§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
I want to draw attention to the words in the Clause:shall apply only in relation to areas specified in that behalf in an order made by the Minister.It seems to me very unfortunate that the Government have felt it necessary to limit the operation of Part 111 in this way. I quite understand that as regards Clause 11 it may be felt to be an undue burden on industry to make them liable for undertaking those works over the whole country, but I should have thought the Government might at least have gone so far as to give the benefits of Clause 17, the Clause which covers the Exchequer grants, to any employers in any part of the country who were prepared to take these precautions. It is evident that it is 914 impossible for the Minister or anyone else to say beforehand with any high degree of accuracy what areas will suffer severely by bombing from the air in the event of war. One may say there is a higher degree of probability in some areas than others, but I do not think it can be put higher than that, and I submit, as I did on Second Reading, that anyone who in any part of the country erects an air-raid shelter is doing a public service and should be encouraged, even in those areas which at the moment the Minister does not consider to be highly vulnerable areas.
I think my argument is reinforced by the fact that the Government themselves have changed their view, and are, I believe, now contemplating changing their view again, as to which areas should be included in the list of highly vulnerable areas. Protests have been made by hon. Members representing areas which they feel to be a considerable degree vulnerable against those areas not being included. I think it was impossible to frame any exact Amendment which would deal with this problem, because of the well-known rule that it is not competent for a private Member to move an Amendment to a Bill which will increase a charge. If one were to seek, by means of a direct Amendment, to extend the operation of Clause 17 to areas to which the Government do not now propose to extend it, it would be out of order. Therefore, I felt the only course open to me was to raise the question on this Clause 9, where the limitation governs the whole of Part 11, and I wish to make a most earnest appeal to the Minister to consider whether he cannot do something to encourage owners of private dwelling-houses and owners of factories and workshops, in parts of the country which are not on the highly vulnerable list, to put up air-raid shelters. That would be to encourage them to do something which, in the special conditions, would be a public service.
I would remind hon. Members that the problem of evacuation affects this question particularly, because if evacuation is carried out on a big scale, as is proposed, from the big cities, areas which are to-day sparsely inhabited, will become very much more densely inhabited in time of war, and if there are air-raid shelters in the areas to which the people will go, they will be a factor making for greater safety. I hope that the Minister will be able to 915 go so far as to hold out some inducement and encouragement to people in the areas which are not upon the list of vulnerable areas to provide shelters of some kind.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
We ought to have further information from the right hon. Gentleman. In his Second Reading speech he said that he intended to provide a list of areas classed as vulnerable, neutral and safety, and most of us understood that the list was underging some kind of revision. A great deal of uncertainty is caused now, particularly in the London district, and I would ask the Minister when the order is to be made. In his Second Reading speech he gave an indication that he would have something more to say on this subject. I do not know whether this is the proper moment to raise it, but I would ask whether any revision is being made in regard to these vulnerable, neutral and safety areas.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It may be better if I intervene to deal with that one point immediately. There is a danger of misapprehension, because vulnerable and neutral areas, and so on, were spoken of in connection with evacuation; but we have also essentially vulnerable areas from the point of view of the provision of air-raid shelters. A vulnerable area might not be the same for the two purposes. Certainly, areas which are classed as neutral for the purposes of our evacuation schemes will, in quite a number of cases, be treated as vulnerable areas for the purpose of the provision of air-raid shelters. It is possible that one or two areas might be included in the reception areas for the purpose of evacuation schemes to which the obligation to provide air-raid shelters will apply. I say this by way of explanation. I would add that work has been going on continuously upon the schedule of vulnerable areas for this purpose of air-raid shelters and I expect that a list of vulnerable areas will be available this week.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
Could not the Minister think of some other name than "vulnerable area"? Some areas appear to be vulnerable for one purpose, and neutral or safety for other purposes.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I was using the words "vulnerable area" as a colloquial expression. In the Bill the term is: 916specified … in an order made by the Minister,and the word "vulnerable" is not included.
§ Mr. Morrison
Can the Minister give any indication when the order will be made in view of the fact that local authorities are being urged to get on with this work? The sooner they know where they stand the better.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Here we are dealing with the obligation of employers, occupiers of factories and owners of commercial premises, and not with the local authorities. For that purpose, areas are to be specified, and although the formal order contemplated by the Clause cannot be issued until the Bill is law, a list of the vulnerable or specified areas which it is proposed to schedule by an order will be available this week.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
I appreciate that, but there seems to me to be considerable objection to the Clause. In this part of the Bill we should be deciding which parts of the country are to receive this form of protection, but the matter as it stands is not left to the House to decide at all; it is left entirely in the air, to be decided, after the Bill is passed, by an order made by the Minister. As the Bill stands, the House will have no control over that whatsoever. If it were put the other way round, and the Bill said that this obligation to provide air-raid shelters should apply in all parts of the country, but that the Minister might, where he though fit, make an exemption order, and that order should then be laid before the House, the House would have some control. But now it is provided that the obligation shall only apply where the Minister makes an order, that is to say, when the Bill has been passed. Then the matter will be entirely out of our hands and in the hands of the 917 Minister. I want to enter a protest, because that, in my view and in the view of my hon. Friends, is an entirely wrong way of dealing with the matter.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
I have considerable sympathy with the objection to this Clause, particularly as regards the proviso. It would help many of us to come to a decision if the Lord Privy Seal would indicate exactly what is intended by the proviso and on what principle he intends to proceed. The proviso says:Provided that the Minister may by order declare that any specified factory premises shall be treated for the purposes of this Part of this Act as if they were included in such an area as aforesaid, and while such an order is in force they shall be so treated accordingly.I can imagine in my own constituency, which for the purposes of evacuation is classed as a neutral area, but which has one or two factories of great national importance, it may be decided that those factories should be included within this Clause. If so, on what principle would it be decided that they are more likely to be hit in an air raid than any other building in that area? It would seem impossible to proceed on any reasonable principle in deciding that any particular factory in a particular area should come within the Clause, whereas other factories in the same area should not. It might be a fair presumption that factory A is a target that the enemy would desire to hit, but it is a totally unwarrantable assumption that it is the target which the enemy would actually hit. The enemy might as well hit factory B, which might not be included under the Clause. Equally, a factory in the open country, not within a densely populated area, might be an unlikely target for the enemy to aim at or hit. It would help many of us if the Lord Privy Seal would explain exactly what is intended by the proviso, which apparently allows him to say that one factory in an area in which there are many factories shall be regarded as coming within the Clause, whereas other factories in the area do not.
§ 10.24 p.m.
The Minister has spoken of the different meanings of vulnerability as applied to evacuation and to the possibility of factories being in a dangerous position. This is a matter on which very clear thinking is required. If in this Bill 918 there is to be a new kind of English in which the word "vulnerable" is used in different senses as applied to different subjects, we shall get into very great confusion. [Interruption] It is suggested that we might have vulnerable Ministers, and I will endeavour to soft-pedal on that subject, because Ministers are very vulnerable in this matter. If we look at the matter simply, we can imagine an area which is a dangerous area because industrial establishments in it are likely to be attacked, and from which, consequently, a large number of people ought to be evacuated while for the remaining number deep air-raid shelter provision should be made. If the whole matter were thought of in that way, it would be much simpler. With regard to separate factories, I think I see the right hon. Gentleman's point. You might have a separate factory in a rural situation which would constitute a target, and, therefore, it might be advisable to construct deep shelters in that area for the workers in that factory. But to attempt to differentiate, to make the word "vulnerable" mean different things, is very dangerous.
I do not like to suggest that this Clause, too, should be taken back for consideration, but one rather wonders whether a number of Clauses should not be taken back for reconsideration. There is a considerable amount of confusion of thought. It does not seem to me that there need be, because you have several areas which are in themselves dangerous, like the London Docks area, and certain buildings, like munitions factories, which are in themselves dangerous. I should like to see the Minister boldly take powers in this Bill to evacuate people compulsorily from very dangerous places. If he did that, he would find that the whole question of vulnerability was very much simplified. Unless he does, I foresee a considerable degree of confusion, especially if he attempts to give different meanings to vulnerability, according to whether it is applied to people coming into towns or going out of towns.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I hope that the Committee is now in a position to come to a decision. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) said we were now deciding what places should be specified. In fact, we arc not deciding that issue here. We are deciding whether or not there shall be 919 any discrimination between one area and another in the country; whether there shall be a homogeneous and uniform application for the country or whether we shall apply protection to those areas which are more likely to be attacked.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think the hon. Member's argument is all the better for inversion. The point we are deciding here is whether or not to leave out Clause 9, and the power given in the Clause is a power to distinguish between different areas in the country. My hon. Friend who moved the Motion was particularly concerned to note that the grants under Clause 17 might not be made available to all parts of the country if the discriminatory power remains. But the main purpose is not to give grants, but to impose a somewhat strained, and in some cases onerous, burden on certain factories in different parts of the country. The question we have to consider is whether it is right in principle that, in so far as is practicable and wise, these burdens should be restricted to places where protection is necessary, or applied indiscriminately over the whole country. I think it would be better to accept the principle that it should be restricted to places where protection is necessary.
§ Sir P. Harris
I do not know whether deliberately but certainly successfully, the right hon. Gentleman has misinterpreted my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) was about to rise, and I gave way to him, not having finished my remarks.
§ Mr. Lewis
I rose to make this point. The commissioners set two proposals before us. One is to impose the obligation all over the country and give a grant in respect of it, and the other is to impose that obligation only on part of the country, and give a grant in respect of it. There is a third course. It is possible to impose the obligation on that part of the country where they think that the risk is greater and give a grant in respect of it, 920 and it would be possible in the rest of the country, to make it optional whether they gave the grant or not, but, by way of encouraging people to do it they would give the grant.
§ Mr. Morrison
There may be that possibility, but it will not be effected by accepting the Amendment of my hon. Friend. It must be obvious to the Committee that, however this matter may be decided as between area and area, it is clear that from the geographical situation, the density of population and from other causes, there are some areas in the country where the danger of air attack is more likely than in others, and equally, at the other end of the scale, there are areas so remote and rural that the possibility of attack, though it might be something in the nature of an accident, could not be considered as nearly so commonplace. I submit to the Committee that, by accepting Clause 9, they are accepting the principle that there should be discrimination in this matter, which will enable the action of the Government to conform to the facts as they are in the country, and not accept the suggestion that there should be the same treatment for the country no matter what is the position of events.
My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) asked me questions about the proviso to Clause 9, and what sort of criteria or principles would be applied by my right hon. Friend to distinguish those particular establishments outside the specified area which should be, by name, included for the purposes of these obligations and grants. Among such considerations are the particular size, shape and recognisable quality of any particular establishment. There is the importance from the national point of view of the industry carried on therein, and the likelihood of it being made a special object of attack. With regard to the larger question he raised about his own constituency, it would be a matter for consideration whether the density of establishments of that important character and their nearness to each other were such as to make the whole area surrounding it specified for the full power and protection of grant given by this part of the Bill. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) was angry with my right hon. Friend for using the word "vulnerable."
§ Mr. Morrison
More in sorrow than anger, and he seemed to think that there is some confusion in the Bill in the use of the word "vulnerable." Actually in this Clause we talk about specified areas which is not the same thing at all. It is wise of us to concentrate our initial effort—a very considerable effort in many instances—first of all, on those areas which seem, as far as human foresight can judge, to be those most immediately threatened, whereas it is most important that vital industry shall be carried on and that we should adopt the principle of discrimination in different areas which is enshrined in this Clause.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Sir P. Harris
I am afraid that neither in his main argument nor in his peroration has the right hon. Gentleman convinced me. The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) has not been met. We have a great opinion of the Lord Privy Seal's impartiality and capacity, but we think that it is too great a power to vest in him to decide which areas should or should not be entitled to grant. There arc areas outside the apparent immediate danger zone where factories are situated which would be a temptation for enemy aeroplanes to attack. My hon. Friend rightly suggested that the districts to be included or, alternatively, to be excluded from the right to grant should be in the Schedule to the Bill. That is in accordance with the custom and traditions of the House. We do not like the idea of giving these great powers even at a time of great danger to any Minister, however capable he may be, and however anxious he may be to render impartial service to the country. I suggest that the places which are to be regarded as areas where factories are entitled to financial assistance, should be included in the Bill.
§ 10.37 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
I am surprised that the whole Committee has not been aroused against this Clause. It is clear that large numbers of our industrial population may be unprotected from air raids in the case of war. That is a very monstrous state of affairs. We know quite well that the Lord Privy Seal treats this matter in rather an airy way. On the Second Reading of the Bill he was frank enough to state that considerable numbers of people will in the case of war 922 have to make the best of it. He implied that unless certain workers were engaged in work of particular national importance they would have to look after themselves. We have an illustration in this Clause that the Government are coolly suggesting that the compulsory powers for the provision of shelters in regard to certain factories and buildings should not apply to the whole country. We are to be left to the definition of the Lord Privy Seal as to what is a vulnerable area. We are told that the words "vulnerable area" are not necessarily mentioned, but that is really what is meant.
On the North-East coast I take it, that because certain firms are engaged in shipbuilding and not in the production of armaments, they may receive no protection at the hands of the Government. That is to be an outrageous thing, and I will be no party to it. Surely, arrangements could be made under which the provisions of Clause9 could apply to the whole country, with certain reservations to be submitted to the House. We are the custodians of our constituents. On the North-East coast the meetings I have attended have emphasised the necessity of those areas, which may not be designated by the Lord Privy Seal as being worthy of attention, having the protection which this Clause should give to them. If you expect the industrial population to play their part in the matter of air-raid precautions and other ways in the event of hostilities, they are entitled to feel that they have a reasonable change of coming through the war. They have not that chance of this Clause be passed—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is getting near to a Second Reading speech on the Question of the Clause standing part.
I think the Clause is entitled to a Second and a Third Reading speech. If it goes through as it is, it will meet with deep resentment from the industrial population of this country, who may be left entirely unprotected under the Measure.