§ 20. "That a sum, not exceeding £25,984,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, for Expenditure in respect of the Air Services, namely:
|2.||Quartering, Non-Technical Stores, Supplies and Transportation||10,912,000|
|6.||Technical Training and Educational Services||1,518,000|
|7.||Reserve and Auxiliary Forces||4,789,000|
|9.||Meteorological and Miscellaneous Effective Services||5,355,000|
|11||Half-Pay, Pensions, and other Non-Effective Services||587,000|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."2229
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
On a point of Order. Before we open this Debate I should like to ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker. On this subject my hon. Friends and I desire as wide a discussion as possible. While the salary of the Lord Privy Seal includes, we understand, payment for the general oversight of the Civil Defence services, there may be one or two points of detail that might fall outside that general supervision. We should be glad of freedom to discuss the first six Votes which have been reported, including Class VII, Vote 7. B—Reserve of Plant and Building Materials. This arrangement would enable us to raise any point of interest coining within the general definition of Civil Defence.
§ Mr. Ede
Charles Lamb was once upbraided when he was a civil servant for arriving late at the office. His reply was: "Well, see how early I leave." This afternoon our Debate will close earlier than usual, and it is, therefore, somewhat ironical that we should have to start 40 minutes later than usual. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that it will be necessary for me to speak as compactly as possible in dealing with this subject. I shall have to disdain any flowers of rhetoric if I am to get anything like a true picture of the subject placed before the House in the time that remains at my disposal. I trust, therefore, that the House will realise that there is no discourtesy if, on occasion, I dismiss subjects with such brevity as is consistent with getting the subject before hon. Members.
On 27th October last the "Times" reported one of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered by a civil servant in this country when Mr. Eady, Deputy Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, addressed a meeting of A.R.P. officials and naval, military and R.A.F. officers, at the Royal United Services Institution in Whitehall. He said that he spoke about something that was horribly real and that, in the light of what had happened, the Home Office had no illusions about the state of preparedness of the country to receive an air raid. They were not prepared. They 2230 had hardly begun to prepare. He emphasised the suddenness with which an air attack might come, within the short interval following the failure of negotiations and an ultimatum, and said that it might be that the target would be the staunchness of the civil population. It might be that to their hearts and courage those bombs from the air would be directed. He stated that for nine months they had been haunted by the problem of recruiting and of getting the type of people they wanted. The people who were known as the governing classes of this country had, broadly speaking, done very little to help the local authorities A.R.P. That was on 27th October. On 1st November, the "Times" had a leading article headed: "More Cabinet Changes" in which they wrote:By far the most important feature in the second stage of Government reconstruction is clearly the inclusion in the Cabinet of Sir John Anderson as the only newcomer to it.Then they gave a long account of the many and varied services of the right hon. Gentleman to the State and eulogised his capacity for steadiness and courage. May I say that those of us who have been in negotiation with him have had plenty of opportunity of seeing his steadiness. I could have wished on occasion that there had been one spark of courage, but so far I have not seen the slightest sign of it. The "Times" wound up their comment on him with these words:That he will need all these qualities is not to be doubted by anyone who realises the intense anxiety of the whole country for the kind of civilian organisation which the recent crisis found so essential to a sense of security at home, and therefore to firm dealing abroad, and so largely lacking hitherto.Since 1st November the right hon. Gentleman has been in charge of this task of Civil Defence. I imagine he will not feel it to be any cause of complaint that, just before the House rises for the Recess, we should desire to have a general review of the situation as it has developed since he has been in charge.
I should like to ask him, in the first place, whether he is now satisfied with the Civil Defence personnel, first with regard to numbers, and, secondly, with regard to quality. I have taken steps to make detailed inquiries, from people whom I know to be in a position to give me authoritative information, in three very distinct parts of the country—in the first 2231 place, in the county with whose administration I have been connected for some years, the county of Surrey; secondly, in my own constituency of South Shields; and, thirdly, in a small borough of some 35,000 people in the South Midlands, so as to get as comprehensive a picture as I could from this detailed analysis. From each of these three places, so widely differing in their industrial and economic make-up, I get the same comment. There is a feeling that, while some of the services are still short in numbers—some of them, I venture to say, are deplorably short—it is even more to be deplored that the amount of training that has been given is still insufficient, and the certainty of being able to rely on an adequate personnel is not yet vouchsafed to the local authorities.
Has not the time come when there should be, for each and all of these services, some core, some nucleus of highly-trained personnel, who might even be placed on a whole-time basis? When one contemplates the work that these people may have to do, it is surely essential that there shall be for each service a nucleus of highly-trained, well-disciplined people who can be relied upon to keep their heads in a time of emergency and to deal with any situation that may arise. There is, of course, even now, no real obligation on the great majority of people supposed to be enlisted for Civil Defence purposes to respond to the call when the time comes. These are voluntary engagements; there is no undertaking like that of the Territorial that, in the event of an emergency, the person will be called upon, and it will be a serious offence, punishable in appropriate ways, if the call does not evoke a response. Probably it would not be possible to apply any such rigid system as that to the whole of the volunteers, but it does appear to be highly necessary that in every area there should be a few people in each service who have entered into a definite obligation, possibly for some consideration, that will enable those who will be responsible for Civil Defence to rely upon that nucleus at any rate.
Have the Government given consideration to the difficulties that must arise in practically every area of the country as to the personnel that will be available at different times of the day? Taking the county of Surrey, for instance, a very 2232 large proportion of the population, and a very substantial number of the volunteers for these services, work in London, and if an air raid should take place during the day-time, it is quite clear that there could be no speedy response on the part of those volunteers to the local headquarters. What is supposed to be the position in circumstances like that? These people, with the best will in the world, are endeavouring to fit themselves in many cases for what they may be called upon to do, and yet, when the time comes, they may be miles away, and the local organisation, shorn of their services, may find it exceedingly difficult to grapple with any particular problem that presents itself.
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the qualities of leadership that are being shown in the various districts? I see far too frequently in the newspapers accounts of disputes between one particular body of Civil Defence personnel and a local council, and threats of wholesale resignations unless their points of view are met. That seems to me to point in some cases to defects in leadership which might prove disastrous in the event of the service having to be utilised. Therefore I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, is he satisfied with the numbers and also with the quality; and is he satisfied that in the event of an emergency the enrolled people would respond in anything like adequate numbers to enable the country to deal with the situation?
I am bound to say that some of the administrative regulations which have been made appear to be designed to produce friction and irritability. I will give the right hon. Gentleman a case which has occurred in the county of Surrey, and which I know is typical of what has occurred elsewhere. The rural district of Guildford surrounds a part of Guildford, as is usual with rural districts named after a borough, and it is clearly convenient that lectures should be given within the borough to a good many of the personnel from the rural district. But the amazing regulation has been received from headquarters that the rural district council, if its people go into the borough to receive instruction, may pay the bus fare as far as the borough boundary, and that for the remainder of the journey, between the borough boundary and the place where the lecture is given, the volunteer must pay the fare out of his 2233 own pocket. When one strolls casually into a local hostelry where men are recounting their experiences, and this particular kind of thing is mentioned, it evokes the kind of comment that is more damaging to recruiting than anything that any pacifist or anyone opposed to the movement can say. The best recruiting agent is the satisfied recruit. If you can satisfy him that he is being reasonably treated, he will go round and persuade his friends to come in, but when a man gives this as an example of the failure of the official mind to grasp the practical considerations of the case, a very great deal of harm is done,
I leave that question, and come quite abruptly to the problem of evacuation. We on this side of the House take a great interest in evacuation; it was only because we forced it on the Government that evacuation was ever undertaken as a Government responsibility. Has anything yet been done under the Camps Act, which was passed this year? I understand that a few sites have been surveyed, and preliminary negotiations have been commenced. Have any yet been purchased? What is the date on which it is expected that the first camp will be utilised? When we were discussing the Bill earlier in the year, hopes were expressed that children might be using the camps during the summer of this year, and that young people might be using them during the coming months while the schools were on holiday. Have we yet reached anything like that stage? If not, when is it likely that the first camp will be available for use, and can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication of the numbers for whom accommodation will be found in the camps to be provided, we hope, this year?
Apart from camps, the right hon. Gentleman is mainly relying on billeting persons who come from the towns and other places that are scheduled for evacuation. We have all along expressed grave doubts as to the suitability of many of the places that have been selected, and recently the' County Councils Association have been asking the various counties for their views on the areas that have been scheduled. I should like to read to the House the replies that have been received from some of the county councils with regard to the places to which evacuees have been definitely allocated. I am not 2234 dealing generally with the question of the water and sewage systems of the countryside, but specifically with those districts to which evacuees are to be sent. I do not intend to start with villages. The county council of Cheshire report, with regard to two boroughs, Congleton and Macclesfield, a state of affairs which seems to me to call for very serious consideration by the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to Congleton, the Cheshire County Council report:This town is to receive 2,000 evacuees, and, as a result of increased industrial and domestic consumption, additional water supplies are urgently needed.That is for the existing population. With regard to Macclesfield they report:Although the present water supply is inadequate, and Parliamentary powers are being sought to remedy the deficiency, the town is scheduled to receive 7,600 evacuees.No one can contemplate increasing the population of a town like Macclesfield, where the local authority holds those views about the existing water supply system, by as many as 7,600 evacuees, without realising that the very gravest problems will immediately arise. I understand that the children from my county who will be evacuated will go to Devonshire, and I have, therefore, been very interested in reading the replies of the Devon County Council. I will not go through the whole of them, although I have a very long and detailed description of, I think, every rural district in the county of Devon, but perhaps this summary will be adequate:In a considerable number of cases in all the foregoing districts the villages are too small and scattered to warrant improvements, either as regards water supplies or sewerage. Speaking generally, whilst there has been some advance since 1936, the general conditions throughout the county remain much the same, and the County Medical Officer of Health considers that, where the water supply is from wells and the conservancy system of sewage disposal has been adopted, the area should only be scheduled for evacuation purposes after consideration of local conditions.As regards another place that is scheduled for a very large number of children, namely, the Isle of Ely, the report is:A considerable number of villages scheduled as evacuation areas do not have piped supplies, and depend upon rain water and water from dykes. During dry periods considerable difficulty is experienced in meeting normal requirements, and the position, aggravated as it would be in a normal season by the advent of evacuees, would become very serious in the event of a drought.2235 As regards the Parts of Lindsey, one of the three administrative counties in the geographical county of Lincoln, it is stated:Louth Rural District. Water, the villages all depend on wells and small bores. Sewerage, practically no schemes exist.The report goes on:Norfolk. Most of the county, the whole of which is scheduled for evacuation purposes, is deficient in water supply and drainage is non-existent.Northants. The water supply in the parish of Blisworth in the Towcester rural district is totally inadequate. The district as a whole is to receive 2,439 evacuees, 189 of whom have had to be evacuated, owing to lack of accommodation elsewhere, to Blisworth, where, even in normal times, water has to be carted for the existing population of 792 persons.Somerset… As regards Taunton, it is feared that the water supply, which has had to be restricted for long periods on several occasions in previous years, will prove inadequate to meet the additional demand from 5,000 evacuees, 3,500 billeted troops and 1,500 militiamen whose camp is being established in the surrounding country districts.That is a fairly wide survey of conditions over a large tract of country, and it appears fully to substantiate the fears that we on this side have always expressed. I know that recently the Ministry of Health have published a return showing the number of rural parishes in each county which have no pipe water supply. It was said that in Surrey every rural parish had a pipe supply, but that does not mean that every house and farm has a pipe supply. Even in those counties which have a substantial number of parishes with a pipe supply, you will find a considerable part of the population depending on more primitive sources of supply. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give very careful attention to this matter, and, in conjunction with the Minister of Health, to ensure that evacuated people shall be sent only to those districts where one can be sure that the water supply and sanitary arrangements are equal to the extra demand that will be placed on them.
As one who has had considerable experience of taking town boys away to the country for holidays in camps, I have come to the conclusion that the town-bred working-class boy is exceedingly reticent about the discharge of his natural functions, and peculiarly susceptible to a change of environment. I have had the 2236 unfortunate experience of being in charge of a camp of boys where we had to use primitive conveniences, and practically every boy got into a state of constipation because of his dislike of using these conveniences, which would have been accepted by the country boy as just part of his ordinary life. If you are to complicate the difficulties of evacuation in this way, you will make things extremely difficult. I thought at one time that this might be an experience peculiar to myself, but I mentioned this at a meeting at which several county medical officers of health were present, and they assured me that, while it is one of the things which in England we never discuss, it was well known to doctors, and that the problems arising from it could not be neglected in connection with any scheme of evacuation.
I want to deal now with the question of the control of self-evacuation. I have always had misgivings as to the extent to which the Government would be able to control self-evacuation by the population. If you get self-evacuation on a large scale you may find your prearranged billets practically all occupied by people who, moving themselves, have been able to get to places of comparative safety earlier than the children whom you have arranged to move as priority classes. In support of that statement, I would like to read a letter I have received from the secretary of one of the Surrey teachers' associations, who, on behalf of the Surrey County Council, canvassed the district in which he lived when the Minister of Health agreed to include certain Surrey districts among the areas to be evacuated. He writes:There is one matter I would like to call your attention to as a personal matter. My experience this last week on the evacuation census in Mitcham has shown that in a small area there are hundreds of people planning to evacuate themselves in case of war. They say cheerfully,' I am going to my people in Durham or Cornwall or South Wales,' and when it is suggested that there may be no trains to take them they refer to the ' little car.' From the number I have, canvassed in the Gorringe Ward of Mitcham who talk like this, there must be literally thousands in the suburban area thinking it, and they may well create a very serious problem in an emergency.The gentleman who wrote that letter is one of the best canvassers I know. If I were in doubt about the canvass of any 2237 district in an election, I should consider him the best person to conduct a re-canvass, and I am sure that his views are thoroughly reliable. I know the case of a small Midland town—I am quite willing to give the right hon. Gentleman the name, but I do not wish to bring it into controversy in this House. I take it, however, as being quite typical. I was speaking a few days ago to a member of the Poplar Borough Council, who told me that he had arranged for his wife and her two sisters, who live with him, to leave Poplar in the event of an emergency and that he had been to the borough that I have in mind. He said, "I found when I tried to make arrangements for rooms for them that large numbers of people had been there beforehand." The town clerk says that although the borough was scheduled to receive 20,000 evacuees in the event of war, he is certain that people who have no claim on that borough at all —except that they can find the money, at any rate, to get themselves there and to maintain themselves in the early part of the war—-have so eaten into the accommodation that he is quite certain that the margin that the Ministry think they will have will not be available when the time comes. I have all along urged the Government to take some steps to make quite sure that the authorities charged with billeting shall, in fact, have, on the night when the children are to be accommodated, the necessary accommodation to put them in.
Many Members of this House had experience between 1914 and 1918 of billeting troops. They know that it is no pleasant matter to make arrangements, standing in the rain, with regard to billeting. It is bad enough when you have some troops following you down the street, and you are putting two in one house, three in another, and five in another. I heard this afternoon from the Secretary for War that he had had some troops who were satisfied. I never had any troops who were satisfied—if I had I should have told them to report sick. At any rate, they were men, and could be expected to endure hardships; but imagine yourself at the head of a queue of children, who have been taken out of a town in conditions not tending to peace of mind, and imagine yourself coming to a house in which you think you are going to put three children, and being met by someone 2238 who claims that he has taken the house and paid for it, and can produce the receipt. It is all very well for the Ministry to think that you can push him out, or push someone in; but if you envisage yourself with these children at your heels you will realise that that is not a very satisfactory prospect. I understand that a re-survey of the position is being made. [Interruption.] Is there not a document 1841, dated 28th July this year, which has recently been sent to county councils and other local authorities? I understand that it is hoped that there will now be an effort made to bring the schedule of accommodation up-to-date, so that the local authorities shall know, within a little, what accommodation is really available, and how far accommodation that was returned as available remains available.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)
The hon. Member is quoting from a document which was worked out with the local authorities, but, in fact, the local authorities will have to rely on the billeting regulations made in accordance with the law passed by this House. The hon. Member knows that that is what we must rely on.
§ Mr. Ede
The right hon. Gentleman has a greater knowledge of my knowledge than I have myself. If he takes that line, as I said on 24th May in this House, I am quite sure that we are going to have a tremendous muddle. It will be bad enough if things go smoothly, but if we have to rely for our powers, as local authorities, on what we are to get when the billeting regulations are made, we shall find that those powers are too late. We think—and on this subject I am speaking for every association of local authorities in the country—that we should, from time to time, keep this list of accommodation up-to-date. There are a number of people who, since February, have quite legitimately made arrangements for evacuating relatives to their places in receiving areas. I have always believed that it will be impossible to say to a person, "You shall not take a relative from an evacuating area. You must take someone else whom we choose to send you." We are not averse to close friends being included, but there clearly must be some limit on what can be done in that way. Then, when you have made arrangements for those people, surely it is 2239 essential that the local authorities should be able to know beforehand that the accommodation that they have returned to the Minister as being in existence will in fact be available.
I should like to ask one or two questions with regard to priority classes. The fear was expressed on 24th May that only children in attendance at school would be in the priority class, and no very specific answer was given on that day. I understand that the view is— I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will confirm or deny it—that a child of school age is in the priority class no matter whether in attendance at a school or not. The matter is very important because, clearly, in London and other towns you have a number of children, say, between the ages of 5 and 16 who are not in attendance at school for one reason or another. They may be taught at home, or they may be in some group of children which is not officially regarded as a school, and it would clearly be wrong that they should not be regarded as persons in the priority class. I hope it will be made clear that such persons as children of school age—I know the difficulty of getting a definition of school age —but children between certain ages who are not in fact at school will be regarded as in the priority class.
§ Mr. Elliot
It may be convenient that I should make that clear right away. It is true that any child of school age would be regarded as in the priority class, the same as any mother with children would be in the priority class whether attending a clinic or not. So a child of school age would be in the priority class whether attending school or not.
§ Mr. Ede
There is, of course, the great difficulty of defining what a child is for this purpose. You have the anomaly now that a boy who has left school at 14 and gone to work will not be in the priority class but his brother who may be 17 or 18, who is at a secondary school, will. It may be necessary in the case of these children who have never been at a school to give some indication by age as to when they are to be regarded as in the priority class. That, however, is a small point. I am exceedingly grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the clear statement that he has made.
2240 Let me come from evacuation to hospitals. Here, again, we should like some assurance with regard to the numbers of beds now available and the extent to which adaptation, equipment and the erection of hutments are taking place so that we can feel assured that some real progress is being made. I should like to say a few words here again with regard to control. I have been very careful to keep my remarks so far as general as possible, but I am bound here to make some reference to the situation in London and the surrounding districts. London has been divided into 10 sectors, all of which project into the surrounding counties. The right hon. Gentleman will excuse me if I take for the illustration of my argument the two sectors that I know best in Surrey. I am told that they are reasonably typical of the other 10. Taking the two sectors, eight and nine, in Surrey, one finds that the total number of emergency beds, including huts, in municipal hospitals is 24,631, and in voluntary hospitals 4,922. That is to say, approximately five-sixths of the beds are in municipal hospitals run by the county and county borough councils and one-sixth are in voluntary hospitals. It seems very astonishing that in each of the 10 sectors—I am told these are typical—the voluntary hospital officials have been chosen as the persons to be in charge. I will say nothing that can be regarded as disparaging of the work of voluntary hospitals. One may have one's own view as to whether the day of the voluntary hospital is gone, but it does not arise on this matter and I do not want to befog the issue. But those in charge of the municipal hospitals have a bigger administrative experience, especially of the kind of problem that an emergency will bring upon this service, and it would appear to be very highly desirable that any organisation of the hospitals should be more on the basis of the municipal than of the voluntary régime.
In Middlesex, I understand, they have six sectors but in Surrey, where we have only two, a line is drawn across the county which does not correspond with any existing local government boundary or organisation, with the result that for wartime and emergency work a fresh system of organisation will have to be drawn up. Throughout the country hospital authorities are doing their best to get into being the kind of organisation 2241 that the Minister may want them to adopt at a moment's notice. They have at the same time to carry on their ordinary administration within the organisation which has been built up as the result of the experience that they have gained since the Local Government Act, 1929. Serious consideration should be given to the position of the municipal authorities in hospitals, and to using the accumulated experience of the administrative staff of the municipalities in dealing with this hospital problem. I understand that some negetations are going on. I sincerely hope that they will be successful and that there will be cordial co-operation between the voluntary and the municipal hospitals. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, while this has been the subject of some representations, those representations have not been allowed to delay or deflect the work of preparation and, if he should decide on some alteration along the lines that I have suggested, I am sure that no delay will occur and there will be nothing that he may subsequently have to regret. As negotiations are in progress, he will not expect me to say more, but it is only right that I should have made these remarks. In making them I have been acting partly at the wish of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Morrison), whose inability to attend to-day is, I am sure, regretted by the House, and especially by me, because but for that fact he would have been making this speech instead of me. I am sure the House will extend their sympathy to me in the same way that I extend mine to them.
May I now dash off to another subject, the Women's Land Army—a very different subject but, after all, one which may very well yet be one of the determining factors in any prolonged emergency. What payment is being made to a farmer who undertakes to instruct a member of the Women's Land Army in her duties? Having spent a week-end in Lincolnshire and visited several villages, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the subject is being very carefully canvassed in the rural districts. I heard a figure mentioned. As it was not from an official source, I will not repeat it, but it had a very close relationship to a figure mentioned in the course of a very important Debate last week with regard to the adequacy of the wage of an agricultural labourer. Are 2242 any negotiations taking place with the National Union of Agricultural Workers and other bodies which may claim to represent agricultural workers with regard to the training and utilisation of these women? I understand that there is at the moment some difficulty in getting recruits, especially from the rural areas. After all, if you are going to get recruits from the rural areas, it is probable that they will be more effective, at any rate for a start, than young ladies from the towns going out to play the dairymaid, like Marie Antoinette. We can only hope that their ultimate fate will be happier than hers. But there is at the moment some misgiving in the rural districts about this matter and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say something reassuring.
We have recently passed the Civil Defence Act, which gives local authorities and the right hon. Gentleman very extended powers with regard to shelters. Can he give us any indication as to how far progress is being made with that work? I took the Minister of Health round the less salubrious parts of my constituency. Here, again, he and I will be in agreement that in most of the parts that we visited it will be impossible to erect one of the shelters named after his right hon. Friend. The yards are altogether too small. The borough engineer has given particular attention to the matter, and he reached the conclusion, which has since been approved by the borough council, that he will have to make provision for at least 40,000 people in underground shelters, people of the social class who would be available for a free shelter if they had a place where they could put it. I had better read a paragraph in his report:The borough engineer pointed out that, even if all premises that can be given shelter either by basement or surface shelters were so provided, there would still remain a very large proportion of the dwellings of the town which were not provided with shelter, or capable of being provided with shelter, by any of the means at present suggested, and that some type of communal shelter would ultimately be required to meet this particular aspect of the problem. In the event of communal shelters of the type which he had previously suggested (i.e., subways under streets), being adapted, any further shelter by surface or basement shelters would be additional and possibly redundant. He stated that in this connection he had prepared and considered a number of alternative designs and estimated that the cost would be approximately £5 per 2243 person to be accommodated. He estimated that the number of persons to be provided for (after allowing for persons to be evacuated and those for whom free shelters can be provided and those who would be required to provide their own shelter) would be not less than 40,000, and he was of opinion, in most cases, that the provision of subways as previously recommended by him, was a practical proposition for accommodating these persons.What is true of that borough must be typical of a very large number of similar industrial boroughs, closely built up with the town planning of a 100 years ago, and where it is quite impossible for the shelters associated with the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal ever to be erected. Can he also tell us when these shelters are to be available in any large numbers for the persons who are supposed to purchase them? It is about time that we had some definite information on that point. Can he say also what steps he is taking to ensure that the decisions of the House with regard to the provision of shelters for workpeople at their place of work, for dwellers in flats and so on shall be available? Is any pressure being brought to bear upon persons responsible to make quite sure that the provision will be there when the time comes and it may be needed?
The last thing that I want to mention is the question of cost, not because it is unimportant. The right hon. Gentleman knows from the interview that I had with him yesterday that this is a subject on which men can speak with astonishing frankness and can feel most bitterly when they do not get the answer that they expect. We were told as local authorities when we started on this task in 1937 that it was unlikely that the burden falling upon us would reach a Id. rate. In my constituency of South Shields, one of the poorest county boroughs in England, the borough council this year has already had to spend a rate of 3¾. As to the figure of £200,000 which I have mentioned as representing the cost of providing communal shelters, it is estimated that when you take everything into consideration the cost to fall on the borough will be £44,000. That is after deducting the Government grant. Any such figure as that is quite beyond the power of an industrial district established in the distressed areas to bear. There you have a typical borough at the mouth of an important river, which will be one 2244 of the most important naval arsenals, and is bound to be the subject of hostile attack in the event of war. One is giving away no secrets to the Germans. There are important naval shipyards up the Tyne, and if any enemy could block the mouth of the Tyne he would be immobilising a great part of the naval resources of this country. No one could expect a borough like that, and one still in a very distressed condition, to shoulder the heavy financial responsibilities that its geographical position and military and strategic importance imposed upon it.
I want also to deal with a subject which was mentioned to the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, and which has been referred to in question and answer in this House, namely, that of the provision of shelter for school children. The right hon. Gentleman takes the view that that is a subject which is properly the concern of the Board of Education, and should be dealt with on a separate basis from ordinary air-raid precautions work. I shall not develop the subject at length because I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), if he gets an opportunity, intends to return to the subject, and will doubtless develop the general argument. By adopting a flat rate of 50 per cent. for this service, the Government are in fact imposing an intolerable burden on the poorest districts. As a rule—I doubt if there is any exception to it, but the right hon. Gentleman might be able to produce one—those districts which have the largest number of school children in proportion to their population are, in fact, the poorest districts. They are also the districts where the population is most congested, and where, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman and the Board of Education are most likely to require this provision to be made. By a flat rate of 50 per cent. grant for this service, as opposed to the percentage system based on relative wealth or poverty, which applies to most air-raid precaution services, the right hon. Gentleman is imposing a heavier burden on the poor districts than on the rich in actual pounds, shillings and pence.
The county of Surrey for this particular service has to find £219,000 this year to provide shelter in its school playgrounds and playing-fields for school children. That is a county where a 1d. 2245 rate per child in average attendance produces half a sovereign. If you go to County Durham, which is at least as vulnerable as Surrey, with its crowded mining villages and its east coast, and a great many industries still that an enemy might very well want to put out of action, the product of a Id. rate per child in average attendance is a quarter of what it is in Surrey. The proportion of school children to the total population is a great deal higher in Durham than it is in Surrey. To offer a flat rate of 50 per cent. to both these authorities is, in effect, to destroy the real basis of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937. I shall not be at all convinced by anything that the right hon. Gentleman may say about other public services for which local authorities have to make air-raid precautions. Public utility undertakings are revenue-earning undertakings, and, generally speaking, profit-making undertakings. But no one will contend that, from a purely financial point of view, an elementary or a municipal secondary school is really revenue-earning or profit-making. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that even if he cannot bring these services, as we think they ought to be brought, under the ordinary air-raid precautions grant, the percentage grant should be based on some regard for the riches or poverty of the area in which the school happens to be situated.
I must apologise to the House for the length of time I have taken. The subject is so comprehensive—and I am too well aware of the things that I ought to have mentioned and which I have not mentioned—that it is difficult to compress one's thoughts into sufficiently few words really to do justice to one's colleagues in this House. But I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in any reply that he gives, to realise that, as far as I can ascertain throughout the country, there is no division of opinion at all about the essential nature of this work. It is the desire of everyone to see it carried out with the utmost possible speed, and the desire of the local authorities and the inhabitants of the districts generally to assist the right hon. Gentleman. We ask for a clear and definite assurance that, in any necessary steps that have to be taken to safeguard the civil population, the right hon. Gentleman will have regard to seeing that we get, both in men and money, adequate resources for the task. The one 2246 thing I could not help noticing on Saturday and Sunday as I went through various Lincolnshire villages was the way in which among the smallest aggregations of people the appeal was being made for these services and, when one asked questions, the response that was being made. I can only hope that, if we are prepared so thoroughly and meticulously to organise ourselves for the problems of possible military attack, we shall also be able, arising out of our experiences in this matter, similarly, when the time comes, meticulously and carefully to organise the resources of our people not merely to save life, but to expand it in all the areas of the country.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
I do not think that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) need have apologised for the length of his speech, as the House as a whole recognises in him an expert on the subject. He has not only interested us all, but he has made a number of very helpful and constructive suggestions. The hon. Member dealt in the greater part of his speech with the problems connected with evacuation and hospitals; and we shall all be very interested to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has to say upon these points when he comes to speak. I imagine that, with regard to evacuation, during the last few months order has gradually been evolved out of the chaos which admittedly prevailed last September; and from all sides one hears that, while things are not completely satisfactory, they are very much better. The arrangements that have been made are much more comprehensive to-day than they were even three or four months ago.
I was glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of children's camps, and we shall be grateful for more information about it. The House as a whole is keen about these camps, and thinks that they are a good idea. We should like to know how many camps there are in existence, and what the projects and plans of the Government are in this particular connection. I understand that with regard to hospitals the position of doctors is now completely satisfactory, and most doctors know what they will have to do and where they will have to go; but there has been anxiety expressed about the question of nurses, 2247 and particularly the voluntary nurses. Anything which the right hon. Gentleman has to say in this connection will be listened to with great interest by the House. The hon. Member referred to the Women's Land Army. There is now a very great shortage in the country districts of Scotland of labour of all kinds. It is extremely difficult to get any domestic labour on the farms in my constituency.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
It would be out of order to discuss the Women's Land Army on this Vote and I should have said so when the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) raised the subject.
§ Mr. Boothby
I should not have raised the question had not the hon. Member for South Shields raised it. I was only going on to point out that there is a considerable shortage of labour at the moment.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
I should like your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. In so far as food reserves in the receiving districts are necessary to make useful the evacuation schemes, would it not be permissible to discuss food reserves in those districts?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The administration of food reserves comes under the Board of Trade and not under the Votes under discussion to-day.
§ Mr. Johnston
With great respect, that is so, but obviously sending thousands of people from an urban district to a rural district without making certain that there was an augmentation of food would be to make the evacuation scheme useless.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It depends on how the case is presented. Food reserve policy is out of order. The rationing of evacuees is quite clearly in order.
§ Mr. Boothby
There is one thing that, obviously, does come within the scope of the Debate, and that is the question to which I intended to devote the whole of my time. I refer to the question of shelters. I do not think the country is yet satisfied that sufficient progress or anything like sufficient progress has been made in providing shelters against air raids for the vast mass of the population. Nobody wants to disparage the efforts already made by my right hon. Friend, 2248 and nobody wants to cast doubts or to spread anxiety with regard to the steel shelters; but there is one thing about which there can be no doubt, and that is that the steel shelters were a makeshift and somewhat expensive policy on the part of His Majesty's Government to meet an emergency. I am the last person to say that steel shelters are no good, but I think they have great defects as compared with concrete shelters.
We have had a very unfortunate summer; and steel shelters do not keep out the wet. Hon. Members who have seen anything of these shelters know that they are extremely uncomfortable. They do not last for any great length of time. I have had cases brought to my notice where they have actually had to be reinforced with concrete to keep out draughts, damp, and so forth. Another aspect of the individual house steel shelters—apart from the fact that many jokes have been made about them—is that, while I am prepared to admit that in certain circumstances they may be very effective in keeping out blast and falling debris, there is no doubt that many individual householders have not put them to any practical use; and they cannot be obliged to do so. How many hon. Members have seen these steel shelters pushed away into corners of a back garden or yard where they are, from the point of view of the householder, merely an infernal nuisance and will remain so until a very serious emergency arises? I cannot think that the steel shelter policy, although it was desirable and perhaps necessary to meet an immediate emergency, is a satisfactory long-term shelter policy for this country.
So far as deep shelters are concerned, I do wish to plead with my right hon. Friend not to allow himself to be carried away by too violent a controversy with Professor J. B. S. Haldane. Anybody who has been in controversy with Professor Haldane, as I have been on one or two occasions, is bound to feel that they must oppose everything he says, because he holds to his own views with such tenacity and vehemence. In spite of the great respect in which I personally hold Professor Haldane, I fear that he may have persuaded a certain number of people, who are naturally antagonistic to his scientific and political views, that there can be no good in deep shelters. I 2249 certainly do not take that view, and I hope the Government will not rule them out in cases where conditions are favourable to deep shelters.
Deep shelters are, of course, enormously expensive; but they are the only things that afford absolute protection against high explosives. That has been proved over and over again. Therefore, I would ask my right hon. Friend not to allow his mind to be prejudiced by the arguments now raging up and down the country on this subject, but to view the question with an open mind. While I rather sympathise with his decision not to embark upon a general comprehensive policy of deep shelters, I would ask him not to rule out the possibility of putting such shelters in certain places where the conditions are favourable; because, as I have said, they do afford absolute protection, which nothing else does, against high explosive bombs.
Having dealt with the steel shelter and the deep shelter, what else is there? There is the medium-sized concrete shelter. These shelters are being produced in this country in various designs, but, in relation to the magnitude of the problem, in comparatively trifling quantities. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that,, so far, this question of providing vast masses of people with adequate concrete shelters has only been played with both by the Government and the local authorities. By far the cheapest and most effective method of providing security for large numbers of our people is to provide a standardised concrete shelter which can be mass-produced. There is really no other shelter policy to compare with this in efficacy and usefulness. What are the advantages of the medium concrete shelter? They are known to be proof against small bombs, incendiary bombs, falling pieces of shrapnel, debris and blast. That is a formidable list. The chances of a direct hit from a heavy high explosive bomb are very small.
There is another advantage in the medium-sized concrete shelter as against the large deep shelter for thousands of people, and that is that it eliminates the possibility of any serious panic. One of the main reasons, apart from the question of expense, why the Lord Privy Seal turned down the policy of deep shelters was that he was afraid of the possibilities of panic, especially if you were trying to 2250 put thousands of people into one shelter. Moreover, if anything went wrong the possibilities of serious loss of life would be far greater if you had congregated a large number of people in one shelter. In these medium concrete shelters there could be no question of that. It would be a question of 30, 40 or 50 people getting into the shelter.
§ Mr. Boothby
The whole point of the medium shelter policy is that these medium concrete shelters should be provided in adequate quantities for those who are not protected in their own houses or by other means, so that they will be able to get to them easily. If you applied this policy to institutions, schools, and so forth, you would build concrete shelters of sufficient size to contain the occupants of the school or institution; and if they knew precisely what to do when the air raid warning was given the possibility of panic would be eliminated. I am not suggesting that you would be able to get 5,000 people into a moderate-sized shelter. You must build these moderate-sized concrete shelters in sufficient quantities to make them readily available for any given section of the community. The main thing is to provide every person in this country, as soon as possible, with some place to which he or she can go in the event of an air raid. That is the only way in which you can finally eliminate panic.
Hitherto one of the main difficulties in producing concrete shelters in adequate numbers—the medium-sized ones would hold perhaps 40 or 50 people; the smaller sizes would hold eight or 10—has been the multiplicity of designs, and the lack of any kind of standardisation, without which mass production is impossible. Another difficulty in this connection has been that the cement and concrete industry has not been organised for the purpose of producing standardised designs or producing in bulk. But, largely owing to the efforts of my right hon. Friend, some steps have been taken in this direction, and the concrete and cement industry has formed a federation and are now preparing standardised designs. You can have standardised designs for overground shelters and for underground shelters. The standardised underground 2251 design need only be of one type and in one section, because it can be continued indefinitely to meet the requirements of any particular district, hospital, institution or school.
The concrete-lined underground shelter or trench is probably the best known form of protection against air-raid attack, and I am in a position to give a. few figures which may interest the House and which will, I think, go to prove that, mass-produced, these shelters are not nearly as expensive as many hon. Members might think. The hon. Member for South Shields spoke about £5 a head being the cost of providing shelters in certain districts. I believe that that cost could be very greatly reduced by a mass-produced concrete shelter policy. You could produce concrete protection according to this standardised design for about £5 a yard. It would be possible to construct a 30-foot shelter, seven feet across and 6½ feet high, sunk into the ground, at a cost of approximately £50, including delivery but not the cost of erection.
§ Mr. Boothby
Not excavation or erection, which will probably cost another £40. You could do the whole job, including the digging, for something in the neighbourhood of £100.
§ Mr. Ede
When I spoke of the cost of £5 I was giving the case of a particular borough, where the shelters would have to be placed in a number of small back lanes between some slum property, and a great deal of expense would be involved in excavation, because it might in certain cases involve considerable interference with services.
§ Mr. Boothby
I was referring to shelters which could be dug into ordinary soil and would not require special excavation. If there had to be excavation in narrow lanes where property rights were interfered with that might cost more, but if you took ordinary virgin soil, the cost which I have stated would be approximately correct. While it would be necessary to put these shelters underground in the event of serious emergency it would be possible in the meantime to store some of them, because there would be no danger of deterioration. They could be put in the ground as opportunity offered, and 2252 when the emergency arose, the advantage being that in an emergency they could be sunk into the ground with about 85 per cent. of unskilled labour. The cement and concrete industry have definitely arranged to make the necessary moulds, and they tell me that they estimate that, if they were given an order to-day, they could produce about 20,000 shelters, capable of accommodating 50 people each, in 10 weeks' time, for a total cost, apart from erection, of £1,000,000. Therefore, to give a rough figure, you can protect 1,000,000 people for an expenditure of £1,000,000 over a period of 10 weeks, according to their estimate. That is a striking and a very important figure.
I know it is not wholly the fault of the Government that there has been delay in producing an adequate shelter policy to meet the requirements of the people of this country. There have been many delays on the part of the industry. But now that the industry has got together, and has persuaded its members to abandon their own individual designs—and hon. Members must remember that individual firms have spent a great deal of money on their own designs—and embark on mass production; now that the industry has formed a federation and submitted a design to my right hon. Friend which has been accepted by his experts; I think the moment has arrived when the Government itself should take a very vigorous attitude in the matter. It is no use trying to deal with this problem piecemeal. If we are to get an efficient organisation into being quickly, I submit that my right hon. Friend ought to place a substantial order for standardised mass produced concrete shelters without any further delay. He could appoint his own auditor or take any other steps he desires to see that there is no question of exorbitant prices or profiteering.
The emergency is surely a very real one. I do not know what the view of His Majesty's Government may be with regard to the probability or otherwise of war breaking out, but if it is possible that we may be faced with war within the next two months, and I think everybody must admit that is a possibility, then there can be no excuse for not taking every possible practical step to safeguard the civilian population of this country. I still think, in spite of certain arguments which may be adduced against it, that on the whole 2253 the medium-sized and the smaller-sized concrete shelter, preferably in a trench, provides a greater degree of protection at a lower cost to a larger number of people than any other form of protection which has been devised or thought of. At any rate, I shall be interested if any hon. Member can suggest a more effective method, apart from the deep shelter itself.
There is one other aspect of the problem to which I want to make a brief reference. From time to time pamphlets are issued by Government Departments for the guidance of the civilian population. They are very interesting and full of the most valuable information. If I might make a literary criticism, I should like to suggest that they are too long and sometimes rather stiff for the ordinary person to understand—simpler and easier words might be used. But nobody denies that they are a mine of valuable information, and if anybody has time to read them during an air raid I am sure they will be found to be extremely useful. In the course of reading these pamphlets I came across the names of various appliances and implements. I made a list of them the other day, and I must say that I do not think many of them are ordinarily available in any normal household. I am not merely referring to first-aid boxes but to other sorts of appliances and implements which the right hon. Gentleman seems to assume are usually to be found on the kitchen table or dresser of the average house. I can assure him that these appliances and implements are not found in the ordinary household, and I can also assure him that it is difficult to find them in a shop. You have to go to half a dozen different shops in order to fit yourself with the full regalia recommended by the Home Office and other Government Departments for the civilian population.
After concrete shelters I think air-raid fighting appliances are the most important thing, not only from the practical but also from the psychological point of view. At the same time, you are not going to get the ordinary busy housewife to go toiling round the various shops, the grocers, the chemists and the ironmongers, to buy the various articles referred to and recommended for her use by Government Departments. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he will find in the long run 2254 that the only way to provide households in this country with the bare minimum of appliances which are necessary to fight air raids and give any householder a sense of security will be by the production of some kind of comprehensive outfit containing all the essential things which an ordinary household will require in an air raid, real value for money, easily obtainable, and on reasonable financial terms. I beg him to give serious consideration to this aspect of the problem. While it may be argued that a certain number of the things recommended are ordinarily available, one thing is certain, they will never be found in the event of an emergency, because nothing can ever be found when you want it badly and quickly; and in any case not all of the things which the right hon. Gentleman has recommended are usually available in a house. In peace time we are all apt to be lazy; and when the bombs begin to drop will not be the moment for a shopping expedition. Anything that can be done to get some form of cheap, comprehensive and mass-produced outfit for fighting air raid fires, extinguishing incendiary bombs, of hacking your way out of debris and dealing with superficial wounds will be very desirable.
I should like to say this in conclusion. It may well be that we shall be faced with a crisis during the next two months; and while everybody admits that great strides have been made in the protection of the civilian population from air-raid attacks, how many houses in this country this afternoon are absolutely without any form of adequate protection against an air raid or any kind of outfit which might assist them in the event of an air raid? There are far too many; and I suggest that while the evacuation arrangements have been worked out with great care and skill by the Government, and will probably work very smoothly, and while we have every reason to be pleased with the response to the appeal for voluntary service, transport, hospitals, doctors and nurses, there is still a large gap to be filled in making adequate protection for the actual physical security of the ordinary people of this country.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
On an occasion such as this there is a strong temptation on the part of anyone who has been actively associated with a local A.R.P. 2255 organisation, as I have been, to come here with a pocketful of complaints and criticisms and hand them out to the Government one after the other. I am going to resist that temptation. I am going to make no complaints at all. A Liberal newspaper has been carrying on a campaign in its columns against the lack of aggression on the part of the official Opposition. I suppose that campaign is founded on the old slogan that it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose. That may be so, but I am not going to argue the point. As one who has been in A.R.P. for a long time I want to say that up to now I have totally failed to discover any party politics in the matter of Civil Defence. I hope I have an average amount of political intelligence to realise that fact, and also to realise that the support and assistance I have received as chairman of the local A.R.P. organisation has come as gladly from people who are politically opposed to me as it has from my own colleagues.
I want, therefore, to direct attention to the personnel of the volunteer army which is growing up. There have been muddle, chaos and confusion which are inseparable from such a gigantic task, but I want to say that the citizens of this country have responded remarkably well. It is one of our virtues that we are not given to boasting of our great accomplishments; we do not, as they say in my division, shout the odds of what we are doing. We have heard many speeches about the marvellous shelters in Barcelona, the wonderful air raid precautions in Paris and the marvellous preparations in Berlin, but from what I have been able to learn about Barcelona, Paris and Berlin the standard of protection against air raids in this country is probably higher than in any of these places; and by a considerable distance. In this matter I think we are in advance of any country in the world. In Germany the air raid wardens, if they fail to carry out their duties, are liable to long terms of imprisonment. In this country we have built up a service of wardens entirely free and voluntary, and they carry out their work to the best of their ability. In Germany the wardens are not only liable to be imprisoned if they fail to carry out their duties, but they have actually to pay 2d. a week or 8d. a month to be wardens, 2256 and then if they do not carry out their duties they are sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
How different is the spirit which actuates the volunteer army which is growing up in this country. The Lord Privy Seal came to my constituency last week, and I think he will agree that the example of volunteer workers he saw in the factories was something to be greatly admired. The volunteers are coming in well for these services, but the main obstacle, in my opinion, is still the man who says, "I shall not bother to do any training; you can count on me when the time comes." That is the kind of fellow with whom it is most difficult to deal, and there are thousands of them. He is a good fellow and will keep his word, and if an emergency comes, as it did last September, he will turn up when he is wanted. Our job is to convince him that he will be 10 times more useful if he has some preliminary training rather than if he merely waits and then comes along and says, "Here I am, What can I do?"
I want to draw the attention of the Lord Privy Seal to the position of the wardens. I speak as a warden myself. I was the first Member of Parliament to become a qualified warden. They have done well, but they have had to meet indifference, ridicule and, in some cases, opposition. There was a case in the newspapers of a retired colonel who used bad language and threatened the warden who dared to call at his house. I do not know why retired colonels are always so bad-tempered. The longer they are retired the more bad-tempered they seem to become. The wardens have had to put up with a great deal from the public. I look upon the warden as the handyman of air-raid precautions, for there is no limit to what he may be called upon to do. I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that the day is past when wardens should spend their time in sending imaginary messages over imaginary telephones to imaginary rescue parties. There is a great deal of useful, practical work for them to be doing. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider embarking upon a campaign to improve the status of wardens and to impress upon the public the importance of wardens. It is very unfortunate that the sort of persons who have volunteered as wardens—good, sound, solid and responsible people, who are thought well of by their neighbours—and have 2257 voluntarily given up their spare time to undergo a course of training, should then have to go from door to door in their district, almost cap in hand, sometimes calling at a given house six or seven times because the people are not in, trying to see people, as though they were asking a favour of people. I ask the Lord Privy Seal to use all his resources of publicity in an effort to make the public realise that they should go to the warden and not expect the warden to come to them.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has referred to leaflets; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would consider issuing a special leaflet to the public telling them who are the wardens and that wardens are people who should be respected. I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's decision to supply uniforms to wardens, for I think that will have a beneficial effect on the lines I have suggested. Up to the present, the wardens have had a little badge on the lapel of their coats. When they receive uniforms, they should be encouraged to wear them. I suggest, further, that the right hon. Gentleman should encourage the recruitment of more women as wardens, particularly in the Greater London area, where often the men leave home early in the morning and do not return until night. Many of the women have considerable time on their hands, and they would be very suitable for house-to-house work and for calling on and advising other women as to what kind of preparations should be made. In the event of an emergency, many men would be carrying on business as usual, and at such a time, women wardens would be invaluable for duty during the day time in a good many localities.
As far as I have been able to gather from the experts, if war should come it would be a very difficult thing for enemy aircraft to come over and bomb our industrial centres in the day time, but it would be much less difficult in darkness. Consequently, the main work of the air-raid precautions service is likely to have to be done under cover of darkness, as daylight air raids will be so difficult that they will be an exception rather than the rule. Therefore, I ask the Lord Privy Seal to encourage wardens and all sections of air-raid precautions workers to do as much practice in darkness as they can. During the weekend after next, there will 2258 be the first big blackout in London and the Home Counties. That blackout will not be a great deal of use from the point of view of the air-raid precautions services, although it may be of great use to the Air Force. If the blackout took place in the evening hours, before people had gone to bed, it might be useful, for it would be possible for the air-raid wardens to make a hurried tour of their sectors, most of which cover about 500 people, and to advise people as to the lights they were showing; but in 99 per cent. of cases, from midnight to four o'clock in the morning, when the blackout will take place, the houses will be in darkness because people will be in bed and the lights will be out. Therefore, a great deal of useful work that might have been done by wardens in a general blackout will not be possible. I hope that during the coming autumn there will be facilities for more practice under conditions of darkness.
The question of recreation is of great importance. In the locality from which I come, the volunteers are having extraordinary success in forming social and recreational organisations. Unless such organisations can be built up, it will be difficult, if we should get a period of three or four months of lull in the international tension—as we all hope there will be—to hold together this great army of ours. On the other hand, that difficulty will be overcome if such social and recreational organisations are built up, as they have been in many places, where they have given a feeling of neighbourliness and brotherhood which is making this the most remarkable voluntary army that has ever existed in the history of the world. There are in this army people from the age of 16 right up to old age pensioners, and within that range of ages we are getting together a social organisation in which there is a fine spirit of neighbourliness and brotherhood.
There are two other suggestions that I wish to make. First, as an ex-service man, I have been worried about the position of disabled ex-service men, who are still bedridden, in some of the vulnerable areas. The effect of an outbreak of war would be terrible upon people who are invalids, but it would be even more terrible upon the victims of the last War, for it would bring the last War back to their memories. The other day I asked 2259 the Minister of Pensions whether anything was being done to meet the case of badly disabled ex-service men who are living in vulnerable areas, and most of whom are bedridden and badly crippled, and whether arrangements were being made for them to be evacuated. The Minister referred me to the general scheme which the Minister of Health has in hand. I suggest that the Lord Privy Seal should ask the British Legion, which has branches all over the country, to take on this little task, to take a census —I am sure that the Ministry of Pensions would give them the names—of the disabled ex-service men living in each district and to arrange for the British Legion's branch in that district to accept responsibility for seeing to the safety of these men and sending them to safe areas. I am sure that if such a suggestion were made to the British Legion, they would welcome it, and I am sure that the members of the British Legion's branches would be delighted to have the opportunity of doing that.
Secondly, I want to ask the Lord Privy Seal to give further attention to overground shelters. In a number of areas— and the Lord Privy Seal knows of one area of which I am thinking—there are large stretches of country that are waterlogged. In the area of which I am thinking, it is no good telling us to build deep shelters 60 feet underground, because during eight months of the year we strike water at two feet. Therefore, in such areas some other method must be found for making the population safe. I should like to have some further information from the Lord Privy Seal as to the possibilities of providing blast and splinter-proof shelters that could be built overground. In my district, nearly a year and a half ago, we had a circular asking us to take steps to find, every 250 yards along the main roads of the borough, emergency accommodation for people who might be caught out in an air raid. We have not been able to do that yet. We cannot find any underground accommodation in such an area, and it seems to me that the only way of meeting the problem is to have some type of overground shelter—whether it be concrete or sandbags, I do not mind, but something of that nature.
In my remarks, I have tried not to make any criticisms, not because there are 2260 none, for indeed there are plenty that could be made, but because it seems to me that criticism does not help at the moment. We are all trying to improve the scheme, and I am glad that so far the Debate has followed the excellent example of the Debates on the Civil Defence Bill, which represented a united effort on the part of all of us to try to secure a good defence for our people.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and I thought he did rather less than justice to the great efforts which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has made since he has been in office. The hon. Member for South Shields referred to the fact that in a newspaper article at the time of my right hon. Friend's appointment, it was stated that my right hon. Friend would need all the courage he could bring to bear on this problem. Although I have criticised some of the actions of my right hon. Friend, both in the House and in personal discussions with him, I submit that he has brought a great measure of moral courage to this problem. In support of that, I will cite two points. I believe it can be said that a Minister is doing passing well when the conclusions to which he comes are in advance of public opinion when he announces them, but are subsequently accepted by public opinion as being correct. In two major cases that has happened. My right hon. Friend had the distinction of being the chairman of the Anderson Committee, which investigated evacuation. By all the canons and principles of Civil Defence, that report was in advance of its time, but it is now recognised almost as the handbook on evacuation.
Secondly, there was the case of the small shelter which carries his name. It may be that the Anderson shelter cannot be used everywhere and in all situations, but it was a major attempt to solve the problem of defending the householder at home. Therefore, I feel that, although we criticise my right hon. Friend on details, we ought to appreciate that he has raised this problem from a slough of misunderstanding, lack of foresight and lack of general policy, and has created something which has just been typified by 2261 the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) as a great army of voluntary workers imbued with the right British spirit. I feel that the House would rather accept the view which I take of this matter than that indicated by the hon. Member opposite. We are apt to go over the same technical ground, again and again, in connection with this problem, without turning back to examine the decisions made by the Government themselves and by committees which the Government have appointed. I propose to devote myself this evening almost entirely to the question of shelters, and I would refer, in the first place, to the distinguished committee which was appointed by my right hon. Friend under the chairmanship of Lord Hailey to consider this problem. I quote two sentences from their report in relation to dispersed shelters. Paragraph 46 of the report says:A substantial advance towards the general provision of such protection can be secured by the use of (1) the householder's own shelter, i.e., a separate unit to be erected on or near the premises, whether in steel or concrete, and (ii) existing house basements, strutted where necessary to withstand the fall of debris.With regard to the first type of shelter, hon. Members know that great progress has been made. In fact, it would now appear that manufacture has been so effective that a large number of shelters are being delivered to people who cannot yet see their importance. But on the second method, namely the strutting of basements, we would like to have some more information. I hear that the official method of strutting while it may be excellent technically is not as practicable as it might be. I would like to know whether this strutting of basements is now in practical use on a large scale. Are local authorities using this standardised strutting in order to give a certain degree of immunity in their areas? With regard to the problem of domestic shelters, as has been said the rub comes in the cases where householders are not able to erect shelters on their own premises. The Hailey Committee saw this clearly. In paragraph 49 of the report they say:We consider it therefore to be of paramount importance that alternative methods suited for application to such areas should be devised, and that no time should be lost in putting them into operation.2262 It is with regard to that aspect of the problem that I feel least happy. There are large, congested and highly vulnerable areas in which, on account of the smallness of the backyards, it is impossible to erect shelters of the Anderson type. The only solution in those cases seems to be either wholesale evacuation from those areas, or some form of communal shelters which would, I think, give a higher degree of perfection than the Anderson shelter against splinters and blast. It may be that the concrete type of shelter, with which my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) dealt, is some solution of the. problem, but I thought that my hon. Friend rather spoiled his observations by suggesting that it would be sufficient to store these concrete shelters. I believe that the essence of the problem of protecting the people is to get everything done now. It is no use waiting and hoping that you will be able to get competent staff to erect shelters, once the emergency is upon us.
Perhaps I might refer at this point to one aspect of the problem to which I think the Lord Privy Seal has given a great deal of thought unknown to the House. The hon. Member for North Tottenham referred to this local problem of providing underground shelters in areas where the water level is just below the ground. As an instance of the wide co-operation which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has brought about with all shades of engineering opinion in this country, I may be allowed to mention this fact. Some time ago I happened to be able to tell him of the work of the Air-Raid Precautions Institute, of which I have the honour to be president. It is a technical body dealing with these problems. My right hon. Friend suggested that a competition which the institute was then launching, should be specifically for designs for the type of shelter to which the last speaker referred. As a result, 120 designs were received from all parts of the British Isles. One design was awarded a prize and four others were highly commended by the assessors. Thus, right now, my right hon. Friend has five designs which could be utilised. That shows the wide ramifications of the technical problems of Civil Defence. I believe that many of these problems are still unsolved, but that instance shows how my right hon. Friend 2263 and the Home Office, which is greatly strengthened in its technical personnel in these days, are doing their best to meet the diverse circumstances of the cases which may arise. Another problem which causes me some disquiet is that of providing more highly protected shelters for key services. When my right hon. Friend announced the Government's shelter policy on 20th April, he said:Third, there is a case for providing heavily protected shelter for certain key points and certain vital services …In particular, it will rest with the Government to indicate, through the appropriate Departments, in what cases more heavily protected shelter is considered desirable in the interests of all concerned. This will present a difficult problem of selection, but it is hoped that by proceeding first with the most obvious and urgent cases a solution representing a fair balance of considerations will be worked out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th April, 1939; col. 474, Vol. 346.]I would like to know what has been done as a result of that indication of policy. I must admit, from what I have seen of shelter protection throughout the country, that the protection of the central Government's departmental staffs in the Metropolis has been done in a thorough and excellent manner. Indeed, after seeing similar protection for Government staffs in Berlin and Paris, I would say that with the exception of the shelters beneath the German Air Ministry building, we have done this work much better than either the German or the French Governments. The success of the operation of Civil Defence, however, depends on the local authorities and the hospitals and I have yet to hear from any local authorities that the Government have fallen in readily or in full measure with schemes. put forward by local authorities for the underground protection of their Civil Defence staffs. Take the question of control posts for example. Can my right hon. Friend tell the House that he has been able to approve of any considerable number of schemes put forward by local authorities for the protection of control posts in underground rooms.
Again, the question of hospitals and first-aid posts has been mentioned. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has indicated the measure of possible casualties by the figure of 300,000 a week. To deal with those casualties we must have a certain proportion of well-protected if not highly-protected operating theatres and wards. It has been sug- 2264 gested that now that there is a committee representing the heads of the hospitals and the Ministry of Health all is well, but I have received a number of very strong representations from doctors who will be called upon to work in these first-aid posts and hospitals in time of war, in which they suggest their dismay at the lack of protection for this work. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to indicate that some radical step forward is being taken in this direction. We are far behind Paris in this respect. There they have 30 underground hospitals with a good degree of protection. These have been visited by a number of hon. Members from both sides of the House and I think it will be agreed that they give the doctors a real chance of fulfilling their duty in an air bombardment.
There is also the question of the type of building used for our present hospitals. The new Westminster Hospital, a steel frame structure, is admirable, but I wonder whether hon. Members realise that four of the main hospitals in the Metropolis are of that type of construction which, in Barcelona, was shown to be hopeless in relation to modern bombing. That is the type of building in which the floors simply rest on the outside walls. If a wall is blown in or out all the floors come down like a house of cards. I saw that kind of collapse in street after street in Barcelona, and, frankly, I fear the worst from the type of construction of some of the older hospitals. Surely it would be better if there are not sufficient new hospitals, to transfer those hospitals to modern steel frame commercial buildings. Although there might not be surgeries available there, those buildings could quickly be adapted and I understand they would give more satisfaction to the medical profession.
I would also ask my right hon. Friend whether he can now say that the Minister of Health has agreed to provide something better than splinter-proof protection for the operating theatres at the great hospitals in the Metropolis. This need not take very long, but it would mean that the medical staffs could approach their problems with a great deal more courage and satisfaction. I have constantly heard my right hon. Friend refer to a thought which is introduced frequently in the report of the Hailey Committee particularly in paragraph 4 where they say: 2265It is of the first importance that the Government in determining its shelter policy should not contemplate a measure of protection for any one area if it cannot ensure that it will be fully extended to all other areas similarly circumstanced.That, surely, is wisdom. We cannot have an outrageous preference for one area as against another. But in discussing this subject with a large number of people in the country who have responsibilities in regard to the shelter problem, I have come to the conclusion that that dictum by the Hailey Committee has been gravely misinterpreted and has come to be regarded as a justification for wholesale inaction. I do not believe that it was the idea of the Hailey Committee that there should be no highly protected shelters, but they did want to ensure that before a vast scheme was embarked upon, there should be a fair consideration of the volume of expenditure that would need to be undertaken in order that unfair preferences should not arise. Can my right hon. Friend say that this question of highly protected shelters is not resting where it was on account of that dictum of the Hailey Conference? Can he assure us that he has approved certain highly protected shelters and that others are being put forward by the local authorities and are receiving now his consideration?
I believe that we have set up in this country, in connection with Civil Defence, a vast popular structure, and that if it is nursed properly, it can be a thoroughly efficient force, but there are certain changes which it would seem desirable to effect, and the one which I hear is troubling most those in command of Civil Defence in the country is the uncertainty of the ultimate responsibility, the ultimate command, in time of war. The chief wardens seem uncertain whether they in their particular areas will be under the military, the police, or some civil officer. Could my right hon. Friend clarify this position beyond doubt? I know that he has his regional commanders, but that is not the local issue. They want to know in the various townships to whom the Civil Defence organisation will be responsible.
Compared with last September, enormous strides forward have been made, and I believe that if we should have trouble in the early future, the casualties might possibly be one-half or one-quarter what they would have been a year ago. 2266 I believe, from all that I have seen, both in France and in Germany, that although there are serious gaps, some of which I have indicated, we have on the whole the most efficient Civil Defence organisation in Europe, and I think that in that respect, while we may all do what we can to urge my right hon. Friend forward in parts where we think, possibly from lack of information or lack of funds or for other reasons, he may not be stepping forward sufficiently quickly, we owe him a very great meet of gratitude for all that he has done in this most important sphere.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
The hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) has covered a certain amount of ground connected with hospitals with which I had intended to deal, but for doing which I am grateful to him as it will shorten my statement. I will, therefore, address myself to one or two points, with this preface. I feel obliged to make certain criticisms, but before doing so I must point out that they are intended to make the service work better. I believe that in any case, if war breaks out at an early date, the Civil Defence services which we have in this country will work and work well, even under present conditions. There are nevertheless many improvements which may be made and which ought to be made. In fact, the reason why I rise is to make certain suggestions to that end.
With regard to hospitals and medical services, I was rather amazed to hear one hon. Member say this evening that all the doctors were completely satisfied because every doctor knew exactly what he had to do. I wish that that were true, but unfortunately it is not true. My profession is a very disciplined profession, and 96 per cent. of them are on the register of the British Medical Association and are ready to be sent anywhere or to do anything, according to their different capacities, but unfortunately the doctors do not get to know exactly what to do, and that applies in connection with the hospitals. The London area, with which I propose to deal without any apology, as I represent a London constituency, is divided up into certain regions, each being commanded by a gentleman appointed from the teach- 2267 ing staff of one of the great voluntary hospitals. I am not criticising or quarreling with that arrangement. I believe that it will be possible to make it work in very well indeed with the municipal hospital organisation, but what I am concerned with is making that organisation work in itself. In order that I might have my information quite up to date, I got into telephonic communication this morning with a friend of mine who is concerned in the direction of one hospital in one of the sectors, not nearest to London, but a few miles out, and the situation there is this: I quote it, not because it is exceptional, but because it is typical, of the difficulties in which the hospital organisation finds itself and which I hope the Minister of Health, who I understand will reply on this point, will be able to help.
This particular hospital, which will, under war conditions, have 120 beds— it is a small item, of course, but important—has no means of protection for its operating theatre, or for the hospital itself, and it does not know how to get that protection paid for if it orders the necessary materials. It is a hospital run entirely on a voluntary basis, and it is entirely self-supporting. It has no overdraft, and the small overdraft which would be necessary in order to meet the cost of its essential defence would run to what, from the Minister's point of view, is only a trifle, a mere £3,000, but is still a large sum from the point of view of the committee of the hospital. The gentleman who is in charge of that sector has no authority apparently to authorise the expenditure, and they do not know to whom to apply. The Minister would know very well the names of the people about whom I am speaking if I gave him them, which I would be ready to do privately, though it might be embarrassing to do so publicly. They do not know how to get authorisation for the expenditure, and, therefore, they do not know how to make their arrangements. That is an example of what the hon. Member for Duddeston alluded to just now when he spoke of the difficulty with regard to the chain of command. They do not really know where the authority lies. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us where the authority lies in the hospital sectors, so that they can authorise payments for absolutely necessary expenses, 2268 and how that can be done quickly and without too much red tape, as it is essential that it should be done.
Then there is another matter with regard to medical services that I want to raise, and that is with regard to what are sometimes called first-aid parties and sometimes stretcher parties. I have in my hand a copy of the agenda of the borough council of Islington, dated 21st July, and I find in it, under the Air-Raid Precautions Sections, one devoted to the training and organisation of stretcher parties. I will read one paragraph, because I wish to ask the Minister questions upon it. The paragraph is to this effect:It is proposed to appoint a full-time medical officer to the staff of the chief administrative officer of the London Civil Defence Region, who will be charged with the duty of inspecting and co-ordinating the training of stretcher parties throughout the region on the lines laid down in A.R.P. Handbook No. 10, shortly to be issued, and under his general supervision the St. John Ambulance Brigade will accept definite responsibility throughout the County of London for the organisation of combined training.The importance of that paragraph is that it applies not only in the area of the Islington Borough Council, but to the whole of the area of London and of Greater London, and the first-aid parties, the stretcher parties, are those men who will actually go to the scene of a raid, who will pick up the casualties, who will in all probability decide to which place the casualties are to be sent, and who will have, of course, extremely important functions because of that. The success of the casualty collecting organisation will largely depend on the success of the training and the efficiency of the preliminary exercises that these first-aid parties undergo before an emergency arises. This paragraph talks of "Handbook No. 10, shortly to be issued." I want to ask the Minister a perfectly plain question as to whether that handbook is to be issued or whether it is not to be issued, because there is a doubt about it, as he knows. The doubt about it is the more important for the reason that there is in the Cromwell Road a training school for first-aid parties, and the training at that school. which is the basis of the training of a very considerable number of first-aid workers in the country, is based on the teaching which is contained in that Handbook No. 10, still in a condition of page proofs and still not yet published.
2269 What is to be done with that particular handbook? This is one of the kind of difficulties and delays to which I think criticism is justifiably directed, because if this handbook is not eventually to be issued, is the scheme of training to be all altered, and, if so, will that not create, I will not say complete chaos, but a very great dislocation in the organisation of first-aid parties? It seems to me that that is a vital question, which ought to be settled at the very earliest possible moment. I hope it will be. I hope the Minister will be able to reassure those who are particularly interested in this matter, and that we can get this clear, because on the efficiency of the first-aid parties or stretcher bearer organisation depends, in the first instance, the efficiency of the casualty collection.
Now I turn to a question which I regard as one of primary importance, one which the right hon. Gentleman also regards as of great importance, the question, namely, of evacuation. Everyone in this House, I presume, like every other citizen in this country, has recently received a little two-page leaflet setting out the situation with regard to the Government's policy for evacuation, and it is an admirably phrased and excellently clear statement. I have no quarrel with it so far as it goes, but it goes only to the extent of dealing with children and with certain priority classes. It does not deal with a number of other persons who, I submit, ought to be dealt with, and in view of the fact that the hon. Member for Duddeston referred in terms of appreciation to the report of the Committee on Evacuation, I hope he will not be bored or fatigued by listening to some extracts from that report, which, I propose to remind the House, embody a policy which has not yet been implemented by the Government. Let me read the preliminary part. After an introduction and general survey referring to the possible outbreak of war the report says, speaking of evacuation:Whatever the Government's plans it is to be anticipated that there would be an exodus, on a scale which cannot accurately be foreseen, from any area which has been subjected to repeated attack.It goes on:If large numbers of persons are determined to leave a district it does not seem to be practicable, even if it were desirable, to prevent them from doing so.2270 Among the signatures appended to that document is that of the right hon. Gentleman, as the Chairman, with those others of us who were members of that committee. I put it to the Minister that that reference implies a broader policy with regard to evacuation than anything which has been put forward lately by the Government. There is another sentence to which I would like to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention:Limited areas might have to be completely evacuated, for military reasons or on such grounds as the risk of flooding.I put it to the House that the Government's policy on evacuation, excellent as it is with regard to children and the other priority classes to whom it applies, has not been worked out in that detail which I think we should all desire to see for the other classes of the population whom it will be, I believe, necessary to evacuate, or, in the alternative, to provide means by which they can evacuate themselves without that evacuation becoming a panic rout. I am giving that opinion in terms which I think the wording of the report justifies me in using. In this report it is contemplated that there might be difficulties with regard to evacuation and that it will be necessary to give advice to secure an ordered evacuation. It says:If advice were given in clear and precise terms it would have a powerful effect in securing an ordered evacuation—that is with regard to the voluntary movement of a population evacuating themselves. I suggest that that is a gap in the present arrangements for evacuation. Those clear and precise directions for evacuation have not been given, and I believe they should be given, and for the reasons stated in another sentence in the report:Panic will be allayed if it is known that the Government has worked out plans and is ready to put them into operation, and the character of any large-scale exodus from the towns will be moulded by the arrangements made for employing the available transport and other facilities.That goes a great deal beyond the Government's present plans for the evacuation of children and other priority classes, and I think it is right that it should do so. In this report it was clearly conceived that there would have to be evacuated not only children and the priority classes but a considerable 2271 proportion of the ordinary industrial population engaged in occupations which were not regarded as necessary in time of war. In fact, the Ministry of Labour, at the request of this committee, undertook an inquiry as to what people could be evacuated in time of war and who were necessary. In a paragraph it is stated:We were informed by the Ministry of Labour that 62 per cent. of London workers are engaged in industry groups which would be particularly important in wartime for production, commerce and government.That implies, of course, that the remaining percentage are employed in occupations which are not particularly important and are people who could be evacuated. In fact, it says definitely, under the heading "Scope of transference":It is nevertheless clear that a proportion of the population of industrial areas could be transferred from them without serious detriment to national efficiency, a percentage of the employed population composed of varying proportions in the different industries could also be spared, and while many housewives would remain to provide for the needs of the working population a considerable proportion of women in London need not stay.I quote these things because I believe that it is essential that the Government should have a policy of evacuation not only for children and priority classes now being dealt with, but for these other classes—industrial workers who can be spared, women who do not need to remain in order to look after the industrial workers but are remaining, and a special class of those who are living in particularly vulnerable areas who, for military reasons alone, will have to be, in my submission, evacuated even compulsorily if they do not themselves desire to go. I put that forward not only from the standpoint of humanitarianism but also from the standpoint of administrative common sense. If we take the London river area, with its 2,000,000 population scattered in close proximity to the river, large numbers of warehouses, docks and places where people are working constantly, we have an area which is almost bound to be attacked and in which the casualties, if it were attacked, would be very great. It is an area in which it is difficult in many places, such as the Isle of Dogs, to put up any shelters at all. It is a district from which a number of 2272 people, if they were counted in advance, could comparatively easily be sent away without detriment to the work which was being carried out there. But if we leave a large number of people who are not necessary in time of war in that area then we shall have a very much greater number of casualties than we need have, and we shall overburden the hospital accommodation. In fact, I venture to think that unless we evacuate from vulnerable areas of that character a large number of people who are not urgently required in time of war there will be such a burden put upon the hospital organisation that we shall not, in fact, be able to deal with it.
This is not a matter which can be left, and it does not of course apply only to London. I have a little document, published by the Stationery Office, called "Civil Defence Bill. Provisional List of Areas to which Part III is proposed to be applied." It is a list of areas in the country in which it is necessary that there should be shelters provided for workpeople in factories, mines and commercial buildings. Any area which it is necessary to put in Part III of the Bill, which is an area where the workpeople in factories, mines and commercial buildings need to have shelter provided for them. is an area from which all those who are surplus to industrial production, from the standpoint of war, should be, if it be possible, evacuated. I venture to think that although it may be difficult to arrange it is not impossible to arrange, and a plan should be made now. because it is no use waiting until an emergency is upon us for what one might call a second wave of evacuation.
Arrangements should be made for billets, it may be for billets of a kind which would not be suitable for children. As was pointed out by the hon. Member who opened the Debate, in many areas there are not water supplies, sanitary appliances and so forth, and arrangements should be made to see that accommodation can be obtained for this second wave of evacuation, that billets are obtained and that there is available food stored in the area, and water supplies and emergency sanitary arrangements. Those areas ought to be selected now, even if it is only provisionally. I do not even suggest that the information should necessarily be made public at the present time, but the areas ought to be selected and 2273 the preliminary preparations made. Then, I venture to suggest that just as the right hon. Gentleman has published his list of areas which are in Part III of the Civil Defence Bill he should, if not publish, at least decide upon, those areas in the country which, because of the likelihood of intensified attack, ought to be compulsorily evacuated; some in London, some perhaps in the Birmingham or Sheffield or Glasgow areas—I am not going all over the country, because any gentleman who spends 2d. can get a copy of the document, which will give him a key to the understanding of what are the vulnerable areas.
The two outstanding matters which I have asked about are, first, the hospital service and the first-aid and stretcher party service and, secondly, evacuation. As I said at the beginning, and will now reiterate, I feel confident that in any circumstances our Civil Defence services will function and function well. I took an opportunity a little time ago to go round the Civil Defence arrangement in Islington, and although there is much to be done the arrangements are undoubtedly being very well carried out, and I believe that that state of affairs is only typical of what is going on all over the country. If we do come into a war condition I see no reason why this country should needlessly sacrifice lives and needlessly get into confusion for the want of taking thought now and making arrangements now. We ought to clear up the difficulties to which I have drawn attention in connection with hospitals and first-aid services, and I do think—and I venture to regard this as perhaps the most important aspect of the matter—that we should make preparations to enable us to take into the country areas the second wave of evacuation with which I am sure we shall have to deal.
§ 6.58 p.m.
It might be courteous if I were to deal now with one or two of the problems more particularly related to the Department for which I am responsible, leaving the Lord Privy Seal to deal with general problems when he winds up at the conclusion of the Debate. This, I think, is the more desirable since the problems of evacuation and hospitals have formed a considerable proportion of the Debate up till now. I hope to be short, but it is difficult to confine one's remarks upon this subject, because it is novel, it is important and it requires detailed and docu- 2274 mentary references. If I over-step any limits of time I trust the House will be merciful and considerate towards me. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) spoke more particularly of the evacuation side, although he also mentioned the hospitals, and said that his right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) had asked him to raise certain specific points as regards the London municipal hospitals and their relation to the general scheme. Let me refer with a sympathy which we all must share to the temporary indisposition which has caused the absence of the right hon. Gentleman from our debates this afternoon. We trust that he will soon be restored to complete health. Like the hon. Member for South Shields I must eschew all the graces, and merely work down the columns of what I have to answer, and I am afraid that my answers may be rather like those of the old Scottish lady who, on being asked, for her opinion of Johnson's Dictionary, said, "It's verra interestin' but verra disconnected."
As to camps, the hon. Member asked whether any sites had been purchased. The answer is "Yes." Then he asked whether any work had begun. Again the answer is "Yes." Work has started or is about to begin at 12 camps. Then he asked when the first camps would be ready. It will take about three months to build them, and therefore we expect the first camps to be ready in three months from now. The contracts for the woodwork of 32 camps have been let, and we expect the whole of these camps to be finished by the end of this year. The figures for Scotland are along the same lines. I think he also asked, on the question of evacuation in general, whether we were taking pains to be sure that the accommodation which would be available for the evacuees would be adequate, and were we satisfied as to the provision of the essential sanitary services of water and sewerage? In regard to that I understand that he was also putting a point which he had been asked to put by the great associations of local authorities. The general attitude of the House and indeed of the country towards this matter was also brought out in a very charming speech by the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison). I think it is an indication of the non-party attitude adopted towards this question that two such spokesmen have been chosen to put 2275 forward the views of the County Councils Association.
The hon. Member spoke of two towns, Congleton and Macclesfield, to which evacuees were about to be sent, and pointed out that both those towns indicated that they were seeking powers to supplement their present water supply. I think he will agree, on reflection, that a town which quite properly seeks to supplement its present water supply is still a town to which, in the stress of an emergency, evacuees might very properly be sent. For, after all, we know that the consumption of water does not rise proportionately to the increase of the population of a town—[Hon. Members: "What about Scotland?"] Scotland consumes more water per head than any other country and there is no country of which it can more truly be said that its national drink is water. We have experience in conditions of temporary congestion, such as seaside resorts at the height of the season, of the number of inhabitants going up by as much as 100 per cent. But even then the increase in the consumption of water is often not more than 33 per cent. No doubt towns have to be sparing with the water supply, and not use it extravagantly, while a large number of persons have been added to the population. But I would stress that it is not possible to billet the enormous number of persons covered by the Government's evacuation scheme in areas all of which will have full and complete water supplies and a full system of water-borne sewage.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, North (Dr. Guest) spoke of the great desirability of using all the accommodation we have got. To refuse to use a place because the industrial water supply was not complete, or because in a village a well was used for water supply, would be unjustifiable. You might easily find that you were exposing those persons, by not removing them, to a far greater danger than if they were moved to a place where they had to be careful of the water supply, and where they had to use water with the same sparingness that we are all accustomed to when there are temporary shortages in the towns where we may happen to be. We are, of course, making the very closest examination, and taking the most careful steps, to ensure that, as far as possible, no 2276 undue strain shall be placed upon areas where the water supply is notably deficient. We are working in the closest cooperation with the water experts of the local authorities. Moreover, we are working through our own water and sewage division at the Ministry. In that division we have 29 expert engineering inspectors who know intimately the condition of the water supply of the whole country. They satisfy themselves as to the water supplies of the areas into which it is proposed to evacuate persons. They are willing at all times to confer with the local authorities. If the local authorities can show that what they consider an undue strain is being placed upon their water supplies, special attention is given to them. The hon. Member mentioned the case of Taunton. If Taunton can show, as they may be able to show from the figures mentioned by the hon. Member, that they have been asked to take too many people, we shall do our best to reduce that number and to ensure that there is no danger to health.
§ Mr. Elliot
There is that point. But we are near the adjournment for the holidays, and we are anxious to know what the position would be if an emergency should break out while the House is in recess. I am trying to indicate the steps that we are taking to deal with that, and the hon. Gentleman will agree that these long distance measures could not be brought into operation before the end of the summer.
The hon. Member also referred to the case of sewage and the difficulties which town-bred boys find in anything except the use of a water-borne sewage system with the four-gallon flush to which they have become accustomed. But these are difficulties of which we have all had some experience ourselves, in going camping, for instance. You cannot rule out great areas of the country as unsuitable to be receiving areas simply on that account. This is the sort of thing to which people going camping have to pay attention, and I think that the town-bred boy will adapt himself as we have all adapted ourselves to the changed conditions of the countryside.
2277 The hon. Member said something on the problem of billeting accommodation. He suggested, if I heard him correctly, that a survey was at present in progress. I am anxious not to allow the impression to go out that the enormous and complicated billeting survey which we have already made is about to be cast into the melting pot and that a fresh survey is to be undertaken. Nothing alarms the reception authorities more than the fear of a complete, new, overhaul of the system. It is quite true that in certain areas we have been able to add to the areas which are to be evacuated—I answered a question in the House not long ago on that point—and that a certain reshuffle is taking place under Plan 3. But Plan 3 is merely Plan 2 revised and brought up to date. We asked local authorities in our circular 1841, to which reference has been made, to ascertain as far as possible what new arrangements had been made within their areas by private individuals, and to what extent private individuals would wish accommodation for friends or close relatives to be reserved in the general schemes.
§ Mr. Elliot
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. He is quite right. It is relatives and close friends. The point I wanted to make is that we have told each area how many persons are to be received in that area. The local authorities know that the responsibility rests upon them to find accommodation for a specified number of persons in their areas. In the event they will rely, and rightly rely, on the powers, compulsory if necessary, with which this House has invested the Minister, and, through the Minister, the billeting officers who will in practice give effect to these arrangements. I am sure the hon. Member does not suggest that we should beforehand demand that nobody should take persons into their houses. We must deal with that situation as and when the emergency arises. It would clearly be very unjust, and, indeed, practically impossible, to hold accommodation vacant from now until the end of the year. I am sure he would agree that the whole situation must depend upon the tact and discretion of the billeting officer, backed, as he would be, by the powers which this House has given, and relying on the good will 2278 of the population and the householders in the reception areas. We have successfully relied upon their good will before. I am sure that we can rely upon their continued good will if an emergency should come.
I hope that that deals with the point which the hon. Member made, because I am anxious not to delay the House but to get on to the next question. He asked me about hospitals, and this point was also touched upon by the hon. Member for Islington, North. He wished to have some sort of progress report upon the possible accommodation available now and likely to be available in the near future. In the first place the 100,000 beds upon which we are counting for the first wave of casualties are ready now. These are the 100,000 which would be made available by the sending home of patients who are fit to go. People are occupying those beds now, but they would be fully available if the emergency arose. The buildings are there, the beds are there, the staff are there, and the equipment is there.
The second wave of casualties would be accommodated in the second instalment of beds for which we are arranging. These second 100,000 are the beds which are being placed in existing institutions by what we call "crowding." Here again, the institutions are already there, and the problems of shelter and so on do not arise. It is just a question of the actual beds, bedding and equipment, and 50,000 of these beds are already in-the hospitals. The second 50,000 will be there in the hospitals by the end of this month.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am giving the figures for England and Wales. Parallel action has been taken in Scotland and I shall presently give figures in regard to the hutment hospitals in Scotland, because I think that that is the aspect of the Scottish problem in which the right hon. Gentleman is particularly interested. Those who are interested more particularly in this question of supplies—beds, and bedding and other equipment—will find a reference in the White Paper which-we put out, No. 6061, in paragraphs 47 to 53, with the actual details of the beds, beddings, drugs and so on which have been provided, or are shortly to be-provided.
§ Mr. Boothby
Do the figures for Scotland roughly correspond to the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has given? Is there any great disparity?
§ Mr. Elliot
No, in proportion there is no great disparity, save that Scotland, as we know, has been rather under-built and over-endowed while England is under-endowed and over-built. The consequence is that Scotland will have to rely more upon the provision of additional accommodation than will England and Wales. That problem is more important in Scotland than in England, and a larger proportion of the casualties will have to be accommodated in ad hoc buildings.
§ Sir Percy Harris
Are the hospitals in the London areas to be used irrespective of location, even though they are right in the danger areas?
§ Mr. Elliot
No, I was coming to that point. Under the sector scheme for London we shall cut down to a minimum the use of the institutions in the central areas—those at the hub of the wheel so to speak. The scheme provides for the transferring out to the institutions on the rim of the wheel, to the periphery, of a considerable number of patients who are now in the central hospitals. The hospitals at the hub will not be used to the fullest extent even if extreme urgency arises. Thus the great teaching hospitals in London will be reduced to the level of big casualty-clearing stations.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all the hospitals in Scotland are occupied at the moment? Is any provision being made to deal with that situation in case of emergency?
§ Mr. Elliot
The same holds good for Scotland as for England. A very considerable number of beds will be made available by patients who are fit to go. That is the first point, and it holds good for all hospitals, both in Scotland and England. It is not a theoretical figure but is based on actual experience of the crisis last September, when we found that our theoretical calculations were very closely borne out in practice. The White Paper relating to emergency hospital accommodation says in paragraph 22 that the several institutions which are mentioned will actually provide accommodation for some 6,000 casualty beds in Scotland. The action taken in Scotland is parallel with that in England.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Is there any foundation for the statement made to us, as representatives of the people of Scotland, that they cannot at the moment accommodate people who are anxious to get into hospital, the ordinary cases?
§ Mr. Elliot
I think it will be true to say that, so far as the voluntary hospitals are concerned, there is in Scotland a considerable waiting list. The hon. Member has mentioned the voluntary hospitals, which form only a percentage of the hospital beds of this country. You have to take into account all the hospitals, both municipal and voluntary.
The same general statement holds good for England as for Scotland, that there is a considerable number of beds which can be made available at short notice, without endangering life and limb, by sending home people who are able to go. Hon. Members will realise that there is a very great difference in teaching hospitals, such as the Glasgow Royal Infirmary or the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where there is constant pressure for the beds and a long waiting list. On the other hand some of the larger institutions are not run at the same pressure, but will none the less be extremely useful if the whole hospital machine is unified and treated as a single unit, as it will be in time of war.
I have said that we have a programme in England and Wales for hutment hospitals. That holds good equally for Scotland. By the end of September in England and Wales we hope to have huts completed with 1,760 beds; by the end of October with 7,160; by the end of November with 29,500 and by the end of the year with 35,000 beds. That is, if we can keep to the schedule. I hope very much that we shall be able to do so. We have at the present time arranged for 20 hutment hospitals for Scotland covering 7,000 beds. The Office of Works has authorised and is proceeding immediately with the provision of 6,250 beds and it is hoped to complete the whole programme of 7,000 beds by the end of the autumn. In Scotland there will in all be 10,000 new beds in hutments.
It may be convenient at this point to deal completely with the question of nurses, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen 2281 (Mr. Boothby). The position roughly is that we have 9,000 or 10,000 trained nurses enrolled and some 45,000 auxiliary nurses enrolled for training. My hon. Friend may have seen in Monday's newspapers a letter written by all the matrons of the great teaching hospitals in London on this subject, urging that all trained nurses not already under obligation should enrol themselves in the Civil Nursing Reserve as willing to "rejoin the Colours'' if war unfortunately should come upon us.
The hon. Member for South Shields and the hon. Member for North Islington referred to the London position, which is undoubtedly different from that of the rest of the country. The mere size of this great aggregation of people, and the mosaic of local government units under which it is governed, makes it literally a unique problem. The method which we have sought to adopt to deal with it is boldly to make an ad hoc emergency scheme with administrative boundaries of its own, a scheme of 10 sectors—10 synthetic cities as it were—centred around Charing Cross. These sectors run as far as, and sometimes beyond, the boundaries of Greater London and into the neighbouring counties. The hon. Member for South Shields said that these lines cut across the existing administrative boundaries. That is true. But I say, in defence, that the mosaic of the boundaries of the existing local government units also cuts across all the conceivable transport lines which one might possibly adopt to get, say, a wounded man from Charing Cross to somewhere in the neighbourhood of Epsom Downs. We have boldly adopted sui generis this plan entirely on its own, and I think it is working out not unsuccessfully.
The hon. Member said that if his right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney had been here he would have commented on the position in two critical sectors, sectors 8 and 9. He said that in these sectors the emergency beds in the municipal hospitals numbered 24,000, whereas the number in voluntary hospitals was a mere 4,000. He complained that in these circumstances the management rested too much in the hands of officers of the voluntary hospitals as against the municipal hospitals, which obviously provided us with the larger measure of accommodation. That is so, 2282 but first of all the heads of the great teaching hospitals have a tremendous position of authority and technical preeminence in the profession. It is quite wrong to under-estimate the prestige factor which they give. Secondly, the very fact that they are—
§ Mr. Elliot
The leading teaching hospitals are the great voluntary hospitals situated near the hub of the wheel. The provincial problem is quite different. Let us say, since I come from the North of the Tweed, that in the non-London area of the British Isles, the position is quite different, because there is not that mosaic of administrative areas. The problem in Newcastle, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Bristol is quite different from what it is in London, where you have all the London boundaries continually cutting across your normal lines of transport and over-spilling into the surrounding counties. The administrative problem is simplified by the fact that the deans of the great teaching hospitals are not themselves in administrative units and, therefore, should find it very easy to co-operate with the various authorities concerned. The difficulties of putting the London County Council over all the other units should not be under-estimated, particularly when it comes to the adjoining counties. The London County Council is naturally regarded with a certain amount of apprehension in the neighbouring counties. The very size of it makes that almost inevitable. I very much hope that the experiment which we have tried to make of drawing the executive officers from the voluntary hospitals rather than from any of the single administrative units will be a success. It is working out that way. Certainly those of my representatives who have been round say that nothing can exceed the helpfulness, comradeship and desire of the local authorities, both elected representatives and technical 2283 staffs, to co-operate in this admittedly novel scheme.
§ Mr. Silkin
The right hon. Gentleman is rightly apprehensive about the position of the voluntary hospitals, but he surely recognises that the case of the L.C.C. is very important.
§ Mr. Elliot
I was speaking of the apprehension not of the voluntary hospitals but of the other administrative units, either county council or borough council, who have also to be considered. I do not under-estimate the importance of the London County Council, and in a moment I am coming to the administrative procedure which I have adopted to make sure that that very important body is not left out of account when this plan is being considered. I was drawing attention, not to the apprehension of the voluntary hospitals, but to that of other administrative bodies whose co-operation is vital in this matter. I agree that a scheme for London without the London County Council would not be a scheme at all. Therefore, on the body which we set up, after conference with the chairmen of the voluntary hospitals, to work over the plans—it was coming into being even before that time—we had a representative of the London County Council. We invited either Sir George Gater himself or any deputy he chose to send to attend as a member of the committee, and Sir Frederick Menzies, the chief medical administrator of the whole of the London County Council, is a member of that central committee. I think that that will ensure that there will be no danger of the London County Council being neglected, or of any arrangements being come to which would run counter to the very proper desire that that great municipal authority shall not be overridden or overlooked in working out the scheme.
The hon. Member for North Islington said that that was all very well as regards the scheme as a whole, but what about the individual hospitals; and he gave an example of one individual hospital which has no protection for its operating theatre or for the hospital itself, does not know how it is to get it, and is anxious to know how it shall be brought about. We did our best to draw attention to the solution of that problem in our Memorandum No. 1 on the Emergency Medical Services, 2284 in paragraph 4 of which it is stated that the hospital authorities responsible for institutions in an area likely to be attacked should consider what protective measures are required, and should then, if it is considered that the case is one for Government assistance, submit their proposals to the appropriate Department, together with an estimate of the expenditure involved in the various items. That is the answer to the problem which the hon. Member put to me. The hospital should make application to my Department forthwith. I will undertake that, if it does, the application will be considered within a very short time, and I should hope that an agreement completely satisfactory to the hospital will be arrived at. I have already agreed as to the financial terms of such an arrangement. Every penny in excess of £1 a bed will be carried by the Government, and not by the hospital, so that any approved expenditure in excess of £120 for this 120-bed hospital would be carried by the Government. On that basis I think we should be able to come to a satisfactory arrangement without undue delay. The hon. Member also spoke about the Stretcher Parties Handbook of Instruction, A.R.P. No. 10. That has been held up owing to certain professional differences, but those differences have now been composed, and we shall get the book out as quickly as possible. It is not merely a case of actual delay, but a clash of opinion with doctors, and that is always very difficult to resolve.
The last point that the hon. Member mentioned was with regard to evacuation. He stressed particularly the fact that the Anderson Report, to which he referred partly, and quite rightly, with the pride of an author, and which is a document to which we should pay the highest respect, mentioned one-third as the figure at which we should aim for evacuation, and said that, even so, it was probable that accommodation would be the limiting factor. The hon. Member drew attention to the accommodation factor in his own speech on 24th May. With the provision for 3,000,000 mothers and others and school children, and with the provision for 1,000,000 self-evacuated, from a total population of 11,000,000 in the evacuated areas, we have already reached, even with a little discount, the figure of one-third to which the Anderson Report made reference. But, said the 2285 hon. Member, that is not enough, because you have also to deal with the fact that you may find a wave of people passing out of heavily bombed areas as actual refugees. That consideration has not been left out of account; the officials are now giving very close attention to that problem of possible refugees, as against evacuees moving out under the planned and ordered arrangements for which these schemes provide. We are working at schemes, in conjunction with the local authorities, whereby food and shelter will be provided for those persons. We are taking as a basis the public assistance committees, and we are making arrangements by which any substantial additional expense incurred as the result of such a wave of refugees will be carried by the central authority. I do not think it is desirable to go into that question further at present, but I am sure the hon. Member will be relieved to know that that problem also is under active examination, and that skeleton plans already exist which would be workable even if the crisis were to come to-morrow.
He also mentioned that we should have a policy for the non-essential workers. There would, however, be difficulty in having more than the existing planned schemes of evacuation, which have already reached the limits of accommodation and transport. We have reached a point where the conflict of the claims of various evacuees is becoming a serious problem. We already have complaints from various towns and areas that the danger which children and others will incur if they are sent to such areas will be greater than that which they would incur by staying at home. These facts, which I encounter every day, make me chary of promising any considerable addition to the lists of those to be evacuated under planned and ordered schemes at the commencement of hostilities. I shall keep the point in mind, and, if possible, we shall add to the lists, but already we are coming across limits which are not easy to overpass—limits of accommodation and transport, and so on, which could not be got rid of however great an effort the country was willing to make.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman's Department last week on this issue. We have in South-West Lancashire areas which were heavily bombed in the last War, but 2286 which to-day are scheduled as billeting and receiving areas. We thought that, as they suffered severely in the last War, they should not be considered as proper areas for receiving evacuees in any future war.
§ Mr, Elliot
The hon. Member makes a point which is made to me many times a week from various areas in the country, which, either because they suffered in the last War or for some special reason, feel that they are highly vulnerable. But areas where you have a population concentration of 80,000 to the square mile must be more vulnerable than areas where the population concentration is only 800 or 900 to the square mile. That is the principle of dispersal, upon which we must all concentrate. The hon. Member mentioned the desirability of evacuating more mothers, but there again it is a matter of recanvassing the mothers of whose registrations we already have statistics. We have areas which give a high percentage of registration, in some cases as high as 40 and 50 per cent., and we have, on the other hand, areas with a low response, such as Gateshead, which has a response of only 4 per cent. I think the first thing to do is to make sure that the matter is clearly explained in the areas, and thereafter, if we do not get the response, we shall need to consider what further steps we shall take. As for the complete evacuation of highly vulnerable areas, that also would need to be considered in the light of the circumstances of the time. It is very difficult in the abstract to say now what area is so highly vulnerable that it should, in advance of further knowledge, be scheduled as an area from which hundreds of thousands of people should be compulsorily driven away.
I apologise for having taken up so much of the time of the House. I can only say that I have merely given extracts from the enormous sheaf of information I have, which would occupy all the rest of the evening if it were gone into at any length. If hon. Members in any part of the House feel that their questions have not been fully answered, and if they will write to me, I will do my utmost to let them have an answer in writing. We are doing our best by sending them literature, and sometimes I feel that I ought to apologise for the shower of printed matter that we send them, but it is sent in the belief that this is a matter of vital in- 2287 terest to all; and it is simply as a servant of the House, and in no way as a propagandist of any scheme or of any party, that I have been emboldened to make the drafts I have made on the time and patience of the House, and the new draft which I have had to make this afternoon.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Silkin
I am sure the Minister of Health and the Lord Privy Seal will agree that they can make no complaint of the spirit in which the Debate has been conducted on this side of the House. We have not endeavoured in any way to make this vitally important question of air-raid precautions the sport of party controversy, and have not been unnecessarily provocative in bringing forward suggestions or making criticisms. Nevertheless, I do not altogether follow the encomiums which the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) threw at the head of the Lord Privy Seal. But, while I did not come here to praise the Lord Privy Seal, I do not propose to bury him, though at a later stage we may endeavour to reduce his salary by £100. Most of the discussion this afternoon has been in connection with evacuation, hospitals, and important health services connected with evacuation. I want to deal once more with the question of shelters, more particularly after the remarks of the Minister of Health, with which I fully agree, pointing out the difficulties of evacuation and the fact that probably, at any rate in the early stages of a war, the existing evacuation arrangements will be as much as the organisation could stand, and that a breakdown would result if any attempt were made to organise further evacuation. For that reason, the question of providing shelter for those who have to remain in vulnerable areas, whether in their homes or at work, becomes of increasing importance.
I should like to draw the attention of the Lord Privy Seal to a number of deficiencies in his shelter policy. The Lord Privy Seal has often stated that it is his objective to provide at least splinter-proof and blast-proof shelter for every person in a vulnerable area, whether, when a raid takes place, that person is at home or at work. I ask the House to consider how far the Lord Privy Seal has been successful in achieving that objective. There are a large number of houses where the steel shelter, better 2288 known as the Anderson shelter, cannot be erected for one reason or another. I think we are on common ground in regard to that statement. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in discussing the relative merits of steel and concrete shelters: I do not feel competent to do so; and I have no interest in one as against the other. I am prepared to accept the Lord Privy Seal's statement that the tests made in connection with the steel shelter have been satisfactory, and no doubt they will serve the purposes for which they are erected. But there are a large number of houses in and near London where they cannot be erected. There are whole boroughs in London—Holborn is one—where not a single steel shelter can be put up. The Lord Privy Seal must consider what is the alternative to steel shelters in such cases as this. There are other boroughs where only 50 per cent. of the houses can be provided with steel shelters, and there is not a single borough where every house can be provided with a steel shelter.
Then there is the class of persons who will not be provided with shelters free of charge, in other words, middle-class persons, who are living in houses incapable of being strengthened—non-basement houses or houses where the basement is not sufficiently strong to resist the falling debris—who are not being helped in any way and have no means of protection in their homes or outside. While I want to pay tribute to the work which is being done by a large number of local authorities, under great stress and strain, in dealing with air-raid precautions, I would add that some are somewhat unhelpful. I know a case of a local authority which, in response to an offer by a certain person to make his house available as a public air-raid shelter, sent round two surveyors to examine the house. In due course the surveyors reported that the house could be made available for the protection of 66 persons, but that it would need strengthening in certain respects, and that they could do nothing about it until they had made a complete survey of the borough, put forward proposals to the Home Office for providing shelter for the whole borough, and got these proposals approved. The householder then wrote 2289 to the council and said that, rather than wait for an indefinite period, he would be prepared to provide a shelter at his own expense if the borough council would state the result of the survey and the work that would require to be done in the house. The reply he got from the council was that it was no part of their duty under the Civil Defence Act to advise householders, and that if they advised him they would have to advise everybody else, and, therefore, they regretted that they could do nothing about it.
That is an example of a particularly unhelpful attitude on the part of a local authority. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will give an instruction to the local authorities that they are to be as helpful as they possibly can to persons anxious to provide protection for themselves and their families and other persons outside. The mere fact that a person happens to be outside the class for whom free shelters are provided does not necessarily mean that he is a person of means, able to employ a private surveyor and go to enormous expense. Moreover, a person who describes himself as an A.R.P. expert, capable of advising private householders as to what work should be done, is not necessarily reliable. There is no recognised diploma for the A.R.P. expert, and one may find when it is too late that one has acted on the advice of a so-called A.R.P. expert and gone to considerable expense which turns out to be useless.
I come to a class of persons of whom the Lord Privy Seal has heard before and of whom he will go on hearing again until something is done for them: that is, the class of persons living in working-class flats not owned by the local authority— because the local authorities are now carrying out proper precautions in connection with flats they themselves own— but owned by philanthropic organisations or private persons. The Lord Privy Seal declined to put into the Civil Defence Act a Section requiring the owners of such flats to provide for the protection of their tenants, and the ground he gave was that that was the duty of the local authorities. The local authorities, as I said at the time, are not in a position to carry out this work. They have their hands full; they have in many cases not the technical or other resources to carry out work of that sort; in many cases there 2290 are site difficulties. The natural result of leaving outside the Civil Defence Act persons living in working-class flats will be that such persons are left entirely without protection. I want the Lord Privy Seal to recognise the urgency of this problem. In London there are tens of thousands of persons living in flats of this sort, particularly in vulnerable areas near the docks, who are left without any protection.
Section 30 of the Civil Defence Act purports to deal with persons who are not entitled to materials free, but the Section is quite inadequate, as the Lord Privy Seal knows. There is no means of enforcing the Section against an unwilling owner. If the owner simply refuses to do anything although more than half the tenants of the block decide that they want shelter, there is no means of compelling him to do anything. Even if he does put forward a scheme there is nothing in the Act to compel him to put forward a satisfactory scheme. If the scheme is unsatisfactory and the tenants refuse to avail themselves of it, that is the end of the duty of the owner. Here again a large section of the population of London, at any rate, are left entirely uncatered for. I do not imagine that any substantial section of the owners of these flats will provide protection, and there is no means of compelling them to do so.
There are a number of flats which fall between two stools; they are neither working-class flats nor middle-class flats. I have in mind one estate where there are a substantial number of working-class persons but also quite a number who cannot be regarded as belonging to the working class. Among others, the occupiers include Members of this House, who certainly are not persons for whom the Lord Privy Seal would provide shelters free of charge. These are persons who do not come under Section 30 of the Civil Defence Act and they are also persons for whom the owners are under no obligation to provide protection. Again, I suppose they might be left to the mercies of the local authorities; but, for the reasons I have given, it is exceedingly unlikely that the local authorities will be able to do anything for tenants of houses of that sort. In the case I have in mind, the owners, who are a public body, have asked the local authority to undertake the responsibility, and the local authority has re- 2291 ferred it back to the owners. In the meantime, nothing is done about it.
In the midst of all this confusion and difficulty, the Government themselves have not been helpful. Many difficulties have been put in the way of local authorities. For instance, the Home Office frequently change their mind as to the details of protection which they wish local authorities to provide. I have in mind the protection which the London County Council was to have afforded in its flats, in connection with which the Home Office have changed their mind on three occasions, involving delay, expense, uncertainty and confusion. Frequently, also, the Home Office take an unduly long time to make up their mind before giving approval to a scheme. We are always left in difficulty. In the first instance local authorities in London were required to provide protection for 70 per cent. of the population of their flats and, after the London County Council had prepared schemes providing for 70 per cent., they were told they would have to alter the schemes and provide for 100 per cent. Incidentally, I should be interested to know why it should be necessary to provide for 100 per cent., bearing in mind that some—we do not know how many—of the tenants are going to be evacuated and, consequently, there cannot be a full occupation of the flats.
I have dealt so far with persons who may be in their homes at the time of an air raid, but I should like to know what protection is being provided for persons employed in small offices or factories numbering less than 50 persons in a small building, the employers, therefore, being under no obligation to provide protection under the Civil Defence Act. I understood that the Minister was going to give consideration to the problem of protecting these people, who in the aggregate are a very large number, particularly in the City of London. I am told that they are probably a majority of the people working in the City.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)
Those are probably persons employed in commercial buildings where, as I have explained before, the limit of 50 does not apply.
§ Mr. Silkin
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to explain previously that, so 2292 long as there were more than 50 persons in the whole building, it did not matter that they were split up among a considerable number of employers. I have in mind large numbers of buildings where there are fewer than 50 in the whole building. If the right hon. Gentleman would like to take a walk in the City, he will find that the large majority of such buildings contain fewer than 50 persons. I realise that there are a substantial number of large modern buildings which contain more, but—I am not stating this for personal reasons—in the office in which I am engaged there are fewer than 50 in the whole building, and that applies to a large number of offices in the City and throughout London as a whole. I should like the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider the problem of people employed in factories, workshops, shops and offices in that way. Again, no provision' at present is being made for persons who are caught in the streets, perhaps shopping, during a raid. I know that in theory the local authority is under an obligation to provide protection of that sort, but so far I do not know a single case of protection having been provided. In the aggregate, taking all the classes of persons that I have referred to, they amount to by far the great majority of those living or working in a place like the County of London. As far as I can make an estimate, I should say that certainly less than 20 per cent. of those living or working in Greater London have at present, or have in sight, protection of any sort.
I think I have demonstrated that there are still very wide gaps in the system of protection in large towns. Many of these defects can be met only by the provision of large communal shelters for the protection of members of the public by day and by night. I know the view that the right hon. Gentleman has taken in the past regarding deep shelters. I am not necessarily wedded to deep shelters. The right hon. Gentleman draws a distinction between a deep shelter and an underground shelter of some sort. But I hope his mind is sufficiently flexible—I believe it is—to enable him to think again and I hope, in spite of the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), that he is sufficiently courageous to change his mind if, on second thoughts, he feels that he is wrong. I should like 2293 the Minister at this stage to make quite clear what his policy is regarding underground car parks so constructed that they can be used as blast and splinter proof shelters. Under Section 8 of the Civil Defence Act local authorities are empowered to construct these car parks and, if they are so constructed that they can be used as air-raid shelters, they are recognised and they will obtain a grant. But there is very considerable doubt in the mind of a great many local authorities as to whether the statement that the Lord Privy Seal has made implies that in fact such shelters will be recognised and the right hon. Gentleman would be making a very useful contribution to air-raid protection if he would make a definite statement as to his policy. I hope he will be able to state definitely and clearly that, provided that such shelters are reasonably satisfactory from the point of being splinter proof and blast proof, he will be in a position to approve them for the purpose of air-raid shelters. I am sure a reassuring statement of that sort will be welcome to many local authorities who hitherto have hesitated to embark on schemes of this sort in view of the uncertainty of the Government's attitude.
I have dealt almost entirely with the question of air-raid shelters, but I recognise that linked up with it is the question of evacuation and, so long as there is any doubt whatever as to the policy of the Government regarding evacuation, there will be a residual doubt left as to what is the correct policy regarding air-raid shelters. If the statement of the Minister of Health to-day can be accepted as the policy of the Government that, as far as they can foresee, the people who will be evacuated belong to the classes which have already been stated, it follows that protection must be provided for the rest of the population, and if that is to be done in a satisfactory way, the right hon. Gentleman must really fill up all the gaps that I have described and must do it at the earliest possible moment.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Salt
In a Debate concerning civil defence, I suppose it is natural that evacuation and shelter policy should be primarily dealt with, but I should like to touch for a few moments on the question of incendiary bombs. I am not at all sure that the damage from these may 2294 not be almost as serious as from high explosives. For one thing, a great many more such bombs can be carried, and the fires likely to be caused might be in such numbers that even the very efficient auxiliary fire services which have been set up will not be able to deal with them. When a year ago I accompanied a deputation from this House that went to Germany, I was impressed by the attention which the Germans had given to the matter of fighting fire. One of the first things they told us was that each householder, and perhaps even to a greater extent his wife, had to take charge of the defence of their own homes, and I think the instructions given to all their householders might possibly be considered in our own case. We were shown the tools that each house should have. They particularly mentioned that probably a lot of pipes would get destroyed and would burst and that the danger of the escape of gas and water would be serious, and they provided a lot of different sized corks and various means of stopping the effect of the fire. One point that they particularly insisted upon was that each householder should have a hand syringe and should immediately attack the bomb itself.
I remember being shown at Falfield in Gloucestershire a strong jet of water being thrown on one of these bombs. It had somewhat the effect of petrol, and a tremendous flame went into the sky In Germany they showed as various experiments that they had undertaken, and the effect of putting a very small amount of water quietly on the bomb was to destroy the fire, whereas I had understood up till then that water would have no effect on it at all. Another point was that attics should contain no lumber, because it would add very greatly to the rapidity with which fires would spread. They gave us about half a dozen different demonstrations, of rooms without any lumber in at all and others with different amounts of lumber, and the very same bomb produced very different effects in each case. It took a long time to set an empty room on fire, while in another room with a normal amount of lumber, such as we have in most of our attics, there was very. much more rapid action. I do not know whether that has been thought of, but I think it is well worth: consideration.
2295 The Minister has issued some very excellent rules and suggestions. I wonder whether he would consider having some very simple ones printed on cardboard, which could be hung up and would be likely to remain there and be seen regularly by the householder and not to be moved away and lost. The instructions should be of the very simplest character. Although these rules are drawn up excellently, I feel confident that the small papers that we receive are put away somewhere with the intention of reading them and are mostly lost, yet, had they been on stout card, not so easily disposed of and not likely to be thrown away, the practical effect might be very much more valuable. I have at times been critical as regards the supply of equipment for the fire service. I believe that it is now being delivered very much more rapidly. Each month is doubling the previous month somewhat in the same way as the aeroplane, which at first seemed to come so slowly and is to-day coming with great rapidity, and I would like to compliment the right hon. Gentleman and his staff on the excellent way in which they are overcoming this very serious difficulty. There are certain things which, to the ordinary mind may appear to be simple to produce, such as the hurricane lamp, yet they seem to be more difficult to obtain than even the more complicated apparatus. I hope that even these subsidiary items that are necessary will not be overlooked should there be any present difficulty.
We ought to be proud of the Auxiliary Fire Service volunteers who have come forward for this very arduous task. The training has meant taking up a good deal more of their personal time than is the case in many other of the matters of Civil Defence. The dangers that they would have to undergo in case of war are well known, and, therefore, their voluntary service is all the more to be praised.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
In considering this Vote for Civil Defence in connection with the salary of the Lord Privy Seal, the House should at no time lose sight of the influence of the efficiency, or lack of efficiency, of air-raid precautions organisations on the international situation. Although it is possible that certain Powers on the Continent still consider the knock- 2296 out blow as part of their policy, and that idea is not dead, we are, nevertheless, in a better position now than we have been at any time to meet that position. We are not likely to be knocked out, although I am afraid that we should suffer very severe blows. The fact that we are still not sufficiently prepared, and that we might suffer unnecessarily, is a matter which this House cannot leave out of consideration.
I wish to say a few words about recruiting for air-raid precautions. As; a warden in a group of villages in my constituency, I have watched the growth of the movement and seen its rising strength, but I also see a very serious deficiency still remaining, and, as far as my own district is concerned, the local basis of recruiting does not seem to be the most satisfactory. I know of rural areas where the service is many times over-recruited, whereas neighbouring industrial areas are under-recruited, and that is a position which is unsatisfactory. The rural areas are not serious targets, but industrial areas are. I do hot know what the office of the Lord Privy Seal has to say about that. I have no doubt that his officials are fully aware of it, but something must be done about it. There are more people in the rural areas over 50 or 60 years of age who are retired and are able to give a little of their time to this work, and they are very ready to be recruited.
In the towns and industrial areas people are very busy. Some of the workers are working overtime in some of the industries connected with rearmament, and they are not giving much attention to air-raid precautions. Although in the factories and industries there may be A.R.P. organisations on a factory' basis, it is often lacking on a street or area basis. The position is particularly difficult in the towns because there is not that same local spirit in a street or a group of streets as there is in a village. One family may not even know its next-door neighbour, whereas in a village everybody knows everybody else. Some extra drive must be made to deal with this matter in order to fill up the gaps which still exist in our industrial centres. One does not want to damp down enthusiasm in the villages. There is one possible way in which the position might be improved in the industrial areas. Some of the workers are busy on re- 2297 armament and important key industries, but there are a great many who, in time of war, would either be unemployed through their industries being closed down, or not being wanted to the same degree. We should approach the workers in those industries who are eligible for A.R.P., and steps should be taken to recruit from these elements, after it has been indicated to them that their industrial activities are likely to be reduced in the event of an emergency.
Something might also be done to try and make the service more mobile. I do not see why in some districts where there is full or even over-recruitment it should not be possible to get people to serve in areas close by where there is a lack of recruits. The idea of "once a warden, everywhere a warden" is one that might be considered by those in authority. We ought to pool our services over a wider area. Naturally our whole service is built up on a voluntary basis, and we are quite ready to leave it to the local authorities, but the air-raid authorities require direction, and if the Lord Privy Seal and his Department would indicate that something should be done along the lines suggested some improvement might be made. The local authorities in the areas that I know are quite willing to act.
I would also like to raise the question of the areas of administration. Counties are not always the ideal administrative area. If the Minister of Health has shown us in connection with London that the air-raid precautions areas do not coincide with the administrative areas, the same thing is true of the provinces. The county is not necessarily a perfect administrative area in that respect. It might be a group of counties, or part of one county and part of another. In the industrial areas of the North, and in the areas round Manchester, Liverpool, Hull and Newcastle, it might be necessary to set up regional commissioners. We have the beginnings of that kind of organisation in the regional commissioners who now exist, but, as far as I can see, they have not much power to do anything. They have no real functions in peace time. These regional commissioners ought to be instructed to organise, at least on a voluntary basis, air-raid precautions in strategical areas. We ought to consider the whole thing from the point of view of targets, and not consider the administrative areas in which the targets may be 2298 placed. The two suggestions, the question of recruiting and the question of administrative areas may be considered as steps to improve the air-raid precautions administration. Undoubtedly we have made very much progress in the last 12 months, but we have a long way to go before we can say that we are really ready to meet a serious blow which would undoubtedly be inflicted upon us in the event of war.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
I want to deal with only one or two points which remain over. My remarks will be mostly general comments rather than criticism of the organisation, references to the functioning of the organisation than to its actual structure. As regards the structure of the organisation, the part with which I have been particularly connected is that of the distribution of the medical services. That has been very greatly delayed owing to the difficulty of arriving at the precise terms and conditions of service. Those have now, fortunately, been fixed up. It is a most complicated question where you are dealing with a profession with so many different conditions of practice, as to which must be continued, whether you are to continue on voluntary service, whether certain persons should serve or not, if they are to serve where they should serve, and where it would be the most useful for them to serve. It has certainly been a very difficult problem to settle the terms and conditions of service.
We have settled the matter through an emergency committee, working under the auspices of the British Medical Association, and the Ministry of Health, but the settlement was only finally reached a week or so ago. It was not until then that it was possible to deal with the distribution of the medical services. This is a vital matter, because in nearly all these different units those who are concerned with medical work want to know which doctors are going to be available, where they are to come from, and so on. Although the actual arrangement and organisation of the personnel of the medical service has been delayed, such have been the preliminary arrangements made by the Central Emergency Committee, representing al the different areas of the country, that with local emergency regional committees prepared to carry out the work in the different regions, no delay should take 2299 place now that the terms and conditions have been settled. I have not inquired during the last week, but I have no doubt that the regional committees are getting to work. I hope that throughout the country they will actively begin to distribute the services of the medical practitioners and consultants in their different units, so that they may get to know their stations. f have no doubt that as practical men they will want to see that their unit is made thoroughly effective.
The need for these professional men to get to know their units is illustrative of the need that runs through the whole of the A.R.P. organisation, especially in connection with the question of evacuation. I should like, therefore, to come to the question of co-ordination between those who will have to move and those in the districts to which they will be evacuated. Let me give an illustration. In one large house that I know of arrangements are being made in connection with evacuation under which they will take in the whole of a private school of 80 children, a day nursery school in London. Fortunately, 15 of these children were taken in during the emergency of last September. Therefore, a personal connection was established. Forty of the mothers, together with the heads of the school, have been down this summer to that particular house and have established connections there. They have not only visited the house but they have seen and made friends with people in the village, and the result is that they foresee in their own minds where they or their children will be sent. It seems to me that by such means we might get over a good deal of the trouble of evacuation.
If the mothers in advance could know where they are to go or where their children are to go under an evacuation scheme, they would have much greater confidence when the time comes, and there would not be the same element of panic and confusion. If that be so in one particular instance, it applies to the whole scheme of evacuation. Could we not arrange special tours by those who are to be evacuated to the place where they are to be sent? Could not we do something this summer in arranging excursions of this kind into the country in order to familiarise people with the places 2300 to which they will have to go in the event of evacuation? They could then get to know the people amongst whom they will find themselves, and they would learn the routes by which they are to go there. If that could be arranged, and the heads of schools, air-raid wardens or other responsible people could accompany the parties, I think it would help greatly in advance the measures that are being so well laid down on paper at the present time.
I should like to stress the need for coordination. There is a natural tendency in so huge an undertaking as this to arrange each unit on its own lines, with the result that the units do not know the powers, possibilities and resources of the several organisations. One sees this in our own medical service. We see the difficulty of those who are fully occupied in their own areas, such as medical officers of health, not being closely associated with those in another area and not being fully seized of what is being done by other medical officers, or medical men in general practice and in hospitals. That is so all along the line. There is a tendency for small units of organisation to confine their interest to the particular responsibilities which they have undertaken, and not to be linked together. If the emergency ever does happen, and I hope it will not, the devastation will not come uniformly and generally all over an area, but there will come a raid and disaster in one direction. Perhaps we should see one village raided while the other villages in the area would be left intact. The other villages would naturally wish to help the village that had been raided, and therefore we ought to arrange that there shall be co-ordination sweeping across from one to the other.
There is a second important matter which must be constantly borne in mind, and that is that there will be a real need for improvisation even on the part of those who know the scheme that has been laid down. They must be prepared to improvise. Those who have been through campaigns before, especially in the last War, know that a great deal has to be improvised although you are helped by definite lines which have been laid down previously. A bomb follows no particular line, and you have to be prepared to deal with the situation guided by your own intelligence. What is wanted is a power of improvisation, and that is a 2301 power which is gravely lacking in modern civilisation. In the old days one had to depend more upon improvisation and personality. You may be able to turn a tap for your water when you live in a town, but in the country you may not get a tap provided and you will have to look around and see what you can do. You may have been using splints, but you may in an emergency have to use bits of wood. It will be a matter of improvisation all along the line.
The last point I want to stress is the need of mobility. Certain areas will probably be more affected at one time than others, and you will want to rush help there from other areas which are not affected. Some units will be appallingly overworked, while other units will be idle. In the first year of the last War, when my Division, before going overseas, was engaged in the work of defending this country, the medical service was largely underworked; it had very little to do because the troops were healthy, and simply had to see that the sanitary arrangements were proper. In modern warfare when the field of battle may be our own country and our own homes, when our hospitals are full, the medical staff will be overworked all along the line. I am using this as an illustration to show that there must not be too great a rigidity in our organisation. There is a great danger of each unit saying that they must have their own medical officer. The work must be properly distributed; we must not be too rigid in our ideas. There must be some mobility and, above all, in the arrangements which are contemplated for first-aid posts it is very essential not only to have fixed posts in certain places but first-aid posts on wheels with a full staff as well, able to go anywhere. We must do more in the way of mobility. I commend, therefore, these three essentials which are liable to be forgotten, but which must not be forgotten in any great system of organisation—coordination, improvisation and mobility.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
There is one aspect of the question which I want to bring before the House. We have heard a great deal about evacuation and of the part that has to be played by the people to whom children in the main will be evacuated. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) has emphasised the need for 2302 co-ordination. I want to speak in the interests of co-ordination, and to bring before the House a question which is causing a great deal of misunderstanding and is responsible in local authorities for a good deal of ill-feeling towards this particular question. Civil Defence, as I understand it, applies to all sections of the community, but in the Debate so far we seem to have lost sight of one section of local administration upon which we shall have to depend a very great deal, in the event of an emergency, for the effective carrying out of our plans. I refer to the local education authority. Some time ago, owing to the unsatisfactory answer to a question that I put, I intimated that I would raise the question on the Adjournment. The fact that this Vote is being taken now relieves me of that necessity and enables me to put the point which is aggravating the minds of many of our people in connection with this matter.
I refer to the differentiation which is being shown by the Lord Privy Seal in his dealings with the local education committee as against the air-raid precautions committee. When the question of Civil Defence was first considered I took it that school children were regarded as part of the general population; and I still think they are a part. I look upon school children as the most important section of the community and, therefore, the question arose whether it was the duty of the air-raid precautions committee to make provision for them or whether it was the duty of the local education authority to make provision for their safety in the event of an emergency. A pamphlet, 1461, was sent by the Board of Education to local authorities enjoining upon them certain duties, but those duties were not made mandatory. Then followed, some 19 or 20 months afterwards, a circular which to all intents and purposes made the duties mandatory, but determining that a different rate of grant should be available to a local education committee from that which is available to the air-raid precautions committee. It was a 50 per cent. grant in the case of the education authority and a 75 per cent. grant to the air-raid precautions committee; the same people, doing the same job, in the same room, but differently designated because of the different functions they were carrying out.
2303 That, I repeat, has given rise to a great deal of misgivings and is leading to some misunderstanding. I suggest that work which the local education authority ought to be doing in that direction is not progressing as it should because this particular problem has not yet been resolved. The Lancashire County Council air-raid precautions committee and the Lancashire education authority air-raid precautions committee have reveiwed the whole situation, and have come to the conclusion that in order to make the provision which they consider is necessary in connection with their school children they will require to spend £500,000. The progress of that work has been held up. I do not suggest that it is being deliberately held up; I do not think it is for a moment; but to some extent the work is being held up because of the dispute which is going on among themselves as to which body should do the work. I want to ask, when is a school child a member of the population and when is it a school child? Is it the duty of the education authority to guard and care for children between the hours of nine and four, and is it the duty of the air-raid precautions committee to guide and care for school children in other hours?
Because of the fact that there is a differentiation in the grant, these difficulties are presenting themselves. The question I have asked myself is whether or not I, as a member of an air-raid precautions committee, should not be called upon to provide for the children who are in school trenches in the vicinity of the school, but not actually in the school playground, which would be available for the use of those children in an emergency, and yet available at the same time, outside the precincts of the school, for the general population. If that is done, the 75 per cent. will be granted by the Government to the local authority. But if, in the interests of the children and the better organisation of the school in an emergency, it is decided to build the trenches within the precincts of the school, in the school-yard, that is an educational undertaking, and there is a grant of 50 percent.
I know that in the niceties of the Lord Privy Seal's mind an argument can be devised whereby that can be justified, and I can understand that argument; but I cannot make anybody outside the House, 2304 and certainly I cannot get anybody in educational circles, to accept the argument. They do not understand the working of the Lord Privy Seal's mind in the matter of this differentiation. In the interests of the work that is to be done, and in the interests of the efficiency of the whole, I ask that these two services should be brought into line as far as the grant is concerned. The local education authorities are very disturbed about the matter. It is not a question of one authority here and there being concerned. I would recall to the Lord Privy Seal that all education authorities in the country, speaking through their respective organisations, have either passed resolutions or at least been a party to the passing of resolutions at their own meetings or in conference. There would not be that unanimity among them unless they felt that they had a very real grievance. I am hoping that the Lord Privy Seal will bring about a revision of the finances of this question earlier than he had intended, in order that the matter can be put straight and work that is essential can go forward.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Johnston
One sits through a Debate of this kind with a growing sense of exasperation that resources which we might well have been using to build and equip houses for our citizens are being used in order that we may dig ourselves into the earth and live like moles or rats. We might have been clearing away bracken or reclaiming swamps, we might have been destroying diseases and pests, but instead we are harrassing our scientists and engineers to devise gas masks for babies. Europe is spending its last shilling and slithering into bankruptcy while we prepare for rickets, anaemia, more under-nutrition, and perhaps dementia and slaughter. Yet. what can we do? Until we can create some kind of organised international peace force, some tribunal of equity, we must take what steps are open to us to protect our civil population from the consequences of the modern irruption of cave-man philosophy and its practice in our life and times.
I do not propose to attempt in any way to cover again ground that has been well covered by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I wish to devote my remarks to two specific issues, and first, I want to say something about the shel- 2305 tering of the industrial population in our vulnerable areas. There is no sense in disguising the fact—and I am sure the Lord Privy Seal will not disguise it—that there are considerable parts in some of our vulnerable areas where no shelter of any kind exists and where there is no protection of any kind. Perhaps it would be improper for me to specify where some of those places are, but the fact remains that some publicity, at some time or other, may be required in order that the citizens involved may deal with those who are responsible. Certain organs of the Press may be partly to blame for this state of affairs. Every time the editor of a great newspaper exercises—as one does this morning—his gift of prophecy, and declares that there will be no war, he multiplies inevitably the number of people who ask themselves why they should prepare for something that is never going to come. The number of foolish virgins is multiplied every time the editor of a responsible newspaper in this land says, in terms of betting figures, that it is 10 to one against the balloons going up this autumn.
We have heard a multiplicity of suggestions about shelters. In my view, it is absurd to concentrate upon any one type to the exclusion of others. There is what is called the Anderson shelter. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some figures not only as to the numbers that have been issued, but the numbers that have been erected, so that we may see what proportion of the people in our vulnerable areas are protected by Anderson shelters. Undoubtedly, there are many advantages in the Anderson shelter in certain areas. Where a man has a back-yard, or in the country, where he has a cottage, he will find that the Anderson shelter is perhaps the best mode of protection which he can get. Anyone who has seen tests made upon some of these steel shelters and seen 500lb. bombs explode within a radius of 80 feet of one of these shelters, knows that, as protection, they are probably as efficient as anything that can be provided, in certain circumstances and in certain areas. We have been urged in many quarters to concentrate upon deep shelters. There was the Hailey Committee, one of the members of which was my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks). It gave the 2306 answer to the propagandists of deep shelters for every area in the country. There are certain districts where deep shelters are impossible. There are water-logged areas, for example, and there are areas which are riddled with water pipes, sewerage pipes, and so on, in such a way as to make the provision of deep shelters an impossibility.
Then we have the problem of the tenement dwelling. It is not peculiar to Scotland. Unfortunately, there is still a very large proportion of the population in our vulnerable areas housed in these crowded tenements. We have to ask ourselves what, if anything, can be done, not in a year's time, but this autumn in order to give protection to our tenement dwellers. I believe there are about 600,000 people living in tenements in Glasgow alone. There will be considerable evacuation, it is true, in case of emergency, but there will remain a very large problem for the Lord Privy Seal's Department and the Scottish Office to deal with in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and similar towns. Something can be done there in the opinion of our municipal engineers. They declare that baffle walls, for example, can be quickly and cheaply erected at the ingress and egress ends of the closes, that the closes themselves can be strutted and that the half-landings can be strutted. Indeed, there are municipal engineers who believe that where the tenements are strongly built of stone, protection may be secured in the closes by the means I have just indicated. But when all is said and done, the fact remains that we do not, at the moment, see our way to guarantee protection of any kind to large numbers of our fellow-citizens in the autumn of this year.
For my own part, the more I study this question—and I shall give some facts and figures about Continental experience—the more certain I am that if I had my choice, I would prefer, in the event of an emergency, to make for a trench, if a trench could be provided within a radius of 50 or 100 yards from the place where I lived. A trench a long distance away is useless, and it may be said that greater damage can be caused in the making of trenches than they are worth. But, by and large, a considerable amount of safeguard can be provided by trenches against blast and splinters. They require, however, to be covered over. We should not have any repetition of what happened 2307 last September. We should take steps to prevent them from becoming waterlogged. If the trenches are covered over with sheeted steel, with sods on top, they can be kept perfectly dry, and the experience of other countries has shown that they may become very effective shelters.
I have heard one or two hon. Members refer to Spanish experiences. I think I have read every line that has been published in English and a little that has been published in French about experiences in the recent civil war in Spain. In Barcelona, in March, 1938, there was one occasion on which they had 12 raids within 48 hours by varying numbers of bombing machines. The result was 1,000 dead and over 2,000 wounded. The hospitals were overcrowded; there was a shortage of water and of medical supplies, and an almost complete lack of adequate warning. The experience of Barcelona in regard to shelter was something which we would do well to avoid if we can. In the last War the official figures show that we had, in this country, 51 raids by German aeroplanes. As a result there were 557 people killed and 1,358 injured. But the modern weapons of devastation are infinitely more powerful. The official German figures for the last War showed that it took 19 bombs to kill a German and eight bombs to injure a German. But in Barcelona, in March, 1938, there were 15 casualties for every bomb dropped. In other parts of Spain, in Valencia for example, they dug trenches and had shelters made of concrete blocks, and I believe that in Valencia there was a smaller casualty rate than in any other part of Spain.
§ Mr. Johnston
I understand almost all were underground. I am referring particularly to trenches. In other parts of Spain they had trenches 28 feet deep running along the main streets with branch trenches running along the side streets. In those they had benches, cooking utensils, oil lamps, and so forth. The chief of the protection service in Catalonia reported that in August, 1938, they had 2,000 public shelters both open and covered all over Catalonia. Their trenches sheltered 40,000 people; their galleries sheltered 83,000; their railway tunnels, 11,000, and their cellars 12,000. In 2308 France, with all their experience, they are going in for the digging of trenches provided that those trenches are not more than 300 metres from any point where there might be flying debris. At Zurich, in Switzerland, last September the chief of police expresed the belief that he had the most effective air-raid protection system in Europe. Personally, I would dispute that claim. Taking it by and large, the best of our shelters here are probably better than the best of the Continental shelters. Where we have failed hitherto, is that we have concentrated so largely upon the Anderson shelter and have failed to urge local authorities, where they cannot put up a sufficiency of Anderson shelters, to dig trenches, to line those trenches, to cover them up and do the best they can with them for this winter.
I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to give us the most explicit assurance he can that every step that is possible will be taken by his Department to see to it that where aboveground shelters are not suitable or cannot be provided in sufficient quantities, the local authorities will be urged instanter to provide shelter by digging. I know that he charges them nothing for materials, and I am not yet quite certain what proportion of the digging costs, if any, is charged against local authorities, but I beg of him to make these figures, facts and percentages perfectly clear, so that if the day of convulsion and disaster should come upon us this autumn, we in this House will have done everything in our power to urge the responsible local authorities to spare no pains or energy in providing adequate shelter for the population in the vulnerable areas. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) and other hon. Members to-night have rather created an alarmist impression by contrasting the numbers of shelters with the total population of the country. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will show how absurd that is. We must only equate the shelters, at the moment at any rate, with the population in our vulnerable areas. Later on we may require to extend these vulnerable areas, but as things are no useful purpose is served by unduly deprecating the efforts that have already been made.
Now I should like to say a word or two on the evacuation schemes. Our total population in the evacuable areas is 11,000,000 in England and 1,750,000 in Scotland. The total numbers of people 2309 within the priority classes—that is, school children, pre-school children and mothers, expectant mothers, and blind adults—are 3,000,000 for England and 500,000 for Scotland. In Scotland we got voluntary offers in our reception areas for half our total requirements, that is, for school children unaccompanied by mothers, and we got offers from householders in the reception areas, in the rural areas, for 250,000 people. In England the proportions were pretty much the same. For the other half the Government have power under the Civil Defence Act for compulsory billeting. A great number of these places will be filled by voluntary billets, an enormous number of mothers with preschool children. For my part, I know of no episode in all the history of this country that gives us more encouragement for the future, whatever comes out of these days of distress and anxiety, than this, that housewives in a time of peace, not under the stress of war, will take hundreds of thousands of children whom they never saw, from distant areas, house them, and look after them in the national interest. I think that is a great thing, something that we ought to be proud of, and the nation as a whole would do well to make it figure more largely in our public discussions than we have hitherto done. Niggling criticism about little points here and there we can all make, but here is the big thing, that the people of this country have sufficient public spirit and humanity to make offers on the gigantic scale indicated. We all ought to be proud and hopeful as a result.
Let me give some details, as I do not think they have ever been given in public before. In the County of Kirkcudbright the total number of persons for whom accommodation was available was 6,500, and voluntary offers were made for 6,100; in the County of Moray the accommodation available was for 2,500, and the number of children for whom accommodation was volunteered was 2,200; Peebles County, 3,000 vacant places, 1,800 offers; and the Burgh of Huntly, in the north, 942 vacant places, 865 volunteers. The same figures apparently, although I have not got them here, apply in England. The Minister of Health, speaking in this House on 2nd March, detailed places like Aberdare and Mountain Ash in Wales, places in Cheshire, places in Lanacashire and in the North 2310 Country, all over England and Wales, where the same proportion of offers were made by the ordinary householder, in mining villages, in rural villages, all over the land. A common purpose has achieved a common result.
I end with two suggestions, not criticisms. Will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to see that his colleagues pay a little more attention to the food supply in the reception areas? We slept in the summer. It would have been a very wise thing if the suggestion that I have made in this House before had been acted upon. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have been on the wireless pleading with every householder in a reception area to be growing more green vegetables this summer. We ought to have doubled, trebled, quadrupled the amount of green vegetables that we were raising in our reception areas. Now I go farther, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, that opportunity having passed, either he or the Chancellor of the Duchy, who is responsible, should be appealing to every householder who is going to take children in the event of a war to store a limited amount, if you like, of tinned food supplies, of certain kinds which I will not indicate here. If you are going to double, treble or quadruple your population of mothers and children in the receiving areas you ought to be doing everything you can—and it can be done at no cost to the Exchequer—to see that there is in every receiving household a store of tinned foodstuffs against an emergency.
The Minister of Health, who has now come in talked to-day about the water supplies in the rural areas and of his difficulties in regard to them, and we very largely sympathise with him. He cannot in a few months' time undo the follies and lack of prevision of 100 years, but he can do this. Some months ago he got from the Treasury an agreement whereby local authorities could co-ordinate their water supplies and tools and implements and arrangements. He got a grant from the Treasury towards co-ordinating their supplies, on the grid system, in the vulnerable areas. Sometimes two systems are running down the same street, and certainly any number of them are only a quarter or half a mile away from each other. The time limit is about up, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to get that period of grace extended by the Treasury. 2311 If our difficulties do not come this autumn there is no harm done. If they come, the sooner we can make arrangements for additional supplies of water in our difficult areas the better and the safer we shall be.
As I have said, self-depreciation may be carried to such lengths as to reach vast depths of absurdity. I have given some figures about evacuation and about the reception areas which indicate to some of us that the social consequences of the times in which we are living may be more tremendous than we can guess. We shall have a change in outlook among those evacuated children such as they will never forget. Perhaps it will be good also for the people in the receiving houses. It will do them good to be in close, everyday touch with youngsters from our urban areas. There will be changes in their food supply and food outlook, there will be changes in human and class sympathies. Although we may have difficulties about religion, about sending the children of parents of one religious persuasion into the household of those of another religion, although there may be difficulties about supervision, take it for all in all we have not in our day witnessed such a magnificent voluntary social effort as this that we are discussing to-night. Let us encourage the spirit of it, and out of all the anxieties and the miseries of our time the cohesion and humanity evinced in these evacuation arrangements may emerge as the greatest advance and achievement of our day and generation. There are and there can be no politics in saving a baby from a bomb. We need wardens—more of them; nurses —more of them; auxiliary firemen—more of them; volunteers for social services of all kinds—more of them.
We on this side have not hampered by factious criticism at any stage these Civil Defence arrangements. The spirit evinced by my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) in his speech to-night is the spirit that has guided us. We have assisted in every way we can. Unfortunately, the form of the Vote to-night means that we cannot vote for a reduction in the Estimates. We are compelled by Parliamentary form and usage on the Report stage of a Vote to appear to be more violently in opposition to the right 2312 hon. Gentleman than we are. But it is the lives of all our civilian relatives which are at stake. If the great collapse of civilisation comes when the harvests of Eastern Europe are garnered this autumn we shall all at least be able to say that we spared no effort to safeguard the lives of the civilian population of this country.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think everyone in the House will agree that this has been a very friendly Debate, exceptionally friendly, and I should like to express my gratitude to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have made appreciative remarks, in one or two cases perhaps a little too appreciative, of the progress that has been made in our Civil Defence arrangements. I am in as good a position as anyone to assess the preparations at their true worth. I know what has been achieved, and I know what are the shortcomings and deficiencies which still exist. There is no virtue in undue self-depreciation, as the right hon. Gentleman has just said: on the other hand, it is not right that we should conceal from ourselves and the country the nature of the effort which is still required of us. The six Votes with which we are dealing all relate in one way or another to Civil Defence, and represent a sum total of expenditure of well over £70,000,000 in a single financial year. That is the measure of the effort we are putting forth.
On this occasion, exactly five months after a similar occasion on which I gave a review of our Civil Defence plans, I should have liked, had it been possible, to make a similarly comprehensive review. I am afraid that I cannot do that and at the same time come anywhere near to doing justice to the many points which have been put to the Government by speakers on both sides of the House. But I shall try to combine the two objects, and to give something of a review and, so far as I can in so doing, take up a number of the points of criticism and constructive suggestion which have been made—and the points of constructive suggestion have, I think, exceeded in number and importance the points of criticism—in regard to various aspects of our Civil Defence arrangements.
First I will deal with the question of personnel, to which the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) devoted a substantial part of his remarks in the open- 2313 ing speech. When, five months ago, I gave the review to which I have just referred, we had just embarked on a great National Service campaign. I ventured at that time to predict that the spirit of voluntary service which the people of this country has shown so often in the past would be fully equal to the vast demands we were making on it. The event has shown that that confidence was fully justified. The response to the call has been worthy of our highest traditions. In the six months which have elapsed since the campaign was launched the total number of enrolments for all forms of National Service has been more than 1,380,000. That substantial total is, of course, in addition to the numbers already on the books when the campaign was launched. Enrolment is still going on for Civil Defence at the rate of over 20,000 men and women each week—not applications but actual enrolments. The number of offers is substantially greater. That, surely, is a record of which the country may well be proud.
For the Civil Defence services with which we are concerned to-night the gross total at which we are aiming is well over 2,000,000. To give an idea of the numbers involved let me compare the numbers that we require for Civil Defence with those of the regular services which the Civil Defence Auxiliary Services are designed to supplement. In that way one can best sec the effort we have been making in its true perspective. The total strength of our regular peacetime fire brigades throughout the country is about 21,000. For the Auxiliary Fire Service we shall need at least 300,000—a voluntary service more than 15 times the size of the normal peacetime establishment. For the police, the total in peacetime is about 70,000 men. For Auxiliary Police Services we want over 270,000.
Where do we stand to-day? Towards the total of well over 2,000,000, which I should emphasise includes a liberal allowance of reserves, we have now on the strength about 1,900,000 men and women. That is a gross total which gives solid evidence of the good will and public spirit of the people as a whole. At the same time we must not be misled into thinking that, because we have practically reached the gross total at which we aimed, we have secured all the volunteers we need. The total masks deficiencies in two 2314 respects, to which attention has been called before. There are deficiencies in particular services and particular areas which are offset by surpluses elsewhere. For the Auxiliary Fire Service, for instance, we still need about 100,000 volunteers, and in the Nursing Services we need nearly 60,000. It is a curious fact that at one of our sea-port towns the total war establishment for air raid wardens is something under 13,000 and the total number enrolled is 21,000, a surplus of 8,000; but in the same town the numbers of personnel enrolled for first-aid parties show a deficiency of nearly 3,000, and the numbers enrolled for ambulance work show a deficiency of over 2,500.
Our immediate task is to fill these gaps. We have to concentrate attention on the particular services and the particular localities where the deficiencies remain. Wherever possible, we have to divert volunteers from services which are already up to strength to other services where there is a deficiency. The services where deficiencies are most marked are the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Casualty Services. The Auxiliary Fire Service now causes me no anxiety. I am now perfectly certain that, with the attraction that that service offers, the numbers already available—roughly, 200,000—will very quickly convert themselves into the 300,000 or whatever larger number may be required. I am perfectly certain that we shall get volunteers as rapidly as they can be trained.
I have a rather different story to tell in regard to first-aid parties and ambulance drivers. I am concerned at the shortage still existing in our recruitment for these very important branches of National Service. My Department has been looking into the possible causes of that shortage. I think, perhaps, that, as regards the stretcher bearers, there may be hindrances to recruitment which could be removed, for example, by some modification of the training arrangements. I think we have been trying unduly to get two requirements—physique for handling the stretchers and different requirements for training in first-aid which at present we expect the stretcher bearers to undertake. Some adjustments in that respect may remove deterrents which at present operate to check recruiting. As regards ambulance drivers, the case is quite different. We thought at first that we could 2315 count on women, but we found when we looked into it that in all probability we should never be able to get from the existing body of women drivers the very large number of ambulance drivers required. In London, the number of registered women drivers is only 40,000 and we want no fewer than 17,000 ambulance drivers. Obviously we shall have to look elsewhere for a proportion of the personnel required. There is no reason why some of the older men should not offer their services. We have either raised or abolished the age limit that previously applied in the case of men enlisted for that service. In future, fitness for the job, rather than age, will be the determining factor.
Behind this whole business of recruiting for the Defence Services, however, there lies a general problem, a problem to which the hon. Member for South Shields and other Members have referred, a problem of organisation. We have got to take the measures necessary to consolidate these services, to turn what was inevitably a somewhat ill-knit mass of volunteers into a co-ordinated body, a corporate whole, able to function as a fourth arm of National Defence. That is the main task that now lies before us in this particular field, and it is on this that I propose that my Department should concentrate its attention in the coming months.
We have to secure an adequate proportion of whole-time service, but there is a great difficulty there. A number of people are very willing, could they see their way, to offer full-time service. They are trained in the duties, but they do not offer because they have their ordinary occupations and do not know exactly how they may be situated if war comes. That is a difficulty which no one can get over for them. It is a difficulty of the facts. But in one way or another we shall have to endeavour to secure the necessary framework, backing, or stiffening of fully-trained personnel on whom we can rely. I would offer a word to those who are doubtful about the adequacy of our Civil Defence services. As I have said, our numbers include substantial reserves. We have, as a sort of concealed reserve, all the people, and their number is rapidly growing, who have been trained in industrial A.R.P. They are there, and will be available to help at a pinch; but 2316 there does remain a very important problem of organisation which will have to be worked out. Frankly, we concentrated first on getting, everywhere, as rapidly as possible, a sufficient body of trained people. The question of detailed organisation undoubtedly had to be tackled but, in the circumstances, could be left to a later stage.
In that connection I would like to take up a point which was made by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) in the course of his very friendly speech. He spoke about the need for giving these volunteers a corporate sense which some of the older services already have, and he stressed the importance of organising exercises of a really practical sort. He had one or two other suggestions to which I will certainly give very close attention, including what he said about the importance of organising social and recreational activities. These go a very long way and contribute a great deal to the creation of the corporate sense to which he referred.
So much for the matter of personnel. I wanted to say something about equipment. Very little has been said on that subject in the course of the Debate, and I, therefore, conclude that hon. Members are, on the whole, satisfied with the rate at which equipment has been coming along. It is becoming available under almost all heads in rapidly increasing quantities. I have to confess that one or two items are still causing anxiety. I was very anxious about the children's respirators and the anti-gas device for babies, which had to be put into mass production on a large scale. There are many components, and one has encountered the difficulties which always seem to arise when new productive capacity has to be created in a matter of this sort. These are now in course of delivery; and, while I cannot pretend that all the difficulties have been overcome and I am disappointed that production has not been more rapid, my Department is making every effort to secure delivery of the required quantities at the most rapid rate possible. I have said that those are matters on which the generally satisfactory position which I have been able to report has to be made subject to some qualification.
I apologise to the House for rushing matters rather. There is considerable 2317 ground to cover, and I want to pass straight away to the question of shelters. This is a very important subject to which many hon. Members have referred. Let me deal first with the position as regards the steel garden shelter. The total number ordered is 2,500,000. The number delivered is roughly 1,000,000— shelter capable of giving protection to nearly 6,000,000 people in the vulnerable areas. That is a very considerable contribution to the whole shelter problem which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, must be looked at in its proper perspective in relation to the vulnerable areas and not to the population of the whole country. As to the erection of these shelters, people have spoken of seeing the components lying about in back yards. Delivery has been very rapid, but I have taken steps to obtain returns from different parts of the country in regard to erection, and I have been agreeably surprised at the high proportion which I find have already been erected, in many areas by the householders themselves. That, of course, was the intention when this form of shelter was first devised. It was believed that it would prove so easy of erection that householders would in the majority of cases be able to do what was necessary themselves. The proportion erected varies greatly in different parts of the country, and I propose through my regional staff to take that matter up in the next few weeks and to stimulate progress as far as may be in the erection of these shelters.
One other point about the steel shelters is the question of placing them on sale and making them available to the very important section of the community which is above the level fixed for the free distribution. I agree that it is very important in the national interests that that section of the community should have protection. The need for protection in their case is in no way inferior to the need of the other people. I answered a question which was not reached to-day— the answer has gone in—on the subject of the sale of these shelters. The position is that as from next month I hope that a certain number of these shelters will be made available through local authorities for purchase by householders. The number at first will be something like 5,000 a week, but I hope that it will 2318 progressively increase. Certain details in regard to price have to be settled, but I have every reason to think that the price to the householder delivered will be under £8. I am perfectly prepared to discuss with local authorities who are willing to make arrangements the terms on which the shelters can be made available for purchase by instalments.
I emphatically agree with what was said by the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) that our policy must be to rely, not on one form of protection alone, but on protection by all the means open to us, in order to secure as rapidly as possible the fullest measure of protection for the whole country. We have now reached the point at which the local authorities have powers under the Civil Defence Act, and the fullest instruction and guidance has been given in various handbooks and leaflets. I have made it clear to local authorities that my technical staff, which is being increased as rapidly as I can secure suitable qualified technical people, will be available to the local authorities for discussion and help in their problems. In the case of South Shields, my technical staff have been in consultation with the local borough engineer on the shelter problem, and approval has already been given in general terms to a large part of the programme that has been put forward. I want to emphasise the fact that the technical staff of the Department will be available to assist local authorities in every way possible. Beyond that, I have offered to organise, for any local authorities that may feel that they require additional technical assistance, the services of engineering consultants, and an organisation has been established in my Department and in the regions for that purpose. No local authority need hesitate to face up to this very difficult and important problem merely because it has not immediately available in its own service the technical staff necessary to do the work. Assistance can be made available, and local authorities are aware of the fact.
I want now to say a word about the problem of deep shelters. My hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) expressed the hope that the importance of providing deep shelter— or strong shelter, as I prefer to call it, because it is a question of strongly pro- 2319 tected shelter, whether surface shelter or deep shelter—was not being overlooked; and other hon. Members referred to the same topic. There seemed to be some doubt whether what I told the House, when I reported the recommendations of what has come to be known as the Hailey Conference, did in fact represent the policy of the Government. I am in a position to remove any doubts on that subject. The policy which I stated to the House, of providing more heavily protected shelter in special cases, remains the policy of the Department, and the effective policy of the Department. I do not think we should ever be prepared to publish particulars of the cases in which heavily protected shelter has been approved, but certain local authorities have received approval for the provision of heavily protected shelter for their control rooms, and there is a co-ordinating committee in existence whose function it is to consider the cases of important industrial establishments, with a view to determining where more heavily protected shelter ought to be provided.
There has, I think, as my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston suggested, been a misunderstanding of the Government's policy on this matter—a misunderstanding to which, I think, some of the speeches made in this House may have contributed. It was said in criticism of that policy, when I announced it, that it seemed to amount to saying, "If you cannot provide heavily protected shelter for everyone, provide it for no one." That, of course, would be a complete travesty of the facts with regard to this policy. The policy is that, if you have not the resources to enable you to provide heavily protected shelter for everyone, you should use those resources so as to provide such shelter where it can be of the greatest service and where it is most needed, not where the clamour for it is greatest. That is the policy of the Department.
§ Sir P. Harris
Would the right hon. Gentleman say that the places where it is most needed are places where the population is very congested, and which are right in the danger zone? Would they come within his definition?
§ Sir J. Anderson
That depends on a variety of considerations. Where the population is most congested, the scale 2320 on which such shelter would have to be provided, if it were provided at all, might be such as to rule it out. What we propose to do is to deal first with such cases as control rooms, command headquarters, specially vital and vulnerable industrial establishments, and so on, as I announced when I made my first statement on the subject of the report of the Hailey Conference. We propose to take the most urgent cases first, and from those to proceed, as time and resources permit, to deal with other cases, without allowing the question of heavily protected shelter to prejudice us in the discharge of our primary obligation to provide splinter and blast-proof shelter on the greatest possible scale in vulnerable areas for the maximum number of people, relying in that connection, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling indicated, on all types of shelter.
In the case of the difficult problem of tenements in the Scottish cities, I believe myself that the ultimate solution will be found in a combination of expedients, such as the strutting of closes and possibly half-landings, and covered trenches. I do not like the use of the word "trench" in this connection, as it suggests to many people a nasty open trench. I know that the right hon. Gentleman means a properly covered and protected excavation. There are also, of course, the standard forms of surface shelter to which my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen referred, and which can be made available in units for varying numbers, both as private shelters and as communal shelters. I hope that local authorities will proceed as rapidly as possible with the provision of concrete or brick shelters in cases where the standard steel shelter is not suitable.
I want to pass to another subject, with which I will deal very briefly. In the last few months we have been able to make very considerable progress with our regional organisation—not only the regional organisation for peace-time administration, which has now taken over a great deal of work that used to be done centrally in dealing with schemes submitted by local authorities—but the nucleus of the war-time organisation headed by the Regional Commissioners. I attach the greatest importance to the peace-time activities of the members of that organisation. It is perfectly true, 2321 as one hon. Member said, that in peacetime the Regional Commissioners have no executive powers, but they have very important functions, which they have been exercising to the full. They have been establishing contact with the local authorities; they have been discussing, through the regional councils that have been established, such problems of war organisation as mutual aid, mobility of personnel, and arrangements which will overcome in practice many of the defects to which our system of recruitment for Civil Defence is open.
The rapid development of that regional machinery has, moreover, made it possible to undertake practical exercises with increasing frequency over wider areas, and this in itself has done, and is doing, much to stimulate interest in the work and to develop a keen spirit on the part of the personnel. Very useful information has been obtained as a result of these exercises. They serve, of course, a dual purpose—a very valuable purpose from the point of view of the active defence services, and also the purpose of giving the Civil Defence personnel practical experience, and enabling the public, in greater or less measure, themselves to take part. Next week we are undertaking, as hon. Members know, an exercise on a scale more ambitious than anything hitherto attempted. There will be a black-out over about half the country, from the Humber to the Isle of Wight, and going as far west as Staffordshire and Warwickshire. It has been said in criticism of that arrangement that it is unfortunate that it is timed to begin at about midnight. I agree. But it is the holiday season, and it was represented very strongly from various quarters that to start a black-out, especially in seaside resorts, earlier than midnight, would have exposed a great many people to inconvenience, and would have involved a not inconsiderable loss to many people who rely for their business on the holiday period. I come now to deal with a subject which was referred to by the hon. Member for South Shields in his opening speech.
§ Mr. Boothby
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the subject of shelters, may I ask whether the Government have in mind any practical steps to facilitate the further production of these shelters, both 2322 concrete and steel, or whether they propose to leave the matter entirely with the local authorities?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I purposely refrained from dealing with that matter, which seemed to me one of detail and one which requires consultation with the local authorities. If the local authorities were prepared to use the concrete shelters, wherever they are appropriate, I should be perfectly prepared to consider proposals for a scheme of bulk purchase. I do not follow my hon. Friend to the fullest extent in what I consider to be perhaps a somewhat undue preference on his part for concrete shelters, as distinct from other types of shelter.
The hon. Member for South Shields dealt with the question of cost from two aspects. He spoke of the burden which the ordinary preparations for Civil Defence would impose upon local authorities and the burden which the shelter policy would impose upon them. As regards the burden on local authorities, I have obtained returns from various parts of the country showing what has been included in the rate demands for this year on account of Civil Defence preparations. My figures, I admit, do not seem to correspond exactly with those in the possession of the hon. Gentleman, and it may be that there is some confusion between estimates and expenditure actually incurred. I do not think we shall be in a position until later in the year to estimate with precision the actual burden which is falling this year on local authorities, but I am aware that there will be inequality as between one authority and another and as I have said before I recognise that there may be a case for expediting the finanical review contemplated under the Act of 1937 and it is the intention of the Government that the review should be undertaken in the spring of next year which I think is the earliest period at which it will be possible to make a realistic review. At the moment if one quoted the expenditure of the local authorities in respect of air-raid precautions, shelters and that sort of thing the figure would be surprisingly small in relation to the charges falling on local authorities in connection for example with street lighting, scavenging or whatever it might be. As regards schools, I was glad that no hon. Member suggested that there was anything in the nature of a breach of 2323 faith in the attitude which had been taken.
§ It being Ten of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the2324
§ Report of the Resolution under consideration.
§ Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 253; Noes, 135.2325
|Division No. 292.]||AYES.||[10.1 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Fildes, Sir H.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Fleming, E. L.||MacDonald, Sir Murdosh (Inverness)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (So'h Univ's)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Apsley, Lord||Furness, S. N.||McKie, J. H.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Assheton, R.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Magnay, T.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Gledhill, G.||Maitland, Sir Adam|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Gluckstein, L. H.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Beechman, N. A.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Manningham-Buller. Sir M.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Goldie, N. B.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Markham, S. F.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Medlicott, F.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Granville, E. L.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Brabner, R. A.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Grimston, R. V.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Gunsten, Capt. Sir D. W.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hambro, A. V.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hammersley, S. S.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Hannah, I. C.||Munro, P.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Harbord, Sir A.||Naven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Heilgers, Captain F. F A.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Cary, R. A.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonal A. P.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hepworth, J.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgb't'n)||Higgs, W. F.||Petherick, M.|
|Channon, H.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Holdsworth, H.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Holmes, J. S.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Hopkinson, A.||Pym, L. R.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Han. L.||Radford, E. A.|
|Cooke, J, D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Critchley, A.||Hums, Sir G. H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Croft. Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Read, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Cross, R. H.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jennings, R.||Remer, J. R.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Keeling, E. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Kellett, Major E. O.||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|De la Bère, R.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Rowlands, G.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Danville, Alfred||Kimball, L.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Dodd, J. S.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Colonel C. G.||Salt, E. W.|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Drewe, C.||Lees-Jones, J.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Scott, Lord William|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Levy, T.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Lindsay, K. M.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Edge, Sir W.||Lipson, D. L.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Shute, Colonel Sir J. A.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lloyd, G. W.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Loftus, P. C.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Smithers, Sir W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Snadden, W. McN.||Thomas, J. P. L.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Thornton, Sir J. D. W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Touche, G. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Winterton, Rt, Hon. Earl|
|Spens. W. P.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Turton, R. H.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Storey, S.||Wakefield, W. W.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||York, C.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Ward, Lieut.-Col Sir A. L.. (Hull)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Waterhouse, Captain C.||Major Sir James Edmondson|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold||and Captain Dugdale.|
|Tasker, Sir R. I.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pearson, A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Poole, C. C.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, Agnes||Price, M. P.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hayday, A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ridley, G.|
|Batey, J.||Hicks, E. G.||Riley, B.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ritson, J.|
|Bellenger. F. J.||Horabin, T. L.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Rothschild, J.A. de|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||John, W.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Johnston, Rt, Hon. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Silkin, L.|
|Charlton, H. C||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S,|
|Chater, D.||Kirby, B. V.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Sloan, A.|
|Collindridge, F,||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cave, W. G.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Daggar, G.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dalton, H.||Lee, F.||Sorenson, R. W.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Logan, D. G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Day, H.||Lunn, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Dobbie. W.||Macdonald, G. (Inse)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Ede, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacLaren, A.||Tomlinson. G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Badwellty)||Maclean, N.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Walkden, A. Q.|
|Evans, D.O. (Cardigan)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Foot, D. M.||Marshall, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Frankel, D.||Messer, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gallacher, W.||Milner, Major. J.||Williams, E. J.(Ignore)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Montague, F.||Williams, T. (Dan Valley)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilmot John|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M 'ddl'sbro, W.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Oliver, G. H.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Owen, Major G.|
|Groves, T. E.||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Parkinson, J. A.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolutions reported in respect of Classes I to IX of the Civil Estimates, the Revenue Departments Estimates, the Navy Estimates, the Army Estimates, and the Air Estimates."