§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Or. Haden Guest
I beg to move, in page 6, line 8, to leave out"twenty- eight," and to insert "fourteen."
This Amendment refers to the length of the notice which the local authority must give of their intention to enter upon land for the purpose of constructing an underground air-raid shelter. It is felt by the metropolitan borough authorities that the period of 28 days, in a matter which may be one of great urgency, is too long. They think, not as a matter of theory, but as a matter of experience and practice, that a period of 14 days is quite long 946 enough, and this is borne out by the fact that, in a subsequent Clause which is to be moved by the Government with regard to the construction of air-raid shelters in streets, the period of notice required is 14 days. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to accept this Amendment.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams
I hope the Government will do nothing of the kind. There is a vast difference between a local authority, which often is not very clear in its meaning when it sends out notices, and the Government. There can be no possible reason for the Amendment as far as I can see, for, in the event of a national emergency, the whole of these powers would obviously be accelerated in a tremendous way. We are now told that the metropolitan authorities, which are by no means the sharpest of all the local authorities, but rather the reverse, think that this change ought to be made, but I hope that the Government will not be persuaded to cut down the period. If a local authority is efficient and up to date and well served, it would be possible to do with far less time, but where you have a less efficient local authority I do not see why the persons concerned should be penalised in this way.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
There is always bound to be difference of opinion as to what is the appropriate period for notices of any kind, but, although I appreciate the desire for speed that is at the back of this Amendment, I hope that, on reconsideration, the hon. Member will not press us to accept it. After all, the provisions of Clause 7 are very drastic, and may involve considerable interference with the property concerned, and in our view it is reasonable to give a period of 28 days in order that those affected may make such dispositions as are reasonably necessary to minimise any inconvenience or loss. There is one aspect of the case on which I would ask the hon. Member to reflect. I do not think that, even if we accepted the Amendment, it would result in any great increase in expedition. When a local authority is contemplating making use of the powers of the Clause, it has a great deal of preparatory work to do before it can start operations. There is a certain 947 amount of surveying to be done, certain tenders for necessary work may have to be got in and considered, and so on, and I hope that on reflection the hon. Member will agree with me that this period of 28 days can be usefully employed by the local authority in completing their preparations for the work, and that on the whole it is reasonable to give this notice, which will not result in practice in any delay.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
I will say nothing about the observations of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), who has thought fit to be exceedingly offensive at the expense of 28 metropolitan boroughs, many of whom have Conservative majorities.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I had no intention whatever of being offensive. If I said anything offensive at all, I will certainly withdraw it. I said that they are not as up-to-date as some other authorities, and more particularly I was referring to the London County Council.
§ Mr. Morrison
Apparently the hon. Member is so ill-informed about London government that he has not the least idea that the London County Council has nothing whatever to do with this Amendment. My hon. Friend was speaking for the metropolitan boroughs, 11 of whom have Conservative majorities, and even those, I should say, would compare not unfavourably with either the hon. Member himself or the Corporation of Torquay.
I am sorry that the Minister has not seen his way to accept the Amendment. Recently the right hon. Gentleman communicated with the local authorities throughout the country and asked them, particularly during the current three months, to hurry up, to exercise speed, and to accelerate their activities even to the extent of setting aside or postponing for the moment other local authority work which was occupying the attention of the technical officers concerned. Now, my hon. Friend, on behalf of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, is asking that the procedure under this Clause may be accelerated, and I think it is unfortunate that that proposal should be resisted by the Chancellor of the Duchy.
It must be remembered that this period of 28 days is not for the purpose of giving 948 the local authorities time in which to make their plans, but is a period within which the owner of the property may require the matter to be referred to the Minister. I cannot see that 28 days is necessarily the irreducible minimum period for the owner who has received a notice to make up his mind or not make up his mind to appeal to the Minister concerned. I should have thought that 14 days was not an unreasonable time for the making of a decision by the owner or occupier to require the local authority to take the matter higher up. That is the only purpose of this period of 28 days, and it must also be remembered that, when the owner has decided to require that the matter should be taken to a higher authority, the Minister can then either give a decision or order a public inquiry.
I only want to say that if local authorities are to get ready for a national emergency that might come at any time —and there are all sorts of people walking about Whitehall and Fleet Street giving a particular month, not far off, when the emergency may arise—the Government are handling the matter in a very casual way. It is time that they began to move. I think the period that my hon. Friend has asked for is reasonable. I would ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he could not accept the 14 days; and if he could not, I would ask him to meet us half way by making the period 21 days.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The right hon. Gentleman knows that I would do anything I could to meet him on a point of this sort. But 20 or 21 days is not a period during which the owner may appeal to the Minister. We have been much more drastic and much more expeditious than the right hon. Gentleman has given us credit for. There is no appeal in the ordinary way. Notice has to be given to the owner and other persons interested in the property for the purpose of enabling them to make any adjustments before the local authority, under the powers given by this Bill—which are very drastic —enters upon the land. It is only in the very limited case of the protected areas, such as protected squares and open spaces, that there is any provision for appeal to the Minister at all. I hope that, after that intervention, the right hon. Gentleman may somewhat modify his view.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I agree that the right of appeal does apply to a somewhat restricted class of cases. Nevertheless, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be ready to compromise on the period.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am always willing to compromise wherever possible. But the powers proposed here are very drastic. The Government have proposed them because they are impressed by the importance and urgency of Civil Defence, but one wants to be reasonable. The matter rests entirely, apart from the case of the protected areas, with the local authorities. The local authority has to serve notice on the people having an in-
§ terest in the property. Those people may not be available. Within 14 days it might not be possible to communicate with all those concerned. The notice can be given as soon as the local authorities have made up their minds that they are going to execute the work. They can make their arrangements at once. The period required for that will come very near to the whole of the 28 days. Therefore, I suggest that it would be best to leave the period as it stands.
§ Question put,"That the word ' twenty-eight ' stand part of the Clause.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 210; Noes, 106.951
|Division No. 165.]||AYES.||[4.50 p.m.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Ellis, Sir G.||Lyons, A. HI.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Emmett, C. E. G. C.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Assheton, R.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Maonamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. till* of Thanel)||Findlay, Sir E.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T P. H.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Furness, S. N.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Bail, Sir A. L.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Bernays, R. H.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Mitchell. Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)|
|Brooklebank, Sir Edmund||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grigg, Sir E. W, M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Bull, B. B.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H, (Drake)||Munro, P.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Guest, Hon. I. (Br[...]n and Radnor)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Burghley, Lord||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Hambro, A. V.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Butlar, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Hammersley, S. S.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hannah, I. C.||Peake, O.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Harris. Sir P. A.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Haslam, Henry (Horneastle)||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Channon, H.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Remer, J. R.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Holdsworth, H.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E,||Holmes, J. S.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Cooks, J.D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hopkinson, A.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Huntoke, H. P.||Royds, Admiral Sir J. M. R.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hunter, T.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwan)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rl. Hon. H. F. C.||Hutehinson, G, C.||Salmon, Sir 1.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham (Scottish Univ.)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Do la Baré, R.||Lamb, Sir J. O.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Danville, Alfred||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Donner, P. W.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Scott, Lord William|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Drawn, C.||Levy, T.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Lewis, O.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Duggan, H. J.||Lipson, D. L.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lloyd, G. W.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Elliot, RL Hon. W. E.||Locker-Lampion, Comdr. O S.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)||Touche, G. C.||Wickham, Lt.-Cal. E. T. R.|
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R.J.||Tryon, Major Rl. Hon. O. C||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Turton, R. H.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Spens. W. P.||Wakefield, W. W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Walker, J.||Wise, A. R.|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Ward, Lleut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Sueter, Rear-Admlral Sit M. F.||Ward, Iran. M. B. (Wallsend)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Suteliffe, H.||Waterhouse, Captain G.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Tasker, Sir R. I.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie||Young, A. S. L. (Partiok)|
|Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Taylor. Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold||TELLERS FOR THE AYES,—|
|Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Mr. Grimston.|
|Adams, D. (consett)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Grenfell, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Adamson, Jennie L, (Dartford)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Paling, W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Han. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parker, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Groves, T. E.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Pearson, A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Ban, J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Ridley, G.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Hardie, Agnes||Ritson, J.|
|Batty, J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Benn, HI. Hon. W. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefraot)||Shin well, E.|
|Benson, G.||Jagger, J.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, Ban (Rotherhithe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Chater, D.||Kennedy, Rt. Han. T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Leas- (K'ly)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lathan, G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Collindridge, F.||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, M,)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leslie, J. R.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Daggar, G.||Logan, D. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Thorne, W.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Macdonald, C. (Ince)||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McEntee, V. La T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Day, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||MacLaren, A.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir G. (Bedwellty)||Marshall, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Messer, F.||Wilkinson, Bleat|
|Frankel, O.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Og[...])|
|Gallacher, W.||Morgan, J. (York, W.H., Doncaster)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, s)||Wilmot, J.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Mull, G.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Naylor, T. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.|
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I beg to move, in page 6, line 9, to leave out "every person," and to insert:if and in so far as it is reasonably practicable so to do, to the persons.This Amendment has been put down to meet a very real difficulty which has been expressed to the Government by the local authorities in this matter. The Committee will see that it refers to the persons to whom notice is to be given before local authorities enter on the land. As the Bill is now drafted, it requires notice to be given to every person with the fee simple or any interest in the land. It has been represented by local authorities that it is often very difficult to make certain that all the persons who have such an interest have been eliminated. Consequently, there is a danger that, if some quite in- 952 significant interest could not be communicated with, the whole entry would be bad. What the Amendment proposes is that the local authority should be held to have done their duty when they give notice, if and in so far as reasonably practicable to do so, to the persons who own the fee simple.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I recognise that the Government have endeavoured to meet us in this matter, but I am bound to say that their efforts do not give us any great satisfaction because we are advised that, if these words are put in, it will be open for occupiers or persons having an interest in the land in any case where notice has not been served, to go to the court and ask the court to say that it was reasonably practicable for the notice to have been 953 served. This serving of notices on persons having an estate in property is one of the great difficulties of local government. Time and again I have come across cases where one cannot find who is the owner of a particular piece of land or a building. The land has been bought, the person buying it has disappeared and apparently no one having a title to it is available. In certain cases the local authority, to meet the charges that it may have had to place against the land, will actually seize it, hold it, or dispose of it in some way and invest any balance for the benefit of the person if he should eventually turn up.
Occasionally when buying a site for a school one comes across some little piece included in the site of which one cannot trace the owner, and special provision has to be made to deal with those cases. No local authority really goes about looking for trouble and, if it cannot find the owner, it seems to me that there ought to be some alternative other than this, which would give recourse to the courts to persons if they choose to disclose themselves during the 28 days or shortly after, and to say,"If these persons had sought more diligently they would have found us." I should have preferred some such Amendment as that in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) and myself, to insert:Provided that where it is not practicable to give such notice in writing the local authority may post a notice on the land.This is the ordinary way in local government of dealing with this matter. If you cannot find the owner, you nail a notice on to the building, if it is a building, or, if it is a piece of land, erect a stake with a board and put your notice on that, and that is held by several Acts of Parliament to be a good and sufficient notice. In fact there is one Clause in the Bill in which the Government employ that method. When it comes to designating premises, they do not worry about serving a notice on the owner or occupier. They say the premises shall be sufficiently designated if someone nails a notice on. If a small boy comes along and pulls it down five minutes later, that does not matter. The notice was affixed to the premises and the premises are designated. Some such form of words as those that I have put down would meet the purpose we all have better than this. I do not share the view that we have plenty of time in this matter. 954 We are not dealing with the kind of things that are going usefully to be done after the emergency has been declared.
If these underground shelters are not ready when the time comes in places like London and the great industrial towns, there may be very considerable havoc wreaked on the civil population owing to the delay. We are now just three months after the last crisis. They seem to occur at six-monthly intervals. March and September appear to be the favourite months for the totalitarian States to get aggressive. About half way between, everyone is quite certain that nothing is going to happen again. I understand in fact that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are hoping to cash in on a General Election somewhere about the time that other people think the next crisis is coming along. This is not a Clause the administration of which can be leisurely. The local authorities in London and in the big boroughs have to get on with this job very quickly. If they are going to be held up owing to difficulties of serving notices, making quite sure they have included everyone who has the tiniest interest in the land, or find themselves possibly held up in the courts, it will not give them that confidence in going forward which is essential. For the limited number of exceptional cases in which notice cannot be effectively given in writing, it is far better to adopt the form that my hon. Friend and I suggest rather than that suggested by the Government. They are alternative ways of doing the same thing, but we prefer, and I am sure local authorities prefer, the form that we have placed on the Paper.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Dr. Guest
I want to support the point of view put forward by my hon. Friend because I think in practice the Government Amendment might be found not to cover the situation it is designed to cover. Of course it is a matter of practice, not a matter of theory, and it might interest the Committee if I gave a few examples of actual difficulties which have arisen in precisely analogous cases. At the end of 1935 the Islington Borough Council decided to negotiate the acquisition of Highbury Park Enclosure, pursuant to the provisions of the Open Spaces Act, 1906. It was necessary to ascertain who were the persons interested in it. It transpired that numerous tenants of the adjoining tenements enjoyed rights over the land, 955 and the number of persons interested was as large as 38. The principal difficulties that the council had to contend with were the following. It frequently happened that a considerable length of time elapsed before any reply was received to the communications of the council. Secondly, in a number of cases the properties had changed hands before the reply was received. Thirdly, in two or three cases it was found impossible to ascertain the whereabouts of the freeholder, and several letters came back through the Dead Letter Office.
It is clear that there you have a large field for interpretation, or misinterpretation, of the phrase "reasonably practicable so to do." You might have a large amount of argument about that. There was another case of a similar character with regard to Arundel Square, Islington. It sometimes happens that there is a piece of land on which no claim of any kind is made. Not very long ago, in connection with the Islington Council Housing Estate, there was behind a certain number in Essex Road a piece of land of which no owner could be found at all. You have there a large number of difficulties which might lead to very serious delay and put the local authorities into a serious difficulty, whereas if our form of words was used the same object would be achieved with no disadvantage to anyone and with greater certainty of it being achieved without any difficulty being raised.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
I have had some experience in this kind of matter. The vital importance is that where you have a condition precedent to entry by a local authority there should be a means of finalising that condition precedent before any active steps are taken. The proposed words do not give any such opportunity. I remember very well a case in Paddington under one of the Housing Acts where there was a house which the local authority required to enter upon in order to do repairs which the owner had neglected to do. A question arose as to the service that had to be effected on the owners. After three months inquiry we discovered that there were eight people who had to be served. We had to go to the court in order to get directions as to service on some of them. By the time we had effected service we had 956 occupied six or nine months in trying to trace out the various people. We were not safe then, because, if someone else had turned up, we should have been responsible for not having served them and given them due notice, and that is why subsequently in the Housing Acts provision was made by issuing an effective service on whoever was collecting the rents, and that was good enough to cover the whole ownership of the houses.
To leave these words, and for anyone who has not been served to be able to come forward afterwards and say it was reasonably practicable to be served if a little more trouble had been taken, and for the court to hold that it was reasonably practicable, would mean that the whole basis of the local authority entry would be taken away. They would be trespassers and they would have to withdraw and pay compensation for everything they had done. That is a ridiculous situation. There must be some means of letting the local authority know that we have finalised the thing, and that can be done by the method that has been suggested by my hon. Friend. I agree that it would be better if the words were included in the opinion of the local authority before"reasonably practicable so to do," either in the Government Amendment or in my hon. Friend's Amendment. I do not think it matters which you do, provided you give the local authority certainty. That is the essential matter, especially as regards properties in and around London, where you have head leases, under leases, sub-leases of sub-leases and all the rest of it. It is an extremely complicated task which takes time, and we cannot afford time in such an urgent matter as this.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I have listened with a great deal of interest to what has been said, and I did not expect at first that there would be this difference of opinion in the Committee. The main argument against the words now proposed by the Government is that someone might turn up and say,"It was reasonably practicable to serve me, and you should not have gone on until you had taken some steps to that end." I agree with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) that it is very desirable to find words to put an end to the duty of a preliminary character which the local authority has to do, but we have 957 to make sure that the words are fair to both sides—to the local authority on the one hand, and to the interests that might be involved on the other. Why I did not expect that there would be difficulty about this matter was because I had studied the Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Gentlemen the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), which provides that, where it is not practicable to give notice in writing, the local authority shall put a notice up on the land. That again raises precisely the same difficulty. If the local authority decides that it is not practicable to take any further steps to find out and puts a notice on the land, it is not out of the wood even then. Some- one can come and say that it was practicable to warn him. It is exactly the same point as the hon. Member has urged against us.
The Government are alive to the necessity to secure, on the one hand, that reasonable steps are taken that the rights of those interested in property may be safeguarded, and, on the other, if I may adopt the words of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, to"finalise the proceedings which the local authority has to take." The words here proposed are an improvement on what is in the Bill, but we will look at the matter again and see whether we cannot find a better form of words than that to which objection has been raised. I should like to make it clear that we think it necessary that those who have interests in the land should, as far as is reasonable and practicable, be warned of what is going to happen. We should make it as easy as we can for local authorities, and I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for going so far to meet us, but will he go as far as to say that he will adopt some form of words similar to the words used by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) in putting the case before the Committee. I desire that local authorities shall be able to act in this matter with confidence when they desire to go forward. I am bound to say that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol pointed out to me that my Amendment was open to the same objection, but having got as far as moving it, and desiring to make a certain suggestion, I did not at that stage desire to disclose the weakness of my Amendment.
958 At the moment I prefer my own Amendment to that suggested by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, because it is the kind of thing that local authorities do. If you are handing over a piece of administration to local authorities, it is desirable as far as possible that it should follow more or less a common form of administration. This fixing of a notice to a building or to a stake driven into the ground is the common form of dealing with this particular difficulty in English local government service. There is an advantage, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, in not multiplying the forms that local government officials have to use in matters of this kind, and while I accept the offer which he has made, I hope that he will understand the preference of my hon. Friends and myself for the provision of posting a notice, which the Government themselves have adopted with regard to the designation of the premises.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
I usually find myself in agreement with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) but I hope that on this occasion the Government will not adopt the suggestion which he has made. His suggestion, whether it be inserted in the form of words proposed by the Government or in the form of words proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), would amount to this. The local authority would in these matters be made judge in its own cause because it would judge as to whether it was"reasonably practicable." That would be a way of ousting the jurisdiction of the court to decide whether the terms of an Act of Parliament had been properly carried out. That is something which hon. Members in all parts of the Committee ought to be very reluctant to do. Every hon. Member will appreciate that when we are dealing with these emergency measures it is necessary that we should have finality, and that we should have it fairly soon. I would respectfully suggest that the difficulty might be got round in this way. The words should be left as they are now proposed by the Lord Privy Seal, or by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields, and it should be open for the person who had interest in the land to object in the courts within a certain comparatively short time, and after an interval of a few months there 959 should be a specific time limit after which he could not object. There ought to be a reasonable time in which a person interested could say that the local authority had not carried out the plain intentions of Parliament, and that therefore he was entitled to be heard.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. C. Williams
When I heard the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) propose something of an extremely drastic character I thought of some of his speeches in the past. It caused me to think that on an occasion of this kind it is absolutely essential that we should see that the rights of the individual are protected. I do not want anybody to think that I am stating the case for the landowner. I am prepared to see land taken, if necessary, and for proper compensation to be paid afterwards. But if there is time for notice, it ought to be made perfectly clear.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In view of these agreements and disagreements, may I say that I do not agree with anyone? As the hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench explained, the question of practicability must come up, but what the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) objects to is the putting of further responsibility on the local authority. If the Amendment operates, and it is not practicable to give notice in writing to the particular individuals affected and the local authority puts up a notice of the land, that will be an extra piece of work on the part of the local authority which does not absolve the local authority from an action which might be taken, when the local authority has not taken the necessary practicable steps to send a letter of complaint. The hon. Member for Dundee is all wrong in his argument. This Amendment is not lessening the chances that the Bill gives to those who have rights; it is only putting the possibility of an extra task upon the local authority. I cannot see why the Minister objects to the Amend- 960 ment. He is not giving away any of the rights of those whom he wants to defend.
§ The Chairman
I would call the hon. Member's attention to the fact that he appears to be under the impression that the Amendment before the Committee at the present time is the next Amendment on the Paper in the names of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and of the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). That Amendment is not before the Committee at the moment. It is true that it has been discussed to a great extent, but it is just as well for the hon. Member to have an idea where we are.
§ The Chairman
That is not the Amendment which is now before the Committee. The Amendment now before the Committee is that in the name of the Lord Privy Seal.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I understood that it was being discussed in conjunction with this other Amendment. At any rate, the Amendment has been referred to and discussed in relation to the present Amendment, and the Minister has discussed both Amendments together, and I cannot see why, in presenting his own Amendment, he does not accept the other Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Chairman
Does the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) now move the next Amendment?
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 6, line 18, at the end, to insert:Provided that where in the opinion of the local authority it is not practicable to give such notice in writing the local authority may post a notice on the land.I still think, even if we had the other words put in, it is desirable to indicate what steps the authority should take if they determine that it is not reasonably practicable to serve the notice. It is desirable, if there is a person having an interest, that he should get to know as soon as possible, and the effect of posting a notice on the land or of fixing it to 961 a building may be to bring it to the attention of some person who has an interest in the land. The last thing that any of us wishes to do is to find that some person who could have been reached has not been reached. The posting of the notice sometimes leads to the tenant or occupier, who will not disclose to the local authority who the actual owner is, sending notice to the owner that a notice has been posted on the building with regard to some matter or other. This Amendment is desirable as a practicable step in bringing the information to the notice of persons interested, and I did not know whether I should be allowed to move it in the form suggested by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). I prefer to have it in that form, if possible.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Guest
It is obvious that both sides have the same object in view, to make certain that matters are expeditiously carried out; but the Amendment of the Government is negative. It does not give anything definite for the local authority to do. It simply absolves the local authority from the duty of doing some thing which it finds itself impossible to do. Our proposal, the posting of the notice on the land, attached to a stake driven into the land, is a practical, definite and active thing to be done, which, in the words of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), will finalise the position and make it definite that that has been done. I see no reason why that Amendment should not be accepted and the two Amendments joined together to make one.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
The Amendment now carries an implication which was not present when it first appeared on the Order Paper. The effect of the Amendment is that the local authority shall in all cases be the sole judge whether or not steps to warn persons have been taken so far as they are practicable. I am afraid that we could not accept that with out a great deal more inquiry and discussion, because our object in this House is to hold the balance fairly between the local authorities on the one hand and the rights of citizens on the other. Although it might be an extremely remote and rare occasion, one might get a local authority which, in order to save itself the trouble of trying to find out who were 962 the persons affected, might simply pass a resolution saying that it was not practicable to serve the notice on anybody beyond the occupier, and you might get injustice arising from that. I hope, therefore, the Amendment will not be pressed.
As I said before, the object which the hon. Member has in view is one that must command approval in order that the local authorities shall know where they are and can get ahead with their work. We shall look at this matter again to see whether there is some way in which we can get round it, but in getting round it we must be careful not to abandon all efforts to protect the rights of the citizens at the same time. To do other wise would not be satisfactory. There fore, I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment, which in some cases would have the effect of making the local authority, as it were, judge in its own cause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I beg to move, in page 6, line 21, after"space," to insert:or in any land held inalienably by the National Trust.I desire to make one alteration in the Amendment which appears on the Order Paper, by leaving out the words"or the National Trust for Scotland." I am not under the erroneous impression that I am likely to appear more conciliatory by omitting these words, having regard to the fact that the two right hon. Gentlemen in charge of the Bill are both distinguished Scotsmen. I shall explain how it happens that these words were originally put in but should now be left out. As a member of the executive of the National Trust I knew the urgency of putting down this Amendment as far as our properties were concerned, and by way of precaution I also put in the Amendment the words"or the National Trust for Scotland", but on inquiry I find that they do not ask to be included, perhaps because they take the view that none of their properties is at all likely to 963 be affected. The Amendment which I am moving is therefore restricted to our own National Trust.
I shall be brief in moving the Amendment because the case is very strong for including the properties of the National Trust in the provision which protects commons and open spaces. This will not necessarily prevent the properties of the National Trust being entered upon in a proper case, but, if such entry is intended, it will enable them to object, if they wish to do so, and, if objection is taken, the matter must come before the Minister. I believe that hon. Members in every quarter of the Committee will agree that the case is at least as strong for giving protection to the properties of the National Trust as for commons and open spaces, strictly so called. Many of the properties of the National Trust are what in popular speech would be called commons and open spaces. Some of these properties are in the immediate neighbourhood of built-up areas in Bristol, Birmingham, London and elsewhere. In the London area there is the Selsdon Wood at Croydon, and the Wandle River properties, an area of 15 acres at Mitcham and Merton, and I could mention many other properties belonging to the National Trust, which Members in all parts of the Committee would desire to have this protection. The Amendment is supported by Members of all parties in addition to the short list of names which appear on the Order Paper.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think I can advise the Committee to accept the Amendment. The National Trust is a body discharging public functions of great importance to the community. The lands are held inalienably by the Trust, and I believe they are all strictly limited in character and are specified in the local Acts under which the Trust holds them. I cannot see any harm in accepting the Amendment; indeed I think its acceptance would be consistent with the general lines of the Clause.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
We concur in the decision of the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment. The lands of the National Trust are really in essence on all fours with the lands of public authorities.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) is proposing to 964 leave out the words"or the National Trust for Scotland" on the ground that the National Trust for Scotland do not think that any of their land is likely to be affected. I should have thought that it would have been better, as a matter of precaution, if we are legislating for the National Trust in one case, that we should legislate for it in another.
§ Mr. Strauss
I was speculating on the reasons. The information which I have from the Secretary of the National Trust is that he has heard from the Secretary of the National Trust for Scotland that they do not desire to be included in the Amendment. When I inserted the words in the Amendment I was speculating on their desire to be included, and I have now no alternative but to leave them out. If they alter their minds, the matter can be dealt with later in another place.
§ Mr. Foot
It is a little strange that we should make this statutory provision in the case of one part of the Kingdom and not in regard to the other. I do not know whether the Lord Privy Seal can give us any reason why the National Trust for Scotland are anxious to be omitted from this Amendment. I should not have thought that it would have done them any harm to include them. It would be interesting to know what are the reasons why they do not wish to come in.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. C. Williams
This Act may go on for a considerable time and there may be other properties coming into the hands of the National Trust for Scotland. If we do not put in the National Trust for Scotland. it is possible that the Act will not be operative in their case and circumstances may arise in which they might find them- selves aggrieved if they are not covered. I think it would be better to put Scotland in.
§ Mr. Strauss
The National Trust for Scotland have not, I think, called together their perhaps scattered officers and committee to deal with the point, but they have expressed a view which makes it essential for me to move the Amendment in the modified form in which I have moved it, and to leave the National Trust for Scotland out. If the National Trust for 965 Scotland, in view of this discussion, find that there is any reason why they ought to be in, I assume that steps will be taken to move a suitable Amendment in another place. I must, however, move the Amendment in this limited form, leaving them out, because I have no alternative.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Cannot we solve the matter now? If the National Trust for Scotland have expressed the view that they do not want to be included, it would be wrong on the part of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) to include them, but perhaps the point of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) could be met if the Lord Privy Seal would give an undertaking that if the National Trust for Scotland inform him that they wish to be protected, he will undertake to promote an Amendment in another place. That would perhaps meet the hon. Member for Dundee and it would not embarrass the hon. Member for Norwich.
§ Mr. Foot
I was about to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he would give an undertaking of that kind. Would he be good enough to communicate with the National Trust for Scotland to ascertain what their wishes are and if necessary when they have considered the matter insert an Amendment in another place?
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I beg to move, in page.7, line 19, after "shall," to insertbe exercisable notwithstanding anything in any Act (including a local or private Act) but shall.This Amendment is brought forward as a result of representations made to me by certain town clerks of London, who have pointed out that there are a number of special Acts which govern some of the London public gardens, and in order to carry out the purpose of the Clause this provision is required as a matter of precaution.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross Taylor
I beg to move, in page 7, line 21, at the end, to insert:and. as respects any other land, shall be exercisable subject to the following conditions: 966I understand that the Amendment may be more acceptable to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in a slightly modified form from that on the Amendment Paper. I have, therefore, altered the Amendment as it is printed by inserting in line 7, after the words"themselves to carry out," the words:
- (a) that the local authority shall not interfere with any mains, pipes, apparatus, or works belonging to such undertakers unless they have given to those undertakers not less than fourteen days' notice of their intention so to do nor in any case in which those undertakers intimate in writing to the local authority within fourteen days after the receipt of such notice their intention themselves to carry out and thereafter proceed with reasonable despatch to carry out any reasonably necessary removal, diversion, or alteration of their mains, pipes, apparatus, or works;
- (b) that the local authority shall repay to the undertakers the amount of any expenses reasonably incurred by them in connection with any such removal, diversion, or alteration; and
- (c) that if the local authority cause any damage to any such mains, pipes, apparatus, or works, they shall repay to the undertakers the amount of the expenses reasonably incurred by them in making good the damage."and thereafter proceed with reasonable despatch to carry out.It is provided in Clause 7 (6) that:The powers conferred on local authorities by this Section shall not be exercisable with respect to any land occupied by public utility undertakers for the purposes of their undertaking.That protection extends only to the land actually used by public undertakers for their business. It does not include land in which mains and cables and other subsurface works may be placed. In erecting shelters local authorities may have to interfere with mains and cables, and the Amendment is brought forward for the purpose of ensuring, first of all, that the undertakers concerned shall have notice of the fact that such interference is to take place; in the second place, for the purpose of enabling them to carry out themselves the work which a local authority regard as necessary; in the third place, to entitle them, that is the undertakings, in those circumstances to recover the cost incurred in making the alterations necessary; and, in the fourth place, if a local authority itself carries out the work then it should be obliged to make good any damage caused to the undertakings in the course of carry- 967 ing out that work. I do not think that the Amendment requires any further explanation, and I notice that in a subsequent new Clause which is being moved by my right hon. Friend most of the principle of the Amendment which I am moving now is already conceded.
§ The Chairman
I understand that the Amendment is being moved in this altered form, and perhaps the hon. Member will keep a check on the words he proposes to insert as I read them, because I think there is a little difference of opinion. I understand that he proposes to insert after the words "within fourteen days after the receipt of such notice their intention themselves to carry out," the words:and thereafter with reasonable despatch proceed to carry out,and otherwise in the words of the Amendment as on the Order Paper.
§ The Chairman
I take it that the intention is to insert the words as set out on the Order Paper except that in paragraph (a) line 7, after "carry out" there are added the words:and thereafter proceed with reasonable despatch to carry out.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Can we know where we are? Hon. Members of the Conservative party have an extraordinary way of legislating. They move an Amendment about a yard long say nothing about it, but say that the Amendment speaks for itself. They have now moved an Amendment which brings in important changes in the printed draft which has given great difficulty to the Chairman. Hon. Members have remained silent whilst the Chairman was reading it and the Minister simply says that something like it is needed. This is not the way to carry on Parliamentary business and important legislation. The hon. Member ought to have given the Chair a copy of his manuscript Amendment to his Amendment, and also a copy to the Minister as well.
§ Mr. Ross Taylor
I did give to the Chairman a copy of the alteration which I propose to make, and 1 have no doubt 968 that the mistake has arisen owing to my bad handwriting, for which I apologise.
§ Mr. Morrison
I only ask the Lord Privy Seal to tell us with precision where we are and what we are doing. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has suggested to me that we ought to add the words "and to complete with reasonable despatch." I put that point to the Lord Privy Seal for his consideration.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I had no idea that any words were going to be inserted in the Amendment, and obviously I have no responsibility for those words. When I first saw them in manuscript I endeavoured to make sense of them. My observation was not a comment on the fact that the words of the Amendment are required, but that if those words were included some alteration would be necessary to make sense of the words inserted. I am most anxious to help myself and the Committee in this matter. It seems to me that the effect of the proposal is this. A local authority is to be prevented from interfering with mains, apparatus, and so on, of a public utility company unless they have given notice of their intention. That is the first part of the proposal in the Amendment. But it goes on that where undertakers intimate in writing within a specified time, 14 days, that they intend themselves to carry out the work, then the local authority, as the Amendment stands, are finally debarred from carrying out the work themselves. As I understand the position, the purpose of the manuscript Amendment to the Amendment is to put on a public utility undertaking the obligation, if they wish to reserve effectively to themselves the privilege of carrying out the work, not merely to give notice to the local authority that they are going to do so but must proceed to do so with reasonable despatch. That is what I understand to be the intention, and I do not think the words suggested to the right hon. Gentleman by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol quite carry out that intention. I think I have given the intention of the hon. Member who has moved the Amendment.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am sure the Committee will appreciate my difficulty. We have to amend the Amendment on the Order Paper so as to restore effectively to a local authority the right which a local authority should have in the event of a public utility undertaking, after having given notice that they intend to carry out the work, failing to proceed with the work with reasonable despatch.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The Amendment I understand will read in this way:in any case in which those undertakers intimate in writing to the local authority within fourteen days after the receipt of such notice their intention themselves to carry out and thereafter proceed with reasonable despatch to carry out.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I would suggest that if the Lord Privy Seal wants to achieve what he desires, he will have to add such words asand proceed forthwith to complete such works with reasonable despatch.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Member. I think the addition of those words are necessary to carry out the intention.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Can the Lord Privy Seal tell us whether he is advising the Committee to accept or reject the Amendment
§ Sir J. Anderson
I have abstained from tendering any definite advice to the Committee until I had been made aware as to whether any hon. Member wished to offer any comment on the substance of the proposal. Prima facie it seems to me to be reasonable. Provision is required to guard against the possibility of a public utility undertaking giving notice that they are going to carry out the work, and then doing nothing more.
§ The Chairman
I think I must ask the Committee to let me have a say. I have already put to the Committee the Amendment in the form appearing on the Order Paper with the insertion of certain words which appear to be generally objected to:and thereafter proceed with reasonable despatch to carry out.If the suggestion made by the hon. and learned member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) is to be carried out, it will be 970 necessary for the Committee first to accept the Amendment as it is now before them, then to amend the Amendment by leaving out the manuscript words which have been inserted, and then add whatever other words are regarded as the best words to be put in. The question is now for the Committee to come to a decision on the principle of the Amendment as a whole.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I suggest that we are really in a muddle. We are having rather a battle of wits, not altogether of a level order, between the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who is a famous lawyer, and the Lord Privy Seal, who is doing his best to live up to the legal reputation of my hon. and learned Friend. The Law Officers are not here. These words are being bandied about and the Committee does not know what it is doing. This is not the way legislation should be done. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment has been deserted by his friends of the public utility companies who are not here to help him. They are not exactly clear as to what he has moved. He has altered his Amendment as he has gone along and the result is that the Committee is in a great muddle. The Lord Privy Seal tries to tidy the matter up, and when I ask him what is his attitude on the Amendment he says that he does not know until he knows the attitude of the Opposition.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid that I cannot accept the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman at this point because I have sufficient confidence in being able to carry the matter through in the way I have suggested.
§ Mr. Morrison
Can you advise me what I can do to get the Law Officers of the Crown present? I am in deadly earnest on this matter. The Committee has been put into great difficulty, it is in a muddle, and we really ought not to be asked to proceed with the consideration of this Amendment until the Law Officers are here. The Amendment should be withdrawn. If ever there were an occasion when it was reasonable to submit this Motion this is such an occasion.
§ The Chairman
I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman any advice as to how he could get the Law Officers here except by saying what he has already said on the subject.
§ The Chairman
The Committee can deal with the Amendment by passing it as amended, or by passing it without the suggested Amendment, and then amending it.
§ Mr. Greenwood
The Committee is in very considerable difficulty as regards proceeding to accept the Amendment, for nobody knows whether the Government propose to accept it or not.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid I am partly the cause of the trouble. I used the wrong phrase, and said"accept the Amendment as amended," whereas I should have said"consider the Amendment as amended."
§ Mr. Greenwood
If the hon. Member's Amendment to the Amendment is to be considered, surely the Minister should pronounce for or against it, and not leave the matter in this nebulous state. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should accept the proposal of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), and that, if that should not completely fill the bill, the provision should be amended in another place.
§ Sir J. Anderson
If the Amendment were accepted in the form in which it would be if modified by the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), should we not then have an opportunity of putting the matter right, if necessary, on the Report stage, before the Bill leaves this House? I confess that I would like to see the whole thing on paper in a tidy form. I think this would also give us an opportunity of making up our minds as to the course we wish to pursue.
§ The Chairman
It has just been suggested to me that possibly there might be difficulty in dealing with this on the Report stage if it affected the rates. I am not sure it would
§ The Chairman
I ask the Committee to bear in mind that there is an Amendment 972 before it at the present time. That Amendment does not incorporate the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps); it incorporates the words suggested by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. Possibly the Committee might regard it as sufficient to pass the Amendment in that form, and then, if necessary, it might be reconsidered in another place, if it could not be done on the Report stage.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Without expressing any opinion on the merits of the Amendment, as to whether it is right or wrong, but in order to tidy it up, I would therefore move, in line 7, to leave out "and thereafter proceed at reasonable despatch to carry out," and in line 9, at the end, to insert "and proceed forthwith to complete such works with reasonable despatch."
Amendments made to the proposed Amendment: In line 7, leave out:and thereafter proceed at reasonable despatch to carry out.In line 9, at the end, insert:"and proceed forthwith to complete such works with reasonable dispatch."—[Sir S. Cripps.]
§ The Chairman
The question now before the Committee is the Amendment appearing on the Order Paper, as amended by the insertion of those words.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I wish to refer to a point which you, Sir Dennis, raised earlier, as to the possibility of the Amendment as amended being raised on the Report stage. I submit for your consideration that there would be no additional charge on the public funds, and that there might be a diminution of the charge.
§ The Chairman
That is entirely a matter for the hon. Member. It is not a matter for me to decide in Committee. If the hon. Member is right he will no doubt be able so to persuade Mr. Speaker on Report.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I beg to move, in page 7, line 21, after the words last inserted, to insert:(7) Approval of an air-raid precautions scheme submitted by a local authority under the provisions of the Act of 1937. shall not be withheld on the ground that it provides for any deep or heavily protected shelter.973 Clause 7 deals with provision as to shelters, and as the Committee knows, although the Lord Privy Seal, on behalf of the Government has made a series of declarations about shelter provision of one sort and another and has now made certain legal provision in this Bill with regard to various types of shelters, generally there remains considerable doubt as to any comprehensive or unified views held by the Government on the provision of shelters for protection against enemy air attack in time of war. I move this Amendment partly for the purpose of ascertaining whether the Government have any comprehensive and unified views on the matter. So far all that they have done is to bring along separate ad hoc proposals which we are inclined to think do not entirely stand together. There is a steel shelter that is being supplied to large numbers of households and will, at some time, be available for purchase by the better-off sections of the community. The most this shelter is expected to do is to resist blast and shock, but not to resist anything in the nature of a direct hit not only upon the shelter itself, but some little distance away.
Even with this admittedly imperfect utensil, it is agreed that there will be very large numbers of working-class houses and other buildings where, for reasons of space and other reasons, it will not be possible to affix the steel shelter. Consequently, the first point to which I wish to direct attention is that there will be a considerable number of properties for which the steel shelter will be inappropriate and in connection with which it cannot be used. It is true that the Government, in respect of municipal housing estates, have collaborated with the local authorities and have agreed upon a policy whereby some sort of shelter will be provided which, from the point of view of its efficacy, I suppose will be roughly equivalent to the steel shelter. Sometimes it will be by way, not of deep shelters, but sunken shelters, and sometimes by way of shelters on the surface. Here again, admittedly, the shelter will not do more than protect the inhabitants from blast and shock, provided it emanates from some distance away from the shelter.
With regard to middle-class flats, proposals will be made to the Committee today to cover such cases, and what is being provided is that in cases where 50 per cent, or more of the occupiers express 974 a desire that a collective shelter shall be provided, the owner may— he is not required to do so, but he may— provide that shelter, and if he does so, he is entitled to recover the cost from the occupiers. I will not develop any argument with regard to that provision, which we shall deal with in a new Clause. I am dealing now with the incompleteness of the shelter provisions. In the case of middle-class flats, the owner merely has to say, under the Clause with which we shall deal later, "I know that 50 per cent. and more wish to have a shelter and are willing to pay for it, but I am not going to provide it." In such a case, the occupier will have no remedy. Moreover, there are many different categories. I have mentioned a large number of residences of one type and another inhabited by various classes of the population in respect of which there are admitted to be gaps in the shelter policy of the Government. For example, I am not altogether clear whether the new Clause will apply to the case— mentioned previously by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) — of numerous houses of three or four floors, many of them in central London, but some in other parts, which are let as flats or tenements, where the garden is the perquisite of goodness knows whom. It is a matter of some doubt as to who would have the right of entering the garden and providing a shelter for the whole of the floors. That is a matter of great uncertainty, and the situation is a muddled one.
There is then another case. The Lord Privy Seal admitted to me, that there is a provision somewhere in the Bill that the local authority, in the case of a basement, can strut up the basement with the consent of the occupier. I asked the Lord Privy Seal what would happen if the occupier would not give his consent, and the answer was that the strutting up could not be proceeded with. I then asked whether, if the occupier would not share the protection with the people above, there was any power to make him do so, and the answer was "No" Therefore, the people on the first, second, third and fourth floors above the basement would have no effective means of providing or sharing in the basement shelter in any way. From what I have said— and I have not dealt exhaustively with the subject— I think it will be clear that there 975 is a number of gaps and unsatisfactory provisions even in respect of providing any kind of shelter, quite apart from the question whether the shelter that is provided is adequate for the needs.
There remains fundamentally the point as to whether the Government should contemplate what are known as deep bomb-proof shelters. In that connection, I wish to put one or two points which I think are worthy of consideration by the Committee. This British people will not needlessly lose its nerve. It will keep its nerve as much as any other people in Europe or any other part of the world, but if and when a serious attack from the air takes place, there will inevitably be some degree of panic, a good deal of anxiety, and a good deal of worry. I should have thought that, from the point of view of the Government, of public authorities in all parts of the country and of the military authorities themselves, it would assist them in the cool and quiet discharge of their duties as far as that is practicable under conditions of war, and would be a much more satisfactory state of affairs if they knew that the population was secure and effectively provided for, in what are known as bombproof shelters, deep in the ground. I should have thought that it would be better for the cool and well-ordered prosecution of the proper methods for dealing with the situation to have that knowledge. Even apart from the question of war actually breaking out, it would be an enormous factor in diplomacy if our Ministers had not that horrible fear of widespread damage being done to the civil population. I should have thought too, that it would have a modifying effect upon the attitude of possible aggressors with whom we might be negotiating, to know that the danger to the civil population had been enormously reduced as the result of measures such as I have suggested.
These points have never I think been fully met or fully discussed by the representatives of the Government, and we think that they are worthy of consideration. We move this Amendment in order that there shall be no doubt that local authorities have full right to consider and elaborate plans of bomb-proof shelters if they wish to do so, and that Ministers will give those plans fair and proper con- 976 sideration. The Finsbury Metropolitan Borough Council went to great pains to elaborate a scheme of bomb-proof shelters. Nobody here, as far as I know, is committed to any of the details of the scheme. Certainly I am not. I opened the exhibition which was held at the town hall in connection with this and related activities of the borough of Finsbury, and what I said then is what I say now — that a great deal of painstaking thought went into the elaboration of that scheme and that it was worthy of serious consideration by His Majesty's Government and by all who are interested in air-raid precautions. I still think that to be the case. The scheme nevertheless has been turned down by His Majesty's Government for reasons which they have, in part, published in the engineer's report. But they have left local authorities in doubt as to whether they will consider deep shelters in any case and on the basis of any scheme, whatever the local authority who promotes it may be.
For example, it has never been made clear whether, if the Finsbury Council were to make such modifications in their scheme as were calculated to meet the engineer's criticisms, His Majesty's Government would then consider it favourably, or whether they are opposed fundamentally to the whole idea of the deep or bomb-proof shelter. I cannot but feel that the Finsbury Council, who took an enormous amount of tumble in this matter, have been dealt with at rather long distance by His Majesty's Government. This engineer's report has been published and the scheme has been turned down, while the Government have not informed either the Finsbury Council or the country whether they are prepared to consider modified proposals. 1 understand that the Finsbury Council is now proceeding with part of the scheme, but there appears to be uncertainty indeed unlikelihood, of the Government making any grant towards what will inevitably be an expensive scheme.
Then there is the question of making provision for the dock areas. It may be the view of the Government that suburban areas such as Streatham and Hampstead, and parts of South-East London, do not run sufficient danger of continuous air raids with high explosive bombs to warrant the admittedly large expense of providing deep or bomb-proof shelters. I do not accept that argument, 977 but that may possibly be the consideration in the minds of the Government. In highly vulnerable areas, however, areas which would, for military reasons, be attractive to enemy bombers, other considerations arise, and I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman the case of dock areas, not only in London but in other parts of the country, notably on the East and North-East coasts and in Scotland. For that matter we must not exclude places on the western coast, such as Liverpool, from the category of areas which may be in danger from enemy aircraft. [HON. MEMBERS:"Or Cardiff."] Or Cardiff, or Bristol. In fact it would be unwise to assume— and I had better cover myself with regard to all my hon. Friends, and I am perfectly honest about it— it would be unwise to assume that any first-class military objective anywhere in Great Britain, will, necessarily, be safe from enemy bombardment. I have instanced the dock areas, but there are many other places which have munition factories, aerodromes and other establishments and which an enemy might regard as appropriate subjects for bombardment. In fact there will not be many places in the country which will not be of military importance in time of war.
I mention the dock areas in particular, because not alone are they important, but they are, probably, relatively easy targets owing to the existence of stretches of water in their neighbourhood. There is usually in the immediate vicinity of docks a very large and very poor population. Why the poor should be crowded round the docks in every city I do not know, but it is so. That is how the social order works out. Moreover, it is necessary for the carrying on of the work of the docks that large numbers of workmen attached to the industry should live in the vicinity, in order to be available when required. I say with great earnestness to the right hon. Gentleman that he has a duty to provide effective shelter for these people and for their families, if those families remain, in the event of war. It may be said that the children will all go away and I think in the main the school children will go away but I am not sure about the mothers, in view of the result of the recent effort at the registration of mothers of young children in London, in connection with evacuation. I was not too much surprised at the relatively small percentage who registered, and I believe the funda- 978 mental reason for it is that the working-class housewife regards herself as the pivot of the household, and in time of danger is not going to leave her post.
I may disagree with that view. I may regret the fact that so many women have taken it, but that is an explanation and if it be the main explanation, then it is not one with which we can quarrel. If a woman feels like that, I am not going to be rude to her about it, because she is taking up a perfectly honourable position and one which must command our respect. If it be the case that many of these women will be left behind, because they are unwilling to leave their husbands and their households, because they consider that it is necessary that they should remain in order to maintain the family structure, then it is really necessary that the right hon. Gentleman should consider the provision of effective bomb-proof shelters in these highly vulnerable areas for these dock workers who stay at their work for the sake of the country, and for those who remain with them. They will be maintaining essential transport communications of vital moment to the military, of vital moment in relation to food supplies, and of vital moment to the country generally. Without prejudice to the generality of cases, there is a particular example of the kind of thing on which the right hon. Gentleman ought to state his views this afternoon.
We are meeting with many legal and administrative problems as to the provision of detached shelters on the basis of the policy which is favoured by the right hon. Gentleman. I am not using the word"detached" in any abusive sense. The right hon. Gentleman has gone in for a policy of trying to make each unit of residence, or each group of residences, or each industrial undertaking carry its own provision for shelter of some kind. But it is the case that many people are not yet provided for in this respect. I have often felt that, taking the country as a whole, it might well have been just as economic and just as effective to have had shelters of a communal character. Undoubtedly, the cost of all these separate provisions will amount to a very big bill indeed, partly carried by the State, partly by local authorities, partly by business and industrial undertakings and partly by individuals. I am inclined to think that it would have been more effective and more economical, if communal shelter, assum- 979 ing it to be practicable, had been provided.
I have, I think, indicated the views and the apprehensions of my hon. Friends concerning this matter. We would like to have from the right hon. Gentleman an adequate and comprehensive statement upon it. We would like to know whether the Government reject entirely the idea of the bomb-proof shelter and if so why? If the Government admit the necessity for bomb-proof shelters in highly vulnerable areas such as dock areas, what kind of shelter is it to be and, how is the scheme to be administered? We should also like to know whether the Government will consider specific proposals for bomb-proof shelters from local authorities, as contemplated in the Amendment. We would like, generally, to know the attitude of the Government on this question. We would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether he thinks and if so what are his grounds for thinking, that the Government are now pursuing a policy, to be applied under this Bill, whereby the generality of the civil population will have all that effective protection against hostile action from the air, which is reasonably practicable within the powers of government, both national and local.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am glad to have the opportunity of dealing in a more comprehensive manner than has hitherto been possible with the question of air-raid shelter, and I hope to be able in the course of what I have to say to remove some misapprehensions, I think some fundamental misapprehensions, which are still prevalent on this subject. I realise that the greatest need in civil defence to-day is the need for the development of a sound and comprehensive shelter policy, and that, so long as there is misapprehension or misgiving in any quarter as to the effectiveness of the policy which the Government are pursuing, there is a grave danger that people who should be active in providing shelter or in contributing to the provision of shelter may find excuse for delay or inaction. I venture to hope — I trust I am not unduly optimistic— that the result of this Debate may be to show that the policy which the Government are pursuing, and which the right hon. Gentleman truly said has been announced piecemeal to the House of Commons and to the country, is a policy 980 which commands a very wide and full measure of support in all quarters. I think it is of great importance in the public interest that there should, if possible, be a united public opinion behind the policy that is being pursued in this very vital matter.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of the statement which he made, implied that there are still substantial gaps in the policy of the Government as hitherto made known. I hope to be able to make clear to the Committee that that is not in fact the case, that a policy has now been enunciated which, in one way or another—and it is necessary in this matter to employ a variety of expedients to meet the different circumstances— has covered the ground. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the desirability of providing on a large scale shelters of a certain type, if they were practicable, and there, I suggest, he put his finger on what is in fact the crux of the whole matter. What is practicable? We have to look at this matter, not from a theoretical, nor from a sentimental, standpoint, but from a sternly practical one. We have to face the realities of modern warfare; we have to recognise that if we are ever, unhappily, engaged in war, the efficiency of our war effort must come before personal safety; we have to take account of the fact that our industrial resources are distributed, it may be unfortunately, as they are very largely in congested and vulnerable areas; we. have to take account of the probable conditions of air attack in the future, the length of warning that one may expect to receive; finally, we have to take account of the international situation as we find it, a situation which renders it important in the highest degree that we should provide for the people of this country the greatest measure of safety that it is practicable to provide in a reasonably short space of time.
I very much doubt whether I shall find it possible to deal exhaustively this afternoon with what is a very large, a very difficult, and a very novel problem, or, rather, collection of problems, but I shall do my best to bring out what seem to me to be the salient points, to bring out those considerations that are relevant to the policy which the Government have decided to adopt. I must go back some way to the time when I first became responsible for Civil Defence. I found 981 then that the advisers of my Department were engaged in examining various aspects of the problem, and I came to the conclusion that it would be wise to call in the best available outside advice. I did so. I got the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers to nominate three engineers of distinction, who undertook, on my behalf, an examination of what I put to them as the immediate problem, the problem of providing protection against what, after all, constitutes the major part of the risk to which the civil population would be exposed in the event of war, the risk of injury and death from splinters, blast, the fall of debris and spent material from anti-aircraft guns. As a result of a report made to me by those outside engineers, I announced in the House of Commons in December what I then described as a complete scheme of splinter and blast-proof protection for the population at large. I did that on 21st December of last year. In the course of the statement that I then made, I pointed out that I was dealing only with the kind of provision that could be made under what might be described as a short-term policy, and I referred in that connection to the problem of bomb-proof shelters. I said:We must recognise the fact that against high explosive there can be no 1oo per cent. protection. Shelters proof against a direct hit are not practicable, at any rate as part of a short-term policy. Apart from the difficulties and delays involved in any extensive scheme for deep bomb-proof shelters, I do not think we are prepared to adapt our whole civilisation so as to compel a large proportion of our own people to live, and maintain their productive capacity, in a troglodyte existence deep underground.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1938; col. 2881, Vol. 342.] I did at the same time say that my mind was by no means closed on the subject of bomb-proof shelters. It was a matter which, I recognised, merited further and fuller consideration. But I said then that I had already launched a policy of splinter and blast-proof protection which covered the case of people at their homes, people at work, and people caught in an air raid neither at home nor at work, but in the street; and before I sit down I hope to outline again to hon. Members the main features of that splinter and blast-proof protection policy so as to make it clear that, as I said at the beginning, there are no notable gaps still remaining to be filled in that policy.
982 But I would like to come at once to the main subject which I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's remarks he desired to bring before the Committee, the question of more heavily protected shelter, of bomb-proof shelter. I proceeded, as soon as I found it possible to do so, to examine that problem in all its aspects. It was quite clear to me that it was necessary to obtain further technical guidance, and I took steps to obtain that guidance. As soon as it became clear that there were strong arguments tending prima facie against the view that bomb-proof shelter or heavily protected shelter on any very wide scale would be found practicable, I realised the gravity of the issues that were involved, issues on which the right hon. Gentleman very properly laid stress this evening. I felt that no expedient could be lightly rejected which would promise to provide a higher degree of protection than could be provided by the splinter and blast-proof shelter policy already adopted. I realised that the matter was one that must necessarily cause widespread concern to those whose minds dwelt upon these problems. I felt that it would be of material assistance to me, to my colleagues in the Government, and to Parliament, if I could check any opinion that I might form, in the light of the advice available to me on the subject, by reference to the views of a body of people carefully selected as representing a wide range of practical experience. I, therefore, decided to convene what has come to be known as the Hailey Conference. I was able to convene that con-fence and put to them the problems with which I and my Department were confronted, without incurring the reproach that I was thereby introducing further delay into the consideration of what was not only a very vital but a very urgent matter, because, as I had previously explained in this House, the technical investigations which were necessary before a final decision could be arrived at with confidence were still in progress and likely to occupy some time.
I need hardly express to the Committee the fact that the members of the Hailey Conference were selected with very great care and that they were people of wide and varied experience, to whose views on a matter of this kind— into which, when all is said and done, common sense must very largely enter— the very gravest weight would naturally and properly be given. I am very grateful, and I wish 983 to express the acknowledgements of His Majesty's Government to the members of that Conference for the time and attention that they gave to this problem. They had access to all the material available to me, and they were entirely free to send for persons whom they might consider to be in a position to afford them useful guidance. They made a unanimous report towards the end of April, and I based upon that report the statement which I made in the House of Commons on the 20th of that month. The report of the conference was laid on the table the same day.
I hope that hon. Members have given to that report the attention which I feel that it fully deserves. If they have read the report, they may have been struck by one feature, and that is that it contains no summary of recommendations. I am given to understand that the omission of a summary of recommendations was deliberate on the part of the Conference, that they came to the conclusion that the subject-matter was such that the arguments and the conclusions must be taken together as part and parcel of one complete whole. I suggest that the report is a most valuable document which deserves to be read and re-read. Its significance from the point of view of the present Debate consists in the fact that the conference found that the provision of heavily-protected shelters on any general scale would be, in fact, impracticable.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Without attempting to do what the Conference thought impossible, to give a synopsis of the report as a whole, I will endeavour, in order to satisfy the hon. Lady, to indicate how the Conference arrived at their decision. They first enunciated certain general principles, the most important being these. They said in the first instance that the Government, in determining its shelter policy, should not contemplate a measure of protection for any group, section or class if it could not ensure that corresponding protection would be fully extended to all other groups, sections or classes similarly circumstanced. I am not quoting textually; that is the substance of what they said. Again, they said, it is necessary to aim at an equal degree of protection by one method or another for all cases of equal liability 984 or risk. Those are fundamental propositions, and I suggest that it is necessary that anyone who wishes to form his conclusions for himself on the question what is practicable or not practicable in the matter of shelter provision should consider whether he accepts those principles The hon. Lady says those principles are not accepted. They are accepted by His Majesty's Government, and I think I should be right in saying that they are accepted by the authors of another report which was published about the same time as, or perhaps a little earlier than, the Hailey Report. I refer to the first Bulletin of the Air Raid Defence League, a very interesting document obviously the result of much careful study, by competent people, of the various aspects of the problem. I think I should be right in saying that the principles laid down by the Hailey Conference, which I have stated in my own words, on the whole commend themselves to the authors of this report.
§ Miss Wilkinson
The Air Raid Defence League is a purely voluntary body. Life membership involves payment of £ 21. They are a lot of fairly well-to-do people.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think it is of some interest and importance that such a body should have come independently to similar conclusions. [An Hon. Member:"Lord Hailey was chairman of both bodies."] Lord Hailey was quite independent. While he was acting on my behalf as chairman of the conference which I convened, I understand that he took no part in the proceedings of the Air Raid Defence League. In any event, I put it to the Committee that this is something quite fundamental in the consideration of the problem of shelter provision— is it, or is it not, of vital importance that whatever shelter is provided should be provided equally for all people exposed to the same degree of risk? I submit to the Committee, and I submit with confidence, that that is a thoroughly sound proposition which should not be departed from.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Perhaps the hon. Member will let me develop this rather difficult and complicated argument. The proposition rests upon this consideration, that from the point of view of the security 985 of the country as a whole, which after all should be the main aim of any shelter policy, the provision of shelter in a few localities, arbitrarily chosen, giving a specially high degree of safety, cannot enhance the security of the country as a whole.
§ Sir J. Anderson
If hon. Members quietly and calmly consider this matter, and it ought not to be a matter of party controversy—
§ Sir J. Anderson
If hon. Members consider this matter calmly and dispassionately, I think they will see that it is essential that the principles laid down initially by the Hailey Conference should be observed. Having laid down those principles, the conference went on to examine various aspects of the shelter problem. They first considered exhaustively the possibilities of two main types of heavily-protected shelter, what they call the focal type of shelter and the ramified type of shelter, the focal type being a central shelter designed to accommodate a substantial number of people, and the ramified shelter being in the nature of a series of galleries, which to some extent would satisfy the requirements of dispersal. The conference marshalled the arguments against large shelters for use by the general public, and the arguments as set out by the conference in this document are, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, conclusive against the use of such shelters for the general public. In regard to the ramified shelter, the conference stated that in their opinion that type of shelter was to be preferred, other things being equal, to the focal shelter for the general public, but they found, for reasons which they set out quite clearly in the report, that the provision of such ramified shelter on any considerable scale would be quite impracticable. They took the best advice available, and they were advised by an engineer of unrivalled experience in that type of construction that to construct 16 miles of tube in London would take two years and the 16 miles, when constructed, would provide shelter for only 160,000 persons, a relatively insignificant number.
986 The conference then proceeded to consider the separate cases of shelter for people at their homes, shelter for people at their work, and general communal shelter for people neither at home nor at work. In regard to people at their homes, they recommended very strongly the use of dispersed shelters, steel shelters of the type the Committee are familiar with, strutted basements, the pill box device such as have been recommended in a document recently produced by my technical advisers and other methods of providing dispersed shelter. In the case of people to be protected at their places of work, they recommended that the general standard of shelter to be provided should be splinter and blast-proof shelter, but they pointed out that among places of work there are some which are particularly likely to be the object of heavy attack precisely because of the importance of their continued functioning during war. For those cases they recommended the provision of stronger protection, more heavily-protected shelters, and His Majesty's Government accepted that recommendation and I announced it in the House of Commons on 20th April. The right hon. Gentleman opposite seems to be under the impression that that recommendation was rejected.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Earlier in your speech you said something about protection being equal for all, and I cannot quite follow the argument.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I said equal for all exposed to the same degree of risk. That is the point. If the right hon. Gentleman has difficulty in following the argument I had better quote from the report of the conference. I will read the whole of paragraph 4, on page 6:When the country is at war, the main considerations which must be borne in mind appear to be the following. The first, and indeed an overriding consideration, is the necessity of safeguarding activities essential for the successful prosecution of the war. Secondly, the maintenance of the nation's industries and services must be ensured to the utmost possible extent. This does not mean only the carrying on of such vital public services as water, lighting and transport, the production and distribution of food and other necessaries of life, and the maintenance of the economic life of our own population. It involves also the maintenance of production and manufacture for export, since this country requires imports in order to live, and they will still have to be paid for, in war time as in peace, by exports. Thirdly, though it is obvious that, if the country is 987 attacked by air, then civilian casualties on some scale cannot be avoided, yet there is clearly some stage at which casualties will cause demoralisation and impairment of effort. This result would be particularly prone to follow should it emerge that heavy casualties had occurred in an area which had been afforded a standard of. protection inferior to that afforded to other areas exposed to a similar degree of danger. It is of the first importance therefore 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.
§ Miss Wilkinson
How do you know the degree of danger beforehand? You would have to know the German plans.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I suggest that the hon. Lady is not applying her mind to the problem as it really presents itself to those who look at it in a practical way. You have to determine, within limits, what are the most vulnerable areas. We can make no progress at all unless we can proceed on a basis of priorities. We have to do the best we can. Having determined which are the most vulnerable areas, we know where the likely special targets are, we know what the congestion of the population is, and we know the nature of the housing conditions, and in that way we can compare one area with another. At any rate, the conference found no difficulty in laying down that principle. Those who have doubts as to its validity really ought to study this document. [Interruption.] The conference was a highly competent body of people who approached the problem objectively, studied it with great care, heard the opinions of a number of people and gave special study to the question, and their conclusions ought not to be rejected lightly. The Government have accepted the report and, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman who did not quite see how the recommendation for the provision of more heavily protected shelters for certain classes of work could be reconciled with what I have said previously about shelter for the general public, let me point out that the conference recognised that a process of selection would be involved, that the Government would have to pick out, it might be perhaps somewhat arbitrarily at first, those cases of greatest risk where in their opinion it was necessary to provide shelter of a very special character in order to ensure the minimum of interference 988 with the vital productive power of the nation in time of war. By starting with those cases of greatest risk the Government would be giving full effect to the principle enunciated by the conference at the outset of their recommendations that, wherever shelter of a particular standard is decided upon, shelter must be provided for all similarly circumstanced. We must proceed according to the degree of risk, taking the most urgent cases first. That, I suggest, is a perfectly clear principle.
§ Mr. Ede
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is now enunciating this proposition— equal risk, equal protection. I understand that part of the difficulty of the deep shelter is the nature of the soil. In an earlier Debate we were told that deep shelter was provided at Barcelona because of the exceptional nature of the soil there, which could not be found in any other part, almost, of the world. May there not very well be some place were a particular form of shelter can be provided which cannot easily be provided elsewhere? Is it not appropriate that that shelter should be provided in such a case?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I quite agree that, where nature has provided shelter, it would be folly not to make use of it. If there are natural features, they ought to be used. But in regard to the shelter that is to be provided by the Government, the principle that I have sought to enunciate stands. May I say further, in reply to the hon. Gentleman opposite, that heavily protected shelter does not necessarily mean deep shelter? Heavily protected shelter can be provided just under the surface, or partly, or wholly, above the surface. It is a question of adapting one's arrangements to the particular circumstances of the case.
Finally, the Conference recommended, in the case of persons caught during air raids away from their homes or places of work, that dispersed lightly protected shelters were the best solution, but pointed out that in certain cases conditions might necessitate the provision to some extent of larger shelters suitably protected. I informed the House on 20th April that the Government had decided to accept the recommendations of the Conference, and acceptance of those recommendations completed the shelter policy of the Government. The splinter and blast proof policy previously 989 announced was thus supplemented by a limited decision in regard to the provision of heavy or, as some people call them, bomb-proof shelters. The Government are concerned now to proceed as rapidly as possible with what can be carried out quickly. It is clear that, in order to provide splinter and blast proof protection on the necessary scale, we shall have to draw upon all the resources that are available— resources in skilled supervision and professional advice, and resources in labour and materials. That is another reason why it would be entirely wrong here and there to divert skilled service and material to provide specially strong shelters for a limited section of the community not so circumstanced as to justify the provision of such shelter according to a well-thought-out and balanced plan. The Government have arranged to afford all the help possible to local authorities and to industrial lists through organisations representative of the professional institutions and of the constructional industry, the building trades and the civil engineering contractors. Special committees have been set up all over the country in order to give this assistance. The cases in which protection of a special kind is thought to be justified will be taken up as fast as they can be without interfering with the progress of the general policy, which is designed to give a maximum of protection in the shortest possible time.
I would appeal to hon. Members not to treat this in any way as a party matter. I believe there has been some little degree of suspicion that, because shelter of a certain kind was advocated by people who had visited Republican Spain, or were thought to be in sympathy with the Government of Republican Spain, His Majesty's Government, or my Department, were on that account prejudiced against shelter of that kind. It has also been suggested that His Majesty's Government have failed to give proper consideration on its merits to the policy of bomb-proof shelters solely on account of considerations of expense. There is absolutely no truth in that.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am not responsible for what my predecessor said. — [An HON. MEMBER: '' Was there no truth in it when 990 he said it?"] I was not then a Member of the Government, I have said that, in the framing of the policy for which I take responsibility, considerations of expense have not been allowed to prejudice consideration of the question of heavily protected shelters, or bomb-proof shelters, on the merits of the case. This is a very important matter and it ought to be dealt with fairly fully. In paragraph 15 of the report of the Hailey Conference there is this passage:In an issue of such vital concern to the existence of the nation the programme of cost is of relative rather than of absolute importance. The measure of justification for shelter expenditure lies in the extent to which it can contribute to the successful conclusion of the war and the preservation of the life of the nation. It must therefore be assessed in the light of the other commitments of the country for the provision of defence. We ourselves, in formulating our conclusions, have given less weight to cost as such than to other factors such as, for instance, the period within which any given scheme of defence could be completed, or the availability of the labour and materials required.That is entirely in accordance with what I said to the Members of the Hailey Committee when I met them on the occasion of their first meeting. I told them then that cost in my opinion, however important it might ultimately be, was not a thing to be taken into account at the first consideration of these problems.
§ Mr. Silverman
Unless I misheard the right hon. Gentleman, the Hailey Conference did take it into account. They paid more attention to other matters, but they did pay attention to cost. That is quite clear.
§ Sir J. Anderson
What I said was that considerations of cost had not been allowed to prejudice the consideration on merits of heavily protective shelter.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I did not say that no weight had been given. I said it had not been allowed to prejudice other considerations, and that is true. Anyone who reads the report impartially will certainly come to that conclusion.
§ Mr. Hicks
May I be allowed to inform the Committee as a member of the Conference that when the right hon. Gentleman invited the Conference to examine this problem he deliberately stated that cost was not to enter into any consideration? The Hailey Committee did not allow cost to be a deciding factor in any recommendation nor have they mentioned that cost was to be predominant. It was evident that any such group of men must not, however, ignore cost, but it was never taken into consideration in any recommendation.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. His statement is perfectly in line with what I had already said.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke on this Amendment dealt with a number of points to which I have not yet made reference. He suggested that the proposals of His Majesty's Government represented a number of separate ad hoc measures which, he said, did not stand together. He meant that they did not form a coherent whole. I suggest that that is no longer the case. It might have been so at one time but, because of certain devices which have now been put forward for adoption, the situation is altered. For example, the types of suitable concrete shelter and brick shelter which are recommended in cases where the steel shelter is not suitable, and the recommendations for the strutting and strengthening of basements, have been further elaborated. In the employer's code which has recently been drafted, various alternative methods are set out of providing shelter in factory and commercial premises. Finally, in regard to the different types of shelter, there has been in preparation for some considerable time a handbook called"A.R.P. 5." which seeks to bring together all the technical data which have been made available as a result of practical experience and research. That will be issued in its revised form this week, and it will be followed very shortly by a series of designs that have been worked out by the professional institutions showing how effect can be given to the recommendations and how they may be applied in practice.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to workers' dwellings and flats. The Committee will be aware that it has been officially stated on behalf of my Depart- 992 ment that local authorities are at liberty to proceed with the provision of shelter for the occupants of such flats, treating it as if it were a provision of public shelter which would attract grant at the full rate under the Act of 1937. As regards the Jarrow case where several families occupy the same building without any one of them having the right to use a little plot of ground which may be available, the answer is, I think, that it is open to the local authority, if it thinks fit, to construct on that plot of ground a shelter which would be available to all the people occupying the building and to treat that as provision of public shelter which would attract grant. In the case of basements, where the owners are not willing that shelters should be provided, it is open to the local authority to designate such basements as public shelters; and to such public shelters the people living in the building can be admitted. By these methods gaps which might have been thought to exist in the scheme of provision of splinter and blast proof shelters have been filled.
Reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman to the Finsbury scheme and he said it was obvious that much painstaking thought had been devoted to the working out of the shelter proposals of the Finsbury Borough Council. I said very much the same thing myself when I referred on a previous occasion to the scheme put forward by that council. The right hon. Gentleman says that the shelter proposals of the Finsbury Borough Council have been turned down. That is perfectly true. They were rejected primarily on the technical grounds that the shelter would not, in fact, have provided satisfactory protection for the people for whom it was designed, but if it had not been rejected on those grounds it certainly would have been rejected on the general ground that I have already stated to the Committee this afternoon, that it is not right, in the view of His Majesty's Government, that shelters should be provided for particular sections of the community on a standard far beyond what could be provided generally for people exposed to the same degree of risk. Apart from the arguments which I have put before the Committee there is the argument, which is, I think, conclusive, that where the urgent necessity is to provide shelter to the greatest extent 993 practicable for the largest number of people it must be entirely wrong that resources which are limited should be diverted to provide special shelter for one favoured section—
§ Sir J. Anderson
I was not speaking of financial resources, but of resources in skilled supervision, in technical skill, in labour, and in material. I quite unwittingly used the expression"resources" without remembering that it might connote to hon. Members opposite"financial resources," whereas in my mind it did not in this connection mean financial at all.
I fully recognise that the Government have a duty to provide effective shelter, so far as is practicable, and I suppose that is the most urgent and greatest responsibility that rests at the present time upon those who are concerned with Civil Defence. His Majesty's Government are taking what they consider to be the best practicable steps to discharge that responsibility, and they hope that they may have the support of hon. Members in all quarters of the Committee in the measures that they are taking.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
I found it very difficult to perceive exactly what was the right hon. Gentleman's real objection to bomb-proof shelters. He told us that it was impracticable to provide the whole of the population with such shelters but surely that is not what this Amendment asks. The Amendment seeks only that the provision of such shelters should not be ruled out altogether. My greatest difficulty is to understand what exactly the Minister means by equality of treatment of everybody concerned. The conditions are not equal and the danger is not equal. The danger varies with the position in which one happens to be living. It is obvious that living in the country one may be hit, but that the chance of a bomb dropping and hitting your house will be very much smaller than if one were living in the towns. The danger increases as the density of the population increases. In the first place, the risk against which one is providing varies and is not the same for everybody.
There is the geographical position of the town and the district to be considered.
994 With the increased efficiency of our active defence forces the risk to those living on the West side of England, in Wales, for instance, must be less than for those who live actually on the East or South-East coast, where the warning can but be a very short one. For that reason, surely there are added risks on account of varied geographical situation and density of population, calling for different forms of protection, which would be perfectly well recognised by the population of this country. The fact was that in Spain bombardments upon the ports were the most dangerous, and without very considerable protection in the ports there would have been vastly greater casualties. There may be a very strong case for having deep shelters, or really effective shelters if not deep. Shelters can be made equally effective by strengthening the structure if the shelters are near the surface. There cannot be equality of danger, and therefore the needs necessarily cannot be equal.
Surely the Minister is thinking in terms of gas drill, and air-raid precautions such as the organisation of the population. That certainly should be equal everywhere because all districts may suffer similarly, but the intensity of an air raid will vary according to the district. The danger of an air raid will vary in accordance with the density of the population and the type of house in which the population is living. Unfortunately, as the precautions have so far gone, persons living in the least dangerous type of circumstance are getting the best protection. What is generally known among the public as the Anderson type of shelter, the steel shelter, provides some protection for those living in suburban areas. They are, however, the type of population which cannot suffer as heavily as the population living in densely crowded areas like those around docks or industrial parts which may be of great importance as a military objective during war. Therefore, the suburban areas are getting the greatest protection, and the proposals for meeting the case of those who live in densely crowded areas seem to be much less satisfactory. I take it that, if the Minister is to apply his principle of equality, he must give to those living in densely crowded areas as much protection as the Anderson shelter— the steel shelter— gives to the suburban dweller.
995 I very much question whether to give them as much protection by means of basements or reinforced sculleries is not going to be exceedingly costly, perhaps as costly as the group shelter— the communal shelter— provided that the strengthening of basements or downstairs rooms is carried out really effectively. If it is to be carried out really effectively and equally over the whole country, are the resources— and here again I use the word used by the Minister; I am not referring to finance— are the resources as regards technical supervision of labour and as regards materials available for reinforcing such basements? I question that very greatly. I believe that communal shelters can be well planned with far less supervision and made far more effective, and that the objection about people having to travel distances at night is really not a substantial objection compared with the lack of security which the reinforced basement will in fact be proved to give. Therefore I would ask the Minister whether his Department has looked at this problem from the point of view of where the greatest danger lies— of deciding which areas are most likely to suffer repeated bombing, which are the most dangerous by reason of their geographical position and of the objectives which are to be found in them, and the probable casualties owing to the density of population.
Surely it ought to be possible, with the knowledge that exists as to the effects of bombing and the range of explosives, to work out what are the chances of being hit by a bomb in the case of people living in one district or another, and to what extent, taking the average, those chances could be reduced by different degrees of shelter. Supposing it were assumed that 100,000 tons of bombs are going to be dropped, presumably it would be possible to work out where it is most likely that they will be dropped, and it should be possible to work out what the anticipated casualties will be. I have seen unofficial estimates which give very alarming figures indeed of what those casualties may be in the first year of a war with no shelter at all, and what percentage of decrease will be obtained by the various proposals which have been made. I believe that, if the problem is approached from that point of view, other objections to deep shelters— communal shelters— will 996 pale into insignificance as compared with the possibility of what may occur unless effective protection is given.
Finally, as regards the issue of cost, it comes to many of us as a great surprise that the question of cost has not entered into the calculations of the Lord Privy Seal. We are well aware that what we are asking for is exceedingly expensive, and that there are great demands on the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the present time. Whether the Hailey Committee was instructed in one way or another, of course the question of cost must come in. If I may use a strong word, it is absurd to say that it does not come in, because to provide completely adequate shelter, which could be done, would cost an immense sum, and no doubt that is a measure which can never be adopted. But the Mover of the Amendment is not asking so much as that, and, therefore, I hope the Minister will give it further consideration, and will, if he has not already done so, approach the problem from the point of view of the number of casualties. The Hailey Report, I think, said that the first consideration must be that of safeguarding the activities essential for the prosecution of the war; that the second consideration must be the maintenance of the nation's industrial services; and only third came the consideration of the safety of the civilian population generally. I believe that that is a very short-sighted policy, and a very unambitious policy. It is possible to give very considerable protection to the civilian population as a whole, and that that is what will count effectively in a war, because the moral effect of a million or more of casualties in the first year of a war is bound to be very considerable, and one has to approach, and can approach the problem from the point of view that all the resources available should be mobilised to reduce these ghastly possibilities.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I would ask the Committee to consider whether, in looking at this problem of the safety of the nation as a whole in time of air attack, we are not in reality facing exactly the same problem which affected civilians and soldiers during the Great War when they were subjected to artillery or air attack. Was not the supreme lesson that we learned, especially those who tried to specialise on the 997 question of preserving man-power, that the most important thing was to secure the most complete dispersal of the fighting troops and of the civilians who were under our care? It has always occurred to me, in considering these problems, that you would invite a terrible calamity if there were any kind of psychology in the great cities of this country which felt that here and there, perhaps at a distance of one or two miles, there were great deep shelters of the kind which the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) has just described as communal. I can conceive of no greater source of danger than that, at the first moment of an air raid, people should be swarming towards some magnet of, as they believe, safety. The very thing we must try to avoid is the bringing of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of people into the streets. All the lessons of the Great War, as far as one can apply them now, taught us to try to keep our people dispersed.
That was even true in the trenches, where we never allowed more than four in one firing bay, or six at the most; and it was true also in all the towns immediately behind the lines. If I may give one illustration, in the town of Bethune, where probably many hon. Members served during the War, for two years the population were subjected continuously to artillery bombardment, and latterly to air bombardment, and they knew that by far the best thing to do was to remain in their own houses, realising that there was a risk, but that to congregate together anywhere and attempt to get any kind of mutual protection was fatal. Unless there were deep shelters every half-mile or so throughout the great cities— which is almost inconceivable— nothing could be more disastrous than to have, in the quarter of an hour which would constitute the period of warning, a great stream of people seeking succour in the manner suggested, however attractive the idea may be. All military knowledge indicates that you want to avoid congregating great processions of people in the streets going towards a shelter of that kind, and that they would suffer disastrous casualties. That is my honest opinion, and I beg my colleagues to consider the matter from that point of view before pressing for a policy which, however well intentioned, might prove to be absolutely disastrous. Dispersal from start to finish is the sound policy. Of course, workmen in a factory away from 998 home should be given shelter on the spot, but that is a very different thing; and dispersal trenches near to working-class dwellings are well worth spending money on; but not a policy of congregating people together where possibly they might be massacred.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
Reference has been made to public opinion. Public opinion to-day, as far as I can gather, desires underground shelters. I do not know where the Lord Privy Seal is getting his advice from, but apparently he has definitely made up his mind that he is not going to have underground shelters. When someone suggested just now that his difficulty was finance, he said that it was not. I want to cite to the Lord Privy Seal a case where underground shelters would not cost him anything at all. We have 118,000 trained men going to the Employment Exchanges to-day, drawing anything from 26s. to 39s. a week, and doing nothing for it. They could do the work better than anybody else. Why cannot they be put to do the work that some of them have been doing for 40 years? They would be delighted to know that they were doing something for the nation, instead of being left to eat their hearts out doing nothing.
I am a member of an A.R.P. committee in an urban district of Yorkshire. In that district there is a quarry face of rock as high as this House. Through the county council, we have made applications right down to London to be allowed to make an underground shelter there. In that area there are 240 men who have been stopped at the pit and who cannot get work. They have been out of work for 16 weeks. We could make an underground shelter straight from the highway, which could shelter 5,000 people, and it would run from the centre of the town. We have been told,"Make it if you like; but it will be at your own cost." Our rates are already 19s. 2d. in the £ so that cannot be done. A lot is said about London. I am very pleased that the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) spoke for somewhere outside London. There are people who live outside London, and there are vital areas outside London. Fifty per cent. of your chemicals come from Yorkshire; your steel comes from Sheffield; there is Leeds, a most impor- 999 tant city as far as war material is concerned; there are collieries in Yorkshire producing 1,000,000 tons of coal every week; and there is not an underground shelter anywhere in that county. The enemy— I do not want to say who is the enemy— may strike London. Where will he go next? He will seek to cripple industry. He will make for Sheffield and the coalfields.
While on this matter, I would like to put this point. We cannot get on with anything in the urban areas of South Yorkshire. During the Debate on the Second Reading, I spoke for a few moments. The urban areas are tied to the county councils. The West Riding County Council have 16 sub-areas. The sub-areas have to send their scheme to the county council.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
This is getting rather far from the Amendment. We cannot have a Second Reading speech.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The point I want to make is that if the Lord Privy Seal was prepared to sanction these shelters— he is not yet prepared to do so, but I am hoping to convert him— we should be faced with the fact that the machinery is too cumbersome. The local bodies have to push through this barbed wire and to get over that trench, and when we get to Whitehall we get the answer, after six months,"We cannot do it." We want to get on with some work, and we cannot. I ask the Lord Privy Seal to consult with the Minister of Labour, and when he is consulting with the Minister of Labour, I want him to keep this in his head. The Minister of Labour can manipulate figures marvellously. He can make 1,500,000unemployed seem like 250,000 unemployed. There are 118,000—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The Amendment deals with deep air-raid shelters. The hon. Member is straying very wide of that.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am sorry, but surely the question of miners digging the deep air-raid shelters is linked up with that. The Lord Privy Seal indicated that it was not a question of finance, but of shortage of labour. There is no shortage of labour. Perhaps he meant that it was a question of shortage of trained labour. But the finest trained labour in the world are the 1000 men of whom I am speaking. I ask the Lord Privy Seal to reconsider his decision and to make this underground shelter at Roystone. If he will agree to that I will send a wire to them to-night, they will start work in the morning and when it is finished we can go and have a look at it.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Tasker
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate charged the Lord Privy Seal with leaving gaps in the scheme. The Lord Privy Seal showed pretty conclusively that there were very few gaps, but in a democratic assembly it is only right and proper for any hon. Member to call attention to imperfections in the scheme. I am not optimistic enough to suppose that a rapidly-produced Measure of this magnitude is going to be perfect in every detail, but one of the gaps to which I w6uld like to call attention concerns the difference in treatment between housing authorities, whether municipal or private. The words employed by my right hon. Friend were that the Lord Privy Seal had collaborated with housing authorities in housing schemes in connection with the provision of shelters. Admirable as that may be, if it is justified I submit that it would be equally justifiable to collaborate with large housing schemes— and there are many such in London. I desire to call attention to the fact that large housing schemes and small housing schemes have, apparently, been ignored.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Housing questions are definitely not in order on this Amendment. We are discussing deep air-raid shelters.
§ Sir R. Tasker
I was merely taking up the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate. He went on to say that contributions may be made by the Exchequer for these housing scheme shelters. His next point was that bomb-proof shelters should be provided. He might well have been asked what he considered to be a bomb-proof shelter, for anyone who knows anything about these matters knows that there is no scheme which can adumbrate what constitutes a bomb-proof shelter. The right hon. Gentleman went on to expatiate upon the virtues of the Finsbury scheme, but it does not follow that any technical man would approve of that scheme. I have looked at the plan of that shelter and examined that model. I 1001 am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) is not present. I would point out that he, as leader of the London County Council, would require, if a similar scheme was presented to that council, that, under the rules and regulations, it should possess not one entrance and one exit for 7,500 people, but an exit for every 250 people. Therefore, the Finsbury shelter would require under the council's regulations no fewer than 30 exits or entrances. There were no sanitary arrangements provided in that shelter, and it was on inclined planes. What the roof is to be made of, whether it is bomb-proof, I do not know; and I suggest that neither did the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke. Weight multiplied by velocity equals impact, and it would be easy to ascertain what that impact would be if one knew the weight of the bomb and the distance that it had to fall. I do not believe that there is one technical man, one civil engineer, one mechanical engineer, anyone who knows anything about building construction, who will not support the decision come to by His Majesty's Government in refusing to approve these so-called bomb-proof shelters.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Is the hon. Member's reason for not referring to mining engineers that his argument is so weak that a mining engineer would disagree with him?
§ Sir R. Tasker
The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) rather condemned the Lord Privy Seal's point of view, but without justification. He seemed to assume that the Lord Privy Seal's Department were opposed to underground shelters. As I understood the argument, my right hon. Friend said nothing of the kind. I understand the Government have said that while they are opposed to congregating large numbers of people in these underground shelters in places like London there is no objection to boring into the face of the earth, forming or using caves. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) did enunciate a truth when he said,"In case of an air raid people will rush to what they imagine is shelter." I am 1002 informed that people in London went in large numbers, resulting in a good deal of confusion and congestion to the tube railways.
§ Sir R. Tasker
There were casualties and there always will be casualties. One of the greatest casualties is the casual way a lot of our fellow countrymen are talking. They talk as though we had no backbone. I deprecate the assumption that only one side is concerned about the safety of the people. We are all concerned and we will all run equal risks. There must be the same degree of protection to all. No Member of the House will quarrel with that. If there is any special protection provided it will be for those engaged in vulnerable places. There are certain things which would be a target to the enemy and if any differentiation is made it is essential that shelter should be provided for those people engaged in particular industries. I think on the whole the Lord Privy Seal was well advised to accept the advice of his Department.
§ Sir R. Tasker
I suppose the hon. Member has as much backbone as myself and vice versa. I do not think we need bother about the backbone of this House or of the British Tommy. It is there. I am sure that the civil population will show an equal amount of courage.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Hall
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said that the safest course would be to bring about the dispersal of the population. I think he was right, but I am not sure that the method adopted by the Lord Privy Seal's Department will have that result. In some working-class districts where steel shelters are supplied, they are almost touching in long lines and you are, in fact, bringing crowds of people together under a little earth and a bit of steel when the trouble comes. In the dock area there are districts of intense density of population. In the constituency I represent the people are living 237 to the acre. When one realises that the average over the whole of London is 59 to the acre one gets some impression 1003 of the density. The houses are in such close proximity to one another that there is no room for the erection of steel shelters. None of the houses in that district have basements, and it would be impossible to strut the basements even if that were considered to be a correct policy. To provide some protection for these people from blast and splinter you have to take them a tremendous distance, to bring them into the streets and make them travel for a mile or half a mile to the inadequate protection that is provided now.
The Lord Privy Seal said we ought to consider the realities of modern war. As far as I can understand the new technique, it is that in all probability the civilian population will have to bear the brunt of intensive air attacks by which attempts will be made by each side to break the moral of the people. Every effort will be made to destroy the life of the civilian population, and adequate protection must be provided— in my opinion, by deep shelters. The country that is not provided against the worst effects is the country that will capitulate first. The great task that confronts the Lord Privy Seal is to make the country safe against air attack by adequate protection, so that we may stay the course when next war comes, and be able to win through. The Lord Privy Seal appeals for unity of public opinion. I want to quote from the London"Evening News" which stated:The public was thinking and talking about bomb-proof shelters, and in some cases private enterprise was planning them as far back as 1934. The Government professed to be making experiments in connection with them in February, 1937.I interjected when the Lord Privy Seal was speaking that his predecessor in that office had complained about the cost. Let me quote the '' Evening News '' again:In February, 1938, the Under-Secretary to the Home Office inspected public bombproof shelters in Berlin and Paris. He intimated that on financial grounds the provision of them for Londoners was out of the question.I and others are disturbed in mind, and wonder whether the policy of the Government has been shaped by a statement of that character. I have an uneasy feeling that financial considerations are the governing factors in the Government's policy. I suggest that money spent on deep shelters will not be a recurring amount. They are there for all time.
1004 The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth expressed disapproval of deep shelters because, he said, there would be a tremendous number of people who would have to go into one shelter. That is not necessarily correct thinking. I was impressed with a statement made a few months ago that the Morden and Merton District Council had worked out plans for shelters in the populated areas. There was to be one shelter for 300 people, so that the people would not have to travel long distances. It would mean that a shelter would be provided for each one or two roads. Provision for shelters holding about 1,000 persons was to be made at the busy junctions. I feel that we have not to consider, if we embark on a policy of deep shelters, that we must necessarily make preparations for immense numbers of people to be protected in each shelter. The hon. Member who preceded me said something about tubes. It is an undeniable fact that in the last War people took refuge in the tubes and suffered no casualties. Much of the misgiving concerning possible loss of life should be removed because of the experience in the Great War and the protection that the tubes did afford.
I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that this country expects from him adequate protection against the worst evils of enemy air attack. The people have a right to be given that adequate protection. Questions of finance should not stand in the way. If public opinion is strong on any point it is on the provision of proper shelter accommodation. However much one may desire to see the womenfolk evacuated from the towns to places that would afford them greater protection, the loyalty which they have shown to their household duties and those with whom they live is such that they are not prepared to allow their men folk, sons and fathers, to run risks that they are not prepared to share. If the Government were prepared to embark with a greater degree of willingness upon a policy that would give the maximum degree of protection to the people, they would not only find the solution of the problem which causes concern to so many of us, but they would give to the people of this country a greater degree of faith than exists at the moment, and I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will take cognisance of that fact.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I listened to the Minister quoting the fundamental principle of the Hailey Report, which I had discussed with people interested in the question of defence. I have not met anyone who is concerned at all with the defence of the people who recognises that principle as one that could in any way be justified, as providing a basis for considering this all-important question. The principle is all wrong. The whole of the Hailey Report is based upon an entirely false premise to the effect that, if you cannot provide protection for all, you shall provide protection for none. Never before in my life have I heard a Minister or anyone with any responsibility approaching the question in such an attitude of mind as that. The pill is gilded in such a very nice way—"all persons faced with a common measure of danger should have the same measure of protection." That is how the principle is presented. What is meant by it? The whole force of the argument is that if you cannot provide protection for all, you provide protection for none. How is it working out? The Minister has now laid it down, and it is being accepted by those who have taken responsibility in the various areas in connection with air-raid precautions, that under no consideration is there to be anything in the nature of deep or fully bombproof shelters considered.
The Minister says that the Government will take responsibility for ensuring the most adequate protection for those whose work is essential for the carrying on of important industries. The Government will undertake that responsibility, but, as far as the adequate protection of the people as a whole is concerned, the local authorities, and those who are responsible to the Government for this work throughout the areas, have been given to understand that there is to be no question of adequate protection. The Minister says that there may be a shortage of materials, but is there any member of this Committee who will be prepared to say to the people of this country that, if we have not got material to provide adequate protection for all, we must not use the material we have to provide protection for some. That is the line of the Minister and of the Hailey Report. Never before was anything like it presented to this Committee or anywhere else. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) put 1006 a question which I tried to put earlier. It will be noticed that, while the Minister will give way to any other Member, he will not show me sufficient courtesy to give way if I want to ask a question. The Minister refused to give way to me when I wanted to ask a question, but he gave way on half a dozen occasions after that. I understand how Members opposite feel about me. One Member who is in this House at the present time went to Oxford and told the students there that many of the Members on the Opposition benches are thorough gentlemen —
§ Mr. Gallacher
It is permissible, I hope, to draw attention to the fact that the Minister was sufficiently discourteous not to give way when I wanted to ask a question. But the hon. Member for South Shields put the same question. It is a question in which I am particularly interested. What will you do if, in a particular area, a situation is provided by nature that allows of the most adequate protection being provided at very little cost? Do you then still continue to operate the Hailey principle, and say that, if nature has not provided opportunities in one area, you cannot use the opportunities nature has provided in another area. That is the principle of the Hailey Report.
I would direct the attention of the Minister to the position of North Queens-ferry, which, as I have mentioned very often, is built on rock at the base of the north end of the Forth Bridge. Two miles away there is Rosyth naval base, three miles on the other side is the new aerodrome factory at Donibristle, there is a great munitions dump at Crombie, near Dunfermline. In fact, all round the area there are great munitions dumps stretching to Grangemouth. On the outskirts of the village there is a railway tunnel which runs through the rock. It could shelter 1,000 people, and, with the women and children evacuated, everyone who was left could be sheltered in that tunnel. If nothing is done and an air raid should take place, the people will naturally make for that tunnel. They will have to go down the railway embankment. Only about six trains a week pass through that tunnel, which is not really in much use. It is an old railway siding. The leading people in the village are very concerned 1007 about the lack of preparation in connection with defence, and they consider and discuss the question of the tunnel.
Colonel Wincole, who was taking the place of the lad who had gone on holiday to Canada, went to look over the situation. He was taken through the tunnel by Dr. Brock, of North Queensferry. He has prepared a report, a copy of which has been sent to the Minister. What is the first thing he says? In order to carry out the desires of the Minister that there should be no discussion of bomb-proof shelters, the first thing he says is that North Queensferry is not a vulnerable area. Not a vulnerable area, with the Forth Bridge there, the Rosyth naval base, munition areas, munition dumps and aircraft centres.
The report says that in order to get to the tunnel it is necessary to go up a very high hill, that the crowd would rush up the hill and become completely exhausted, and then there would be a panic. Imagine an exhausted panic. What would it be like? The significant thing about it is that this high hill has nothing whatever to do with the tunnel, because it is not on the road to the tunnel. That report is from the military expert who went to have a look at the place. How are the people to get the question of deep bomb-proof shelters considered if the Department act on the process of digging military men out of the moth-eaten lumber room and putting them in charge of defence? The report also says that if the people ran down the railway embankment they might sprain their ankles. Therefore, I suppose they had better stay on the top and have their heads blown off. Would it not be a simple matter to make a pathway along the railway embankment to the tunnel?
Everything has been done to throw cold water on the efforts of those concerned to get this question properly dealt with. It is not only a question of the tunnel. In the vicinity of the village there is a great rock face 80 to 100 feet high, and there is an old quarry which is now covered with grass. Within a minute of almost any part of the village is this great rock face. Is it not possible at the base of that rock face to cut a series of short tunnels that would give adequate and effective bomb-proof shelters for the people? According, however, to the Hailey Report if there is not a rock foundation of that 1008 sort in another area you cannot use it in North Queensferry. In other words, you must not give this protection in North Queensferry if you cannot give similar protection to people in another area. That is why the military experts who have been to North Queensferry pooh-pooh the whole idea of bomb-proof shelters of this particular kind. They will not make use of the tunnel, nor will they consider the question of making use of new tunnels in the rock face there. As a consequence of this atttitude there is the greatest feeling of disquiet among the pople, not only in North Queensferry, but all over the area, because they are also affected by the situation in that area if a war should break out.
There are many men in this district who have taken positions of air-raid wardens and are giving up their time and spending money going here and there at their own expense, and they feel that the attitude of the Government is such that their time, energy and money are being wasted. I have drawn attention to the fact that what they are faced with is the provision of blast-proof kennels that have to be sunk three feet. There is no soil in North Queensferry. There is the solid rock, with the thinnest surface of soil, not more than three inches deep, and in some places not an inch deep. Therefore, these people feel that in view of the situation that may possibly develop with attacks on the Forth Bridge, on the aeroplane factory, on the Rosyth Naval base and on the munition dumps, with bombs dropping and guns blasting in reply, it would be a terrible situation; yet because of the policy of the Government every effort is made to minimise the danger to the extent that the women and children are not to be evacuated from North Queensferry, and no bomb-proof shelters are to be provided.
I wish the Minister would go up and have a look around the district and see the situation that confronts the people. I asked him to send someone while I was visiting there, but, unfortunately, it was not possible to do so. If a representative of the Minister's Department went there the right hon. Gentleman would have a much better report than the report of Colonel Wincole, which has made a very bad impression upon the inhabitants of the area. It is obvious that he did not pay any attention to the situation. He does not understand the modern conditions under which a war would take 1009 place. I cannot understand why it is that men who have had their military training long before the War are being used to deal with a situation where the whole technique of war has changed, and who cannot understand what Civil Defence means.
As one who has been interested in the protection of people from air attack right from the beginning, I make my appeal to the Minister. I think it will be found that every step taken towards an advance in the understanding of this problem on the part of the Minister has come originally from this side of the House, and it is so on this particular question. While I am deeply interested in the protection of the people against air attack, I am not interested in National Service. As I said on another occasion, it is one thing to force a rotten Government to give service to the people, but it is an entirely different thing to try and force the people to give service to a rotten Government. Therefore, while I am not for National Service I am for air-raid protection to the fullest extent, and I demand of the Minister that he should give serious consideration to this question of bomb-proof shelters.
I appeal to him to make a practical test. Let him send a representative of his Department to North Queensferry to study the situation and the danger that will menace the people there, and to consider what nature has provided for the giving of adequate shelter to the people, and on the basis of that report I am certain that he would finish with the Hailey principle that if we cannot give adequate protection to all we will give adequate protection to none. While it is our duty to try to our utmost to give adequate protection to all who are subject to similar dangers, let us see to it that we give protection to the maximum number of people when and where it is possible for us to give that protection.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Fleming
I am rather interested in the Amendment because the question of deep shelters undoubtedly is a matter of great interest to many people in the country to-day. Many people have the idea that the best form of protection is to crowd together in as deep a shelter as possible in the bowels of the earth. The herd instinct is one of the characteristics of the human race. We found that instinct prevalent during the War, but we 1010 did succeed after a certain number of months in getting the men to rely more on the surface. It was one of the most difficult things during the last War to destroy the herd instinct, and that is one of the great advantages that the trained soldier has over the untrained man or woman. These deep shelters, as I understand, would collect together a great number of people in a small space. What would be the result? We had experience of it in the last War. There were times when, unfortunately, panic took hold of a number of men and they rushed together to one spot when heavy shell-firing started.
Everybody who had any experience of the last War knows that the gases used by the enemy are not intended to go upwards, they go down, and they are heavy enough to do that. The gases used by the Germans always found the lowest spot in the trench, the sump hole, and we always advised the men not to bunch together. The order was"Do not bunch. Do not crowd, and as far as possible keep on the higher ground in the trench. Stand on the firing step." We knew that as long as the gas masks were intact the gas itself was harmless and would find the lowest spot in the trench. When we had learned this we dug as many sump holes as possible, not for the men to get into but to get out of, and let the gas collect there. I have a great deal of sympathy with the idea of deep air-raid shelters, because I know the great majority of women and children feel safe if they are in a cellar or deeper still, and also that they feel safer if they are crowded together. It is very difficult to get women to separate, and yet I am convinced from my experience of the last War that the greatest protection one can possibly have during an air raid, whether from high explosive or gas bombs, is to disperse as far as possible. It is better than any trench. I, certainly, am opposed to the idea of collecting people in deep air-raid shelters. What would be the result if we did so? If you had women and children and the older men collected together in a deep air-raid shelter and a heavy bomb was dropped, a high explosive bomb not of 500 lbs. but of 1,000 lbs., what would be the effect? Anyone who has been in a deep dug-out and an ordinary small 18-lb. whiz bang has hit the top of the trench about 15 feet above, knows that the repercussion is terrific even from such a small shell.
§ Mr. Fleming
I do not, but if you have a deep air-raid shelter of 60 feet and the whiz bang is replaced by a 1,000 lb. bomb what would be the effect on untrained and undisciplined men and women when one after another the thuds came along with their repercussions throughout all the deep air-raid shelter? You would expect panic; I should. I am trying to face the facts. There would be a scramble, for what? They would not know; they would lose their heads. If such a thing took place in the open, and this is why I favour dispersal above ground as far as possible, you would have panic amongst the women and children, but if they were dispersed they would have a chance of doing something above ground. They would have no chance whatever in a deep air-raid shelter, and I am not putting it so strongly as though the deep air-raid shelter was actually struck by a heavy bomb, because if the deep air-raid shelter was pierced at any point by a heavy bomb and there was not adequate protection by means of bulk heads, the effect of the fumes would be to intensify the panic.
§ Mr. Robert Morgan
Some of us have rather mixed ideas on this matter, but would the hon. and learned Member apply his remarks to a shelter like that at Ramsgate?
§ Mr. Fleming
That is a tunnel which is already there. I would not oppose anything of that description, although I see no reason for it. If all the population of Ramsgate got into that shelter, and in an air raid it was in any way damaged or blocked at one part, you would have great panic. I do not know the actual depth of this smugglers' tunnel but I know that a modern 1,000 lb. bomb will pierce something like 50 or 60 feet of ground, and the repercussion from the bursting of such a shell is so terrific that if the air-raid shelter was not smashed, the effect of the reverberations throughout the whole of the tunnel would produce infinite panic amongst women and children. That is why I am against these deep bomb-proof shelters. I may be wrong. You may have great casualties through panic, and I think the better plan is to get the people better dispersed above ground.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Dunn
I am sure that all hon. Members listen with a great deal of interest to any ex-service men who give us the benefit of their experience, and I always listen with a great deal of admiration to men who saw service on foreign soil. Therefore, I listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming), but I was not able to follow closely the argument he made. When there is a bombardment and shells are falling, whether in a city or town, or in the country, one would expect panic among the people. It seemed to me that the question I had to decide, on listening to the hon. Member's speech, was whether or not there would be less panic if there were no shelters than there would be if there were deep shelters or some other sort of shelters.
§ Mr. Dunn
My view is that if the population, were dispersed and some of the people found their way into deep shelters, there would be less panic on the part of the population if they had the knowledge that there were these shelters than there would be if there were no shelters whatever. A great deal of the argument this evening has centred around all sorts of things, and very little attention has been paid to the Amendment. The Amendment asks that:Approval of an air-raid precautions scheme submitted by a local authority under the provisions of the Act of 1937 shall not be withheld on the ground that it provides for any deep or heavily protected shelter.After listening to the long speech of the Lord Privy Seal, I am entirely at a loss to know whether in that speech the right hon. Gentleman intended to accept the Amendment. I am probably somewhat dense, but I found it rather difficult to sort out that speech, which I confess was not as lucid as one might have expected on this question from the right hon. Gentleman. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman did not tell us whether the local authorities of the country subscribe to the views expressed by the Hailey Committee in their report. I understand that the local authorities are not in agreement with the committee's recommendations. From the Minister's speech, I got the impression that various types of shelters, the famous Anderson shelters and 1013 so on, are not ruled out of a possible understanding. If that is the view which the right hon. Gentleman intended to convey in his speech, it seems to me that there ought to be very little reluctance on the part of the Government to accept the Amendment, which I support.
The Lord Privy Seal said that he hoped the question of Civil Defence would be taken out of party strife. I think the question of Civil Defence is entirely out of the realm of party strife. I subscribe to that view, as I think do all hon. Members on this side. But in the part of the country from which I come, Civil Defence and air-raid precautionary measures are made a matter of party propaganda. That is not done by the political party to which I belong and which, in the part of the country from which I come, supports air-raid precautionary measures and Civil Defence. If there is any question of chiding anybody, it seems to me that it ought not to be the party to which I belong, for we entirely support Civil Defence. If I may take the nod of approval given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as meaning that my interpretation of the Lord Privy Seal's speech was the right one, and that the speech did not rule out this Amendment, it seems to me that there is added force in the speech that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths). We have the men to do the work of Civil Defence and to build, not necessarily deep shelters, but some sort of shelters to protect the civil population in an event of an emergency.
There is one thing about which the country is anxious at the present time. The country asks the Government to stop fooling over this business and to let the people feel that the Government are in earnest about it. People are absolutely sick and tired of the lack of a clear lead to the country and the local authorities, who are anxious to get on with Civil Defence. I am certain that nobody who listened to the Lord Privy Seal's speech could feel in the least that there was any conviction in it. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth said that his local authority had submitted a scheme to the Minister. Maltby, the district in which I reside, has also submitted a scheme in identical circumstances. We cannot get approval from anywhere. It was submitted to the county council, and the 1014 county council submitted it to the Minister. We have the men to do the work, but we can get no answer from the Lord Privy Seal's Department. It is for these reasons that I support the Amendment.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Woods
I listened with great attention to the speech of the Lord Privy Seal, for I am very anxious, representing Fins-bury, that this Amendment should be accepted. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn), when the Lord Privy Seal ended his long lament, I was still wondering whether he accepted the Amendment or not. The right hon. Gentleman's argument seemed to be inspired by the assumption that any criticism of the Government on this matter arises from political prejudice, that the Opposition are here to oppose the Government and anything that the Government bring forward. I hope the Government will try to take a saner view of the problem. I feel very keenly indeed that this matter is one that should be lifted out of the range of party politics and political controversy. It is for many hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of our fellow-countrymen and women a question of life and death.
In another aspect, the speech of the Lord Privy Seal seemed to be based on the assumption that all practical capacity is concentrated on the Treasury Bench and that those who have raised questions in other parts of this Committee are only theorists. The Lord Privy Seal began by describing the problem as one of providing a sound and comprehensive shelter policy. On that basis he went on to maintain that the major danger from which our people would suffer would be the danger from sprinters, blast and falling debris. Thus we have a major issue raised straight away. It may be that in certain districts the major danger will be that from blast, splinters, falling debris and spent ammunition from anti-aircraft guns. But in other districts, in densely populated areas, which may be particular targets for an invading air force, I am certain that the major danger will be from high explosives. A shelter policy which does not recognise that the main danger to a considerable percentage of the population will be from high explosive shells, cannot be, in any sense of the term, a sound and comprehensive policy.
The next point taken by the right hon. Gentleman was that of the overriding 1015 character of military consideration. I do not wish to deal at any length with that point which has already been mentioned by several speakers, but it seems to me that a sense of security on the part of the working population of this country would be a primary consideration in the successful prosecution of a war. That, to my mind, is beyond all dispute. If the whole country feels that the Government are determined to provide protection, irrespective of cost, it will have a great influence. One ray of sunshine in the Lord Privy Seal's lament was the indication that now at any rate financial considerations do not weigh in this matter. If there is a feeling in the country that everything is being done to give the maximum amount of protection to the community, it will considerably influence the mass of the people and will help to equip them to withstand a long war, should that grave necessity arise.
Another point in the general conclusions arising from the Hailey Conference was the axiom, which sounds very well in theory, that what is conceded to one area should be conceded to the whole country and that we should aim at impartiality and uniformity. As I say, that sounds well in theory but when we proceed to apply it to existing conditions it is like saying that we have a supply of spectacles of only one kind and that we propose to issue them, irrespective of the eyesight of different sections of the population and compel all to wear the same kind of glasses. That is the sort of argument used by the Lord Privy Seal. Obviously, those who were blind would not need any spectacles; neither would those who had good sight. So it is with air raid precautions. There are areas of the country where the people will not be worried about tin shelters. There are areas which will enjoy a degree of immunity and whose people will consider themselves fortunate in being so favourably circumstanced and will not want the Government to do anything for them.
There are other areas however in which the situation will be wholly different. There are areas such as those already mentioned in this discussion, which offer an invitation to a raiding enemy. Reference has been made to munitions dumps and shipyards. We in Finsbury have to take into account considerations of that sort. At one end of my constituency are 1016 two of the main railway termini. At the other end is Liverpool Street Station and in the centre is one of the biggest goods depots in London in addition to markets and manufacturing concerns. It is just the sort of area which any intelligent enemy would try to dislocate. There is the maximum of invitation to raiding aircraft. Further, and this is the sort of consideration which was not dealt with by the Lord Privy Seal, there is the question of the actual site and the type of the buildings on the site, the density of the population, the housing conditions and the fact that this area is situated right in the heart of London.
For the protection of such a population, tin shelters are useless because there are no sites for them, as far as the bulk of the population are concerned. Trenches are out of the question because there are no available open spaces. Above-ground shelters are out of the question, irrespective of the question of capacity, because the whole surface is already occupied. The borough council made a most exhaustive survey with regard to the strengthening of basements, and the conclusion reached, not by theorists, not by mere guesswork, but on the advice of engineers and architects, who surveyed all the buildings with cellars in the borough, was that there was hardly a cellar on which it was worth spending money. In nearly every case the superstructure was an old building which the least shock would convert into a heap of bricks and rubbish, such as I have seen in Barcelona and elsewhere in Spain. It is in such circumstances that this Amendment has a special application.
The Government have their responsibility and the local authorities have theirs. The difference between them is that the local authorities are not dealing theoretically with the country as a whole, but are up against the concrete proposition of providing shelter for the population for whose safety they are responsible. The scheme suggested by the Government simply does not work out on the site and under the conditions which I have described. The borough council has submitted a scheme which has been turned down and I was interested to hear for the first time this evening from the Lord Privy Seal, that although the scheme was turned down for technical reasons, the right hon. Gentleman is of opinion that, even had those technical reasons not been 1017 available, the scheme would still have been turned down because it would have provided for the people of Finsbury a standard of shelter which could not be made available for the rest of the community. But you cannot praise the scheme in that way and condemn it at the same time. If the scheme was such as to give the people of Finsbury a standard of shelter which could not be given to the rest of the community, then all the technical arguments against it fail.
I have studied the correspondence and the technical objections urged to the scheme. The borough council has readjusted the scheme in the light of those criticisms and has made modifications to meet the requirements of technical advisers. But all they can get after considerable delay is just further rejection and procrastination. We in Finsbury are anxious to provide the maximum degree of shelter in an area which is particularly liable to danger, as was proved by experience in the last War. Instead of the Government saying,"We do not approve of this, and we suggest this or that," we just get a blank, negative attitude, and that is not in any sense helpful.
One other aspect which was put forward by the Lord Privy Seal was the time factor, that it is so urgent and important that schemes should be carried through and made available in the least possible time. If there had been the same speedy response to the scheme as there was on the part of the borough council to the invitation of the Government to prepare schemes, the first experimental shelter would have been completed by now, and instead of it being a case of theorising and speculating, there would have been an actual example. In the last speech of the Lord Privy Seal he found a further objection in that this was all so new and novel, and that if a shelter of this type was built, it would be very speedily obsolete. I was particularly intrigued by that argument, because it is like saying to someone with a 1938 car that it is obsolete. It may not be the very latest, but it will be a very useful car, nevertheless, and unless we are to make a start with experimental shelters, there never will be a shelter at all. Arising out of the experience that is urgently necessary in such places as Finsbury, we should be only too glad to be pioneers and to hear that someone else had been able to build an even more satisfactory shelter, 1018 profiting by our experience. An air-raid shelter cannot be spoken of as obsolete in the same way as an aeroplane can be regarded as obsolete, and, therefore, we ask that the Government should accept this Amendment, consider the problem presented by vulnerable areas like Finsbury, and give us some degree of assistance instead of merely hostile and negative criticism.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Simmonds
A number of hon. Members opposite have assumed with some degree of optimism that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal proposes possibly to accept the Amendment. On the other hand, I am assuming that the probability is that at an early hour we may divide on this question, and in view of the many speeches to which I have listened this evening, I should like to be quite clear upon what we shall divide. As I approach this question of the deep or highly protected shelter, I should like to say, right away, that I am an enthusiastic supporter of this type of shelter, but in the right place and at the right time. If we examine this Amendment, what in fact does it do? It says that the Minister may not withhold his permission to a scheme on the ground that it provides for any deep or highly protected shelter, and that means to say that where he has a scheme with a highly protected shelter within it, he may not withhold his permission from that scheme. I hope within a very few minutes that I shall satisfy the Committee that that is not a very logical or possible thing for the Minister to grant, because this question of air-raid protection is always a matter of degree. There are localities which will be highly dangerous, and there are localities where there will be almost no danger at all.
I believe the art in the administration of Civil Defence is so to attune your degree of protection as to meet the degree of risk. Surely, therefore, if any local authority in its enthusiasm proposed to put deep, bomb-proof shelters in Crediton or Honiton, down in Devon, the Minister would be bound to say,"This is a preposterous suggestion, because the degree of danger that will exist in that area will not warrant that type of protection." But I think that many hon. Members opposite were under a misapprehension as to what my right hon. Friend said. I gathered quite clearly 1019 from him that he is not opposed to highly protected shelters as such. What he is opposed to is placing these shelters in areas where the degree of danger does not warrant them. [HON. MEMBERS:"No!"] I have no doubt he will be replying, and perhaps we shall clear this matter up. I gathered quite clearly that he had no objection to highly protected shelters as such, if they are put in areas which require that degree of protection and if they can be provided largely in areas of that type.
§ Mr. Silverman
Did not the Minister imply that even where he was satisfied that a highly protected shelter was necessary and was adequate, he would still not be able to sanction it unless he was able at the same time to afford similar protection in other places in the country where there was similar risk?
§ Mr. Simmonds
Yes, I think he did say that, but that is not at all in conflict with the observation which I have just made.
§ Mr. Simmonds
No, it is not. If there is a certain amount of labour and material available for the construction of these deep or highly protected shelters, surely they should be used, not where the local authority has most enthusiasm for highly protected shelters, but in the key danger spots where it is essential first to construct such shelters.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I trust the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not give way to him. We are not, in voting upon this Amendment, being asked to register in any way a vote either pro or con deep or highly protected shelters. If that were the case, frankly I would vote for highly protected shelters, because in certain cases they will be essential, but let us disabuse our minds entirely of that thought. That is not the issue. The issue, as the Amendment quite clearly puts it, is solely this, that if the Minister finds that a highly protected shelter has been incorporated in a scheme, where the degree of danger certainly does not require such a structure, he may not be able to rule it out. That seems to me to be an absurd 1020 contention, and I do not think the hon. Members who put their names to the Amendment can quite have seen where it was carrying them. I can understand them wanting a discussion on this subject, and I think they will have fulfilled that purpose admirably, but I hope we shall not be told that we are voting either for or against highly protected shelters.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The Lord Privy Seal rose at 6.30 p.m. He sat down at 7.25 p.m. We have been all the time trying to find out whether he accepted or rejected the Amendment. The hon. Member who has just spoken thinks he rejected the Amendment. I listened carefully for any word from the Minister— because, after all, as far as we are concerned it would have been the most important word— to give us any indication as to whether he proposed to ask the Committee to accept or reject the Amendment. I heard nothing in the whole of those 55 minutes which indicated his views on that matter at all. The hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds)himself has had to arrive at his conclusion not by reference to any specific sentence in the right hon. Gentleman's speech but by his idea of the general atmosphere surrounding the speech. He hopes he will not be told that if he votes against this Amendment he will be voting against deep or heavily-protected shelters. He can rest assured that most certainly he will be told that, both here and elsewhere; because the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with the Finsbury scheme made this point clear at any rate, that if it had been technically sound, so that his technical advisers could take no objection to it, he still would have rejected it on the ground that he could not provide a deep or heavily-protected shelter for every place of similar vulnerability and risk.
We on this side of the Committee believe that to be a thoroughly absurd position, especially as the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have made civil defence one of the functions of local government. That argument will mean that in matters of civil defence every district will have to march at the pace of the slowest. If a district says,"We want to do this, that, or the other thing," the answer will be, "There is a district of similar vulnerability which has not got defence plans of that particular magnitude, and therefore you cannot have your 1021 scheme." I venture to say that is a doctrine to which the Minister ought never to have committed himself, because when I put a simple question to him he replied, with the one show of light and heat which he displayed during his 55 minutes speech, that it would be foolish for a district not to take advantage of any resources nature had provided for it. We quite agree with that, but surely that cuts across his other principle.
Take the case of Surrey, of the geological features of which I can speak with some knowledge. You could have deep air-raid shelters in the chalk rock in the parts where the right hon. Gentleman himself resides, because nature is there assisting. There are there natural caves and excavated caves which lend themselves to this form of defence. But in the sand near Haslemere and Limps-field, where there is a different geological formation, there are not those natural shelters. Presumably the people ought not to have them in the districts where chalk is the principal geological feature because it would give them something additional in the way of defence to what could be provided in the sand areas. All we ask is that a scheme shall not be rejected merely because it provides for a deep or heavily-protected shelter, and, after all, heavily-protected shelters are not of necessity shelters going deep into the earth. The right hon. Gentleman himself pointed out that they could be above ground, and I myself can think of many places where, although the degree of vulnerability may not be very high, that form of structure ought to be undertaken for technical reasons.
We on this side of the Committee do not pin our faith to any particular engineering scheme. Clearly that is a matter for experts. What we do say is that this particular form of defence, where it is technically sound, ought not to be ruled out on any of the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman applied to technically sound schemes of this description. Several hon. Members, without any great engineering experience, have given their views on the engineering problem involved. The hon. and learned Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming), drawing on his experience of recruits in the late War, proposed to apply the same principles to women and children in the next war. It seemed to me to be a somewhat faulty logical process, but it seemed to 1022 satisfy him. I think the fallacy underlying his arguments is that he would deal with the problem in the terms of one bomb. The old economists always used to talk about one man on a desert island, but except at very rare periods in the world's history the economic circumstances surrounding that one man have not really been of universal application, and in talking of the problem of people above ground to envisage it in terms of one bomb is a fallacy. I imagine that if there is an air raid the population above ground will find a very large number of bombs falling over a comparatively small area. Obviously, within reasonable limits, the greater the concentration of bombs on any given area the greater the military effect the enemy is likely to be able to achieve, and women and children attempting to disperse in the open, with bombs from above, with spent shells falling and all the splinters from our own anti-aircraft artillery, will be as much subject to panic and terror above ground as they are likely to be subjected to underground.
The hon. and learned Member proceeded to assume that any large underground shelter would not be properly partitioned off, so as to lessen the effect of any explosion that might occur. Really the arguments addressed to this particular scheme might be addressd to a scheme that was technically sound, and it should not be assumed that local authorities would rush in to construct the least efficient shelters and ask people to take refuge in them. We believe that within the scheme of Civil Defence there is a place, in districts where either nature or artifice enables it to be done, for the construction of these deep or heavily-protected shelters, and we ask that in such cases the Minister shall not reject a scheme merely because it includes a deep shelter. He told us that even if the Finsbury scheme had been technically sound he would have rejected it apparently because some neighbouring boroughs either had not got or could not get such a scheme.
Surely it is an entirely new military doctrine that we may not protect one part of our front in a certain way because the same form of protection cannot be carried out all along the front; that if there is not enough barbed wire to protect the whole front, we should 1023 have no barbed wire at all; that if there is a canal that does not protect all the front we should not take advantage of its protection anywhere along the front; that if machine gun emplacements cannot be prepared everywhere there should be no machine gun emplacements at all. Faulty as the preparations of the Secretary of State for War proved to be last September, he never tied himself down to any such doctrine as that which was elaborated by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. If we believe the story of the Government that we are hard pressed for time, and that short-term policies have to be adopted because there is no time for a long-term policy, surely it is all the more essential to make use of any particular form of defence wherever it is applicable, even though it cannot be used everywhere.
The Amendment is one which we did hope the Government would find it possible to accept. The Minister did not either accept or reject it in his speech. He spoke about everything else, but the one thing we did not know was his opinion about the Amendment. We knew his opinion about most other things in this world. We are still hopeful that as he desires, I know, that preparations shall be adequate and speedy throughout the country, he will find it in his heart to accept the Amendment, and let it be understood by local authorities in the country that where deep or heavily protected shelter is feasible and is the appropriate form of defence in that particular place, the Government will not reject the scheme merely because it includes the best instead of the second best.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee for more than a very few moments, but I do wish to try and remove misapprehensions which have been somewhat prevalent in regard to the policy that I outlined to the Committee in my first speech. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and some previous speakers, seemed to me to have represented the conclusions I put to the Committee in a light which does not truly represent what I endeavoured to say. As the hon. Gentleman said, I made it quite clear that I did not interpret the report of the Hailey Conference as implying that natural resources should not be made use of in suitable cases. I 1024 said quite frankly that it would be no part of the policy of the Government to apply the principle of equality to the extent of denying the advantage of particular natural resources. The principle of equality is to be interpreted, according to the policy of the Government, in this way, that, where time is limited and where resources in professional advice, skilled supervision, materials, etc., are limited, it is wrong to concentrate an undue proportion of those resources in the provision in a particular locality or particular section of the community of shelter beyond what could be provided for other people similarly placed. It is not a question of saying that because we cannot do this thing everywhere we should do it nowhere. We say that because we cannot provide shelter to a particular standard everywhere we should apply our resources to providing shelter on so far as possible uniform standards everywhere for people exposed to a similar degree of risk.
I want to make that absolutely clear and I want to make it clear to the Committee that experience is showing quite clearly to-day that we are getting very near the limit of our resources, particularly in skilled supervision. We have got to husband our resources if we are to provide in the shortest possible time a maximum protection for the population at large. That does not mean that we shall not proceed, taking the cases of greatest risk first, to provide more heavily protected shelters, as and when our resources allow, for workers who are exposed to the highest degree of risk. We may learn valuable lessons from so doing. I would be the last to say that we have yet reached ultimate wisdom in this matter, but I do say with very great confidence that the principle of equality which was enunciated with all the authority of the Hailey Committee, which is accepted by the Government, is a sound principle, and departure from it will prejudice our object of providing the maximum degree of protection in the shortest possible space of time.
The other point on which I want for one moment, if possible, to remove misapprehensions is in regard to the manner in which financial considerations enter into this problem. I have never suggested for a moment that financial considerations are of no importance. One hon. Member said it was absurd to suggest that 1025 finance should be left out of account. I have never suggested that it should be, but what I have made clear to all working on this problem is that in my judgment, having regard to the nature of the problem of protection, the appropriate course is first to examine on technical and practical merits the various schemes of protection, and to let finance enter into the matter at the last stage. I made the position perfectly clear in a speech I delivered on 1st March in this House, and I would just like to read the relevant words to the Committee:The Committee will notice that I have said nothing at all about finance in connection with shelters, but that is not because I do not think it is important. Our financial strength may well prove to be our strongest arm of defence, and we should be very careful not to weaken that arm by rushing into expenditure recklessly, but I have said nothing about finance because in my opinion it comes last in the process of consideration. We ought first to consider the problem on its merits." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1939; col. 1313, Vol. 344.]That is exactly what I asked the Hailey Conference to do. As the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) made clear, I asked them to consider the problem of heavily protected shelter on its merits. I said that finance would be considered at the proper time by the Government. I think it will be clear from what I have said that I cannot accept the Amendment. I think it would be quite wrong that the Government and the Minister concerned should be asked to pledge themselves never to reject a scheme of defence on the ground that it made provision for heavily protected shelters. That is quite a different thing from saying that the Minister will not necessarily reject a scheme merely on that ground. I oppose the Amendment.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Dr, Guest
I am sorry to delay the Committee unduly, but I think the Lord Privy Seal is entirely wrong in his interpretation of the meaning of this Amendment. It does not mean that the Lord Privy Seal will be obliged to accept any scheme on the ground that it provided a deep air-raid shelter, but it means simply that he would not be obliged to reject it merely on that ground and only on that ground. It complies exactly with what he himself said was his policy with regard to the Hailey Report. He said that the Government have accepted the Hailey Report 1026 and that its acceptance completed the Government's plan. That meant, as I interpret it, a limited use of heavily protected shelters. That is precisely and exactly what this Amendment means and if the Government vote against this they are voting against what the Lord Privy Seal has himself said is the Government's policy. I venture to think that the Lord Privy Seal, if I may say so with respect, has been confused in his presentation of this case throughout. To-day it is not intended to force any special type of shelter on the Government, but it is intended that it shall be left to the local authorities.
With regard to the general statement— the general affirmation of fairness between one part of the country and another— it is perfectly clear that different parts of the country in which the conditions are similar should be so far as possible treated in the same way. That, I suggest, is more or less a political matter and not entirely the practical matter which we ought to be discussing to-night. You cannot get complete equality between any two areas of the country. The authority which is best fitted to deal with questions of inequality and which is the best judge of what the particular local area requires, is the local authority itself. Under the Air-Raid Precautions Act it is the local, authority which has to carry out the work of air-raid precautions.
In the case of Finsbury, Hammersmith, Sheffield or any of the very large number of municipalities or local authorities in the country, the local authorities are those who know most accurately the conditions. Precisely because of that, their representations ought to be given special attention. I do not think that the Lord Privy Seal would refuse to do so. If Sheffield or some other area brought forward its special problem and said:"Here is a point of special vulnerability. Here is a place that is likely to attract attack. We require for the protection of the workers in an essential industry who live in that area a heavily protected shelter. Otherwise they will all be killed and the industry will not be able to carry on"; would the Lord Privy Seal refuse his consent? Certainly not. That is precisely what this Amendment asks him to do and that is why we put it down. That is the proposal of this Amendment, and if the Government vote 1027 against it they are voting against the position which I have outlined. There is no doubt about that.
After listening to the Lord Privy Seal I feel a considerable degree of disquiet as to whether the Government adequately appreciate the realities of this problem. We are talking to-night about shelters and we have said very little about evacuation, but the real protection of the population is neither in evacuation nor in the number of shelters, but in the general direction of the policy of the Government. I am not talking about foreign policy but of policy in the protection of the civil population as a whole. That involves the use of evacuation and of air-raid shelters as means of protection. I should say with regard to Finsbury that that area could not be adequately protected, even by deep shelters, and that what it really requires is that Finsbury should be evacuated on a very large scale.[Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends says that it cannot be evacuated because its industries are required to be carried on. I live next door to Finsbury and I know that it is an extremely vulnerable place, and if what my hon. Friend says is correct, then Finsbury and any other similar area should be given adequate, that is deep, or heavily protected shelters. There can be no other argument about it. If you cannot evacuate people you must protect them. You cannot carry on your industries without doing that.
I must, however, confess that I feel, and I am afraid that the country will also feel, that in this matter of Civil Defence the Government do not see as clearly the realities as they do in the case of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and not even there perhaps as clearly as they might. The problems of Civil Defence are comparatively new, and the whole of the civilian population is, as it were, in the line. If the Government would look upon the matter with the same sense of stark reality as that which will face them in the eventuality of war, and would consider that the civilian population will have, as it were, to strip itself to the buff in the fight with death, they would do everything that was necessary in order to equip the population to resist. If necessary you will have to evacuate your population on a much more wholesale scale than has been proposed 1028 up to the present, and to provide those who must remain in the factories, the docks or elsewhere with protection on the lines of military fortification. Otherwise the work of the country cannot be carried on. Unless we have this realisation on the part of the Government of the grim realities of the situation, I am afraid that disquiet will continue in the country. The Lord Privy Seal has taken 55 minutes in a speech to argue, apparently, although he did not say so, against an Amendment which merely puts into form what he has stated was his own conclusion. I am afraid the general feeling of the country will be that the mind of the Government is very much more confused than we feared it might be.
In this respect I am the more perturbed because, having been very much concerned from the very beginning of the discussions in this House on air-raid precautions, I have always found that representatives of the Government were confused on this matter. On the original Bill an Amendment was moved from this side to make evacuation one of the duties of the Government, but it was strongly resisted from the Government side on the ground that it was unnecessary and would be unworkable. We were right on that matter of evacuation and the Government have accepted that policy. I venture to suggest that we are right on this matter of shelters too.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Hicks
I apologise to the Committee for entering into the Debate at this late hour, but I would not take part in it if it had not been for the interjection I made when the Lord Privy Seal was speaking, particularly in regard to the work of the Hailey Conference in examining this problem, and in relation to costs. I generally like to speak after the Front Bench have spoken, and if the hon. Member concerned had waited two or three minutes he would have been able to finish. The Lord Privy Seal said that he wished that Members of the Committee had read the Hailey Report; I wish they had, but equally I would be entitled to say that I wish the Lord Privy Seal had read the Amendment. In those instances it would have been of great value. I may have two or three words to say on the subject of the report, with your permission, Sir Dennis, later on. I suppose no question is more extensively considered 1029 in connection with the subject of air-raid precautions than that of the deep shelter, and there is no question on which there is less experience. Very few people have had experience of deep shelters, and the Hailey Conference was set up to consider what type of shelters against air raids they would recommend the Home Office, the Lord Privy Seal and the Government to adopt.
The Hailey Conference, after consultation, considered all suggestions that were brought before them. No restrictions were placed upon the evidence. The Lord Privy Seal said that we could have any Department of State before us, and that any of the Services that we required would come. No technical knowledge that was available should be withheld. Anything for which the committee was entitled to ask was asked for and freely granted, not only by the Departments but by people who had had experience in air raids, chiefly in Barcelona. Some of the people were present when certain air raids were on. All that evidence was brought before us, and we examined it to the best of our ability. We may not have been able to examine it thoroughly, or to draw correct deductions, but the evidence was examined to the best of our ability, and we came to unanimous recommendations. Reference is made to deep bomb-proof shelters, but there is a difference between a deep shelter and a bomb-proof shelter. The two are frequently associated, but, so far as we were able to get information, a really bomb-proof shelter has not yet been constructed. We de not know what a bomb-proof shelter is. It depends on what is the size of the bomb, how it is going to hit, and the conditions under which it will strike.
We do not say it is outside the realm of possibility to establish a bomb-proof shelter, or that the engineering industry are not able to evolve ways and means of protecting themselves against explosives from the air, but at the moment evidence that that is the case is not available. Again, in considering the question of deep shelters, the question arises whether they should be approached by ramps or by steps. We examined that question, and my own personal view, which I think was generally accepted, was that it would be better that the approach to a deep underground shelter should be by a ramp rather than by steps, particularly if it were necessary to carry any injured 1030 persons down on stretchers. Therefore, we subscribed to the idea that ramps were preferable, and personally I would not have a continuous ramp, but at given distances would have stretches which were level, because, once people get on to a ramp under excited conditions, it is very difficult to stem the rush.
Another problem was that of the limit of seven minutes' warning, the consideration of the area from which people would be drawn for the purpose of getting them into the shelter, and how many people could pass in a given time. Evidence and statistics were put before us with regard to the discharge of people from railway stations and football grounds, and we had also to consider the type of people who would be taken underground. It seemed probable that the people coming from football matches, and also from railway stations, particularly during the rush hours, would not include very many elderly or infirm people, mothers with babies, and so on. These questions had to be considered, and also the question of people having to dress and get into the streets from the top of buildings of three or four storeys and get to a shelter perhaps 100 yards away.
Then there was the question of the black-out. I will tell the Committee what happened in one big town with a population of 500,000 or more. We had local lorry drivers, men using their own lorries, men who worked in the town and knew it well. A black-out was decided upon; the casualty station was fixed at a given point; the men started from a given point, and casualties had to be picked up there and taken to the casualty station. The time necessary for this would have been five minutes in ordinary daylight. Ten minutes was allowed because of the darkness, but it was 55 minutes before the first one arrived. I want to give the Committee some understanding of how people will behave under conditions of panic and black-out when they are unable to find a shelter, and the amount of confusion that is likely to be created in this and other ways, because it is necessary that these facts should be utilised in order to get a proper balance of ideas.
Then there is the possibility of air-raid attacks once every hour. An enemy is not going to wait a week or a fortnight between attacks; the object may be to intimidate the population and sterilise industry, and, accordingly, attempts may 1031 be made to air-raid the country once every hour— 24 times a day. I do not know how many have thought of that possibility. So far as we were able to get evidence from Barcelona, at the end of the war, by the time they were bombed or starved into submission, the air raids were about eight a day, and so many people were driven underground that production was practically sterilised and there was no production at all. It is easy enough to be driven underground, but if you get no sustenance underground it is not much use going there. In a city like London or any other large industrial city, it would be necessary to maintain the life of the people, and we have to consider how far away from their work they would have to be taken and what protection could be given them. The reason why we were not able to recommend the type of shelter that is in the minds of people who think that the farther you go down the safer you are, was due to the fact that insufficient research had been undertaken, either by the Government or anyone else, to enable the effects of blast to be measured. Indeed, we have difficulty in getting a definition of blast, even from the scientists. The definition given on page 11 of the Hailey Report is:By 'blast' we mean intensely high pressure created by explosion in the air which surrounds the explosion itself.It has been proved to us that, if you are 80 feet underground and a bomb drops at the mouth of the entrance to the shelter, the danger to the people inside is much greater than it would be outside. The blast will travel right down. We do not yet know whether blast goes round corners, but, so far as we were able to get any evidence at all, it appears that the danger would be quite as great half a mile down as it would be 10 yards away from the approach to the tunnel. The evidence available at the moment does not support the claim that protection would be afforded by digging holes 80 or 90 feet underground. Our report on the question of deep shelters was conditioned entirely by the fact that sufficient research had not taken place. I should like to read to the Committee some extracts from the report in order to indicate the kind of information we obtained. On page 25, the report says:Scope for further researchOur investigation has been hampered by the fact that in certain aspects of the subject 1032 knowledge is still far from complete. There are many relevant technical and scientific problems which still require elucidation. Our attention has been particularly directed to the need for further exploration of the following points: —A great amount of experimentation has taken place on that subject, but it is not sufficient at the moment to enable conclusions to be drawn as to the area of vibration that is created by a bomb dropping into the earth, and the effect that it has on everything immediately adjacent. The report goes on:
- (i) The phenomena of blast, especially ' shadow 'effects, and the value of baffling devices, with particular reference to the physiological effects of blast.
- (ii) The penetration of bombs into various clases of soils.
- (iii) The propagation of earth waves by underground explosions."Methods of lighting which would facilitate movement at night without impairing the effect of a black-out.We say:We do not, however, suggest that this is by any means an exhaustive list.Then the report continues:We are aware that research and experiment have during the last few months been pursued more systematically than before, but we are impressed with the extent of the work that still remains to be done. We understand that some difficulties have been experienced, such as the lack of available ground for the conduct of practical experiments; and we feel in general that the work of research is still being conducted on too restricted a scale. Though we do not overlook the need for long-term, or fundamental research on some of the problems involved, we believe that there are immediate and pressing requirements in the direction of practical experiments to settle certain points, particularly the lethal effects of blast, which are now in doubt. The country possesses, in numerous specialised institutions, in its universities and scientific bodies, ample resources for the conduct of investigation and experiment, and the fullest opportunity should be taken of seeking their assistance and collaboration. We wish to draw particular attention to the fact that full benefits cannot be obtained from such collaboration unless those whose assistance is being sought, or who will have to make practical use of the results, are kept fully and promptly in touch with the progress of investigations conducted by or on behalf of Government Departments.That was put in particularly because the results of Departmental examinations have not been available for everyone. Referring to lack of confidence by the public in the Government's policy, the report says:This may be partly due to the fact that its full extent is not yet appreciated; but 1033 we believe that it is even more to be attributed to the fact that the Government has not yet found itself in a position to present to the public a complete picture of the scheme of defence which it proposes to undertake. Ignorance of the Government's intentions in regard to strongly protected shelters has, in particular, been responsible for much of the prevailing doubt and uncertainty. Not until the Government is able to make public the full extent of the shelter measures contemplated can it hope to gain a general support for its policy, and thus ensure that both the local bodies and individual citizens shall effectively recognise their responsibility for taking their share in the preparations against attacks by air.And finally, because we know that property rights will have to be dealt with, we say in the report:If any legal difficulties are found to stand in the way, we hope that the Government will not hesitate to equip itself with the powers necessary to overcome them.I felt it was necessary to say that as plainly as I could, in order to show the approach we made to the problem and the character of the deductions which we have made. But we have never organised opposition to future developments or closed our minds against further possibilities of better protection than had been previously visualised. Therefore it is difficult to understand the Minister's attitude when we are asking him not to make up his mind definitely, for all time, against deep or stronger air-raid shelters, so that, whatever science or engineering skill makes available for him in future, he will not fail to take any opportunities to
§ give himself power to provide effective protection to the maximum possibility for the protection of our people against air attack.
§ 10.0 p.m.
The Lord Advocate (Mr. T. M, Cooper)
May I intervene to deal with the question of what exactly the effect of the Amendment would be? I do not know what effect those hon. Members whose names are attached to the Amendment intended it to achieve, but I can put forward my view as to what these words would mean if they were incorporated in an Act of Parliament. My advice is that the effect would be that if, on a scheme being submitted to him, the Minister desired to object to that scheme because it contained provision for a deep shelter which, in his view, was inappropriate, on account of the nature of the situation and the excessive call it would make on the available labour or materials, or expert supervision, or anything of that kind, with this Clause, he would not be free to do' so; his hands would be tied, and the scheme would have to be passed. I say no more, because the hour is late; but I think it right to put before the Committee that view of the effect of the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 122; Noes, 206.1035
|Division No. 166.]||AYES.||[10.3 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Gallacher, W.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar. S.)||Gardner, B. W.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Lathan, G.|
|Ammon, C. G.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Lawson, J. J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Leach, W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Lee, F.|
|Barr, J.||Grenfell, D. R.||Leonard, W.|
|Batey, J.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Logan, D. G.|
|Benn, Rl. Han. W. W.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Lunn, W.|
|Benson, G.||Groves, T. E.||Macdonald, G. (lnce)|
|Burke, W. A.||Guest, Dr, L. H. (Islington, N.)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Cape, T.||Hall. G. H. (Aberdare)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||MacLaren, A.|
|Chater, D.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Maclean, N.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Mainwaring. W. H.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hayday, A.||Marshall, F|
|Collindridge, F.||Handerson, A. (Kingswinford)||Milner, Major J.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Montague, F.|
|Daggar, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Davies, B. J. (Westhoughton)||Hicks, E. G.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Morthyr)||Hills, A. (Pontefraet)||Muff, G.|
|Debbie, W.||Isaacs, G. A.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Jagger, J.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Ede, J. C.||Jenkins, A, (Pontypool)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Owen, Major G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||John, W.||Paling, W.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Parker, J.|
|Foot, D. M.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Frankel, D.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Pearson, A.|
|Pritt, D. N.||Silverman, S. S.||Walton, W. MeL.|
|Quibell, D. J. K.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Ridley, G.||Sorenson, R. W.||William., E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Riley, B.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Ritson, J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Wilmot, J.|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Rothschild, J. A. do||Thurtle, E,||Woods, G. S. (Finsbary)|
|Seely, Sir H. M.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Sexton, T. M.||Viant, S. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Shinwell, E.||Walkden, A. G.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
|Silkin, L.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Hambro, A. V.||Peake, O.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Hammersley, S. S.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Hannah, I. C.||Petherick, M.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Pilkington, R.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Harbord, Sir A.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Assheton, R.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Hailgers, Captain F. F. A.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Hepworth, J.||Rathbone, J.R. (Bodmin)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Bait, Sir A. L.||Hogg, Hon. Q. MoG.||Remer, J. R.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Holdsworth, H.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Beulton, W. W.||Holmes, J. S.||Ropner, Colenel L.|
|Bracken, B.||Hopkinson, A.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Rowlands, G.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Brown, Brig-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hunloke, H. P.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Burghley, Lord||Hunter, T.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Joel, D. J. B.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Jones, Sir G. W. H (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Ferfar)|
|Cary, R. A.||Kellett, Major E. O.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Channon, H.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Kerr, Sir J. Graham (Scottish Univ.)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Kimball, L.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Somerville, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Levy, T.||Spans, W. P.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Lewis, O.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Lipson, D. L.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Lloyd, G. W.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Loftus, P. C.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Han. H. F. C.||Lyons, A. M.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|De Chair, S. S.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd)., S.)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Thoneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Tufnell, Lleut.-Commander R. L.|
|Duggan, H. J.||McKie, J. K.||Turton, R. H.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Magnay, T.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Markham, S. F.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Marsden, Commander A.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Waterhouse, Captain C,|
|Fleming, E. L.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Furness, S. N.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Walls, Sir Sydney|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Moreing, A. C.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Gledhill. G.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Wise, A. R.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wlrral)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J||Wood, Hon, C. I. C.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Munro, P.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Gretton, Cal. Rt. Hon. J.||Nall, Sir J.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Guinness, T. L, E. B.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Major Sir James Edmondson|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||and Mr. Grimston.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,"That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
Before we part with the Clause I would again offer a very friendly criticism as to the effect of Sub-section (4). That is the Sub-section which vests these shelters in the public authority. Inasmuch as they only take rights in the earlier part of the Clause to enter on the land in order to construct them, the only property which they have after the shelters are made is in the shelters themselves, that is to say, in the entrances running underground and in the underground shelters themselves. In my view, that means that they have no right of lateral support, and, therefore, it seems to me that they ought to make certain that the local authorities are given sufficient easement to make quite certain that neighbours, either accidentally or on purpose, may not use the underlying and adjoining soil in such a way as to make useless the expensive erection of these shelters within a short time. There are two smaller points. Local authorities have only such rights as are given by Statute in respect of these shelters. While they are given the right to construct the shelters, they appear to have no right to maintain and repair them, which it seems to me ought to be expressly given for safety's sake at least. Thirdly, I am not at all clear as to what purposes the shelters can be put to by the local authorities — the shelter itself is simply vested in them — whether that means that they have to retain and use them solely at all times for nothing except air-raid shelters, or whether they are given the right to use them for subsidiary purposes. I only offer these criticisms so that these matters may be considered, because they are important, before the Bill becomes law.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I was going to raise most of the points that the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised, but there is one further thing. Although these are underground shelters, the local authority has no right in the ceiling of the shelter and the owner of the soil can remove it if for 1038 any reason he does not like it, or the whim takes him, and then the underground shelter has merely become an opening in the earth and its whole value disappears. I think the right hon. Gentleman will see that the position of the local authorities with regard to their rights in these shelters will require considerable overhauling before he will have provided them with the kind of protection for their works which is absolutely necessary. We have had a remarkable series of discussions on this Clause, and I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the kind of thing that is going on. At one stage we had the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)collaborating with the Government, whom he would not touch at ordinary times with a barge pole, and acting as one of the law officers of the Crown in their absence, and, in the absence of the usual unpaid Law Officer of the Crown, the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens). The hon. and learned Gentleman left the Chamber immediately after his advice had been accepted, and I can only imagine that he had gone to draw the fees. For I am certain that so strong a trade unionist as he would not have done as much legal work as he has done this afternoon without some hope of reward either now or in the future. I have some misgiving whether I shall not see him sitting beside the right hon. Gentleman and officially advising the Government in the able way that he has done unofficially this afternoon.
I want to reinforce the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Ashford by a letter which I have received from the clerk to the Middlesex County Council with regard to this Clause. It is important to pay attention to the views of the County Council of Middlesex in this matter because they represent, although one of the smallest, one of the most populous counties in the country and one of the most vulnerable. The remarks of the clerk to the Middlesex County Council are as follow:It is observed that in lieu of compulsory acquisition a procedure by way of entry is substituted. This is limited to underground works and the procedure would be inappropriate to above-ground works because Sub-clause (4) only ' vests 'the underground works with the necessary shafts in the Authority— Really the Bill vests the hole in the authority, and leaves the walls and the roof in private ownership — 1039which may be fitting as the works are mainly constructed in the subsoil, but would not be applicable to above-ground works as obviously the authority constructing the works would require, if not the freehold, at any rate a long leasehold interest in the site.I also observe that in Sub-clause (2) the local authority is required to give public notice before constructing underground works in commons, open spaces etc. The local authority must advertise its intentions at least 28 days previously and if there are any objections everything is held up until the Minister has held an inquiry.Whilst there may be some good reason for this procedure where the common or open space is not vested in the local authority, it appears to me to be quite out of place when the local authority proposes to construct such works on open spaces of which it is the owner. In these cases the local authority would not give notice in writing under Sub-clause (1) so that Sub-clause (2) might be limited to cases where the common or open space is not in the ownership or under the control of the local authority so that notice of entry has to be given. In any case the time that must elapse would in my view be detrimental to the progress of works, particularly in the more vulnerable areas.This Clause was put into the Bill in the former Committee stage at a very late period. We have done the best we can to make a workable Clause of it. The comments of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford, reinforced by these comments of a man who will have to administer the Act in one of the most important areas in the country, indicate that a good deal more effort will have to be made before you can provide the local authorities with a Clause which they can work successfully in the various parts of the country. I can only express the hope that between now and the time that the Bill is considered in another place every effort will be made to deal with the practical and technical difficulties that may arise, so that no hitch may occur in the provision of this very urgently needed shelter accommodation. I want once again to rebut the view put forward earlier in the Debate by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) that these are things that are really not of the utmost urgency. They are. We cannot wait until hostilities are declared before we get on with the provision of these underground shelters. It is safe to say that an underground shelter that has not been previously constructed will prove very difficult to construct once hostilities have broken out and men's minds are being diverted to other things. In the interests of the 1040 civilian population I hope the Minister will make every effort to secure that this Clause shall be thoroughly workable by the time the Bill becomes an Act.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am much obliged to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) for their practical suggestions in regard to a matter which is very technical and, admittedly, very difficult. In this Clause we are literally breaking new ground, and we must all contribute what we can to ensure that we make a success of it.
§ Clause 8, ordered to stand part of the Bill.