HC Deb 24 April 1939 vol 346 cc779-83
51. Mr. Frankel

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he is aware that his Department has refused to allow the post office situated in Gresham House, Bishopsgate, E.C.2, to co-operate in the air-raid precautions scheme being operated by the Gresham House Air-Raid Precautions Committee, which has the support of all the other tenants of the premises; and whether he will take steps to ensure that post offices, and other Government tenants, do not obstruct the work of voluntary air-raid precautions committees in this way?

The First Commissioner of Works (Sir Philip Sassoon)

My Department is always prepared to co-operate in air-raid precautions schemes in joint hirings, provided that it is satisfied with the structural security proposed, but the scheme suggested by the Gresham House Air-Raid Precautions Committee did not fulfil that proviso. A further alternative proposal is being made to the committee.

Mr. Frankel

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that was not the reply given in the correspondence between his Department and this organisation?

Sir P. Sassoon

We said that we could not co-operate on the scheme of strutting, and we have now put forward an alternative.

59. Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has given consideration to a letter sent to him on 18th April by the Edinburgh Trades and Labour Council regarding a contract placed by local air-raid precautions officials for biscuits intended for evacuated children; and whether he will give instructions that in future all such contracts shall be governed by the Fair Wages Clause, and, further, that full tests be required of the quality of the goods to be supplied?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I have been asked to reply. I have seen the letter of 18th April addressed to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal by the Edinburgh and District Trades Council, and assume that it refers to an arrangement made by the Food (Defence Plans) Department for the supply of biscuits as part of the emergency supplies to be isued to evacuated persons in the event of the evacuation scheme being carried out. The Food (Defence Plans) Department have made arrangements with all biscuit manufacturers in the country who are prepared to come into the scheme, whereby they hold certain quantities of their ordinary commercial brands of biscuits available at all times for purchase, if required, by the Department. Some biscuits were purchased during the crisis of last September, but no purchases have been made subsequently, and no contracts have been placed. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the Govern- ment's appreciation of the action of the biscuit manufacturers who are carrying out this arrangement on a purely voluntary basis.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that these particular officers are to be free from the provisions in regard to the Fair Wages Clause which affects Government Departments generally, and that the firm in question is not allowed to contract with the Corporation of Edinburgh?

Mr. Morrison

In regard to the firm in question no biscuits have in fact been bought from it. The question of the Fair Wages Clause would arise only if a contract were made, and no contract has been made.

Mr. Mathers

Will the quality of the biscuits to be supplied be also considered and carefully examined before any contract is made?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir. The present scheme provides for holding in readiness biscuits of the ordinary commercial brands which are competitive both as to quantity and price in the ordinary market.

Mr. Poole

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether these biscuits are made available at cost price? If not, why the special commendation of the biscuit manufacturers?

Mr. Morrison

The biscuit manufacturers have agreed to hold stocks in excess of their commercial requirements, and to do so voluntarily. The price to be paid for the biscuits will be the lowest price that can be paid.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

In the event of the Department placing contracts with these people, will they insist on the Fair Wages Clause being incorporated in the contract?

Mr. Morrison

That question appears to me at the moment to be hypothetical.

60. Mr. Lunn

asked the Lord Privy Seal what additional financial guarantees the Government are to give to local authorities in view of the extra cost imposed upon them in the provision of a more adequate staff and additional work they are asked to undertake in Civil Defence?

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)

Any approved additional expendi- ture incurred by local authorities as a result of the acceleration of preparations for Civil Defence will rank for Government grant under the terms of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937.

Mr. Lunn

Is it not as important that the Government should bear the extra cost of this additional service as for the Army, Navy and Air Force?

Sir J. Anderson

It is not a question of additional service. What local authorities have been urged to do is to speed up preparations. Apart from that step, which I hope will be universally approved, no change of policy is involved.

Mr. Lunn

Has the right hon. Gentleman read the circular which he sent out last week, which says they have to provide for extra staff?

Sir J. Anderson

Local authorities have been urged for some time past to provide the necessary staff, and many of them have already done so.

Mr. Lunn

Is not that additional service?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether having regard to the financial arrangements, he is satisfied that the local authorities are, in fact, getting the additional staff they require?

Sir J. Anderson

In a great many cases they have done so, and I hope those who have not done so will do so.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is not this a great weakness in the system of A.R.P. and will the right hon. Gentleman not reconsider the financial arrangement in order to get rid of this weakness?

Sir J. Anderson

The rates of grant provided for are very generous.

Mr. Grenfell

If the rates of grant are very generous, why this delay of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks? Is there any shortage of labour or material?

Sir J. Anderson

That is a different question.

61. Mr. W. Joseph Stewart

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether any further arrangements have been made other than those contained in Clause 13 of the Civil Defence Bill to safeguard the lives of those employed in and about the mines situated on the north-east coast reaching from Whitburn to Blackhall taking in a group of 12 collieries?

Sir J. Anderson

The hon. Member is presumably referring to the provisions of Part III of the Bill and not only to those of Clause 13. I have no reason to suppose that those provisions are insufficient.

Mr. Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the powers of the mines inspectors are very much limited under Clause 13, and can he say what further steps the Government intend to take to safeguard the out-cast and down-cast shafts in a group of collieries which extend right along the coast, and which endanger the lives of hundreds of men?

Sir J. Anderson

I think that is a matter outside the scope of the Bill, which is concerned with the protection of personnel. The matter can be raised in discussion on the Bill.

Mr. Stewart

What about the protection of the personnel if hundreds of men are entombed in consequence of interference with the only means of exit from the mines?