§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I beg to move, in page 1, line 23, to leave out Subsection (3).
I would like to recall to the Committee that the Lord Privy Seal, when moving the Second Reading of the Bill, said that the purpose of this Clause was to make an honest man of him. I do not think hon. Members have ever had any reason to suspect that the right hon. Gentleman was anything but that, but certainly this Bill has managed to make an extremely complicated organism of the right lion. Gentleman. It is because there are so many complicated sub-divisions under this Clause that I have moved the Amendment. Its object is to simplify the control of this very great Civil Defence service, in order that there may be one control, one head—in fact, that there may be in this vital fourth arm, as I ventured to call it the other day, the same unity of command as is essential in the Air Force, the Navy and the Army.
At the present time we have the Lord Privy Seal, we have the Ministry of Health, we have the Ministry of Transport, and there is no united view on these matters, although there should be a united view, and in practice there may be, and I think in actual practice there is, a conflict arising out of a certain amount of disunity which exists. I have no doubt that the Lord Privy Seal hopes to be able to make his view the one which prevails, but in fact that does not always take place. I could give concrete reasons for that, but the Lord Privy Seal will know what I mean when I say that on the vital matter of policy with regard to evacuation the policies of the Lord Privy Seal and of the Ministry of Health have not always followed parallel lines.
The immediate reason for the moving of this Amendment is the very serious conflict in organisation which has arisen in connection with the casualty services. I need not remind the Committee how vital 806 the easy, co-ordinated and thoroughly efficient functioning of the casualty services will be in time of air attack. If the casualty services do not function easily and swiftly and efficiently they will not only be a cause of very great suffering to those who are wounded and injured, but they will also disorganise the whole of the Defence system in exactly the same way in which, under normal conditions the military system is disorganised if the casualties are not properly dealt with. From every point of view, therefore, it is essential that the casualty organisation should function without any difficulty and with maximum efficiency. There must in action be no hesitations at all as to what is to be done. You cannot have references to three different Ministries as to what is to be done; there must be reference to only one authority. I am not suggesting that in action there would in fact be references to three different Ministries, but you might get hesitations of that character existing, and it is exceedingly important, if there are to be no hesitations, that the different services concerned with casualties should be co-ordinated in their training and in their exercises in peace time, because otherwise they will not be able to function as one body and one machine.
At the present time you have this state of affairs: You have air-raid posts under the Ministry of Health; you have stretcher bearers under the Lord Privy Seal; and you have ambulances under the Ministry of Transport. At best there is a dual if not a treble responsibility. Those who are most intimately concerned with the attempt to work this organisation are those who are most seriously perturbed about it. The matter has been brought to my attention by various people, not only by one group but by numbers of people, and very naturally I have been most seriously perturbed about it myself, as I am a medical man and take a special interest in that side of air-raid precautions. I willingly pay the tribute to the Lord Privy Seal that to some extent the organisation now is much better than it was. [Hon. Members: "Not much."] Hon. Members on this side say "Not much." I am trying to be as polite as possible to the Lord Privy Seal. For instance, one of the bodies which are extremely perturbed about the matter is the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee. I am not speaking on their behalf; I have no warrant to do so. But 807 this body is by no means the only one. I have got into touch recently with a large number of others.
The medical officer of health of one of the largest extra-Metropolitan councils, I am informed on excellent authority, has now reached a stage when he gets so many conflicting instructions that he scratches his head and says: "God help us." I am told that in a very large county area adjacent to London they sum up the situation by saying that they do not know where they stand, which is a serious matter. This particular authority is specially worried about the auxiliary nursing service. Another large council, one of the biggest in the country, is very worried about the difficulty of training certain of its details, and the British Red Cross Society and the Society of St. John representative whom I have consulted give the same sort of general impression. One observer who spends the greater part of his time, certainly the whole of his time apart from his professional duty and takes a very prominent part in the organisation adjacent to London, thought the matter was best summed up by saying that the organisation was "all mucked up"—a vigorous phrase which he was afraid I could not use in Parliament, though there are all kinds of things you can do in Parliament if you think it necessary to do so.
It is particularly urgent to get order into this business now, because the sanction for medical payment has been authorised and the training of first-aid parties and posts and of personnel generally will now be going on at a very much greater speed than in the past. It is therefore essential that the training should be on co-ordinated lines. I want to quote what I have not quoted before, the views of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee as indicated in a letter which I have here. The letter states:The Standing Joint Committee have always been strongly opposed to the division of responsibility between the Home Office and the Ministry of Health with regard to the casualty services.I have seen a copy of the minutes of their council containing a Memorandum set before them by the Metropolitan medical officers of health:in whose minds, I am informed, there is considerable anxiety as to whether the existing 808 arrangements, under which they receive directions either from the Home Office or the Ministry of Health, or both, are capable of functioning efficiently during a time of warWhen you get responsible medical officers of health of the Metropolitan boroughs making that statement there is, at least, a very serious case to be investigated. In order that the House can get the actual views of this organisation I will read an extract from the minutes with regard to this matter. They say—I am summarising the statement:We still hold the view that the Ministry of Health should be solely responsible for the supervision of the casualty organisation sinceThe Air-Raid Precautions Sub-Committee of the Standing Joint Committee state:
- (i) Dual control of one service has obvious inherent disabilities with which the Metropolitan local authorities are but too well conversant.
- (ii) That important features in the casualty organisation have been omitted.
- (iii) That the same premises may often be used both as first-aid posts and by first-aid parties, and that it is undesirable that the consents of two Departments with differing policies should have to be obtained.
- (iv) Whatever may be the direction of the two Government Departments in peace-time, in time of war a Metropolitan local authority will regard the personnel of first-aid parties and first-aid posts as interchangeable, and will in emergency pool all their resources.
- (v) A mobile first-aid post under the Ministry of Health will often be working with mobile first-aid parties under the Home Office.
- (vi) Much of the difficulties experienced have been due to a lack of appreciation on the part of the Home Office of the every-day working of public health administration, whereas the Ministry of Health has been in daily touch with local sanitary authorities for nearly a century"We have received a report from the Advisory Body of Medical Officers of Health stating that, having used their best efforts to carry out the duties imposed upon them in the various instructions received, it is their considered opinion that under the present system of recruitment, training and conditions of service, the organisation of casualty services in such a way as to function efficiently, either in peace or war, is impracticable.That is a very serious indictment by the medical officers of health of the Metropolitan borough councils. I want to suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that he should present a definite plan with regard to the allocation of the services as between himself and other Ministries. It is impossible not only for local authori- 809 ties, for local workers in, say, Brixton or Croydon or Northumberland or anywhere else, to know exactly to which Ministry to apply or how exactly the policy of one Department differs from that of another, and it is equally impossible for Members of this House to know to wham they are to address their inquiries. How can we possibly know whether what we regard as a difficulty is due to the Ministry of Health or the Lord Privy Seal or some other Department altogether?
There must be a definite plan setting out how the various functions permitted by this Clause are allocated and are to be co-ordinated together. How are the policies to be co-ordinated together? I suggest that the whole problem of Civil Defence is so new that the Lord Privy Seal ought to be willing to consider something quite new and unusual organisation. Would it be advisable to have some kind of advisory council or committee or board, call it what you like, consisting partly of Members of Parliament, partly of local authorities, and partly of representatives of the different Ministries? The organisation of Civil Defence is, in fact, a greater thing than the organisation of either the Army, Navy or Air Force. It includes the whole of the population of the country, and enters into every aspect of their lives from the time they get up in the morning until they retire to bed, from the time of the air-raid warning until they dive into the deep shelters which we hope to persuade the Government to provide. But there must be some arrangement for co-ordinating policy as a whole. There must also be some arrangement for reviewing the allocation of duties as between the different Ministries, and there must be some plan which will enable the country as a whole and Parliament to know what Minister is responsible for giving the final decision and the final order.
It is essential that there should be unity of command, and and while it may be necessary, in relation to certain aspects of the problem, to divide certain duties between different individuals and different ministries, there should be one final authority from whom orders would issue and by whom decisions would be given. In raising this very large issue, I realise that it is not possible to solve the question offhand by the acceptance or rejection of this Amendment, but I 810 suggest that it is advisable that some kind of inquiry should be instituted to discover how these duties can be separated and how this very complicated problem can be solved. I would emphasise with all the sincerity and force at my disposal, that in relation to Civil Defence we cannot afford to have hesitation in a time of emergency, as between one Department and another. There must be a chain of command as in the other services from the top to the bottom. The only way is to have a definite plan and a definite order and I submit that an inquiry should be held in order to devise such a plan.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) has served a useful purpose by raising this issue at this stage. I take it that the Government's policy is to concentrate, as far as practicable, authority, power and responsibility—particularly responsibility—in relation to Civil Defence, in the hands of the Lord Privy Seal. He is the officer responsible, whom we shall make responsible— [An HON. MEMBER: "And hang if necessary "]—and, if necessary, as an hon. Member says, hang, figuratively of course, and not actually, if he fails in his organisation, and if the tragedy should come about that our Civil Defence proves unequal to the test. Where the word "Minister" is mentioned in the Bill, the Minister referred to is the Lord Privy Seal, and I think it a pity that the draftsman did not use a simple phrase which would make that clearer. It is clear, however, in Part VII of the Bill that all casualty problems and all questions of medical and hospital work are concentrated in the Ministry of Health.
§ Sir P. Harris
There is one thing which, I think, should be made clear. Is it proposed under Sub-section (3) that the right hon. Gentleman should, on any large scale, delegate his powers to other Ministers? If that is so, we ought to have an early statement to that effect. If the Subsection only means that the right hon. Gentleman, who has no Under-Secretary, has power in case of emergency to call for the assistance of other Departments, obviously there would be no objection to it, but I think that both the local authorities and the country generally want to have it made clear that the Minister 811 responsible for the efficiency of the organisation of Civil Defence is the Lord Privy Seal, and no one else.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The Committee should be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) for raising this matter, which is at present causing considerable difficulty to local authorities. I do not speak with my hon. Friend's knowledge of local government arrangements in the Metropolitan boroughs, but I know that this question is causing the county councils of England and Wales the liveliest concern. I think the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) oversimplified this Clause in his statement. As a matter of fact, the original Minister is the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and Sub-section (1) gives His Majesty power by Order in Council to designate somebody else as Minister for all or any of the functions originally vested in the Secretary of State. We understand that the Lord Privy Seal is to be so designated. Sub-section (1) does not, however, say that he is to take all those functions. He is only to take some of them, or if he does take all of them, he is to re-transfer some of them. That is the kind of arrangement which, I have no doubt, will be very popular inside the offices concerned, because it means that Members of Parliament will be thoroughly confused and will have difficulty in threading their way through the maze of inter-Departmental arrangements in order to find who is really responsible. Under Sub-section (3) the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal may transfer such of his functions as he thinks fit, to various other Government Departments.
Already, there appears to be a pretty wide diffusion of responsibility, and I do not think that my hon. Friend exhausted the instances of divided control. I understand, for instance, that evacuation is partly under the Ministry of Health and partly under the Board of Education, and exactly where the powers of the one Department begin and the powers of the other end, I have not yet been able to discover. Considerable difficulties are arising in that connection. This is such an important matter that it is time there was a Minister for Civil Defence in whose hands should be concentrated 812 all the powers of a Department, and if there is any other work to be done by other Government Departments they should do that work as his agents. It should be indicated clearly and without any shadow of doubt to local authorities, or public utility undertakers, or individuals desiring to get in touch with the central Government on questions of Civil Defence, that they should address their inquiries and carry on their negotiations with the Minister for Civil Defence. This division of responsibility is all the more confusing since it is constantly changing. I asked the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the county council for the West Riding of Yorkshire, a few weeks ago, to issue a document indicating the Ministers responsible for the various functions which come under the heading of Civil Defence. A document was issued, but by the time it was issued alterations had been made, and at the moment it does not accurately correspond with the distribution of these functions, which ought to be centred in a Ministry of Civil Defence. Bad as this is in a time of peace, it will be infinitely worse in time of war if these divisions persist. I hope, therefore, that the Government will take into early consideration the desirability of having a Minister of Civil Defence with an adequate staff, under whom would be placed the various functions and duties now being performed by five or six different Departments of State. Nothing short of that will satisfactorily settle the problem.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)
I was relieved to hear from the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) that he had not moved this Amendment with the object of obstructing the salutary process to which I referred on the Second Reading of the Bill. As he explained, his purpose is to clear up what he conceives to be some confusion which exists with regard to the distribution of the functions connected with Civil Defence. For present purposes, I conceive that it is not necessary for me to do more than establish the necessity for Sub-section (3). When I have dealt with that, I hope to the satisfaction of the Committee, I shall have occasion to say a few words about some of the points of detail which have been 813 raised. This Sub-section is necessary for two reasons—first, to regularise what has already been done, and, second, to provide for certain contingencies which may arise in the future. I am, at present, primarily responsible for all matters of policy in connection with Civil Defence, but I have made it clear from the beginning that, if the work which has to be done is to be done within a reasonable time, the burden must be spread, while at the same time effective arrangements must be made to ensure that one Minister is in a position to dominate policy.
I have always claimed that that is the position. The Ministry of Health have undertaken various responsibilities in connection with evacuation and casualty services. The Ministry of Transport are responsible for the organisation of transport and for a number of matters of great importance concerned with public utilities. The Ministry of Transport, however—to take up a point which has already been raised—is not responsible for ambulances. The Ministry of Health is responsible for ambulances. The Ministry of Transport is responsible for the general arrangements for organising transport, and, in this connection, their services may be called upon for the purpose of securing vehicles required for use as ambulances, but their responsibility ends there. It seemed to me that the hon. Member for North Islington himself provided a very strong argument for this Sub-section, because, if I understood him aright, he said that what in his opinion was necessary was that the Ministry of Health should be solely responsible for all services connected with the handling of casualties. As matters stand, that would involve the delegation to the Ministry of Health of responsibility for first-aid parties which would in turn involve resort to the very Sub-section which it is proposed to leave out. As I have suggested, the Subsection is clearly necessary.
May I say a few words on the question how far there is risk of confusion in the plan proposed for sharing responsibilities in this matter of Civil Defence? I ask, would confusion not be much greater if I attempted to set up, under my own direct control, a new Department to deal with railways, docks, electricity generating stations and transport when there is a Department already organised, and with all the necessary technical resources at its 814 disposal, to deal with those technical matters? Similarly, in regard to casualty services, as the hon. Baronet the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) pointed out, the Bill, in Part VII, proposes to entrust to the Minister of Health the responsibility for the organisation of hospital services in time of emergency. That is a responsibility which, I suggest, ought to be given to the Minister of Health. He has the experience and the staff at his disposal to enable him to deal effectively with that matter. The responsibility for first-aid posts is proposed to be transferred to the Ministry of Health by way of delegation under this Sub-section.
At the time of the crisis last September, the distribution of responsibility was different. The Minister of Health was undertaking responsibility for hospitals and the Home Office for first-aid parties and first-aid posts, and that experience and the further thought that was given to the matter showed clearly that that was not an effective division of responsibility. Clearly the responsibility for first-aid posts ought to rest where the responsibility for hospitals rests. There has been a demand, it is perfectly true—and I am well aware of it—from certain local authorities, notably from the Metropolitan Boroughs, that the responsibility for first-aid parties should be added to those other two responsibilities which arc both concerned with the treatment of casualties. In this matter you cannot, I suggest, arrive at any ideal solution, but at any rate this much is clear, that any trouble that has arisen is not due to conflict or disagreement between Departments of State, because the Ministry of Health and my Department have been in the most complete agreement throughout in thinking that the proper division of responsibility is the one that we have made, which leaves the responsibility for first-aid parties with the Department under my direct control and transfers the responsibility for first-aid posts to the Ministry of Health.
The reason for that conclusion is that the first-aid parties, or stretcher parties, are street parties. They have to be organised in such a way that they can collaborate effectively with other street parties, with the police, with the demolition parties, and possibly with the fire brigades. The Metropolitan Boroughs raised with me at quite an early stage their 815 suggestion that first-aid parties should be transferred to the Ministry of Health. I listened to them, I explained the arguments against that proposal, I heard them again at a later stage, when they came in association with the London County Council, and I gave them then the definite decision, which was arrived at after the most careful consideration, that first-aid parties should go with the other street parties and be the direct responsibility of what I will call, for short, the Home Office, while first-aid posts should go to the Ministry of Health. I explained quite clearly the reasons for thinking that that decision should stand. In this matter I suggest that it is very important, if we are to avoid confusion, that there should be some finality. When a decision has been reached, after the fullest consideration, it ought to be adhered to. Nothing but confusion can result if we go on trying, and trying, and trying to get it altered, and I have no hesitation whatever in saying to the Committee that, as a matter of organisation, not only my advisers, but the advisers of the Ministry of Health as well, are clear that the decision that we took two months ago and announced as a final decision should stand.
As regards the suggestion that it is essential that some one person should be clearly responsible to this House and to the public as Minister of Civil Defence, I can only say that I very respectfully agree, and I believe that that is the position. I have seen no evidence at all, since I assumed my present office, of any difficulty in securing agreement on policy and agreement on details in carrying out the policy between the various Departments that are concerned and, as I have suggested, necessarily concerned in this matter. I had thought that we had made clear, in a circular that was issued some little time ago, exactly what the distribution of responsibility is. I do not know that any change has been made since that circular was issued, but, in view of what has been said, I will look at it again and see whether anything further is required. I am most entirely in agreement that you cannot get an organisation to work smoothly and efficiently if the people who have to take part in it do not understand, not only the limits of their own responsibility, but where that responsi- 816 bility impinges upon the responsibility of others. That is elementary in organisation.
As regards taking people into consultation, I have considered more than once whether any useful purpose would be served by setting up yet another standing consultative body, and I have been inclined to think that there is already a sufficient number of bodies available for consultation, representing the different interests, and that we can do all that is humanly possible by establishing the freest and fullest contact between the Departments and the existing bodies. I am always open to consider any suggestion for improving those contacts and securing more complete collaboration in carrying out these very difficult and very novel functions.
One last word. It has been suggested that this question of divided responsibility, important though it is in time of peace, may constitute a grave obstacle in the way of efficiency in an emergency. That is a point to which I and those associated with me have always been very much alive, but I think you can draw a pretty clear distinction between the business of planning, on which we are engaged now, and the execution of plans when they have been made, and I have no doubt whatever in saying that we shall provide, in the event of war, an executive organisation which will function thoroughly, promptly, with one effective chain of command from this House, and the Government at the centre, down to the smallest unit in the framework of Civil Defence. That was the very purpose of the regional organisation, the development of which I announced in this House last week, and we are, as I think hon. Members know, urging local authorities on their side to provide their part of that necessary chain of command by the appointment of controllers and sub-controllers to work in association with small committees of the local authorities concerned. We have that matter, I can assure the Committee, very much in mind, and I hope that we are in process of providing for it. For the reasons that I have given, I am not in a position to accept the Amendment.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I think hon. Members on this side will not be completely satisfied with the right hon. 817 Gentleman's reply, and more especially with his tone when he adopted a semi-dictatorial attitude towards the local authorities "When I open my mouth, let no dog bark" When he has said what ought to happen and the Metropolitan boroughs do not like it, they have to desist forthwith from any kind of criticism. No doubt the Minister sees himself as a great Pooh Bah. I have always recognised—and I have spoken on this subject before—the difficulties of a new service of this kind. After all, 20 years have elapsed since the end of the last Great War and have seen more terrifying instruments of destruction invented and produced than anybody realised as being likely when the War ended in 1918. The whole of this problem of Civil Defence has assumed proportions which nobody ever dreamed of, and which certainly were not required, during the last Great War. Therefore, we have to give the right hon. Gentleman every possible sympathy, but he must not become unduly cross with local authorities, or he will find that he has a hornets' nest around his head.
It is undoubtedly true that there is some confusion as to where the Departments' powers begin and end. That, I think, is undeniable, and it is no good the right hon. Gentleman saying, rather testily, "I have told the Metropolitan boroughs, and therefore what I have said, I have said." The point is that the local authorities, which are an integral part of this scheme, and a very vital part of it, must be persuaded as to the wisdom of the arrangements that are being made, they must realise definitely to what Departments of State their responsibilities lie, and they must be assured that there is no division of responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman said, or he implied, that in the event of an air raid a very large number of Government Departments would be concerned, or at least the local people would be acting for different Government Departments. That may well be. He cited the case of these working parties. He happens to have fallen foul of local authority opinion on this matter. He happens also to have fallen foul of the opinions of the men who will have to do the work, namely, the medical officers of health. That is only one point, and quite clearly it is not much use having a Subsection of a Bill which enables the right hon. Gentleman to farm out his respon- 818 sibility to any other Minister of State, undefined, unless he is going to make effective arrangements, which shall be clearly stated and which ought to be in the Schedule to this Bill, as regards the relationship between the various Departments of State concerned and the functions that each of them will perform.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether it was necessary to add another consultative committee. I am not sure that this is a case for a consultative committee, but I am bound to say that I do not like this legislative device of placing the right hon. Gentleman in a position to order about other Ministers of the Crown, and make arrangements with any other Minister of the Crown for the transferof any of his functions under the Act of 1937 or this ActThat seems to me to be another illustration of the way in which the Government refuse to face up to the scale, the magnitude, of this tremendous problem of Civil Defence. There is an Air Council, there is a War Council, and there ought to be an equally authoritative A.R.P. Council in this country, because in the event of war the importance of that body, with its functions in dealing with Civil Defence, would be every bit as great as that of the three fighting Services, and indeed, as I have argued in this House before, in the last resort it would be the most important, because of the effect which it could have on the morale of the people.
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be running this show with one or two charge hands and an office boy or two running about to do odd jobs of work for him, but that he ought to have associated with him, on a Council as important as the Air Council or the War Council, all the Ministers who are involved in this kind of work. I would make this innovation—and it would be an innovation in so far as the Councils of the various Defence Services are concerned—that I would have the local authorities' organisations represented upon that body. There you would get an authoritative body which was fitted to work out all the details of a scheme which could be put into operation rapidly and effectively. It may be true that certain Departments of State are pretty well familiar with the views of the local 819 authorities, but the views of local authorities on this matter are new; they are themselves grappling with new problems which they never expected to have to face. They have never been consulted on the whole of the issues in the way that they should have been. The right hon. Gentleman has had his life almost badgered out of him by deputations from local authorities, but he has not, except on one occasion in a somewhat pontifical manner, ever really discussed this question with them. There will be no effective Civil Defence scheme dominated from Whitehall. This Committee must accept that as being an undoubted fact. If that be so, an arrangement whereby the Minister fobs off odd jobs to one Minister or another outside his own Department, although I know that he cannot carry the whole burden himself, is not adequate. We ought to have in operation almost continuously consultation between all the Departments concerned with Civil Defence, together with representatives of the local authorities. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman does not think fit to withdraw Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 for further consideration, and if he holds by that view I am afraid my hon. Friends will have to vote in the Lobby against him.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to express great dissatisfaction at the explanation of the Minister. He informed us that in connection with casualties the Minister of Health has the responsibility for ambulances. He did not add, however, that the Minister of Health only had the responsibility for ambulances if the ambulances were there, and that if the ambulances were not there he had no responsibility. The Minister of Transport then become responsible. We, therefore, have the situation in which, if there are no ambulances, the Minister of Health has to apply to the Minister of Transport for ambulances. The Minister of Transport, however, might be busy on other matters and have no time to attend to the Minister of Health so that the casualties could be moved. That is an impossible situation, and it is clear that there has never been any thought given to this matter.
I would remind the Minister that from the beginning of the discussions on this question this side of the House has had 820 the responsibility of bringing out the urgent importance of this matter and that the Ministers who were responsible have not had the slightest understanding of the importance of the questions associated with Civil Defence. If we look at the record of the discussions which took place on the first Measure we find talk about gummed paper round windows and pails of sand. It was the silliest nonsense ever talked by Ministers. They did not under stand the problem then, and they do not understand it now. In view of the greater measure of intelligence shown by this side of the House on this question, would we not get much better results if we provided the Ministers to deal with it? Let us take, for instance, the deplorable exhibition given to-day by Ministers when they were considering the question of dispersing the work among the various Ministries—
§ Mr. Gallacher
I wanted to use it only as an argument in favour of this Amendment. The Sub-section allows for a variety of Ministers having a certain part in this work, but they have one and all demonstrated their capacity for indecision. On every question that comes before them they cannot tell us what will be done and can only say that the matter is being considered. If we put a question to the Lord Privy Seal, and ask him whether this, that or the other thing is to be done to ensure the safety and health of the people, he says, "I have considered this matter, and, as a result of considering it, I am now considering passing it over to the Minister of Health or the Minister of Transport for his consideration" That is the situation which we can easily have if we are to judge from the answers we have been receiving from the Ministers of the various Departments. In view of the absence of clarity that exists about the whole situation and the need for the utmost clarity on this new and vital question, and in order to get rid of the feeling which exists all over the country that confusion is becoming worse every day and that there is muddle in every Department, the Minister should agree to the withdrawal of this Sub-section in order that some definite scheme can be drawn up for covering the whole question in such a way that the best results can be achieved.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
I hope we may have some reply from the Minister to the case made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I should like to direct the attention of the Lord Privy Seal to the attitude which many of the local authorities have taken up which, in my opinion, has been an attitude containing more common sense on this matter than that adopted by the Government. When the local authorities were called upon to take part in this new service by setting up air-raid precaution committees, they appointed in most cases, acting with the common sense for which local authorities are famed, the chairman of each committee of the council to form the committee in order to have someone representing each branch of the council's service. As soon as the committees met the difficulties began. Circulars arrived from a number of Government Departments and found their way to the departments of the council concerned. When the A.R.P. committee held their monthly meeting it was found that matters were brought forward by the heads of departments which affected other departments, but the other department knew nothing about them. In the case of my own local authority these complications became so bad that it fell upon the chairman of the A.R.P. committee and me to extricate them. I conferred with the town clerk and arranged with him to call a meeting of the officers of the council before the meeting of their A.R.P. committee in order to go through the agenda and to see in what respect the items on the agenda cut across the various departments. We have made much better progress since we adopted that procedure.
Recently there have been some alterations in regard to the Metropolitan Police area and the result of one of them will be a considerable reduction in the number of air-warden posts in certain districts. Those of us who have had close contact with this question have been informed that the reason is that the Post Office find that the number of telephones which they can instal is much fewer than would be required if the original number of posts had been adhered to. That means that another Department comes into the question, and I am sure that if any point were raised about it with the right hon. Gentleman he would promptly say that 822 it was a matter for the Post Office. In the Metropolitan area we have spent months getting these posts cited, and now this order comes along. It may not be the real explanation, but it is the one which has been given to me and it seems a good reason. The point is, however, that it means that another Department suddenly comes into the picture.
If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to consider setting up a kind of council on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend, he might at any rate, arrange for all circulars about A.R.P. to come from his Department instead of from a variety of Departments. Since the right hon. Gentleman took on this tremendous task he has not spared himself and we appreciate the efforts he is making to keep in touch with every Department of it. I wonder whether he will go a little further and attend an A.R.P. committee of a local authority. I shall be pleased to make arrangements for him to do that, I would like him to be in the nature of an invisible man listening to the proceedings, and he would soon learn of the real difficulties and complications which local authorities have to meet. I can only say that the opinions which have been expressed from this side of the House on this matter are those which are almost universally held by the local authorities. Most of them are quite friendly towards A.R.P. and are anxious to help.
Perhaps some of the difficulties arising in Government Departments are also arising with local authorities. The departments of a local authority have their own work to do and they are inclined to think this new work a nuisance coming on top of their ordinary work. The new appeal which has been issued by the right hon. Gentleman in the last few days ought to help considerably because it will become clear to every department of a local authority that they have to give precedence to A.R.P. work. In a local authority the A.R.P. officer is a temporary officer and the medical officer and borough engineer are not inclined to take orders from him. That has been one of the difficulties up till now, but we are getting over it. I wonder whether the fact that the Lord Privy Seal's Department is a new Department leads to the same kind of difficulty of getting other Departments to attach the same amount of importance to it as the right hon. Gentleman does himself. If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to 823 accept the Amendment, I hope that he will at any rate see whether some consultative organisation cannot be set up to clear away these difficulties. It is no good pretending that they do not exist, because they do.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
Coming from a district of a different type, I should like to say that some difficulty has been created among the local authorities there by reason of getting instructions from different Government Departments which may at first sight appear to be contradictory, even if they are not. I recognise that this is a difficult problem, and that, from what the Lord Privy Seal said just now, the setting-up of other Departments to deal with training or health questions would not be desirable; but, on the other hand, there is the point of view that it is confusing for local authorities to receive instructions from different Government Departments. I will give one example of the confusion created by such instructions. This spring the area which I represent received instructions from the Ministry of Health to take a survey of the accommodation available for refugee children, and the local authorities concerned speeded up that work, for which they were largely dependent upon voluntary assistance. A few days later at least one of the authorities received from the Home Office instructions that because their area was regarded as one of special danger they were to double the number of their air-raid wardens and strengthen certain other services.
That sort of thing is bound to create in the public mind a good deal of concern as lo whether the Ministry of Health were right in thinking this was an area suitable for receiving children, or whether the Home Office were right in thinking that the existing emergency staffs were insufficient. Probably there is an explanation, and I am aware that all the areas which were asked to survey available accommodation will not necessarily be expected to receive children, and in the wide area of which I am thinking there may be some districts which are considered dangerous and some which are regarded as safe; but the fact remains that those contrary instructions have created a sense of confusion in that part of the world, and I can reinforce what the hon. Member for North Totten- 824 ham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) said about air-raid precautions committees being confused by the number of Departments from whom they receive instructions. I wonder whether the suggestion which has been made that all instructions should come from the Lord Privy Seal's Department would not, perhaps, meet the case; and if that were so some more effective coordination should take place in the instructions issued, because the present position is very discouraging, especially to those who are doing this work voluntarily. In view of the fact, to which the Lord Privy Seal referred, that some of the plans have been changed and some subjects transferred from one Department to another, the public may be unreasonably right—I do not say whether it is unreasonable or not—in the views they hold about the apparent contradictions in the orders issued from the various Departments.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
In view of the interest which has been displayed in this Amendment, perhaps it would be fitting that I should say a word or two in reply to some of the observations which have been made. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) referred to the size and complexity of the problem of Civil Defence, and that must leap to the eye when one considers how wide are the ramifications of the subject and how many facets of the nation's life it touches. One lesson which I would draw, and it is not the one which the right hon. Gentleman drew, is that it would really be impossible, without great delay and expense, to create a completely new Ministry capable of dealing with every aspect of this vast problem. There is another element in the problem which is as striking as its size and complexity, and that is the element of speed.
§ Mr. Charles Brown
The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) did not ask for a new Ministry.
§ Mr. Morrison
No; but if one were to refuse to allow the Lord Privy Seal to delegate appropriate functions to those organs of the State which already exist to discharge them, I feel certain the only alternative would be to create what would be, in effect, duplicate machinery for producing the same result. That being the 825 simple question which the Committee have to decide, I venture to think we can proceed to a decision.
There are only one or two other matters which have been mentioned. There would seem to be abroad in the minds of the Committee an impression that there has been no attempt to co-ordinate the activities of the various Departments which are concerned, and suggestions were made that there should be a council or a committee of the Departments concerned, so that all the broad lines of policy involved might be co-ordinated in advance of action. There is a committee of Ministers of the Departments which are touched by this problem, and they decide the broad lines of policy as they go along.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Would the Government be prepared to publish that as a statement of the existence of an A.R.P. Council, and would they add to that Council representatives of the local authorities, who are equally concerned?
§ Mr. Morrison
No. I was referring to the reality of the co-ordination which does exist. A committee of Ministers does exist. With regard to further consultation with local authorities, it is also the fact that there are consultative committees which I think, include representatives of most of the associations of local authorities with which the Department is in touch, and my right hon. Friend did say that if experience showed the necessity for some wider body for consultation he would consider that point and see what could be done. In view of the fact that we have here a vast service, with duties which have to be discharged speedily, in view of the immense trouble of duplicating existing machinery, and having regard to the fact that experience will enable co-ordination to become more perfect, I
§ think this Committee would not be well advised to accept the Amendment which has been moved.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer
I should like to point out that although a local council has many departments all the business goes through the clerk of the council, and to ask whether it is not possible for that practice to be followed in connection with this work. We realise that in the evacuation of children you cannot ignore the Board of Education, or, in dealing with hospitals and institutions, ignore the Ministry of Health, that, in short, you cannot touch on any aspect of this work and ignore the appropriate Government Department; but what is the position of the local people who are getting circulars and letters from different Departments, but all relating to the one subject? Would it not be better if all that correspondence, all those instructions, came through the one medium?
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I am familiar with the organisation of a county council, and appreciate how celerity in the business is assisted by having the clerk as the channel of communication, and so far as it is practicable in dealing with this problem that course is being followed, but I would ask the hon. Member to accept it from me, as I am sure he will on consideration, that the analogy he quoted, though helpful, is not a complete one, having regard to the difference between the two problems.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 191; Noes, 110.829
|Division No. 83.]||AYES.||[5.12 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Chorlton, A. E. L.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Brass, Sir W.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Conant, Captain R. J. E.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Craven-Ellis, W.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Cross, R. H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Bull, B. B.||Crossley, A. C.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Burghley, Lord||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Burton, Col. H. W.||Culverwell, C. T.|
|Assheton, R.||Butcher, H. W.||Davison, Sir W. H.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Cartland, J. R. H.||De la Bère, R.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Denville, Alfred|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Doland, G. F.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Dugdale, Captain T. L,|
|Bernays, R. H.||Channon, H.||Dunglass, Lord|
|Blair, Sir R.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||McKie, J. H.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Macnamara, Lt.-Col. J. R. J.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Fleming, E. L.||Maitland, Sir Adam||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Furness, S. N.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Markham, S. F.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Granville, E. L.||Marsden, Commander A.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Meller, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Storey, S.|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Moreing, A. C.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hambro, A. V.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Tale, Mavis C.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Munro, P,||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Bushan-||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Touche, G. C.|
|Hopkinson, A.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Peake, O.||Turton, R. H.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N)||Petherick, M.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Hunloke, H. P.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hunter, T.||Pilkington, R.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Procter, Major H. A.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Rayner, Major R. H.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Remer, J. R.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Leech, Sir J. W.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Wise, A. R.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rosbotham, Sir T.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Levy, T.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Wragg, H.|
|Lewis, O.||Russell, Sir Alexander||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Lipson, D, L.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Loftus, P. C.||Salmon, Sir I.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Salt, E. W.||Major Sir James Edmondson|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Samuel, M. R. A.||and Lieut.- Colonel Herbert.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Garro Jones, G. M.||Montague, F.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Alexander Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Grenfell, D. R.||Parker, J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Pearson, A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Barr, J.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Poole, C. C.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Ritson, J.|
|Batey, J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Hardie, Agnes||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hayday, A.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Benson, G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jagger, J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Chater, D.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Collindridge, F.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Stephen, C.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Daggar, G.||Lathan, G.||Strauss, C. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dalton, H.||Leach, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leslie, J. R.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Logan, D. G.||Thorne, W.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lunn, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Ede, J. C.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Foot, D. M.||MacLaren, A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Frankel, D.||Mathers, G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Gallacher, W.||Messer, F.||Walker, J.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner, Major J.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)||Mr. Groves and Mr. Adamson.|
|Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Before we pass this Clause I should like to make certain observations with reference to it. In the Debate upon the Amendment of which we have just disposed I referred to the novel character of the service of the Bill. We all appreciate the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman has to face, but we appreciate also the spirit of our people, should the challenge come to them, and if I say anything by way of criticism of what the right hon. Gentleman is doing in exercising the powers conferred upon him by the Clause, it is not because I believe that the people of this country have the jitters, but in the hope that we may, by continual pressure upon the right hon. Gentleman, urge him on to greater activity and to activity on a larger scale than before.
By the Bill the right hon. Gentleman inherits the duties of the Secretary of State under the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, and takes over major responsibility. He has told us that he is the dominant force in policy on this matter, so dominant that he is in process of terrorising the local authorities. I will not pursue that point further, but the Committee is entitled to know how far the right hon. Gentleman is going in carrying out these very important functions. The right hon. Gentleman has been living with this problem ever since his appointment, but, in my view, he is still not thinking of it in terms which are big enough or in terms of organisation big enough to face the realities of the situation which would undoubtedly confront us should war break out. It is true that he inherits the functions to which I have referred, but he inherits also three years of inactivity on the part of the National Government. For that we cannot blame him. He is the victim of that inordinate delay, which took place notwithstanding the pressure put upon the Government by local authorities to make adequate preparations. Notwithstanding the pressure of public opinion—enlightened public opinion—on these matters, for three years next to nothing was done.
830 One sympathises with the right hon. Gentleman in having now to catch up with the arrears of delay which took place before he was appointed, and I think the Committee will agree that he has shown commendable energy. No one would say that the right hon. Gentleman has a sinecure job—far from it, especially when he has to order Ministers about under Subsection (3) of this Clause. It is important that the Government should visualise this problem on a scale which will give adequate confidence to a confident people that, should trouble come, there can be no doubt about the result. With a new service there are bound to be new and very difficult problems upon which there will be honest differences of opinion, but in a time of growing difficulty decision is imperative. A remark made by the late Lord Oxford and Asquith, "Wait and see," brought down violent and terrible abuse upon his head; there are times when one cannot wait and see, and when action which may be doubtful is better than no action at all. There are matters in which delay has taken place because of sincere doubt as to the wisdom of a particular line of policy or a particular kind of provision against air raid. Such delays cannot go on. After all, this, being a new service, is bound, in its nature, to be largely experimental but it is wrong, even though the high authorities often doubt the wisdom of a certain course of action, to debar those who wish to make experiments from making them.
In the absence of experience of the dreadful realities of a modern air raid, experiment is the only way in which we can get adequate Civil Defence. Unfortunately, in my view, and I think in the view of my hon. Friends on this side, there have been periods of indecision and delay in settling questions of major policy. A matter upon which I cannot enter in detail on this Clause is the question of deep shelters. No doubt some opportunity may occur in the course of the Committee stage of discussing that matter in detail. We have waited for some months now, and only three or four days ago did we have the Government's decision. I am not so sure that that decision is perfectly fair and specific now that we have it. Other questions of major policy do not seem to have been settled.
831 It is essential, if those who are taking part in this work are to carry it on with the energy and enthusiasm for which we hoped, that they should feel that at the headquarters of the Government decisions on policy will be taken as quickly as possible.
There has not only been delay in deciding questions of policy, but delay in deciding upon action. Hardly a day goes by but hon. Members of this House—most hon. Members I imagine, at any rate all those who are interested in this problem— receive one or more letters—I must have received hundreds in the last few months—complaining about the delays of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, or of the subsidiary Department, to which he farms out some part of the work. They complain of no replies, or mere formal replies, to letters or of an enormous amount of delay in arriving at decisions on matters concerning action by local authorities. That is unfair to the local authorities, who have a heavy burden of responsibility towards the people within their boundaries. Most local authorities are only too anxious to make what provision they can against air raids. They are carrying, because the right hon. Gentleman has not persuaded the Government to carry, a very heavy financial burden, and it is they and not the right hon. Gentleman who have to face the local electorate, and they are therefore entitled to expedition of decision upon action which they wish to take.
When the right hon. Gentleman has assumed the mantle which now falls upon him and the additional, odd, spare mantles which come to him in the Bill, and has developed all his power and stands, in all his glory, as the great coordinator of Civil Defence, I hope that when the Bill is on the Statute Book, and he is this mighty man, we may look forward to operations on a scale commensurate with the size of the problem, to speedy decisions on major questions of policy, and to speedy decisions on action to betaken by the local authorities, on whom, in the long run, this matter must in the last resort depend. I have tried not to be hypercritical. It is my nature to be somewhat critical of anything that the Government do; it is a growing virtue of mine, if I may say so; but I have tried to put the case fairly, as one who feels some responsibility in 832 what I believe to be the most gigantic experiment that this country has ever made. The Army, the Navy and the Air Force are now well founded and established, but there is a new technique, a new art and science, and these have to be developed to deal with a new and more terrifying form of war. If the right hon. Gentleman can secure that development, the nation will be grateful, but if we do not get that developing and growing action which we require, and which in the public interest we demand, we shall continue to be even more critical in the future than we have been in the past.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Sir P. Harris
This Clause brings about a transfer of functions of the Secretary of State, and I want to be quite clear that the functions are transferred, and that the right hon. Gentleman has the power and the organisation necessary for carrying out these duties. I believe that the country and the local authorities would be very much reassured if he could make it clear to the Committee that he now has the necessary staff and machinery for carrying out this work. I remember that in the early days he said that the Home Office had placed some rooms at his disposal, and that there was a considerable section in the Home Office responsible for air-raid defence, originally, I think, under one of the high officials of that Department. I hope it will be made clear that the staff and organisation of that Department is now directly under the right hon. Gentleman's control. If these powers are to be transferred to him, the country will want to be quite clear that he has a proper department, staff and organisation to enable him to carry out his duties efficiently.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
It seems to me that the few criticisms that were made by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) were somewhat fantastic. In the first place, he accused the Government of three years' delay in what we might call passive defence, but I would ask him to review, not only his own personal record, but the record of the party he represents, in the realm of active defence. He also referred to the fact that costly experiments with the ratepayers' money have been somewhat discouraged. Experiments are exceedingly costly, and they are more costly than ever when they are 833 paid for out of the pockets of the ratepayers.
§ The Chairman
I must point out to the hon. Member that that question has already been disposed of and decided.
§ Mr. Taylor
I was merely endeavouring to the best of my ability to answer the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman. I hope now that Sub-section (3) of Clause I has been agreed upon, my right hon. Friend will see that there is no overlapping. There have been a great many cases of overlapping in the past, but I hope my right hon. Friend will see to it that, when the time comes, nobody will be able to turn round and say that we were wrong in allowing Sub-section (3) to stand part of the Bill because there has been overlapping between various organisations.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I should like to ask the Lord Privy Seal how far it is proposed to work this Ministry through the regional organisation to which he alluded earlier in the afternoon. He will recollect that, soon after that regional organisation was established, I drew his attention to the fact that in one or two parts of the country delay was being experienced because negotiations which had reached a reasonably advanced stage with the central Departments had been stopped, and were being transferred to the regional organisation and started all over again with that organisation. Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us how far he has got towards the stage when his regional organisation will be capable of functioning completely, and when the original negotiations with the central Departments can be regarded as having ceased?
With regard to the number of persons actually under his immediate control, I know he has Mr. Eady, whose speech after the crisis of last September at any rate assured us that he was under no illusion as to where obstacles existed in the past; and he has certain other gentlemen who seem to sit round him when he receives the very large conferences that come to see him from the local authorities. What is the number of persons on his staff, and how are they distributed 834 among the various grades of the Civil Service? I know he has a Private Secretary, because he lost a letter of mine for a fortnight. He has a most efficient Parliamentary Private Secretary, who saves the Minister a very great deal of trouble. But we on this side of the Committee are exceedingly anxious that this should be a real Department, functioning with some idea of the importance of the issues with which it deals. We do not want a repetition of what happened with the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, where we had a quite deplorable exhibition. Part of the trouble of the present Government is that they think that by appointing a person the job gets done, but when the person is appointed all that it means is that there is a reasonable prospect of some effort being made to get the job done. We are very desirous that this Department, to which we attach the greatest importance, should be regarded as being at least the equivalent of any of the three Service Departments, and that it should be adequately staffed to carry out the heavy duties and responsibilities that are being thrown upon it.
§ 5.40 p.m.
The Minister, when he was replying to me earlier in the discussion, talked about the stretcher bearer parties being under the Home Office because they were working with other organisations that worked in the streets, such as breakdown gangs and decontamination squads. That struck me as being a very inconclusive argument. I do not see any reason why stretcher bearer parties should be under the Home Office instead of under the Ministry of Health as part of the casualty organisation.
I bow to your Ruling, Sir Dennis; but how is this definition going to be arrived at? That is really what we want to know.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I should like to deal first with the point raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), and reinforced by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I think I explained in the Debate on the Supplementary Estimates that I had taken over in its entirety the organisation that has previously 835 served the Home Secretary in connection with air-raid precautions. That organisation includes, not only the staff accommodated at the Home Office, but the whole of the large staff at Horseferry House. That staff has, since last September, been very greatly augmented as regards technical officers, administrative officers and general staff. I should be glad to give hon. Members who are interested a statement showing roughly the organisation of the staff and the strength of the various grades. It is a very substantial staff, and it is wholly under my direct control.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
Was not that staff known until this morning as the Air-Raid Precautions Department of the Home Office? Is it intended to alter the name?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not think the name matters very much; the point is that the staff is entirely under my control, and that I am not, as I think the hon. Baronet suggested, confined to a few people in rooms placed at my disposal in the Home Office.
I do not know that I can follow the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest), because most of his remarks appear to have been out of order, but perhaps I might say that, as regards the distribution of functions contemplated in this Clause, one has to pay regard to the general lay-out of the organisation, and great stress was laid by local officers on the importance of having, as far as possible, things which are cognate under a single control. With regard to the observations of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who, I am sorry to say, is not at the moment in his place, I have often admired his resourcefulness, but never more than today, because he contrived in his last speech to use arguments which seemed to me directly to contradict the arguments he had used in his earlier speech. In his earlier speech he criticised me for having said that in some matters there must be finality. He said I was dictatorial. But in his later speech he said that decision is imperative, that action which is doubtful is better than no action at all. Really, that is rather inconsistent.
Perhaps I can illustrate the conditions under which one has to work in practice. I have been told that it is necessary to 836 pay close regard to the views of local authorities, and I agree; but I would point out that the views of local authorities are not always entirely consistent. I had, in relation to the metropolitan boroughs, whose importance in local government I do not for a moment wish to underestimate, two demands. One was that the responsibility for first-aid parties should go to the Ministry of Health, and the other was that the responsibility for organising air-raid precautions should be that of the Commissioner of Police. I acceded to the one request, but felt unable to accede to the other, and, as regards the request to which I acceded, I at once had strong protests from other local authorities.
I mention that only as illustrating the conditions under which one has to work. One has to try to strike the right balance between willingness to consider, and if necessary reconsider, the views of the local authorities, whose responsibility for collaboration, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield has said, is absolutely essential, and closuring discussion at some crucial point and saying, "Here is a decision given after consideration of the views of all concerned; the matter is such that if we are to proceed the decision must be considered as final." That is the position in which we find ourselves, and unless it is recognised I do not think there is any chance of getting the expedition and drive which are essential in this vitally important matter.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am sorry. I have a note of it here. I was anxious to be brief. The hon. Gentleman called my attention to the danger that in the process of delegating responsibility to the new regional associations there might be some hold-up. I took the matter up at once with my Department in order that such a hold-up might be avoided. It may be that there have been one or two occasions when, instead of pursuing a matter centrally, we thought it better to leave the local organisations to deal with it; but for some weeks past that organisation—which took up its quarters in the different regions only, I think, on 1st March—has been entrusted with powers of decision which have been delegated 837 from the central Department, putting the organisation in a position to dispose of certain matters finally, and in regard to other matters the local organisation can, in many cases, render a very useful service by undertaking the preliminary examination of schemes sent up. I feel confident that when the organisation is fully in its stride—and it is rather early days for new people to be masters of every aspect of the complicated matters with which they have to deal in Civil Defence—they will be able to bring about a very substantial speeding up of the process of examining and pronouncing on the schemes-; which are put forward.
§ Mr. Lunn
The right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) regarding financial arrangements with the local authorities. If the right hon. Gentleman considers that the assistance of the local authorities is so valuable, it is really important that he should say something as to what are to be the temptations to them to carry on the work as he desires.
§ CLAUSE 2.—(Designation of premises.)
§ 5.50 p.m.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 13, after "building," to insert, "or land, garden, area, pathway appertaining thereto"
This is really a drafting Amendment. It corrects what appears to be an omission from the Clause. Clause 2 gives the local authority power to designate a building for use as a public air-raid shelter, but it does not mention the land—it might be a garden or a court-yard or an approach to the building—round about that building, and it may be necessary to add the words of the Amendment to make that quite clear.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The hon. Member has treated this as a mere drafting Amendment, but I do not think I can quite take that view of his proposal. It seems to me to make a fundamental, far-reaching change. Clause 2 was framed to enable local authorities to select, and so far 838 as necessary adapt for use in connection with Civil Defence, either as air-raid shelters or otherwise, existing buildings; and the idea underlying the Clause is that the necessary adaptations could, in the majority of cases, be made without interfering, otherwise than temporarily, with the normal use of those buildings. The decision to confine the Clause to buildings was quite deliberate. A Clause dealing with land appears later in the Bill—Clause 7. If the scope of Clause 2 were expanded in the manner suggested we should be going probably far beyond the purpose of the Clause in its application to buildings. If, for example, land is to be designated with a view to its being used in an emergency for the purposes of an air-raid shelter, that land would be sterilised in the meantime; it would not be possible to use it for any other purpose. It might be valuable building land, or it might be required for all sorts of other purposes.
I do not say for a moment that there is not substance in the suggested Amendment and that it might not be an advantage if we could do something on the lines the hon. Member has in mind, but we would have to consider the wording very carefully, and any provision we make would have to be definitely more limited in its scope than that of the Amendment. Are we, for example, to say that a local authority may take part of a private garden of a dwelling-house and designate it for the purpose of establishing a warden's post there? Should we all be agreed that it would be a reasonable thing to allow the local authority to do that?
On the other hand, to put an argument in favour of the purpose the hon. Member has in mind, there might be an area where it was very difficult, by selection of existing buildings, to provide shelter accommodation on the scale required. It might be possible in such a locality to make use of passages between buildings, or land adjacent to buildings which themselves could be used for shelter purposes, in order to provide accommodation on a greater scale. So far as that goes, I am entirely in sympathy with the Amendment, but I see considerable difficulty in achieving that purpose by the insertion of words so wide as those suggested. If the hon. Member would be prepared to withdraw the Amendment, I would undertake that the question of using land, as distinct from buildings, for purposes 839 such as this Clause contemplates would be considered at a later stage.
Is there not a distinction between land—the right hon. Gentleman used to phrase "building land," which I certainly did not intend the Amendment to refer to, and land of the sort covered by the words used in the Amendment, which are intended to be a translation of the legal phrase "curtilage" The curtilage of a building is, surely, in certain parts inseparable from the building. It may be only an area or a yard.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
My right hon. Friend suggested that the Amendment gave to the Government—or, rather, the local authority in this case—powers more extensive than it was my right hon. Friend's intention to give them. He then referred to the powers contained in Clause 7. That Clause provides for the compulsory acquisition of the garden and other land. Surely, if my right hon. Friend contemplates the power of compulsory acquisition, it is not going too far to give power to designate land for a similar purpose.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
With regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Norwood (Mr. Sandys), I must have failed to make my meaning clear. So far as the purpose of Clause 2 is concerned, it does not range as wide as the Amendment, but there is a later Clause, Clause 7, which does deal rather drastically with land. This Amendment would apply rather to Clause 7 than to Clause 2.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Certainly it goes further. If that power of designation were in fact used in the case of land, it is almost inconceivable that it would be possible to preserve the normal use of the land. In the case of a building it can be so preserved, but not in the case of land. It really amounts to expropriation, or sterilisation, in the case of land. With regard to the argument of the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest), I quite understood his purpose. I think he himself has furnished a reason for reconsidering the wording of the Amendment, because it would undoubtedly go a good deal further than what is described as the 840 curtilage of a dwelling-house. He might consider, for instance, whether the power to deal with land should be limited to cases where a building adjacent is being so designated. There is an Amendment on Clause 4 which would meet that objection. If the hon. Member would withdraw the Amendment, we would consider the matter, and perhaps bring up an Amendment to deal with it at a later stage.
§ Sir Joseph Lamb
Suppose a building was under construction, and it was desired to make an outside entrance, which could not be done without taking the land itself. What would be the position then?
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
I am sure my hon. Friend will consider whether or not he will press this Amendment. But I do not think, and I am sure my hon. Friend will not think, that the answer given by the Lord Privy Seal yet goes quite far enough. Moreover, I think the Lord Privy Seal has somewhat misunderstood the scope of Clause 7. Clause 7 deals with land where it is not intended to disturb the surface, but presumably it is land where you intend to make a tunnel, where the only disturbance is the making of an entrance to the tunnel or trenches. That is in a different line of country from the provisions of Clause 2. A number of cases may arise in connection with the operation of Clause 2. It may be possible, as the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) suggested, that you might need to acquire a small piece of land beside a building in order to construct a proper access to the building. It may be that the building would have land surrounding it, the use of which would not be destroyed if part of it were required in order to extend the building, and therefore, the area of shelter. You might need it for the purpose of strengthening the building itself.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we ought to contemplate the possibility of interfering with people's gardens? I agree that, in the case of ordinary suburban or working-class gardens it would be serious—though it must be remembered that there is a check on the local authority by the Minister who must be notified—but there are other and larger gardens perhaps running to an acre or two acres of land. If a local authority needed land for the 841 purposes of a first-aid post, or for a shelter for wardens, or in connection with the Auxiliary Fire Service or for garaging ambulances, I would not say that, if a garden was an acre or two acres in extent, it would necessarily be wrong to take a small part of the land for these purposes. Therefore, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has gone quite far enough in meeting the real point raised in the Amendment of my hon. Friend, but if he will take a comprehensive view of the considerations which arise out of the Clause before the Report stage, and will try to meet the points which have been raised, I believe that my hon. Friend might perhaps be willing to withdraw the Amendment.
It must be remembered that this Clause not only provides for the designation of particular buildings for air-raid shelters, but that paragraph (b) of Subsection (1) of the Clause provides also for the actual use of the property by the local authority in carrying out any of their Civil Defence functions, and it might conceivably be that in a given place they might need to acquire land outside the the rather narrow provisions of Clause 7, which contemplates no disturbance of the surf act; for the purposes of first-aid posts, the fire brigade or other services connected with Civil Defence. If the right hon. Gentleman can tell the Committee that he will consider all these points in drafting his Amendment before the Report stage, perhaps my hon. Friend would be willing to withdraw the Amendment.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
There is another point which I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman also to take into consideration. It is intended that emergency shelters shall be established every 250 yards along the main shopping streets of many districts to accommodate not more than 50 persons. There are a number of areas where it would be impossible to find such emergency shelters either in buildings or shops, and where there is no underground accommodation at all in the shops. It will be necessary for local authorities to find some other places in which to put emergency shelters, and I know that in some cases they have under consideration the placing of a number of shelters in gardens or open spaces. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will keep in mind the fact that there 842 will be a number of cases where it will be necessary to designate an open space or a passage as distinct from a building.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will carefully consider the last two words of the Amendment. It is only land appertaining to the building which it is proposed to designate. If we are to have the same timidity displayed with regard to the very large subject with which we are dealing in this Bill as the right hon. Gentleman has shown with regard to this Amendment, we must despair of getting an adequate conception of the whole problem. We are dealing with the designation of premises, and only with the designation of premises, for two specific purposes, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has pointed out. I am more concerned with the second of these purposes:for use, in the event of hostile attack, by the local authority in carrying out any of their civil defence functions.That position will come into effect only when the King's enemies are in active operation against the State, and I have no doubt that in such circumstances the rights of private property will receive very short shrift at the hands of any person, military or civil, who is engaged in the defence of the Realm. It may very well be that a good many things that we do not contemplate to-day may have to be done on the spur of the moment, and if any questions were raised this House would immediately indemnify the person who had acted bona fide in the public interest in such circumstances. But it is desirable that, as far as possible, the whole scheme should be prepared beforehand, so that everybody should know where safeguards are provided and where the persons in authority are to be found in regard to all matters connected with Civil Defence. It is one of the anomalies of the law of this country that land includes a building, but a building does not include land. If the right hon. Gentle-had put "land" in the Clause we could have taken the buildings on the land, but because he has used the word "building" the local authorities can touch nothing but the buildings and can designate nothing but the buildings.
As the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) pointed out in the example he 843 gave, a building may be entirely useless for any purpose for which it is required if you cannot make some slight adjustment on the land appertaining to the building. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the far safer course, and one which would convince hon. Members on this side of the Committee that he really is in earnest, would be to accept the Amendment, and to say that he might have to consider the exact wording when we got to the Report stage. If we could get the Amendment into the Bill at this stage, it would be some indication that the kind of power sought by my hon. Friend, and to which I do not think the Minister himself objects, would really be available to the local authorities.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think there is some misapprehension in the mind of hon. Members. It is not a question of timidity or of whether we should have power to deal with land which is adjacent to buildings that are going to be designated. Hon. Members have overlooked the provisions of Clause 4, which makes it quite clear that, when a building is designated, the local authority can enter upon it and execute works in the building or in or on any adjacent building or land. What I had in mind when I said that the point arose on Clause 4, was that, in view of the provisions of Clause 4, the Amendment suggested by the hon. Member would possibly have to be interpreted as applying only to the designation of land adjacent to a building which itself is not being designated. Clause 4 deals with land which is adjacent to a building which is being designated and which is being entered upon for that purpose. If we are to make a clean job of this, we ought to look at the wording again carefully, and I am prepared to give the assurance for which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has asked, that the whole matter shall be considered comprehensively between now and the Report stage. It is not quite as simple as it looks at first sight.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Fleming
I wish to mention as an actual instance what was pointed out to me about a fortnight ago. This very matter arose in respect of my own cellar. An A.R.P. inspector, who came round 844 inspecting cellars, said that a cellar should be suitable as an air-raid shelter for 50 persons or more. I asked him how he intended to get people into the cellar, because there was no entrance from outside without going through the building itself. He suggested that the most suitable thing to do was to remove one of the cellar windows and make an exit to the nearest gate on the main highway, and in that way use up part of the garden. I listened to the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Islington (Dr. H. Guest) and could not help being struck by his Amendment, which, although rather badly worded, is one of which my right hon. Friend should take particular notice, because, although Clause 4 undoubtedly deals to a certain extent with matters raised in the proposal, it would be far better to make the position clear in Clause 2 by the addition of the words "curtilage thereto."
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
I beg to move, in page 2, line 18, at the end, to insert:or(c) for use as an air-raid shelter for employ és in factory premises, mines or commercial buildings, in cases where it is not possible to provide shelter upon such premisesThe Amendment, which stands in the names of my hon. Friends and myself, should be considered in conjunction with an Amendment to Clause 12, which for the convenience of the Committee I will read. It is as follows:In the event of the owner of the factory premises, mine or commercial building being able to show to the satisfaction of the Minister or the local authority, as the case may be, that he is unable to provide the required shelter upon his own premises, he shall be entitled to request the local authority to construct for his employ és, shelter on other suitable land or premises, provided that the aforesaid owner shall be responsible for reimbursing the local authority for the expenditure incurred, and shall likewise enjoy the benefits of the grants provided under Section seventeen of this Act.The purpose of these two Amendments is to meet the case of the factory occupier or the owner of a mine, or commercial building who, for structural reasons, or for the reason of lack of space, is physically unable to provide the required 845 shelter for his workpeople on his own premises. I have an instance of this difficulty in my own constituency. There is there an important telephone factory in which, I am assured, it is structurally impossible to provide the required shelter for the large number of workpeople which it employs. That is not an isolated case. I am sure the Lord Privy Seal knows of many cases of this kind in practically all the big towns all over the country. It is a gap in the Bill which I and my hon. Friends who are associated with me in the Amendment think should be filled.
The purpose of the Amendment is not to safeguard the factory owners, but to see that the workpeople in those premises are provided with the shelter which the Bill requires. I recognise that it is open to the occupier of the factory under Clause 11, in sending in the report which is required, stating what measures he is taking to provide shelter accommodation for his workpeople, to say that he is providing no shelter accommodation because the structural conditions of his factory or commercial building do not allow him to do so. In these circumstances I suppose there would be no alternative open to the local authority but to exempt him from providing the shelter accommodation which the Bill requires from other employers of labour. In that case, the workpeople in these premises would remain unprotected. At any rate nobody, under the terms of the Bill, would have the obligation of providing protection for them. The purpose of this Amendment is to see that the position is not left there.
We propose that the local authority in these special cases, which while they are numerous are nevertheless the exception, should have the power to provide the necessary shelter for the workpeople in the factories, mines and commercial buildings in question and to charge the employers with the cost entailed. That would ensure that the financial burden of providing shelter for workpeople would be shared equally by all employers of labour throughout the country. It would also ensure that without exception—and this is the aspect of the matter with which we are more especially concerned—all workpeople in factories, mines or business premises of more than a certain size would be provided with proper shelter protection.
846 The first of the two Amendments deals with the powers of the local authority and the second with the position of employers of labour. In Clause 2 (1) it will be seen that the local authority is to be given the power to designate a building or part of a building for use as a public air-raid shelter. Under the Clause as it stands the local authorities would not have power to designate a building for the purpose of sheltering workpeople from any neighbouring factory, mine or commercial premises, and it is that power which we seek to give to local authorities by this Amendment. In view, therefore, of the importance of filling this gap in the machinery provided by the Bill I hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It may facilitate matters if I say at once that I am entirely in sympathy with the purpose of the Amendment. There is undoubtedly a gap and it is desirable that it should be filled. I had hoped, when the Bill was drafted, that it was a gap that might be filled by administrative action. It may well be that it is desirable to have a specific provision on the lines proposed in the Amendment, so that the position may be perfectly clear. I am quite ready to say that I accept the Amendment, if it commends itself to the Committee, subject to this condition that there has not been time to have the wording looked at by the Parliamentary draftsman. If it should be necessary to propose some alteration of wording on Report, I hope that I shall not be accused of breach of faith.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
In this matter I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be too hasty. I agree with the purpose of the Amendment but I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered what its consequences will be. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) said that it was to deal with an exceptional case, but in some localities it will be the rule and not the exception. How the technical staff of the local authorities will be able to undertake this work I do not know. At the present time there is enough work in the Bill to keep the whole of the technical staff of the borough engineer's department fully occupied, without doing any of their ordinary work, and if we are to say that 847 the technical people employed by the local authorities shall make arrangements for providing shelters for factories and other premises where they have no shelters, I cannot see how it will be possible to carry out the work.
I am in sympathy with what the hon. Member for Norwood has said, but I would point out to the Lord Privy Seal that this is merely putting another burden on to the local authorities. I do not know whether he is trying to break them altogether. They are already doing work under A.R.P. for which they receive no grant. For instance, the borough engineer may be practically giving his whole time to A.R.P. work and the local authority has to find his salary. It is almost impossible to get the services of technical people. The local authorities are advertising for them and cannot get them. Before the right hon. Gentleman finally decides to accept the Amendment I hope that he will consider whether the local authorities will be able to carry out this extra work.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Doland
I do not want to go over the ground covered by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys), but I can assure hon. Members that this is a most important Amendment, and we are thankful for the sympathy extended to it by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison). He has raised the question who is to do the work and who is to pay for it. Under the Bill quite clearly the local authorities have to do the work, and if the work is to be extended it is the duty of the Government to say in what way they will finance it. The work has to be done. The hon. Member for North Tottenham has said that in his constituency this necessity may be the rule and not the exception, and I would say the same thing about the borough of Wandsworth, part of which I represent. Wandsworth is the biggest borough in London, and in our survey of suitable premises, particularly basement shelters, we have discovered that only 3 or 4 per cent. of basements are suitable as shelters. It has been pointed out often when we come to the question of air-raid shelters that we get back to the number of suitable basements in the neighbourhood. Although we may have many basements, we have no exits to them and no oppor- 848 tunities of making exits. They would be nothing less, in my opinion, than death traps. In regard to the necessity of providing air-raid shelters where a person or firm under the obligation to provide shelter finds it impossible to do so owing to the structural condition of the premises, the Government must provide some means of getting over the difficulty pointed out by the hon. Member. I hope that now that the Minister has practically accepted the Amendment in its revised form it will become part of the Bill and go on to the Statute Book.
§ Sir Robert Tasker
With regard to the difficulty that many local authorities are experiencing in finding sufficient technical staff, I would point out that many have employed outside architects to make their surveys.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Sir P. Harris
The speech of the hon. Member for Balham (Mr. Doland) makes an overwhelming argument for deep shelters. If it be true that only 3 or 4 per cent of the basements in Wandsworth can be made available as shelters, then the argument is very materially strengthened that something should be done to make emergency provision on the lines of deep shelters. In the constituency that I represent many of the factories, workshops and commercial buildings are of a very flimsy character, many of them old and out of date, and constructed of wood. To attempt to make an air-raid shelter out of their basement would be to create frightful death traps. If we are going to translate into an Act of Parliament the proposals in this Amendment we are going to embark on a very large and expensive undertaking. When we come to Clause 7 we get to something very controversial and I do not intend to enter into that matter, but it does seem to me that the speech of the hon. Member for Balham has strengthened the case for something in the form of deep shelters.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Wright
I strongly support the Amendment. Although one realises that there are certain areas where it should be exceedingly difficult to carry out this work we must remember that if it is difficult for the local authority to carry out the work, how can the individual manufacturer be expected to do it?
849 There are many areas where the intention of this Amendment could be carried out most satisfactorily. I am thinking particularly of my own city of Birmingham and of the works of which I am chairman. We have three moderate sized works in one street and not one of the factories has any spare land whatever. It would be exceedingly difficult to carry out the provisions of the Bill. There is, however, in the street a large playground where trenches were actually made during the September crisis, and last week I started negotiations to see whether we could prepare a scheme and get the City of Birmingham Corporation to co-operate with us to carry out the very proposal which is now put forward in the Amendment. That is a case where the provision might be useful and, therefore, I want to take this opportunity of supporting the Amendment.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Craven-Ellis
In view of the observations made by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) I feel that it is necessary for me to say something because I am well acquainted with some big industrial centres. There are a large number of factories employing over 50 people where it is quite impossible to provide accommodation on or adjacent to the premises. That is the difficulty. But does the hon. Member suggest that we should take no steps whatever to safeguard the workers?
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
I did not say that. I entirely support the Amendment, but I suggested that before the Lord Privy Seal accepts it he should make sure that it is possible for local authorities to carry it out, because many of them, I think, would be unable to do so.
§ Mr. Craven-Ellis
I am glad to have that correction. The point is that there are a large number of factories which will not be able to provide the accommodation. Only this morning I had the plans of a large factory employing over 1,200 people brought to my notice, and it is quite impossible for that big factory to find any shelter accommodation at all. This is only one of a large number, and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit to accept the Amendment
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I hope I shall be excused for saying a word or two on the Amend- 850 ment. On the Second Reading of this Bill I drew the Minister's attention to the fact that there would be confusion as a consequence of the framing of this Clause, and that in order to ensure adequate protection for each community there should be one authority responsible for seeing that every kind of air-raid shelter is supplied. What is the situation now? We have to fill a gap, and are we filling it completely? We are now in a situation where factory owners are responsible for providing shelter for their employés. Local authorities are to provide public shelters for the general public, and now we are to have a third kind; that local authorities shall provide shelters in their area for a particular factory. When employers provide a shelter for their employés they are responsible for the attention and care of that factory. When a local authority provides a shelter for the general public the local authority is responsible for the care and attention of that shelter; but when a local authority provides a shelter which has to be paid for by the employers of a factory, who is to be responsible for its care and attention? Has that gap been filled? As a result of the lack of intelligence displayed on this whole question we now have confusion, and I suggest that the Minister would be well advised to take the Amendment and the Clause and make a complete change which would ensure that there should be one authority responsible for all the shelters in a particular area, and see that the authority has adequate and necessary means for carrying out the work.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. H, Morrison
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) should so gratuituously and needlessly misrepresent the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison). My hon. Friend was perfectly clear in what he said. He recognised that it was a real problem, and that it should be met and solved, but he raised the point as to how the Amendment would work, as he was perfectly entitled to do. I cannot understand how anyone listening to him should make the observations which the hon. Member did. The Committee will agree that a real difficulty has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys). There are owners of factories who could not put the building right, as it is, but it may be that a yard or two away there is something else 851 which can be utilised for the purpose. It must not be far away according to the philosophy of the Lord Privy Seal; otherwise he would be in difficulties about his argument on the provision of deep shelters. They must be near. But local authorities and their technical officers are going to have a very big job of work to do under the Bill. I am certain that they will do their best to meet their obligations, as they ought to do.
But they are going to have thousands of buildings to inspect, thousands of buildings to strengthen and thousands of new problems to handle for the purposes of public shelters, and it is the case that there is a shortage of technical staff. I am not referring to the existing staff of local authorities, but they are finding trouble in recruiting additional technical staff. There is a real shortage, and if local authorities are going to be involved in heavy expenses on buildings with which they must be concerned they may be prejudiced in doing work which each private owner might wish to be done or in providing public shelters. I say that we ought not to land on local authorities a responsibility like this unless we are reasonably sure that they can carry it out.
Local authorities have not been consulted about this Amendment. It is a very big Amendment. On the last Amendment the right hon. Gentleman said that he accepted its spirit and purpose but would deal with it on Report in his own way. Some of my hon. Friends resented that attitude and suggested that he should adopt the Amendment and tidy it up afterwards. As one who has had to handle a Bill on behalf of a Government Department my sympathy is with the right hon. Gentleman. Would it not be better for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he is quite sympathetic about the Amendment and intends to meet the problem, but that he will bring up his own Amendment on Report stage? In the meantime he could consult local authorities and consider the best way of doing it. I think they should be consulted before the actual wording of the Clause is settled, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should handle it in that way.
We think that in the provision of shelter the Government should have gone in for a comprehensive policy of complete public 852 responsibility for communal shelters, in which public authorities should have the on us of providing adequate and proper shelter for the whole of the population at work or at home in co-operation with private employers where it is a factory, or commercial building or a mine, or by municipal co-operation if it is a case for shelter for the people on the streets or at home. That would have been the right policy to pursue, but the Government have not pursued that policy. They have pursued a policy of farming out among different people the responsibility for shelter. In certain cases the private individual has to erect his own steel shelter or concrete shelter, if that is more suitable; the owners of commercial premises have to do so for their part, mine owners for their part and factory owners for their part. It is a policy of diffusing responsibility instead of making it a definite responsibility on public authority.
Under the Amendment any factory owner faced with difficulties, instead of accepting his statutory responsibilities under the Bill, will be able, as far as I can see, to delegate that responsibility to the local authority provided he meets the cost and, of course, receives an appropriate grant in due course. It is true that the owner will pay, but the responsiblity for the work, as far as I can see, will be pushed on to the local authority. The right hon. Gentleman has no right to do that without consulting local authorities. I suggest, therefore, that it will be far better, if this problem is to be solved with good will, that local authorities should have the responsibility planted upon them in a way which they think convenient. They will be in a nasty situation if in the utilisation of the services of this technical staff it is a question whether the mass of the population must come first or whether the factory must come first. That will be a nice point in certain circumstances. The hon. Member who has moved the Amendment can see that the Committee is sympathetic regarding the problem, and I suggest that he should withdraw it on the understanding that appropriate consultations will take place and that the right hon. Gentleman will do his best to meet the substance of the Amendment on Report stage.
§ Mr. Craven-Ellis
I only want to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he will read the OFFICIAL REPORT to- 853 morrow he will find that the observations I made with regard to the speech of the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) will be found to be correct.
§ Mr. Morrison
I will, of course, do as the hon. Member suggests. I am sorry that he is still worrying about that point, but I heard every word that my hon. Friend said, and I am sure that the hon. Member is wrong.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
I wish to support the Amendment, and in doing so I will try to speak in the spirit of sweet reasonableness to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) referred. As far as I have been able to gather, every hon. Member who has spoken on this Amendment has been in sympathy with the principle of it. Therefore, I can see no reason for quibbling. The major objection that was put forward by the right hon. Member for South Hackney was that the Amendment would throw too much of the onus on the local authorities. If there are factories—and there is no doubt that there are—where they cannot provide protection, the Amendment would make it possible for them to ask the local authority to send an expert adviser to look at the factory, and then, if it were found that they could not provide the necessary shelter, it would be the duty of the local authority to provide it. This is not a case of helping the factory owners. We have to consider the provision of protection for those people who work in certain premises which do not give the people any adequate protection. This is such a serious question that, if there are not sufficient expert or technical men available in the different districts, the local authorities must make the necessary appeal to the central authority for expert assistance. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal is going to find some words that will meet the principle of the Amendment.
§ 6.47 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
I hope the Lord Privy Seal will accept the proposal made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), for otherwise a situation will be created that will produce very deep resentment on the part of local authorities generally. Already the local authorities are overburdened 854 with tasks in connection with air-raid precautions, and had they been consulted as freely as they ought to have been by the Lord Privy Seal, he would have learned a great deal, which he does not appear to know now, of the feeling which the local authorities have that they are being seriously imposed upon, and that the central Government is placing upon the local authorities liabilities which ought to be accepted by it.
§ Mr. Sandys
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member, but would he or some other hon. Member opposite suggest an alternative method of providing protection for the workpeople in these particular factories? I am sure hon. Members opposite wish to see these people protected, but it is no good their simply saying that the local authorities are overburdened. Some means have to be found of providing protection for these workpeople, and so far no alternative has been suggested.
Surely, the onus ought to be upon the Government in this matter, or provision could be made in the communal shelters for cases of the sort contemplated in the Amendment; but as a member of a local authority it seems to me to be entirely unjust that a private individual— or a corporation— should be able to avoid his responsibility towards his employés. Moreover, those who support the Amendment seem to conclude that every local authority whose services might be required in this way is solvent. What proof have they of that? Many local authorities, so they allege, are not solvent. Their difficulties are being intensified in many directions by the international situation. Yet the local authorities— the ratepayers— would be required to take over a duty which ought to be undertaken by these employers. What difficulty would there be in private individuals or corporations having the use of the technicians of the local authorities, if they were available, to assist them in this matter, without placing financial or other liabilities upon the local authorities? I agree that the argument has been in favour of deep shelters, and protection of that character seems to be almost imperative, but that matter needs to be examined in detail, in consultation with the local authorities concerned. I am certain that the burden of the local authorities labours towards the community in 855 relation to air-raid precautions is excessive at the present time, and if this additional liability were placed upon their shoulders, in a large number of cases, particularly in the case of the smaller local authorities, it might not be carried out.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
I wish to support the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). I cannot help thinking that, from the point of view of procedure and the general convenience of the Committee, the method adopted by my right hon. Friend with regard to the previous Amendment is the better method. I strongly urge my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) to withdraw his Amendment on the understanding that on the Report stage my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will bring forward something that will cover the substance of the Amendment, when he has had a further opportunity of considering the matter, if possible in co-operation with representatives of the local authorities. It seems to me that that would be a far more practical way of dealing with the matter.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
It is an extremely pleasant experience to have an Amendment accepted, but nevertheless, I hope the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) will not be so intoxicated by that pleasure as to be unwilling to surrender it when it is found to have been an unwise concession. As for the Lord Privy Seal, he must be aware that it is not too late for him to withdraw his acceptance of the Amendment and to accept the proposal made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). I would point out that in this case it is quite impossible for the hon. Member for Norwood to give effect to the whole of his intentions, because, however free from criticism the first of these two Amendments is, the second cannot possibly be accepted without considerable amendment of its wording. The two Amendments have to be taken together, and the Amendment which seeks to amend Clause 12 clearly entitles a business man to ask the local authority to provide shelters. Obviously, that request would have to be supported by some sanctions and conditions, or 856 clearly the local authority would be entitled to decline the request. There are also various other matters to be considered.
The hon. Member for Norwood challenged my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. D. Adams)to suggest an alternative. Everybody knows that hon. Members on this side would have preferred a system under which the State would have taken the responsibility for the provision of the whole of these shelters, but it has been considered by hon. Members opposite, and the Ministers whose policy they support, that that is not a practical proposition, and that there must be some decentralisation in the provision of shelters. I am not sure there is not a good deal to be said for that, but if we are now going to reverse the policy to a large extent, without more consideration than it has been possible to give in two or three minutes, then I venture to say that we shall get ourselves into serious difficulties. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal will take the prudent course in this case and tell his supporter that he would like to have further time to consider the matter.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
I was glad to hear the Lord Privy Seal say that he accepted the Amendment, and equally, I saw the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), but before my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) considers withdrawing his Amendment, I should like to know where we are. I gather that the point of view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney, and by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison), was that there is general agreement with the principle of the Amendment. The speech made by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) seems to throw some doubt on that.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
May I point out that I was only answering the challenge made by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys)? We are prepared, having been obliged to accept the method of dealing with this situation that was pressed upon us by the Government, to accept the consequence which is embodied in this Bill.
§ Mr. Mabane
In that case I shall be happy to see my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) withdraw the Amendment, as it is now quite clear that hon. Members opposite fully approve of the principle both of this Amendment and the consequential Amendment to Clause 12. I see no objection to the course that has been proposed.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
In these circumstances, I should be prepared to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. I have had the express assurance of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal—and he will correct me if 1 am wrong—that he accepts the Amendment, except for possible small verbal alterations to meet the requirements of Parliamentary counsel. However, before asking leave to withdraw the Amendment, I should like to refer to the speeches that have been made by hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. D. Adams) in particular, while objecting to the proposal contained in the Amendment on the grounds that the local authorities are over-burdened— as did other hon. Members opposite— suggested as an alternative that the local authorities should provide communal shelters for the employés of factories of this kind. I fail to understand how this would in any way reduce the task of the local authorities. The burden on the local authorities would remain precisely the same. I listened carefully to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I did not hear a single suggestion for meeting this problem in any better way than the one which I have proposed. However, in view of the assurances given to me by the Lord Privy Seal, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ The Deputy-Chairman(Colonel Clifton Brown)
The next Amendment is that in the name of the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest)—it is on the Paper as an Amendment to Clause 11, page 9, line 21—but I would ask the hon. Member whether this Amendment is necessary, since it seems to me to be covered by Clause 3, Sub-section (1, b)
§ 6.58 p.m.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 21, at the end, to insert:(3)if the whole or any part of a commercial building shall be designated by a 858 local authority for use as a public air-raid shelter or for use by the local authority in carrying out any of their Civil Defence functions there shall be set aside such provision of accommodation as shall enable the owner to provide air-raid shelter for the persons working or living in this commercial building.Perhaps you will permit me to give an explanation with regard to this matter, Colonel Clifton Brown. This Amendment to Clause 11, page 9, line 21, which I requested you to permit me to move as an Amendment to Clause 2 is necessary in my view, despite the existence of Clause 3, Sub-section (1, b), which provides—that the whole or any part of the premises is required for use as a private air-raid shelter for the persons in the premises or in the building of which they form part.If an appeal against the designation of the premises were made under Clause 3, and were allowed under Sub-section (1, b), it would appear to prevent the use of part of the premises as an air-raid shelter for the occupants of a commercial building. The object of my Amendment is to permit part of a commercial building to be used for a purpose designated by the local authority, and another part, if necessary, to be used for providing shelter for those who are employed, or who live, in that building. I do not think that is covered by Clause 3(1, b).
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I thought I was going to hear something more in favour of this Amendment, because I do not think I have at present very much to answer. The Amendment seems to me unnecessary. In Clause 3 (1) any person who objects to the designation of his premises may appeal to the Minister against designation on the ground that the whole or any part of the premises is required to be used as a private air-raid shelter. If, on such an objection being raised by the owner or occupier of the premises, it appears that, while making full provision for the portion of the premises which may be required as a private air-raid shelter, there would remain a portion of the premises which could still be used for the purposes for which the local authority intended the designation of the premises, then it seems to me that could be brought to the notice of the Minister. The Minister would then have full power to give a decision which would ensure that the portion of the premises required as a private shelter should be left available to the occupier for 859 that purpose, and that the local authority should be free, if it thought fit, to go on with the adaptation of the remainder of the premises for their own purposes. It seems to me, therefore, that the purpose which the hon. Gentleman has in mind is met by Clause 3 in its present form.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make certain that the object which I have in view—with which, I think, he agrees—is in fact carried out by Clause 3? I confess I am very doubtful.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I will see that the correctness of what I have just said, as to the interpretation which I think Clause 3 bears, is checked by my legal advisers, and I will communicate with the hon. Gentleman if I am told that there is any doubt on the point.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I beg to move, in page 3, line 3, to leave out, "the whole or any part of a building," and to insert, any premises."
This is purely a drafting Amendment, designed to meet a case where part of a building may be occupied by a public utility undertaker and the remainder of the building may be otherwise occupied. As the Clause stands, the fact that a public utility undertaking has occupied part of a building would prevent the part with which they are not concerned at all being designated without the intervention of the appropriate Minister. This Amendment makes the position perfectly clear.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, to leave out "is," and insert" are."
This is purely a matter of grammar.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, after "any," to insert" local authority or."
This has been put down at the request of the County Councils Association to deal with a problem which may arise in different parts of the country where a 860 local authority may have premises, to adopt the word now used by the right hon. Gentleman, in the area of another and a scheme-making authority. The kind of case that, I think, jumps to the eye is the case of a hospital, a mental hospital or some similar institution, situated outside the area of the authority that owns it and in the area of another local authority. It is clear that it is desirable that these private premises should not be designated, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find it possible to accept the Amendment. Virtually the premises are similar to those of a public utility undertaking, and there appears to be no good reason why there should be any differentiation between the two.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Sir J. Lamb
I do not know whether it would be convenient to allow us to debate this and my next Amendment together, because they are for the addition of the same words and deal with the same point entirely. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has said what the purpose is. Sub-section (5) provides for an exception to the previous part of the Clause in the case of buildings which are the property of public utility undertakings, but it has been properly pointed out that there may be in some cases premises which are the property of one authority and are situated in the area of another, and we think those buildings should be given the same consideration as public utility buildings. It is quite true that the case is not confined to mental hospitals only. There is a considerable number of authorities who, for the purpose of tuberculosis sanatoria, find it absolutely impossible to get a suitable site within their own area and have to go outside. There are institutions for the blind in the same position.
The same considerations arise in connection with the Metropolitan Borough Councils. I am not speaking for them, but I know they would like an Amendment in this sense, because it meets a real need in connection with borough council administration.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
After recent experience I want to be a little careful, and not hastily to accept an innocent-looking Amendment. I thought that this Amendment was really not necessary, because it 861 had not occurred to me, when I was dealing with this Bill before its introduction, that we should have local authorities of one class proposing to enter upon the property of local authorities of another class against the will of those local authorities. If such a thing is expected to arise, then I think I ought perhaps to ask whether any hon. Member can give me any indication of what would be likely to be the views of the potential marauding local authorities. Perhaps their views are not represented here to-day, but if such local authorities do not arise, then I should think everything would proceed happily by agreement, and this Amendment: will be quite unnecessary. If there should occur an isolated case of ill-considered or improper action by a local authority, interfering with the premises of another local authority, the provisions of the Bill with regard to appeal, I suggest, provide a very ample remedy.
I have made these points, not just in order to be facetious, but because there is a practical difficulty, which is perhaps not at first sight apparent, in determining what for this purpose would be the appropriate Department. In the case of a public utility undertaking the appropriate Department is defined, I think, in Clause 73 by reference to the nature of the public utility concern. That is one point. I am not quite sure what suggestion the hon. Member who moved this Amendment would make on that. The other point I would like to put to him for his consideration is this: If the Committee accepts this Amendment, then in every case that arises a reference to a public department will be necessary before action is taken, even though the matter may be wholly agreed between the authorities concerned. That seems to me to be a practical difficulty.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I would never have accused a Scotsman of being facetious. The right hon. Gentleman need not defend himself from that charge in this House; it is the last thing we expect of him, and we have never been disappointed yet. I realise the strength of some of the points which he has made, and I will undertake that those at whose request this Amendment was put down shall consider it between now and the Report stage, in order to see if we can draft an Amendment, quite possibly in consultation with the right 862 hon. Gentleman who might be able to suggest something to deal with the point on which we apprehend difficulties. In view of the sympathetic reply of the right hon. Gentleman and the practical points involved, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, after "undertakers," to insert "for the purposes of their undertaking."
This is a drafting Amendment to make it clear that the exemption of the premises occupied by public utility undertakers is in respect of premises occupied by the undertaker for the purpose of the undertaking, as defined later in the Bill in the Interpretation Clause. These words may at first sight appear to be surplus age, but cases may arise in which this Amendment will be necessary.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made:
§ In page 3, line 6, leave out "is" and insert "are"
§ In line 8, leave out "them" and insert "their undertaking."—[Sir J. Anderson]