that in the Manchester district parents are being asked to decide before 28th April whether they wish their children to be evacuated in the event of war; whether this is being done everywhere; and whether parents who delay reply or reply in the negative will be allowed to reconsider their decision later?

Mr. Elliot

I am making inquiries and will communicate with the hon. Member.

29. Mr. McEntee

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that the rate of delivery of steel shelters by the London and North Eastern Railway Company in areas within the danger zone is only about 50 per cent. of the rate at which it was estimated that they would be delivered; and can he do anything to speed up the rate of delivery?

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)

I am not aware that any official estimate has been given of the appropriate rate of delivery of steel shelters to any particular area. The rate of distribution is governed by a number of factors and has been increased from 15,125 shelters distributed during the week ending the 25th February, to 42,310 last week. Arrangements have been made for a still further acceleration of the weekly rate of distribution.

Mr. McEntee

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Walthamstow, when inquiries were made by the local authority, they were told that they might expect 300 a day, and that in fact they have got 150 a day?

Sir J. Anderson

Various factors have to be taken into consideration, but we hope in future to arrange for delivery in Walthamstow at the rate of 300 a day.

Mr. J. Griffiths

In view of complaints concerning the delay in the delivery of the shelters, will the right hon. Gentleman look into the question of the steel-sheet works in West Wales, capable of producing shelters, which are not working at all?

Sir J. Anderson

All the arrangements are being organised on a mass-production basis, and the rates of delivery that have been secured are, I think, very impressive, and they have certainly been in excess of the estimates originally given. Certainly, I shall take pleasure in going into the possibility of increasing the rate of supply.

Mr. McEntee

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that in Walthamstow — and no doubt in other places — men were taken on for the fixing of these shelters, and the men's time is being largely wasted because the shelters are not there?

Sir J. Anderson

I will look into that.

30. Mr. F. Anderson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether any test of capacity is applied to recruits for service in the various units of Air-Raid Precautions; and what qualifications are required from chief air-wardens to justify their supervision over trained persons?

Sir J. Anderson

No specific standards of capacity for recruits to the Air-Raid Precautions Services have been prescribed; but it has been impressed on local authorities in Air-Raid Precautions Memorandum No. 4 that Air-Raid Wardens should be fitted both by temperament and character for the duties which they would be called on to perform, and in particular that the selection of a suitable person for the responsible post of chief warden is a matter of great importance.

Mr. Anderson

Is it not the case that the chief factor, generally speaking, is education, and ought not experience to come first? As an illustration, people who are dealing with fire services are in some cases school masters who have no technical knowledge, and men who are trained engineers are put in a secondary position. Ought not people who have experience to have the chief jobs?

Sir J. Anderson

I am afraid that the hon. Member has given information rather than asked a question. I am most anxious that the right people should be selected.

Mr. Mabane

Is it not a fact that the qualifications necessary for air-raid wardens are rather organisational than otherwise, and is it not better that those who have been in the service from the first should be given the first opportunity of higher posts?

Sir J. Anderson

I think that personality is one of the most important things.

31. Mr.Anderson

asked the Lord Privy Seal what standard of quality is required from the suppliers of clothing and equipment for the Auxiliary Fire Service units?

Sir J. Anderson

I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the specifications.

32. Mr. Anderson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has held experiments to test the safety of deep bomb-proof shelters, and, if so, with what result?

Sir J. Anderson

The factors involved in the design of such structures have been for some time past the subject of exhaustive investigation, both experimental and theoretical. I would ask the hon. Member to await the statement which I expect to be in a position to make shortly after the Easter Recess on the whole subject of heavily protected shelter.

Mr. H. G. Williams

May I ask whether those investigations also include investigations into the engineering difficulties of constructing such shelters, particularly in water-bearing strata as exist in many parts of the Metropolis?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, Sir.

34. Mr. Pilkington

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many Lancashire local authorities still remain to be issued fully with Air-Raid Precautions trainee equipment, including service respirators and protective clothing?

Sir J. Anderson

All applications for training equipment received from Lancashire have been met, with the exception of minor instructional items which are being issued as supplies become available. Instalments of mobilisation stocks of personal protective equipment, such as respirators and protective clothing, which are also available for training, are issued from time to time as supplies are received from contractors.

35. Mr.Pilkington

asked the Lord Privy Seal the number of Air-Raid Precautions volunteers needed in each category in Widness, Prescot, Huyton, and the rest of the Widnes area, respectively; and how many volunteers have already been enrolled?

Sir J. Anderson

As the answer involves a tabular statement, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I regret that it is not possible to furnish information with

Air Raid Precautions Personnel as on 18th March, 1939.
Establishment. Volunteers Enrolled.
Men. Women. Total. Men. Women. Total.
Wardens 419 105 524 704 129 833
First Aid Parties 140 140 153 153 306
First Aid Posts* 25 128 153 152 151 303
Ambulances and Cars 168 168 154 154 308
Rescue and Demolition 88 88 196 196
Decontamination 35 35 89 89
Report and Control Centre † 32 43 75 8 5 13
Messengers 64 64
Auxiliary Fire Service 285 285 156 156

Wardens 111 28 139 209 52 261
First Aid Parties 40 40 28 17 45
First Aid Posts* 7 34 41 11 5 16
Ambulance and Cars 48 48 15 15 30
Rescue and Demolition 28 28 39 39
Decontamination 7 7 12 12
Report and Control Centre † 8 11 19 9 21 30
Messengers 16 16
Auxiliary Fire Service 54 54 45 45

Wardens 220 54 274 495 202 697
First Aid Parties 70 70 27 74 101
First Aid Posts* 12 66 78 23 76 99
Ambulances and Cars 81 81 20 70 90
Rescue and Demolition 46 46 57 57
Decontamination 21 21 58 58
Report and Control Centre † 17 22 39 88 56 144
Messengers 34 34
Auxiliary Fire Service 287 287 108 108
*Under Ministry of Health control.
† Establishment under consideration.