§ 5.57 P.m.
§ The Lord Advocate
I beg to move, in page 71, line 15, at the end, to insert:'leasehold interest' means the interest of the lessee in premises subject to a lease; references to an estate or interest in reversion expectant on a lease shall be construed as references to the interest of the landlord in property subject to a lease.This is merely a translation of certain English terms into their Scottish equivalents.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Lord Advocate
I beg to move, in page 72, line I, to leave out Sub-section (6), and to insert:(6) In Section eight, for any reference to Section sixty-eight of the Public Health Act, 1925, there shall be substituted a reference to Section one hundred and twenty of the Road Traffic Act, 1930.(7)In Sub-section (1) of Section sixteen for the words 'become the subject of a charge 'there shall be substituted the words 'be charged and burdened by means of a charging order or in respect of which he may become liable to pay an increase of rent.'(8)In Section seventeen—(a) for Sub-section (2) there shall be substituted the following Sub-section:(2) On the termination, within the period of ten years immediately following the date of the completion of the works, of any tenancy of the whole or any part of the premises, being a tenancy in existence at that date, the outgoing tenant shall, unless it is otherwise agreed in connection with the works or after the completion thereof, be entitled to recover from the proprietor of the premises a sum which bears to the 1372 net ascertained cost of the works the proportion which so much of the said period as is unexpired at the termination of the tenancy bears to the whole of the period.Where under this Section any sum has been paid by the proprietor of the premises to an outgoing tenant, the rent payable under every lease of the premises derived from the estate or interest of the proprietor, being a lease in existence at the date of the completion of the works, shall, unless it is otherwise agreed in connection with or after the making of such payment, be increased at the annual rate of one-tenth of the net ascertained cost of the works. Such increase shall operate on all rent payable under the lease in question during so much only of the period of ten years aforesaid as is unexpired at the date on which the said payment to the outgoing tenant becomes due.In this Sub-section the expression "proprietor" includes any person who under the Lands Clauses Acts would be enabled to sell and convey the premises to the promoters of an undertaking.'(b) in Sub-section (3), for the words 'entitled to interests which may become subject to such a charge as aforesaid,' there shall be substituted the words 'who may by virtue of the foregoing provisions of this Section become liable to make payment of any sum or of an increase of rent,' and(c) for Sub-section (4) there shall be substituted the following Sub-section—'(4) It shall be competent for the Minister to make, on the application of the outgoing tenant, a charging order in his favour charging, and burdening the premises with an annuity to repay the sum due to him under Sub-section (2) of this Section in like manner as a local authority may make a charging order in favour of an order under Section twenty-one of the Housing (Scotland) Act. 1925, and the provisions of Sections twenty-one and twenty-two of that Act shall apply accordingly subject to the following and any other necessary modifications—The purpose of these additions I can explain in a few words. The new Subsection (6) makes the appropriate provision so far as Scotland is concerned in regard to the power of local authorities to provide car parks. The new Subsections (7) and (8), which fall to be read together, arise upon this point. Under Clause 17 of the Bill, which deals with factories occupied on short leases, there is a provision that, so far as England is 1373 concerned, the sum payable to the outgoing tenant is to be charged on the interest expectant on the termination of the tenancy, "an expression more familiar to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) than to myself. Such an interest, if it is another lease, cannot in Scots law, except under unusual circumstances, be made the subject of a charge. It has been necessary to achieve a similar result for Scotland by a slightly different method, and the effect of the Amendment here is to provide that the sum due to the outgoing tenant, instead of being made a charge on" the interest expectant on the termination of the tenancy," is to be-paid by the proprietor himself. If the premises do not pass to the proprietor but pass into the possession of another lessee, the proprietor will be able to recoup himself by increasing the rent.
- (i) the annuity charged shall be such sum and payable for such number of years as the Minister may fix; and
- (ii) for any reference to the Department of Health for Scotland there shall be substituted a reference to the Minister.'"
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ The Lord Advocate
I beg to move, in page 72, line 28, at the end, to insert:(8) ]n Sub-section (3) of Section nineteen, the words from 'and if they take,' to the end of the Sub-section shall be omitted.(9) Part III of this Act shall have effect as if. after Section twenty-three there were inserted the following Section:
§ 'Special provisions as to buildings in divided ownership.
§ 23a.— (1) For the purposes of this Part of this Act any reference to a building shall, in the case of a building in which separate storeys or parts belong to different owners be construed as a reference to the whole building so far as it is under the same roof and is enclosed within the same gables and walls and any reference to the owner of a building shall, in the case of such a building as aforesaid, be construed as a reference to the owners of the several storeys or parts of such building jointly and severally.
§ (2) Where works have been executed by virtue of this Part of this Act in a part of such a building as aforesaid of which part the owner is himself the occupier, the owners of the building shall, unless it is otherwise agreed in connection with the works or after the completion thereof, pay to the owner of that part annually for ten years a sum equal to the diminution of the annual value of that part of the building ascribable to the impairment of the usefulness thereof by reason of the execution of the works ascertained as at the date of the completion of the works. Such sums shall be payable on the day six months after the completion of the works and annually thereafter.1374
Where such sums arc payable Sub-section (5) of Section eighteen shall have effect as if the word "two" were omitted, and the following paragraph added—
(e) any annual sum payable under Sub-section (2) of Section twenty-three (a) of this Act." '
§ (3)The owner of each part of such a building as aforesaid shall contribute towards the expenses of the owners under the notice (as defined in Sub-section (8) of Section eighteen of this Act, with the addition of the sums (if any) payable under the last foregoing Sub-section), a sum bearing to the total expenditure the same proportion as the annual value of his part of the building at the date of the completion of the works bears to the annual value of the whole building at that date.
§ (4)Where the owner of a part of such a building as aforesaid, who has become liable under the foregoing provisions of this Section to contribute towards the expenses of the owners of the building is not the occupier of the whole of that part, the rent payable under every lease derived from his estate or interest (being a lease in existence at the date of the completion of the works) shall be increased or decreased in like manner and subject to the like conditions as rents are increased or decreased under Section eighteen of this Act.
§ (5)Any question arising between the owners of such a building as aforesaid as to their respective rights or liabilities arising out of this Section shall, in default of agreement, be determined in like manner as any question as to the payment of compensation to which Section sixty-six of this Act applies is determined.'
(10) In Section twenty-eight, for Subsection (3), there shall be substituted the following Sub-section—
'(3) Any amount due to a local authority by way of repayment of an advance made by them under this Section may be recovered as a civil debt; and it shall be competent for the local authority to make in favour of themselves a charging order, charging and burdening the premises in respect of which the advance was made with an annuity to repay the advance in like manner as they may make a charging order in favour of themselves in respect of expenses incurred in the execution of works under Section fifteen of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1930; and the provisions of Sub-section (I) of Section eleven of the Housing (Agricultural Population) (Scotland) Act, 1938, shall apply to a charging order made in pursuance of this Subsection subject to the following and any other necessary modifications that is to say—
§ The annuity charged shall be such sum as the Department of Health for Scotland having regard to the rate of interest agreed under Sub-section (2) of this Section in respect of the advance may fix, and shall be payable over such term of years as will enable the amount due to be repaid within 10 years from the date on which the advance was made.' "1375
§ The new Sub-section (8) is consequential upon the Amendment which has just been moved. The new Sub-section (9) raises a point which is peculiar to Scotland. In Scotland flat properties are quite commonly held in separate ownerships, the different horizontal layers of a building belonging to different owners. I am not familiar with the English practice, but I am informed that this system is practically unknown in England. The difficulty is that as regard the provisions of this Measure which affect commercial buildings the English code would hardly fit a case in Scotland where there is a block of flats, or storeys as we call them, in separate ownership with more than 50 persons employed on the premises. In order to adapt the provisions of the Bill so far as we can to the special situation in Scotland we have adopted the system of regarding the building as a whole so far as within the same gables and under the same roof and imposing the obligations of the Bill upon all the owners jointly and severally. They will contribute to the cost proportionately to the value of their respective properties, and where the owner of the basement in which the shelter is constructed is himself the occupier he will get compensation similar to that which the occupier of the basement gets.
§ Finally, we have made provision for the possibility of difficulties by leaving any question in dispute to be determined under the arbitration Clause. The whole object of this provision is to make the situation in Scotland as nearly as may be the same as in England, but I propose to look very narrowly at the Clause again after the Bill is reprinted following the Report stage, in order to be quite clear that some of the Amendments, particularly some of those discussed yesterday and the manuscript Amendments, do not require some improvement.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made:
In page 74, line 30, at the end, insert:
and Sub-section (2) of Section ninety of the Public Health Act, 1936 (which relates to the question of what constitutes the erection of a building) shall apply for the purposes of this Section as it applies for the purposes of Part II of that Act, notwithstanding that that Act does not apply to Scotland.
In page 75, line 22, at the end, insert:
and for any reference to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, there shall be
substituted a reference to the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1932.
§ In page 76, line 2, leave out "Subsection (2) of."
§ In line 13, leave out from "1937," to end of line 21.
In line 31, at the end, insert:
(17) In Section fifty-nine for any reference to a county borough there shall be substituted a reference to a burgh.
In line 34, at the end, insert:
and for any reference to any amount raised by the county council in the district there shall be substituted a reference to any sum paid over by the council of the small burgh to the county council in pursuance of a requisition.
§ In page 78, line 13, leave out "deemed" and insert "approved under the Act of 1937 so as."
§ In line 15, leave out "the Act of 1937," and insert "that Act."
In line 33, at the end, insert:
and in the definition of 'owner' for paragraph (b) there shall be substituted the following paragraph:—
'(b) where there is such a lease, the tenant there under or, if there are two or more such leases, the tenant under the latest in date thereof.' — [The Lord Advocate.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed," That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
I am sorry that through another appointment I was prevented from getting here earlier, and though I desire to see this Bill in operation at the earliest possible moment I think that if the Lord Advocate has not already given it, we might have an explanation of how far our tenement system in Scotland can be adapted to provide shelter under the provisions of this Bill. We have in Scotland a tenement system such as does not obtain south of the Border, and it is in those ghastly tenements in large cities like Glasgow and Dundee—more particularly in Dundee— that this problem will arise. In Dundee in my time there was a tenement arrangement with 13 storeys. It is obviously impossible to adapt a bomb-proof-shelter system which is equally effectual for crowded warren tenements in Scotland and for what is called the two-flat system in England; and before this Measure passes from us I should like to hear from the Government whether the lawyers are 1377 perfectly satisfied that the new Clauses approved of yesterday can be made applicable to our Scottish system, and if not what provision the Government intend to make for ensuring bomb-proof shelters for working classes who in Scotland live predominantly in these three-storey tenements.
We are well aware that this Measure is in many respects a complete revolution in local government and in the law of property ownership, and we know also that "Needs must when the devil drives," and that this Measure must be passed quickly. Possibly, therefore, it has not had the consideration that ought to have been given to it. We have had huge Clauses thrown at us, much of it legislation by reference, all the reactions of which I, at any rate, am utterly unable to comprehend; and while the responsibility of the Law Officers of the Crown is very great I think we ought to have the fullest possible explanation before this Measure leaves the House.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
I should like to congratulate the Lord Privy Seal on having more or less though not entirely reached the last stage of his long journey with this complex and difficult Bill. If he will allow me to say so, he has shown considerable patience in these Debates. It is true that sometimes he has made long speeches, but the Bill makes many precedents in dealing with new problems, and I make no complaint of the trouble he has gone to in explaining in detail not only the various Clauses but the various Amendments which he himself has had to move. Perhaps the best proof of the complexity of the problem is furnished by the number of Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman himself has had to move on the Report stage after the Bill had been examined by the House in Committee, and I think he will recognise that this is a case in which the House has been able to "lick a Measure into shape" and to improve it. The only tragedy is that the House should be spending its time and the taxpayers' money upon Civil Defence instead of concentrating on some of the social problems which are still crying out for solution. However, we must be realists, and I think we have made a useful contribution to national safety by this Bill.
1378 I am sure that I am echoing the general feeling of the House when I say that this is really an enabling Bill. It sets up vast new machinery, it attempts to deal with all phases of the defence of the home, of industry and of the lives of the people, in the case of air attack in war time, but its success will depend upon the driving force of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, including the Minister of Health, and the good will of the local authorities. It is a case for leadership. I am not one of those who regret that the great work of Civil Defence is being done mainly through the local authorities. That is in accordance with our best traditions. It might have been easier and simpler for the Government to have done the work through Departments like the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, but I am sure the Government were right in adhering to the well-established and on the whole efficient system of local government. It has to be recognised that the standard of local government varies in different parts of the country, often according to the financial facilities available. Though the Government are shouldering part of the burden, I know from my own personal knowledge and experience that some local authorities are so poor, owing to their low assessable value, that even a very small burden which may be imposed upon them may mean a serious addition to their rates. If this great machine ever has to be put to the test, which God forbid — though in passing this Bill we admit that there is a possibility of its being put to the test — the Government will have to see to it that there are no gaps.
It is necessary for the Department to strengthen their staff of inspectors, or perhaps it would be more proper to say their staff of advisers, and to go round the country prodding local authorities here and there and, in cases, giving the necessary technical expert advice, in order to promote the feeling, not only among the local authorities but among members of the great public who, in the long run, are the people concerned, that the Department and the Minister personally are conscious of the magnitude of the problem and of the urgent necessity of action being taken, not in three or four months' time, but without any further serious delay. That there has been delay we have to recognise, but the excuse has been made that 1379 it was to some extent due to the lack of the necessary powers. Now the House is giving these powers to the Government.
I make a constructive suggestion. This is a complex Bill which even Members of this House, with all their legal knowledge or expert experience in local government, have found difficult to understand. It will be a maze and a puzzle to many local authorities, and even more so to the great public. I suggest that the Department might very well take a leaf out of the book of the War Office and that the right hon. Gentleman might learn something from the propaganda methods of the Secretary of State for War, who might be criticised as a War Minister but there is no greater than he—I will not say in the matter of self-advertisement but—in the matter of advertisement for the work of his Department. I suggest that a popular pamphlet, illustrated if you like, should be published, such as the pamphlet that we received from the War Office the other day. It should be in the form that "he who runs may read," and should be available either on the bookstalls or from the local authorities.
I should be neglecting my duty to my constituency if I did not refer briefly to the right hon. Gentleman's attempt to deal in this Bill with the problem of shelters. After listening to the Debates and reading all the necessary literature I recognise that the technical experts have recommended—and we must more or less accept their recommendation—that variety and quantity are more necessary than quality. If the public is to carry on with its work it must have shelters, both at work and in going to and from work, as well as near home. That means a great variety and quantity of shelters. I still believe, and I think that the House believes, that it will be necessary to have in certain crowded areas, such as near the docks in great cities, some form of strengthened communal shelter so that people living in what we familiarly call slums, but are more correctly described as crowded streets and old-fashioned houses, should have somewhere to find safety for themselves and their families in case of air attack.
I hope that the Minister of Health, who is not present, will closely co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman in making these 1380 evacuation schemes as clear and as complete as possible. We are giving very great powers to the Government in this Bill. Some of the powers have shocked and I might almost say outraged some of our constitutional traditions and they have stirred to anger many of the lawyers of the House. We have made one or two attempts to modify the Clauses concerned, but more or less unsuccessfully. I realise that, in the light of the emergency, we have to sacrifice some of our constitutional safeguards, but if we are to give these drastic powers, and if the House is to depart from its practice by putting very wide powers in the hands of local authorities, we are entitled to know that the machinery for evacuation is efficient and ready, and that if it were put to the test it would come into smooth working and satisfactory operation. In reference to school teachers and school children the local authorities will be mainly responsible, but the actual operation will be in the hands of the great teaching profession which, last September, loyally and enthusiastically prepared to make arrangements to evacuate the school children. They are still left largely in darkness and do not know what the regulations are likely to be and the form they will finally take.
We have a right to demand that these regulations shall be published to the world in order that the public may know what the provisions are and that local authorities who have to evacuate the population will know their responsibilities and duties. It is probably even more important that the local authorities who are to receive the children shall know their liabilities and how they are to carry out their responsibilities according to the form that the machinery is likely to take. I would end as I commenced. The Bill has our blessing and our good will, but if it is to be a success the right hon. Gentleman will have as large a task as he has ever had to undertake, in his many responsible positions. If he shows the same energy and enthusiasm as he displayed as a civil servant and a Governor in India he will well deserve the gratitude of his fellow-countrymen.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Major Procter
I intervene in this Debate because I have received from one of my constituents a letter which I desire to pass on to the authorities responsible for air-raid shelters. My correspondent 1381 informs me that a great discussion is going on almost throughout the country on the subject of the inadequacy of the shelters which are proposed, and, describing the trenches which have been dug in various places, he says:These shelters which are provided in the parks are totally inadequate. They are just newly-dug graves, all ready for those who may be bombed in their vicinity.He suggests that Nature has already provided in or near most towns, such as London and my constituency of Accrington, a very easy way in which such shelters might be provided, and I take the opportunity of asking the Minister whether he will, in accordance with this suggestion, consider the tunnelling of the hills in all the towns.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman is raising a question which is outside the scope of the Bill and, on the Third Reading Debate, that is not in Order. On this occasion hon. Members may discuss what they think will be the effect of the Bill but they cannot make suggestions which go outside its scope.
§ Major Procter
I realise that the ruling of the Chair is unfortunate to back-benchers who, like myself, have had no opportunity of taking part in the Debate, and I must try to get this matter, which is regarded as urgent, brought before the attention of the Minister. The Bill provides for shelters of various kinds, and I am suggesting that the hills in many parts of the country should be used in conjunction with them where possible. The Government can use the chalk pits which exist around our coast and the various eminences, so as to prevent the digging of trenches in the parks and the creation thereby of landmarks which are, in most cases, quite visible to aircraft. I trust, although my remarks may have been ruled out of Order, that they will nevertheless come before the Minister's attention.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers
I want to raise a point which concerns two small burghs in the county which I have the honour to represent and which have been scheduled as vulnerable areas. They find themselves very seriously affected by the Bill because of the financial obligation laid upon them and because of the circulars which have been issued giving effect to the pro- 1382 visions of the Bill. They are the two burghs of Bo'ness and Queensferry on the southern side of the Firth of Forth. It is easily recognised how it has come about that they are regarded as vulnerable areas. Bo'ness is a small port near the aerodrome at Grangemouth and South Queensferry is near the Forth Bridge. Both places are within easy reach of the very important Scottish naval dockyard of Rosyth which, in time of war, would be a place of very great activity and con-sequent danger, one might assume, from air attack.
The town clerk of Bo'ness has written to me, and his letter is fully endorsed by the town clerk of South Queensferry. The latter has not given to me the same details of how the Bill and the Home Office Circulars will affect South Queensferry.. The position of Bo'ness can easily be understood from the information which has been passed on to me by the town clerk of that burgh. I am hoping that it may be possible for the Lord Privy Seal, or whoever is to reply to the Third Reading Debate, to give at least some comfort to these two burghs by assuring them that they will not be financially ruined by the impositions called for as a result of the Bill. Bo'ness has a population of 10,000, of whom it is estimated that 9,000 will have to be provided for, and, estimating the cost of the provision of shelters at £4 per head, that gives a figure of £36,000. Allowing for steel shelters and materials for concrete shelters that are to be supplied free, which would represent about 50 per cent. of the total cost, that would bring the figure down to £18,000. It is estimated that grants of about two-thirds of that cost would be forthcoming, leaving the town council. with £6,000 to raise, and, adding survey and other expenses, the total amount to be raised is approximately £6,500. The estimate of the burgh surveyor of Bo'ness seems on the face of it to be a fairly reasonable estimate.
That total debit of £6,500 is to be imposed upon a burgh whose rateable value in the year 1937–38 was £60,960. For the current year, 1938–39, it is estimated at £62,900, there having been a considerable amount of building, which has added to the estimated rateable value. At the present time the town has a rate of us. 8d. in the £ and a 1d. rate produces, on the estimated total rateable value, only £260. This burden of £6,500, on a total 1383 rateable value of —62,900, is looked upon by the town council of the burgh as being too heavy a burden for them to be called upon to bear, and I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will look into this matter very carefully and see whether more cannot be done by his Department to meet the very serious needs of that particular burgh, which recently has been more badly hit by unemployment than previously. Although it is true that a certain amount of seasonal pitwood trade relieves the unemployment position to a certain extent at the present time, there is no gainsaying the fact that Bo'ness is worthy of being afforded the facilities provided under the Special Areas Act.
The position with regard to South Queensferry, a considerably smaller burgh, is that it has a rate of 12s. 4d. in the — It is estimated that its rateable value this year will be –14,600, and there a 1d. rate will produce only –61. As I have already indicated, I have not any estimate from the South Queensferry Town Council of what will be the total capital cost imposed upon them, but there is no doubt that it is bound to be considerable, and both burghs look upon themselves as being put in a very serious position by the financial burden involved by this Bill and the instructions that have been passed to them by the Home Office. In addition, of course, to their own particular needs, they come to a certain extent under county schemes, and are required to make their contributions in that regard. This, briefly, is the position I have been asked to put to the Lord Privy Seal. I will take the opportunity of writing to him more fully upon it when I get further information, especially with regard to South Queensferry, but I would like him, if possible, to give some comfort to these authorities, who feel that they are placed in a very serious financial position, casting upon their ratepayers very heavy burdens which they feel they ought not to be called upon to bear. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will be able to give them some reassuring answer which will show them that their fears of civic bankruptcy are not well founded.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Boulton
I think that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal is to be congratulated on having piloted this very difficult Measure through the House with 1384 so much smoothness. We all, 1 think, must look upon the Bill as being in the nature of a great experiment, and, therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will hold himself quite free to make any modifications that experience may show to be necessary in the future. I am bound to say that we in Sheffield are disappointed that more of the suggestions contained in a memorandum which perhaps he may remember having received from us have not been adopted, but at the same time we are thankful for some of the modifications that have been made. I want to assure my right hon. Friend, on behalf of Sheffield, that the authorities and employers are sincerely wishful to assist him in this very important work, but we attach great importance to quick decisions. If these schemes are to be got into operation quickly, we must have quick decisions, and I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will be willing to consider any suggestions that may be made, even now at this late hour for speeding up the schemes which I know he is very anxious to see put into operation. I do not know whether I shall be in order in referring to one suggestion which we made, and which is in line with the Bill and with the speeding up of the schemes, namely, that industrial and commercial advisory committees should be formed in the great industrial areas, and particularly invulnerable areas like Sheffield. We feel that such committees would be of great advantage and assistance, not only to the employers in the area but to the administrative authorities, and, if my right hon. Friend could see his way to welcome that proposal openly, or to send an invitation to certain are as to form such committees, I think it would have a great effect and would assist materially in getting these schemes through smoothly and quickly.
I should have been glad if my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health had been in his place, because what I am now about to say refers to him. It is with reference to evacuation and the receiving areas. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is still willing to reconsider his proposal with regard to receiving areas, and I want once again to draw his attention to the Blackwater area in Essex. That part of the country, which is to be a receiving area, is in the direct route of enemy aircraft. In the late War, the area was crowded out with military. We had 1385 great evacuation schemes in the event of possible invasion. I do not know that we need fear that so much to-day, but still the military have to be billeted. We have searchlight stations all over the area; one of them is to be at my own home, and they come to us to billet the men. I want to know whether the present evacuation scheme for that particular area has been arranged in line with the military authorities. That is very important, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider whether the Blackwater area should be a receiving area at all. I recall that in the last War the small town of Maldon, four miles from where I live, had bombs dropped on it which did considerable damage. Its population numbers possibly 4,000, but that population is to be doubled by evacuating children and adults from London. I venture to think that that is a decision which ought to be reconsidered, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, if my remarks should be reported to him, will be able to see his way to do that. I again congratulate my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal on having carried the Bill through. It is a very important Measure, and one which, I repeat, we regard as a great experiment.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
The hon. Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. Boulton) has referred to the Bill as being an experiment. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) referred to it as an enabling Bill. I should like to suggest that it is a foundation. I think that everyone in the country will congratulate the Lord Privy Seal on having got the Bill so far through the House; it is certainly a labour of Hercules. But, although we congratulate him on having got so far, it is really only the beginning of a still more tremendous task; the Bill is a foundation on which more will be built. On the occasion of the introduction and eventual passage of the first Air-Raid Precautions Bill, I remember saying that the estimates were quite inadequate, and that the scale of operations then contemplated would be very much exceeded. The present Bill, although it is very much more extensive than anything of the kind that has previously been passed, and although it covers an enormous area of ground and many services, is still, I venture to think, only the foundation of something very 1386 much larger that will eventually have to be built.
With regard to the service of evacuation, which is dealt with to a large extent in the Bill and in regulations and arrangements made by the Minister of Health, there will certainly have to be more evacuation, and not less, than is at present contemplated. As regards shelter accommodation, both for the general civilian population and for those who are working in factories and other places where work of national importance is carried out, there will have to be more rather than less shelter provided. The present provision will be a foundation, and not the completion of the building. Casualty organisation, too, which is an enormously important part of the service, will certainly have to be much more extensive than a good many people even contemplate at the present time. The hospital organisation will be very greatly increased, and that is also the case with many other services which I will not particularise. Indeed, I venture to say that we shall not get the civil defence services which will really meet the needs of the country until those services are regarded as what I think I have called them once before in this House—the fourth arm— and until they are organised in a way that is comparable with the organisation of the three Fighting Services.
I have a series of suggestions to make, and I make them with the real intention of being helpful. I suggest that the public ought to be taken into the confidence of the Department more with regard to all sections of its work. I know how difficult it is in any department—it may be the medical department, the fire-fighting department or any other department—where there are men concentrating on their work, specialising on their organisation, absorbed in the details, realising the importance of the details, to realise that those outside with whom they have to deal will not have the same knowledge of detail, and, therefore, will not appreciate exactly what is being done, as those inside are able to do. I have had the opportunity sometimes of discussing with the heads of Departments what is in contemplation, and I have felt that they did not realise how little information on the details of the subjects they were considering was available to the general public, and what a great advantage it would have been if such details had been available. 1387 That applies to the subject of evacuation. Yesterday I made some suggestions for greater publicity about draft regulations with regard to evacuation, in order that the general public may know precisely what the arrangements will be. I am not contemplating imposing penalties, forcing reluctant people to do what they do not wish to do; because I believe that the vast majority in the reception areas will be not only willing but anxious to do the best they can in receiving those evacuated from the towns. The best way to ensure this will be to give them as much information as possible about what they are supposed to undertake.
As a member of the medical profession, I know that that profession as a whole would welcome more information about the medical arrangements. The Lord Privy Seal may say truly that a great deal has been published on the matter, but it is also true that not enough is known by the generality of the members of the medical profession as to detail. The Lord Privy Seal may remember that during the Debates on the Bill I brought to his notice a memorandum by the medical officers of health of the London boroughs, condemning certain arrangements. I instance that because there is no doubt of the good will of the medical officers of the metropolitan boroughs and their desire to co-operate to the best of their ability; and if they did not understand, I suggest that the fault lay rather with the Department than with the medical officers themselves, because there had not been sufficient communication of information. More information should be communicated with regard to first-aid parties and casualty work generally. It is important that this information should be given not only for the use of members of the medical profession and auxiliary professions, such as nursing, but in order that they should be able to communicate the information to the general public. The general public will ask their doctors, very often their panel doctors, what is going to happen in regard to casualties. If they can be assured that a sound plan exists and that casualties will be adequately dealt with, that will contribute to maintaining the moral of the people. The same thing applies to fire-fighting. People often do not understand what fire-fighting organisation there is, and how far it is going to be effective.
1388 The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green made an admirable suggestion, that the Lord Privy Seal should take a leaf out of the book of the Secretary of State for War and publish a little pamphlet describing, in simple language, what the Civil Defence organisation is doing. together with appropriate illustrations of a character to catch the attention of those who read it. The subjects I have mentioned lend themselves to publicity, and the whole country is looking, and will do so now more than ever after the passage of this Bill, to the Civil Defence Department and the Lord Privy Seal for some lead as to their duties in a time of emergency. The more information that can be published the better. It should be in language that is simple and intelligible, and as far as possible in words of one syllable; it should not be in complicated language, as was the case, for instance, with some of that otherwise admirable report on shelter policy; it should avoid technicalities; and if it does that it will be of the greatest possible assistance. Although there are many complications in the Civil Defence service, it is in essence a very simple thing: the organisation of the civilian might of the nation to resist aggression.
There is no doubt whatever of the intention of the people of this country to organise themselves to do everything in their power to resist whatever onslaught may be launched against them. If they are given a clear lead by the Lord Privy Seal, if they are told that each individual is a part of a great national organisation, that each individual has his or her place in strengthening the moral of the nation, there is no doubt that the effectiveness of our Civil Defence will be enormously increased. I believe that whatever may be the efficiency of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force— and we are all glad to know how enormously their efficiency is increasing— the best protection against aggression is the organisation of an efficient Civil Defence service, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman well in the gigantic work that lies before him; and I warn him that the work that will be undertaken as a result of the passage of this Bill is not the end of his labours, but only a foundation.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
On Monday the Lord Privy Seal made an important statement with regard to the deep shelter policy, 1389 and he said that the Air Raid Defence League was in favour of certain of the principles of the policy which he was defending at that moment. It is true that the Air Raid Defence League has said quite clearly that it does not believe that it is possible to have deep shelter accommodation for all who live in towns which are subject to air attack. It is also true that we are in favour, subject to a certain qualification which I will mention in a moment, of the principle of equal protection for all who are exposed to equal risk. Nevertheless, it would be misleading to suggest that the league is satisfied either with the Government's policy or the speed at which the policy is being executed with regard to deep shelters. We think that a great deal more protection is needed in certain cases than seems likely to be secured in the near future by what the Government are now doing. I might say, incidentally, that if we do not believe in the practicability of deep shelters for everyone in all towns which might be exposed to attack, it is not for the reason suggested by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) that we are a well-to-do organisation, supported by well-to-do people. In fact, we should be delighted to welcome her as a member on payment of the not extortionate subscription of 6s. per annum.
Our opinion is based on the reasons set out in our pamphlet, which up to a certain point are the same as the reasons that the Lord Privy Seal has given. But we think that in a very considerable number of cases the risk is likely to be so great that the measures now proposed by the Government will be inadequate both as to evacuation and the protection of those who remain. This is certainly true, I do not say of the evacuation areas as a whole, but of the more vulnerable parts of the evacuation areas—such a zone, for instance, as that along each side of the River Thames from the docks up to about Battersea. Personally, I think that evacuation from such specially dangerous zones of evacuation areas ought to be on a much greater scale, even though that may mean crowding in the reception areas during the early weeks of a war. Then for those whose work requires them to remain in those specially dangerous areas there must be protection of a better kind than that which seems now to be proposed. I would earnestly entreat the Lord Privy Seal to see whether a great 1390 deal more cannot be done in those cases. I would entreat him, too, not to use the principle of equality of protection for all those exposed to equal risk in such a way as to deter the provision of better protection where it is most needed and is immediately practicable. I agree with that principle if it means that in respect of the less well protected parts every effort should be made to level up to the standard of the others, but I do not agree that if in a very dangerous area it is practicable, either because of natural conditions in that area or because of a very energetic local authority, to get on with exceptional speed with special protection you should in any way discourage efforts there because, by reason of different natural conditions or a lethargic local authority, it would be impossible to get equal conditions somewhere else.
I think, too, that in all their arrangements the Government should, perhaps, draw a rather sharper contrast between what I believe to be the immensely greater danger of the early weeks of a war and the danger that may be expected to last throughout the whole war period. I think that many things ought to be done and many inconveniences of over-crowding and so on can properly be asked both of the receiving population and of the evacuated population for a short period of the Blitz Krieg effort that would perhaps be intolerable for a long period. It is, after all, very much better to be crowded than to be killed. Those are really only the brief comments that I desire to make at this stage of the passage of what is on the whole a most valuable and most necessary Bill.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Higgs
I also should like to congratulate the Minister on the admirable manner in which he has conducted this Bill through the House. Before the introduction of the Bill, in which I am much interested, I had some experience in carrying out certain work and I hope that the Departments concerned will show some consideration to those people who have already provided trenches and other forms of protection that may not be entirely in line with the provisions of the Bill. They have done it for the good of their employés and for the public at large, and they spent money for this purpose before the Bill was introduced.
1391 Another problem that the Department will have to contend with is connected with the enforcement of the Act. It is to be enforced by factory inspectors and mine inspectors as well as local authorities, and the departments of all those officials are at present very fully occupied. Factory inspectors have as much as they can do, and it will be very difficult indeed for them properly to enforce the Act during the next few months when it has passed. I can see serious difficulties arising in that direction. Then with regard to public shelters, I think the question of their location should be considered. They are to be erected only in suitable spaces. On the other hand, if the parks are filled with shelters and the population lives some miles away, there will be considerable difficulty in getting the people to the shelters in case of raids. I would ask whether it would not be better to provide shelters of a less adequate construction nearer the places where the population is located.
Under Clause 42 of the Bill, dealing with the obscuring of lights, there is no grant given to those who obscure their lights before notice has been served. This seems to me to be a very difficult problem. I know many factory owners who are at present prepared to make provision for obscuring their lights, but they will not do so because the notice has not been served. There is only a limited number of firms that can provide blinds and so forth for these lights. Factories built with glass roofing, even of moderate size, may require miles of blinds, and there will be considerable difficulty in getting these blinds of suitable material and erecting them within a given time. I hope, therefore, that the Department will lose no time in serving these notices. I know several firms who at the present moment are prepared to get on with this work. The obscuring of lights is not so necessary in summer as in winter, but when this Bill comes into operation the days will be getting shorter. The risk of war may be increasing, and the necessity to obscure lights will be greater. Therefore something should be done to expedite the grants in order that this work may be proceeded with.
There is one other point which, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I want to raise, though it is not entirely dealt with in the Bill, the question of fire-fighting 1392 apparatus. I hope the Government will encourage all factory owners to increase their fire-fighting apparatus. We do not know what course the next war will take, but it is quite possible that the incendiary bomb will play a very great part in air attacks, and if the fire-extinguishing apparatus is inadequate to deal with all fires that are started I think the result will be very serious in some districts. If the Government would give further encouragement to private owners to train more fire-fighting squads it would be very beneficial to the country.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubert Beaumont
As a newcomer to the House may I, too, be permitted to offer my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal, not only for his conduct of the Bill through the House, but for the magnitude of the task he has undertaken. One hopes that as the result of the passing of this Bill a great deal of disquietude that now exists will be dispelled. Last night by virtue of a position I hold as a member of a local authority—which, by the way, is not of the same political colour as myself —I was present when a resolution was passed condemning the lack of initiative and the lack of authority and decision on the part of those concerned with air-raid precautions preparations and air defence. Whether that criticism was justified or not I am not going to say, bat one thing that is essential if air defence is to be satisfactory is that confidence must be created in the minds of the people. Confidence is essential as a first factor, and I hope as a result of this Bill, and it may be of subsequent Measures that may have to be passed to amend and improve the Bill—possibly with some of the proposals which have not yet been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman—that in a very short space of time it can be truly said that the civilian population is well and properly defended against the: risk of air attack.
There is one point on which I would like to ask for information. I have received two communications from two local authorities in the constituency which I represent, the Oakwell Joint Hospital Board and the Dewsbury Joint Hospital Board, and both have asked me to bring to the notice of the Minister concerned, if possible in the course of this Debate, the fact that no provision has been made 1393 to meet any proportion of the cost incurred by isolation hospitals for protective measures. I have here a copy of a letter received from the Ministry of Health, which, in reference to a request from a local authority for a grant for protective measures that they would have to take with regard to isolation hospitals, stated that—inasmuch as the isolation hospital would not be used for the treatment of casualties under the hospitals emergency scheme but would be kept to its ordinary peacetime purposes only, the Minister could not recognise for the purpose of grant any expenditure incurred on protective measures.If this is true it opens up an appalling state of affairs for these local authorities if they are going to protect their patients, as we all agree they should. It means that a great additional cost will have to be borne by the local ratepayers. Assuming that these hospitals are not protected, and assuming that in the case of an air raid they were destroyed, the patients who remained alive would have to be taken into hospital accommodation that would presumably be preserved for casualties, and not for infectious cases. I ask the Minister to take this matter into considertaion, because it is of fundamental importance to local authorities. If isolation hospitals are to be in any way adequately protected they need at least some encouragement, and some portion of the expenditure which they incur should be met out of grants.
I do not know whether the Minister will be able to make any statement on this point to-night. If he will, I am sure it will give great satisfaction, not only to the two authorities in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, but in the adjoining constituency. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were here I should ask him to support me in this, as it affects isolation hospitals in the constituency he now represents. May I, in conclusion, say that we hope that, with the co-operation of the national and local authorities, effective defence provision will be made, though we sincerely hope that the necessity for it will never arise?
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill
I would like to take this opportunity, even at this late stage, to make one or two remarks about deep air-raid shelters, because I feel that the Lord Privy Seal, who has made many 1394 speeches on this subject, insists that the House should look at it from only one point of view, and that is that there should be equal treatment for those exposed to equal danger. Although I cannot agree with him I might at least be able to understand his attitude towards deep air-raid shelters if he could support his argument by saying that everybody reacts equally to certain circumstances. In that he would be right, but they would perhaps all have equal treatment if they reacted in the same way. If we were able to analyse the personnel of those who have drawn up the different reports on deep shelters, I think we should find there had been one person sadly lacking. You have had your engineer and your builders giving reports, but has there been anybody who is interested in mob psychology? That is a very important factor when considering how people will react during air raids, and I am sure the House will forgive me if I describe a certain incident which will illustrate what I say.
Between 1914 and 1918 my father was a doctor, and I remember full well that during the air raids we had waiting in my father's consulting room men and women drawn from every grade of society. At one moment the siren would go and these people would all react to the air raid warning, and it was rather interesting, particularly from a medical point of view, to see how they reacted. We found nearly every time the air raid warning was heard that the Lord Privy Seal was right, and that equal treatment was needed except perhaps in one or two cases. The equal treatment which we meted out to these people was to give them a cup of tea. But I come to the exceptions. We found during every air raid that there were one or two persons who became hysterical, and they could not be kept in the waiting-room with the others for fear of panic. Within two minutes' walk of the waiting-room there was an underground shelter—a railway subway—which was considered by many people to be bomb-proof. Therefore, there was this deep air-raid shelter. How did these people react? One or two in the room had to be encouraged—and they needed very little encouragement—to go to the deep air-raid shelter. If they had not gone, they would have caused panic among those who were quite willing to put up with the air raids.
1395 The Lord Privy Seal, many times during these Debates, has insisted upon equal treatment for those exposed to equal danger. What is he going to do for the people who do not react equally and who cannot bear the nervous strain? Is he going to allow them to panic? What is he going to do with those wives who refuse to leave their husbands? Is he going to penalise women because they prefer to stay with their husbands rather than go elsewhere? That seems to be rather a curious way of dealing with a wife who refuses to leave her home. It may be that the time will come when the Lord Privy Seal will be forced to change his mind because of these other circumstances.
Last July I was in Barcelona when two or three air raids were taking place every week. It is curious that I can relate my experiences from 1914-18 to what happened in Barcelona last July. In the hotel in which I was staying most people were pretty phlegmatic, and they resorted to a cup of tea, as we did during the air raids of 1914-18. But there were those of a hysterical type, the highly strung, who had to go to a deep air-raid shelter. During the last year of the war the Spanish Government were forced to provide deep air-raid shelters for that type of person. I have read one of the reports in which the engineers have said that if we provided these shelters the people would panic in the streets. That opinion was not borne out in Barcelona. I went to the shelters, and found that the people were going there with their children long before the sirens sounded. It is not a question of panic. The people who want shelter will go there before an approaching air raid is announced because they are so unnerved that they cannot wait for the sounding of the siren. Therefore, I ask the Lord Privy Seal to open his mind a little more. I have felt, as he has been talking at that Box, that his mind was closed and made up on this question, but I feel that this aspect of the matter is of such great importance that I beg of him to reconsider the whole situation.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I want to address a few words to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal with regard to a matter which has been raised in this House, but which I do not think that either he or 1396 those acting with him have sufficiently understood. I am very interested in the maintenance by the local authorities of their existing powers as far as possible, and I believe that they should be allowed as far as possible to do the work required under this Bill satisfactorily without changing the system which is now in operation. Undoubtedly there will be a very great shortage of labour for a time in certain trades and of certain materials, and there will be many difficulties in carrying out the provisions of many of the Clauses of the Bill by local authorities, factory owners, and property owners of various kinds.
The Bill introduces some new principles into the building trade generally both in London and in other areas, and I am disturbed about it. I do not like it, and I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will give further consideration to the points to which I am going to refer. It is the custom in all the big cities to-day for the local authority to have full knowledge of the buildings within their area. It is essential that they should receive plans showing precisely the nature of every building in their area. No local authority will allow any buildings to be erected without plans having been deposited and worked to strictly. In mining areas the Bill provides that the mines inspector shall be responsible for the air-raid precautions shelter which may be attached to a mine. I would have imagined that if people got deep down into the mine they would not require any other protection, but apparently some protection is contemplated on the surface as well as in the mine. The mineowner is to be responsible for the cost, and the mines inspector for the actual carrying out of the work. That may be all right, but there is no compulsion for plans of any kind to be submitted to the local authority. The result may be that all kinds of buildings may spring up in the area and the local authority will know nothing about them, and it may become a serious matter. It will be a serious matter in areas like London. In every borough in London and Greater London masses of plans are being submitted for all kinds of air-raid shelters, some on the general lines of the Code, and many quite distinct from what is contained in the Code.
Some of these plans mean the serious alteration of some very big building struc- 1397 tures in the London area, and these alterations are to come under the jurisdiction of the factory inspector. I have a very high regard for factory inspectors. I have met them and been associated with them in many ways, and I look upon them as a body of men and women who are competent to do the job for which they are trained, but they are not trained in the work of supervising building construction. Under this Bill every factory will come under the factory inspector, and I say without hesitation, that factory inspectors have not received the particular type of training required. Many of them will know very little about the work they are to carry out in this connection. Local authorities are very much concerned about this matter. The factory inspector need not take the trouble to see that the copy of the plan of alterations that are to be made in these factories is lodged with the local authority. I can give an instance of a factory inspector who was willing to pass particular plans which proposed to alter the structure of a building to such an extent that the competent people in the area were satisfied that it would seriously undermine the foundations of the building, and that, as a consequence, the building might easily fall down.
I have another case in mind where the local authority had already arranged for a street widening of 20 feet, and in spite of that knowledge the inspector in that area was willing to go on with a plan that had been submitted to him and to pass it without any consideration of the fact that the local authority would in consequence find it impossible to get the 20 feet street widening. The local authority are now trying to induce the factory inspector to alter the decision to which he had already come. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to insist—and it is a very simple and right thing to do and will not cost him or the Government or anybody else very much—that, whatever plans are being agreed to by factory inspectors, they shall be lodged with the local authority, and that the local authority at least shall have the opportunity of suggesting to the inspector the alterations which they think are essential for the proper carrying out of the work.
The public are to pay very heavily indeed for some of this work. Contributions are to be paid to factory owners and others, and it is essential that the cost should be certified by competent people. 1398 Would anybody suggest that the factory inspectors have at their disposal a staff of competent people to certify building work? I assert positively that they have not, and I am pretty sure that they will not be able to get an adequate staff because the labour is not available, and I do not think that it will be available. The local authorities have on their staffs the type of men who are competent to do that work, and men who have always done it up to now. The only people who can properly certify the specific purpose of the work that ought to be done are the staffs of the local authorities, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at least insist that copies of plans shall be lodged with the local authority so that they will not get into a state of hopeless confusion in time to come, when the clouds of war have passed and we have got back to a more peaceful atmosphere than that which we are in at the present time.
I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has declared against the provision of deep shelters. He might have accepted the Amendment that was moved and not shut out deep shelters in all circumstances. It has never been my view, and it is not my view now, that deep shelters in any circumstances are necessarily good. There might be times and circumstances where they would be very dangerous, and I should hesitate to construct masses of deep shelters in an area like London; but there are places in London where I believe such shelters are essential, and where they would be of very great advantage to the public generally. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman might have had a little wider vision when he was considering the matter. He might even now leave it open to the local authorities to give consideration to the matter, and he could give wider consideration to any applications that might be made to him in that direction.
I have seen, and no doubt other hon. Members have seen, a form of overground shelter. I know nothing about the firm or the people responsible for the provision of this type of shelter, but I have examined it and was very much impressed. I think an overground shelter, built up with a loose soil covering, would be very much better from the point of view of the protection it could afford than, generally, the deep shelter would 1399 be. This may be an expensive shelter but not an expensive form when one considers the accommodation that it would afford for considerable numbers of people. I think the right hon. Gentleman might reserve to himself power, even if he has to introduce a new Clause in another place, so that if local authorities or private people approach him he should have the power, after full consideration, if the circumstances warrant it, to agree to deep shelters or so some form of large and strong overground shelters, which can best be described as the mound system of shelter. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have the power to consider applications if the circumstances warrant it and he feels satisfied that it is worth while to provide the kind of shelter to which I have referred.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
We have now reached the concluding stage of the consideration of this big and important Bill so far as the House of Commons is concerned, subject to any consideration of Amendments that may come in due course from another place. I said on the Second Reading of the Bill that it was a Measure that the House of Commons ought to have seen three to five years ago. It ought to have been, or something like it ought to have been, the law of the land for some years past, and the local authorities ought to have been actively building up their organisations during that period. It is a great misfortune that it is only in the present Session that the Bill has been produced. The consequence is that inevitably, although great progress has been made during the last year, we are not as ready as all would like to be in this wide and important field of Civil Defence.
The money that is being expended on Civil Defence by the State and the local authorities has now reached very big figures. It is clear that when His Majesty's Government, belatedly, decided to give more consideration to air-raid precautions, they had very modest ideas as to the probable expenditure on this service. We have now reached many millions of pounds and we shall get into many more millions before we are through with it. For the local authorities, too, the expenditure has reached very substantial proportions, and it is expenditure on a service which we think is more 1400 national than ordinarily municipal in character. Undoubtedly, at some time reconsideration of the distribution of the cost as between the State and the local authorities will have to be given; indeed that is provided for and has been agreed to by the Lord Privy Seal and the Secretary of State. One further thing that ought to be and will have to be considered is the war time allocation of costs. If, unfortunately, an emergency should arise, what about the allocation of the cost of Civil Defence activities in time of war? Expenditure on a greatly increased scale would be necessary in time of war, and the principle ought to be accepted that at that point the entire cost of this work should be met out of national funds. It is not right that the municipalities should be expected to finance operations which would be essentially operations connected with the conduct of war.
This Bill, together with the Act of 1937, will constitute a considerable legislative code with regard to Civil Defence. The Act of 1937 was at best a skeleton Measure which left a great many gaps in administration and obviously necessitated a good deal of subsequent legislation. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) and my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) that it is highly probable that there will be legislative gaps left in this Measure. The Minister is bound to have a busy time in another place in filling up some of the spots of bother that the Government, in part, have got themselves into, and which I admit we have partly got them into. I can only hope that the Government will have in charge in another place a competent Minister who will be able to handle not only the Bill but their Lordships, and see that no trouble is involved.
I do not think we have done with this business. An enormous amount of administrative work will yet remain to the Lord Privy Seal and to the Ministers of the State Departments with whom he is co-operating in this matter. The Bill fills up many gaps. It is a comprehensive Measure and will bring to the Ministers and the local authorities powers that will be of value to them and which they ought to have possessed earlier. We have some regrets in connection with certain proposals we brought forward. We feel that there are grave gaps in connection with the shelter provision. We are sorry that 1401 the idea of deep shelters, what are called the bomb-proof shelters, have been almost totally rejected by the Government, although it is true that more than once the Lord Privy Seal has said that there will be some highly vulnerable areas where that policy will be given favourable consideration on its merits; but up to now we have had no indications of any probable steps in that direction. We do not know whether the Government's intentions are geographical in this matter, or the nature of their decision as to the engineering requirements. This issue is being steadily postponed, and we think it is time that the Minister should look over the undoubted gaps that even now remain for some people in regard to any form of shelter. The point as to the provision of deep or bomb-proof shelters in the highly vulnerable areas is one on which the Minister ought to make a statement to-day or at an early date.
We hope that under this new Measure administration will be speedy and efficient. Since the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman there has undoubtedly been some speeding up in administration, but he will be the first to agree that there still remains, and probably will always remain, room for improvement. It is profoundly important that these new powers should be exercised by the State Departments with all possible speed, with every practicable efficiency and with every spirit of co-operation with all the other authorities concerned. As far as my own local authority is concerned we shall do our utmost to cooperate, and I should like to appeal to all local authorities that they should act with speed, precision and efficiency in this vital field of public administration. We are all proud of British local government. Nobody exceeds my own pride in the great status and high degree of efficiency of British democratic local government institutions.
This field of administration is going to be a high test of British local government, a test as to its public spirit, its efficiency and its power to combine the principles of democratic control with speed of decision. These matters need to be looked at constantly by every local authority so as to ensure rapid, almost immediate, decision in matters which come in this field with, of course, ultimate accountability to the council for the action taken. I hope that every local authority 1402 will be willing to look at its standing orders and regulations in that respect and consider whether any improvement might be brought about whereby, with proper safeguards, the chairman of the committee concerned or its officers may be free to take decisions between committee meetings where there can be no reasonable controversy or doubt as to what ought to be done in order that speed can be assured. I am sure that the local authorities generally will co-operate energetically with the Ministers in the working of the Act. I earnestly appeal to them in this vital field to show our country and the world that British local government, as usual, can rise with promptitude and public spirit to a job, however difficult, new or complicated it may be, when that job requires to be done.
May I, in this connection, say a word of thanks as a Londoner, not only for myself, but on behalf of hon. Members who represent constituencies in London and other parts of the country which are evacuation areas? We realise the difficulty of this work and its profound importance. It must be carried through with smoothness, understanding, good will and efficiency. I recognise that the job of the local authorities in the reception areas is even more difficult that ours. It will have plenty of pitfalls and plenty of difficulties. The responsibility is theirs and that of the Ministers. I want as a Londoner, representing one of the evacuation authorities, to express warm thanks for the general cordial co-operation which the local authorities in the reception areas have given to His Majesty's Government, and their willingness to be as helpful as they can to the local authorities in the evacuation areas. It is due to the local authorities in those reception areas, largely small towns or districts rural in character, that the best thanks of those of us who are in the evacuation areas should be tendered to them for their cordial co-operation as members of local authorities. Thanks are also due to the officers and the citizens in those areas.
May I also urge upon the citizens of our country generally that they shall make up their minds that, whatever gaps in personnel for the air-raid precaution services exist, they will fill them at the earliest possible moment? Let us not under-estimate the enormous achievement of building up this great voluntary Army of 1,500,000 people throughout the 1403 country in a period of less than 18 months. It is an enormous achievement, and it is a high tribute to the public spirit of our citizens and to the vitality of British democracy. We can be proud of it, and we are grateful to all citizens throughout the country who have come forward and are actively co-operating in this work. I know that some of them have met with difficulties in their air-raid precaution activities. I do not know whether the blame is with the Minister or with the local authorities—probably it is in both directions. They may have a legitimate field of irritation and disappointment that we have not been able to give them all they want as rapidly and as quickly as we should like, and I want to thank them for their patience and understanding. While they have grumbled and made their complaints, sometimes vociferously, I am sure that the Government and the local authorities will do all they can to wipe away the need for those complaints. I earnestly appeal to all citizens, men, women and young people, to consider their duty in the field of Civil Defence if they are not otherwise obligated in other fields of service. There are still big gaps which are being filled up by the organisation and training that are going forward, but I earnestly appeal to them to volunteer for this service so that at no distant date we can tell the world that substantially the service is fully enrolled and that we are ready for any emergency, although we earnestly hope the emergency may not arise.
In this Bill there are many restrictions and many controls. There will be a good deal of interference with the rights of property and with the interests of individuals. These restrictions have been freely imposed by a free Parliament on a free people, and I hope they will be accepted in the spirit in which Parliament has carried them through, believing that in these days of stress and possible emergency the requirements of the nation must have precedence over the needs and interests of property and the financial interests of individuals. It is done by a Parliamentary institution in the light of day, after Parliamentary discussion, and after all the interests concerned have had every right to raise their voices in protest against what is being done, indeed, after all these interests have been heard in the magic way in which they get heard 1404 in this House through one channel and another. This is how the British do their work, this is how we organise and impose restrictions upon ourselves. For myself, I prefer government by consent, the imposition of restrictions by consent, when everybody has a chance to raise his quarrel, his argument and his row. Parliament reaches its decision in the light of day. This method is infinitely to be preferred not only in principle but, in the end, in efficiency, to the forcible methods of dictators which leave no ground for discussion and which impose far more rigid control and far more sweeping oppressions upon the people without discussion or argument. That is the method of dictators. I believe myself that the British way is the better way, not only morally but even from the point of view of making the nation willing and freely ready for any emergency which may arise. Dictatorship will have its troubles with its people directly an emergency exists, and our method, the method of democratic countries, in reaching decisions by discussions and negotiation is infinitely to be preferred, not only from the point of view of liberty and democracy, but even from the point of view of its effectiveness to defend itself in times of emergency.
Finally, let me say this. The best air-raid precautions, the best Civil Defence, is the building of an organised peaceful world. I regret the necessity for the Bill. I regret, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does, the necessity that he and I and others should have to devote an enormous part of our time, not only to the labour of this thing, but to the spending of enormous sums of public money which could be better spent in creative social effort and building up the social life of our people. But this is a job which has to be done. I never hesitated for a moment when I sat on a subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence in the Labour Government. It is obvious that this work must be done. I wish it were not necessary. It doubles my work on the London County Council and enormously increase the work of the officers. It means that some other, creative, work will have to be slowed down, and even postponed. It is involving us in enormous expenditure and diverting the efforts of many able civil servants, giving them great anxiety and worry. But the job has to be done; the 1405 nation must be prepared; we must carry it through. I earnestly hope that with a wise and sound enlightened foreign policy His Majesty's Government may respond to the mood of the country, and I believe to the mood of the world.
The only way for this kind of expenditure to be made unnecessary, to be eliminated, is for the nations of good will and peaceful intentions to come together and combine in a strong combination, not with a desire to make war nor with a desire to inflict defeat, but with the primary and fundamental purpose of making the combination of the peaceful Powers so strong that no aggressor will dare to offend it. That is the best air-raid precaution, the best Civil Defence. I hope it will soon be achieved and then this vast expenditure upon armaments, this increasing expenditure upon Civil Defence, these increasing efforts of the national and local governments within this field may be slowed down and, finally, one day, all over the world mankind may be free to devote itself to the improvement and the advancement of the human race.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on getting his Bill to the Third Reading stage. I thank him for his courtesy and his consideration for the Opposition throughout all our Debates. The Bill is now a Bill to which every section of the House has made its contribution. The back benchers opposite have had Amendments accepted, we have had Amendments accepted, and Liberal hon. Members have had Amendments accepted. I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the great patience and courtesy with which he has conducted his Bill, and I hope that arising from it our Civil Defence will be enormously increased in efficiency and effectiveness, and I couple with that the hope that the day may soon come when this chapter in the story of mankind will be brought to an end.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is with mixed feelings that I rise to address the House, very briefly, at this stage—feelings of relief, mingled with feelings of gratitude. Relief that a task which was bound to be heavy is approaching its end, and gratitude for the valuable help that has been given to me so readily by hon. Members in all quarters of the House. Before the Bill goes forward for consideration in 1406 another place, I should like to take this opportunity to thank the House for the indulgence it has shown to me throughout the proceedings, an indulgence which has lightened very materially the task, which I approached with some misgiving, of conducting my first Bill through the House of Commons. If I at any time have fallen short of the standard expected of a Minister in charge of a Bill, if I have transgressed the Rules of Procedure, if on more than one occasion I have failed to spring with sufficient alacrity to my feet before the Question has been put from the Chair, and if I have denied to any hon. Member an explanation or an answer for which he was looking particularly, I hope it will be attributed to inadvertence and inexperience, and not to any deliberate lack of consideration.
Following the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) I should like to record my appreciation of the very practical and constructive help which hon. Members in all parts of the House have given throughout the consideration of this Bill. As I said when I first explained the provisions of the Bill on Second Reading, it is not one which any Minister could regard with unalloyed satisfaction. In many ways it is a most unpalatable Measure. It contains very drastic powers, it imposes heavy responsibilities and heavy financial burdens on industry and commerce and on the general taxpayer. It involves a degree of interference with private interests and with individual rights which could never be justified or tolerated in normal times. But, unfortunately, we have to agree that these are not normal times; and the House, recognising that exceptional times demand exceptional measures, has faced these unpleasant necessities in a very practical spirit. The Bill has not been delayed by any criticism which, however justifiable in normal circumstances, would have been out of tune with our present circumstances. On the more positive side, some very useful and constructive proposals have been put forward by hon. Members which I believe have materially improved the provisions of the Bill.
I said that I would be brief. We have listened to many interesting speeches and it would be exceedingly difficult, indeed almost impossible, for me to take up all the various points which have been 1407 raised. I cannot, however, refrain from alluding to the particularly eloquent and moving words of the right hon. Member for South Hackney in the latter portion of his speech. I must say how much I welcome, and how cordially I echo, the appeal he has made to local authorities and to all concerned to do everything they can to speed up the arrangements and promote greater efficiency, whether by way of a delegation of functions or by any other expedient, to promote the speedy building up of our Civil Defence services. I echo the appeal that he made to the individual citizen to play his part in this vital business, to study how he can best help himself, his locality, and the country. The right hon. Gentleman has himself set a very good example in the promotion of collaboration and good will in these matters. All of us must from time to time see things which to our minds are open to criticism. Some of us may perhaps at times be more prone to see the defects in other people's arrangements than those which certainly exist in our own. But the keynote of this whole business must be collaboration. We are united in a great and most important enterprise on the successful accomplishment of which the future of our people, of our country, of Europe and indeed of the world, may very largely depend.
I am tempted to refer to one or two points which have been raised, and I think it will make for the convenience of the House if, in the points that I select, I omit matters which have already been dealt with at previous stages in the discussion of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) raised a point about the position in Scotland in relation to the Clause accepted yesterday dealing with flats. So far as working class flats are concerned, I think the Scottish position is exactly the same as the position in England. It is not a position which can be successfully met by the Clause in question but it can be met otherwise, through the provision by local authorities of shelters which would be accepted as public shelters although designed primarily for the people living in the flats, and would thus attract the full rate of grant under the Act of 1937. As regards yesterday's Clause, designed primarily to deal with better class fiats, the position in 1408 Scotland, as far as I know it, is so materially different from the position in England, with recognition of separate ownership of different parts of the buildings, that I doubt very much whether the machinery of that Clause would be of any assistance at all, but my colleagues and I promised to look very carefully into the position, and we will do so.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) had a case to put in regard to certain local authorities in Scotland who feared that they would be seriously affected by the burdens thrown upon them by the Bill. I should be out of Order if I attempted to deal with matters which are not covered by the Bill, so I will only say that I am very ready to look into the matters that the hon. Member touched on, about which he said he was going to write to me. I would only say, by way of comment on the figures that he put to me in regard of Bo'ness, that of course the total expenditure falling on the local authority, which he put at £6,000, could probably be treated to a large extent as capital expenditure, and the annual charge would not in those circumstances be so onerous as possibly at the first blush the local people may have imagined. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) alluded to a matter which has not previously been brought up and the importance of which I fully recognise. He spoke of the vital importance of educating the public. We have been at work for some time considering how we can best put before the public at a very early date the things they ought to know about Civil Defence. It is no use doing so until our preparations have reached a certain stage, but we have reached a point at which, in regard to evacuation and a large number of other matters, we could with advantage take steps to inform the public in simple language what could be done. That is already in hand.
I have numerous notes, but I do not think it would make for the convenience of the House if I were to go into them in detail. I undertake to give very careful consideration to the points that have been raised. I can assure the hon. Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) that problems of mass psychology were by no means left out of account by the members of the Hailey Conference. I know that, because that was amongst the subjects 1409 on which I myself specially laid stress in the first discussions that I had with the members of the conference.
§ Mr. Dunn
If there are any particular schemes in which Members are interested, particularly in Yorkshire, as referred to by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) and myself, if we were directly to call the Minister's attention to them are we to take it that they will have his personal consideration?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I always give personal consideration to representations made to me by my colleagues in this House. That is my invariable practice. It may sometimes take a little time before I find it possible to give such representations the consideration that they merit, but I always give them personal consideration.
I make no pretension even now that this Bill is going to leave the House in a perfect condition, nor do I suggest for a moment that it represents the last word on the subject of Civil Defence. Many of its provisions have been developed to a degree of very great complexity, in an endeavour to hold the balance evenly between the different interests affected and to deal out even-handed justice all round. Even so, I do not claim that we have attained perfection in this matter. The main object of the Bill is to secure more rapid expansion on Civil Defence matters in fields in which insufficient progress has been made, partly from lack of powers, and I do not think this progress will be secured by seeking to impose a precise, meticulous network of statutory obligations. It has never been part of my policy to rely primarily on compulsory powers, enforced by penal sanctions. I have been relying, and shall continue to rely, rather on co-operation, on the readiness of employers and others responsible for taking these measures to push on and do what is necessary to afford the protection that is required.
I am glad to be able to repeat what I said on the Second Reading, that the consultations that I have had with employers, with "representatives of labour and with associations of local authorities have all encouraged me in the belief that we shall have, before the Bill reaches the Statute Book, and still more afterwards, the fullest collaboration and a very great measure of good will in carrying out its 1410 provisions. To a large extent the object of the Bill is to provide machinery for, and to clear obstacles from the path of, those who are anxious to get on with the job. Compulsion and legal sanctions have to be there to deal with recalcitrants, but as far as possible they will be kept in reserve; and I hope that in all but a small minority of cases the necessary work will be carried out without any recourse to the machinery of compulsion.
Another main principle on which the Bill is based is that of spreading as widely as possible the burden of providing protection for the people. Government Departments, local authorities, employers of labour and owners of property, all are called upon to take their share in this enormous task of providing air-raid shelter for all who are exposed to risk, whether they are at home or are at work or are caught in the street. It is only by spreading the burden in this way that we can hope to overtake this vast task in any reasonable time. As I have said before, more than once, time is of the very essence of the matter. The work is going to be very great and it will call for steady, concentrated effort; but, with the responsibility spread as the Bill proposes to spread it, I am confident that, given good will, it is not by any means beyond our resources. When we have broken the back of this job we shall have made a very valuable addition to our defence armoury and we shall have contributed materially to the great task of building up a system of Civil Defence which will at once diminish the risk of attack and at the same time place the' country in a position confidently to withstand if unhappily it should come.
One final word about the urgency of these matters. When the Bill was first introduced we all hoped that by now it would already have been passed into law, but other immediate needs arose which have impeded its passage. As the House knows, and I believe with the approval of the House I have taken preliminary steps towards the practical administration of the provisions of the Bill without waiting for Parliament to give final approval to it as a whole. For example, the shelter code under Clause 12 has been issued in a provisional form and employers and others responsible for providing shelter have been given every encouragement to proceed to put the necessary work in 1411 hand without waiting for the Bill to become law. So far, I have met with very little obstruction in the matter, and I have no doubt that those on whom these obligations will be laid are willing in the public interest to undertake their obligations now, before they have the force of law. I have no doubt that this willingness springs from a sense of the urgency of our needs. I trust that the same overriding sense of urgency will secure the speedy passage of the Bill through its remaining stages into law and will secure the rapid application of its provisions throughout those parts of the country which, if war should come, would be most exposed to the risk of attack.